Strange bedfellows

That’s what they say about politics, isn’t it? That it makes for strange bedfellows. The provincial election here in British Columbia is a case in point.

I had planned to vote for the Green Party in this election. The most serious (if not the most immediate) issues facing us are, in my opinion, environmental in nature. The climate is only part of it, albeit a big part. But many issues exist regarding water quality, protection of biodiversity, endangered species, disposal of toxic waste. These are all things that I believe are just as important as jobs and the economy. Nature really doesn’t care about our balance sheets.

But the BC Green Party has decided to align itself with the incumbent BC Liberal party. (For those who don’t live in BC, the BC Liberals are conservatives. I know it’s confusing. I’m pretty sure it’s intentional.) At the same time, they have derided the left-wing party here, the BC NDP, as lacking principle.

Again for those who don’t live here, this is why that’s ironic:

  • The BC Liberals have been accused of, and some of their operatives convicted of, breaking election laws.
  • The BC Liberals have profited from a political financing system that is largely without rules. Both the Globe and Mail and the New York Times have written about the ‘wild west’ nature of this system. Donors routinely pay tens of thousands of dollars to dine with the Premier or a collection of cabinet ministers (or both), and are handsomely rewarded. It was reported today that a company who happen to be one of the bigger donors were awarded the contract to oversee a multi-billion dollar project.
  • The BC Liberals have happily raised ‘fees’ and ‘premiums’ and ‘rates’ – while claiming not to have raised taxes – for everything from health care premiums (doubled in their time in office, and worth noting that no other province have these at all), hydro rates, campsite fees, and so on. And on. And on. And on.
  • While the BC Liberals did introduce Canada’s first carbon tax, it has been frozen since 2012, and will remain so until 2020. At this point, it’s been essentially priced in and is having a negligible effect on emissions.
  • Environmentally, the BC Liberals have promoted the development of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry, even while the market is saturated and the price is at record lows, leading to an enormous increase in the fracking of natural gas deposits. They have also promoted BC ports as a conduit for American thermal coal to reach Asian markets, and approved the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline, provided it meets their vague-to-the-point-of-meaningless conditions. They are preparing to flood some of the best farmland in BC to build a hydro-electric dam in a geophysically questionable location to generate power for additional resource extraction. They plan to replace a four-lane tunnel with a ten-lane bridge that most local governments oppose, rather than supporting additional public transportation.

I could go on, but it gets tedious to recite this stuff.

So why, you may ask – I did – why would a Green Party leader support this group? Why would he prefer them to a more progressive party? It really doesn’t make a lot of sense. But I hope his bedfellows, strange as they are, don’t fuck him too roughly. 

That kind of hypocrisy is really not my style, though, so I changed my mind and voted for someone else.

 

The last words

are for Sava Welsh
who made the best Spanish coffee in the New World,
who gave the shirt literally off his back to a woman because she said she liked it,
who worked with me in the bookstore on Robson Street for most of the thirteen
months I’ve been there,

who worked there for over twenty years,
who used to disappear every Sunday at quarter to five, as he said, “like a donkey in
the fog,”
who would not let even his dead mother in once the place was locked,

who bought me lunch at Griffins the Friday before he retired (we had duck and smoked salmon and desserts that would make a marxist cringe, and
Sava ordered himself a Spanish coffee, telling the waitress, “this could kill
me”),

who used to call me “my hero” — I don’t know why,
who nursed his lover of over twenty years until he died last November, after more
than two years of sickness,
who thought the card I bought him when Victor died was beautiful (thank you,
Robert Mapplethorpe) and the poem I quoted, too (Langston Hughes),

who retired on a Tuesday in February,
who called me from the back hallway half way through his last shift to show the bag
full of blood he had coughed up,

who smiled when the nurse in the hospital asked me if I was his son,
whose liver had been shot for years,
who kept living, I think, for Victor,

who called me from home on a Tuesday evening in March to say he was feeling
much better and was going to fly to Europe in April and would come to see
me before he went away
who died on the Wednesday of the following week,

who died nearly two months ago now,

who we drank to a month ago in the bar at Griffins, almost without mentioning his name, and I went home thinking Sava, Sava, Sava,
who disappeared like a donkey in the fog, although I still think about him sometimes, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Sundays.

