St. Peter’s Abbey, Muenster, Saskatchewan

Some say don’t feed the birds, but it’s hard not to when they land
in the palm of your hand, plump as plums, even though it’s February,

late winter. An evergreen curtain, bare-branch web, slow snowfall,
dishwater sky. Flakes melting on my face. I want even more birds

cupped in my hands. I want to reach out and grab them before they take off—
splash of wings. I want to feel their bones, the wheat-husk whisper of them;

pin-thin cages beneath black and white feathers: matchstick houses or
hyacinth heads. I want their heartbeats in my hands: that swell of belly,

warm-smooth as ripples on ponds in summer; against my cheek, and
pinecones, crackling-quiet, falling through branches, landing soft in the snow.

The birds flurry away, seed in beak, to eat where I can’t see them.
My skin in the wind is dry; my eyes water, my lips split at the centre, bleed.

And the monks ring the bells. And the chickadees sing in the trees. And I pray
another bird, and then another, lands, steady as a psalm; gentle in my palm.

Questions and Answers

How / where do you find inspiration today?

I find inspiration in my own experiences—where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, the people I’ve met. I’m often inspired by what I’m reading, too, whether it be poetry, fiction, or non-fiction.

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

Keep reading. Read widely, but also re-read what you love. Keep writing. Keep revising. Seek feedback from other writers. A writing group might help you maintain a regular writing practice. Keep sending out work—expect a fair bit of rejection.

Pursue opportunities that enable you to connect with your local writing community. (I am a member of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild; their website and e-newsletters are really useful to me. They inform me of upcoming book launches, readings and learning events.)

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

I attended my first writers’ retreat at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Saskatchewan last February. I spent most of my time indoors—in my room reading and writing. Occasionally, though, I’d head outside to walk. If I brought peanuts with me and held them in my open palm, birds took them from me.

I’d stay out until my hands were stiff from the cold because each experience was so brief, I always wanted more—just one more bird to land, and then just one more.

This poem “St. Peter’s Abbey, Muenster, Saskatchewan” originally appeared in Reading, Writing, Listening Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 241 (2020): 113.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.