IN MEMORIAM: Bill Reid (1920-1998)

Bill Reid, poet

Chief of the Undersea World acquired by the Museum
through the generosity of Jim and Isobel Graham.

A sounding resounding astounding confounding rebounding whale.
A magnetic prophetic whale.
A magical tragical whale.
A rollicking frolicking hyperbollicking whale.
A fearful cheerful in full career-full whale.
An upleaping unsleeping watchkeeping downdeeping whale.
A fragile agile high-style worthwhile whale.
A headstrong singsong long gone whale.
A fraternal nocturnal supernal eternal whale
A chilling killing willing thrilling whale.
A broaching encroaching approaching whale.
A far ranging unchanging fast dashing barrier smashing fluke crashing star splashing whale.
A dream bringing song singing free swinging change ringing whale.
An ascendant resplendent transcendent whale.
A significant magnificent whale of a Haida whale.

Oh, the cedar tree!

If mankind in his infancy
had prayed for the perfect substance
for all material and aesthetic needs,
an indulgent god could have provided
nothing better. Beautiful in itself,
with a magnificent flared base
tapering suddenly to a tall, straight trunk
wrapped in reddish brown bark,
like a great coat of gentle fur,
gracefully sweeping boughs,
soft feathery fronds of grey green needles.

Huge, some of these cedars,
five hundred years of slow growth,
towering from their massive bases.
The wood is soft,
but of a wonderful firmness
and, in a good tree,
so straight-grained
it will split true and clean
into forty foot planks,
four inches thick
and three feet wide,
with scarcely a knot.

Across the grain
it cuts clean and precise.
It is light in weight
and beautiful in color,
reddish brown when new,
silvery grey when old


When steamed
it will bend without breaking
it will make houses and boats
and boxes and cooking pots.
Its bark will make mats,
even clothing.
With a few bits
of sharpened stone and antler,
with some beaver teeth
and a lot of time,
with later on a bit of iron,
you can build from the cedar tree
the exterior trappings
of one of the world's great cultures.

From "Out of the Silence", by Bill Reid (1971)

Only a handful of poles
Now stand
Or more frequently lie,
In the damp, lush forests.
Like the fallen trees
They lie beside,
They have become
The life-blood of younger trees
Growing from their trunks.
In a scene subdued
By a magnificent moss covering
And by silence,
They return to the forest
That gave them birth.

From "Out of the Silence", by Bill Reid (1971)