Commonplace

Standard

It seems I must content myself to be
a poet of quiet places and gentle hands
of sun-streaked sky and rough-edged voices
dusty prairie towns and wind-burned faces
everything so commonplace and familiar

– Glen Sorestad, “Sitting on a High Bank Over the South Saskatchewan River”


I haven’t had an extraordinary life
just an Alberta farm girl
few adventures to tell
the lack of tragedy leaves my poems bland,
like soup without enough salt
the cook hiding in the kitchen.
It seems I must content myself to be

relinquished to obscurity along
with the life that birthed me,
consumed by the urban, my great-grandparents’
farm swallowed by sprawl.
I try to tell myself there is room for
a poet of quiet places and gentle hands,

but my words are a generation too late,
even as I am certain that then my poems
would have been planted in the neat rows of a farm garden,
canned into sealers in a hot August kitchen, or blanched
and frozen to consume in deep winter.
There may not have been words
on pages, although I would have noticed details
of sun-streaked sky and rough-edged voices

and heard the poetry in the cadence of their talk
as I refilled coffee cups around a kitchen table
after lunch. But I wanted a life with words
and so I packed a bag, betrayed those
dusty prairie towns and wind-burned faces

became a scholar, and, for a time,
lost my voice to the roar of city streets,
to post-modernism and deconstructionism and
the discovery my words were too late,
that no one wants poems about barb wire fences and sky
and the sound of the wind. Silenced, I thought my words obsolete.
Yet when I come home, the river sings to me and
barley whispers and poems demand to be heard,
recorded, recognized. And so here
is my declaration that,
like my poems, I am a simple girl, awed
by clear winter mornings – that first lung-cutting
inhalation a prayer – as the sun
illuminates snow-covered fields and sets every
tree ablaze with frost, and it is my all, my
everything, so commonplace and familiar.