Headlights

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Headlights

the elevator door opened

there was a woman

alone

 

after a startled stare

she stepped back

to let me enter

 

I didn’t get on

I let the door shut

so she could continue

her ride alone

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Lost on the Road to Clear Thinking

Lost on the Road to Clear Thinking

 

I couldn’t think clearly

for days

that seemed like weeks

weak with those thoughts

sorting resorting

each thought clouding things

even more

even more

each thought building on the last

another tangent

another possibility

murkier than the last

yet refusing to quiet

without the noise

it was as if life would end

 

lost was proof of direction

confusion was proof of intelligence 

the stupid are never lost in thought

the complicated are the bright spots

glimmering in the dense mist

of one idea one notion one misstep

after the other

clarity was for the simple minded

the intellectually challenged

 

it isn’t easy

to remain so invested in this

sorting and resorting 

but without it there would be

no one here

just a blank stare of serenity

Our culture spends an inordinate amount of time & money on finding serenity while at the same pushes the importances of consumerism. Getting more while enjoying simplicity is a modern dichotomy. If you are making money you are respected. If it isn’t making money it’s a hobby not a valid pursuit. But how can you afford yoga mats, stone serenity fountains unless you get to work. Of course the more your serenity fountain costs the more serene you will be.

Self-care is only for those who can’t afford professionals to do it with them. ‘The Learn to Relax’ workshop that costs $1200 is certainly better than one that costs pay-what-you-can. 

So you can see where some of the inspiration for this piece comes from – those mixed messages that often go heard but not really listened to, merely accepted without question. The morose are seen as challenges – men & women are often drawn to partners who need a little fixing up. Married to the right person will make a real person of you. You’re nobody until someone wants to change you.

Happy, well-adjusted people are seen as somehow lacking in emotional depth or are consider in denial. The depressive are seen as authentic – if you haven’t suffered enough you aren’t seen as interesting. If you haven’t experienced & survived childhood sexual abuse aren’t as compelling a writer, painter so what bother writing?

I am one of those, so far, lucky ones who have had a relatively blessed life. The only abuse I suffered was going up in an abusive culture. That ‘suffering’ has been mostly emotional & mental. Some name calling, bullying in school but that’s it. The worse physical abuse I went through was at the hands of alcohol in a culture that said booze was the best way to deal with anything. The alternatives: shock treatment, chemical castration – were considered viable treatment for sexually non-conforming teens at that time. I’m grateful that I avoided getting the help I might have needed then because that help would have killed me or left me with a blank stare serenity.

 

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Chapter XXXVIII Birk Picks Pears

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $2.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet
Coal Dusters – Chapter XXXVIII

Birk Picks Pears

Walking along Chestnut Avenue, Birk puzzled over what had happened. 

“What was it she asked you not to forget?” he asked.

“Not to forget to share the biscuits with Sal.” she said. “And to ask Ma if she can come over to help fix those big trousers.” She started to laugh.

“What’s so funny?”

“I was just remembering me and Sal jumping around in ‘em.”

“I hope you didn’t tell her about that?”

“She asks a lot of question though, don’t she. You aren’t going to up and go like Geo did?”

“Don’t worry. I’m not lookin’ to do anything like that.”

Some of the Mudside gals had teased him about settling down but he never payed much heed to them. They mostly made fun of him being too short or too hairy to ever be a husband. He usually replied “Who said anything about husband to you?”

Knowing his duty to his family made it easy to ignore them. He figured they weren’t serious in their love play. Getting married seemed something he’d have to face one day but it wasn’t something he wanted to hurry. Even if what Clancy had explained to him was true about the rubbing his little feller between a woman’s legs to make a baby. He knew that it was something that disgusted most of them. If the gals that teased him knew the truth they wouldn’t be so easy about it.

His Ma had made it clear the nature of that shame. That those who might enjoy it are shameful creatures, as she called them, and not fit to be seen with.

“You still thinkin’ about her, aren’t you.” Maddy said.

“You keep asking about her so hard not to think abutter.” Birk tired to sound casual. “She just wants to know how we minders think. Studying us to tell her folks back in Boston.”

On top of which Lillian was a Catholic. But that kiss of hers was so sweet. Her lips with so soft and she smelled better than any female he’d ever known.

“That’s what left of the pluck me?” Maddy stopped them on Pitt St. by the iron mongers across the street from the remains of the company store. 

“You weren’t scared where you?” she asked.

“Not too much. It was so fast I didn’t have to be scared until I was safe again.”

Mr. Seldon and two men were pulling away the charred remains. 

“What yer looking at?” Mr. Seldon shouted to him.

“Nothing, sir.” Birk flushed recalling the goods he and Clancy had gabbed without a second thought. 

“We’re clearing out anyway. I suppose you’ll all be happy to see the last of us.”

“No sir.”