These last words are meant to remember him.
They are not enough.

 

© Mark Milner, Vancouver 1997

Beach combing

Two could walk this beach becoming
Barefoot now and then as the rocks
Obtrude, piling down from the short
Worn cliffs, past water’s edge. Slinging
Shoes over shoulders and climbing
The rocks. Fording deltas. Getting
Stronger as they go. Clothes falling
To rags.

Two could walk this beach
And one turning to the other
Will say: Nothing goes on forever,
But the world is much larger than
I had imagined. And the other,
Turning in turn, reply: It all
Seems small to me; everything,
I think, is like an ebbing tide.
Building a fire. Watching stars fall
Into the sea.

Two could walk this beach
For continents. Catching fish in
Their tangled nets of hair. Dreaming
Islands in the moon’s deep white seas.
Hiding their bones in the wind.

 

© Mark Milner

Tremor

you wore a dress like moonlight
your eyes shone black, you did not speak

i wrapped myself in your hair
i sang like the wind in the leaves

together we made the sea dance
the clouds hid our names

you touched me like a rumour
of spring,

I shook the seismologists
from their quiet dreams

 

© Mark Milner

Nightlife

1.

Now that you are home
Safely another night
And the window’s closed and locked
The door bolted and chained, and the world
Outside — with its sirens,
Floods, wars, murders, poverty
And all the rest of the usual
Catalogue — is no more
Than the unreal space between
Commercials for beer and deodorant;

And I’ve stopped chain-smoking,
And the newspaper lies
In the recycling box,
Already fading;

And the old man
Upstairs has stopped screaming
At the cars in the alley
To shut it off
Or get the hell outta here;

Now that the coffee’s been drunk,
The dishes done, bath water poured,
And the day’s work unwound;

Now I will lie down in bed
And listen to quiet
Water splashing on breasts, and wait
For the lights to be shut out, for you
To join me, for sleep
And something like healing.

2.

To the occupants, apt. 107,

Your energy
If not your duration made
Me jealous last night.

Your short-lived grunts
And wails (sounding
Like you were just outside
On my balcony) had me
Blushing in my bed.
I couldn’t help myself,
I put down my book and
Listened while you lasted.

Then turned out the light and
Tried to sleep. Too tired to attempt
An echo.

Sincerely,
Apt. 209

 

© Mark Milner

Lament

it would be nice
maybe
never to doubt
meaning
think about things
self included

to unwavering
as a razorblade
nevermind What if? or regret

things before
they possibly never
happen

to just happen
like trees or earthquakes
not counting
nickels every second
thursday

i’d like never wondering how the
rentphonehydrostudentloans

and these socks all got holes
and these jeans in the knees from
When is my 50 cent raise?

it must
be i mean just to know yes
i’ll have another
beer keep the change
i think
nice

 

© Mark Milner

Ratio: signal to noise

Hieroglyphs
Rattling in the vaulted dome,
Words, characters
Strange voices
In the temple
Clamouring for audience.
Listen.
This is what happens.

Waking to sound of glass
Alarm maybe gunshot
Must be shooting
A movie. Absurd.
This time of night.
And next morning boarded up
Shop, yellow police tape stretching, do not cross.

This is what happens.
In the beginning, a fire in the head.

And the Chabad House of Kitsilano,
10 min. by bus from the university,
Burned out, awning in tatters, graffiti
On the window melted, scorched
Poster: Let’s Welcome Messhiach

And this seen from the bus,
No questions asked and
Nothing in the papers.
Unnoticed by others or
At least no one says
Anything, just keeps talking
About

David’s house on the weekend it was so cool
you should’ve been there we smoked a couple of joints and
went down to the beach and started a fire and
Johnny took off all his clothes and screamed
LAST ONE IN and some of the others followed
even Jen and they all screamed the water was so cold and no
not me I stayed at the fire with Sean and we laughed and
then the cops came and poured out all our beer
and

So on
Till Yew Street, getting off
Two stops early just to be alone
With a headache
Again and still
Moving all that helpless smoke
Of words
(Ashes, ashes . . .)
Smudging.

© Mark Milner