Excerpts From The Larger Forgetting

Laurie D. Graham

That summer’s birdcalls were new to you.
The guidebooks’ useless English syllables:

drink your tea, oh sweet canada canada canada.
You played your recordings for bird people

and non-bird people, stalked the songs in your dreams,
found the tones between keys on the piano.

One weekend there were men across the lake
straddling bikes, buffing chrome, squirting

lighter fluid on nightfall. In the morning, walking through
trailers and bikes and Duke of Earl on a loudspeaker,

your gaze thrown metres—eons—up the road,
you remember that the birds are right to hide from you.

The beat of your shoes on gravel, on asphalt,
on sand. The horses you can’t hear over the revving

showing ribs. The killdeer. The deer deer.
The wild carrot blooming. The wild grape.

The other society up in the trees
as you sit down alone at your table.

Aggregate conveyor pokes above the tree line at sunrise.
Silhouettes of crows perched in the silhouettes of trees,
fires not yet ripped through here. Sun orange and correctly

ascending over new mountains of developers’ slag—
all the For Lease signs along the artery, all the styrofoam castles
forming in the boonies, the signs won’t stay up in the wind.

School buses bumping down the highway like apocalypse.
Earth mounded up, garbage gathering at the stumps of hills,
a canal of it grazing the houses’ foundations.

Brownfield and a flash of fresh woodchips. Blue branches
and red ones and yellow ones in the sea of greys,
winter unending but constantly interrupted.

To cross this high over a creek, to stay that far away from it
and claim to live here. I had a dream about a return
of warmth, sudden and lively. Scratching a dog’s ears

and getting a nuzzle in return. People gathered beside water.
A big five-armed birch. I woke to maples
bleeding sap on the sidewalks. I woke trying to tally

the loss in a clearcut, all that intelligence wiped out
for parcels of capitalist language. How I might also be
a tree ripped out, and the machinery, interrupting

any chance to dig in, to know somewhere.
The fury that builds whenever we pull up stakes.
And the need to do it, to follow the money. The relief I feel.

Laurie D. Graham headshot

Laurie D. Graham
 is the author of two books of poetry, Rove and Settler Education, as well as The Larger Forgetting, which will be published by McClelland & Stewart in 2022. A poet and editor who lives in Treaty 20 territory in Canada (Peterborough, Ontario), she is descended from homesteaders, grew up in Alberta, has had poems published in numerous Canadian literary journals and anthologies, and is currently the publisher of the Toronto-based literary journal Brick.