Sunday, 1 May 2016

eastside drive-by

on downtown’s ragged edges
hard west coast gusts
toss dust to the winds –
a cruel curse that pounds
the broken and the beaten down

castaways stumbling
from the numbing abysses
in pummelling blasts
clutch onto anything
and each other … for dear life

I turn away
from wounded eyes
that glare as I drive passed –
on the most direct route
to the heart of the city

notes:  a tanka sequence posted - somewhat late in the day - for Poets United.

Vancouver’s Eastside is a 15-square-block area located a few blocks east of the city's central business and tourism area.  With a population estimated at 6,000 to 8,000, it is Canada’s poorest neighbourhood.  Much of the population suffers from issues such as mental illness and drug addiction, with the highest rate of HIV infections in North America.  Driving into the City of Vancouver from the East, the most direct route is Hastings – East Hastings is a heartache to behold.  The first time, we drove it, I was shocked to the very core of my being … and really, all these years later:  I still am.

photo:  Ragged Edges – B. Bourke

© 2016 Wendy Bourke 


  1. Some of these areas are hard to look at, aren't they? So many different emotions ranging from sadness, through helplessness, and then there is a tinge of fear. How to change things is the BIG question! Powerful writing here, Wendy.

  2. Wendy, your poem touches the heart with the sad reality of life for those not so fortunate. I don't know much about Canada's social issues but, I do hope a solution can be found.

  3. Sadly most cities have these suburbs. I wonder whether this will always be so that a dispirited underclass must exist for others to be happy with their lot. Sadly we are not all equal. A brave and touching post.

  4. Yes, the lower east side has always been a heartbreaker, on the fringes of affluence, just close enough to keep them fully aware of the inequitableness of life.

  5. The suburbs to Stockholm have their own issues, there are many who cannot speak Swedish, and it's certainly another world... I like the way you write about the way the wind beats down.

  6. Hello, Wendy! Happy Monday. It is shocking seeing areas like breaks the heart. Beautiful picture and beautiful words...

  7. I feel the dust and the abyss eroding those I drive by, while trying to slow down and open my windows. This is a stunning poem of mindfulness and truth.

  8. Your description held my attention from the start - although today it had the feel of a frontier.. people living at the edge and the end.. i am glad they are seen and acknowledged in this poem

  9. this touches the heart. i like poems that touch on social issues because they are usually honest and brave.

  10. It's always so sad to see those who live in all different types of poverty. Yet, there's something valuable in their presence. It reminds us they are us. Lovely writing.

  11. You have captured the harsh realities of life with such compassion..!

  12. I like the way the language punches home the message.

  13. I feel the pain in this, and I appreciate the bare truth at the end ("I turn away…").