Omand’s Creek, May

The slopes are dull as pavement,
creek’s edge dry with last year’s cattails.
Coffee cups, bright red faded to brick,
lodge in bushes. Wind-blown fast-food logos,
disguised by dirt and sun-bleach,
entangle in the yellowed grass.

Step sideways—the picture changes:
new grass threading up through the old,
willow twigs bursting with leaves, rosehips
still orange after winter, the advertisement
of blackbird’s scarlet shoulders.

Tomorrow, neighbours will come
with gloves and garbage bags, kick up dust
from blades of bluestem. They’ll comb out
the cardboard and plastic that’s drifted in.
Push back the boundaries yet again.

Questions and Answers

How/where do you find inspiration today?

Train travel, with its long hours of watching countryside slip by, often results in a poem. Poems often come out of walks along a creek or a country road, especially when I return to the same creek or country road over and over. And lately I’m finding a lot of scope for poetry in my family’s history, both the revelations and the unanswered questions.

As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

Being part of a literary community is important to me in many ways, so I would encourage aspiring poets to look for ways to meet other writers. Join your provincial writers’ guild, go to open mic sessions, consult the writer-in-residence at your library—take advantage of whatever is available. It is so energizing to have the friendship and support of other writers—to commiserate and celebrate, to exchange advice and feedback, and to nudge each other to try new things.

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

Omand’s Creek, which runs through the northwestern part of Winnipeg and empties into the Assiniboine River, has become one of the places I return to again and again. It is a tiny piece of wildness hemmed in by streets and industrial/retail developments. I love all the wildflowers that grow along its banks, and I loathe all the garbage that ends up there. “Affirmation” got its start when I happened to walk along the creek in mid-May, just before the annual neighbourhood clean-up. Eventually, this one poem grew into a series that covers an entire year.

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