from Let Them Rest (Field Requiem)


…dies illa 

Solvet sæclum in favilla

            - Dies Irae

1 Zephaniah 



It’s true what they say. We were warned: 

everything will be swept away, 

everything consumed. Winter-killed


perch, walleye, pike, white bellies, 

slack flags. Thousands 

washed ashore at Stoney Lake – 


fertilizer run-off, 

nitrogen, phosphorous, 

blue-green algae bloom.


It’s true. We were warned.


Everything swept away. 

Everything consumed. Sky bled dry 

of midges. Locusts, bees, neurons frayed. 


Antiseptic silence of canola 

fields at dusk, muted

grasshopper thrum.


                        Our blood poured out like dust.


Swept away. Consumed. 

Empty Barn Swallow nests 

in rafters and eaves.


The Western Meadowlark’s throat, 

an open grave. Neonic-coated 

soybean, canola, sunflower, wheat.


White Crown Sparrows, 

migration delayed, 

anorexic, compass lost.


                        A land possessed of nettles and salt.



Psalm 130



                    Chemical burnoff after frost, 

                    cocklebur, clubroot spores,

                    flixweed, lamb’s-quarters,


                    LibertyLink® patent fees, 

                    canola seed treated

                    for flea beetles, 


                    Longtrel™ for dandelion

                    and thistle. At night, 

                    the wives sit,


                    shoulders hunched,

                    at kitchen tables,



                    profit margins 

                    with calculators and lines

                    of credit from Wells Fargo –


                               If south winds don’t blow in waves 

                                   of diamondback moths. If winter kills


                              the pupae of bertha armyworms. 

                                 If sun. If rain. 


                            If crop insurance premium rates. 

                                 If 25 bushels an acre to pay input costs.


                    At night, the wives wait. 

                    They count their bones 

                    as the moon pours out.

 NW 18 36 22 W2nd 


Gather in the summer fallowed south field.

            Winter-stiff furrows. No moon. No snow. 

Overcast. Hold hands.


Farm subsidies smashed by Intercontinental Packers,

            Big Sky Pork Farms. Our barns now their finishing

                        pens for 10 000 pigs from 1000 sows.


No moon. No snow. No yard-lights for miles,

            like an eye put out. Hold hands. We are

                        but breath, but chaff, what passes

                                                            and does not come again.

Sheri Benning's most recent collection of poetry, Field Requiem (Carcanet 2021) was shortlisted for the Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Her poems have appeared in numerous North American and European journals. She grew up on a farm in Treaty 6 territory and currently teaches creative writing at the University of Saskatchewan.