Category Archives: Poetry on Pender


Empty Tinfoil and Tenfold Erasure – A Poem

The streets have changed we last said hi. We didn’t even have a chance to say bye.

Abandoned blocks bursting with a newfound energy that most call a problem and sometimes even call the police on.

Usually I join in with the beats of the outdoor dance parties, today’s fog, however has created an unusual sense of serenity and solemnity.

His empty tinfoil sits in left hand, red and crevassed with pain and too much labour. Unappreciated labour. Unappreciated and erased history. You weren’t his saviour.

His right hand, acting as the delivery man – delivering this man into a deep sleep but one knocking on death’s door on the daily. He does not fear death for the concrete floor feels warmer and softer either way.

Rest easy for a minute, brother. You need to rest up for the struggle.

But where is rest (what is rest?). A block away another Black man is face down on the ground. Again. Surrounded by uniforms. His screams, I still can hear those screams, falling on deaf ears today made less audible by the protective person equipment worn over their two white masks. One masking their history of brutality, today all  masking their ability to speak in their usual codes and condescension. Who needs the extra protection today?

He screams, high-pitched screams, because he is again down, again down. They formed a barrier around him, shielding the view of passersby folk – pretty much everybody is passing by. Three cop cars, two ambulances, ready to strap him into the gurney today, maybe the grave tomorrow.

The grave offenses of this society, the grave pain of those suffering. I stand between two struggles, stuck wondering whether my lack of Naloxone training and lax notions of proper witnessing make me just another culprit, another player, another tool of their society.

They paid me this month. They probably paid you double. They paid me to keep me away from troubles. Paid me to keep going through this life with a stumble, a mumble, fumbling to position myself properly at the intersection, the crossroads.

Between the man with the empty tinfoil and the tenfold erasure of the Black man being held down by an institution too often not held accountable to past and present wrongs.

I saw you. I shouldn’t have turned and walked away without saying hi. Or bye.

A Second to Breathe – A Poem

First: A Catch-Up

In lieu of doing something substantive at this stage (check out my Twitter for that) I want to do a bit of a remedy piece. These past two months due to the changes at the Firm and the influx of work, I have been writing submission letters, memorandums of arguments, presentation, and papers, instead of blogs. I hope that when I head to Cuba in a week I can catch up a bit on my blog writing and as well when I am travelling most of March for conferences. 

This year I will be presenting at:

  • AMSSA (online) – 14 February 2020 on pathways to permanent residence for migrant workers;
  • Keynoting the 40th Annual Chinese Legal Community Banquet – 12 March 2020 (tentative date);
  • Metropolis Conference – Winnipeg – 19 March 2020 – 21 March 2020;
  • Cornell University – 23 March 2020;
  • Canadian Bar Association – National Immigration Conference – 2 April – 4 April 2020; and
  • Ottawa Immigration Conference – 7 May 2020;

I start teaching in UBC’s CILPP program at the end of March and again in June, am rebranding/building an immigration-specific legal clinic at LSLAP (ongoing). 

Did I mention my full case load as well?

To junior lawyers out there (as I slowly step out of my first five-years): don’t do this. Say yes, but don’t say too many yesses. As my mentor and now Justice Edelmann always told me: “operate at 80% capacity, as you never know when you will need that extra 20%.”

With all that said – time to engage in a little poetic break in this piece titled “A Second to Breathe”

A Second to Breathe

I need a second to breathe

I see these face masks, wondering whether it’s real or fake tasks

Too many asks, but not enough answers

Caught myself slipping at McDonalds with my poor manners

Impatient all the time, like getting rid of click-bait banners

Caught between five stars, and the star-spangled banner

I understand her, she’s wanting to make a move

What am I doing caught up dancing to my own groove

It behooves reality that the handcuffs are being applied so liberally

But not literally, only when there’s too much non-white colour in the vicinity

I’m confused by these pipelines, right after we say yes to undrip

It’s like saying don’t drink and drive, and justifying your two sips

Half these cats around me preparing for their next job to quit

Too many people hustling around carrying other people’s sh*t

How do I preach it’s about liberty or all about justice

When in reality, it’s always just about us and just his

How do I tell these students, not to worry when it’s just a quiz

When these laws get rewritten faster than the answers of a math whiz

I no longer know what’s reasonable, seemingly achievable

What rule of law means, when most the people are not regal

When whistleblowers get ignored, but they listen to those sounding their own begals;

When we feel like society’s seagulls all trying to be eagles;

What’s the meaning of my role in this process, I ask you;

Are we just here peddling in lives,

Or are all we making honey, in this mutually shared hive.

