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The City

B. A. RAMSEY

                               THE CITY


Still in our lays fond Corydons complain.

George Crabbe. The Village, 1783.

Foreword


I’d like to tell you about where I live.   Since I was homeless recently, and have a history of mental illness, I was able to be on a waiting list for community housing, which has assigned me an address, here at Clinton St., owned by the company Madison Community Services.  

The house that I am living in is designated by this company and the Ontario government as “shared accommodation” so that each tenant has his or her own room and shares a bathroom and kitchen, and other common areas.  I currently reside with three other tenants, but there is an empty bedroom, so at some point we can expect another tenant.

I reside with two other males and one female in this house.  We have, under the ownership and direction of Madison Community Housing, house meetings every two weeks, led by an employee of Madison, who ensures that the house is cleaned, by the assignment of regular chores to us, the tenants.  These house meetings are also designed to give an opportunity for each of us to discuss any issues that we care to bring forward regarding our living arrangements.

The tenants I live with are named Joe, Chris, and Rerie, the female tenant.  They were all here before me and have each resided together here for more than five years together. When I moved in, in January 2014, there was also another tenant here, who has recently left us.

This is not my first residence and they are characterized by the residents in them who demonstrate all individual character and personality, and in the case of all past living arrangements in these types of places, have shared a common attribute of past and ongoing care surrounding mental health issues, or addiction issue history, including at times prior involvement within the criminal or legal system. In these places tenants have little influence over who their housemates are, either male or female, or the nature of their involvement in the mental health or legal system; however, in the case of my present residence, there seems to be some consideration given to who will move in, by an opportunity to be introduced to a prospective tenant, before a final decision is made.

When I was a prospective tenant at my current residence I was told that this type of living arrangement depends upon the cooperation of the tenants, who must necessarily face conflicts with each other, and I was asked how I would resolve a conflict with a hypothetical other tenant. I answered that I would, in the case of conflict, try to reach a common middle ground, and if we failed, I would recourse to make aware the community housing staff who are respective of our immediate supervision, or otherwise, in a criminal matter, report to the police. This seemed to go over as a suitable reply in the housing interview, and upon meeting my fellow housemates, I was invited to reside here.

The house is quite nice, and for the most part the people who reside here are considerate of others and peaceful.  For the most part the house is kept clean by the female tenant, Rerie, who voluntarily does the majority of cleaning in the house, as well as all outdoor yard work and winter snow shovelling, for which she is paid some amount of money monthly by Madison Community Housing.  Once I offered Rerie to share in some snow shovelling in case the weather was particularly bad, but she informed me that since she was given money for her work, she would like to do it herself.

Although Rerie and Joe are peaceful tenants, who I have had no conflict with since I have lived here, the fourth tennant among us and myself have had repeated occurrences of conflict which Madison Community Housing is attempting to resolve.

In these types of living arrangements, one must appreciate the particular, and often peculiar nature, of each individual, under one roof.  I has been difficult for me to appreciate the often aggressive and insensitive character of a man like my housemate, Chris.  He seems to suggest to me that he always likes having things his way, and if he does not, feels that becomes his entitlement to use the force of violence in order to make his will known.

In the time I have lived here, several personal arguments he has begun with me, have amounted to a result of once an assault committed against me, another time an intrusion into my own private living space with a threat to do more violence, as well as an ongoing general underhanded taunting and bugging toward myself, against which I am often no match, but rather take offense and give him a piece of my mind. In the first case of violent occasion I called the police, who came over but did not lay any assault charge because there was no visible mark of injury on my person, and they suggested that if I was assaulted again that I should try to film what was happening using my phone.  In the next case, when Chris intruded into the personal space of my own bedroom, threatening to “punch me in the face”, I did not then make a police complaint, but took action to report Chris again to Madison Community Housing, who have presently committed to resolve this issue.  As a result of the ongoing situation, and in preparation of an upcoming meeting among my case manager, Chris’s case manager, their immediate supervisor, and myself, I chose to seek out a formal charge against Chris with the police through the non-emergency line with the police department.  Two officers came over and spoke to me, and questioned why this man has not been evicted, and I informed the officers that was what I was attempting to do through Madison Community Housing.  The officers then spoke to Chris, and afterwards informed me that he was not going to even speak to me if he could help it, and they informed me that I must recognize that I share this house with that man, so I can’t help it if he bothers me, and that Madison Community Housing, seems to be taking action, and so departed.

I have indicated to Madison that I want Chris to be evicted, and the housing manager has taken this under advisement, so the outcome of this matter seems to sway in the balance, presently.

We will see what happens.


B. A. R.

24 Apr. 2015

 

Toronto




BOOK I


  The City life, where every care still reigns

O'er youthful peasants and declining swains;

What labour yields, and what, that labour past,

Age, in its hour of languor, finds at last;

What remain the picture of the poor,

Recall a song – the Muse shall sing once more.

