TOURISTS STROLL A VICTORIA WATERWAY
Reena Virk (March 10, 1983–November 14, 1997) was a bullied murder victim. Swarmed by girls and one boy, she was drowned under the Craigflower Bridge at the end of the Gorge waterway in Victoria, British Columbia.
The double–decker. The preserved,
random address book:
Tiffany, Jasmine, Jill, Crystal, Kelly, Warren.
Clouds the colour of tea, afternoon,
the Inner harbour. Journal and English schoolgirl
Nivea cream in her backpack.
She was finding her voice like the social worker said.
She hadn’t written a word. Was found
inscribed on Portage Inlet, Craigflower Bridge,
the last overpass before the cigarette
stubbed into her forehead. Call it Bindi,
her mother said, but black. There were
Greyhound busses rolling past the Empress,
girls gliding through the school halls
on platform heels, saying, No you’re not.
Great grandfather Pallan worked
the rock quarry that became Butchart Gardens.
Limestone dust in the seams
of leather satchel, in laces and notebook,
a fine powder whitening his lips and lashes.
In Punjabi Reena means mirror.
Like her social worker said, her voice
in her backpack. Now sealed in a box
in a vault in a cellar
at the courthouse on Burdett,
also Samantha’s yearbook, Hannah’s perfume:
Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren. Empty
bottle, broken youth
shelter, bus shelter, detention
centre, group home, Kiwanis. Seven Oaks’
ward of the state on her way to a party.
The party. I’m here to fight. A girl.
Her name starts with an R or, like, an S.
Waiting hours in the candy aisle
at Mac’s, and nobody.
Blue nails on the rotary dial in the phone booth,
ring around a boy, girls. Ten,
twenty calls a day, trying to fit in.
Gangsta rap, Ice–T’s Just Watch What You Say
while we all fall
like the sky that November night, down,
the Russian satellite in fireballs.
The exploding rocket ricocheting
earth’s atmosphere five, six times. Swarming
in parallel procession. On the wet fields
of Shoreline high school, girls
pointed up, screaming, a glut of calls
to CFAX 1070. Horse–drawn carriages
along the Gorge under the shattered sky.
Inarticulate sleeves pulled
over her hands, the dive team searching,
sifting through the murk, Careful.
CRIPS scrawled on her indelible wrist.
Fourteen–year–old blank looks, cool disgust
and pity and hatred with its sidekick
Exhaust jeans, Mossimo sweatshirt. Made to pay.
Every time we kicked, she puked blood.
Her body’s address book of schoolgirls
shuffling in the hallway outside courtroom 402.
Then it was over and her wrist,
phoning, phoning, phoning.
Times–Colonist free swimming lessons
in the protected Gorge inlet
within biking distance,
Mount Doug, Mount Tolmie.
Veering toward desperate;
a big, dark let–me–in girl
making up stories, clinging
to eel grass. Which girl
had parents? What happened
happened to lips, head, eyes,
wrist, twisted fist, taunts and jeers.
The communal inseparable
from the child, the arms’ down, the dark
white–capped mountains in the distance.
Kayakers paddle through Victoria and Saanich
before reaching Portage Inlet. Last pass.
Craigflower Bridge; the little fires along its banks.