Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "People of the Longboat"

This poem was inspired a prompt from aldersprig.  It has been sponsored by je_reviens and Stephen Laird.  Among the things I researched for this poem were Algonquian and Iroquois people, Leif Ericsonnative canoes, and Viking ships.

People of the Longboat

It was the Algonquian people
whom Leif Ericson encountered
on the shores of what he called Vinland.

As the two peoples began to mingle,
the Vikings told stories about the riches of Europe,
and those stories made their way down the east coast
to the Haudenosaunee. 

Like the Algonquian tribes,
the Haudenosaunee used birchbark canoes
to travel along the waterways.
Some of their canoe makers traveled north
and looked at the great dragon ship of Leif Ericson.

"It is like a giant canoe," one said,
"made from tree limbs pieced together.
Birchbark is more solid.  We can do better."

"It has a windcatcher like the tipi  of the plainsmen,"
another observed.  "We could use that."
"Surely a longhouse would be more useful
to keep off the rain and the waves of the ocean,"
said a third canoe maker.

This discussion, of course, attracted the attention
of the Algonquians and the Norsemen.
By the time they were done, there was a canoe
the size of a dragonship, with paddles instead of oars
and nimble triangular sails like tipis
rising above the longhouse cabin.

The crew crossed the Atlantic in comfort,
guided by Ericson's navigator
and a star-watching shaman,
stopping by Greenland and Iceland
on the way to Scotland.

The Vikings were all for pillaging,
but the Haudenosaunee chief shook his head.
"Can you get maple syrup from a tree
that you have burnt up in your campfire?
Do not be foolish!"

So instead they met with the Scotsmen
and discussed matters of tribute and trade.
The Haudenosaunee discovered that
the Scotsmen were shrewd traders
and remarkable craftsmen, and oh,
how the women at home would love
the brilliantly woven plaid fabrics.

If a few lovely red-haired brides were stolen,
and a few brawls and fires started anyhow,
well, everyone understood how impetuous
young people could be, and surely
it could all be straightened out
with good words and a bale of beaver furs.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fishbowl, history, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, writing
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