Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wanted men over Athabasca River

Where tar sands explode as fire
Where oil spills are black tears
Into my river stretching far
It matters much to me

Where the forest birds tarry slow
Where bison graze & die
There's my boreal forest, my sky
It matters much to me

This land beats with grandfathers' blood
Water for brewing food
Thick oil for our birch canoes
Animals for kinship

My lantern's light is fading low
I raise my voice to wind
Is it too late, too late, I cry?
Death is noisy machine

Sucking each velvet stone to dust
Laying pipelines & belts
Contaminating air with sulfur
Trampling down aged trees

Twilight comes with heavy yoke
Choking every wildlife 
With poison, we drink our stench
Money is new sun 

Browning our pelts & copper pots
Minting palms with gold grit
Where are the watchmen? 
Where are they?

The Athabasca river, highway construction and suburbs seen from a helicopter in Fort McMurray, Alta., in July 2012.

I have been reading the Atkinson Series:  Shifting Sands, Examining the Costs of Oil Sands Bargain.   The Athabasca River originates from a glacier in Jasper National Park, located in the Rocky Mountains. It is the longest river in Alberta, and runs past the oil sands. Organizations like the Pembina Institute have long been asking for strict rules for oil sands developers and processors to protect the river.

For additional reading and to hear TED Talk video about Alberta Tar Sands Project, click here.

Posted for D'verse Poets Pub - Poetics:  What does the Watchman See?  

Thanks for the visit ~


  1. This is so strong.. and so sad given all the costs associated just for the purpose of pressing the accelerator a little harder to the floor we sacrifice the land. You can indeed ask yourself were the watchmen are. I love the way you have made this almost to a hymn...

  2. Big money and greed give way to a lot and the environment very few of them care about, sadly

  3. it is so sad when nature is destroyed and a beautiful landscape is turned into something ugly - most probably the watchman has been bribed - you know - ugh

  4. A sad reality - how we are destroying our land for our greed - our obsession with oil and other resources, as opposed to finding alternative means to fuel our necessities. If you have ever seen the places that have been strip mined and such - it is raping the land.

  5. The watchmen have been bribed; the protestors jailed, the politician's bought outright, & the rape, the greedy molestation continues. The watchmen are there, but blindfolded, like justice, with hundred dollar bills. I love the line
    /sucking every velvet stone to dust/.

  6. You, Grace, are like a watchman with this urgent poem...thank you for this message. Our rivers in northwest Iowa are sadly compromised too.

  7. So sad and unjust. It leaves us feeling sick.

  8. As I read this, knowing the prompt was to write of the watchman, I kept thinking "she didn't include a watchman in this. Where's the watchman?" And so your closing lines hit me doubly hard. Where, indeed, are the watchmen? Peace, Linda

  9. This is so heartfelt and poignant.

  10. Ah, geez--another gut-puncher. I see its relevance today, of course, but also going back several centuries when, for example, the bison were decimated in the plains. (In the near future, I will be visiting ND with my NDSU Bison.)

  11. A gut punching poem with brilliant visions
    and your are such a visionary of our time.

    Love this piece.

  12. Indeed, sometimes we do wonder just where they are!

  13. Brilliant writing! This, for me, had a bit of Lightfoot's Canadian Railway Trilogy to it "many are the dead men too silent to be real." Massive projects come at great cost ... moral reverberations, not the least of them.

  14. You are witness. That is a holy job


  15. And we hear of the Arctic where the perma frost is melting, the ice is melting and a bad storm could decimate the population of an ancient village. Where were the watchmen when this began, 20, 30 years ago? A very sad write but brilliant and charismatic in its intensity.

  16. Big boys splashed their wealth into big money of oil sands projects. The over-supply from the herd madness pushed the price down. Now depression is looming just because of a few greedy corporations. Great lines Grace!


  17. A Construction Tree oiled by greed..
    Is not a tree that fuels a soul..
    SUV's roll high and wide..
    fueled by
    of hell
    yet to

  18. This just made me so sad. You captured it perfectly. As always, thank you and have a wonderful weekend!

  19. It's quite heart-breaking, the reality and your poem. Hopefully when we put our feelings into words, the earth will hear and respond.

  20. I could really feel the hopelessness in the fourth stanza. And yes...where are the watchmen? Who do we trust to protect our beautiful land?
    Powerful and informative piece.

  21. Where are the watchmen? A poignant question...and I think the answer is that each one of us is a watchman/watchwoman...and the choice is ours...to sound the alarm and take action...or turn a blind eye and fail in our task.

  22. Velvet and living so swamped and unliving . . . Plenty watch, but who stops it before it happens? Since that time is over, perhaps you, poet, are the watchman, writing poems to remind us what we have lost.

  23. I love it. Trampling down aged trees... I hate it when that happens.

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  25. Unfortunately there will be little river to left about once the glacial melt is complete in Jasper.

  26. I think TS Eliot named them best: the hollow men ~


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