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Authors: Martine Leavitt

My Book of Life By Angel

BOOK: My Book of Life By Angel
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MY BOOK OF LIFE BY ANGEL

—

MARTINE LEAVITT

GROUNDWOOD BOOKS

HOUSE OF ANANSI PRESS

TORONTO

Copyright © 2012 by Martine Leavitt
Published in Canada in 2012 by Groundwood Books

Chapter headings are quoted from
Paradise Lost
by John Milton, Modern Library edition, 2008, edited by William Kerrigan, John Rumrich and Stephen M. Fallon.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Distribution of this electronic edition via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal. Please do not participate in electronic piracy of copyrighted material; purchase only authorized electronic editions. We appreciate your support of the author's rights.

Groundwood Books/ House of Anansi Press

110 Spadina Avenue, Suite 801, Toronto, Ontario M5V 2K4

www.groundwoodbooks.com

We acknowledge for their financial support of our publishing program the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) and the Ontario Arts Council.

 

 

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Leavitt, Martine

My book of life by Angel / Martine Leavitt.

ISBN 978-1-55498-317-9

I. Title.

PS8573.E323M9 2012 jC813'.54 C2012-902715-4

Cover illustration by Anna
+
Elena
=
Balbusso (www.balbusso.com)

For the families of the Eastside angels

Bid her well beware
.
.
.

W
hen Serena went missing

I looked in all the places she might go

and she ­wasn't anywhere,

just like a lot of the other girls ­weren't anywhere.

I thought oh no

when Serena didn't show up at her corner one night

and not the next night or the next,

and then she didn't show up to church Wednesday.

She always went to church Wednesday

and told her man Asia it was for free hot dogs

but it was really for church—

she told me that secret.

Once a man came

who smelled so bad everybody pulled away,

but Serena said, welcome, you are with friends,

have a hot dog.

She said she picked me to love

because of my name Angel and because of my face,

but then she loved me just because.

She said that.

She said her heart's desire was to see an angel.

She said, if I could see an angel

that would mean I'm still God's little girl.

S
he said,

Angel, if you get scared sometime

on a bad date,

do this—

She stared big-­eyed at nothing over my head

and said,

angel, angel
.
.
.

I laughed, said, you see an angel?

She said, no not yet,

but just saying it or thinking about one

has powers.

Really, Serena? I said.

Ha ha really?

you think there is such a thing as angels?

She said soft, maybe.

But she meant yes really.

T
he first time Call told me

to get out there

and me scared and not knowing anything

and Call watching from the café across the street

saying no more candy for free—

that first time Serena said, I'll tell you what I know.

She said, your eyes be always on the man

you don't have eyes for anyone but him

you don't have business with anybody but him—

that's the only way he can stand it,

if you aren't alive except when he needs you to be.

Serena taught me about drinks and dinner,

told me how to make it go fast, how to fake it.

She said, and don't you forget

your name suits you.

W
hen she ­wasn't at church Wednesday

I said, Asia, where is she?

He said, she's run out on me.

I thought, but did not say,

she gave me her running-­away money

to hide under my mattress

and it is still there.

L
ast church Wednesday

Serena said to me,

Angel, you write about Nena

who had a pretty ­house

and pretty parents

and was a ten minute walk from Micky D's.

One day she didn't go home for supper

and then she didn't go home for curfew

and then she didn't go home.

Nena went for a burger

and ended up at Hastings and Main.

Her man, the one who found her, lonesome,

said to his friends,

it's the ones from good homes

who follow orders best—

it's the ones from good families

who have the best social skills,

who never learned how to fight—

they make the best money.

S
erena said to me,

tell the story of Connie

who said, I'm leaving the life behind,

who said, I'm going to testify against the man

who brought me ­here and dogged me awful.

She said, I'm going to protect other girls

and get that boy in jail.

On courtroom day, there he was,

wearing a pink tie,

and in every seat of the courtroom

­were his buddies,

saying with eyes,

if he goes down,

so do you.

Write how Connie failed to prove to the judge

that she was in imminent and present danger

so her man walked away

and Connie got found dead

strangled by a pink tie.

S
erena said,

John the john has made you read that poem,

has taught you fancy words and fancy grammar—

Angel, you tell about Blood Alley

and Pigeon Park—

the cardboard tents

and the water rats

and the delousing showers,

the SROs and the cockroaches,

the people drinking out of puddles

and all the girls going missing
.
. .

Tell all that, Angel.

I
said no.

She said yes.

I said no.

She said yes.

I said no that is dumb.

Then Serena didn't show at church Wednesday,

and I got a book to write in.

I
stopped to listen to the street preacher

who talked about God's top ten

and how everything you do is recorded in a book of life

and angels will read from it someday.

Is this what you want your story to be? he said.

Is this what you want everyone to hear?

I imagined that,

to hear everything about me

read out loud by an angel

like I used to read to my little brother Jeremy.

I held my notebook

and wished I could write my story over

and in this new story I gave up Call's candy forever

and I called my dad and he came and got me

and him and me and Jeremy

drove away from Call forever,

and when we got there,

there would be Serena.

S
o I tried to make it come true.

I called Dad from the pay phone near the library

and it was sorry this number is no longer in ser­vice

so I wrote him a letter and even mailed it,

saying,

Serena my friend is missing

I am cleaning up my act like you said

and I vow my deepest vow

that I won't take Call's candy forever.

I wrote on the front of my book

My Book of Life by Angel

Which Is My Real Name,

and This Is My Real Story

for Maybe an Angel to Read.

I wrote in my book,

Serena, when you come back

I will tell you about my vow

and my letter to Dad

and I am sorry I laughed at your idea of angels,

I want an angel too.

I
wrote

my angel ­wouldn't be one of the long dead

who has forgotten being alive,

who is used to sitting on a throne

and being buddies with God.

My angel would be a fresh-­dead one,

still longing for chocolate cake,

still wishing she could come back

and find out who won American Idol.

That's the one I want—

just a ju­nior one

who might not mind saving

a girl like me.

Subtle he needs must be, who could
seduce angels
.
.
.

I
n the Vancouver Downtown Eastside,

where Call lives and now me too,

all the doors and windows are barred at night—

the street is the jail

and there's no escape.

Where Call lives

people know how to sleep sitting up

and how to eat without teeth

and how to carry their ­whole world

on their backs.

Where Call lives

most of the churches are shelters,

with beds for the bedless

and soup for the soupless.

Call has a good haircut and good shoes—

shoes with laces double-­knotted and hard ­soles

and stiff heels

and pockets in his shirts—

he could walk into an office

and nobody would blink.

But ­here they blink.

Here, he is gentry.

He says, I am the beginning of gentrification

at Hastings and Main.

C
all wants to be the boss of something.

He ­can't do it in the real world

so he will be the king of Eastside.

He is always disappointed with Eastside.

It lets him down every day.

I
met Call because of shoes,

because I stole shoes.

No—shoe,

just the one on display,

the one everyone touches, picks up,

tries to stuff their foot into,

the one people say, oooh that is so sweet,

or,

why would anybody want that?

Serena said once,

Angel, shoes are going to be the death of you.

M
y mom died of holes.

People who get cancer can feel lumps,

but my mom felt spaces, holes—

she ­couldn't explain it better.

The doctor said she had osteoporosis,

but Mom said she had holes in her bones.

She said her memory was bad

because of the holes in her brain

and she would laugh.

Then she died of a hole in her heart

she had since she was born

but nobody knew.

Serena said,

that put a hole in you, Angel,

which you tried to fill up with Call.

BOOK: My Book of Life By Angel
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