The thistles insist they, too, belong
on the quarter near Ranfurly, Alberta.
Around wooden fenceposts, derelict tractors,
gray, swaybacked granaries, corrugated,
twisted, bent by too many prairie winters.
Nothing will even nibble on thistle stems,
the sharp barbs on every bud and leaf
enough to fend off even starving field mice.
But the monarchs, pink ladies, and bees
swarm the perfumed purple blossoms,
suck sweet nectar, stroke this one’s pollen
on that one’s pistils to make more thistles.
Red polls, swallows, hummingbirds
line their nests with thistledown, nurse
their princeling chicks on silken cushions.
When the nests fall apart, the thistle seeds
surf the gusts well into Saskatchewan.
Thistles love the west more than Scotland.
Their roots drilled so deep in subsoil clay
that when plough and pickaxe decapitate,
they sprout again and spread year after year.
They overwinter like locals, bear the snow,
the Arctic blasts, the 40 below Februaries
as well as the people who lived off buffalo
many centuries before there were fences.