A FEW FEET HIGHER THAN A WAGE: A POEM HONOURING DECEMBER 17, THE INTERNATIONAL DAY TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST SEX WORKERS

A Few Feet Higher Than A Wage

By Tori Jezebel

I cross the same streets everyday

the posers on the corners change

but the hookers stay the same

I sell myself to every passing man

who thinks he wants me and

knows that he can

lay down and not be afraid

stand up and feel no shame

get dressed and just walk away

take one fuck a day til the bills are

paid

cos all the good girls make minimum

wage

 

I was sleeping

I was dreaming

caught between my floor and my

ceiling

a memory unmemorized

I see terror in her eyes

groping through the night she wakes up and

she tightens her

grip

she covers her eyes

she presses her thighs

and I swear that’s where she

denies

 

This is me up high on my stage

just a few feet higher than a

higher wage

dirty money

bloody mornings

smell the rape outpoouring

but this never stops me and I’m

okay

I take one fuck a day and the bills

are paid

under the lights that’s where I play and all the good girls make

minimum wage

 

I was sleeping

I was dreaming

caught between my floor and my

ceiling

a memory unmemorized

I see terror in her eyes

groping through the night

she wakes up and she tightens her

grip

she covers her eyes

she presses her thighs

and I swear that’s where she

denies

Tori JezebelTori Jezebel is a queer, Indigenous, survival sex worker and psychiatric survivor/consumer. She has been working in the industry since she was a homeless teenager, which is the time in which she wrote this piece of spoken word poetry.

Now in her 30s, she is reaching a point where she would like to exit the industry, however due to being criminalized in 2013 and put through a prostitution diversion program, on top of being criminalized under the mental health act, she continues to struggle with employability and housing and will likely remain a sex worker for life.

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About Black Coffee Poet

Black Coffee Poet is a mixed race poet, essayist, and journalist who focuses on Social Justice, Indigenous Rights, STOPPING Violence Against Women, Film, and Literature.
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4 Responses to A FEW FEET HIGHER THAN A WAGE: A POEM HONOURING DECEMBER 17, THE INTERNATIONAL DAY TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST SEX WORKERS

  1. Matt Hanson says:

    Absolutely heart-rending.

    Infinite respect to Black Coffee Poet for featuring Tori Jezebel on this impeccably important weblog.

    Thank you for the open and truthful representation of such lived experience as follows from the bio featured at the end of this post.

    I can not get her example off my mind, and her poem evokes the tragedy and strength of women, and of Indigenous women, of sex workers, and of criminalized youth with such solemn regard.

    May these unspeakable atrocities find transparent and practical reconciliation, and may such honest perspectives as in Tori Jezebel’s poem reveal the unbroken line of exploitation and violence in the Canadian settler culture.

    Through experience, knowledge, reflection, and action, through voice and cause, her poem, by virtue of its truth, sears through affluent clouds of ignorance and rekindles our awareness of traditional territory with the beauty of the human voice, through poetry, song and the wisdom of women.

    In solidarity, and friendship – from a brother of Jewish blood.

    • Matt,

      Thank you for reading the poem, commenting from the heart, and acknowledging all the ills in Canadian society that need to be challenged and stopped.

      Please SHARE and Tweet Tori Jezebel’s poem widely.

      Peace, Prayers, Poetry,

      Jorge Antonio Vallejos
      Black Coffee Poet

  2. Matt Hanson says:

    Thanks for your words of solidarity. Your work is certainly an invaluable contribution to the world community. I shared this post with two brilliant Canadian reporters for Canadian Dimension (http://canadiandimension.com/articles/5693/).

    I recently read Not Vanishing, as well as Chrystos’ “Dream on”. I want to express my sincere appreciation for your compelling literary and cultural tastes in highlighting and emphasizing the truth-saying of Aboriginal people. Recently, an idea occurred to me in the conception of a film/video adaptation of Chrystos’ book Not Vanishing. Have you ever seen a film/video adaptation of a poetry book? I can not recall one example specifically, I’m sure it is out there, or that I’ve seen something, however, I think Chrystos’ work affords a unique opportunity, and I’d like to know your thoughts on the matter.

    The idea sprung from my wanting to contribute to the Drop-In Centre in Calgary, which purported to be Canada’s largest homeless shelter. There are a disproportionate number of Aboriginal clients at homelessness response facilities around town, as reflected nationally. I had initially thought, after reading Not Vanishing, to produce a photo essay of homeless Aboriginal people holding a copy of the book around town, with the words “Not Vanishing” clearly displayed amid an inhospitable, urban landscape in the background. Then, I was thinking, the photos could in fact be videos, and that they did not have to be centred merely in Calgary, but could extend throughout Canada. And then, I was thinking to have Aboriginal poets reading from Chrystos’ book as voiceovers. Finally, I was thinking that potentially Chrystos herself could do the readings. Or, should they be read by the people holding the book in each frame?

    For the videography, I was thinking that it would portray each individual as virtually unmoving in the frame, standing, and of course with riveting musical accompaniment/scoring. Would you be interested in collaborating on this idea? Your many connections, not only in Toronto, but with Aboriginal poets, musicians and multimedia artists all over Canada, would be integral to the development of the project. The film/video would be intended to affirm rootedness, survival, strength, and truth.

    At the very least, I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the idea, and how it might be produced respectfully, and meaningfully.

    Peace,

    Matt

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