Watch What a Railroad Makes

A walk home each day to Avenue J, with its unfinished front steps (the taxes)
and the trees out back (grafted). We added
the perfect mud for imaginary slave drivers, and assembly line pies.

Near that was the window for sneaking, and back door for
opening quietly, and the place where the snow grew
so thick that it took three hours to find a proposal in (it was not wanted).
Every visit we were afraid to go into the basement
or the room with more than twenty framed faces on the wall
both places had too many eyes staring that might say,
“Youngest, you are not going to live up to the standards of those who
previously occupied that pink high chair.” And then we’d take
two steps at a time to get away from the smell of cellar.
To Baba’s bosom which is softer than most other morning things and the milk
that pours out of the cow-shaped container is smoother for your
cream of wheat and blueberry pancakes. (We all have to share the shower.)

Yellow light, morning, noon, and somehow, night. The TV, a dark portal to space,
was never on. Besides these things, there were a couple dogs before, apparently,
but they died long before me, and Dido just a few months after.
My first plane ride (to the center of the plains, of course) first to say
hello then to say good bye.

Now there are only budgies in the living room, and always family on couches.
But this was before the moves, and the house that we pilgrims drove to
remains now only on two things: a grave stone and
the apartment wall above the dwindling homemaker’s dishes
that are never washed anymore. (She is forgetting, so am I.)

~ Suzanne Philippot

Suzanne Philippppot is in her final year of undergraduate studies in English Literature at McGill University, in Montreal, Quebec. She is originally from Calgary, Alberta, but does not own a cowboy hat. Her interests include in depth hunting for the absurd on YouTube, casual film appreciation, staring at the sky, and cooking for guests. Coming from the wide open prairies, she is conscious of space, and is interested in exploring what it means in the east. She is currently penned in under a mountain, but will be seeking wider territories soon.

“As the child of Canadian parents whose families each moved westward, I was raised with the potential they sought visually represented in the sprawling suburbs of Calgary and the foothills and mountains beyond my home on the top of a hill. While I have lived, and will probably continue to live, for different amounts of time in many different places, Alberta as my home is a major locus of my creative potential as a person and an artist.”

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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