“Company won’t be building a new store here soon. Even after the strike is settled. You can thank your stupid selves for that now’ll you be going to North Sydney to get a bag of flour. Didn’t think of that do you?”

“No. Sorry for your trouble, sir.”

“Ma’s waiting.” Maddy tugged on his hand. 

He kept on his way. Thou shalt not steal. Yet they had. They all had. Once they got back into the mine he’d make sure the Seldon’s got paid back for what he had taken.

He followed Maddy as she rushed into the house with the biscuits and then out to the back garden where his Mother and Sal were tending to the tomato plants. They were plucking bugs away from the leaves. After the rain it had been hot and dry. Everything in the garden had burst into life seemingly over night. 

Was Maddy right? Did Lillian fancy him? He tried to reason it out as he went up to his room to change out of the clothes she had sent him. 

He hung them on the hooks on the wall. The shallow closet was empty without Clancy’s shirts and jacket hanging there. He opened the drawers in the dresser and Clancy had emptied his few things out of them too. Even the picture of his mother and sister was gone.

His head began to ache. He’d thought he and Clancy were friends. He never felt as close to his own brother as he had to Clancy. How could he have been such an idiot. A ‘hairy stupid idiot’ is what Clancy had called him. Clancy must have been right because he didn’t suspect Clancy even thought he was a ‘hairy, stupid idiot.’ That all the time he was there that he found it so hard to tolerate Birk.

Wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t read as fast as Clancy or understand Bible verses. Clancy could’t fish as good as him though. Wasn’t near as fast either. Wasn’t his fault that he had been the one to rush into the fire to save Lillian. If they had left when Birk wanted to that wouldn’t happened anyway. Now she was confusing him with her attention. Not even him Ma has asked about his hopes except a hope the strike would end soon. She has never suggested he might look for a helpmate. 

“You comin’ to help.” Sal came into the room. “Ma says we need some ’un strong to cart the baskets of pears.”

“Sure.” he followed her downstairs.

“What that lady want with ya,” she asked.

“She wanted to know about my pretty little sisters. That’s all she talked about.”

“For true?” Sal’s eyes opened wide. “Next time you can take me and not Maddy with you? Can you?”

“We’ll have to check with Ma first. She’s not our kind. They’s micks over there.”

“Micks! I hear they poison your mind against the true faith.”

“True faith? Where did you hear talk like that?” Birk asked.

“Laura says so. Her Dad tell her.” Laura was one of Jim McKlusky’s daughters. “In the mick church they drink blood, too.” she shuddered.

“May haps they do. But I doubt it’s real blood.” Birk had never thought through what he knew about the Catholic mass. He’d heard they’d drink wine as the blood of Christ and eat some wafer as His body but figured that was only words, not acts. Catholics drinking blood was as foolish to him as Jews eating Christian babies. “I’m pretty sure it’s old wives tales.”

They went through the field behind the houses to a small orchard of apple and pear trees. His mother was on a ladder passing pears down to Maddy who was putting them in a basket.

“Looks to be a good crop this year.” He said as he hefted a full basket on to one shoulder. “They’ll ripen over the next few weeks.”

After he emptied it he reached up to one the lower branches on one of the trees and pulled himself up into the tree.

He pulled off a pear and bit into it. It was green and hard. The juice was sweet as he chewed the pulp. 

“Not quite ripe enough for eating.” He said tossing the core as far as he could.

“Careful Birk.” His mother said.

He laughed carefully dropping pears into his basket. As basket filled he gout of the tree and took the pears back to the storage shed. He was tipping them into the bin for the third time when Jake Malone came breathless into the side shed.

“Word is BritCan are going to bring in bastard workers from the Mainland.” 

“So that’s what Bowen was talking to Father Mctavish about?” Birk stood.

“Yep. Troops will be here tomorrow along with them to protect ’em. Worsen that is they’re going to pay ’em more than they want to pay us.”

“How’s that?” Birk wiped sweat off his face with his shirt.

“That’s how they hope to bust up this strike and the union too.”

“Bastards.” Birk punched the side of the shed. Tools rattled on the walls. 

“Save it. There’s be a meeting over at St Agatha’s tonight. We have to make plans. Make sure you bring that pal of yers.”

“Clancy done gone.” An unexpected lump came to Birk’s throat. “His mother took sick.” 

“Too bad. He had a good head on his shoulders.”

“Yeh.” He swallowed the lump down. Why’d that happen because he’d said Clancy’s name?

“Gotta get to the others. If ya see McKlusky let him know.”
“I will.”

He took the empty basket back to the orchard.

“Bigger trouble brewing Ma.” he told her.

She got off the ladder. “Rains, it pours. Bad has to get worse before it gets better.”

“The mine’s bringing in scabs to bust the strike.”

“How soon.” She brushed her hands on her apron.

“Jake Malone says they’ll be here tomorrow. Troops too.”

