Iphigenia’s Crossing

By | 1 December 2014

(for michelle sylliboy)

wood element green
and young yang
turns the cycle pushing wood through water
dook chung! (rattle rattle rattle)
dook dook dook

dook chung!

latitude north
longitude west
winds, weather and remarks

t. hudson’s receipt for two hundred and three sea-otter skins

a boat then iphigenia nubiana
200 tons burthen
self-sacrificing daughter who dies for father and country

it’s 1788 virginal
iphigenia crosses water

under command
of mr. douglas “officer of considerable merit, who was well acquainted with
the coast of America” meaning Canada-to-come
our home on native land

here comes another
metal element copper bottomed
felice, ever faithful

to cross the northern pacific
sailing the long arc of the sandwich islands
from wampoa to nootka sound
captain john meares at the helm
and passengers tianna prince of atooi
winee of hawaii
a boy and a man from maui
and comekela, a nuu-chah-nulth man
ghosting back

and what? a chinese crew?! for both ships?
“The Chinese were, on this occasion, shipped as an experiment : — they have been
generally esteemed an hardy, and industrious , as well as ingenious race of people;
they live on fish and rice, and, requiring but low wages, it was a matter also of
œconomical consideration….”

o economical
an ode owed
old owl says it was all about the otter
sea otters in water
pots and kettles for pelts
metal melts or oxidizes into air

up and down the coast meares and douglas trading
coast salish
pot for pelts
markets for canton system
British East India Company vs. Cohong
with Hoppo to collect taxes for Qing Emperor
and the Thirteen Factories where it all went down
pelts for porcelain and tea for two
the global snowball
already gathering steam

this is the house that meares built
or rather his chinese carpenters
the wood of our rather not
this is the cannon emplacement
built by chinese smiths
and for the water–
a schooner: the north west america

this is the house that douglas tore down
dishonouring the promise
meares made to nuu-chah-nulth
who built? whose wood?
who forged? whose metal?
and later, who destroyed?
whose axe?
whose hammer?

i’ve been working on the railway
all the live long day

sing a song for the wood and metal men
who crossed the water east to get west
to make the world go the other way round

trade roots
contact of our always already
between the lines of which
we might have become family

britain vs america vs spain
spill crisis at nootka
strain for colonial sovereignity
when martínez beat out meares, douglas, kendrick, funter
where did the chinese smiths and carpenters go?
to san blas as captured crew?
to china?
to death?
or into hiding
among coast salish

the qing once self-sufficient
giving trade itself as gift
undone by opium

iphigenia smoked by the treaty of nanjing
my home on ceded land
recolonized by the master of all trades

water nurtures wood
iphigenia crosses east to get west
unceded columbia
calls in the ghosts

acchon aching

aching for earth’s return

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