Headwaters drip from snowy melt of mountain glaciers
gurgle down glistening rock faces in nameless rivulets.
Fed by rain and sibling trickles they become sinuous streams
adolescent-eager in descent, unafraid to dash against boulders
froth into canyons, course over rock beds till they reach the flat.
Mature and strong they gouge valleys, meander through meadows
nurture forests, bears and eagles, rejuvenate farms and hamlets
flow regal yet restless through villages and cities
under bridges and over tunnels
ever pressing on to an ocean destination.
The watermark of veins, arteries and capillaries on our maps
they carve their initials, scrawl their signatures
all over Canada: Snake, MacKenzie, Coppermine
Exploits, Hillsborough, Saint John, Margaree, Moisie
St. Lawrence, Red, Qu’Appelle, Athabasca, Cowichan…
Named by Indians and explorers for Indians and explorers
they inscribe the plot lines of our history
hide the gold and call the salmon
propel the ferries, carry the logs, barges and ships
pave thoroughfares for tugboats, speedboats, kayaks, canoes.
We settle beside them for their sustenance and beauty
feel betrayed when, with spring-fevered earthlust
their swift-flowing waters bite off chunks of our land.
Then we fear them, dredge them, soil them,
treat them, drink them, dam them.
I have toe-squished the mud of the South
Saskatchewan, pulled Jackfish from the North
been awed by the Hell’s Gate fierceness of the Fraser
spied loons and cormorants gulping fish on the Nicomekl
otters cavorting in the Serpentine
driven miles beside the Thompson
as it winked at me through clearings
admired the canyons carved by the Bulkley
dreamed the legends of the Kispiox
listened from a tent to the night secrets of the Skeena …
This poem was first published at Utmost Christian Writers Canadian site where it received honorable mention in 2007 Canadian Landscape Poetry Contest. The river in the photo (name unknown to me) meanders across the Alberta prairie between Lethbridge and Calgary.
into the dark.
Somewhere a train
Sirens wail, then fade.
Car vrooms a challenge,
but my tensed body pleads
for that familiar hum…
step, step, creak,
the sweet sound of teenage feet…
This poem was first published at Poets Online. It was in response to the July 2007 prompt, to take the story, characters, title, theme (as much as you need) from one of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales and transform it for your own purposes. You can read the prompt along with the published poems here.