The Hermit Poet

September 19, 2005

Favorite Poem of My Own

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 9:02 am

I have a few favorite poems of my own, many of which are still seeking a home in a journal somewhere out there. Of the ones that have been published, there are two or three that have become quite meaningful to me.

This one began as a recollection of a summer spent weeding on a farm in Saskatchewan. The other laborer was a twenty-something Cree Indian who was saving up to start a family with his girlfriend. Everyday in the 90-100 degree weather we worked in the sun, pulling Russian thistle and other weeds by hand. We talked a bit about work and why we do it, and sometimes we’d talk about religion and belief. He shared with me his experiences in sweat lodges and dancing the Sun Dance — both of which had fascinated me. Looking at this poem, it now occurs to me why I like it so much — it also captures my feelings about poets and poetry. In the end, we all do the same work. Race, gender, religious belief, and political ideology have little significance in how I value the work that a fellow poet produces. In the end, we’re all human — we all write about what that means to us.

Sun Dance

Just the two of us at sunrise,
bent backs beneath the hot sky
pulling weeds in run off ditches.
Our hands raw and sore
from grasping the stubborn stalks
of tall grass and thistle,
we bleed a little with every pull.

We turn with the wind
watch loose seeds escape
borne away to unknown ends,
while we succumb to the heat, drift off
in daydreams, our bodies moving on unattended,
two machines in slow motion
redeeming the land from its last fall.
We sweat salt rivers till we are clean again
almost brothers despite blood and skin,

despite arbitrary questions of race
the earth marks our hands and arms the same way,
enters our veins through new scars
the sun paints us brown and gold
buries us in its last blood
before sinking beneath the weight of night.


first published in Prairie Poetry

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