Cattail Skyline

By Joanne Epp

Cattail Skyline
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In her second poetry collection, Joanne Epp ventures from open prairie roads into little creek beds, down onto the warm earth of strawberry patches and far afield to the busy markets of Cambodia to examine the intimate ways we come to know and experience place. With vivid detail ... Read more


Overview

In her second poetry collection, Joanne Epp ventures from open prairie roads into little creek beds, down onto the warm earth of strawberry patches and far afield to the busy markets of Cambodia to examine the intimate ways we come to know and experience place. With vivid detail and a sense of quiet reverence, Cattail Skyline captures a myriad of landscapes where every change of season and slant of light reveals something previously unnoticed, and where even the most well- trodden paths hold the potential for new discovery.

Joanne Epp

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Joanne Epp spent several years in Ontario and now makes her home in Winnipeg with her husband and two sons. Currently she serves as assistant organist at St. Margaret's Anglican Church. Her poetry has appeared in journals-- The New Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, CV2, The Light Ekphrastic, and others -- and in one anthology. Cattail Skyline is her second poetry collection.

Excerpt

How Far Can We Follow
Hague Ferry

The ferry's a hidden thing, only half believed in
until the road dives into the sudden valley.
Density of dogwood and chokecherry
to right and left, and a warning: Test Brakes.
We've left the upper world, gone down
to where the sky has borders.

A sheet-metal raft, four cars square.
An engine to propel, cable to guide
below the ceiling of canola fields.
The ferryman's silent, hardly seen:
the gesture of a single chain,
a signal to bring us on.

Lanigan Creek

Swaying on cattails, the blackbirds--
yellow-headed, red-winged--see it all:
their domain and one intruder.
I side-step down the bank, crouch low.
Blackbirds whistle. I wait.

Flickers of movement: footprints
dimple the surface of the stream.
Bubbles rise from mud, slivers of light
pierce green water. Mottled brown
shifts against brown. Red and blue
needles stitch the air. Coiled spires
of shells glide flat-footed,
infinitely slow.

Below the cattail skyline, time
becomes elastic. The silence hums.

Grass tickles my back. I am
invisible as a mountain.

Fort Carlton

Everyone knows it's a buffalo rubbing stone,
that boulder on top of the hill.
This is where the bison came
to scratch their behinds, massage
their woolly shoulders. Not rough like a tree,
but stronger. They could lean hard,
rub the itches out. Hey, look,
says one of the boys, the ground's
hollowed out all around it. That's from their hoofs.
You mean hooves, a girl corrects him.

We know about glaciers from school.
We know they left rocks in odd places. Erratics,
the book called them. Eccentrics.
Strangers amid the grass
and willows.

The rock is chest-high on us.
We hoist ourselves up, sit here in the sun.
We pick at the dark stuff clinging to it,
argue whether moss or lichen. Pretend to believe
these are hundred-year-old bits of hair
from the very last of the buffalo.

Reviews

Cattail Skyline is a love song en plein air for the prairies, full of painterly seeing. The narrator returns to the landscape of her childhood, taking inventory of the ways it shaped her. Why return to the path? / Where else would you go?
--Monica Kidd, Chance Encounters with Wild Animals

What a gift these poems are in these troubled times. Each walk down the cemetery road is stirring, each journey by train or back to childhood truly moving in every sense. Exquisite at every turn and hauntingly precise, Cattail Skyline quietly measures the electricity of place, the rhythms of life, and what it means to return and remember. I feel as if my heart has been heard.
--Brenda Schmidt, Culverts Beneath the Narrow Road

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