Zach: Stories

Posted: August 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

On Wednesday I featured at The Reading Series at the Clocktower Pub. It is put on by In/Words and is one of the few chances I have had to perform to a non ‘spoken word’ crowd. That was nice. Quiet crowd but I have learned to deal with that.


But then… but then…


We got home a little before midnight and I went straight to bed. I had to get up at 6am to go to work.


Somewhere around 2 I was woken up by a cry from the other room. I shot bolt upright and called out to Ruthanne who was sobbing in front of the computer.


She came in and told me, with tears streaming down her face, that Zaccheus Jackson had died.


I was stunned.


All we knew at first is that he had been hit by a train in Toronto. For a moment, I couldn’t even register what he was doing there, instead of home in Vancouver, but that is the life of a travelling artist.


I spent the next couple of hours, poring over Facebook – seeing the outpouring of grief and sharing in it.


I saw the nation-wide communities discover what we had lost… including those who should have found out in different ways.


This is the blessing and the curse of social media.


I ended up sending in that I wouldn’t be at work on Thursday… if for no other reason than my lack of sleep.


I slept for a bit and then got up and went back on FB… to discover the rest of the country waking up and learning what had happened.


Over and over, people learned for the first time what had been lost.



By the time Brad reached out and asked for a gathering of poets in Ottawa, I couldn’t do it. I asked Brad to hoist one for Zach for me.


That is what I needed, but what I lost was the telling of stories that comes with such gatherings. This little nuggets that mean so much to each person.


Here is mine…


I first met Zach at CFSW in 200 in Halifax, but it is two years later that resonates. At the festival that year, there was a ‘Last Chance Slam’ to make a Wild Card team. That team was really, really good. It included Magpie Ulysses, Truth Is…, Made Wade and… Zaccheus Jackson.


This was a good team and come finals day, they were right there.


Of course, this was 2009 and that was the year of The Recipe (though they weren’t called that yet).


Before the slam was over, the CapSlam team had won, mathematically, so when it was Zach’s turn to hit the stage, it wasn’t possible for his team to win, and he knew it.


So he went up, took the mic and said, “How are you all doing?” to the crowd and waited for an answer.


The answer was a gasp and mumbling from the poets.


For those that don’t know, in slam your time starts when you address the audience so to the poets, Zach had just ‘screwed up’ and it was going to cost him… but he knew that it didn’t matter, so he did it on purpose.


In fact, he then spoke again into the mic saying, “Come on, we all know what’s going on here!” He then turned to where we were sitting, gave a little bow and said, “Congratulations Ottawa.” Zach was the first to ‘announce’ our win.


He did so with respect and irreverence – which was a mix that defined Zach to a T.


I’ll admit that there were times in the last day that I was kind of mad… not at the universe or whatever, but at Zach. To die doing something that to me is just so stupid… so preventable…


But I will take my lead from Zach and with respect and irreverence just remember that gangly poet with the cocky demeanor and heavy introspection and rather than feel sad for him… or myself or the community… I’ll feel sad for all the kids that he had not yet spoken to.


But that is my story. If anybody else wants to share theirs, feel free. The mic is open…


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