On First Life: “Here”
Look Here. At the house in the sunlight
The light that is rising or falling on the house
The house that is the First Space
We imagine being in. Look Here at the light that
Sets everything on fire in making and unmaking You
Visible. Is it making You
Unforgettable or unimaginable? Where is Here?
Here is a place
Of imagining pain, of forgetting pain
Of weapons that look like light
Light that conceals by throwing shadows on the snow
Light that lets Us pretend We don’t know
What Here is, where Here is, who was Here.
You were Here. You are Here.
Here being Yours, We come always
Spreading silently. Here being
Where We learn how to hear or not hear
The dying You. Here being
In Our imaginations. Our imaginations being
Where You are always drunk, always obscene, always
Too much and too many to be seen. Here being
Where Your space and voice and people sink into shadows.
Look Here. The house. The First Space. The Vastness.
What are We if We are Here
Where You continue to make noise
Where We cannot hear You without knowing
That We have been murderous
That We continue to be murderous
That We are infected with murderous light
Light that hates to see
Light that divides the First Space, the First Life
Light that is diseased with difference and destroys
Light that runs knives along the earth’s splayed bodies
Light that makes and unmakes Here.
Where is Here? Here is
Where My light continues to rise and fall on
You. Here is
Where the edges of the living
Find the edges of the dying.
From the author: “I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta. One thing life in Edmonton exposes is the still-very-much-alive hatred and violence enacted upon First Peoples in Canada. The degree to which this behaviour is normalized in the everyday gazes, thoughts, and speech of Edmontonians is disturbing—and something that I, as a youth and young adult, have been implicated in.
Unlearning—unmaking the weapons with which we so easily, so automatically harm people—is part of our responsibility as settlers and a process that is necessarily uncomfortable, difficult, and destructive. This poem reflects on the sustained presence of systemic colonial hatred and violence in Canada and takes a few premises about place and pain for granted.*
-To have pain is to have certainty. To witness pain is to have doubt. To doubt or ignore someone’s pain amplifies their suffering.
-To inflict pain on a body is to destroy that body’s world, voice, and self. To inflict pain on many bodies (a people) is to destroy that people.
-The distance between the person(s) in pain and the person(s) observing or inflicting the pain is impossibly vast, and can only be occupied by the imagination.
-Home is the First Space. Home is where we learn to imagine.
-The First Space is sacred.
-We are destroying everything that is sacred. Our homes occupy the imaginary space between the bodies in pain and the weapons.
* I owe these ideas to Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain and Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space.