For Brianna (1981-2018)


I dedicate this poem to my late friend, colleague, and mentor Brianna Hersey, in the spirit of radical care–who researched the intersections of psychoanalysis and medical anthropology. She was an important advocate for the rights of people living with chronic illness in Canada, queer, ‘crip,’ and trans activism. A student leader, Brianna made international headlines, helping to bring the first gender neutral washroom to McGill university in 2004. I speak in the memory of her wisdom and teachings.

We sat on a bench.
College Street churns with mindless angst.
The cafe burns with hipsters and their coffee fix,
Anxious, yet moved to see you again.
Lovers and friends walk by as we talk.
A few join us to catch up,
As though it were planned.
How queer is your world?
Envisioning future heartbreaks,
I feel dread sinking in.
You say to hold on.
Pathology abstract,
While the body concrete.
And when it finishes,
A memory of your voice:
Candor and charm,
Excited and bright.
Your mind is still thinking,
Your body dances with hope.
Your policy vision,
Dying with dignity,
Now written in law.
We sit on the swim docks,
Many years before,
While the campers rest from play.
The lake gleans,
And sunlight heeds our chat.
A mentor then,
An embodiment now.
I carry your memory in words,
Gestures, and voice.
Your name is spoken,
I hear whisper the land.
The hills remain silent,
And we stretch out our hands.

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Eva Cupchik did her PhD in Theory and Criticism at Western University. She is queer/Jewish identified and a strong ally to Indigenous and trans (gender variant) communities. She maintains activist engagements with communities through writing groups and solidarity movements. Eva is also a survivor of the mental health industrial complex and she hopes to support folks who are cultivating healthy pathways on their healing journeys. Eva is an independent researcher.