Claim staked in 1883 -
Jubilee Mountain marked,
Over 70 years, Galena ore –
silver, lead, zinc – was clawed
from the mountain, ballast
shipped out of the valley.
Barite, white dust dredged
from the tailings ponds, rose
from the ore trucks and settled
into the clothes hanging on the line. We
wore it to school, to basketball games.
We danced in it.
The ducks we plucked
on the hillside, breasts filled
with shot made from Galena ore,
lead finding its way home.
I would like to thank Rilla Friesen, former editor of Grain Magazine, for nominating these poems for the National Magazine Awards.
My Father's Gift to My Mother
He laid a dead duck at your feet. And you - a vegetarian.
Then he left you alone with it. Flopped on the floor before you - belly up, neck twisted back, orange webbing just touching the tip of your brown shoes. You knew what you had to do. Bent over, grasped the duck’s emerald head. Smelled gunpowder, the spent barrel of the shotgun.
Outside with one hand you clutched the feet while the other reached for its chest. There on top of the bank, feathers flew from your touch. And you plucked the down - exposed pallid goose-pimpled flesh darkly spotted with pinfeathers. Drumsticks and naked wings cold. Still. Its head in your hand. Clouded eyes right there. And you severed it. Laid that neck on your chopping block and dropped the sharp blade of the axe down through the pale ring encircling its throat. Then your knife sliced the skin, jagged slit spilling the offal, blood red in your white enamel bowl. Is that when you knew that all his gifts would be impossible?
You used Saskatoon branches to start a fire, there on the frozen grass, the bitter green wood smoking into the meat as you singed the pinfeathers. Your cold, red hands warmed by the flames.
In the house, you stuffed the hollow cavity you had created. Bread, celery, onions, sage, food you liked, disappearing into that dark space. And it scented the house, the fat sizzling in the roaster, calling him in, with his buddies and their beer to sit around the table so that you had to chop the potatoes over the pot on the wood stove and bend around the men to set out the plates.