a little poetic injustice …………….
stones thrown in
some sink in the water
some skip on the water
always ripples, rippling out
sticks thrown in leave ripples
but they don’t sink
echoing out in circular form
ripples broadcast a message
something is thrown in
a body is thrown in
a splash, wave, big ripples
like a visual echo, ripples keep going
but others reach shore, climb the bank
like a tsunami’s unstoppable wake
these waves shake us up
these ripples don’t break up
these ripples get bigger, stronger
they have something to say
people feel the ripples
far from the water’s edge
by now the ripples are silent, invisible
but their presence become empathy
their unity is tragic sympathy
then another body is thrown in.
walking, strolling, strutting, ambling
my street is alive
my street is a people street
cars, trucks, buses rumble by
city crews stop for work or coffee
but my street is a people street
mom’s with strollers and kids
grannies from the Polish residence
drunks trying to find their way home
taxis are frequently stopping
not always dropping off passengers
mostly picking up people or drugs
sometimes there’s a bloody fight
angry words, a slap then weeping
contrite pleas and more shouting
a lonely woman kicks a sign post
“Why doesn’t anyone love me?”
“I’ve been cheated. I paid my dues!”
its five am and twenty below zero
the girl is waiting for her john
she can’t feel the cold or the humiliation
there’s DNA on the sidewalk
people spit, spill blood and piss a lot
and the City rarely cleans up my street
the store at the end of the block is robbed
no one picks up their litter
because my street is a people street.
November 17 – The Mattress
One morning I watched an interesting play of human behaviour, that I just don’t understand. It was before 8am and in front of a second hand shop on Selkirk Avenue. Someone had dropped off a mattress at the shop, during the night, probably thinking it could be used by someone, and that the volunteers at the shop would bring it in when they came to open up. The mattress was on the sidewalk but off to side enough to let people comfortably pass by.
Then just before the Bargain Store next to the second hand hop opened, a woman came and stood waiting to get into the Bargain Store. I have seen her before and she looked like she regularly came before the store opened. After a few minutes of waiting, she went to the mattress and pulled it into the middle of the sidewalk so that it virtually blocked all pedestrian traffic. Then she went back to her seat and waited.
Within a few minutes the Store opened and a few customers arrived. Two men in work clothes arrived by truck and had to manoeuvre around the mattress to get to the Store. Two other men walked to the store entrance and had to squeeze around the mattress either getting to the store or leaving it. None moved the mattress.
I did not see who moved the mattress, but when I retuned home that evening it was gone. I could not tell if it was a passer by or someone from the second hand store who moved it. I was left wondering though why people would create an obstacle to circumvent and why others would not make an effort to remove an obstacle.
September 30 – Police
It’s a Sunday afternoon and the warm fall sun is providing the street with a gentle yellow glow. About mid-afternoon a middle-aged guy ambled along the street, staggering occasionally, stopping people to bum a cigarette. Failing to get a puff. Shoeless.
He chose a doorway entrance. Like a dog circling before he drops into his curled sleeping position, the guy settled himself down for a sleep on the street. He lodged a few bags around him and propped his head against a door jamb. It didn’t take long before he was asleep, sprawled out and ignoring the obstacle he had created.
There were only a few people on the street so a few passers noticed him but none stopped to see if he was alive or injured. They went into the Bargain Store near him, acting as if people sleeping on this street is common.
After about an hour, a police car arrived with two officers.
They didn’t seem to be in a hurry but they were intent on dealing with this man on the street. As they emerged from their squad car, they chatted and moved towards him, one of the officers pulling on rubber gloves as he walked. At first they stood over him discussing something that did not seem to be related to him. Then they directed their attention to him, at first at a distance and then one officer bent down to shake the man, who at first did not respond. He was shaken again, this time more aggressively. Then after a third shake he opened his eyes and stared at the officers but did not seem to see them.
As they brought the man to some level of consciousness and got him to his feet, other police cars arrived and within about 15 minutes, there were seven officers at the scene. Now I could not see from my position how dangerous this man was, but he must have been a serious threat to public safety for all these officers to be available to subdue him. He was certainly intimidated into submission though as he didn’t resist at all when one officer put on handcuffs and stuffed him into the back of one of the three squad cars. After more conversation and a few laughs they all drove away leaving the street quiet and calm again, a Sunday afternoon calm,
September 15 – Moving Day
Today I moved into my new apartment on Selkirk Avenue. It took me almost 50 years to get here. I was born in Winnipeg and as an infant I was brought to an apartment in the north end of Winnipeg where my parents lived. My grandparents on both side of my family lived in the north end and as a part of the Ukrainian community all our social contacts were in the north end. So technically I am a north ender and have returned.
I decided to move here from the south end of the city and after a number of years roaming the world, for a number of reasons. First, because of my work, that involves collaborating with a number of agencies and people who work in the north end, I thought it would be a useful positioning. Second, I’m looking for a sense of community, for a place that I can feel a part of. I have been moving around Canada and the world for 40 years so community has apparently not been a priority, but now I would like to have a sense of place and belonging that I have not had for a long time.
And the north end of Winnipeg is where I have my social roots, my genesis so to speak. My grandparents were Ukrainian immigrants, so psycho-culturally I should feel an affinity to Ukraine, and once when I visited that country I did feel very at home, but Winnipeg’s north end was the place of my formative years. Though my family moved to a small rural town when I was very young, we still visited and all my relatives were here. My childhood memories are here.
For all of us I think, our sense of place is an emotional association that we create with experience, memory and chance, and then locate it in a geography and time. The resulting relationship may be friendly or not, instructive or merely taken for granted, but always stabilizing for it allows is to know who we are.
So with a desire to appreciate my new environment and my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, I’m going to be the contemporary ‘selkirk settler’.