In April, I was honoured to write and read a poem for the one-year memorial (23 April 2019) of the Yonge Street tragedy. And The Toronto Star very kindly reprinted the poem.
Two months from the memorial, and 14 months from the tragedy, I have included both my preparatory remarks and the full text of “Their Charge of Love” below, too keep it always in our memory.
PREFATORY REMARKS to commemorative poem for the one-year memorial (23 April 2019) of the Yonge Street Tragedy
—Albert F. Moritz, Poet Laureate of Toronto
I am humbled, and I rejoice, to be with you this afternoon—with everyone who experienced last year’s tragedy, with all the others who are here in body or in spirit to pay homage, and with our belovèd dead.
They are perhaps the most living and the most present of us all. They, and all of you, are the true poetry—the beauty and goodness of life.
I will simply read my poem and wish you Godspeed.
The first part of the poem speaks as one person remembering: it says “I” and “me”. The second part speaks as the whole community blossoming: it says “we” and “us”. The poem is called “Their Charge of Love”.
THEIR CHARGE OF LOVE
Yonge Street Tragedy Commemoration Poem
23 April 2019
Let me remember you each minute:
yes, in this monument and ceremony,
but more in my heart. My heart—
what is it, and where is it?
Now it is the place in me, the centre of me
that is holy because you are in it.
You live there now, perpetually.
You come back home there again and again,
the same way you used to walk in the door,
and you move and talk and work with me.
And suddenly I am poor no more.
I always hear you, singing within.
Because you are there, my singing heart
is more than just a dream, a tiny part
of me—it’s the whole of me, it’s why I feel
a hope that is true. Out of all the good
and evil things there are,
this hope is the thing most real.
This truth of you: that we’ll
meet face to face once more.
For us, now, April arises,
and they come back to us
through its foam of flowers
smiling, and they tell us,
“Don’t be anxious
You’ll never forget
because we’re with you.”
They’re with us here
still making the choice
they always made—
If they ever saw anyone
they would run,
whatever the danger,
to the hurt one’s aid.
This is the way they lived,
how they believed
what every day they did,
we hear them calling
us to be worthy of:
if there ever comes any
charge of harm,
to answer it
with their charge of love.
Here in North York,
again we pick up
the beautiful work:
our daily happiness,
daily pain and daily bread,
with them beside us,
inside of us
planting and building
(beyond so many
Aprils of springs and flowers
that have gone back
to winter and died),
the human April
that is like they are:
fountain ever living,
unwavering spring tide.
—A. F. Moritz
28 March – 10 April 2019