Crowsnest Flow

Where lava sprayed glistening rock

a glacier plunged and ground the mountain rocks to melt into a

lake and outflow river

out pours bluebunch and mountain rough fescue to roll and

merge with the wind to the grassland east


The Pelican Lake peoples flowed in and out

the Besant peoples flowed in and out and the

Kootenai peoples flowed in and flowered and wilted

but set their roots down hard


An old priest trudged in a black gown and

railways ran their trains in and out

miners plunged and ground for black coal

farmers pushed their herds of cattle in and out

rum runners drove their McLaughlin Buicks in and out

skiers drive in and up to slide the slopes

dynamite exploded out to build the grey river of

highway number three when it wound west and south then west


All flow in and out almost nothing stops this stop gap

not even a gravel avalanche or mine explosion


It took a name it didn’t used to have

flowing words about a perch on pine for the raven or

little brother of raven

or the band of Crow who met the Blackfoot there


Now a crow watches the traffic to the

cinnamon bun place from a power pole

until the day the flow stops

after what calamity,

when the cars on the highway disappear and

only flows the river,

and the deer, then only the wind, then only the

lava jettisoning its glistening rocks and

the mountains push themselves shut

without a witness

Questions and Answers

Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

I can’t think of a particular time I decided I wanted to write poetry. I think many young people like poetry, and many young people write poetry, but that at some point someone, directly or indirectly, informs the young poet that writing poetry lacks practical value and therefore is not worth spending time doing. I have written poetry on and off my whole life, and the “off” times reflect my lack of confidence in my ability or some other distraction.

What poetic techniques did you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?

I focused on images that for me epitomized the nature of the Crowsnest region. I used quite a bit of repetition to emphasize the continuity and cyclical qualities of nature. I tend to write in free verse, so I selected line lengths and rhythm that sounded “right” to my ear. I tried to avoid punctuation to maintain rapid reading (that is, “flowing”), though I notice that the last stanza has a few commas. Perhaps there I wanted to emphasize a few phrases, and by “stopping the flow” with commas, I created emphasis around those phrases, probably to draw attention to reversals of the flow that I described in the earlier stanzas. So, yes indeed, I pay attention to form.

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