Happy 100th Birthday, North Battleford

imagesOur little city officially celebrates its 100th birthday today.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a poem paying tribute to the river valleys that have been home and sanctuary to our species for many millennia. We’re blessed with a particularly lovely one here and I’ve often driven or walked through these hills and imagined this place when it was younger, wilder, populated by an entirely different kind of people.

Happy birthday, North Battleford.

Tigris

Irresistibly drawn to these green
descending hills, natural cradle
for a squalling, nascent civilization
offering the allure of water, game
shelter from on-rushing tempests &
killing winter winds that seek
but fail to penetrate the draws
& shallow, dipping coulees
grudgingly retreating only when
the first crocus, purple with apoplexy
sends them packing back to their
Rocky Mountain redoubt

Summer settlements along the
sandy riverbanks, for trade &
contact after another hard winter:
fishing & hunting & sport
rough games to occupy the young men—
old feuds recalled, raids re-enacted
blood alliances forged between families
& lodges, only the occasional grass fire,
torrential hailstorm or inevitable drowning
dispelling the illusion of idyll

& so it was & remained until one day
(overcast, with a promise of rain)
on the horizon, no attempt to hide
(there! there! see?)
strangers & from the look of them
they’d come a long way…

Rounding the big curve, topping the hill
the familiar sight of the river valley
spread out below us & then crossing the
newly repaired bridge, gazing down at the
olive-colored water, suddenly realizing
Heraclitus was wrong, this is that same river, we
are merely the latest arrivals, on our way to
supper with friends in Old Town, who will
excitedly tell us about the moose spotted on
the island, offer to show us the nest of the
Great Horned owl so that we, too, can
endure her cool, dispassionate regard, whispering
so we don’t spoil the moment

© Copyright, 2013 Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)

 

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