Photo by Dennis Cooley.


         have you learned 

nothing kroetsch
have I taught you
nothing you yourself
must remember

the yips & squeaks
the swift ups & downs
the stations they keep

small creatures who sleep in the dark
funnel their warm dreams
and swallow the stones of the field
they spend their days in the mottled grass
on their bellies in the sun
stand up to practise whistling
to monitor hot winds & dog smells
to demonstrate where they quiver
on the lips of their holes
the jeopardies of hope

love’s errants
they show us how
to jump
// up, bob,
how to stand up
how to sniff
the burning air

they teach us

how to
duck when a

.22 whizzes
like piss in winter

when it winks into the brain
and settles in the small warm bodies
and their large eyes darken



RK as young gardener 

where is the grass in your garden, bob, that thrives in drought at 40
below,  and drives spikes into the heart of the garden you are
hoping to turn into a hot bed of noxious poetry and how beset by
mildew and beetles does your cabbage grow

i sing of pig weed dock and lamb’s quarter sing the cows who
amble stoically through the ragweed taller than rain forests you
felled and ploughed by dandelions that shone like wet suns witness
to your faith in cauliflower until you pulled one just for a fistful of
yellow a clump of dirt you raked spring looking for snakes and
crickets and what we called portulaca that clung to clay roads and
gravel lanes and your front yard except it was camomile where
they propped cars and thistles popped like revolutionaries from
shadow and from the shallow dirt into proper muffs that
turn purple and bristle under a sun that shrivelled your mother’s
petunias the cows knowing there was stinkweed first thing in
spring, shockingly lush, which they leaped moons and fences to
eat, trampled wire and post, spoiled the milk with their slobbery
green breath mosied near the leggy brown-eyed susans alongside
the ditches that rolled in clover a hard row to hoe where the
potatoes dug in like sappers and someone plucked the lady bugs
doused them in kerosene



the crow king

faces the battle
river sings the red
river valley the red
winged black
bird chirring

crow chokes
on dead frogs
wrings his larynx dry

the carnival of his longing
is the black bird clinging
to the cattails where they bend
in the wind
the clamour that is your heart

crow is at it until he
yanks out the moon
and stomps out the stars
and the cows at last
come ambling home


Dennis Cooley is the author of The Home Place: Essays on Robert Kroetsch’s Poetry (U of Alberta P, 2016).