the past is not past: A poem

Spoken at VANDU’s memorial march, Dec 18, 2012

the past is not past
the dead are not dead
the past is experiences
of suffering and loss and joy and achievement
the many lives in each of us
in the generations inside us in the world inside us
in the histories within usin the thousands of days and nights
that influence traumatize inspire and strengthen us
as walt whitman wrote, “we contain multitudes”
and the dead we memorialize today are lost to us
in their physical presence which leaves a great pain in us
but the dead are very much alive
in their passage through our lives
and the dead are not less dear less loved less cared for
and when we speak the names and lives of our deceased
they continue to regain their identities
the dead live in our memories of moments and months and
years with them
the dead of the downtown eastside fought wars
and fight those wars with us today
the wars against community dignity the economically impoverished
the drug users the disabled the activist all whose contributions
help us make real community
and the dead of VANDU depend upon us upon me for the
ongoing gift and blessing that keep us able to give and regard
with wonder the struggles and oppression and damages that
befell them and the courage they revealed that also
becomes who we are and will be as we will be to
others because every beautiful moment scary sorrow every laugh everything
shared with those who passed continues undiminished in us
resistance against the truly dead the dealers of death
with their culture of greed and deadness their empire of deadness
and everything we become matters whether as lightning flash as storm as friend as
sunlight lover
sufferer rebel we become as those we cherish today touched
embraced challenged and inspired with their lives and
their legacy, as the downtown eastside community is a
legacy fought for and loved by many who have died
and have contributed a kind word a compassionate touch shared
what they had and VANDU’s members whose selfless action saved others’
lives saved our lives enduring police brutality and
institutional repression and we’ve known and wept countless
tears for we’ve experienced more deaths among drug users in
the past decades than anywhere in the western world
such as the attempted genocide of the 1990s when the
means to health and abundant life was deliberately
withheld from us until a social action movement was ignited by VANDU
so today we cherish those who have helped make us who
we are and we remember and memorialize a community of
life and lives so vital we shall never forget them
but live this memorial in a time of sadness but also
of celebration for these VANDU members and other users
we are able to embrace in the best we are because
if not for these whose presence has passed but whose
lives and spirit remain with us we would be so much
less than the amazing unique extraordinary human beings
we are, and they are, for us.

You might also like