A Poem For Tent City

*a poem for tent city * by Cynthia Oka

save the date, the sky is coming
february 15th 2010 a new nation born on VANOC lot
in the rudeness of mud, stone and liberated wood
no bill, permit or lease – just a spacious tissue
absorbing rag doll bodies with dynamite pits
makeshift tendons patched up cloth and cigarettes
hard as blade, wrinkled with the dialect of rain
contraband hearts gather –

around the corner hubris secretes thin franchised joys
over rheumy eyes and the scurrying of rats
six billion dollar blueprint for happiness
paper flags, washable tattoos and red mittens
*everything that comes off *

save the city, the sparrows are returning
tin beaks clap over sting of chewed up membranes
against the mountains derelict flats scream
HOMES NOW through firelight and coffee steam

i have no amenity but language to witness
hope and ligaments folded in sleeping bags
tents like petals on a singed autumn floor
forbidden songs ascend –
up the stairwell to k(no)w where silicone and plastic

lost to patent leather shoes and centuries of Indian Act
got natural running on rusted nails and broken bottles
so no walls now just marbled flesh and wire fencing
just the freshness of doing it our way

save the breath, the silence is breaking
blistered hands carving a universe from slender air
digging up bold from beneath the frostbit bone
somewhere unnameable and plush with wanting
an existence more than stencilled by beat cops,
real estate speculation and “official policy”
a protein found only in collective memory
this taking back of here –

the unspeakable sovereignty to be unmoved from
this garden of chalk and graffiti poems writing ourselves
out of the underfoot into each other’s tender places
a necessary contagion and the only prognosis that matters:
the weather in our veins.


One response to “A Poem For Tent City

  1. Lawrence Boxall

    Wow! Ill-health limited my visits to Tent City so I’ve depended on various media to inform me of what was going down there. This poem and “these days” jointly give me a better appreciation for what happened in Tent City then all of the other sources combined.

    In “A Poem for Tent City” I sense the heroic cohabiting peacefully with the tender and the vulnerable. There is a sense in this poem that the oppression of homelessness is defeated by the spirit of human dignity that was realized in this two week action which combined a firm refusal to be cowed by the oppressor and a celebration of the fullness of the human spirit in the oppressed. The second stanza deftly paints the sham reality of the hollow Olympic flagwaving which contrasts sharply with the humanity expressed and experienced in Tent City. Both of these poems have me quite excited and reassured that the struggle will continue.

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