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Lesley-Anne Evans

POET + COMMUNITY ARTIST

creator | facilitator

What You Carry

You can take what you can
carry on your back.
I wasn’t there, but he heard the cop say
You can take what you can carry
on your back.
He repeats this to me
on several occasions.

Sure, he may suffer
from an active imagination.
Sure, he lives on the street
and his voice
is silenced
so he overtells. He tells
me again. He tells me again
what the cop said:

You can take what you can carry on your back.

You can take what you can carry on your back.

He hears curfews, interrogations
what’s yours is mine now, relocation
to Tashme, Slocan, Hastings Park
all things not equal
gates shut, signs up
“no japs here” posted
on the outskirts of town.

Go up to Memorial Gardens
find rows of black stones
calligraphed with
symbols
numbers
1939
1939
1939
1940
1940
1940
1940
1941
1941.
A village.
His people.
See him now?

I know nothing. I know nothing.

You can take what you can
carry on your back.
You can take what you can carry
on your back.

Can you see him
his encampment
his overloaded cart
him bent
with the burden
of carrying?

“It is the government’s plan to get these people out of B.C. as fast as possible. It is my personal intention, as long as I remain in public life, to see they never come back here. Let our slogan be for British Columbia: ‘No Japs from the Rockies to the seas.'” Ian Mackenzie, MP, Vancouver

From a CBC initiative called From Canada: A People’s History
https://www.cbc.ca/history/EPISCONTENTSE1EP14CH3PA3LE.html

The poem What You Carry won the Federation of British Columbia Writers, Literary Writes, 2019.

Website design and marketing by Rochelle Heinrichs
Portraits of the poet by Giovanni Vidotto, Gioklik Studios,
 Wendy McAlpine, and Claire C. Evans.