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Poem to Raymond Taavel

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April 23, 2012

Poem to Raymond Taavel

For Raymond, and for all of the Raymonds, which is to say: for everyone

by Tanya Davis

Photo: Miles Howe

Editor's note: In the early morning of April 17th, prominent gay rights activist Raymond Taavel was fatally assaulted as he tried to break up a fight outside a popular Halifax nightclub. Later that day, as rumours swirled that the murder was a hate crime, hundreds gathered on Gottingen Street, in Halifax's North End, to collectively mourn and pay respect to Taavel. Tanya Davis, Halifax's poet laureat, recited the following poem.

There are words that spring to mind
like sadness
like violence
like senseless crime
like how this affects all of us
like how every tear in every eye falls from all of us
and today Halifax is an ocean of anguish
a sea of angry
beside the Atlantic.

And how do we handle this
what happens next
how do we manage the sorrow and the stress?
This afternoon I walked the sidewalks
not so different than the one where he met his death
where no person should ever have to lay their head
both concrete and Raymond were innocent.
I walked the sidewalk and every person I met
I tried to look into them

Do you know? Do you know?
Do you know what we're supposed to do now,
'cause I don't

I won't hate more
I won't love less
so many people - maybe even his killer - are loveless
not unloveable
maybe ignorant, definitely sick
and probably he shouldn't have been let out to walk around
and probably he was hateful and homophobic
but what's painful
besides this loss, besides all death
is the simple fact of it that remains:
this isn't over yet
- people left behind for every step we gain

I walked down the sidewalk that is in the city where I live and love
I look for eye contact
for allies in the right to live and love
I wore black and tough
as it is complicated stuff
how to protect oneself and yet open up

I stumble here
it isn't clear
I put my ear to the ground to listen for the sounds of people's fear
being taken down by other people's fear
who are guilty for their deeds but do not live in isolation here

There are systems failing us everywhere
prisons and education and mental health care
there is separation stark and severe
we reach out our hands to make connection
but some are all mixed up
bring death and destruction
it's all fucked up
like when he struck him, here

And, now, a being from the tribe of Love is gone
and we are one less strong
in a battle we are tired of fighting in the first place
lay down your arms
peace is your birthright

One more time we pick up the pieces and we keep loving
struggle for freedom
for all beings
Gottingen street gets another beating.

Well, we'll love it harder
reach our arms out further
to encircle all of our neighbours
'til we work through all of the hating

this is for all of you
this is for the pain in our city today
this is for Raymond

Tanya Davis is Halifax's poet laureat

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