before_after: The Chinese Markets of the Humber River2 min read

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Cumulus clouds drift above
the canopy of leaves shading
tireless workers.
Rows of bountiful produce in
a pastoral landscape
where the passage of light
measures time.

Thrifty, makeshift furrows in
divided, leveled lots
dot the Humber River
hugging banks of ravine.
A gradual infiltration of
green roots taking hold with
shoots sewn into earth.

They trade only on the fringes
tethered to their low-class
bachelored existence.
Crowded in and controlled by
discriminating methods,
a sad and lonely sentence while
the Head Tax weighs and stains.

She arrives without notice,
a sudden, swooping rush of water,
swallowing streets whole
swelling the river beyond its borders;
those flimsy stalls no match
for her gulping, gusting madness
bursting at the seams
then succumbing to the flow.

No moment left to pause
inside the drowning rain,
useless to retrieve or rescue,
only chance is cling and brace
against the wall of water, its
crested head smeared across
the unforgiving sky.

Currents carry remnants
of abandoned possessions
turned to floating wreckage.
Unrecognizable debris
torn carelessly asunder.
A lifetime’s worth of savings
drowned by Hazel’s fury.

Collected broken relics are
recovered, re-discovered
beneath the buried pieces
of the market left behind.
A gaping hole in history
Invisible, dark misery
at last revealed and known.

Shadows of leftovers remain:
recipes for steaming rice
bitter gourd, radish and
preserved black bean with
hints of stir-fried meat
raised and chopped
flavoured and devoured.

Unearthed, measured fragments:
slivered ceramic potsherds from
shared meals in shared bowls
shared stories inside shared space,
bridging oceans crossed of
vast, uncharted depths as
prevailing winds persist.



Erika MacNeil is a dancer by training, teacher by trade. Mother of two grown ups, owner of two mutts. Ukulele student, karaoke queen, paint nite junkie. Erika lives in Newmarket, ON, where she is the teacher-librarian at Rogers PS. Erika is fourth-generation CBC (Toisan) and is the oldest grandchild of Jean Lumb, CM. Her work has been published in various anthologies and contest publications. IG: @hintsofgrey Twitter: @bibliobug1

1 comment

Jen Tucker 22 March, 2023 - 4:30 pm

Beautiful 💜


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