Who are you and what’s your zodiac sign?
I’m a gemini with my moon in pisces and leo rising—I learned most of this from Aja Moore, who made me a zine of my chart <3
I grew up in Squamish, a town outside Vancouver, and I now live and rely on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. My work has been published by mags like Poetry Is Dead, Room Magazine, GUTS, Peach Mag, and Plenitude. I edited poetry and prose by emerging writers for SAD Mag, then worked as the Prose Editor at PRISM international. I read, wrote, and edited a lot of prose before my brain injury, back when reading and writing sentences came easily.
What is Body Count about?
Feeling super triggered by misogyny and institutional betrayal over the past few years. Precarity and trauma and how they’re embodied. Seeking solace in friendship and nature and escaping into infatuation and pleasure. Getting a concussion that has lasted two years so far and being completely destroyed and humbled it. Losing my memory, abilities, and identity. The allure of wellness. The conflation of health and virtue. Learning to live with an invisible disability. The isolation of illness. How friendship fortifies and fails us. Healing in ways I didn’t realize were possible because for so long I believed healing was a luxury I wasn’t allowed and couldn’t afford.
Could you tell us a bit about the process of writing Body Count?
Sometimes it seems like a miracle that I managed to write this book. I got my concussion halfway through the writing process, and I edited the entire thing at a time when I was really struggling to read and write, and sometimes even to speak. I wrote most of the poems on my phone, partly because it doesn’t feel precious and partly because the width of my screen is about how far my eyes can follow a line of text without jumbling the words.
What are some books you’ve read and enjoyed lately?
Ouf. Reading is still tough for me—reading and joy haven’t coexisted in my body for some time now. It’s been hard for me to admit, because reading has always been part of my identity, and it’s something people expect you to be able to do, especially in the literary world. The only book I’ve read in the past six months is Lee Maracle’s My Conversations with Canadians; in it she writes about the power of art, song, and dance to “bring us to wellness.” I dipped in and out of Richard Wagamese’s book One Story, One Song—his work feels full-hearted, wise, and kind. I’ve been listening to Leonard Summer’s Juno-nominated album Standing in the Light; he’s also a poet and his album ranges from country to rap to spoken word. And I recently read Estlin McPhee’s chapbook, Shapeshifters, which is radiant, tender, and tough. I suspect that Estlin finds as much comfort in the water as I do.
I just want to say hi to everyone living with a traumatic brain injury—I know some of you are struggling with loss and pain right now, and I’m rooting for you. Thank you to everyone who has responded to my concussion poems and encouraged me to keep putting this experience into words. When you tell me you feel seen, I feel seen.
KIND OF ANIMAL
sometimes it's exhausting
to be awake and alive
at the same time. with my
concussion comes tunnel
vision. this is not a metaphor.
the periphery disappears
at first, every touch, all light, all sound
registers as pressure in my head
whenever i am awake i am also
in pain. even so, i want to be awake
when i go out it’s in a hat
and sunglasses with headphones
in playing nothing. i pass people
i know who don’t recognize me
and am too tired to change
their minds. i lie in the dark
and dictate my texts to siri. siri,
siri, make a note: i’m high on pain
Jess takes me grocery shopping
once a week, tells me
she doesn’t know how to love
someone without wanting to see
them all the time. i don’t want
to see anyone all the time. i tell Jesse
i think i love him but am not sure.
i aspire to both give and refrain
from giving compliments
in a sincere manner, so it means
something. at the pharmacy
an elderly woman in a motorized
wheelchair tells me to go ahead
because i look like i need it
it sounds melodramatic but all this
not moving is killing me. i dream
of swimming every night for a week.
each day i walk slowly around
my neighbourhood holding my own
hand. the dandelions appear
overnight. on my way to vote i run
into Michelle, who’s going to her
parents’ 40th anniversary dinner.
i never understand why people
get married but now it makes sense
that she did. Selina is grieving
her relationship and reading
self-help books. i’m thinking
about hope and positivity.
it’s not cool but it is pragmatic.
while Jess drives i look out
the window. a man is removing
dead hedges, revealing a pool.
through my blinds i watch a pink
balloon blow around the yard
next door and get pinned against
a railing. the next day it’s in
the parking lot. the day after that
it’s gone. spring arrives, summer.
my mother’s birthday, solstice.
i organize my rock collection
and photograph shadows. i ask
siri about the weather and to define
brilliant. my brother graduates
from college and i'm not there.
i order him a lululemon shirt online
because gifts matter to him.
i give up on movement and making
plans. i miss swimming with Alanna.
she moves to toronto because
she can't find a place in vancouver
it takes two years for me to turn
a stranger into a friend
i wonder what kind of animal
that makes me. maybe i'm
some kind of tree.