ECONOMIES: a poem after visiting the Royal BC Museum

ECONOMIES (after a day at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria)


We made five shillings a month

Ordinary seaman, bosun did better

And when we seen them natives and their canoes

We thought, how’d they get the time to carve all that cedar

That takes time you know and naught to eat but dried fish

And some kind o’ berries the squaws went out to get.

They was dancing on the bows of them canoes

Wearing great masks of grizzly, raven

Dancing on the bows like birds and bears

That had drunk a lot of grog.  We thought the world of their

Balance, although their seamanship warnt no better than ourn.


I gave a man a needle I had spare

He poked it right through his nose

And grunted, satisfied.  His squaw

Gestured give it here, and pointed at the hole in the needle

I took some thread and poked it through,

She laughed like it was magic

And then they disappeared.  Next day

The man came back, handed me

A sea otter pelt, so I gave him a tuppence

He bit into it, broke a tooth, and left, satisfied.


Three months later, we dropped anchor in Shanghai.

I took that hide ashore and a merchant in bright silk gowns

Took one feel of it and gave me twenty pound and some silk

Ribbon for my hat.


Next time we dropped anchor in Nootka Sound,

(two years it was, and a lot of salt water under the keel)

A sea otter pelt was only to be had

For a firearm or a good metal blade

But there was hardly a sea otter to be found.

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