Beyond the fuzzy margins of memory
or the first crude clicks of a shutter,
from somewhere else, ago, ago, ago,
the crumpled ancestors emerge
from the records, famine thin,
flimsy as old lace, brittle as ancient paper.
Wispy scratches on microfilm attest
to a marriage here, a bris or baptism there,
the institutions whispering validity
to events once glistening with emotion,
saturated with colour, as large at least
as life, all shrunken now, withered
to a few notes in a base of data, faded
figures without clear features, dry
as pinned butterflies. Who were they
and why did they board those coffin ships
with their cargos of plague and poverty,
riding out the stinking passage to this
transoceanic dumping ground? Hunger?
Desperation? Did they have enough
courage, strength, endurance to survive?
Would there be descendants?
John Kearns Okanagan pioneer