Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2001 19:16:01
Subject: Re: good advice and the decision
i'm going to pretend i'm speaking only to you, because talking to people i don't know makes me really self-conscious and then i write stupid. it's not like having an audience or speaking to someone on the phone. kind of like nothing to stand on, no place to fall, that's a zen koan, i'm told. i did not write it. also, that love to be love thing is peter gabriel, but i thought i wouldn't need to tell you.
i read your e-mail this morning before going off to work and it was on my mind all day. at lunch i was reading "bent box" a book of poetry by lee maracle, from the sto:lo nation here. she wrote this one poem called "autumn rose" which is the name of this little girl she met and, she explains, "the poem is not about her but rather my perception of our self-destruction and the children who are the natural resistance to destruction." here is the last stanza, which i hope you like:
"The children I meet are the roses in autumn.
A child is forever blossoming. Their parents
may feel crushed but the children go on blooming
like the lovely, stubborn rose."
yes, i know, sort of, what an emotional roller-coaster this has been for you. it was heartbreaking to hear about what the parents did and said and i know how much more heartbreaking it must be for you. brutality, ignorance and prejudice seem to go together no matter who you are, but it is wonderful that the grandfather has a home to bring up the kids in his way, with compassion and understanding. kids know adults and kids love to be loved. i'm glad things worked out with the house and it's good that you feel that you've done a good thing because i think you have. there are many folk tales and fairy stories about people making ridiculous bird sounds and night animal sounds as a form of communication to people they were forbidden to see. this is also, at times, how the underground railroad worked. but i understand that there are risks for you and the children. it was just something that came to mind.
macko is at my feet, shelley is sleeping on the couch, csaba is sick, erik is lonely, the plants are green, the kids here are coming over and learning about the history of resistance in apartheid south africa and about north american colonialism, and i'm going to bed.
take good care,
oops, i see there is another message, probably telling of further adventures and turmoils. hope you're watching your back. i don't know if you remember the time i got knocked on the head on the victoria bus. you were in montreal, this was years ago. i saw a man standing beside a woman on the bus they were each ready to go out of the back doors of the bus. i thought they were a couple because the man was fingering the rim of the pocket of the woman's coat and i thought to myself, isn't it funny how some men are so tentative around affection that they reach out covertly, touching and needing contact without being felt. well, as moved as i was by this seeming tenderness, i could not mistake his look when he saw me watching him. he was trying to pick her pocket. indeed they were no couple. i was startled and then he smiled at me, put his finger up to his lips and gave me a look of collusion. he had done an intimate thing (i still didn't have that initial invention out of my head), touching her, without her knowing and he wanted me to go, "yeah, cute." i felt mildly violated for her and repulsed for myself. i touched her shoulder on the side away from him and said, "i don't mean to alarm you, but did you know he was trying to pick your pocket?" she was alarmed, she held her side where her pocket next to the man was and people around us began to sense something was up. she was a small woman and vietnamese, if i remember from our stunned conversation afterwards, which may have added to her sense of vulnerability, in this city anyway. meanwhile the bus was stopping. the man who had nearly winked at me seconds earlier glared, and the look frightened me so much that i had to turn away. i knew he was getting off the bus, so i turned my back. at the very same moment i both heard and felt a cracking thud on my head. he had taken his briefcase and smashed it on my head. i know that he jumped off the bus, i even saw it, but in a way there is only the most still calm you can imagine. that night martin took me to the hospital, maybe i sounded funny to him when he called or something. afterwards, he asked if he could put his arm around me, because if he had been bashed on the head he would want someone to put his arm around him. i let him, but something of that calm, feelinglessness was still there, and for a long time after.
the point of this story is that people said many things to me after i told them the story or after they heard it from someone else. a friend from the bookstore said, "that will teach you not to stick your neck out for people." and i said, more seriously than he, "no, that will teach me not to turn my back."
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