if we are canadian why do i see predominately white in the red white and red the flag whose leaf i am equally loyal if we are canadian why is my language so importantly first <english not french cantonese swahili or haida the tongue whose wit is equally apt if we are canadian why is my fight a war i never started november 11 the country whose freedom is equally mine if we are canadian why is my opinion on wine books blues folk denied the palate whose taste is equally refined if we are canadian why do we think that first nations (first canadians) are privileged to have health care ("status") when the last residential school closed in 1996 the late 1900s the century whose history is equally present, if we are canadian?
why do i never see my face on television just a blurred obscure smudge brushed across the flickering screen like it was a saturated towel wiped through blood mud just a streakof humanity... a colour that you can change the light on and make into a different shade, a piece of puddy made of clay
i only see me as they see me pouring tea bowing out of respect for the great power that is whiteness that holy quality the colour of death. i am always laughing politely at their impoliteness... because it is always so funny when everyone around you is smiling, if even inside there is a disagreement a knowing a reality apart from the appearance a disobedient adherence a glowing / a shining undermining
the truth: that in the bud of the bud & the root of the root on the tree of life i'm low hanging fruit.
As people of colour, it is essential that we remember we are not the boxes that society contains us in. We are more than our actualizations, we are also our potential. Some of us are never told that we can do great things – so we must do them. We need to believe more than we’re told. We need to use our imaginations to guide us into a future of equality, and to use our minds and wills to grow it in the present, from a seed to a tree to a forest.
A genuine appreciation of simple pleasures entails a life of happiness. These are the words that I live by, or try to anyway.
Today I was finally able to “crab” for the first time this summer at beautiful Belcarra Park. In typical Vancouver fashion, the sky filled with thick, puffy rainclouds and poured buckets. Then as soon as it came, the weather had opened up to pure blue skies and golden sunshine. My face is still a little tender because of the UV rays, dancing off the sparkling calm water.
I wish I had the pictures to show you how beautiful it really was but truth be told, I was having too much fun to think of unpacking my camera. Some moments are timeless because they are captured in film, and others are simply so, in body and spirit.
This day was unlike other days because of several firsts. We caught a flounder (a halibut?) with our crab trap; we saw a sea gull snatch and swallow a dogfish the size of a pickle; and we even taught two classes of Grade 1s how to identify crabs by sex. The latter was greatly appreciated and rewarding.
Many families were out and about on this Thursday afternoon and we even made friends with a couple and their toddler daughter. I’ve got to say that I have new ideas for a future honeymoon if I am so lucky…shooting a fresh duck fetched by my scantily clad partner in middle of nowhere-New-Zealand only to have a bus full of tourists unload and take pictures surely makes for quite the story.
After several hours on the docks and the new and might-as-well-be-old family friends long gone into the night we headed home to feast on our catch of the day: three red rocks rounded out by bargain priced dungeness crabs. Dinner isn’t always what you set out to get, sometimes what’s available is best.
Two tired buddies and a camera (and a beer!) later, we documented how a good day can start with a reluctant jump out of bed and end with a grateful lesson in cooking from the grandparents.
Enjoy the photos. :)
I remember Old China Town, like it was yesterday elders walking the streets and sleeping on stones houses built on our bones
Found in the park cans collected and exchanged for yarn to spin into mittens and sweaters that always needed adjusting for me.. and the other babies because we kept growing she says nothing but through that blue, milky eye "I knew better" i see that our world equips us with daggers and guns and spears pointed at ourselves And the greatest trick is to mistake myself as the enemy, Not fights with mirrors or a Disney reflection, no these are words of my own, self-inflicted wounds, injuries we endure and feel but cannot see or hear
they build houses over our bones while we sleep on stones like it was yesterday
The colonization of Canada affected many people: First Nations who lost (and are continually losing) their land and homes and cultures and language; Black slaves who are forever tracing their steps back to their ancestry and never told of their own contributions to the colony; Chinese people who were separated from family, and some who were never reunited; Ukrainian, Croatian and Irish people who were never considered “white” until recently. The images in this poem are what I imagine when I learn about the history of Vancouver and colonization. Just as early white settlers stole from Aboriginal people, the state’s colonization of people of colour continues to dominate us through the gentrification and “development” of lands we live – whether it’s the borrowed-but-never-returned sacred land or a viaduct built over the only Black village or expensive buildings pushing out poor Chinese elders. The establishment that is called Canada is largely an occupation of unceded First Nations land. Much of their history and ancestry is left buried beneath the foundations of homes, village halls, museums, stores, restaurants, businesses and properties. So, too with “immigrant” folk. And the great tragedy is we are starting to think of this kind of racism as a relic of yesterday.
my font is "asian" it is the crooked letters that shape my words, porcelain tea-stained because i am a vessel for the flow my language consists of steamed bamboo huts salted pork and egg pastry, i'll eat vegetables tomorrow i am a map of cemeteries at eternal rest facing the sea, a calendar of the moon always rising and falling like a lotus in the wind duck yolk cake festival my burps are polite thunder, my aging joints fire crackers good luck blasts red money set afire rising into the realm of gods & godesses three bows, i remember three bows my name is 'good boy' 'smart boy' 'pretty boy' i smell of gardens carefully tended the greenest thumb that yields no fruit but becomes emperor my ears are a song that rings of opera pitches touching the heavens & a family dinner on day seven, lobster abelone and rice.
i am already starting )beginning to forget.. those houses built and raised by families children mothers below age growing side by side in rows in villages in a billion person economy a pocket of home here in the new land we are the friendly neighbours who-moved-away-neighbours and 'never returned' neighbours the best friend whom you shared your first kiss living always in the past- a memory a treasury... they tried to remove you, erase you, tell you that you don't belong put you in another town another pocket, put an ocean between you and called it separation 'immigration' 'integration' it was humiliation> but in my heart of hearts i know that we are connected by a bridge a melted ice land under sea, and all i need is a paper boat.
I wrote this poem today called “paper boat” but in private, I think is more fittingly called “our story.” In it, I’ve tried to tell the story of my family from the reaches of my own perspective which are limited to my knowledge and experiences and position in the family tree. I draw upon childhood images of the “first generation” as it may have been in Seck-Hee as well as how it was for the “first and a half generation” and “second generation” growing up in Canada:
Making paper boats with Grandma.
if i drop
then it is because i fell from the heights of my mind, freely floated to the bottom of the bottom, the bottom of my heart.
and hear i would ly grand at the bounty of the land grasping at what fist who would hold me like this..
or maybe i've stooped (drooped) to the floor of the sea, looking up at the world who strangely looks down at me..
i am the one in the water but they are behind glass.