Two Strange Sestinas on the Architectural, Climatological, and Cultural Vernacular of Calgary, Alberta

Nathan Coles


As my city’s area expands
Bound not by any geographic limits
It faces deficits of infrastructure
That pose daunting governmentalchallenges
Too many people and too many cars
To be accommodated by a normal road

Their solution is to build a bigger road
One that seems to restrict how the city expands
And yet just makes room for more cars
Beyond the normal municipal limits
And brings additional bureaucratic challenges
Beyond what is normal for civic infrastructure

The hope is for this new infrastructure
To encircle the city with a single massive road
But among this project’s many challenges
Is the T’suu T’ina reservation, which expands
Along the city’s South-West quadrant and limits
Where roads can be built for cars

Indigenous people didn’t want our cars
Invading their heritage, their natural infrastructure
Which governments had stolen without limits
Appropriated to build rail and city and road
As white settlement of the West expands
And pushed them into a lifestyle fraught with challenges

It took decades of negotiation, many challenges
Of payment and swapping land so that the cars
Could flow as the ring road project expands
And finally the city could complete the infrastructure
So that now I can drive on freshly-paved road
With mostly 100kph speed limits

I must admit to a pleasant drive, no limits
From traffic lights, no rush hour challenges
As I drive to work upon this circumferential road
But will it soon enough be filled with cars
And are we ignoring vital green infrastructure
As climate change expands

I benefit in short terms, with easier commute my free time expands
And Indigenous folk do well by the deal, but is this short-sighted infrastructure
Capitulating to the obsolete? I grimace as I am passed evermore by cars


The Calgary Expo is a grand convention
For fans of genre properties. In other words: nerds
And while its lines and crowds can be frustrating
I anticipate it joyfully each year, especially the event
Unique, I think, to Calgary as an urban display
The Parade of Wonders where costume meets celebrities

Behind an open car upon which visiting celebrities
Brought in to draw crowds to the convention
March civilians in cosplay en masse; a grand display
The downtown core flush with garish costumed nerds
Declaring allegiance to their fandom by this event
I wonder if the stuffy businessmen find this frustrating

It brings me joy to see the city’s visage change, the crowds frustrating
traffic as they try to keep up with the riding celebrities
Until they reach the central plaza for the main event
Where white cowboy hats are awarded to the guests by convention
In full view of the assembled nerds
Who cheer on the hybrid cowboy-geek display

There is a revelatory quality to this display
Those who’d paint our city with one brush find it frustrating
To see our many colours of geeks and dweebs and nerds
Damn near shut down our business district alongside celebrities
How can we be drab conservatives, who yet flaunt convention
At such a diversity-celebrating event

Just one thing can subdue enthusiasm at this event
Yet another typicality of Calgary on display
Even at April’s end, cold and snow are the convention
As winds blow icy wet, it proves frustrating
Embarrassing us in front of sunny Hollywood celebrities
Left with stereotypes that we are frozen tundra-dwelling nerds

Yet warm are the hearts of these parading nerds
And wonder truly watchword of this event
As often we hear comment from the visiting celebrities
How we add colour to the office towers’ vernacular display
Though our crowds are endlessly frustrating
For commuters both to work and to the convention

To attend the convention they flout convention
Annual yet extraordinary, wondrous yet frustrating
Identity affirmed in this grand urban display