  Gone are those times, when, in heroic verse,

Their country's honour or its joys rehearse;

Few poets laud, in captivating strains,

The beauty of long industrial plains;

And, chimera to all the pains we feel,

The vibrancy the city lights reveal;

While he, who condemn’d the pastoral lay,

Might damn a City in our modern day.

  In ancient Troy, in Priam's bloody reign,

Around the City walls, and twice again – But,

Shall this poem the Classical prolong,

Mechanical tribute to an old song?

From fair market price do I not soon stray,

Where homage, not the ev’ning, paves the way?

  Yes, the Muse sings in the Romantic Age,

And all since then has fitted to a page;

She sings of peasants’ pipes; but the throng, now,

Chase muff around, and like their pleasures low;

The Muse, for all her masses, has no rhyme,

As concord lacks in our discordant time;

Save I – what son of verse would even share,

In heroic, eighteenth century care?

Or would the rarer flower of the field,

Increase the value of the garden's yield?

  Would land enclosure suit my modern hand,

With repercussions felt throughout the land?

Still, a Romantic thought I needn't ask,

For Rip Van Winkle 'tis an easy task;

Who went to sleep two hundred years before,

And dream'd the lower class had won the war,

He woke today supposing George was well,

But wonder'd if the vote was worth this hell.

  I grant, indeed, the Post-Romantic fair,

When money grows, and there's no other care;

But when amid this new romance we trace,

This post-romantic might lose his place;

As Fortune smiles on some, with fervid ray,

On some donned heads, some otherwise array’d;

While some with softer head and fainter heart,

Deplore their Fortune, but still play their part;

Then shall I, this most wanted killer hide,

In H.D., out of some poetic pride?

  No; my lesson comes from an unique Bard,

Where groves and happy dales are duly mar'd;

Where the real endemic cares he relates,

Exemplify his pastoral's finest traits;

George Crabbe once wrought a picture of the cot,

As Truth would paint it, and as Bards had not;

Nor you, ye rich, a palimpsest disdain,

Who say my modern song is sung in vain;

O'ercome with hunger, and still losing time,

Allow me the example of his rhyme;

Would George Crabbe deny me a little bread,

If I, for village life, gave the town's instead? Let this passing song distaste o'erpower,

And make you more enjoying from this hour.

  Lo! How this City, with steel beams grown o'er,

Sprawls in its greyness for the rich and poor;

Like a dark labyrinth the grid appears,

Where all shall walk their block despite their fears;

Fortune, that true killer, I dare defy,

Looks o'er the land, with greyness in her eye;

Supremely she stands, her arms spread afar,

She rules this City, her subjects at war;

With laughter she mocks the hope of toil,

Success is hidden in her winding coil;

Her song is a child's in these busy streets,

Till the music stops all dash 'round their seats;

O'er brightest hopes, Fortune casts her dark shade,

Denying to good hearts that light must fade;

As mingled rays her promises abound,

And an uncertain splendor shines around;

For, no certainty can dress or adorn,

The threads come loose as she stitches with scorn;

Whose lips, in vain, are like the two-faced rose,

Whose crimson flush and pointed thorns, disclose;

Whose only reward is fool's happiness,

Poverty her fine; so, to deep distress.

  Here, beaten, roam the poetical class,

And true, 'tis woe for ev'ry lad and lass;

Who without clear prospects to markets fly,

And barter their exchange with wanton eye.

  Here, too, the lawless merchant of the block,

Draws from his coat the mind-altering rock;

To feed the street claims the labour of his day,

And yes, Vice steals his nightly rest away.

  Where is the nymph, who, daily tidings done,

With long kisses, play'd down the setting sun?

Who, with wide eyes, and in earnest love, shall,

With forthright feeling, not suffer to fall;

While a large swain, exciting and strong,

Engaged some welcome slipping of her thong;

And fell beneath her, lay'd, while far around,

Deep thunder rose, and they return'd the sound;

Where now are these? Their lovemaking a sin,

A sprite, they each regret, has seen their skin;

A complaint has been filed with the law,

The swain was roundly beaten to the raw;

Exchanging what they shared for what each lost,

And, charged the unfair fine, they pay the cost;

No love is offered, only tawdriness,

Exchanging innocence for bawdiness.

 Here, wand'ring long amid the downtown core,

I sought the glamour of the City roar;

Rapine and Wrong and Fear usurp'd her sass,

And a bold, conning, sleazy, savage mass;

Who, only skilled to trap and skin a hide,

Will murder you unless you take the bribe;

Wait until late, and, after getting high,

On the harmless waif, bend their eager eye;

Who yells confusion, gives them the finger,

Dead or alive – roll 'em, and don't linger!

