How Far Can We Follow
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.
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,
Below the cattail skyline, time
becomes elastic. The silence hums.
Grass tickles my back. I am
invisible as a mountain.
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
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.
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