What We Can’t Let Go

Plough swinging early on the hills’ horizon,
the blue-clay turn of skeith and share,

and what catches: rogue oats in dawn sun.
This bowl of land and what it gathers.

Farmstead, firebreak. Cottonwoods
flagged with shagbark pennons,

dugout sulking green. How far
is enough? Where the foothold

skirting memory, like the first furrow
on a new-turned field, distanced out of recall?

The cattle’s backs bowed with knowing
this land in all weather.

The ploughman’s song, and the larks
crying down the light.

~ Jenna Butler

Jenna Butler is a poet and educator who makes her home in Edmonton, where she is the founding editor of Rubicon Press. Her work has garnered a number of awards, including CBC’s Alberta Anthology, and has been widely published in journals, anthologies and literary magazines in Canada and abroad. Butler is the author of three short collections. Her latest book is forthcoming from NeWest Press in 2010.

“‘What We Can’t Let Go’: The more time I spend on our small northern farm, the more I am aware of the remnants around me. Clapboard weathering down into grass. Pipe and glass shards, old hay rakes, shattered china and rotten horse tack. I wonder about these leftovers of what once constituted home for somebody else, in a vastly different time, and how simply the prairie has reclaimed them. I wonder about the mark my generation is leaving on this planet – wonder what I can do in my own small way to reduce it, find myself wishing it were as simple a mark as a river stone foundation settling back against the earth.”

Read more of Jenna Butler’s poetry:
Wild Onions
winter highway
Farmhouse, Castor

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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