“Buggers. Business and government always go hand in hand. T’hell with the workers and their needs.” His mother grabbed for a full basket and knocked it over. Pears spilled out over the ground.

“Ma!” Birk had never heard his mother swear.

He sisters quickly refilled the basked.

“That’s enough for today girls.” 

Birk hefted the final basket they had filled.

St. Agatha’s hall was over-crowded once again. Several men asked after Clancy and each time he was heart-sick telling them that Clancy wasn’t there. He didn’t let on that Clancy had moved out of their house though. That was no one’s business but his own.

The information that the union had was that the scab workers had already be billeted in North Sydney and would be brought over to New Castleton on a special ferry in the morning. The limits was garrisoned in Sydney. The miner’s plan was to be on the pier when the scabs arrived. They would make sure the Dingle Dandy couldn’t dock. 

“You’re sure it’s our colliery their goin’ ta bust first?” McKlusky asked. 

“Torching the pluck me sure got their attention.” someone said.

“Yeh. It was the first to go, ya know. Two of the others went up since then, too.”

“Best as we can tell, we’re to be the example.” William Gregory said. “We’ll have men on hand at all the mines to make sure they don’t bust any of them.”

“What gives them the right to step in at all?” someone asked.

“They never respected the unions did they. Takes money out of their pockets to put back into ours. Simple as they. If they could get away with not paying us they would, you know.” McKlusky said.

“That’s damn sure.” Jim Malone said.

“Sounds same as Bolshie talk to me.” Manny O’Dowell said.

“Bolshie talk! What you think you know about that.” McKlusky grabbed him by the arm.

“N… nothing.” Manny tried to wriggle free. “Something my father said.”

McKlusky let him go with a shove. “Figures them that got enough already, act so innocent. I’m thinking you best get out of here O’Dowell anyhow.”

“What? Why?”

“Don’t want word getting of our plans getting’s out. If you understand what I mean.” McKlusky grabbed Manny roughly by the arm.

“I …”

“Shut your trap little man.” McKlusky continued. “I knows someone squealed about the pluck me.”

“Father McTavish says you had it planned.” Birk said.

“Where you hear that?” McKlusky turned to him.

“From his very mouth when I was there this day. Bowen paid him a visit too.” Birk said.

“Bowen!” one of the other miners said.

“So the good Father already knows what’s coming. Guess he’s a company man after all.” Malone said. “You micks certainly picked the right one to trust. Don’t any of you be going to confession after this to tell him our sinful plans.”

“No secret that we’ll put up a fight if they tries anything anyway.” one of the miners said.

“Yeah but we don’t want them knowing that we know what they’re up to.”

The meeting broke up after groups of the miners had been assigned different positions to protect. Birk was in the group set to keep look out at the colliery entrance.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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The Social Godzilla

 

This mp3 collection runs at over 7 hours of mainly amazing soundtrack music. Starting with The Best of Godzilla: 1954-1975; 1984-1995 w: Jack Nitzsche: The Reprise Recordings; The Social Network: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross; Contagion: Cliff Martinez; Traditional Japanese Kodo: Satomi Saeki; and ending with Looper: Nathan Johnson.

 

 

The Best of Godzilla are both double cd editions that covers music from not only Godzilla but Mothra, Hedora, Gigan & others. They cover such classics as Godzilla Vs. Megalon; Godzilla Vs, Spacegodzilla. John Williams has been clearly influenced by these soundtracks with their military marches, sweeping moments of victory. Often some faint traditional sounds filter through. I am particularly fond of Mothra’s Song. Music by ‘The Peanuts’ who sing it is hard to find though.

I have searched out more by some of the Japanese composers of these various soundtracks & have enjoyed exploring their modern classical work. Which how the Koto music was added to this collection – to balance the Godzilla with the real 🙂

Jack Nitzsche is a Hollywood tragedy – he worked with people like Neil Young; created memorable soundtracks for films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; but thanks to drugs never became a ‘star.’ The Reprise set is some of his unused film music, instrumentals & a few songs. Sweet music made sad by his inability to survive the entertainment industry.

These are more modern soundtracks: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross: The Social Network; Contagion: Cliff Martinez; and ending with Looper: Nathan Johnson. I’ve seen all three movies & enjoyed them. I downloaded Contagion after seeing the movie on TV; I had the Social Network soundtrack well before seeing the movie; Looper came after watching the dvdd that included a short on the making of there soundtrack. Network & Contagion are electronic & interchangeable 🙂 Contagion has perhaps a but more tension. Looper is soundscapes contracted from various percussions & found sound. All three work independent of the movies. All make great soundtracks for daily life, sweet for sex too.

Love

The TV was off. Jimmy stared at the screen. What colour was it. Black. Grey. Charcoal. A non-colour what ever it was. Blank empty but ready to leap into colour at the touch of a button. Why was that? Why was there no colour now. Just the dust that could never be wiped off for more than five minutes.

