Chicken Slaughter House (DTES)
This year has been filled with travel all over BC and Alberta. Currently visiting the DTES of Van City aka East Van (downtowneastside of Vancouver). This morning I was driving to go for a coffee on Commercial Drive before meeting a documentary film crew I have started working with this month.
The documentary piece is a promotional story pitch to present to funders about my journey in life. I left home first at age 12 from Toronto to northern BC. By 14 I hitch hiked to East Vancouver and began my street involvement on the DTES. This resulted in struggles with addiction, gangs, right wing extremism, homelessness, criminality, and extreme violence.
In the work I do in the last twelve years I share many stories about my experiences. My introduction to my dear friend Garry Gottfriedson, who is also my writing mentor, was the first person I ever shared a poem I wrote. He asked me to. I trusted him. We then forged a strong bond. Now, with Garry’s guidance I am a published writer in both poetry and creative non-fiction.
That first poem I wrote was edited down into three smaller poems in a series. It was about the DTES prostitution, Johns, and feminist based social justice issues. I wrote the poem in Dr. Si Transken’s class, who later became my thesis supervisor for my Masters degree.
In 2012, Dr. Transken invited me to read a poem at the Art-ivism event which was largely feminist based activists and artists. I was honoured. So I honoured her by reading the first of the three poems I read. It was called God Is Dead.
This year, 2013, I was invited to be a return reader. This year I read part three of the poem, Pickton’s Princesses. Perhaps next year I will read the third called Chicken Soup.
As I was driving to commercial drive today, on the corner of Commercial Drive and East Hastings there was a chicken slaughter house. I could not remember where the slaughter house was, but I recall the smells and images from when I was living on the streets. But today there were signs in front of the slaughter house. Along with the signs were two beautiful social activists.
I had to stop. I was in tears for a moment sitting in my car. It was a surreal moment as often happens when I am reminded of my past and where I am now in life. It is a miracle. I got out of my car and went and talked to one of the gals. She invited me to email her my poetry. I then told her I would write this blog, link their website, and post my poems.
They are doing important work. She talked about how the abusive raising of chickens in an urban area through cruel practices is abhorrent, then went on to talk about the contrast of the prostitution in the neighbourhood that is still going on; twenty years after I had been down there, both the slaughterhouse and the prostitution and poverty. She was a beautiful mind. I wanted to hug her, and I would have if she was not soaking wet from the Vancouver rain. They have been out every week protesting for months. Good job people.
I find it interesting how the majority of social justice advocates I come across are women. From First Nations communities, to organized protests, and rally organizers. I guess there is truth in the concept that women can be more connected to self and the world then their counter-parts downtrodden by institutional hyper-masculinity; much like I was for a long time. But, we do recover when we work at it.
I am thanking Liberation BC for the work they are currently doing.
The first poem is called God is dead which was published in SFU’s West-Coast-Line No. 72 in 2012; also was read at the Aboriginal Weaving Words Storytellers festival and Artivism event at UNBC in 2012.
The second poem, Chicken Soup, was never read publicly, nor published yet. I did however read it to Garry Gottfriedson’s family in his living room on Boxing Day in 2011.
The third poem, Pickton’s Princesses, was also published in West Coast Line No. 72. It was read at Artivism event in 2013.