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The Agoraphobic’s Guide to Nature
April’s gusts spin your balcony’s tin bird
Balcony: metal cage, its steel rail
boundaries the brink of your world,
your personal morose meridian.
You only venture beyond that ledge for food &
when you used to go to work. And when
you had a brief lover. Even with your
condition, you don’t live under a rock –
you hear things, reports of a nearby
world, ancient, grassy, where the birds
are real, with names like willet & pipit
& shrike & superhero owls that hear violets
threading up through the grass. Swale
they call this tapestry of reeds & mallow
& vetch & aspen they say trembles not
from fear; rather it’s the house band.
A moment ago you said ‘lover’ though precious
little happened, the thing went extinct almost
before it began. You’ve never been to Swale
World yet even hemmed within your skittish days
you sense it out there, holding its breath just past
all those ten-minute-old houses half the size
of Costco, shoving the city’s edges outward
like your brief lover’s garage-bloated garrison
& once in his hot tub you heard it,
the sounding Swale, and something was crying
out there. A shedding refrain like when someone
calls out over and over for a missing child except
it wasn’t human, it was older, sadder. Back home
in balcony-land where your fake bird writhed &
whirled (so often, wind) you wrote in your journal:
I hate his house. Wrote: I need to get out more.
But by then it was too late.

© Jeanette Lynes
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Photo Credit: A smoke-hazed sun sets over Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale. Photo by Muhammad Zain Ul Abideen, posted to the Northeast Swale Nature Facebook group.

Did you know ..

the City of Saskatoon is planning new neighbourhoods that will encircle and enclose the Northeast Swale and  nearby Small Swale. At the same time, the provincial Ministry of Highways is designing a four-lane thoroughfare that will bisect both of these ancient, grassy worlds. Less than five percent of the original grassland ecosystem remains in central Saskatchewan.

Author: Jeanette Lynes

Jeanette Lynes is the author of seven books of poetry and two novels. Her third novel is forthcoming from HarperCollins Canada in 2022. She directs the MFA in Writing at the University of Saskatchewan. More info here.