The TV was off.

The room was silent. Very silent. Muffled with dust it seemed to Jimmy. Was dust settling on me. Am I covered with dust? No, with microbes. I saw that on the TV. Flesh is covered with billions of live mites all scurrying around in worlds of their own. Do they see the TV? Are they aware of the change from light to dark, from colour to no colour?

Should he get up? Yes, that would be a good thing. To move. To wade through the air around him. The air was full of things too. Dust motes, skin flakes floating to the ground; shedded, shredded bits of him, of everyone who had even been in that room. The room crawled with them. 

The past has no real colour only dust. 

It wasn’t late. He could watch some more TV. That would be nice but what was the point. It bored him. Even the image of his flesh crawling with worlds he couldn’t see bored him. The dust bored him. Bored him more than anything because he could never escape the dust. He could leave the TV behind but there would always be that dust. It would trail him his whole life. He might re-arrange it but never ever be rid of it.

So he stood. Into the dark of the room. Time to change that light-bulb. It’s been a week now since it burnt out. Funny he hasn’t really felt the need for it. One less thing to clutter his life. There’s enough light from this lamp in the hall. Yeah. Now what. He’s up and moving. Kitchen. Food. 

Food bored him.

So this is what it’s like to be in love. Everything is boring. All the things that I once was fascinated by now bore me. They seem so lifeless. So immobile and dull, dusty. Dust will never settle on my love. Never. Where was she? She’d be home soon. A few minutes, half-an-hour.

He would get food ready for her if he could reach anything. He’d change that light too if he could only reach something. Anything. But why bother. She could reach those things easily. Enjoyed doing it too for some reason. Liked to reach & stretch.

Yes stretch, that is a good idea. Time to stretch. maybe go back into the living-room. No too dusty. Needed a room with less dust. 

Water. Yeah water would be good right about now. Was there any. He could hear a tap drip. Can’t reach that.

Some in his bowl though. There had to be some there. Yes, there was. Just the right temperature and no dust on it. That’s nice for a change.

She would be home soon. Fresh water.

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every Tuesday 2019


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2019’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Square Root

TOpoet

Square Root

I wished him dead

every time I sat in his class

I wished he were dead   buried

not someone I had to face every day

I would only have to glance up at him

writing formulas on the black board

the drone of his voice

and wish him dead

he would always call on me

to read out what he had written

I picture his brain exploding

bloody cosines gush from his nose

all over his spotless white shirt

I wanted a sharp steel edge

on my protractor

to cut out his heart

save the class from algebra trig calculus

his stories of sailing

how he figured directions

with his slide rule

die die die

so we can figure out the angle

to bury you so your rotting corpse

will slump into your penny loafers

bones a jumble of secants

and underpants

the formula on the board

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Prometheus at Hot Damn

Hot Damn! started 2019 with a packed room workshop at Glad Day and a SRO house at Buddies in Bad Times – both driven by feature Regie Cabico. The participants at the workshop wrote & shared some excellent work on the spot – the level of trust among people who had never met before was encouraging, as was the diversity of the participants.

When I got to Buddies to help Charlie set up there were people already clambering to get in 🙂 so the house opened fifteen minutes earlier than usual, I did front of house & it was full enough to start the show a little after 8 (nearly on time for a poetry show). Standing room only by 8:15. Also a full sign-up sheet for slammers – 11 – a Hot Damn! record.

After some opener stagers the first round got underway with a series of politically & emotionally pieces that held nothing back on gender, indigenous, & local political issues. Round two had fewer slammers (lowest scores didn’t get to move forward) and the tone of the pieces became more reflective, personal but equally as direct and powerful.

Lines from the first part of the show: my tongue was not enough’ ‘the swish of sari silk’ ‘I could taste blood’ ‘I fell in love with a crack dealer’ ‘you are the art work of past lives’ ‘our medicine made illegal’ ‘give up your cottages and give us back our land’ ‘what he really should have admitted to you before you married’ ‘I only knew how to see you as a moving disaster’ ‘nobody giving me room to make mistakes in’ ‘betrayal tastes like fennel and sage’ ‘my neighbourhood becomes a trigger warning’ ‘you ask me if I’ll forgive you’ ‘I pray you get your forgiveness but it will never come from me’ ‘I say to them – it’s not your table’ ‘you still here with me like a cloud in my mind’ ‘as if money could regenerate our roots’ ‘I’m not sure how to tell your dad that you’re gay’

Feature Regie Cabico did a strong set drawing from his recent chapbook ‘Sticky Stars & Sheets.’ Funny, deeply personal, very sensual & inspiring. ‘jack-off in the name of leukaemia research’ ‘the warehouses are lit by flames of vodka’ ‘you will not pluck my pancreas like Prometheus’ ‘you hold me like an oar directing my past’ ‘we run like suitcases on wheels’ ‘two lonely Tony’s from West Side Story’ ‘his calf … stretched out before me like Florida’

This is not my first review of Regie though: Spoonful of Beautiful https://wp.me/p1RtxU-d2. We’ve enjoyed each other’s performances in the past so I may not be impartial – but the audience was so enthused so my review isn’t exaggerating his set. 

