In Leduc, Alberta,
there’s a man on a job. He’s selling farm insurance under a bow-legged tent. He’s heckling my boots, oh good, he’s heckling.
At this truck stop, where this man is working, the only other visible woman is working the bar.
This truck stop where I am not woman enough, but where I am still woman and so the carbon filter for this man. Where who cares, really, usually, I don’t mind being your cultural spectre, your woman whose boots dare to tread. I’ve got a haircut for that, I’ve got a suit for that, you know I’ve got the boots.
I’ve got my elbows ready for the man on the job, just in case. I’ve got the car key indexed next door to the house key and the bike lock key, my whole life here in my fist.
Spruce beetles creaking through a stand of five sickly spindlies. Eerie as a campfire tale, the one where the killer’s going scritch, scritch, scritch. The precursor of slow tires on gravel.
Next door, a French couple cycling down from Anchorage. Next door, an elderly terrier, standing and shaking out before flopping herself down. Next door, a motorcyclist with a sack of trail mix. Next door, a military family moving up to Anchorage with teacup poodles named Buddy and Cool Whip.
How do you know you’ve been here long enough? When you recognize the types of travellers, when they recognize you at the grocery store, when you dream of your own hometown, its sounds and smells and the time you quit your job at sixteen and the boss said he’d see to it you never worked in this town again. Well, you’re working in this town again? You and the spruce beetles, creaking away.
andrea bennett’s debut poetry book, Canoodlers, came out this spring with Nightwood Editions. Her writing has appeared in literary journals and magazines across North America, including The Atlantic, Maisonneuve, Adbusters and Geist, and her poetry has been anthologized in books from McGraw-Hill Ryerson and Ooligan Press. In 2013, she received a National Magazine Awards honourable mention in the Politics and Public Interest category.