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Kicking off a December Spotlight on Excerpts: Read Three Poems from Adrian De Leon's Rouge

Adrian De Leon

Whether you're looking for a creative and inspiring holiday gift, or just need a moment to yourself during the craziness of December, we've got you covered with our month-long spotlight on excerpts!

Each week through the month, we'll be offering a free, exclusive sample from a fantastic Canadian book, beginning today with Adrian De Leon's Rouge (Mawenzi House), a poetic response to the 2012 Danzig Street shooting. Powerful, thoughtful pieces that bring the city's vibrant east end to life on the page, the poems in Rouge commemorate a tragedy through a personal lens. Organized along the stations of the subway lines, the poems sketch the city as it is and could be. 

We're excited to present this except today and to bring you more great reads throughout the holiday season!

From Rouge by Adrian De Leon, published by Mawenzi House:


On Sundays, Daddy used to drive us down
To let IKEA start our day. A tank
Of gas would cost us more than eggs and meat.
Potatoes, too! Those golden wedges meant
To make us feel deliciously at home,
But neither Mom nor Dad would dare to cook
Potatoes without beef and lard from cans
Or big ol’ helpings from the tube
Of Tex-Mex (or whatever else the South
Could grind and clobber in memoriam
Of Alamo.) Hmm. Maybe home is one
Of those weird Swedish names they stick on chairs
And light bulbs, cushions, blankets, even meals.
To stretch that tank of gas, we’d spend a whole
Day after Catholic Mass to stuff our plates
And faces with those “home fries,” eggs, and bacon.
I think that home was in those fries. We stayed
So long at times that even janitors
Would get to know our names and stuffed faces.
The chairs, the beds, the showrooms: our playground.
The setting sun, it darkened Scarborough first—
IKEA candles, rays of light, burned brightly. 


Sayin mans got service jus now, ahlie?
I’m finna peep the Foot Locker site
To see if I can cop these fire kicks.
Yah, fam. King James done niced us with
These Akron Ones—the freshest shit.
It’s limited edition, styll.
Dawg, peep these bootstraps: pull em up and watch
Your hops take off to block like Baka.
Nah, Serge Ibaka, none of that Been Baka
Though I’m East Side ting from time, G.
Always Nice with them iceaz, styll.
Sturdy front, not steel-toed like the dukes’s hustle,
But I help em out from time to time.
Hard-heeled, not Tar Heel, cuz mans was way too short
For UNC. Started at the 4 with height of a 1.
Aight fam, catch you at STC.
Munchies at the next stop for a toonie, szeen? 


The silver Scarborough snow tumbles
Into billowing tunnels below:
Falling flakes of yellow patty
Pillowed in the toasty bosom of coco bread.

Click here for more information on Rouge by Adrian De Leon


Adrian De Leon is an Abagatan (Southern) Ilokano writer and cultural educator from Baranggay Bagong Tanyag in Manila by way of Scarborough, Ontario. He teaches Philippine histories in university classrooms, community events, and martial arts gyms. He lives in Toronto.

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To commemorate a tragedy—and celebrate a subway line.

Toronto the not-so-good? This series of poems is a response to the 2012 Danzig Street mass shooting at a block party in Toronto’s Scarborough area, during a period when gun violence had reached a peak in the city. Here the city’s east end becomes a source of poetic inspiration, and the east-west subway line as the organizing structure. Going from west to east, each poem is informed by a TTC subway stop, inspiring form, voice, and content. We get meditations, commentary, and visual poetry. The conclusion is a pair of poems, both titled “Rouge”: the first makes use of reports, songs, and tweets that appeared following the shooting, and the second is a lyrical response.