East Van: please be my Valentine

Last year my Valentine’s Day present was Alexandre Bilodeau’s Olympic gold medal. I was watching on a big screen in Robson Square, jumping up and down and screaming like crazy. Hugging the man next to me. Being interviewed by CTV but never actually being on TV. That sort of magic.

This year my Valentine’s Day gift is a little more quotidian and a little closer to home (and my heart). I’m in love with my neighbourhood. I’m in love with East Vancouver. And it constantly, consistently, gives. No matter the weather, no matter my mood, my neighbourhood is friendly, beautiful, and vibrant.

My inspiration to write this post and make East Van my Valentine is the “I Love You” graffiti that covers neglected surfaces in East Van (sources in Toronto report several “I Love You’s” spotted in that Canadian city as well). Every time someone paints over an “I Love You” it comes back. It’s vandalism, sure, but I do feel loved every time I see it.

So thank you, East Van. Please be my Valentine and accept some possibly very bad poetry as a token of my love and esteem.

Photograph by Steffani Cameron

On opposite sides of East Vancouver
Two outlaw artists spray paint the words “I Love You” on walls, fences, dumpsters.
Each time their work is whitewashed over,
It is quickly, carefully, replaced.

I like to imagine that over the days, weeks, months
These two Painters circle one another unknowingly,
spiraling inwards, irrevocably inwards,
until one day—

Outside a warehouse on Powell St.
Two sharp pings! as two cans of spray paint
Fall to the pavement on opposite sides of an empty parking lot.
Traffic stops.
Nobody makes a sound.
(Except of course for the stupid gulls,
Who are, as always, completely unaware of the moment.)

The Painters move slowly towards each other.
Inside they are running full speed, full tilt
Into something as solid and scary and gritty as a warehouse wall.
Painter 1 and Painter 2:
They meet at last.

–I’ve been leaving messages. Did you get them?
–Yes. I answered. Did you see?

The thumb of Painter 1 leaves a smudge on the cheek of Painter 2
Painter 2 does not move, only breathes.
They stand this way in the parking lot,
The hand of one on the face of the other,
A touch that satisfies both.

The gulls, with no sense of occasion, scream again.
–Well then.
Says Painter 2.

The arm falls.
The shadows lengthen.
Two cans rust on opposite sides of an empty lot on Powell St.

I pass them on the bus and close my eyes.