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E. Russell Smith


The Road to Merrickville

In memory of Eleanor Marritt Smith, 1903-2001

We have no reason now to drive
into the country south of Ottawa.
The land has taken her to itself,
after a pause for recollection
at the threshold of the dark.

Her last excursion out of doors
passed by a stone barn bridge,
solid as her father trading up and up,
her mother teaching her the ways
to make good times from hard.

Now, if we take that road, we see
old stone and even older timber
houses waiting for the rock and swale
to yield another crop. For centuries
an ageless forest saved this soil,

but after seasons of a settler's axe
and harrow, careless rain and snow-melt
leached and carried off the good of it.
She left her fields to fallow long ago.
Now strangers fill the land, content

with hobby horse and strolling green
around refurbished homesteads,
each one full of electronic toys
to make subsistence tolerable.
The world rolls east. The bright tide rises,

washes over relics wasted at the ebb,
and drives us up a steep defile.
Summer heat reflects in dry pools
on the road. The summit reached,
our weary mother stops a while.

She brought us here, and we go on.
She has stayed behind, content
to contemplate a promised land,
at last to take one easy step
alone, and in her own direction.


E. Russell Smith lives and writes in Ottawa, Canada, and has traveled extensively around the world, most recently in western China. He has published Trippers' Tales (short fiction, 1991) and The Felicity Papers (a regional novel of letters, 1995). His latest book of poetry is Why We Stand Facing South (Moonstone, 1998).
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