After a much needed break the show resumed with a few more open stagers & the final round of the slam; ‘I need a place to sit to get perspective’ ‘they’re asking me if I have a gender identity’ ‘never more than genetic coding’ ‘baby shoes take me back to memory like a phantom limb’ ‘too many of us seeking help’ ‘this body is not a temple you are invited to’ ‘my mess you speak to’ ‘oozo ozone’ ‘even my now voice is too heavy to raise’ ‘confuse tenderness with love’ ‘saying gay people should die while getting off on lesbian porn’ ‘it just isn’t about sex anymore’ ‘hidden by ink and time’ ‘the space between fingertips & footsteps.’

Scores were tabulated, prizes were given. Yes, there was a winner, who gets to compete in April for the grand prize: the trip to participate in Capturing Fire (dates tba, soon) but the real winner was the audience. Next Toronto Hot Damn! is March 7. 

(above blog pics are of construction by Buddies)

the piece I wrote at the workshop – rough draft –

Resume

Henry texted me

he was told to stay home

he’s afraid

he’ll lose his job

Henry is one of my lovers

we have been seeing other

every week or so

for over three years

 

I want him to feel

cared for

but I have no solution

for his situation

other than acknowledging his stress

 

I like Henry

but I do not love him

he wants job security

not love

 

it is hard to breathe 

in the workshop

so many perfumes

I’m glad I have no

environment allergies

 

the tenderness of

Henry’s slow kisses

is what I love

 

the tentative tongue start

draws us

into each other’s bodies

 

I love his tongue

but can’t pronounce his last name

Mwawasi

unless it is in front of me

 

in Cape Breton this summer

I will visit

my parents graves

I wasn’t there when they died

they won’t be here

when I die

they will never see my grave

 

Henry texts

he is going to bed

I hope he sleeps well

that he dreams of our kisses

not of rewriting his resume 

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Buffy Season 5

Spoiler alert – I will be revealing crucial plot points so if you haven’t seen season 5 be warned. Of course that fact that there are two more seasons spoils the finale, in which Buffy dies, anyway. The season presents, to me, the best Buffy villain yet with Clare Kramer as Glory. The actor is great & her scenes with Buffy crackle with great energy. She was like Cordelia with super evil powers.  

The season starts with Buffy vs. Dracula – one of those about time episodes it also introduced Buffy’s younger “sister”, Dawn, played by Michelle Trachtenberg. Talk about confusing. It did the writers a chance to work with easy family cliches as opposed to the Slayer mythos. The big reveal was well planned & well written to. The departure of Riley, Marc Blucas, was welcome as that ‘relationship’ was tedious & distracting. He was great eye candy but I never felt invested in him as a character.

It was a season of duality – many characters were two people, emotionally or literally – Zander get a double; Dawn is a sister & the Key; Glory is a god & Ben a mortal; Buffy is a Slayer & a parent, Spike is a  mess of emotions. Multilayered characters that drew me in & who never disappointed.

The death of Buffy’s mother, Joyce, was not unexpected & unlike many characters – she dies of natural causes. The emotions felt real and the emotional quandary for Buffy was well written & Sarah gives an amazing (& underrated) performance.

I loved the robot episodes, Zander’s double was great. Any appearance by Glory was satisfying. The morning of her dual nature was great fx & the flip between both of her/his halves int he finale episodes was very effective. I was sorry to see them go. I loved Joel Grey’s arc & I was sad to see that he doesn’t return in season 6.

I can’t say this is the best season but after the mess of season 4 it was a great return to form. 

All’s Well Bellicose

it’s not me it’s them

its a war zone out there

no safe haven 

to stop and breathe in

who wants to breathe 

the air out there

standing in what sort of shit

no place to rest 

to put down the gun 

for even a minute

random bullets materialize in the air

when you are walking down the street

looking for a burger joint

for a corner to piss in

and bang

 

if the bullets don’t get you

the burgers will

you’re all out to get me

people everywhere cough sneeze

wipe damp hands 

on door handles I have to touch

grimacing at me

at my gun

over their newspapers

cranking up their mp3 players

so I can’t hear mine

daring me to shoot 

as they light up a cigarette

as they push ahead of me 

to get their death burger faster

fast food being too slow for them

tearing off price tags

ripping books to shreds

pushing their way 

down crowded stairs ways

jumping at me with atomizers

when I enter a department store

try this sir

what’s your favourite blood 

I like the smell of 

cosmetic salespersons blood

do you have anything like that

or something that smells 

like fast food counter help

that empty fried fresh aroma

that tingles the taste buds

something that makes people hungry 

when they smell me

 

it’s not me it’s them

I set out peaceful almost serene

avoid the unscooped spots on the sidewalk

even manage a smile at the barista

who would smile back

if she weren’t afraid it slow her down

and the swish my coffee enough

to make sure the lumps of milk 

and sweetener have dissolved

and I’m happy for the first sip

until the lid pops off 

and I have to watch 

the slick scum cling 

to the sides of my cup

as I sip sip sip to the last drop

 

