Thursday, November 1, 2012

Great Grandmother Whitefish

A couple of Sundays I go when I was out for a walk along the waterfront, I stopped to read one of the new 'history posts' that are scattered along spots on the walkway. On this one overlooking the boat slips, I read about the start of the lake fishing industry in the early days when this Traditional Territory was speeding along into a settler community and economy. I was saddened to read that huge schools of large old whitefish were quickly depleted. There are no longer any huge schools of nine kilo whitefish.

When I got home, I wrote a poem about the whitefish. The poem is still rough around the edges, but here it is.

Angling for Whitefish

By 1920
the rainforest of fish
inland sea of pale-green
brown-backed silver white
deer of the Lakes—
Sister of Salmon—
was exhausted.

Yet, before the settlers,
ancient underwater
understory of the forest
of water swam and swam
in a never-ending cycle, 
collecting wisdom in 
the hump on her back.

Seeking cold silence in summer,
Great Great Grandmother
Ancestor Atikamek
swam along the depths
but when Freezing Moon called
She returned to swim
closer to sky.

Sister of Salmon
swam in the underwater bountiful
Her nine kilos of silvery scales
flashed white
in a slow dance
above the dark stones.

Circling through the seasons,
Ancestor Deer
collected great age 
and animal wisdom,
stored them in the hump
on her back. 

Then, the captain
of commerce came
from Chicago
with his nets of profit
and offers of jobs –
jobs for hungry settlers.

In a language
that had no sacred grammar for
Ancestor Atikamek
newsboys on Cumberland Street
cried “Free Trade!”
before the term was even invented
by neo-cons in the 1980s.

Whatever the term,
the terms are clear:
The captains of industry
fished out the forest
cut down the 800 year old Ancestors
swimming in the glacial waters
at the bottom of the Lake.

the Thunderbirds


Merche Pallarés said...

Beautiful poem! How sad that so many species are disappearing due to GREED! Hugs, M.

northshorewoman said...

Hello MP,

I am sure that the Mediterranean has many sad stories of depletion within its waters, too.

I hope you're enjoying your break!