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Shane Rhodes

Leafy spurge, Fort Stand Off,
European field pansy, Robber’s Roost,
you and the rotgut whiskey
this place was spigot to. Now,
even the air has the shakes
as audible as the airbrakes of passing semis
slowing for the border.

Of course, the Alberta Invasive Species Council
is pleased to announce its Baby’s Breath
Eradication Program. Of course,
bowing to a pressure both local and universal,
the town changed its name to Fareham,
blinked, then changed it back again.

Though not a raptor riding afternoon
updrafts above the ravines where coyotes
volley their screams through the bug
chawed air, I know the signs of decline.

In the distance, the Milk (“an ideal river
for an extended trip away from people”)
white as a puddle of bone stumbles
back and forth across the line
patrolled by drones.

Driving back through Medicine Hat,
in the hotel parking lot we’ll find
a crushed six pack,
an abdicated bottle of Crown Royal
and a plastic cup of cartridges spent
shooting down whatever dared to lift its head.
Careful. These too are signs to be read.

Like the Vacancy neon that strafed
our room all night or the warnings
to contain Purple Loosestrife:
what was full is now empty or replaced
by something so foreign it can barely
be named. Only residue remains.

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