I am now ready for anything and everything 

that is out to get me

I won’t fight back too much today

I want to be a power of calm

in all this mindless 

staggering 

stumbling 

hurry around me

to step out of the way

resist saying have a nice day

resist saying fuck you too

resist kicking cars 

that stop in the crosswalk

as if they owned the damn streets

 

to know that even if this a war zone

all is well with the world

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http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday 2019


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2019’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

 

Architectural un/Digest/able

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Architectural un/Digest/able

The White House

architecturally speaking

holds no interest for me

big sprawling 

designed to impress 

not to live in

history was made there

apparently

 

but to me

it isn’t even a photo op

merely a symbol 

of promises unkept

of hopes betrayed

needs ignored in favour of profit

not for progress

 

I’ve seen it from a distance

that’s close enough for me

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Heritage

Heritage

I have no heritage

only entitlement 

that tries to tell me

that to weave a life of meaning

it is okay

to appropriate anything 

that catches my eye

especially 

if it means nothing to me

it can give meaning to me

 

I’ll redefine my self

no – not redefine

because as it stands now

I have no meaning

no self

outside of a cultural context

of entitlement

which tells me that even because 

I am a nobody

it is better being

anything else

 

the music I listen to

the clothes I wear

reflect a world around me

I am merely walking though

other cultures

are like zoo exhibits 

art installations

to amuse me

to divert me

from the fact that

 

I have no heritage

no backstory of ancestral struggles

other than the banal

patriarchal war for control

money oil sex religion

chains to hold people down 

not to free them 

 

scraps of pasts

remains of genocidal cultures

omnipresent days

arbitrarily clumped together 

for momentary comfort

 

who cares about heritage

as long we are comfortable

Back in the mid-80’s I became involved with Therapeutic Touch (I still practice it). One of the teachers was a native woman who lead me into an exploration of native culture – drum circles, sweat lodges that sort of thing. Weekend Warriors was the term used for guys like me. I saw it as exploration of a culture, not as appropriation. I was given a name, a spirit animal – which I now see as appropriation.

When I told my Dad about this he sent me a beautiful, hand-carved talking stick one year, then another year he gave me a pipe. I read tons of stuff, as I usually do, then sort of lost interest as it became clear that many involved were ‘buying’ heritage & judging it by the amount of turquoise jewelry you had, or who lead your vision quest. I eventually gifted my talking stick & pipe to a native AA member who was stunned & thrilled to get them. 

This is some of the context for this piece prompted by one of the Rules for Monks – using these Rules as prompts isn’t, to me, appropriation as I am in not way interpreting them but letting them resonate in my life. I am no monk 🙂 The piece also bounces around some current buzz words: entitlement, appropriation.

What heritage I have – Swedish, Welsh – is interesting but not ‘exotic.’ I am certainly proud of being both but there are no black rappers exploring Swedish street culture. I was also thinking of that news item a few years ago about the white woman who was passing herself off as black, until her white parents spoke out. Her defence was that she saw herself as black so she was black (or something like that).

I saw that as a need to create definition though stealing another culture while denying one’s own. An action that she felt entitled to do & her response to challenges wasn’t apology but to write a book about being misunderstood. Not that this appropriation isn’t a two-way street: Asians neck deep in European luxury goods, getting their eyes surgically rounded. But that is another blog post 🙂

 

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Chapter XXXVII – Birk Pays a Call

Coal Dusters – Chapter XXXVII

Birk Pays a Call

Holding Maddy loosely by the hand Birk stood at the corner street. He stared down at the door of the rectory. His mother had pressed the shirt and finally stitched the cuffs of pants Lillian had sent to him but he thought he still looked unkept. His borrowed belt made the pants bunch out around his behind. That was a tailoring job his mother said would take more than a few stitches to do. He was already sweating from his walk there. His face itched from shaving it twice in the same morning. His hair refused to stay down no matter what he tried. He looked down at his work boots wishing he had shoes more fitting to wear. 

The boots, even when they were new, didn’t hold any kind of shine. There weren’t meant to. His sisters had tried to clean them but there was nothing to be done about the scrapes on the toes. The crease of the pants made the boots look even more unsuitable. His mother wouldn’t let him go in bare feet.

