The End of the Rope March (1996)

End of the Rope March, February 1996

 

The weather that day was anything but

beautiful, worst blizzard in years,

but they drove though it to Halifax

 

From every corner of the province

to walk the streets of the capital, holding

onto a rope, inshore fishermen and their families,

more than five thousand they say,

that came out that February day-

 

From Advocate Harbour, from Englishtown, from Westport,

Lockport, Meteghan, from Clark’s Harbour,

Tancook, from Pinkney’s Point, Victoria Beach,

from Freeport, Centreville, Harbourville, Arisaig,

from Port Maitland, from Ecum Secum,

from Canso-  from everywhere small boats

set out in stormy waters to make a livelihood fishing,

 

Holding a rope- along Barrington, along Granville,

through the Maritime Centre- holding a rope,

a metaphor that everyone understood:

‘end of the rope’.

 

Nothing beautiful about why we were there:

big money wanting it, wanting them

out, invisible and silent and harsh

as harsh can be. Everyone knew

this rope was the same as the lines

that hold each boat- bow lines,

stern lines, trap lines, gillnet

lines, trawl lines. And every place

had its own take

 

and its own say: my name became shibboleth,

with its hard ‘r’ and its ‘th’, so that

each time someone said hello

I heard the sweet vowels and consonants

that told of a place- ‘awtha’ from Shelburne,

‘aatha’ from Bridgewater, ‘artur’ (like Newfoundland)

from Cape Breton, ‘archer’ from the French Shore,

the unforgiving hard “R” ‘arrrthur’

of Digby Neck, my home,

 

So beautiful. There was nothing beautiful

about what lay ahead; the total

collapse of the handline fishery, the total loss,

village by village, of a way of life

relegated to history. So holding that rope,

hands tiny and smooth or massive

and calloused, we walked like a river of tears.

We ribbonned through those city streets

like a vein of agate through basalt,

sun-glittering through grey, and that,

that was beautiful.

 

The End of the Rope March of February, 1996

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