I have lost a lot of friends on the DTES in the last couple months.  I don't always know how to grieve them, because sometimes their deaths are bittersweet.  A lot of them carry a lot of pain, and I'm glad to finally see an end to the pain.  But I miss them.

Selma was more of an acquaintance than a friend.  She passed away a few days ago.  As I've been remembering her this week, I started working on a poem about one morning I spent with her.  I have struggled over whether or not to share it online.  My hesitancy in posting it is that I don't want to sentimentalize or sensationalize her.  She was much more than this moment I had with her; she was a whole lifetime of moments.  In the end, I decided to post it because I want to try to let you in more on some of my experiences on the DTES.  I want to do so in a way that humanizes and does not exploit or commodify my friendships.  I really hope this is one such way.




      she was calm

didn't remember me

asked for my name

first and last

she's named for her aunt

but her mom's name is Katherine.

I fixed her coffee.


      she was distracted

repeating little things

lipstick lips pursed

all whispers and mumbles

not looking at me

eyes fixed on her red Converses

thoughts a world away.

I watched her.


      she was delicate

slender fingers like a dancer's

small controlled movements

painting her fingernails

with invisible brushes

what colour? I asked


green like my dad's eyes

trailing off.

I couldn't make it all out.


      she was lost

her hand

her newly-painted nails

moving up her bare scarred arm

her thumb closing in on two fingers

an invisible plunger

my mom taught me

how to do powder

showing me

instructing me

delicate and careful

over and over

but my mom said

don't do it every day.

I didn't say anything.


      she was content

loved the room

loved the fireplace

said she wished she could


in here

all the time.