“We going to stand here all morning?” Maddy asked. She was wearing her Sunday dress with a new piece of lace sown around the neck. There was a yellow satin bow in her hair that she kept pushing back into place.

His mother had insisted he take his sister along so she could see how those outside Mudtown lived. He was sure it was to make sure he acted proper. He wished Clancy could have been with him but after the scrap they got into yesterday that wasn’t going to be. 

When Birk had woken that morning it took a few minutes for him to remember that Clancy was gone and not sleeping on the floor where it was cooler in the summer.

He walked to the front door of the house and knocked. No answer. Knocked again a little harder. Maddy kicked at the door but her shoes did make much of a sound. 

“You sure you got the right day?” she asked.

“It’s the day Clancy read to me from her note.” Did he have the wrong day? Wrong time? Clancy had read those things to him off the note. Was that his idea, to send him there at the wrong time to make an even a bigger fool of himself. Maybe the note didn’t ask for him to lunch. “You read it too, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” She stood on tiptoes to see through the side  window.

He turned to leave.

The door opened.

“Mr. Nelson.” Father Patrick said. “You have to knock louder than that.”

Birk turned back to the door. “Sorry.. uh … Father McTavish. I wasn’t sure how ….”

“Come in, please.” Lillian appeared behind Father Patrick and pushed past him.

“Thank, ye, Miss. You remember my sister Maddy.” He was awed at Lillian’s appearance.

“Hello.” Maddy curtsied. 

Previously Birk had only seen Lillian dressed in dark green pinafores with darker green aprons around them, a black kerchief of some sort covering her hair. So similar to a nun he had assumed that she was one.

Today she was wearing a light blue shift with a pleated skirt that ended directly below her knees. A row of blue buttons along the back went from her neck to her waist. How did those buttons get done? He had enough trouble with ones that went up the front of his shirt. She was wearing black shoes with small heels and with straps across the top of her foot.

He took this all in with a couple of rapid shy glances as they followed her into the parlour. She continued through the parlour to another room.

“How is your family faring during the strike?” Father Patrick asked him. He gestured to a chair for Birk to sit. Maddy sat on chair by the fire. Hey eyes wide as she looked around the room.

“We gets by.” Birk looked briefly at Father Patrick. “We have … a little garden… we hunt some and …. fish in the lake.”

The room wasn’t much bigger than the parlour in his house. The furniture was more ornate. The window panes were so clean as to be nearly transparent. The lace curtains barely held back the sun.  He was nervous with the crucifix on the wall that loomed over his shoulder.

“Very enterprising.” Father Patrick said. “How are you doing is school.” The priest asked Maddy.

“Good. How do you get the windows so clean? The curtain are so white. My sister Sal wasn’t feeling strong today so she couldn’t come with us. She supposed to help Ma with picking pears, which means finding any that fall from the tree.”

“Pears?” Lillian asked. 

‘Yes ma’am.” Birk said. “There some pear trees and apple trees in behind our lane.”

“Very nice. I’ll get the tea things.”

Lillian retuned with a tray on which was a tea service. Birk had never seen such a set. The tray was highly polished silver. The whitish ceramic tea pot had a thick gold braid along the base, the cups had saucers that matched and weren’t cracked. The gleaming ivory of the china glowed in the sunlight that came through the window. He was afraid to handle it.

“Tea? Mr. Nelson.” Lillian asked him.

“Why thank ‘er miss.”

She handed him a cup and saucer. 

He quickly put them on the table beside him before they could notice how much he was shaking. Maddy went to the tea service and brought the milk over and poured some into Birk’s cup.

“Thank you.” He said as she stirred for him. He tired to pick the cup up by the handle but his fingers could barely hold it. He sipped trying not too look too clumsy.

“Father Patrick, my uncle, and I wanted to express our gratitude for your daring rescue. Your brother is very brave.” She put a cup and saucer on the table beside Maddy and poured her a cup tea.

“T’wasn’t me who saved that babby, it was you miss. That took a brave heart to do that. I only helped when I had to.”

“Be that as it may, I wanted to thank you in person.” She handed Birk a plate with a couple of biscuits on it. “I made these fresh this morning.”

Birk looked directly at her face for the first time. Her dark auburn hair shone in the light that came through the window. The light gave it a reddish tinge. Her skin was clear. No sign of the bruise remained. She smelled of flowers. He didn’t know what kind. Lilacs or roses. A delicate clean smell.

“This is thanks enough for me.” He touched the shirt she had sent to him.

“A little large on you.” She laughed lightly.

“True miss but it’ll wear well.”

“Not those trousers through.” Father Patrick said. 

Maddy started to giggle. “Me and Sal each fit in a leg of them.”

“Stand so I can see how they fit you.” Lillian said.

