Isabella Wang

Everything’s late this year.
Nothing’s dissolved since my last visit to Waterloo—
an evening at the park staring at geese
and we took turns
pushing each other on swings,
pretending we were children.

I walked him to his dorm, orange button a dim glow in the elevator
as we waved goodbye,
steel door sliding shut in between us.

Another ice storm struck
and it’s snowing again.
In Waterloo they call it a second winter.
I call to check if he’s still alive,
send recipe links for udon and Majadara,
video instructions
of someone cutting an onion.
He texts me back
weeks later, saying I need to chill,
that It’s not really a storm,
just regular rain with a bit of wind and ice.

Here in Vancouver, sun and snow
at a standstill, scent of cropped grass
and gasoline in the rain.
Flakes of cherry blossoms bloom
and fall to dust barren sidewalks.
The blackbirds
resolve to nesting on lampposts.

The kitchen smelled like burnt manure
the day a van mowed
26 sidewalk pedestrians in Toronto.
I left sage leaves in the oven for too long.
News shrugs off misogyny,
labels suspect as mentally ill,
a man not loved by enough women.

They say there are still good people in the world.
10 dead. Seats offered on subways,
a man stoops to collect groceries
spilling out of a woman’s bag,
strangers wish each other good night.

He texts me goodnight from Waterloo, sends me
our favourite emoji, the blue fish,
tells me there is talk of holding peace,
the North and South
Korean leaders shook hands.

We lose custody rights
over a Red Alder to our neighbour
whose son smokes marijuana
on the porch every night, threatens
to kick my dog’s head off if it doesn’t shut up.
Bare branches stick out
in the neighbourhood like thick
cobwebs in the ripening heat of May—
the tree would not bud.
I watched them remove it
from my bedroom window, the bird’s nest falling.

It’s spring.
Dad still hasn’t come back.

Author’s Statement:

I wrote this poem shortly after the Toronto van attack in which a man by the name of Alek Minassian allegedly ran down and killed 10 people, most of whom were women, and injured 14 others. The event shook me; many close friends live in the area and my father was in Toronto on business. How can people feel safe, going forward? How does a country protect its citizens after this, other than to shut down or enclose all the sidewalks?

I cried when I heard the news, thinking of the people I love and care about in Toronto. But knowing they were all safe didn’t comfort me. The news disturbed me. I carried on safe at home in Vancouver, preoccupied with my own grief. In the aftermath, I felt relief amid the widespread anger and sorrow. I heard from my loved ones for the first time in months and wished we hadn’t waited for tragedy to strike to reach out, uplift each other, and heal.

Learn more about Turtle Island Responds

Isabella Wang is a young, emerging Chinese-Canadian writer from Vancouver, B.C. Her poetry is published in Room and Looseleaf and forthcoming in Train poetry journal and carte blanche. At 18, she she is a two-time finalist and was the youngest writer shortlisted for The New Quarterly’s Edna Staebler Essay Contest. She is studying English at SFU and serving as the youth advocate for the Federation of BC Writers while working with Books on the Radio and interning at Room.

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