Damaged collateral of industrial revolution,
abandoned into Orphan Homes,
schooled to cross the Golden Bridge,
wooden trunks inventoried with practical philanthropy,
a Bible and the Progress to guide the Pilgrim’s way.
Adventure beckons as tears fade with the shore,
sick ‘til pitch and yaw delight,
pale faces flush in salted air,
awestruck at galaxies of stars,
chasing western suns into fogged Banks, where icebergs keel;
to Scotian shore and endless miles on slatted seats,
nose-pressed to steamy windows,
as a pioneered bewilderment trundles by,
matchbox cabins replace stone-cold, slate-grey memories.
Ahead, Receiving Homes and Destiny,
labeled for indenture, contract or adoption.
Some toil farms and sleep in frozen barns,
a master’s cur, servile to a mistress,
an option-less survival excepting passage back with slaughter cattle,
or finding that death’s comfort is not always cold.
Others are welcomed to fill the void of death
or sons homesteading for themselves,
brogue yields to Gaelic, Deutsch, Québécois and Valley;
siren-called by new-laid track and virgin land,
staking prairie sod, mining coal, panning Yukon gold,
they fight with pride, volunteer to die for King and Country.
Fame, fortune, families founded by foundlings,
weft woven tightly in the warp of Canada.
Yet they rarely told their tales to those they loved.
Was it for shame of who they were, from where they came?
Or had they long abandoned memories of pain?
Bryan Douglas Cook June 21 2011
Context for Home Children
In celebration of “The Year of the Home Child”; dedicated to the Home Children who played such a major role in building Canada 1833-1939
In 1869, the philanthropist and home child champion Annie McPherson wrote in a pamphlet:
” We who labour here are tired of relieving misery from hand to mouth, and also heartsick of seeing hundreds of families pining for want of work, when over on the shores of Ontario the cry is heard ‘Come over and we will help you’. We are waiting to seek out the worthy not yet on the parish list, but who soon must be; we will see to their being properly started on the Canadian shores if you will give us the power to make a Golden Bridge across the Atlantic.”
Home Children was published by Anglo Celtic Roots of BIFHSGO in the 2011 September edition.
This was my first “free form “poem
Read at Tree Reading Series 27 September 2011