Birk blushed as he stood. Some of his mother’s hasty stitch work had come loose. The cuffs were unrolled and caught beneath the heels of his boots. The waist was bunched by the belt he had borrowed from Blackie to cinch it. They had tried suspenders but the pants drooped so he looked as if he was wearing a cloth barrel.

“I am much taller than you, my lad.” Father Patrick grinned. “But I think Lillian can alter them to fit you somewhat better.”

“Yes. Thank you …” Birk blushed that they were going do those alterations right away.

“I can bring them over another day.” Maddy said. “Ma’d’ve done them but she was busy tending to Sal.”

“Yes.” Lillian laughed. “We aren’t going to do it now, if that’s what you feared.”

“I like your biscuits.” Maddy said. “Can I have one to take home to Sal?”

“Of course.” Lillian turned to Birk. “Do the men think the strike will last much longer?” She asked.

“Can’t say miss. We have the … demonstration at the end of the week.”

“The attack on the company store was not a wise action.” Father Patrick said. “I’ve sure troops will be brought in soon to make sure order is maintained.”

“Not as if that at the pluck me was planned. Happened so fast none of us was ready for it.”

“Not from what I hear.” Father Patrick said. “It has been brewed up by a couple of the men for a few days. They were waiting for an opportunity. You know Jim McKlusky?”

“Sure. He lives next door to us in Mudside.” So Jim was the ring leader of that pack.

There was knock at the door. Lillian went to answer it. She brought Mr. Bowen, one of the mine managers, into the room

“It’s Mr Bowen, Father Patrick.”

“Sorry to barge in on you this way Father but ….” he caught sight of Birk. “Oh, I see you have company.”

“Yes. This is Birk Nelson. The young miner who  saved my niece from the fire the other night.”

“Least he could do. It was them bastards that started it.” Mr. Bowen glared at Birk. “You men should know better.”

“I didna’ have anything to do with that.” Birk said. 

Mr. Bowen give a dismissive snort and turned to Father Patrick. “Father I have some urgent business that I must speak to you about. In private.”

“Why don’t we step out into the garden Mr. Bowen.” Father Patrick said. “It won’t take up too much time will it Mr. Bowen?”

Father Patrick lead Mr. Bowen out through the kitchen to the back garden.

“The garden is where we first saw you a few weeks back.” Birk said.

“I was not very happy that day. You were going fishing with your brother. I envied your freedom.” Lillian got up and leaned against the fence.

“Clancy’s no brethren to us.” Maddy said sharply.

“Oh I see.”

“They fights like brothers though.”

“Sush Maddy.”

“It’s true! You and Clancy were as bad and you and Geo t’other day punching away at each other.”

“He’s had some schoolin’ mor’n me and thinks he’s better n’ me ‘cause of it. Same way as so many mainlanders, you see. I jus’ got tired of him lordin’ it over me.” Birk said.

“You do want to improve your mind, don’t you.” Lillian looked at Birk, “You don’t want to be a … an uneducated miner for the rest of your life, do you?”

“Twas good nuf for my father, his father, good enough for me.” Birk shifted uneasily on his chair. Each move of his caused it to squeak.

“The mines can’t last forever you know.”

“Long nuf for the sorts of me, ma’am.”

“Is it such a bad thing, I mean, to improve your mind.”

“No ma’am. But I jus don’t see the point in it, for me. Fir my sister’s it’s different. Ma wants them to leave here one day.” Birk stared up at her. “There’s isn’t much else for me. Not that I care for the coal but …”

“Don’t you have any dreams, Birk.”

“Dreams, miss. Sure but they are dreams not life.”

“You don’t want, say a wife, someone to look after you and someone you can look after.”

“Got me ma to look after me and I got my sisters to look out fer. My family’s enough family for me.” He nodded at Maddy.

“The right wife could be a helpmate in that though, wouldn’t she?”

Birk was confused and unsure what she was getting at. He didn’t want to ask her because he knew Maddy would be telling his Mother everything she heard here. He stood. “I thank you miss, for taking the time to talk with me. We best be on our way though.”

“Wait a moment and I’ll give Maddy some of the biscuits to take home.” She took Maddy by the hand and they went to the kitchen.

He looked around the room. He couldn’t picture Lillian living anywhere else. She would never be suited to a life in Mudtown.

Maddy and Lillian were laughing when they returned from the kitchen.

“I’d be happy to come by to visit with Sal.” Lillian said to Maddy. 

“She would never believe how nice you are.” Maddy said. “She’s gets better and better, so our ma tells us.”

“I’m sure she is.” Lillian smiled. “Don’t forget what we talked about.” She adjusted Maddy’s hair ribbon.

“I won’t. Thank you kindly for the biscuits.” She curtsied. “We can go now, Birk.”

She took Birk by the hand as Lillian opened the front door for them

“Thank you again for rescuing me.” Lillian kissed Birk quickly on cheek.

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