Selkirk Settler

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.




my street

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.





Katherine Vermette’s video poem, Heart.



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’.


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