 How lucky is the goose who leaves the land,

Who aims his wing o'er gentle sun and sand!

At the least sign of frost his wings are spread,

Like him I longed to be, but never fled;

Couldn't fly from the brutal gales that reign,

But cried, Ah! hapless we who yet remain;

Who yet remain to trod on slush and snow,

And curse the floorboard heaters, row by row;

Till some lamb's month the thaw ensues,

And kinder thoughts, the tired mind pursues;

A charity by which our ilk is fed,

The foodbank, now, a warmer walk ahead.

  But these are scenes where Fortune's sleight o’ hand,

Only deals rubbish to the urban land;

Hers is the fault – if the City complain,

Of no public funding for those in pain;

Yet, right! In other scenes more fair in view,

Where Plenty smiles – alas! she smiles for few;

And those who have not, who see those with more,

Are outsiders who don't fit at the store;

The wealth around them makes them twice as poor.

  Or will you deem the welfare cheque enough,

Your tax dollars pay out when life gets tough?

Go then! Spend time in any rooming house,

Live with the lazy, and be a good souse;

See the unemployed, disabled, and cons,

The adicts, the artists, the wayward sons;

Behold them each day aloof in the street,

In the cold winter, in the summer's heat;

See them thank the Lord for their daily bread,

And some fresh bread, see them pray they are fed;

Just down the road, their sluggish steps pursue, As their poor clothes imbibe the ev’ning dew;

Then no further, their time was yesterday,

Without hope, way does not lead onto way.

  Amid this class, too oft poetic zeal,

Takes less pay, for the uncommon ideal;

Here may you see a youth of solid frame,

Contend with canoniz'd poets of fame;

Yet, making some progress, and loath to yield,

He refuses a more lucrative field;

As Time's arrow speeds to the very last,

Less future holds, and more shall hold his past;

His poetry that once was current dress,

Reveals his better days and shabbiness.

  Yet grant us dreams,’tis not for you to tell,

Though the clothes are poor, the heart is not well;

Or will you say that dreams take second place,

Hard work and goals, and steady wins the race!

Oh! trifle not with Man’s true heart desire,

Nor criticize his visions by the fire;

Pleasure, not pain, hope, not despair are such

As any human being has right to touch.

  And you, who would love a life without work,

Who think your hardest task would be the cork;

Go! if unemploy’d your good comforts make,

Go look within and see who’s on the take;

If he works not - that drooping weary sire,

Or they - if the children’s looks be not dire;

Or she, who only wants what’s best for all,

Who can’t bear to see her family fall.

  Nor yet can labour herself make for these,

Life’s latest comforts, peace of mind, and ease;

For you’d still see that hoary swain, whose age

Can with no cares except his own engage;

Who sits on a ledge, and begs to receive

Alms from a young maid - but, here’s no reprieve:

For as a young man, a maid fair as she,

Might have given her hand, not her pity.

  He once play’d soccer on Varsity field,

Having the spirit to strike and not yield;

Full many a friend he had, and looks out

For acknowledgment from people about;

He greets one or two with hope in his eyes,

But gains swift rebuke; walks away - nay, flies!

Living almost alone in constant pain,

He asks for alms, earning mainly disdain;

As a young man he was mentally ill,

But there was no real cure, only a pill;

Now expressing his regret is in vain,

No one really wants to hear him complain.

  Oft may you see him down by our Great Lake,

In midwinter, when most that place forsake;

Oft hear him murmur to the winds that blow,

Who demand right reason ‘gainst his sullen woe;

And roused by his passion, to the depths speaks,

To ev’ry wave that rises, crests, and breaks.

  “O! Great Lake, if you were the boundless sea,”

“You would be unfathomable to me;”

“You would be ocean in all his measure,”

“From China to Peru, at your pleasure;”

“Yet, only a lake, and landlock’d you are,”

“For all your cares, you have not travell’d far;”

“Much as I am, you are tied to the shore,”

“So I fathom, you must at times want more;”

“Haven’t you wished you were more than a lake,”

“Who would for Ocean, this City forsake?”

  “These many waves, all this water I see,”

“Are no one’s gain, and a sad care for me;”

“These rushing waves which all rise, crest, and break,”

“Are like this City, rushing for your sake;

“For your sake, I rush on the City shore”

“A wave that has his moment, then no more;”

“Only Ocean has more powerful waves,”

“Ocean decides who he destroys or saves;”

“Would I were not a wave of the Great Lake,”

“But Tsunami, who could this City quake!”

 Thus the poetical class thinks aloud,

When they are fed-up and tired of the crowd.   

