“The amount of a tire actually in contact with the road means you only have a palm-sized point of control.”
– Motoring safety article

No wonder traversing the same asphalt to town and back
during twenty years
has felt for me like a hand
gliding atop a familiar surface
that dips and tosses
with the pitch and yaw of the pavement
as my palm discovers fresh rough stretches,
new channels pounded into the road
by laden logging rigs and the barn-sized chip trucks,
or gritty sections in spring where the winter’s sand
has not yet been swept away. The route I repeatedly follow
mounts from the meadow at Lebahdo Flats to
a bench that tilts through a series of
sharp descents that
rise at last to curve eastward far above
the confluence of the Slocan and the Little Slocan
and cling to that perch until lowering
to the valley bottom at Passmore, while my palms
grasp the wheel but also
stroke down the meandering highway
– with its clumps of tattered emerald flags
festooning the alder in July sunshine, and the dark lumbering shape
in October rain of the bear
suddenly parallel to me on the shoulder, and the way forward whitening
to a crawl through
a New Year’s storm.
My treads
voyage by voyage wear the blacktop thinner, as my hand
skims along this road one more time.

~ Tom Wayman

Since 1973, more than 15 collections of Tom Wayman’s poems have been published in Canada and the U.S. His 2002 title, My Father’s Cup, was short listed for both the Governor-General’s Literary Award and the B.C. Book Prize for poetry. His latest book of poems is High Speed Through Shoaling Water (2007). Wayman has edited several anthologies of poems, most recently The Dominion of Love: An Anthology of Canadian Love Poems (2001). His latest critical book is Songs Without Price: The Music of Poetry in a Discordant World (2008), based on a lecture he gave as the 2007 Ralph Gustafson Poetry Chair at the University of Vancouver Island. Since 2002 Wayman has taught English and writing at the University of Calgary. When not away working, he lives in the Selkirk Mountains of south-eastern B.C.

“Perhaps the mystery of why some places reach out to us and others don’t is related to how we quickly become close friends with some people we’ve just met, whereas other people we may have known all our lives we never warm up to. One school of behaviourists believe we’re most strongly attracted to people with the same emotional issues as ourselves. If we like a lot of distance in relationships, for instance, then we may find ourselves drawn to people that overtly or covertly signal that they, too, are uncomfortable with too much closeness. Can a landscape, a neighbourhood, reflect back to us some aspect of our personality we struggle with, and thereby appear to us to be extra welcoming, familiar, nurturing – all the qualities we expect of home?”

Read more of Tom Wayman’s poetry:
Crow in Grass
Flute Song
Not Every Highway has a Number

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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