Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Balmoral Hotel: One of the Many Effects of Decades of Neoliberalism in Vancouver

“Money doesn’t solve everyone’s problems, community does,” proclaims Balmoral resident Amanda Germann.

On June 2, 2017, the city gave residents of the Balmoral Hotel, one of Vancouver’s most neglected single-resident occupancy (SRO) buildings on the Downtown Eastside (DTES), an eviction notice for June 12. The notorious slumlords – the Sahota family that own the building and other real estate in the area, totaling $130 million – were ordered to vacate the building after engineers found significant structural problems on May 30th. The Balmoral Hotel was home to around 150 of the city’s low-income people, over 50% of which are people of colour. After pressure from tenants and activists, BC Housing committed to securing housing for everyone and the Sahotas were forced to offer a small amount of relocation assistance. However, tenants and housing advocates criticize the government for failing to enforce bylaws and insist that problem landlords should be fined for renting out such deplorable living conditions. Over three decades of neoliberalism in British Columbia ensures that issues such as the Balmoral are not an anomaly.

The tenants have struggled for years to have their voices heard by the Sahota family and municipal government while the building has continued to deteriorate. Black mold, rats, cockroaches and bedbugs, along with rotting structural beams in the building’s foundation, are the results of negligence spanning decades. Recently, occupants decided to take matters into their own hands by organizing to stand up for their rights and address the safety and health hazards of their living conditions. Various community activist groups and organizations such as the SRO Collaborative, the Vancouver Tenants Union and the DTES Women’s Centre have stepped in to support the DTES tenants and their struggle for dignity.

Sam Dharamapla, a former book-keeper who worked at the Balmoral and other Sahota-owned hotels for ten years, joined the tenants’ struggle after being fired from his job a year ago. At the June 11th block party rally, Dharamapla proclaimed that the Balmoral is a symbol of this “historical movement of the Downtown Eastside.”

Roberta Westenberg, a 57-year-old tenant at the Balmoral, who has lived there for over a year, described her living conditions to the crowd at the rally despite feeling ill after recently returning from the hospital. “My ceiling is falling down, my walls are cracking to the floor, I’ve got water flush coming through my place, [and] people urinating in the room up top,” she detailed. “I smell death every day.” Roberta has asked since she moved into the Balmoral for her room to be cleaned up but no action was taken. She thanked the crowd for gathering and pleaded for people to return the following day to support her and the other tenants on eviction day.

Mark, a tenant who also spoke at the rally on Sunday, recalled being unable to access water to put out a fire in the building. He stated that after he complained to management that his hot water was not working, the water was shut off completely. This is extremely problematic in light of the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy in London where the BBC reports at least 70 people died when the building was engulfed in flames after “years of neglect” by the local government, which many believe could have been prevented. Mark also witnessed the management at the Balmoral use physical violence as a response to psychotic breakdowns where tenants were beaten with sticks. He insisted that it is essential to spread awareness about the “unequal human rights situation” that people are experiencing within many of Vancouver’s SRO buildings. He then addressed the broader lack of economic opportunity and stated, “I can certainly see how a lot of people end up resorting to crime. This system is designed to make people resort to crime because it doesn’t give any options.”

DJ Joe was a Balmoral resident that lived in the building for 27 years, since 1989. She stated that two years ago she started taking matters into her own hands after the Sahotas failed to address problems. “What if something like this happened in your place [where] you asked somebody for help and they ignored you, how would that make you feel?” Joe asked. She said that the back door has been broken for over two years, which has allowed squatters to occupy the building. She stated that the tenants have tried their best to take care of the building and she expressed her frustration about the notice being given only 12 days before eviction. Joe confirmed that she did have a place to live but that it was worse than the Balmoral but she had no other choice. “I have to take what I can get,” Joe stated. She told the Talon that “we’re going to fight for our rights and we gotta get the Sahotas outta Vancouver. The Sahotas are wanted. We’re going to put their name to shame!”