  Theirs is yon house that hold the City poor,

With a lamp lit beside the golden door;

Herein dwell huddled, yearning to breathe free,

The masses, the tired, in their Liberty;

Wretched refuse, and tempest-tossed have come

From teeming, ancient lands to make a home;

They are offered shelter and allowance,

Medication, counselling, and a chance;

Say ye,there is no such house in our land?

‘Tis world-wide welcomed by a beacon-hand;

With eyes that are mild and with silent lips,

The Mother of Exiles takes all hardships.

  Here may the sick approach their final doom,

Here reside, amid scenes of grief and gloom;

Where low groans from some sad apartment flow,

Drown’d in the loud noise of the streets below;

Here men sorrow, who have no next of kin -

No family - but, a system looks in;

Whose laws, indeed, for ruin’d age provide

Care, in any event, life might subside;

And this service is by tax dollars paid,

By Charity, the balance owing made.

  Say ye, the bank has bought your newest home,

And credit paid the furniture to come;

Who press the downy couch, while bills advance,

In glaring print, to catch your sidelong glance;

Who run from cheque to cheque to make ends meet,

For without that flat screen, life’s incomplete;

Who, in relief, that final notice pay,

With pennies earn’d for such a rainy day;

How would ye bear verily poor to be,

A true debtor within society?

How would ye bear the price of Charity,

Humiliated by humility?

  Beyond each golden door four walls divide

The City’s refuse from the streets outside;

Here ev’ry man must learn to cook a meal,

And clean his clothes, and bathe, and fairly deal;

And tidy up, and learn frugality,

Become productive in society;

Here, on a dingy mattress, reclining,

In self-regard, and in life, declining,

To melancholy, then to more disease,

For him no friend his final days shall ease;

Nothing to get - love can’t be won by stealth -

So gets nothing - sans happiness and health.

  But soon as social workers look within,

Intake ensues with perfunctory din;

Anon, one enters, her stoic eye replete,

To turn life unfulfill’d to life complete;

With looks unalter’d by this scene of woe,

Stopping bad ways, she bids the system go;

And bids the whole system around him fly,

Projecting only qualm within her eye;

A true Stoic, in perfect self-control,

Who claims despite passion a bell shall toll;

Paid by government this message to perfect,

Whose mandate, by this truth, shall ne’er neglect.

  Assessment of the client here assign’d,

Proves whether to his fate he is resign’d;

Unless, by some social intervention,

His life remaining might prove worth mention;

Confidential questions are hurried o’er,

Lest the obvious need prove something more;

This drooping client, long inured to pain,

And long unheeded, makes a social gain;

He begins now the company to crave

Of man; before he sinks into the grave.

     But ere his death some moral doubts arise,

Some simple fears, support workers excise;

Fain would they ask the hoary swain to prove,

His life is more this world’s than that above;

For this, he’s sent to live in long-term care,

Where he may, for prolong’d life best prepare;

And doth not he, his doctor, standing near,

Know by long life, there’s no more death to fear?

Ah! yes; a liquor of a different stock,

And unlike his, ferment’d by a block:

A jovial youth, who thinks his tireless task,

As much as God or Man has right to ask;

No rest he takes, and weighs no labours light,

To rounds each morning, and on call at night;

None better skill’d the hoary swain to guide,

To urge his health, to cheer him or to chide;

A scholar keen, a cut above the grade,

Takes all complaints, knows how each pain is made;

Then, while such honours bloom around his head,

Shall he sit sadly by the sick man’s bed,

To bear bad news he knows not, or with zeal,

To combat fears he does not really feel?

  Thus fickle Fortune deems he wants no more,

Her coil has snap’d; his bitter hour is o’er;

Naked he was born, and leaves this world as poor.

For each man’s hopes her answer stays the same,

With this world, we depart as we once came;

Born in tears, we yet die with as much pain,

Dust to dust, or only ashes remain;

No more, O Fortune! thy fools start to hear,

By your cruel hand, this City made us fear;

No more shall peasants take a humble bow,

‘Tis heaven’s riches that you’ve squander’d now!

   Here, to the church behold no mourners come,

Sedately prays the priest his prayer dumb;

No City children shall their games suspend,

To see the lonely hearse its journey wend;

Yet he was one, in all their idle sport,

A true knight honour’d in their little court,

Who joust’d, like they, for each maiden’s hand,

And follow’d on their quests across the land;

Him, none shall follow to his grave, and mourn,

The chapel is bare, the churchyard forlorn;

No memorial, no farewell, no wreath,

No widow, no son, nothing to bequeath;

No bells toll here, and only birds sing,

To welcome the worms his garden shall bring;

The good priest has discharg’d his weighty care,

And quits the reverence of his silent prayer;

Save a man of the cloth, who shall atone,

When one so blameless must need die alone!


Finis Book I