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Zaccheus Jackson Nyce, 1977–2014

Jillian Christmas

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what we call lost…

there is no version of the story in which I tell you about my experience of art and community in “vancouver” and I don’t start with the name Zaccheus Jackson Nyce, the poet in word and in action. my friend, peer, competitor, colleague, teammate, teacher, brother... Zac. mayor of commercial drive, with bombastic heart and voice too wide for human skin, but more human than most. more spilling over with questions, and compassion, more composed of curiosity and charisma, bad beer and hot takes. gathering each of us under one mammoth crow’s wing—protected in laughter booming louder than a freight train. honesty tumbling over humility, a swaddle of leather and spikes, blessed bundle of humour and cedar, ceremony and pride. moving medicine mouth from street to page, with the gilded tongue of our beloved gutter sage. east van’s ghetto poet heart still breaks beats on drum skins older than so-called “vancouver.” a Blackfoot brilliant mind amongst Salish kin. called home on two long Haisla legs. swaying holy at the back of the room, holding a whole city up to the glistening sky. a city where he opened heavy doors, and prepared abundant tables, offered us glasses full of new and necessary perspectives. you punk rock supernova! you treasure so gorgeous that you needed no foreign tongue to name you sacred, but swam effortless in the love and depth of community all the same. the realest one. always written flawed, even in your own stories. a presence and a loss we carry whole. the same way you carried us.

nearly ten years after your leaving, the crows still graffiti your name above the skyline two times a day. there is a hollow in the heart-rhythm of tours and classrooms and festivals across Turtle Island. 2 AM noise-complaints on commercial drive have plummeted to an all-time low. a particular quiet, palpable and pulsating, crept across the whole city. quiet that trembled and pleaded for the knife of some sharp laughter to burst its belly. time trapped some of us in the thick mist of grief and the quiet even reached to the tips of my wilting pen. and then after some long stretch of time, it came. a garden of laughter growing up from the mulch and rot of good and well-deserved grief. look here, now. look at the stages of award shows, the shelves and hearts full of the grace and generosity, power and permanence of Indigenousbrilliance. look now where the quiet once was, walk deep into the mountain woods and tell me you cannot hear the howling laughter shake up and out through the rooftop of treelines. friend, we pay care, time, and attention in your memory.

there is a kind of medicine to be found in the honouring of missing pieces. the naming of an echo where a sacred voice once was. an outline etched in shadow, that may become clear... and then disperse into a new kind of clarity, an unnamed everythingness, vast enough to hold this infinity of stray moments. now monuments to the unrecorded laughter.

by some grace I still live in this city of street sweeps and loss, displacement and erasure ever gnawing at the edges of sovereignty. but I promise you this—we make noise. here, absence is not a void, it is a witness, to everything we care about... everyone we have loved beyond the risk of losing. a portal to the magic we have made in each other’s lives.perhaps no more than a rearranging of the contents of the universe. eternal and evermoving energy, humming in the air around us... too wild and wide to ever truly be contained.

Jillian Christmas