Battle River Country

I am a scout in this country
But the land’s lay
is silent as a ring of stones.
I reconnoitre the next rise
to find
only the sigh of names
driven away
What battles fought here?
except the skirmish of wind in the blades
of the tall grass
except the vegetation with its fierce names –
wolf willow, choke cherry
except the coyote’s silver bugle
lifted against the outpost sky

~ Alice Major

Alice Major ‘s ninth collection of poetry, Memory’s Daughter will be published by the University of Alberta Press in spring, 2010. Her most recent book, The Office Tower Tales, won the Pat Lowther award in 2009 (given for a book of poetry by a Canadian woman). She served as Edmonton’s first poet laureate from 2005-7.

“’Battle River Country’ came from the experience of visiting that particular area; I’d been sent down to do a story on the Battle River power plant, and ended up at one of the plant’s environmental monitoring stations a long way down the river. For a while, I was left alone by the technician while he went off to check something. It was so utterly peaceful and so at odds with the name of the river that I started to wonder what the ‘battle’ might have been.”

Editor’s note: This poem is from Home and Away – a sequel to the bestselling Writing the Land (2007). Look for one poet to be featured each day as Alberta poets ponder the question “what is home?” and explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home. For more information about the project, click here.

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