When I’m Gone

Posted: March 30, 2010 in Poetry

CONTEXT: October, 2008

This poem has both backstory and baggage.

I wrote this piece before we went to the festival that year (in Calgary), but I didn’t get a chance to slam it right away. The festival happened… I wrote some new stuff… and I didn’t get back to it for a while.

Then, right when I was ready to perform it, we heard about Steve Sauve. I will talk more about Steve in a later post, but sufficed to say that Festrell came home from her holidays trip to see her family to find Steve collapsed on his apartment floor. He was admitted to the hospital and things looked very bad.

At the slam where we shared this info with the crowd… I withdrew from the slam and gave up my spot. I couldn’t bear the idea that I would be doing a poem about how a poet would be remembered when he was gone (even though that poet was me) while Steve was in such a precarious position. It didn’t feel right.

Then Steve died.

Obviously there are more important things to talk about here than this poem, but as I said, that will come in a later post, when I talk about the poem I wrote for Steve.

Here I will just say that the poem was shelved.

I really like the poem, though, so eventually I decided to do it.

When I finally slammed it, it was met with… a tepid response. Maybe my nerves over finally doing it affected the piece, or maybe it just isn’t as good as I think it is. Regardless, it seemed to break my streak. For the first time in two years, I didn’t make the second round at Capital Slam.

But then I did.

It seemed that Shannon Beahen had decided to withdraw. Then Sense-Say (the first runner-up) had also left. This is really rare. We don’t normally have ANY drops, and this time we had two.

So I was in, with no chance of winning. That’s okay. I dropped my other new poem (which is still to come in this blog), which I saw as just a little fluff piece, that was nowhere near as good as ‘When I’m Gone’. It is called ‘Library’.

Yeah. So basically I have no idea what people will like. ‘Library’ went over big and I moved all the way to third, from seventh, if memory serves.

‘When I’m Gone’ became my go-to two-minute poem for Bill Brown shows. At the anniversary show in the fall of 2009 it got me past my second round opponent (Leigh Gibson) is order for me to crash into the rock that is Ian Keteku.

I still like this piece. I like to perform it. Though I still seem to like it more than anyone else does. 🙂

    When I’m Gone

History tells us of great
Men and women
Remembered for their work
Or works,
Their impacts or
Pax impassive
As passive is passed off
As peace.
But when I’m gone
Who will I be?
Will mortality be replaced
By the immortality
Granted to those whose space
Drew attention
Like a magnetic invention
Of super tesla coils
Fired to the Nth degree
Until the ocean roils and boils
And to the victor the spoils
If victory is measured by memory?

But what will I see
If I claw from my grave –
Handfuls of dirt pushed aside –
Fom death I’d hide,
To find what I’d left behind?
What mark, light or dark,
Not etched in stone
But bleached bones,
Thoughts honed, breaths moaned –
Who will I be?
An off-shoot on a family tree
For a distant grand-niece
To ask ‘Who is he?’
Will her mother answer?
Can she tell her?
Or will I be forgotten?

How can I see?

Will I exist on dusty CDs,
Hidden behind an old Ice-T?
(Didn’t he used to make music?)
Will my words be left
Bereft of context,
Pretext or blank cheques,
Cashed in the brain,
Flushed down the drain,
Spiralling through history,
Not important enough to record
Or reward.

Who will I be
When I can’t define myself
Or find myself?
My sense of self is left
To others, distant brothers
Or mothers
Who find my name as footnote
Or afterthought,
An over-wrought,
Shadow fraught,

Words forgotten.
Voice silenced.

Living only digitally
With no breath, only recall.
No death to end all,
Stand or fall
On someone else’s grace.
No face, only sound.
Thoughts innane or profound,
Left behind
With me in the ground,
Or drowned,
Ashes floating on ocean’s face
As I felt the flames hunger
And wondered
If I had been wrong all along
And some forgotten sin
Would leave me praying for
Or distance
From who I’ll be –
To you, not me –
When my view ceases to matter –
When I become only matter,
And memory, fleeting,
Floating, forgotten.


Next is the second love poem I ever wrote for Ruthanne.

  1. […] a previous post I said I would write about Steve Sauve later. The time is […]

  2. […] shares some thematic qualities with this one. It also refers to one of my older poems. The […]

  3. […] went to a slam with two new poems. One was a piece that I was very proud of… but I hadn’t performed. Basically, the content combined with the death of a good […]

  4. […] Hamdad and performed this. I won. In the second round I was against Leigh Gibson and performed When I’m Gone. I moved on again. In the third round I was against Ian Keteku. I was pretty sure I was done at […]

  5. […] about meeting me and some of the experiences we shared and then did a poem that he picked called When I’m Gone. That really surprised me because it is not famous in the least… but it is one that means […]

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