The Day We Tore Up Stanley's Lawn


The neighbours thought we were crazy.
And so did we.
As the naked clay dried
and the wind of Kalamalka Lake
swirled it in our faces.

And the bare lines of the irrigation pipe
lay like a grid on a brown map
of the West,
the windy West, the West of twenty year droughts,
the West that was never green,
where hard pan is dry ten feet down.

The neighbours came to watch
and a police car stopped by
–he'd had a complaint
but there's no law against tearing up your lawn.

Drinking Stanley's beer until dusk
sitting on the mounds of dying sod
we started on the dinner's wine
and stared at each other,
began pulling up the plastic grid.

Brass nozzles fell on the driveway,
black pipe curled around us
and we whooped
and Stanley the iron man yanked hard
and we both pulled.
We'd caught something,
so we tugged again
and up came a man who'd been watering his driveway
and there were three of us now
and Stanley's wife and kids,
we all pulled hard
and heard a distant rumble,
as lights went off around the lake
–we'd bagged the dam
and freed the river.

All night it went on
and that one went down to free another
and another, over the Great Divide,
the Brazeau, the Oldman, the Whitegoat.

Lights went off all over the Northwest,
as the Columbia, the Cascade,
the San Fernando, the Colorado,
down along the Great Divide,
rivers smacking down the squatters' shacks,
and their kidney-shaped pools
and all the putting greens of Arizona.

Everywhere people came out to watch
the rivers come back.

We've started something, Stanley said.

We waited,
wondering what next,
and perfected a new sport,
whirling it high and around us,
tossing the lawnmower over our heads
like a four-wheeled caber.

And all around our feet
there was new growth:
sweetgrass, brome,
fescue and wild rose.
The earth began to smell again
the day Stanley pulled the plug.

We'd broken the green spell
that Eastern green, that English curse.
And the new colours now:
yellows, the gold of palomino,
of sundogs, greys and adobes.

Hoofbeats we heard one night.
No, Stanley said,
but I heard them too
and the sky fluttered
dark with birds coming back
and the earth shook.

And all the impatient farmers went back
to the green and possible East,
and the Impossible West was quiet and golden again.
No pump jacks, no farms,
the West the way it was.

And Stanley's new lawn spread
like a tumbleweed blowing across the West
the Northwest, the Southwest,
the golden West.

And now the wind blows,
light as prairie clover,
sweet as sage.


Bruce Hunter, Two O'Clock Creek: Poems New and Selected, Oolichan Books, 2010.