I wrote “The Apple Picker” after spending some time in BC picking apples one Fall in the early 1990s. This was at the time of the collapse of the cod stocks. It was published in the book “Wild on the Crest: Sea Poems: Newfoundland and Labrador”, an anthology of poetry that I co-edited along with Mary Dalton, Kristina Fagan and Peter Walsh.
The Apple Picker
You see, I was a homeless Newfoundlander in BC
climbing ladders up into trees.
I’d stretch and strain my sore, sunburnt back
all for the sake of apples.
Strange thing was many assumed
I caught fish back in Newfoundland.
But no, I’d have t’explain,
we’re not all fisherfolk,
and anyway there ain’t left
too many fruits of the sea.
No one knows, really, why they went away,
but the government was sure it had t’act quickly
to save the day, or votes anyways.
Some blamed unchecked technology;
some government policies;
some Europeans and St. Pierrais.
While others blamed the ultraviolet rays:
they killed the plankton,
undermined the food chain.
The sea is warming, maybe,
’cause of global climate change,
so the codfish boiled away. Perhaps. Maybe.
Others claim that why is impossible to say.
But with only two years of breedable stock alive
they shut down the northern cod fishery,
for two years only, they said.
Thousands ‘n thousands of fishers and
plant workers and service-industry employees
went on UIC.
The feds said:
“Too many people employed in the fishery.
Some of you best retrain.”
(The socio-economic stress made the neurotic fish run away?)
On TV a fisherman replied
“And for what should we train?
I say yea.
Ya might be movin’ to BC
when you lose that two-year UIC.