Poem For Duncan Campbell Scott
(Canadian poet who “had a long and distinguished career
in the Department of lndian Affairs, retiring in 1932.”
The Penguin Book of Canadian Verse)
Who is this black coat and tie?
Christian severity etched in the lines
he draws from his mouth. Clearly a noble man
who believes in work and mission. See
how he rises from the red velvet chair,
rises out of the boat with the two Union Jacks
fluttering like birds of prey
and makes his way towards our tents.
This man looks as if he could walk on water
and for our benefit probably would,
if he could.
He says he comes from Ottawa way, Odawa country,
comes to talk treaty and annuity and destiny,
to make the inevitable less painful,
bearing gifts that must be had.
Notice how he speaks aloud and forthright:
This or Nothing.
Beware! Without title to the land
under the Crown you have no legal right
to be here.
Speaks as though what has been long decided wasn’t.
As though he wasn’t merely carrying out his duty
To God and King. But sincerely felt.
Some whisper this man lives in a house of many rooms,
has a cook and a maid and even a gardener
to cut his grass and water his flowers.
Some don’t care, they don’t like the look of him.
They say he asks many questions but
doesn’t wait to listen. Asks
much about yesterday, little about today
and acts as if he knows tomorrow.
Others don’t like the way he’s always busy writing
stuff in the notebook he carries. Him,
he calls it poetry
and says it will make us who are doomed
Armand Garnet Ruffo, “Poem for Duncan Campbell Scott,” from Opening in the Sky. Copyright © 1994 by Armand Garnett Ruffo. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Source: Opening in the Sky (Theytus Books, 1994)