Wild Rose Coun­try

Prairie Fire - - HANNAH GREEN -

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.

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