stoney timberpark

- by Richard-Yves Sitoski

Central to a Poet Laureate's duties is the celebration and commemoration of local achievements. What's more, as Owen Sound Poet Laureate for 2019-2021, I have a specific mandate to deal with environmental issues. So far, it has all seemed doom and gloom. Global heating and a lack of coherent environmental policy among the world’s nations are not exactly things to celebrate. Yet I'm tired of lamenting. So when Council, responding to popular mobilization, decided to leave Stoney Orchard and Timber McArthur parks fully intact, I was ecstatic. Something truly worth commemorating! I'm proud of the decision, and have decided to write a poem in celebration to thank all parties involved: the public, who spoke up, and Council, who answered.

And so, in what is my first commemorative piece of the second year of my term, I offer "Empire of Snow" – a poem inspired by a walk I took with my friend Laura Jillian (a very vocal proponent of the campaign to save this parcel of land). It was in early spring of last year in a part of the park that reminded me of a throne room, and where just days before Laura heard and saw her first horned owl...

Empire of Snow

As a human, I'm placed between the merely vast
and the positively boundless. I stand on a sphere

so large its circumference is a straight line.
As a human, this moves me to act frantically.

I've tried catching the Earth but wound up
with a fistful of timothy. I've tried bearing it

on my shoulders but fell on my back,
stuck to the soil tight as paint to a wall.

It's enough to make me lose my grip
on what little I can manage. Which isn't much—

a few acres of brown and green to remind me
that a road allowance is the closest thing

to a kingdom, that a meltwater puddle
is all I can own of the sea, that a horned owl

calling by day is Caesar's conscience whispering
in his ear, "Remember, sire: thou art mortal".

Yes, and that I must kneel before this cedar
when its boughs become a chamberlain's hands

proffering an emperor’s orb on a pillow of snow.


(With gratitude to Laura Jillian for the perfect image)