Strange Roots

Summer, 2017 / No. 39

Summers, she said,

they used to swim the cattle over.

Low tide.

Walk and swim.

Father in a rowboat,

kids in and out of it.

They were Robinsons, their farm on the brow of the hill.

In view: Robinson’s Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,

west of Brackley Beach, east of North Rustico Harbour.

You can drive there now, over a causeway

soon to be reclaimed by sand, marram grass, bayberry.

The Robinsons cleared old-growth Acadian forest.

Two sons, two farms, two farmhouses,

outbuildings, pastures.

Have a look in the 1880 Meacham’s atlas.

Families of the two sons moved to the mainland,

let the seasons take the buildings, let the fields become

summer camp for young beef cattle.

Later, a national park and campground for humans.

Then not a campground, the land left alone.

Certain species jumped up to fill the cleared spaces:

raspberries, alder, sweet gale, Norway maple, spruce.

This autumn an environmental studies group

is planting long-ago species: eastern white pine,

sugar maple, yellow birch, hemlock

Roots of saplings reach down, reach out.

A niggling begins at the back of soil’s memory,

pinging from cell to cell

A slow wave of recognition,

a who’s your father electrifies the earth.

Welcome home.

Deirdre Kessler lives in Charlottetown and is the provincial poet laureate. She is the author of two dozen children’s novels and picture books, poetry and memoir. Last updated summer, 2017.