DJ Joe was a Balmoral resident that lived in the building for 27 years, since 1989.

Amanda Germann and her partner Kevin Brown, two tenants of the Balmoral, described the living conditions and their interactions with the Sahota landlords to the Talon. “My experience living here has been nothing but a repeating, recurring nightmare,” Germann said, which has been plagued by poor health conditions from black mold. She also recalls tenants being physically abused by intruders and a number of suspected murders being labeled overdoses after inadequate police investigations.

Germann and Brown referred to the Sahotas as “scumlords” that care little about the tenants and all about money. “Money doesn’t solve everyone’s problems,” Germann proclaimed. “Community does.” In the eyes of the Sahotas, Brown stated, “all you are is a dollar sign, not a human.” They both voiced their rage that the Sahotas have left the Balmoral in such neglect that it has led to the eviction of all the tenants. However, they both confirmed on Sunday that they have found a new place to live and have no desire to ever live in the Balmoral again. Germann expressed her solidarity with fellow tenants at the Balmoral and vowed to support them in their struggle against the Sahotas.

Kevin Brown and Amanda Germann, two tenants of the Balmoral.

Brown criticized Premier Christy Clark for failing to help the homeless while pocketing $50,000 in Liberal party campaign donations on top of her annual salary of $200,000. Homelessness has continued to climb in Vancouver since Clark first took office in 2011. The latest conservative count conducted on March 7 and 8, 2017, found that homelessness in Metro Vancouver has increased by 30% since 2014, affecting at least 3,605 people. Meanwhile, the 2016 Census found that there are 21,820 empty homes in Vancouver. British Columbia under the Clark provincial government is the only province in Canada without an official poverty reduction strategy, despite having the second-highest poverty rate in Canada. In January 2017, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives called upon the provincial government to develop and implement a strategy. Out of all of the other provinces in Canada, BC also has the highest concentration of wealth, where the top 10% of its residents own 56.2% of the province’s total wealth and the bottom 50% of the population owns 3.2%.

Dennis Pilon, in his essay “British Columbia: Right-Wing Coalition Politics and Neoliberalism”, documents over three decades of neoliberal austerity cuts to social welfare and services in BC. It began with the “restraint” programs of Bill Bennett’s Social Credit government in 1983 and accelerated under Gordon Campbell’s BC Liberal Party, who implemented a 25% cut to income tax immediately after being elected to the provincial legislature in 2001. The provincial government continued to slash its spending on social services despite giving off the impression of a socially-minded budget. Pilon states that Gordon Campbell’s ““housing budget” offered tax cuts that people could apply to housing, if they wished. Such a market-oriented policy approach did little to help those genuinely in need of housing.” These neoliberal policies have only continued under the Clark government. For example, welfare rates have not increased since 2007 while inflation has increased at a yearly amount of 1.7%. This has effectively made the meager $610 allowance welfare recipients receive per month, $375 of which is to cover housing, worth less every year over the past decade. Pilon ends his article by proclaiming that “the lopsided legislative victory for the Liberals in 2001 (seventy-seven of seventy-nine seats) allowed Campbell to aggressively roll out neoliberal reforms with impunity. The failure of the BC NDP to fundamentally contest either phase of neoliberal restructuring meant that the Social Credit in 1986 and the Liberals in 2009 and 2013 paid only a modest electoral price for their unpopular market-oriented policies.”

This reduction in government social welfare spending thrust the responsibility of social housing into the hands of the private sector, where low-income people have little choice but to live in SROs owned by notorious slumlords such as the Sahotas. Furthermore, the City of Vancouver’s failure to hold SRO slumlords accountable to bylaws has only continued under Mayor Gregor Robertson on many accounts. Section 23.8 of the city’s Standards of Maintenance By-Law No. 5462 states that:

where any building or land does not comply with standards set out in this By-law, the Council may, by resolution, order that failure to remedy any default specified in such order within 60 days after service of such order, will result in the work being carried out by the City at the expense of the owner.

