Sylvia D. Hamilton: Poetry in Times Like These


“But most often someone writing a poem believes in, depends on, a delicate, vibrating range of difference, that an “I” can become a “we” without extinguishing others, that a partly common language exists to which strangers can bring their own heartbeat, memories, images. A language that itself has learned from the heartbeat, memories, images of strangers."

Adrienne Rich, “Someone is Writing a Poem”


The Pond - Sylvia Hamilton


As the pandemic settled in a couple of months ago, so did I. Books I’d forgotten I owned, re-appeared. My vinyl LP’s beckoned. There’s time to sort, look through, play. Savour old favourites: Milt Jackson’s Sunflower, purchased in the ‘70’s, the track “People Make the World Go Round”, on repeat; Czech composer Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony, picked up at a second hand record store in the late 90’s when researching African American composer-arranger Harry T. Burleigh; Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, that a friend borrowed and after many years, returned. History tell us humans are adaptable, quick learners, – about the latter, I’m not completely convinced. Eventually, though, we’ll accept, embrace and move along with the change. We can do no less. We have to do no less to survive. And we will always have music and poetry, they endure.


The Pond


Each day I walk the path to the pond,

it should be different, it’s not. Everything

has changed, nothing has changed. A red hockey

net side-lined, a leftover from winter shinnies.


Yesterday a thin ice cover, today open dark water.

Bare trees cast grim reflections. Dead weeds choking,

poking up, gasping for air at the muddy shoreline.

Everything has changed, the world has changed.


It should look different, it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Oh where are the birds – have they no songs?

Even the squirrels are in hiding, what do they know?

Each day I walk the path to the pond.



Sunday Meditation 

                                                              After Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday


Two sparrows land on the fallen trellis.

I watch them, they don’t notice me.

That’s how it is sometimes. I watch, notice,

wonder about tomorrow and the next day,

until I accept I have no control. World, oft

used as if universal, as if in truth it included

all countries in the world. Now it does.


This invisible thing consuming us, an old kind

of enemy to every living person, all 7.8 billion of us.

No one is safe, no place to hide, no country is safe.


Billion, sounds like a word a kid makes up to impress

friends when telling an outrageous story. What does

a billion look like? What else counts in billions?




Siri tells me this:

Jeff Bezos worth $114 billion

Bill Gates worth $106 billion

Warren Buffett, $80.8 billion

Facebook man Zukerberg, just $69.6 billion.


Let me do the math: 7.8 billion people,

$114 billion, he ­– Bezos – could give

almost every single person a dollar

twice over. And if his pals chipped in,

just imagine.


Profile picture for user sylvia.hamilton

Sylvia D. Hamilton

  • Mentor 2008
  • Alumni
An award-winning filmmaker, writer and educator known for her documentaries exploring the history, contributions and experiences of African Canadians.