Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Who would have thought
That today
in two thousand and four
When you are supposed to be
a sprightly forty two year old
writer in Cleveland Heights
You would instead,
be residing as a pile of ash
in an urn in Ohio
Who would have seen you dying
Leave alone dying
as an African-American
Jewish mystic

Cancer claimed you at forty
Five days before Xmas
of two thousand and two
A year and a half
of swift excruciating pain
That you endured
While laughing and writing
And whoosh, you were gone
Leaving behind
a twenty year old daughter
And twenty dozen friends
From Guyana to Germany
Across races, fashion styles,
religions and ideologies
We all claimed you
And you left a piece of you in us

In the last seven years
of your life
We were lifelong friends
I still store
your curvy calligraphy
Poetically telling me how
And when you did
your groceries in Cleveland
Still have those mix tapes
You made for me of
Burning Spear blended with Salif Keita
And have those kick ass
feminist mags from the UK
That you gave me
when you came over
In the summer of ‘95
For the wedding of
Shelina and Grace
At the Cathedral on
Sherbourne and Bloor

Still touches me
That I was among four or five
Friends and family
You invited
To come with you
to the health food store
Next to the Greek restaurant
on the Danforth
In Toronto's east end
When you were seeking
A non-toxic alternative
to chemotherapy
At the beginning of
two thousand and one

You were so brave and
unafraid I recall
As you listened to
the east European woman
Tell you about stevia and thyme,
ginger and gingko biloba
And all the other organic
flipsides to the capsuled recipes
From the white robed dispensers of deathly cures

Do you remember the laughter we savoured
In that dramatist’s basement
just south of Eglinton West, east of Oakwood
And even though you were weak and coughing
Your intellect was keen
your eyes were glinting with mischief
As you joked about those frightened friends
Who came to see you
And how YOU had to console THEM
Reminding them that
you were not dead yet

And then one day in December
A cold email in my Outlook inbox
Told me
you had breathed
your last
A sense of loss
engulfed me for I was not
The only who had lost you
But with that same loss
Also a sense of relief
That at last you had escaped
From the Abu Ghraib terrors
Of the cancerous torturers
The ruthless tiny tormentors
That had to choose
The healthiest, cleanest living
Most vivacious generous woman
I had ever known
And destroy all her internal organs one by one
First with this melanoma then with the other carcinoma

Karen I refused
to say my goodbyes to you
Since you never left me
And forget Karen
You will always be KJ to me
Your poems are still here
As are all your letters, your tapes
Your magazines, your photos
And of course all those memories
We shared when
we were lovers
in the early nineties
Your lesbian friends
were shocked
When you left
another woman
for me
Your were not fazed
Already a mother
of a teen daughter
You simply told me
I fall in love with people
Not orientations
Sometimes you fell in love with men
Sometimes you fell in love with women
You told me
That it just so happened
That you fell in love with me

That love declaration has never and will never
Leave me…