I’m sick and tired of wallpaper but that’s what I’ve become;

They got me thinking so individualistic, I forgot I was someone’s son

I forgot there’s a sun, been too much rain these days;

There’s so many routes, we forgot about pathways;

Damn, I need a second to breathe. Actually maybe a minute.

Cause this world has got my head spinning all up in it.



I promise to blog soon. Once I get through this home stretch. In February. I hope all of those currently going through a rough time are able to get ample rest this weekend. With all that’s happening in this world, we all need a getaway. I hope you find your own little piece, wherever that may be.




The B-eautiful Struggle – A Poem about B-Words

We spend so much time focusing on the now and the how that we forget to look


The ways we were taught, the ways we created this perception that our success and happiness depending only our abilities to be the


Those B’s were never good enough. Yet those A’s came rarely. Just as rarely did they tell us that this society was not that promised meritocracy and that evaluation never was independent of our faces and names on the papers they graded – always judging our souls through these problematic processes. So many things I wish I knew


Speaking of before – had I known before too late that our histories were the way they were. That we were never meant to succeed in this colony and that we had a presence they needed in order to


A country on the premise of a supremacy and our eventual demise or productivity. They wanted us in Chinatowns not their towns. They wanted us as second-class and damn well did it for almost a century until we pushed back. That our ghettos were just that but now they say we’re building too many houses on these other


Everytime I rise up with this jumpshot I’ve been working on I feel this 7-footer in front of me.  When I learn that step back, they tell me to step back, and that they now call it a travel. Got me leaning on one foot as if I’m Harden. Every time we fall, I feel the heart harden. Yet the other’s tell us we’re still good because we’re not


We see you and feel you but are those emotions nearly enough? We still clutch our wallet with one hand and give you that hopeful dabs with the other –  hoping you see us too but shaking off the unconscious nature of what too many a-cultural teachings engrained in us so wrongly. From moms and pops telling me it was the music of criminals to white teachers looking disapprovingly at my baggy hoody. Their eyes told their stories and there were no black faces to ask the question of who “Matters.” We were all pretty much


Now that’s a tricky word. Because bias doesn’t exist in reality they say. It only exists unconsciously. Therefore it cannot be contained. Therefore it’s just human nature that we can attempt to minimize but will be maintained. Plus, more importantly, you need to stop playing that race card or investigating these coloured things because you are just creating your own


You knew I would eventually get there wouldn’t you. That I wasn’t done just talking about cues and hues. That Intersectionality teaches us there’s different experiences of one’s abuse.  That chip on the shoulder that acts like a fuse. We feel like these walls are unscalable. Yet, we hold it in because we don’t want our struggle to be anybody else’s


We want to stop burdening those around us we got it. We were initially the Whiteman’s Burden now we serve as each others. We see another person in our community stepping up and in order to make ourselves feel better we dissect them into pieces in ways we would never dare to do to the masters and their institutions. In real life we scared, but we use our screen doors, computer screens, and cellphone screens as our defense to splatter some words to sound intellectual, to mask fear perpetual. But, it means little when they tell us to be more….


They say we can self-help our way out of it. We listen to those same relaxation tapes that tell us to pay attention to the


But what happens when that breath starts becoming hyperventilated, short, a struggle to even continue. We walk between these streets finding that our steps no longer are one ahead of another because we held down with all this weight to find


Imagine a balance beam of our culture on one end and your expectations on another. We don’t have time to put on the yoga pants, stand on the edge of our toes and “feel that stretch.” We’re stretched in our pockets, in our problems, and in our possibilities. We isolated in our own worlds, now tell me….


Where are all the brother’s at that care? Or those men that said they would be our mentors once we made it. Did they disappear once their going got good or the going got tough. Where’s all that so-called good stuff that others tell from their own mentors and generations of lessons learned. Are they hoarding them now like we’re about to steal their belongings. It’s like they took away our glasses and contacts, and left us here


Therefore we follow their lead not our own hearts which continues to bleed.  But truthfully the pages were






as I may be I still put together these shattered thoughts on this page. They can’t take away this pin and paper, they can’t love the girl but continue to rape her, they can’t love the song and dance, but ignore the sadness and despair. You see, we are different in our opinions and positions but see that we’re


To what you just read and realizing you can’t go back as I did it when I first saw and learned about your




Her Steps – A Poem

The structured systems that serve to silence our sisters in their seven point five and subsume them with stress in their remaining seven.

