convergences Screen 35 | Metaphors

JOHN LEDYARD:
They have near a dozen different kinds
         of fish-hooks
                   all made of wood,
but was a European
              to see any one of them
     without previous information
                   of their design,
he would as soon conclude
     they were intended
               to catch men as fish.

They have a harpoon
         made of a mussel shell only,
    and yet they have so disposed of it
         as to subdue the great leviathan
and tow the unwieldy monster
                         to their shores.

                In their manners
they are bold and ferocious,
                    sly and reserved,
     not easily provoked,
                   but revengeful.
We saw no signs of religion among them
     and if they sacrifice
              it is to the God of liberty

Interior house posts.'

Interior house posts. Billed in Europe as 'Idols of the Nootka'.

Fish hook. Nootka. Late 18th Century

Nootka fish hook. Late 18th C.


On this coastline two waves are beginning to converge. Two worlds are about to move together to produce the eventual ambiguous contingencies of my life. I walk the beach at evening, attentive to the sound of the sea breaking on the rocks out past the point, watching the sand-laden rivulets of seawater trickling back down the slope of the shore between each slap and rush of water. At this moment I do not know which way the sea is running. Fishing is good at the turning of the tide.

hat pattern

Nootka woven hat pattern


If poetry is language focused on its own form, we have a problem here, where attention falls on the details of what I am saying. My challenge is to disguise the text in such a way that you will slow down and approach it as something in itself, an almost impossible task, because the content is more compelling than any formal flourish I might generate. Consider, for example, the idea that the Mooachahts' word for God is the same as their word for daylight.

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