By Ali R

i saw her again today

she was behind a fence

smoking a cigarette

in a faux leopard print

short fur coat

looking at nothing



except to bring

her cigarette to her lips

Heavily medicated by the

approved drugs now

Effectively captured

this too-wild woman


When i was a kid,

i thought i had

killed my mother

the neatly type-written page

that came with me

upon the shady birthday transaction

said she had cervical cancer

when she was pregnant with my twin and me

Which wasn’t true:

she was a drug using

street level sex worker

who got knocked up

by an undercover cop.


She carried us.

Her warmth, her movements.

Two little fruits

connected thru a tree of life

These were East Hamilton fruits


Those berry bushes that persist

at the back of an industrial yard

or that apricot tree that stands

at the edge of the strip club’s paved lot


It takes some hardness to grow in that kind of space

A jaw tightened in resolve, never laxed at a breast

They felt it best

if she didn’t keep her kids, those

Well meaning folks

She had all the undesirable traits.


i lived much of my adult life like a junkie anyways

Without having to push it into my own veins


It’s there still.

i pick at my skin in obsessions

and live in scarcity and fear

and desire of her

who i never knew outside of her


i’m still afraid of making any big movements

afraid to kick up trouble

less catecholamine cascades and vascular tightenings

it pulled me to to Vancouver in my early 20’s

took supplies from the rich hospital on the north shore

to fervently ‘fix’ those ten times sicker

on the streets of the DTES

while walking home from night shifts


Not at all knowing

that i was also chasing your bones

the ghosts you left in your path

and with my sisters

scattered across this country


Even my most staunch altruism is rooted within.

so when i finally saw you

decades after we were surgically excised from you 

in premature haste

bored butcher surgeons mistaking

my twin and i for your demons

when i finally saw you,

you lived in East Hamilton again.

five minutes away from me

you could have been anywhere


You still walk the streets


with giant eyes


i saw you from the outside

for the first time,

around the same time as

i started to heal from within

time being on my side like that.

ari r

ari r

ali r is a poet who writes about finding her powers, her childhood memories, her birth mother and the power of queer love.