On Refusing Settler Demands for Reconciliation

[The following is a transcript of a sermon I was invited to deliver at Sanctuary London on June 6, 2021. The passage from the lectionary was Luke 1.39-56, but I was also asked to speak to the topic of decolonization in light of the recent revelation about 215 Indigenous kids (some as young as 3) being found in a mass, unmarked grave on the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. This is what I said.]

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May Reviews

Discussed in this post: 8 books (In the Ruins of Neoliberalism; Between Realism and Revolt; Cops, Crime and Capitalism; The Last Refuge; Having and Being Had; Entangled Life; When My Brother Was an Aztec; and Feed); 8 movies (Somewhere; 24 Frames; Aniara; Salt of the Earth; Elena; Cat Soup; The Invisible Man; and Freaky); and 7 documentaries (Mayor; Sasquatch; Athlete A; The Devil Next Door; Grey Gardens; Above and Below; and Allen v. Farrow).

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Deshkan Ziibiing

The river flows
Not as it has always flowed
But still
It flows
Brown and frothing
Where it falls

In 1824 a European
Describes sturgeons
Of an immense size
Seven feet long
One hundred and fifty pounds
In this river
In 1821 another European
Described the river
As delightfully transparent

Today the settlers
Whose houses line the banks
Describe the river
As peaceful
Oh so peaceful
But I remember
May 24, 1881
And the steamboat
SS Victoria
Her boiler torn loose
Scalding some to death
Crushing others
On the way down
The upper deck collapsing
Onto the people below
And holding them underwater
As the ship promptly sank
And this peaceful
Oh so peaceful
Peacefully claimed
One hundred and eighty-two settler lives
On the birthday
Of their Queen

And the river flows
Not as it has always flowed
Emptied of sturgeons
Filled with sewage
And pesticides from local farmlands
Fields that once were forests
Around this
The Forest City
Brown and frothing
Where it falls
It bides its time
And waits

On Grief and Comfort

A still from Eiichi Yamamoto’s 1973 animated film, Belladonna of Sadness.

Grief takes ahold of you. It overpowers you. You do not get to decide when you have had enough of grief. You will want to stop grieving. You will want to move on. You will wish you could process things faster or better or “more like other people,” but you will find that the precise amount of grief that is allotted to you is yours and yours alone. You do not get to say when you have grieved enough. It is grief, itself, which determines when it has had enough of you. Grief works from its own timeline, not the one you bring to it. And the timeline grief has for you is not the same as the timeline grief has for other people. Other people telling you that you’re taking too long to work through your grief is just as useless as you trying to tell your grief you’re done with it now. They don’t get to make that call. And neither do you. You must grieve your grief through all the way to the end uniquely set aside for you, wherever and whenever grief determines that end is. You must grieve passionately which, as with any passion, is something that requires endurance.

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April Reviews

Discussed in this post: 9 BOOKS (Genome Editing and Engineering; Security, Territory, Population; We Do This ‘Til We Free Us; The Tragedy of Heterosexuality; Work Won’t Love You Back; Heart Berries; Mountains of the Mind; The Taiga Syndrome; and Tenth of December); 5 MOVIES (About Endlessness; Gretel and Hansel; Relic; Saint Maud; and Midsommar); and 3 DOCUMENTARIES (A Survivor’s Guide to Prison; This Way of Life; I’ll be Gone in the Dark; and A Glitch in the Matrix).

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In Memoriam

We are wrong when we say of the dead
They are no longer with us
Because the room where she lived
Is full to bursting
With the presence
Of her absent self

I don’t blame the heart
That decides
It has suffered enough
And refuses
To start beating again
The lungs
That refuse
To start breathing again
The brain that refuses
One more minute
Of fear
And loneliness
I don’t blame the one
Who lies down
And never gets back up again
I’ve longed for that moment
Often enough

I knew her for exactly
Sixty days
But what does it mean
To say that my knowledge of her
Is in the past tense?
I still know her
And she still is
The only one of her
That ever was
Or is
Or will be

It’s just that
The days in which I came to know
Are no more
I will not have another day in the presence of
Her voice
Her mannerisms
Her weeping and laughing
Just sixty
Only sixty
No more

And now begins
The long count of days
In which I do not
Her voice
Her mannerisms
Her weeping and laughing
And onward
Until I too
Am only present
As an absence

She lost consciousness on Sunday
Machines kept her breathing
Until Wednesday
And then they didn’t anymore
Wednesday was her move-in day
Her end to homelessness day
Her welcome home day
And I had to call her housing support workers
Oh no
I had to tell them
Good god
I had to tell them
I’m so so sorry
I had to tell them
She is dead

I am just writing to say

I am just writing to say
That I understand more now
About how good people do terrible things
And are subsequently and justly judged
As bad people
About how oppression is sustained in part
By those who desire to end it
About how at least some war criminals
Mostly those in the rank and file of war criminals
Were just doing their best
And still deserved to die

March Reviews

Discussed in this post: 17 books (Hermeneutics of the Subject; The Question of German Guilt; The Dark Side of Democracy; Border & Rule; The Vulnerable Observer; Entitled; Looking for Spinoza; Against the Loveless World; Girls Against God; Selected Poems; Patterson; An Africa Elegy; Ceremonies for the Dead; nedi nezu; No Heroics, Please; You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense; and Scribbled in the Dark), 5 movies (The Sacrifice; Earth; The Wind that Shakes the Barley; The Turin Horse; and You Were Never Really Here), and 4 documentaries (The New Normal; Las Marthas; Roll Red Roll; and Challenger).

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I Didn’t Answer When You Called

I didn’t answer when you called

I thought about not calling back

But I did

Major emergency

Your first two words

Major emergency

EMS come and gone

Police awaiting coroner

Coming from an out-of-town job

They cover a surprisingly large area

Said the bureaucrat

Whose boss later said

How saddened they all were

Because although

We’ve all seen death before


They felt

They felt this

They felt this p…

They felt this project

Was extra special

Person, I said

I think you meant to say person

February Reviews

Discussed in this post: 14 Books (Phenomenology of Perception; Ethical Loneliness; How Europe Underdeveloped Africa; Canada in Africa; Tomorrow’s Battlefield; Lamarck’s Revenge; The Wild Places; Noopiming; Laurus; EEG; Fatelessness; Wicked Enchantment; Postcolonial Love Poems; and Ban En Banlieu); 4 Movies (The Wolf House; Hagasuzza; The Handmaiden; and Cargo 200); and 3 Documentaries (Welcome to Chechnya; Cheer; and The Painter and the Thief).

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