Is this our so-called societal success? She spends, no suffers, another sleepless night spent sobbing for six hours in straight darkness and solitude.

I see you tell her to smile more, see the sun, see past the shade. To be more serene, put away that sass – but only some of the time so she still entertains your senses.

“You have to be situational – be more strategic – be selfish – slow down – but don’t forget to call out the sexism!”

Self-rationalization becomes overly-simplified through surface level schemes from bullshit self-help gurus who have nothing at stake.

To the point where actual solution-finding becomes entirely suspect and sloppy like the sauce in an alphabet spaghetti – trying to find an I and a C and a U.

But here’s a suggestion – maybe you could share that your soul struggles too and tell her she ain’t flying solo from here on in.

Maybe you could also just shut up and listen to her saga for a second without subverting her narratives in what you want to see and hear.

You ain’t her savior, Prince you the Problem. Stop trynna sanctify the situation and show up to be in support.

They are her steps.

A Few Poems From My Time at CUP

Last week I attended a week long retreat/workshop from Inner Activist called “Conscious Use of Power.” We spent the week on Gabriola Island’s “The Haven,” where I largely disconnected from my work and civilization.

Wile I promised I would do a longer blog piece for them (which I am still thinking through), I wanted to memorialize a few poems I wrote that week. I did not do as much poetry writing as I wanted to, but I hope the ones I did will speak to some of the attendees and perhaps encourage those who have not attended to go next year.

From the First Day:

A Different Me

Air. Ocean.
The seagulls are resilient
We merely intrude.
Between gawks I look out at the rapidly flowing water.
I am a different me here.


From the First Night

Ginger Tea

The Ginger Tea is c orrect.
My throat is burning.


From the Second Morning

Morning After Migraine

Woke up in a cold sweat
Pain – a lifelong ailment
Still – I feel human again
So human in this pain
Maybe I need a reset.


From the Second Day





From the Third Day

The Wasp

This lunch I followed a wasp. Or actually the wasp followed me.
While I am physically bigger than the wasp,
The wasp and their ability to sting held power over me.
Rather than observe, I turned away to afraid to even touch it.
It laid to feast on my food and salad.
Perhaps part of me was sweet, no I forgot this is not a bee.
Wasps continue to sting while bees lose their stinger and die – so to speak.
Coming back to the spot now where I last saw the wasp, they are no long here.
As much as I now want to observe it, it remembers that I rejected it two times.
I feared the power it held and did not engage.

From the Fourth Day

What is My Community?

Colonial work?
Model minority work?
What is my work?
What is my community?

From the Fourth Evening (Second Last Night)

Lying down on this cool September evening;
I look up – where I have not spent enough time;
I see stars – in the sky and surrounding me with their human presence;
I hear the wave and feel the energy – I forgot I had these senses
I feel the breeze of the ocean – carrying a message to me on the shores of these Indigenous lands;
I look at my beloved swings behind me
I think
…. through every word spoken
…..every dream shared
……every flaw identified
…….every tear dropped
………every dance done
………..I learned
………….I grew
I reflect back on these days
And realize that without every single one of you
…. every glance, every smile, every hug, every  ‘no, not now’, every piece of wisdom shared;
Each of you have left an indelible mark on this still searching soul;
I will carry you away in the same way the thoughts of you carried me here and through;
You are my stars, my waves, my swings, my dance, my hope;
You have renewed in me a faith in humanity;
In gratitude I hope that this cup will be shared as a source o f renewal, a resource we can turn to in love, with compassion.
Thank you for being here with me and for me.


I didn’t get a chance to write on the last night due to our celebration. I really miss CUP. I miss the conversation, the people, and the ability to daydream.

I’ll go resource myself in a minute.

An Invitation Letter to My Foreign National Spouse: A Fictional Short Piece

This letter has been translated into English for purposes of clarity. Assume it is in the third language of your loved one.


