Wild Rose Country
My gramma and I talk about the shifting landscape, the weather.
There are too many kilometres and not enough words. Without the radio,
we drive in silence; some things, we can’t agree on.
We’re visiting relatives in Calgary, the side of the family that got away.
Sometimes, we leave because no one tells us to stay. It’s as simple as that.
The Calgary Tower has shrunk since the last time I was here;
my cousins are wearing more vintage and less GAP. My gramma is slower—
instead of saying arthritis, we match her pace, struggle with stairs.
Progressive is a word I’ve chosen not to understand.
A bit of rust around the wheels, radio that coughs up static.
Duct tape on the rear-view mirror—trying to keep the past in place.
When headlights begin to float along the highway, we pull
into the parking lot of a Holiday Inn. The smell of old smoke clings
to the lobby like a damp bathrobe. This is where dreams go to sleep.
Polyester bedspread, rumpled floral. Nothing is made to last,
my gramma is fond of saying, even our bones grow old.
In the morning I put on a smile; my gramma puts in her teeth
and we eat toast at the continental breakfast. I pocket styrofoam cups,
plastic knives. We can only give so much before we have to take.
I ask to go to Banff, the family obliges. I buy a shirt with a beaver
holding a jug of maple syrup. Memories fade and fall apart in the wash;
I have loose threads and nothing to hold myself together with.
Entering Alberta, the oil smells like money. At the gas station
you can buy a postcard with an image of a pump jack on the prairie,
a beach of oil sand. Energy is a business, like the stores on 17th.
I have no postage and nothing to say. How do I describe a ravaged
landscape? With enough demand, everything is for the taking.
The sun doesn’t shine on road trips. Kilometres of cloud, windshield
wipers set to swat at rain. I drive through the grey mood of the afternoon,
my gramma tells stories from the passenger seat—tries to brighten the day.
Some resources aren’t renewable. Not everything can be replaced.
My aunt makes ham and swiss sandwiches for lunch. We click
through TV channels, settle on watching The Price is Right. But it’s Drew Carey
not Bob Barker. Things change and there’s nothing we can do about it.
My cousins lend me a Calgary Flames jersey and I drink Molson
on their leather sofa, cheer for something I don’t understand. My gramma
says hockey is about believing in something larger than yourself.
It’s about knowing what you want—wearing it on your chest.
I want to be small and sleepy again, almost dozing in the backseat
of my gramma’s car. Windows down, the smell of smoke and Febreze
in the upholstery. Now, we drive with the windows up, A/C on—
a crisp artificial breeze rattling through the vents.
The car makes noises it shouldn’t—a mechanical death rattle.
There are cracks in the windshield, a leak I’m too nervous to address.
Soon, the upkeep won’t be worth it. Nothing is made to last;
our need to remember should tell you that.