Wed, April 20, 2016

Crumbling Cannery

Rick Metzger shared this poem, which he found in the Pacific American Fisheries archive in Bellingham. There is no author attribution.

(Note: In an email received on May 22, 2022 from Robert Magnus Thorstenson Jr. of Juneau, Alaska, he wrote that his father had a copy of this poem in his archives and had the author identified on it as the late Dennis Sperl from Petersburg.)

Crumbling Cannery


An old weathered cannery lay silent in death,

No signs of man’s shadow, no human breath.


Piling stubs poking out of the sand,

Caved in old retorts not looking so grand.


Jagged timbers are scattered to and fro,

As docks have collapsed over rocks below.


Where over the water bulwarks had been,

Steamships will never take cargo again.


Planks of a building that once housed a store,

Rotted and splintered lay next to the shore.


The dining hall and cook shack can’t be found,

Yet, bottles and debris litter the ground.


Tanks in the brush filled with algae and slime,

Once contained diesel and oil in their time.


Up from the beach where young evergreens grow,

Bunkhouses rest with roofs sagging low.


Through ghostly windows poke alder and pine,

Where Chinese cabins once formed a neat line.


Tarred pipe tubes lay haphazardly up the hills

Once flowing with power to run pelton wheels.


Warehouse remains are piles of bleached wood,

Next door to where the boiler room once stood.


Pipes, like stray noodles, strewn everywhere,

Rusting tin roofing, a tangled nightmare.


Time is past from the cannery’s story.

No one to witness its days of glory.


History is lost amid ruins of the scene,

As nature returns quiet and serene.


Once a harvester of all in the seas,

Now all that remains are old memories.