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Ski Mask

Clive Holden

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I8,000 Dead In Gordon Head




I found an old home video the other day, it was a crude edit record of some Super 8 film footage I shot back in the mid-eighties, in a suburb called Gordon Head where I grew up. I’d projected the unedited film onto a white wall and re-shot it with a camcorder so I could log without scratching my only print. But I never finished that film, the footage was lost, it was thrown in the garbage by an angry roommate. She was pregnant and wanted the room in the fridge for her free food she’d gotten from the clinic for poor single moms, even though she was a rich girl slumming from the suburbs — they’d given her 36 plastic bags of clean white milk. I guess she thought she was justified, I was on the other side of the country at the time, it’s a long story.


She was a ‘tester’, she’d test to see if you got mad and if you didn’t she’d keep on testing you until you got mad, and I never got mad back then, I was proud of it, I used to say I could always see, the other person’s side of the story.


Then... she... threw my film in the garbage.


I started to make the film after witnessing a thirteen-year-old girl get shot. I even lay on my side on the road where she died. I don’t know what I expected to feel: empathy, sympathy, but it was just hard concrete.


I filmed the split-levels, service stations & the air raid sirens over the old Gordon Head Store, while my friend Andrew drew in oil pastels, we talked about the light there, on misting rainy dusks, even though it was just a suburb.


I was across Gordon Head Road from her, getting out of my 1964 Pontiac Canso in my old friend Dave’s driveway, when I heard a crack that bounced off the houses, it wasn’t like a TV gun shot, it was a like hearing a


thin fracture


form in the rest of the day -- and as I looked up the girl with her friend, they were barely teenagers in their little jean jackets, laughing hysterically and poking each other on the way to my old gray-block high school down the road, the girl suddenly jerked her head to one side and fell forward, down and down. She hit-hard and skidded on the gravel shoulder and I thought it was strange she didn’t put out her hands to break her fall. Some cars stopped and a businessman with slicked hair and a red tie crouched beside her with his man’s hand on her little moving back and I ran into Dave’s house to phon the ambulance, I argued with the operator because there was no 911 in our city yet and I couldn’t find a phone book, but she wouldn’t connect me or give me the number until I started yelling at her right into the phone that I could see out from Dave’s second storey kitchen window straight down at the girl’s still writhing body, her friend bending over covering her own face with her little bird’s hands bending low and bending low low her mouth opened.


Then she connected me and I stood and watched and my old friend Dave there beside me wondering what? After a while two ambulance vans came but she’d already stopped moving, the four men all-in-white went inside a van with her for a long time, but finally three of them exited slowly, two got into the other van, and one got into the driver’s seat of her van and they

backed, and turned, and drove away without lights, and I kept thinking, why doesn’t this feel more unusual?


I mean, really I’d already seen it, thousands of times on TV, over 18,000 times, I read once in a magazine:


(18,000 deaths

by the time




but this was real and I didn’t feel anything different.


Yes, I felt dead like I was in shock, but that was the same deadness I always felt, except when I was drunk and felt the panick and anger from feeling so dead all the time, or did I just think I should feel angry or horrified or terrorized at the way things were with the nuclear end of the world, Ronald Reagun, sky blue Chevrolet wagons and all those families in all those silent houses.


I used to hit things back then, I punched power poles, and thick doors, the pain felt... right.


For the rest of that day I’d suddenly remember what happened, and feel guilty, I thought it was wrong to think about other things, but I just couldn’t keep my mind on it, it would move away. (I wanted to think something important about it.)


It was in headlines and people all over the city talked about it, on the sidewalks and in restaurants, it really affected them, nothing like this’s ever happened here, they said, and I’d be at the next table but I wouldn’t say anything, just get up and leave. But at work it turned out I was in a hair-trigger temper. Four days after it happened my boss, Jimmy, looked at me and I realized I’d been yelling at this guy for no good reason and from my boss’ expression I knew, and he said gently, why don’t you take a couple of days off?


So I went to Long Beach with Dave and we camped and I tried to cry by talking about it on the sand by the fire with the waves rushing in at me and out again into the dark, and I did cry for just a second and it felt a little better.


A few weeks later I went back to school out east, and I might have forgotten about it except I kept witnessing violence for the whole next year, little things like rounding a corner on a downtown sidewalk and stepping into a pool of blood with no one else around, thick and dark red stretching across from the building to the curb -- or a fortyish woman running in front of a car below the school cafeteria window, the hollow metal & stuffed pillow sound of her body hitting the hood and her head knocking-in the windshield, her being thrown ten feet and lying in a curled still lump --and two teenage boys in a knife fight behind the supermarket with blood spraying in fine drops all over the white cement and them circling each other, a crowd of kids with books in knapsacks watching and not moving, and my feet walking me quickly away like it hadn’t happened -- and the jumper on the metro, the screaming train brakes and the doors suddenly slamming open and a woman at the front on the paltform screaming on and on like she was stuck inside the train brakes bleeding from my ears and echoing off the plastic tiles as I ran up the escalators as fast as I could panting and pannicking and finally into the cold sunlight gasping for space and I walked for miles in the cold that day -- and in a rich mall a middle-aged man in a mackinaw had jumped from the upper tier of the sparkling glass atrium, was lying in my path as I exited the subway and rounded the orange juice kiosk on my way to class, I almost stepped on the man’s face, I stood there as he lay staring up at me with one bulging red-soaked eye and the side of his face mashed-in and purple. I turned and walked away but not too fast, like a criminal trying to look cool, winding through the crowd trying to find the goddamned exit.