Dear My Foreign National Spouse:

I am writing this letter to invite you to come visit me in Canada. I was going to just private message you or video you as usual, but I know we need to create a paper trail for our Sponsorship Application later on. Sigh, they probably won’t believe our love because our different cultural backgrounds and ethnic backgrounds and the fact I am just an ordinary Canadian. I am merely an ordinary Canadian and product of hard-working immigrant parents.

Anyways, apparently immigration loves these types of “love letters” in addition to diamond rings and fancy weddings. By the way, sorry I could not deliver on the latter two items for you.

You see, you and I were married earlier this year but unfortunately due to visa issues you have not been able to see me since then. I understand your visa was rejected three times in a row since then because they assume you will not leave Canada at the end of your authorized stay. I told then a millions times that you would, but they don’t trust my word – apparently my being Canadian, having been born here, and having studied here all my life means nothing to my country’s visa office located in your country. Apparently they believe you want to flee your home country because of the socioeconomic problems and go underground in order to be with me.

Honey, you know I need you here. I know you graduated from a great university with an MBA and that your entire family is in your home country. However, you know the situation. If I leave my job and join you, I may be able to get a work permit next week but I would not be able to practice in my field. I would have no income. You would be an unemployed new graduate. Plus, I want to raise our family here. Canada should be our home. My parents are getting old and sick too and they need me to stay here. I beg you to sacrifice for me.

I know you are worried about our future together. Last time I visited you, you told me that this long distance could not go on for another year. I know that with each passing day, your family is putting pressure on you to end our marriage. They cannot understand why you would want to go to a country that will not even grant you access to come visit or meet my parents. I know both of our parents have different religious beliefs and probably won’t even write supporting letters for us or hold a wedding for us. I think we may just have to have to get eloped somewhere. None of my friends have the financial capacity nor time to fly out to meet you. I hope Canadian immigration can understand this situation. There’s a freaking recession right now. Sorry again, about that (lack of) a diamond ring.

I promise I will sponsor you – but not for immigration purposes of course.  I also know we will have to wait at least a year and a half maybe up to three years for you to get permanent resident status in Canada. That reminds me, I hope nothing gets lost in the mail during our sponsorship process. I heard from a friend their application has been stuck in limbo for four years because they can’t reach some one at the visa office and get them this police certificate for a country they visited when they were 18 for six months. Another one of my friend’s application was refused downright. Apparently her partner in the visa office interview that there were a hundred people at their reception when there were actually two hundred and because she couldn’t remember which auntie introduced them. How can one panic and forget things so easily?

Sorry for being so negative, maybe I have just been listening to too many horror stories recently. I am sure we will be okay.v  Let’s say this fourth visa application is successful and you can come visit me. Just think of all the possibilities we wil have together in Canada. When I am working my fourteen-hour day, you can stay home to cook and clean. You can self-study English or take a short course, but not a degree program because you will need a study permit for that and no school will take you with your level of English. If I get off work early enough, we may even be able to go for a walk in the park for an hour so you can get some fresh air.

Once you are a permanent resident, remember because we were only recently married we have conditions to live together under the same roof. If you have no job and a parent becomes sick, either you come back in a few months or I will have to quit my job. By the way, do not ever think of disobeying me or leaving me, because I will call immigration and I will have you deported. Tough luck love.

You will be able to work or study in two (or was it three?) years I promise. It won’t matter that you have little on your resume since graduation. I am sure I can cover your tuition to study, in addition to our rent, and food and expenses.

Okay honey, it is getting late now. I will sleep alone again tonight. Honestly, I am so jealous of the Canadian families that can spend time together. We have missed each other’s birthdays and the last several holidays. I always see politicians on TV saying that with new changes it will be quicker and that I can sponsor you sooner. I am not sure any of them have ever spent more than a few weeks apart from their loved ones, and probably only by choice when they need some time apart on their so called recreational trips. Writing letters to you and racking up my cellphone bill face-timing you is now my only recreational activity.

I hold out hope though that if I continue working hard and making a little bit of money we can set up a decent life in Canada. The economy will get better. We will pay off the bank loan that I will need to get to support us for the next few years.

Worst case. I mean worse case. I promise I can sacrifice for you too. Canada won’t care if I am a brain drain and that I give up my profession ambitions to go to a country I have never spent more than a semester abroad in. Right?

Canada can never fully feel like my home, even though it has always been my home, without you here.


Your Canadian Spouse