pink shirts aren’t enough

pink shirts aren’t enough

Another year has passed and it is Pink Shirt Day again in Canada (Feb 24, 2021). I continue to struggle with any kind of ‘forced awareness’ marketing campaigns as I fear the issues are always more complicated than that. BUT, of course, I wholly support the spirit of drawing attention to anti-bullying and finding ways to support each other.

Here is a piece I wrote in reaction/response to the very real and incredibly tragic bullying death of a boy in Ontario. His name was Devan. He is who I think about every Pink Shirt Day. We have to do better.

of wolves and green-haired boys

a stabbing 
outside the school today
shocked even this hardened, rust-belt city
a blackened eye, a stolen bike
a sacrifice that will end a life
the headlines tell the tale of

a mother
seconds too late, too late
to save her green-haired son
helplessly watching while wolves
push a blade into his back

34 days
from insult to execution
a quick campaign by any measure
barely time for the leaves to turn and fall
foreshadows dispatched to the cooling ground
but enough time to whip

the pack
sensing an easy mark they circled and frothed
relentlessly pressing for opportunity
the lowly Omegas enjoying the chance

to bully
instead of be bullied
knowing firsthand the power of
the pain they wield on

three stooges
who tried to stand tall while adults worried
through appropriate channels
but gentle hearts are no match
for mob-honed malice sweat in

testosterone waves
from teenagers still
learning to shave
were they surprised when

a bear
roared toward their crowing gang
sure his challenge would earn respect
but he underestimated the

dark blood
coursing through this family
Alpha. Beta. Delta to Omega.
there was equal fury in the cresting power of the pack
they did not fly, but in this place where
no one wants to be an easy target,
held ground and exposed their own fangs through

bear sprayand whether intended saviour or provocative spark,
this bear fled with eyes streaming
forever to be broken up, broken up
leaving his charge stranded
to face the rabid
now howling with triumph

the target
ran as they always do
primal instinct unbidden
but a fatal miscalculation befell the
still-forming young brain
for instead of retreat to the many he chose a 

solitary run
through the street
the pack of five hot behind
excited by the fear they could smell on their prey
wicked brothers leading the thrall to the 

fated end
where a boy who should be playing video games
stabs a boy who should be playing video games
leaving him to bleed in the arms of his mother
creating an unfathomable visual
until she prays to never close her eyes again so as not

to see
and lost in the end is the boy still carrying plump cheeks of youth
a green-haired boy with a loving heart
a boy named Devan
who liked the colour purple and fixing cars
who won’t be coming home from Grade 9 today

see him
through the already-waning solidarity of pink t-shirts
see him
instead of the wolves
see him

*in memory of Devan Bracci-Selvey, killed October 7, 2019 outside Sir Winston Churchill High School, Hamilton, Ontario  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/devan-bracci-selvey-bullying-shari-1.5315029