• Nisha

432 - 615 - 719 - ?

The following poem is a living thing, as it's inspirational and beloved inhabitants once were. For every preventable and tragic death due to COVID under our governments, I have added one word to this ongoing poem. As of 3PM December 14, 2020, this poem has 719 words.

On the day Lewis Hamilton becomes the first Black man to win seven Formula 1 championships, Alberta breaks 1000 new COVID cases. My mother cancels Diwali while my relatives return to work for the 270th day in a row, packing food and Christmas flyers, and staffing Emergency Rooms in infested hospitals.

The premier takes to radio shows to blame everyone but himself, asking for me and my people to wake up, and neither my city councilor nor my Mayor defend us.

Women around the world share tearful congratulations about Kamala Harris’ ascension to Vice President of the free world, leaving out the names of trans women who will die under police brutality. Canadians as a whole are nothing like our neighbours until Regis Korchinski-Paquet and Ejaz Chaudry are both murdered without consequence. Then the tune changes, and it’s Edmonton that’s nothing like Toronto.

MEAT off Whyte puts out more patio heaters to keep afloat as boutique stores down the Ave go out of business without rent relief or aid. I've never caught COVID trying on shoes but I'm sure the brisket is worth it.

Curfew is now ten o'clock which means happy hour still ends at 8, and when we run to the old Mac's for eggs we hold our breath so the bar crowd buying lottery tickets don't fog up our glasses. Hope has become a scarce commodity, and as usual it is the minorities who can’t vote that run out first as they pick up shifts delivering groceries so the federal government has nothing to claw back. I’ve heard a rumour that casinos are booming.

Elderly folks die in private care homes without a last Christmas while Indian mothers work two jobs to keep up with being good immigrants on both Sal Mubarak and New Years Eve.

Young radicals are attacked on Twitter for their vision of a freer future, while popular radio hosts platform white women playing Devil’s Advocate. Grieving sons and daughters share screenshots of their final moments with their parents, as grandmas line up for a vaccine that has been rumoured to not be promised to anyone but the NHL. Lewis Hamilton contracts COVID, misses an entire Formula 1 race, and comes back in a week to end the season in a car with the names of every support staff who sacrificed their health so that I could sit on my couch and watch him drive for pleasure.

On campus, international students pay extra to quarantine in a country that thinks them worthless, while cashiers at brand name grocers charge 5 cents for plastic bags that will end up in saltwater. A man dies in a hospice with only his staff to eulogize him. Every week I call my father and my doctor, both of whom care about my pancreas more than my pancreas cares about me, and think about how saying I’m disabled or queer or brown are all comorbities.

My astronaut friend talks at length about Mars, and for a second I daydream before I remember that she, too, was told to wake up to the reality that this is her fault.

Teens take up the mantle to uphold Treaty and save the lives of those the City wishes didn't exist. The City wishes harder, shoves bodies into a convention center, and hopes the people with the votes are appeased that no tax dollars have been wasted. In fact, the City does not raise taxes, so I lay awake and wonder which part of the Municipal Government Act, Section 7, prevents the City from spending money in a crisis in the name of the safety, health and welfare of people. But then again, I’ve only spent ten years studying politics, so what would a property-less millennial like me know about it.

I think about Christmas. I think about starvation. I think about home. How being human makes me worthy of at least one of these things.

And your worship, mostly I think about death. How my faith in politics died first in a refrigerator truck, then a field hospital. How I took one word for everybody in this province who died a preventable death, and wrote a poem. Seven-hundred and nineteen words, one for every child that grew and loved under the hands collective negligence. How eloquent it will make me tomorrow.