publishing poetry only

Monday's Poem

smsteele is an award-winning poet/writer (Scottish International Poetry Award, Short-list Robert Louis Stevenson Award for Literature, National Library of Scotland/Scottish Arts Council), member of the Scottish School of Poets, Edinburgh, Banff Writers Studio 2006, and St. Peter's Artist Colony.

"Begin/The Year" is the opening piece in her novel/collection written in mixed form. The novel records a year in the lives of the "last peasants," the last generation to fully live and work on the land at the turn of the twenty-first century and examines place, loyalty, family, loss and ultimately redemption.

smsteele is one of five artists nationwide, and the first poet, to participate as a war artist in the 2008-2009 Canadian Forces Artist Program. She has lived and worked on sheep farms on the west coast of Canada and the isle of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

photo of author and her dog Freja, by EJM Speckeen.

© 2008 smsteele

Begin/The Year

End, begin.
In spring fields?
Blank, new rows we harrow,
turn sod
crush killdeer's nests with machines,
hang dead crows from rafters,
slaughter lame, old, weakened sheep
—this is survival-seed;
we pray-for rain
pace the desiccated earth,
scratch desire between our fingertips
—or for dry,
the opening sky to close again,
defeat the rot that creeps into hearts
with each day, each week, month
that curses crops.
Or does the year begin mid-summer
when cicadas hiss and hay crews
come lusty with bravado, youth
—rowers one year, tall, Olympian, gorgeous
—all strength and beauty
spent in one day, under the weight
of relentless bales?
Or when children sing in the hayloft
shadows, dance halos of dust
while below
we tag, trim, inoculate,
deworm, dip, shear, castrate,
record the crawl of the year
the cloth of our lives waulked,
punctuated with a child born,
a child grown.
We gray.
End, begin.

Some years gooda girl child at last,
healthy flock, good weather, good wool;
other years ruthless, misfortune
half a flock dead,
        dogs in fields, lousy crops
cougar, pneumonia,
     the accident.
We burn a mountain of fleece. End.


Here. Tonight, in the barn. Late
winter when yellow plum
and wild currant blossom,
shearing done, ewes labour
wide, fretful,
soft nickering,
crunch bucketfuls of sweet molasses mash,
the night cold and crammed with stars;

this is where our year begins:
awake late into the night, I lie
beside the sleeping, peaceable man,
pregnant anticipation,
a wound clock, my hands
eager, itch to stretch,
to catch, to hold the first
bawling, bloody lamb. Begin.