photograph: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2015
You might say it’s crazy or you might say it’s about time. Poetry vs prose. The end.
from ‘Wolf Lake’ by Michael V Smith and E. Bachinsky
I stay too often in my own head with my praise for fellow writers. This film Michael V Smith made from Elizabeth Bachinsky’s powerful poem “Wolf Lake” is one of those lapses. This terrifying narrative never really left me after I saw/heard it the first time, and then today when I started to build a story from similar circumstances, I felt it again, the blunt blow to the heart, and wanted to share it.
It is on Elizabeth’s home page. Scroll down.
The wonderful poet Méira Cook is interviewing me for Brick Books about a long-ago poem I wrote from the imagined perspective of Ted Bundy’s mother during his execution. I had to keyboard in this long poem tonight because I no longer had it on a computer. What a surreal experience to be inside the imagined voice of an onlooker to violence while also being inside my young poet’s voice. I remembered that mother-blaming was even worse then than it is now. I remembered how enraged I became that Ted Bundy had caused so many women and their families pain and incalculable losses (my word, I had daughters, I could almost–), and how confusing was the struggle in my conscience when he was executed, since I remain against capital punishment.
To add to this, of course it just the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre at École Polytechnique this past weekend (along with the anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death, from whence many losses issued). Here in Vancouver, there was a Saturday vigil in response to Montreal, then a Sunday vigil for Canada’s missing and indigenous women.
I have been worrying a lot about police violence, too, as everyone has. Recently I watched Brian Lindstrom’s film Alien Boy about the Portland murder of James Chasse, and again footage of the Robert Dziekanski police murder at YVR. Did these murders presage the militarization of police in N America and the new wave of shootings of Black men across the US? A Vietnamese man in Vancouver, Du Na Phuong, waving a piece of lumber in a crosswalk, was also shot and killed by police a few blocks from here a couple weeks ago. Story here.
And even as I watch footage of these men dying from police brutality, and try to come to terms, I know that women also die in police custody, and that reporters don’t note it the way they do male deaths.
Let’s see it. Let’s name it. Let’s not look away. Can we not look away?
Can I not avert my eyes one more time?
Excerpted from my collection, Body Rain. In 1989, a few blocks from where I now sit, on Laurel Street in Vancouver, my friend Diane was shot through her sliding glass doors near Hallowe’en night, when everyone mistook the noise of the gunshot for fireworks. Eventually (many years later) her ex’s brother was convicted of the crime. This is a solemn poem for Hallowe’en, and also a cautionary poem during this week in which we consider male violence.
What we left unsaid is jabbering—
I haven’t enough ears.
The man who killed you,
who was he
with his bullets, Diane?
You loved me.
Perhaps it is the promise
of love I feel,
the redemption of arousal,
a giddy comprehension.
I was stupified, then,
you know I was,
pregnant, foggy as milk.
It is late, now, to understand.
Will you forgive me
Saturday I stood on the shore
with daisies cascading from my fingers.
Diane, the ocean would not swallow them—
yellow was caught in her throat
Who knows this season
better than you?
Hunters rustle the undergrowth
In my yard the sumac
drops lit candles.
I would show you how to flee, Diane.
consider the pumpkin on the stooop,
the quick torture of its hide under my knife.
I have costumes in my closet
and we’ll go out like breath
this night, like perfect witch women
in our black hats. On broomsticks
our voices wake like bats.
darkest of hearts.
You wait outside the gate,
I take your shattered chest
against my own.
I heat you and melt you
with the force of the living,
with the love of the living
for living things.