On Lake Winnipeg by Janice Colbert

beside V. Sackville-West


The first flowers to appear are very small.

father, son and daughter embark from their cottage   blue sky morning groomed
trails   sleds cross frozen waters to the lake’s east side   on their return surrounded
by blizzard   family lose the trail  one wonders why this should be   on the ice dad

no pulse. the children leave him   drive blind   is it because some curious
provision of Nature teaches them to crouch low   glimpse for sun through snow
to guide them to shore, to the ground  less exposed to the blasts and gales they may  

expect   ten minutes later they find the shore and drive along it   even as the high
alpines flatten themselves in the turf of the windy pasture   the sled pitches   over
a  ridge   in cushions against the boulders on to a drift   skis point to sky

Think how small they are.

the children call 911   the children’s cell reaches RCMP  the first thing we hope
to see: the snowdrops   the trees at the shore   are at their back  when they look
north   the wind at their face   the snowflakes, the aconites, the scilla    there are
several creeks along the shore   retreat to brush and birch 

It is perhaps understandable that they should be small.

but how flexible  bending instead of breaking  under the rough breath of a gale
or beneath the weight  of snow   three hours pass   dad is still out in the storm
at nine o’clock   find   his sled drifted over with snow


Copyright © Janice Colbert. Originally published in Prairie Fire (33.2, 2012), selected as the second place winner of the Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award Contest.


Janice Colbert is a Toronto based poet and professional artist. After a career as a fashion designer she completed a BFA at OCADU. Her experience in the visual informs her poetry. Awards include the Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award, University of Toronto Marina Nemat Award for Poetry, Random House Award in Writing, Ontario Arts Council Grants for her painting and semi-finalist for the RBC Canadian Painting Competition. Her poetry is published in Fresh Voices (LCP 2018), her chapbook Rose and Brine (Frog Hollow Press 2017), Literary Review of Canada and Prairie Fire. Janice completed an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC.

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