poetry and prose about place

abandoned spaces

with 2 comments

When I drive through the countryside, I am drawn to the sight of abandoned farms or houses.  I wonder why they have gone from being loved and used, to being alone.

abandoned farm buildings

Sometimes, the leaving is from economic necessity.  Sometimes the last one who lived or worked there has died or moved on.   Sometimes the government decides it can’t provide services anymore to out-of-the-way places.  Occasionally, we are just seeing a moment in time, and new tenants and new life may be just around the corner.

an abandoned house

During the Depression, in the 1930s, many farms out west were abandoned because the combination of eroded land and poor economic conditions made staying impossible.

The poem below was written to remember one such place in southern Alberta.  In the 1960’s, we went there once with my Dad, on a drive to explore the prairie roads.

Why do we abandon the spaces we know best?  


The Reason for Leaving




I remember the place

without texture

a line drawing

plainly coloured


two tracks on the prairie

one to come

and one to go on


a grey house

on a rise of green

(not grass, just green)

the door fallen away


a brown canal

still, without depth

sluice gears and flood gates

making the most

of insufficient water


and a bridge, also brown

boards laid without nails





the truck

heavy on the driver’s side

steps down from the bridge

(the bridge ironic)

(three years, the Creek’s been dry)


in the rear-view mirror

a wooden house

on a low hill

a thin brown wind

and thirsty grasses


only the young ones

turn to stare



now hollow

stripped of voice and windows

the door left open

for tumbleweeds


Published as: ‘The Reason for Leaving’, 2010/2011, Canadian Stories 13 (76).

© Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

August 11, 2011 at 7:16 am

2 Responses

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  1. What a touching, evocative poem, Jane. And the pictures illustrate the feelings you described so well. I suspect most places are not abandoned easily, to uproot the family to move on to a more promising place to live, it must have been a difficult decision to make, and bittersweet to carry out.


    Barbara Rodgers

    August 11, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    • Thanks for your comment. Fortunately our memories can return us to places we miss. Jane


      jane tims

      August 14, 2011 at 8:37 pm

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