Prairie genes

(Instead of a memoir post, I decided there was just too much to talk about, so wrote a prose poem instead. Weirdly, poetry contains more words than prose). 

Prairie Genes

I’ve figured out that I have prairie genes

by the time I reach Canmore

because something inside me becomes still and settled

and thankful to the horizon that assures me I can keep

on driving and driving for as long as I need to.

The sky grows bigger with every mile and

I listen to old Springsteen songs, thinking how my

brother Mark would have been a good person to have on this road trip–

stopping in for a cold beer, a smoke outside, then back into the car,

not minding silence and lyrics for hours on end.

He would have made me ride shotgun though, no doubt about it.

I make my way to Lake Louise, trying to take in the ridiculous beauty of stone all around me,

rising up nobler than any politician ever did for Canada, these Rockies, bless

them, they are our national song, our earth ballad, our flag of nature.

Winding up the narrow road to the lake, a cluster of cars and accents, French, German, Swiss,

Japanese–all pointing and gesticulating and I turn to see a Grizzly, maybe 30 feet away.

I have to tell myself this is really happening as the Parks Canada staff scream at the tourists’ to get in their

cars–I don’t need to be told as I eye the infamous hump of the bear and the muscled shoulders and deadpan eyes.

Why is it everyone I meet feels like they have a handshake that means something?

I’m beginning to remember my mother in this touch, the sense there was nothing

hidden behind it, just a ‘come on in and sit down’, kind of warmth you don’t

find so often anymore.

Prairie genes. 

When I was 11 she’d taken us to Saskatoon (her birthplace)–

my two brothers and I in a 710 Datsun–

and made us stop at every Fort, every sign, every

damn lookout until we wanted to cry out out no! no! keep driving! 

I get it now.

She wanted to give this to us. It took me a long time but it sinks in finally.

I tell my son, I’m taking you to the Prairies next summer.

You just have to see them. You’ll get it when you’re there.

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