Nanaimo poet Kim Goldberg has written a poem in memory of her fried Leonard Williams, a man experiencing homelessness who died in December. (Photo courtesy Kim Goldberg)

Nanaimo poet Kim Goldberg has written a poem in memory of her fried Leonard Williams, a man experiencing homelessness who died in December. (Photo courtesy Kim Goldberg)

Nanaimo poet eulogizes friend, addresses homelessness in new poem

Kim Goldberg’s ‘Lesser Gods (for Leonard)’ memorializes friend found dead in alley

Nanaimo poet Kim Goldberg remembers her friend Leonard Williams as someone who called every day a blessing and really meant it, even when he was standing in the pouring rain with his hair matted to his head.

“I’ve never seen anyone who was more continuously and authentically happy and contented and basically filled with gratitude…” she said. “I actually get choked up thinking about it because he had just this purity about him that I feel just sort of transcends the state that almost all of us are living in.”

On Boxing Day, Williams was found dead in an alleyway in downtown Nanaimo. Williams, who was experiencing homelessness, had been living in the Wesley Street encampment before it was dismantled on Dec. 3, Goldberg said. Goldberg met Williams while researching Red Zone, her 2009 book of poetry about homelessness in Nanaimo, and when she heard of his death, she was moved to memorialize him in her poetry.

“The whole thing made me angry, made me disgusted, made me heartsick the fact that he’d survived 59 years and in his recent years in a life that most would consider a very difficult life, but yet he always saw the beauty and brought such beauty with him everywhere he went,” she said. “It just was all demanding that some sort of poetic expression come forth.”

This month Goldberg wrote Lesser Gods (for Leonard). The concept came from a book of Greek mythology she read that had chapters devoted to each of the major gods, but one chapter at the end covering all the lesser gods. She thought the notion of a “lesser god” seemed contradictory – “Gods are all-powerful aren’t they? So what are lesser gods?” – but the idea made her think of those experiencing homelessness.

“Because of the conditions in which they’re living and how invisible we as a society choose to render them, they’re almost living in this superhuman or outside-of-human state, a godlike state really, almost a sanctified state, and yet they’re invisible to us,” Goldberg said. “But who knows what they’re really doing. Who knows what role they may actually be playing?”

That’s a question the poem considers in its final line: “No one knows what happens in the pause when people lose their final lesser god.”

“The people living our satisfied, mundane lives in homes with sufficient heat, sufficient clothes, sufficient food … is it somehow made possible for us to take it all for granted because there are people in our community who don’t have any of that?” Goldberg asked. “What happens if they are all allowed to die in their invisibility to us? Something very bad might happen to our society.”

Lesser Gods (for Leonard) can be read here.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Stock photo
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Let’s find a cure for potato pox

What happened to the clean-skinned potato of my youth, asks letter writer

An app available through the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s website can help students during COVID times. (Stock photo)
New library app can help families with online learning

Sample tests, virtual flashcards available through Vancouver Island Regional Library’s website

The Nanaimo Clippers in action at Frank Crane Arena in early 2020. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers for sale as owner says hockey won’t be back to normal any time soon

Wes Mussio says he’s had numerous inquiries about the junior A club already

The current boat used by Rugged Coast Research Society for remote shoreline cleanup operations will be replaced by a landing craft that will allow society members to haul four times as much marine garbage per trip from Vancouver Island’s remote shorelines. (Agathe Bernard photo/Rugged Coast Research Society)
Nanaimo-based research group needs bigger boat for coastal cleanups

Rugged Coast Research Society raising cash for landing craft to pull trash from remote shorelines

Pet owners are leaving more dog waste than ever before on Nanaimo’s paths and trails, says letter writer. (Stock photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Dog owners need to pick up after their pets

Letter writer says he’s ‘disgusted’ by dog walkers not picking up their dog waste

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way into business on Nanaimo’s Bowen Road

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres

Snuneymuxw artist Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun is among the artists participating in the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Rain Shadow exhibit. His piece, ‘We Fell from the Sky/Together and Apart,’ depicts a Snuneymuxw creation story. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores the ways people think about place

‘Rain Shadow’ features work mostly by Vancouver Island and Gulf Island artists

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Vancouver Island teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)

Most Read