The city also has the authority to fine landlords a maximum of $10,000 for the violation of bylaws, which it has requested the province to increase. Asked about the inaction, Wendy Pederson, a housing advocate with the Vancouver Tenants Union, told the Talon that the city’s “inspections and legal department have been lazy, incompetent, and actually prejudiced against the tenants. They blame the tenants for the problems when really the tenants are shut down and don’t have the power to make complaints.” Pederson also mentioned that the tenants have received threats and other forms of intimidation including fear of violence and eviction for speaking out about their living conditions. She proclaimed that the city does not want to spend the money to house these people elsewhere and they know that some of these buildings need to be shut down. “So, [the city] is willfully looking the other way and hoping they can stretch this out as long as possible while they gentrify the DTES.”

Miloon Kothari, a former special rapporteur on housing for the United Nations, recently stated that Vancouver is “very quickly becoming an apartheid city.” Kothari told the Talon that in the ten-year period that he has been observing Vancouver, he has seen “more hyper-speculation”, “more hyper-gentrification”, and “there’s more of a concentration of poverty.” In comparison to his visit a decade ago, he has observed a clearer distinction between the rich and poor areas of Vancouver and he asserted that “there are no meaningful attempts to have a mixed-use city with people of different income levels living together.” He acknowledged that in communities like the DTES and Chinatown, low-income people are being pushed out by gentrification which contributes to the “classic definition of an apartheid city.” He pointed out that many attempts at mixed-use housing in Vancouver, such as the Woodwards Building, have only perpetuated segregation since the poor and wealthy have separate entrances. “That is not acceptable from a human rights perspective,” Kothari proclaimed. “Canada is supposed to be a country that upholds human rights…The approach being taken is one of housing as a commodity to be bought and sold and the results are what you see here,” he said, referring to the Balmoral. Furthermore, he recently told The Tyee that “social welfare policies have been victims of neoliberal policies,” which contributes to the increase in homelessness, “[costing] society more in the long run.”

He continued by stating that a better approach would be for Vancouver to declare itself as a “human rights city, a city for everyone who lives and works here. The city housing policy”, he said, “would be based on the rights of the most vulnerable first, to ensure that the most vulnerable have a place to live [with] the security of tenure so they are not evicted.” He clarified that, although the main concern is with the lowest income groups, this encompasses middle to upper middle-income tenants who are routinely affected by eviction. He ended by stating, “that there needs to be a complete radical shift and it’s not so radical in the sense that Canada has ratified all of the international instruments that protect the right to housing. So it’s just a matter of implementing those and there’s enough information, indicators and strategies available from the UN to be able to do that.” This is in stark contrast to the statements by the Cowichan Valley Liberal candidate Steve Housser who recently referred to the guaranteed right to housing as “communistic”.

The tenant organizing has finally spurred the government into action after years of inaction. The city recently spent $1.5 million reinforcing the structural integrity in the basement of the Balmoral, and BC Housing committed to housing everyone who was evicted on June 12. According to the DTES SRO Collaborative, as of June 16, every tenant that was evicted from the Balmoral had housing.

However, the fight for the right to housing still continues in the most expensive city in Canada. SRO Regent Hotel tenant Jack Gates filed a class action lawsuit in the summer of 2016 against the Sahotas and the city, which is currently in the court of appeals. Jason Gratl, the lawyer representing Gates in the lawsuit, also filed litigation on behalf of the Balmoral residents. These cases have the potential to set legal precedents where tenants could settle their grievances against landlords in the BC Supreme Court. Furthermore, SRO buidlings make up an integral portion of the low-income housing in the city, so it is imperative that these buildings remain affordable for the city’s many low-income residents once the living conditions have been improved. The Balmoral is one example of many neglected SROs throughout the Lower Mainland that has deteriorated under decades of neoliberal government policies in BC. Even though the most affected and marginalized have been tireless and resilient in this struggle, the responsibility to ensure access to adequate housing should not be solely placed upon their shoulders. All BC residents should demand these neoliberal policies and human rights abuses be addressed along with ensuring the right to housing.

