At Edge of the Bow Glacier

In youth, identity seems as certain as spring
or new paths blazed red beneath Mercurial feet
or muddy troughs cut between pews of wheat
their long stalks bent over in prayer

or as warm pavement black as basalt
winding up through the stone and light
of obsidian towers and blue mountain passes.
Guided not by stars, but whims and fortune

routes were picked and recklessly discarded
and I never questioned my choices once
when navigating the long road home;
or bounding down the double-wide lanes

packed with bubble sedans, one after another,
self-contained, fuelled on cheap gas and hubris
skimming the unsettled surface of a wide-mouthed sky.
We smiled more, dentine white, and knots –

they measured speed, not the length of our hearts,
though we gave in to quick laughter
danced on the razor’s edge of the Wapta Icefield
(where we stacked stones to make cairns

like paper weights against the blue ice
to hold down the lightness of youth from the wind
and to mark our own impermanence).
But over time, inch by inch, ambitions retreat

like love or fleeing glaciers, choked up on brittle words
surrendering the valley to the steady drip
that bleeds off chunks of frozen rock into tarns,
percolates and settles for dust,

leaving behind ghosts fossilized in the broken shale
to kick through when memory itself fails. Like last week
when a single thought drove me up Highway 93
to the snowy lake’s edge, beneath a grey sky that flattened

out the light. The cairn stands still, sagging and sad,
a few stones added in communal offering,
but the glacier defies its own weight, spiders up the wall;
and soon only trilobites and molluscs will remember us.

~ Rob K. Omura

Rob K. Omura lives in Calgary, Alberta, where he lives from oil plumes, surrounded by vistas and all the trappings of modern living. He prefers to spend his days hopping mountain ridges in the Rockies, where there is nothing else to consider by the next step and the majestic views, and sometimes he even dabs the wet ink and ties words on to lines. His fiction and poetry appears or is forthcoming in numerous literary journals, ezines, and anthologies including the New York Quarterly. His poetry aired on CBC Radio for National Poetry Month in April, 2008. He was a 2009 Pushcart nominee. Sometimes he works on his novel, and at other times, he drinks coffee, sighs and wonders when he’ll get back to work on his novel.

“Writing poems is like carving stone; although you often see what the stone wants to be, it takes a sharp chisel and a little blood and sweat to bring it forth. You don’t create the stone; you merely give it the shape it wants to be.”

Read more of Rob K. Omura’s poetry:
Great Lone Land
At the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre
Wendy Waits
On Kerr’s Prairie Skyes
Spring Cleaning

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.

One Response to “At Edge of the Bow Glacier”

  1. My heart was still beating so hard, after I read ahead of you at last Thursday’s launch, that this poem, this incredibly beautiful poem escaped the full attention of my radar.

    Your metaphors are exquisite! To compare a receding glacier to fleeting youth! You are a fine poet and it was great to meet and to chat with you and your friend, Malgorzata.

    I look forward to hiking with you guys down here this spring/summer/fall – whenever.

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