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"Oolacon Grease", "You Tell Me" and "Kinky"

Oolachon Grease
Oolachon grease gold, you hear about it
how the Tsimshian empire held
the whole coast to ransom for it
brought the poor Stick Indians begging
from the interior, beating paths
between the mountains you could
follow in the dark, by nose
the "grease trails" that let the
whiteman in, later on -
a beautiful woman professor told me about it
paler than butter she said,
but like butter without salt
and not at all repugnant to
the European palate
used as a condiment
but I ask you, are empires
sustained by condiments?
It was their oil, for the flame
in the flesh and more
I found it finally
in Bella Bella 1992 price $120/gal.
and it smelled like the cracks
between the deck planks of an old fish barge
if you can imagine spreading that
on your bread -quite enough to hurl
the European palate toward the nearest
toilet bowl which is how far
Indian is from White how far
learning is from knowing how
far we are from this ragged place
we've taken from them, for that,
the smell that comes of fish waste
thrown aside and let go bad,
that is the old smell of the coast,
known, as scent is the final intimacy
known of lifelong mates

take that barge plank, let it toss
ten years on the tide, knock on every rock
from Flattery to Yakutat, bake another
ten in the sun, take it rounded like
an Inuit ivory and grey as bone
crack it open and sniff the darker core
and you will know
what Vancouver knew ducking through
his first Nootka door pole, the essence
the odour of their living here
and however far you are from loving that
is how far you are
from arriving

You Tell Me
The kind of mess my yard is
I have no solution for
weeds rampant amongst good stuff
hedges of salmonberry and buttercup
overhanging the twisting
puny rows of spinach
affording a local base of operations
for the multitudinous vermin
that defeat me, but I will
not root them out, no:
I will not make demands
upon myself which in the end
might prove discouraging.
I know me. I must be
coddled along, if I am to
even keep up watering
through the season.
Low expectations are the key
to any dealings with me.
The house will never get painted.
The boat motor will never get fixed.
My book will never come out.
I have adjusted to these
realities, for nothing is so pathetic
as the slob with ulcers.
The thing that still gets me though,
is this neighbour I have.
He has a yard in which no weed
survives beyond the germinative stage.
It is like the miniature
Swiss town at Disneyland.

He also runs the waterboard
limits out in spring and coho
every Saturday, administers
a sprawling business empire,
has a wife and family who love him
and yet when I drop over
for some BS and coffee
he is always available
and to listen to us
there seems no essential
difference between us.


Kinky
In half wakefulness you get a
glimpse of your life
passing through some trees.
It is important.
I get up in the night hoping
to see my life passing
over.

I used to get up at dawn
swim out to the island
sit naked on the rocks
watching the sun rise
hoping
to make myself different.
I hate not knowing
if it worked.