For more information please follow the DTES SRO Collaborative and the Vancouver Tenants Union.

Special thanks to editors Eviatar, Ismail, Margaret-Anne and Tania.

Okanagan Fruit Leaves Sour Taste: Temporary Foreign Workers in Agriculture Fighting Back

Originally published at Rebel Youth

This article exposes the myths surrounding Temporary Foreign Workers, the hyper-exploitation and deplorable conditions migrants face, particularly in the agriculture sector. It includes a focus on RAMA – Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture, an anti-racist and decolonial organization that advocates for, supports and works to build community for migrant workers in the Okanagan region of British Columbia.

If you enjoy Kelowna cherries, Oliver wine, or the peaches of Penticton, chances are they were grown and harvested by Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) under the racist, exploitative and demeaning Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), a stream of the TFW program. This program sees hundreds of thousands of workers brought into Canada, resulting in mega profits for business owners, where workers are denied the minimum labour rights that residents and citizens have.

What is it like to be a Temporary Foreign Worker in Canada?

In the recruitment stage, employers can ask for workers of a certain country, gender and age. The labour is highly gendered, with preference given to men for more labourious work. Candidates must have families in their home countries, and they must remain at home so, according to the law, “they have a reason to return home”. For this reason tourist visas are denied to family members who would like to visit, though there is some discussion of changing this rule, but for Mexican workers only.

When workers are recruited to be TFW’s, they must sign up to work for one employer from their home country. They may change employers, but only with permission from their current employer, which leaves them bonded to them in practice for the duration of their stay in Canada. Employers can and do fire them without cause, which is essentially deportation. Because of this, migrants are usually unable to fight back against the unfair treatment and the appalling living and working conditions on the farms. For example, they are often not given proper protection when working with pesticides, nor adequate instruction on health and safety measures. Further, it’s commonplace for workers to do physical labour in the hot sun for 12 to 16 hours a day without overtime pay, with two days off per month.

On top of this, they are not entitled to MSP coverage until three months of work has passed. Then, employers must provide MSP coverage, or alternatively provide private insurance. Most are never enrolled. There are a number of recent cases where workers were injured on the job before they had the right to access health care, where they were denied adequate treatment and promptly deported.

Most live in highly rural areas where they are isolated from the rest of the Canadian population. TFW’s often have curfews, are not permitted to have social gatherings and cannot bring any guests to the farms. Employers purposefully try to make them invisible and do not allow them to integrate into society, to discourage labour organizing, learning English, seeking intervention, and raising the profile of the issues that migrant workers face.

In experiencing all this mistreatment and hyper-exploitation, migrants are then subject to systemic racism and mistrust by the Canadian people. Many Canadians point the finger at TFW’s, some of the most exploited workers in Canada, as the source of our economic problems, rather than the bosses who profit from their exploitation. It is the bosses that undercut wages and right-wing politicians that use anti-TFW and racist rhetoric to pit workers of all statuses against each other, dividing us all. That’s good news for the bosses, who would have us divided rather than organized against them. Furthermore, almost all workers are racialized, and it is common that they experience police harassment when they do leave the farms, adding to their daily oppression and exploitation.

Why are Temporary Foreign Workers Coming to Canada?

The TFW program targets racialized people from colonized nations, where displacement and dispossession from land is systemic. International capital has a strong grip on these nations, as they are continuously exploited by neocolonial and imperialist policies of the North – especially Canada. Many workers have no other choice than to come to Canada as migrant workers, because they and their families continue to be driven off their lands by multinational corporations and wealthy landowners backed by the North. For example, the Mexican agriculture sector has been devastated by NAFTA, where millions of farmers have been driven off their land, unable to compete with cheap subsidized crops dumped into their economy by the US. As well, land is becoming more controlled by agribusiness with cheap crops sold to companies like Walmart and Safeway for consumption in the US and Canada. Because of the vast power of these mega corporations and pressure from Northern capital, working conditions are extremely dangerous and inhumane, where it’s common for workers to make $10 per day. Attempts to organize and demand better are often met with brutal violence.

