Two Poems: Siteseeing

Collaborative poetry written over one year during the pandemic, Siteseeing (At Bay Press) is a compelling collection by celebrated poets Ariel Gordon and Brenda Schmidt. Formatted like a call and response, this is a fresh, hopeful nature poetry collection that considers the natural world and the people making their way through it. Ariel’s pieces focus on urban Manitoba—the city and its trees—while Brenda considers rural Saskatchewan and birds.

We share two poems from the collection, one by Ariel and one by Brenda.

The cover of Siteseeing by Ariel Gordon and Brenda Schmidt


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Two Poems from Siteseeing

A wasp’s nest missing its dingy
wrapping sways like a piñat
in the bare branches

most of the way to Omand’s Creek.
I always want to knock down
their papier-mache

pulp scraped from picnic tables
& balconies. I inhabit

the millions of years
between carnivorous wasps
& vegetarian bees, diverging

in the mid-Cretaceous. I am comforted
that wasps probably buzzed
the mouths, the inner arms

& fingers (talons? claws?) of feeding
dinosaurs too. Further along,
a round metal ball

topped with a spike
on the roof of a house. “I bet
it’s a lightning rod,” M says. I want it

to be a homemade onion dome.
The ones on Ukrainian
orthodox churches in the North End

make me ache. I always miss
their all-you-can-eat
perogy (pierogi? pirohy?)

dinners, but I am stuck—
like a butcher bird stowing
a songbird on a bit of barbed wire—

on the idea of a bunch
of old women, shaping dough
in a church kitchen. I’m struck

by work bees, voices raised
in song, the moment
at a reading where you can hear

people listening.
We walk on.

by Ariel Gordon

Sunrise, a soft orange 
twenty deer pull apart 
as they walk this way 

down the road, pausing 
now & then between 
ditches full of snow, 

between barbed wire fences, 
the neighbour's on the right, 
ours on the left which I'll cut 

out of the pic I post 
for the sake of composition. 
To keep the image quiet

I'll forgo any language 
leaps in the caption, 
avoid any near-rhymes

with insurrection or sedition,
won't mention the grader
coming over the hill, plowing

snow, the twenty double-takes,
the leaps 
& bounds that follow

through the ditch & over the fence. 
The deer slow. The grader passes.
I wave at the driver.

by Brenda Schmidt

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Photo credit Mike Deal

Ariel Gordon (she/her) is a Winnipeg/Treaty 1 territory-based a writer, editor, and enthusiast. She is the ringleader of Writes of Spring, a National Poetry Month project with the Winnipeg International Writers Festival that appears in the Winnipeg Free Press. Her first two collections of poetry won the Lansdowne Prize for Poetry. Her most recent books are the essay collection Treed: Walking in Canada’s Urban Forests (Wolsak & Wynn, 2019) and the first book in the public poetry project TreeTalk (At Bay Press, 2020), which was nominated for three Manitoba Book Awards. In 2022, her work appeared in Canadian Notes and Queries, Canthius, periodicities, and The Quarantine Review.

Photo credit Harvey Schmidt

Brenda Schmidt was the seventh Saskatchewan Poet Laureate. Author of five books of poetry and a book of essays, her work has been nominated for Saskatchewan Book Awards, received the Alfred G. Bailey Prize for Poetry, and is included in The Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English: Tenth Anniversary Edition. Over the years she has served on the board of directors of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild and Sage Hill Writing, and more recently as poetry editor for Grain. She gardens on a dry hillside in central west Saskatchewan in Treaty 6 territory, and has several rain barrels.

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To purchase a copy of Siteseeing, click here.

For more from Two Poems, click here.