Finally, there was the motorcyclist in the intersection outside my apartment late at night, I ran and put a blanket on him, because I’d heard that’s what you should do -- but I made the mistake of looking inside the little window of his helmet, his round, gold-framed glasses were shattered, he was smashed and he was gone. His girlfriend stood in the middle of the street gulping for air and hugging herself, tightly like he used to, strong but soft after lovemaking.


It stopped then, or I stopped seeing so much of it, and I shot this footage. I even lay down with the camera on the side of the road where she lay dying. Where she died.





he's the fucking man! pick somthing up by him if you can find it...  

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damnit ese, stop being so damn cool all the time. We all have to try so much harder when you're posting....


i've been on a book hault since "a duck my be somebody's mother" but thanks for trying to help my rotting head.

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I just got turned on to him by a spoken word cd of his I picked up. I can email you some info about it, cause its damn good, but I dont wanna post it up here for unspecified reasons. heres a poem...




neighbours walk softly




where would the lines be drawn

in the ‘event’ of war?

well, the war against the weak

wages in the air around us,

hanging like my poor roommate in his bedroom cell


neighbour walk softly


where are the lines drawn now

in your relief map of the neighbourhood?

well, ‘they’re’ over there

beyond the new fence we’ve built with drug store razor blades,

their rented hands, and our new bloodless technology


neighbour walk softly


where would you draw the line

if you were told to choose who

goes to the bowels of the stadium and who wins a new car!

well, they’re coming for you now

with feathers and shovels, have you thought this through?


neighbour walk softly


what line would you write as a promise to those left

behind when we garbage this planet for another?

well, I’d promise to serve my country

on a platter to the rocket scientist who builds the ship

that takes away the line-writers among us


neighbour walk softly


i said, where did you draw the line?

when we slaughtered the 200,000 dark faced young men

in the gulf and cleared the homeless with horses and water cannons

did you bed down at last with the Man on TV

who said for God sakes ‘hold the line’


neighbour walk softly


would you line up for bread for a day

if there was a loaf for every child?

well, the lines are humming with the news now,

we’re killing them softly and skillfully

in long lines, against the neighbourhood wall.

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Babette, I heard you leapt from the Bloor Street Viaduct,

a year after that well lit winter moment,

in the window of Kensington Bakery.


You were about to leave, your small hand on the door,

but stopped when you saw me and your face lifted

and smiled gently

and I saw you too, and I think I actually sneered.


your fallen face,

you ran off and I will never see you again.


I was twenty six

when I shot half a black & white film with you playing a tramp clown:

alone on a leafy bench in Cabbagetown’s graveyard,

and the best was a long shot with a low contrast lens

of you clowning with some real old barnacles of Parliament St.,

your trying to juggle light gray oranges and them clapping you on.

It was in this reel that I noticed your limp,

I thought you were acting until I saw

later your special shoe,

why hadn’t I noticed?


But Michael,

my old friend and your old lover, forty-one to your eighteen,

became convinced I had designs on you,

and he convinced your father too,

who was a year younger than him

and who designed custom children's playgrounds

for an international clientele.

Michael watched my technique and told me I'd never be a great filmmaker,

and my little story of a homeless man freezing to death in the rich Toronto sunshine

was never done. The last shot

would have been your feet

dragging in the snow.


When I moved back to Montreal

Michael wanted to come too and be roommates

because you were going to school there.

You'd come by that cold apartment,

convinced too then that I wanted you when I did not,

I was worried because Michael was hinting at killing himself

as he was losing you

and it was plain

his huge adult grief was infecting you

like a slow, yellow poison.

The day I asked if you were all right,

you doubted my motives,

and look at me with his borrowed eyes.

I gave up.


The spring came finally and you both moved away

and there was a tidy white noose

left behind on the floor of Michael's clothes closet.

Too late to be a cry for help,

just his way of spreading it around.


There was one colour reel too,

a close up

of your face in makeup

against the pale green lettering on a grocery sign,

every expression we could think of:

cartoon joy and grief, suspicion, fear, doubt and loneliness

your giant vermilion mouth and piercing black rimmed eyes.


I mailed that reel to your father.

He has it now.


I'm sorry for that forever frozen moment

in the window of Kensington Bakery.

I can't know what kind of a seesaw

you were on by then,

but I placed my small hand on one side of it that day.

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