This history and present allows the interests of Canadian capital to seek out workers from nations in already precarious situations who are looking to improve their living conditions and those of their families. Canadian capital profits twice – in the form of control of land for resource extraction abroad, and again when workers must come here after the loss of their livelihood. Unemployment, lack of opportunities, forced neoliberal austerity by the North, and low wages are all a direct result of foreign control, kept by any means necessary including violence, corruption, and war. Conditions are so bad that workers still choose to leave their families and travel to a new country for hard labour, where their rights are severely limited.

The Fightback

Because of the precariousness of migrant workers, organizing can be extremely difficult. Despite the threat of deportation and blacklisting, many workers are trying to formally organize under the Agriculture Workers Alliance. Further, organizations like RAMA – Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture – are building a grassroots movement to ensure workers coming into Canada have the rights and dignity that every worker should have. RAMA prides itself on being an anti-racist and decolonial advocacy group. In order to address the exploitation of workers in Canada, we must fight against racism and colonization both at home and abroad. These struggles are connected to one another, and unless we unite against single cause of the problems – the capitalist system propped up by imperialist exploitation – we will not get the root of the problem.

Grassroots organizations are connecting these struggles and finding ways to foster self-advocacy. Luis, a collective member of RAMA, noted that, “Many of the workers are already politicized. We are just here to foster community and address problems of alienation on the farms. It’s about creating the space for them to organize themselves, despite the attempts of forced isolation by their employers.”

Temporary Foreign Workers deserve the same rights as Canadian workers, with the right to health and safety, to organize unions, to fair wages and overtime pay, and to change employers. The immediate demands of RAMA and groups like it include instituting a path to citizenship for workers if they so choose, rather than having the constant threat of deportation. Since workers are currently tied to their employers and can be deported without cause, they are often reluctant to report workplace injuries and illness, which do occur given the nature of the work and the difficult conditions dictated by the employers. Currently RAMA steps in, giving rides to doctors, chiropractors, and even to emergency rooms when workers feel they cannot disclose medical issues to their employers; however they are advocating against tied work permits so that migrants can leave unsafe conditions and have open access to medical care the moment they arrive.

Activists everywhere are expressing solidarity with migrant workers and this is a call to action to fight against the injustice imposed by the wealthy bosses exploiting migrant labour. Getting involved in the anti-imperialist and anti-racist movement, workers organizations, or grassroots groups like RAMA are all ways to join the fight!

Muslims’ and Malcolm’s rage

This piece was originally written for Malcolm X’s birthday.

It’s Malcolm X’s birthday, and social media is soon to be bombarded with his speeches, images, and quotes, with a general theme of romanticized revolution. Although the content shared of Malcolm varies, a specific side of Malcolm is often depicted: the politically strong, passionate Afro-American that was bluntly outspoken about racism and white-supremacy. Through this, there is a communal indulging in Malcolm’s rage. In “Malcolm X and Black rage,” Cornel West (1992) refers to Malcolm as the prophet of rage. West points out his deep passion for Black African freedom, and profound belief in Black self-love fuels his rage. West indicates that as the evolving black identities continue to deal with perpetuated aggressions such as racism and misogyny, they relate and utilize Malcolm’s rage as point of reference. Not surprisingly, the alluring nature of his rage rooted in passion has also captivated other communities – even those that don’t relate to Malcolm’s vision of justice. For instance, in his chapter, “Malcolm X and the New Blackness,” Joe Woods (1992) discusses how neo-Nazis engage in Black rap because they relate to the anger it embodies. Although neo-Nazis’ anger has a different intent than that of black rage, their desire to identify with it goes deeper than an attempt to wear black subjectivity (wanting to be black). I believe it demonstrates the empowering nature of Black rage. Similarly, West (1992) points out that Malcolm believed the Black diaspora’s justified rage could be the foundation for seeking communal justice.

