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In Times Like These by Sylvia D. Hamilton

March 8 - March 14, 2021

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The following work by Sylvia D. Hamilton will be exhibited virtually on our website from March 8 to March 14, 2021

Sylvia D. Hamilton
20 February 2021

In Times Like These: Meditations

But most often someone writing a poem believes in, depends on, a delicate, vibrating range of difference, that an “I” can become a “we” without extinguishing others, that a partly common language exists to which strangers can bring their own heartbeat, memories, images. A language that itself has learned from the heartbeat, memories, images of strangers.

Adrienne Rich (1)

As the pandemic settled inso did I. Books I’d forgotten I owned, re-appeared. My vinyl LP’s beckoned. There’s time to sort, look through, play. Savour old favourites: Milt Jackson’s Sunflower, purchased in the ‘70’s, the track “People Make the World Go Round”, on repeat; Czech composer Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony, picked up at a second hand record store in the late 90’s when researching African American composer-arranger Harry T. Burleigh; Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, that a friend borrowed and after many years, returned.
History tell us humans are adaptable, quick learners, – about the latter, I’m not completely convinced. Eventually, though, we’ll accept, embrace and move along with the change. We can do no less. We have to do no less to survive. And we will always have music and poetry, they endure.

The Pond

Each day I walk the path to the pond,
it should be different, it’s not. Everything
has changed, nothing has changed. A red hockey
net side-lined, a leftover from winter shinnies.

Yesterday a thin ice cover, today open dark water.
Bare trees cast grim reflections. Dead weeds choking,
poking up, gasping for air at the muddy shoreline.
Everything has changed, the world has changed.

It should look different, it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
Oh where are the birds – have they no songs?
Even the squirrels are in hiding, what do they know?
Each day I walk the path to the pond.

~ ~ ~

Sunday Meditation

After Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday

Two sparrows land on the fallen trellis.
I watch them, they don’t notice me.
That’s how it is sometimes. I watch, notice,
wonder about tomorrow and the next day,
until I accept I have no control. World, oft
used as if universal, as if in truth it included
all countries in the world. Now it does.

This invisible thing consuming us, an old kind
of enemy to every living person, all 7.8 billion of us.
No one is safe, no place to hide, no country is safe.

Billion, sounds like a word a kid makes up to impress
friends when telling an outrageous story. What does
a billion look like? What else counts in billions?


Siri tells me this:
Jeff Bezos worth $114 billion
Bill Gates worth $106 billion
Warren Buffett, $80.8 billion
Facebook man Zukerberg, just $69.6 billion.

Let me do the math: 7.8 billion people,
$114 billion, he – Bezos – could give
almost every single person a dollar
twice over. And if his pals chipped in,
just imagine.


(1) Reference: “Someone is Writing a Poem”, in What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics, by Adrienne Rich, W.W. Norton & Company, New York-London, 1993, p.83

Sylvia D. Hamilton, Filmmaker, Writer
Recipient of the 2019 Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media: The Pierre Berton Award.
Inglis Professor, University of King’s College

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