by Cynthia Dewi

The February 14th Annual Women’s Memorial March has long been the most important event of the year for my son and I. It is a gathering and remembering led by the women of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for their missing and murdered sisters, for whom no proper investigation or proceedings of justice have been served by any level of government. As members of what is well known to be the “poorest postal code” in Canada and a community besieged by the predatorial forces of gentrification, the lives and bodies of these women have been treated for decades as disposable and as collateral by the local authorities. Since 1991, women of the Downtown Eastside have been organizing to memorialize their deaths and disappearances, to keep their mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, friends, lovers in the realm of public memory. For we are lost when we forget; for readiness for the long struggle comes from the courage of our hearts to break.

This is the first time in many years that my son and I will not be able to attend the March. As a survivor, former resident and worker in the Downtown Eastside, as a woman, an immigrant residing on occupied lands, a poet and most importantly, as a human being, my heart is preparing to enter the sacred ground at Main and Hastings tomorrow and to walk, and as I walk, to listen to their stories, to howl with their grief, to rejoice in the indestructible strength of memory, spirit, sisterhood and the desire for justice. I send this poem in place of my physical presence, I send this poem as prayer.

Please visit this link for more information about the March, and watch “Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside” this film by organizer, warrior and friend Harsha Walia, with Alejandro Zuluaga, at



Singing Up the Bones

~ in honor of the missing and murdered women of the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver, Unceded and Occupied Coast Salish Territories ~

we are called to the wind / our throat

unleashes / robe feather bannock

our bodies / beneath / the heat

of the drum

there is a war on our lives / a war

on our lives it looks like / pressed

suits and kevlar / double-decker

hearts / vintage / everything

is plunder / police-manned / rooftops

siege / of eagle and her / mercy we

come to bless / corners / soul’s

rain-bitten alleys / the blood-

thirst in husks of tongue / we / who wait

all our lives / to be / safe

in the quilts of our names / our dance

lightning / our breath / forbidden

street in death-row / city / no more

fallen / no more graves / in air sawed

by silence / skin the sun / sing

the drums that raise / the dead


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