top of page
  • Writer's picturevilmablenman

Read my Canada Day-Inspired Poem: Lullaby for Olivier Le Jeune

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

On Canada Day, this poem came to me after I watched a television program in which Afua Cooper (former James Robinson Johnson Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University) recounted facts about the history of slavery in Canada. On the program, Cooper told the story of Olivier Le Jeune, the first recorded slave sold in Canada. He was about six or seven years old when brought here and about ten when sold in New France, present-day Quebec. His story haunts me. Hearing it, I want to hold my son in a bear hug.

In the poem, "coureur de bois" refers to an unlicensed fur trader in 17th century New France, a so called, "wood-runner."

My son at age 6

Read below my new poem inspired by Olivier's story, "Lullaby for Olivier Le Jeune."

Lullaby for Olivier Le Jeune

I want to sing for him, sing something his mother may have sung

before she found him missing, sing to him as he lies cold on the stone

floor in New France, awake but asleep listening for his master’s movements,

alert to duty so he does not disobey.

Google, play, Motherless Child

I want to serenade this child slave, this beautiful boy brought here

bought then sold again, his owners changing like seasons, like rain becomes

snow that becomes sleet, his calling name changing.

Olivier Le Jeune, do you recall your first name that made you turn and smile?

Google, stop playing, Motherless Child

I want to rock him, wrap him in a faux fur blanket and tell him the truth

about the night terrors, tell him he will not see motherland, not hear mother tongue

slavery does no returns, offers no refunds, but he may become a coureur de bois

and see bears run free in the woods and taste fresh maple sap.

It’s sweet, Olivier.

Google, play it again. Play, Motherless Child

36 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page