As indicated by West (1992), Malcolm didn’t live long enough to establish a theological or practical means of, “channeling Black rage in constructive channels to change American society.” Nevertheless, the continuation of his legacy includes oppressed communities identifying with his need to transform rage into proactive revolution. As a Black Muslim woman, I often attempt to conceptualize how the Muslim community relates to this productive rage he attempted to achieve. Due to Malcolm’s Muslim identity, and the relatable nature of his rage against white-supremacy, it is no surprise that the Muslim community places him at the centre when discussing Islamophobia.

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with Muslims’ expanding Malcolm to resist against racism and sexism which correspond with anti-blackness. Woods (1992) argues that Malcolm’s spirit is fluid, in that various communities “wear Malcolm’s mask” and identify with his rage. Similarly, when discussing the allegations of Malcolm being sexist, Angela Davis (1992) in, “Meditation on the Legacy of Malcolm X,” argues that when analyzing Malcolm’s legacy an innovative approach is required. Davis suggests that we shouldn’t restrict Malcolm to the time frame he lived, but focus on how his reasoning could be expanded to the present. Thus, expanding Davis’s (1992) argument, I believe utilizing Malcolm to discuss Islamophobia is innovative. It has the ability to expand discourse, and therefore, advance our knowledge of Islam in North America. While there is a common assumption that Islam in the Americas is due to mass Arab migration, its origins began with Muslim Black slaves that were kidnapped, and taken to the Americas.

However, my frustration arises from the manner in which the Muslim community engages with his rage, forcefully prioritizing their oppression over the needs of the Black community Malcolm served. While Malcolm was Muslim, the drive for his passionate anger was the ending of Black injustice, and belief in the endurance, superiority, and ability of Black subjectivity. Thus, utilizing Malcolm, as Joe woods (1992) points out, “is engaging in African American discourse.” Woods (1992) explains that each story that is written about Malcolm shows a certain side of him, but also hides another. Similarly, Muslims investing in Malcolm’s rage as the foundation for their liberation shows their oppression, but erases his Blackness and reduces him to a revolutionary tool. I believe this mimics White narratives, as discussed in Toni Morrison’s (1992) “Playing in the dark,” where literature silences Black agency, and reduces blackness to a literary tool to understand white ontology.

Therefore, the spirit of Malcolm is one associated with questioning and critiquing the oppressions the Black diaspora faces.Thus, when Brown and Arab Muslims engage with Malcolm’s rage, but ignore how their communities perpetuate anti-blackness he resisted, they are not loving Malcolm. It is very similar to the situation Joe Woods (1992) depiction of neo-Nazis ironically engaging with Black rap. It is iconizing his rage. It is reducing Malcolm to a commodity. Moreover, it is placing Malcolm’s legacy on a shelf for Brown and Arab self-gain, where he is fetishized, and engaged with only when their being is jeopardized, but placed back and silenced when the very Black community that inspired his rage is oppressed. Loving Malcolm is allowing him to become a symbol of justice by unpacking the anti-Blackness that exists within Muslim communities.

Citations

  • Davis, Angela. (1992). Meditations on the Legacy of Malcolm X. In Malcolm X: In our own image (pp. 36-47). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  • Morrison, T. (1992). Playing in the dark: Whiteness and the literary imagination. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  • West, Cornel. (1992). Malcolm X and Black Rage. In Malcolm X: In our own image (pp. 48-59). New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  • Wood, J. R. (1992). Malcolm X: In our own image. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Rubbed Raw: Depression and Suicide, from the Eyes of a Lover

Trigger warning: Suicide/self-harm/depression

One: The Meeting

It’s never like it is in the movies, is it.
Except it was, wasn’t it?
Just like a high-school rom-com gone wrong,
everything went right, didn’t it?

