The geese swarm overhead
while mosquitoes flock below.
Do you love or hate them
differently if I use new words?
Reverse the verbs: swarm, flock.
Can you make yourself feel otherwise
than the V cleaving the blue sky
and the buzzing penetrations
without your mind’s permission
and just because they are?

Lakes are joining up now
farms losing fields to mud.
They will come back richer
silted, open to new seeds
for other generations and machines.

We might call all these things by other names.
They will remain beyond our narrow trails
of breath and ink, our puny trials and songs
our houses, barns, our tractors, fences, bones.

Questions and Answers

How/where do you find inspiration today?

At this point I find inspiration where I had not (in youth) anticipated it: memory. We don’t get to choose what we remember, which is both unfair and interesting, so things float up—transformed from what they were when they sank beneath the tide of new experience.

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

I would advise the aspiring poet to read one’s work aloud, at every stage and definitely before submitting it anywhere. The best way to do this, too, is to print it out on paper. One catches infelicities of phrasing this way far more than by reading silently and from the screen. Poetry is very much about sound.

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

Travel back to my family’s farm in Saskatchewan always invokes contemplation of the endless cycle of seasons, growth, and death. We engage in these cycles for such a brief time; this poem both mourns and finds solace in that brevity. 

How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?

It began in a very Saskatchewan way: with annoyance at mosquitoes—an image that takes in at least three senses (sight, hearing, and touch). The license plate in Saskatchewan boasts—accurately—Land of Living Skies, for many reasons including the gorgeous vision of Canada geese honking their way in formation, skimming the clouds. It struck me that our feelings about those two species are a curious contrast, and it went from there.

This poem “Saskatchewan” originally appeared in Sensing Different Worlds Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 244 (2021): 81.

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