Saturday, January 14, 2012


I have lost a lot of friends on the DTES in the last couple months.  I don't always know how to grieve them, because sometimes their deaths are bittersweet.  A lot of them carry a lot of pain, and I'm glad to finally see an end to the pain.  But I miss them.

Selma was more of an acquaintance than a friend.  She passed away a few days ago.  As I've been remembering her this week, I started working on a poem about one morning I spent with her.  I have struggled over whether or not to share it online.  My hesitancy in posting it is that I don't want to sentimentalize or sensationalize her.  She was much more than this moment I had with her; she was a whole lifetime of moments.  In the end, I decided to post it because I want to try to let you in more on some of my experiences on the DTES.  I want to do so in a way that humanizes and does not exploit or commodify my friendships.  I really hope this is one such way.


      she was calm
didn't remember me
asked for my name
first and last
she's named for her aunt
but her mom's name is Katherine.
I fixed her coffee.

      she was distracted
repeating little things
lipstick lips pursed
all whispers and mumbles
not looking at me
eyes fixed on her red Converses
thoughts a world away.
I watched her.

      she was delicate
slender fingers like a dancer's
small controlled movements
painting her fingernails
with invisible brushes
what colour? I asked
green like my dad's eyes
trailing off.
I couldn't make it all out.

      she was lost
her hand
her newly-painted nails
moving up her bare scarred arm
her thumb closing in on two fingers
an invisible plunger
my mom taught me
how to do powder
showing me
instructing me
delicate and careful
over and over
but my mom said
don't do it every day.
I didn't say anything.

      she was content
loved the room
loved the fireplace
said she wished she could
in here
all the time.