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"a canadian black august poem"

the month of "black august" commemorates those who break the chains of slavery

 
stodgy old coot, smiling at history
i imagine him in the dark dress of 1793
red-jacketed shell like a beatle, so fair
dark-eyed, aware of his opposition –
the hard-eyed men, lean to keep their slaves in line
brains wrapped with a cellophane of 'necessity'
slaves: expensive creatures to keep alive
“abolish slavery?” they said, “you're kidding”
“madmen” said john graves simcoe
from inner space, came out
“morning justice,” “morning reverend”
he was then lieutenant governor of upper canada
with a hot iron brand on his solar plexus
the injustice of slavery
six slave owners in the legislature
confounded him with their numbness
a compromise, he shepherded through
“an act to prevent the further introduction of slaves
and so limit the term of contracts for servitude within
this province” july 9th, 1793
to take effect august 1, 1811
the deal was: no more slaves coming in here
children of the women were freed at 25, etc.
the first law against holding slaves in the british empire
consummated 1833 in britain’s “anti-slavery act”
god bless then, john graves simcoe
smiling at history
these years later when slavery threatens us all
can’t say he cared that much for americans
he loved, but english – that’s all he knew how to be
in the war for independence, he raised a battalion
of black soldiers in boston but the king transferred him
to command the queen’s rangers
prototype guerillas american loyalists
won their battles by day, at night
took judge hancock’s garrison with bayonets
murdered twenty ‘rebels’ in their beds
claimed scrupulous anglican mercy in the laws of war
a real professional with a child’s eye for flaws
after defeat in the states
- professionals never forgive anyone
he served at some distance his command in india
before appointment to canada
where the queen’s rangers now built roads
he figured – cut the americans in to the land
and self-interest will keep them loyal to the king
founded toronto
above, a lake bears his name
at night the surface is black
even in august the water’s cold
when he was gravely ill in 1797 the king appointed him
governor of a santo domingo in rebellion
- just so you’ll understand
so welcome to the waters of this land
john graves simcoe
whose name carries the memories of all our dead
few men smile at history

 

 

by john bart gerald
first posted august 14, 2013

 

 


gerald and maas
14 august 2013