Except it didn’t… did it

A High school history class turned hell,
you turned around and asked me for…
something. I can’t remember,
well
Not to sound cheesy, but I was caught up in your eyes.
And, not to seem sleezy but I know you were too.

Time seemed to stop, as we met each other’s gaze,
both of our glasses reflecting the other’s
look of speechlessness
of awe
of
Love at first sight doesn’t exist, does it?
Because that’s what it felt like, it did…
Didn’t it?
Everything about us has made me question it all.
It’s never like it is in the movies, is it?

Two: The Beginning

I remember to this day when our eyes met
in Mr. M’s monotonous… social studies class
the nice, quiet boy in front of me
intrigued and beguiled me with wild
stories of somber songbirds
and strange sketches
of life

Fast forward a
year

and the nice quiet boy is in front of me
shaking
heart beating, hands trembling, head spinning
hands in my hair, on my waist, up my back
first kiss
                  first love
                                                      first boyfriend
Ultimate happiness, tumbling down the rabbit hole
of intense emotions that nobody can handle
last kiss
first kiss
                         last love
                                                      only love
when you’re dating death things
get intense quickly
things are forever
but be careful what you wish for
my one and only, always and forever
forever is
much
much
shorter
than you think,
my love

Three: Us

my broken soul, and your broken heart
fit together in perfect harmony
like your hand in mine
among other things…

slowly you opened,
revealed, blossomed, bloomed
and showed me the colourful whirlwind behind the plain black square glasses

But things are never how they are in the movies, right?

and that black cloud I lifted came back again, didn’t it?

long days and longer nights wore you down till there was nothing left
of the smiley, happy, kind, laughing boy I once met
in Mr. M’s monotonous boring hot history class

just a shell of the beautiful soul I locked gazes with that fateful day on a fate-less path

I started to miss you before you were gone
well, you were gone before you… left
first the laugh died
then the love died
when you couldn’t get out of bed
I died a little
then you died.

and. then. you. died.

and… then you… died
                  and
                                    then
                                                      you
                                                                        died
and then you died

Four: The Event

When a man loves his razors more than you, you’re in trouble.
Because no seventeen-year-old should have to have first hand knowledge
of the widow of world war two
complete with PTSD and tattoos
depression and darkness and dank deep memories of
pain.

when a man loves his razors more than you, you’re going to be angry
because when you’re seventeen years old and in love for the first time
you’re supposed to be worried about dances and dates
and whether or not he’s going to spend the night,
not survive it.

because when you’re a teenager and you’re with someone you want forever
you’re supposed to make love in the back seat of your first car
not bleed out in it

because

we loved with a love that was more than love
in a hospital in downtown Vancouver…

so when your man starts loving his razors more than you.

when he looks in your eyes and whispers
“you’re my one and only, always and forever, and I will always love you”

your heart is going to shatter, and you won’t be able to put it together again.

when a man starts loving his razors more than you
you better start loving yourself
more
than
that
man

Five: The Aftermath

Fuck you for loving me the way that you did.
The days you spoiled me, brought me
flowers and foiled my plans to stay
unreachable

Fuck you, for holding me in your arms when I cried, for telling
me you’ll never leave my side.

I hate you

for making me realize I was beautiful,
for looking at me and making me feel like a goddess on land
for holding my hand
and making me fall in love with you.

for those picnics by the ocean,
showing me a world of ecstasy and pleasure, so intense and so beautiful
our hearts caught fire
and when I say fire I mean we
burned.

I hate you for feeling the same way I did
for thinking that we had a chance
for dancing with me while we were engulfed in the flame
of a love so intense it destroyed more joy than it created and every night
I can still see your face
the disgrace
of loving you and being replaced
by something that thinks it can
take. my. place.

unbearable.

please come back to me…