I Thought it Said “Prairie”

And I was excited.

I thought it meant gophers, and forever views.
And that bleached all-colour, colour of dry grass.
Toddlers in blue jeans.
Dust, and trucks and distant blue mountains,
wind, sun, and crickets.
Barbed wire gates that you have to drag, then lever with all your weight to close.
I thought of great grandfathers, meeting up with new-fangled fences for the first time, and saying
goddamn, and having to ride a mile out of their way to get to town.
Quiet, red-eared boys. Collared shirts.
Oatmeal and then scrambled eggs, and then “You kids go outside until supper.”
Supper. Creekshoes. Trains that you can see the whole of.
Cowskulls, magpies,
scraped skies.
The tick of a diesel duelly.
Stiff leather.
Hairy crocuses in the snow,
fat Angus cattle,
ridin’ without a “g.”
The perfect life of bunchgrass: re-grows from the root.
“You kids go outside. And close that screen door!”
The creaky scritch of a screen door. Fly strips above the deepfreeze,
burr-matted shoelaces,
buttered white buns.
A pot of coffee. Dust in crow’s-feet.

But I was wrong; the poem was called “Praise.”

~ Nancy Pincombe

Nancy Pincombe is a writer and mother currently living in Vancouver, BC. “Place” is her constant preoccupation, and personal experiences of landscape feature prominently in her writing. Even though living on the coast allows her to enjoying sailing and kayaking and mild weather, she suffers cravings for grasslands and prairie that can only be satisfied by visits to her great grandfather’s ranch near Claresholm, Alberta. She has a Bachelors Degree in Anthropology. When she’s not chasing her 18 month old daughter around she is doing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.

“Alberta inspires me like no other place. It’s close to a religious feeling. I feel a deep clanging clamouring resonance when I go there. It’s a bit about ancestral echoes and family lore, I guess, but it feels more physical than that. Maybe we each have a landscape that most speaks to us, or speaks for us. Maybe Alberta is mine.”

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.

6 Responses to “I Thought it Said “Prairie””

  1. I’ve been to this very ‘place’, the very one, more times than I can count, and I cannot express how perfectly this poem evokes exactly what it is/was like and how it feels to be there.

  2. Nancy Pincombe writes about my home, the historic
    Winder Ranch west of Claresholm, Alberta. She has done well in refreshing my memories, emotions and love of all that growing up on the ranch is cherished by me. Fortunately, my husband, children and grandchildren have had the opportunity to internalize the prairie experience as well.

  3. Nancy’s poignant writing takes me back to this very special place; my childhood home; my heaven on earth. She has captured the essence of what it was and is to be a child of the Prairie. It never leaves ones’ soul.

  4. Beautiful images, Nancy. You write about the one place on earth that I’ve ever felt ‘home’ in every sense of the word. I was fortunate to have spent so much time there when I was young, even living there for a period. When I return, every smell, sight and sound from that place takes me back to my youth as if time has stood still. Its truly in my blood.

  5. Well done Nancy.. !
    Your poem illustrates small town rural life back in the day so well that although I have never been to such a setting before I feel as if I have now.


  6. Wonderful writing Nance! All of us cousins are so very lucky to have experienced the place. Thank you for bringing back the memories for us!

Leave a Reply