Text Me

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Text Me

he’s behind bars

so the streets are safe

yet I still say

text me when you get home

 

all those years

when I never worried

about more than someone getting wet

waiting too long for a bus

 

all those years

when this was happening

men lured into a van

expecting a lift home

not a fight for their life

 

I’m feeling retroactive fear

regret

for dangers I never knew existed

for men coming and going

from my house

from my arms

making their way home

at night

 

some who have in fact

disappeared from my life

moved on

I presumed

but now I’m not sure

 

I know he’s behind bars

but the streets

will never feel safe again

so text me when you get home

I’ll text you when I get home

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The Smart Girl

For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton.

The Smart Girl

Magdalena Moore

was the smartest girl

in our village

her father Patrick Moore 

was the county comptroller

so we figured she got her brains from him

and his wife Haldora Thorsen

who was in charge of the DNA splicing lab

at the fission plant

it was Haldora who labelled us

as monochromatic bores

who only cared about or health

when the villagers complained

about run off from the plant

 

Magdalena had copper hair

that glittered with flecks 

of purple blue in the sunset 

it was impossible not to be mesmerized

when she shook it loose

to cascade over her shoulders

 

all the boys

had a crush on her

they would pester her with small gifts

carved moose bones

robin spoons

all of which she accepted

with her bird-like laugh

all of which would show up

 

at the choir’s annual garage sale

no one cared 

that she was wheel-chair bound

it added to her allure

for she had been born

with her legs fused together

from her crotch to her ankles

she did have feet

but the toes were also fused together

she made no secret of this

 

her mother claimed

there was no relation to Magdalena’s

fusion and the fission plan

or the genetic alterations in the moose

her work in genetics

proved that these things happened

with no prior cause

things change

 

Magdalena did change

as she grew older

she became bored of being

the smartest girl in the village

she longed to be an ordinary person

 

she became abusive

with anyone who said

I see you as a whole person

not as someone with fused legs

your real person is so much more

than that

besides you have such a pretty smile

 

she replied

if you don’t see them

you don’t see the real me

transcending my body

denies the full real me

 

when she got like this

people would pat her head

touch her hands to sooth her

or her mother would medicate her

it didn’t matter 

how smart she was

as long as she was compliant

 

one summer her parents

entered her in the  

Village Queen Beauty Contest

along with several other virgins

her talent was yodelling

because she was so brave

the judges were willing

to give her a pass on the swim suit

part of the contest

but she refused to take it

she rolled on the stage

at the end of the docks

wearing a bikini top

of two maple leaves

a beach towel to cover her

then she pulled the towel away

flaunting her fused legs

for all the world to see

 

at first people were too shocked

to look away

before they could react

she threw herself into the water

her parents sat

on the edge of the pier

weeping

hoping their tears

could lure her back

 

when they found her body

two days later

her legs were no longer fused

This a brand new Village Story. I wrote some fresh ones to have enough to post this summer. I wanted to see if I could return to the voice of my narrator and also challenge myself with more contemporary issues. In this case disability. It is also an echo of one of the earlier pieces: Consumption https://wp.me/p1RtxU-1gr.

Followers of my blog will also see the influence of Andrew Gurza‘s Disability After Dark podcast. He talks clearly about representation & acceptance. I wanted write about those issues while working them into the fabric of this mythology. I hope I’ve struck a balance between irony & compassion & humour.  

I revisit the unwillingness of commerce to be accountable for their actions: i.e. the fission plant’s genetic damage to the villagers. A denial that continues even when one of the victim’s is their own children. It makes me think of the Flint water crisis clearly caused by industry but no one has offered a solution merely blame.

I touch on that ablism that happens when people think they are being sensitive – ‘you have such a pretty smile’ – Implying that the smile is some sort of compensation for the damaged body, so cheer up. The medicating is another of those avoidances. When the disabled try to bring attention to their needs they are often considered uncooperative & truculent. It’s easier to medicate them than listen to them. 

The ending is harsh but I wanted to push out of my comfort zone. Andrew has been told, more than once, by an abled person that if they were as disabled as he they would probably kill themselves and that he was so brave. I also wanted to avoid the obvious ending – she turns into a mermaid & swims away. So went for that harsh ending.

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Chapter XVI – Lillian Makes A Promise

Coal Dusters

Chapter XVI

Lillian Makes A Promise

During the week after the coal gas disaster at the colliery Lillian received more house calls than she had even when she was living at home in Boston. It was as if the parishioners accepted that she was actually here, that she belonged here, living in the rectory. A different mother or wife would drop by in the afternoons to take tea with her.

One afternoon about midweek it was a young mother, Jen Hollerhan with her two children. The children were one and two years old. Jen was a little taller than Lillian but much heavier. Her deep brown hair was already streaked with grey.

“Having babies certainly puts the weight on ya.” Jen explained. “You’d think having them to tend to along with m’ husband would have worn it off but it hasn’t yet. Ages one too.” She smoothed her hair away from her face.

“They must be quite a handful.” Lillian held the youngest on her lap. The baby reached up to grab at Lillian’s loose hair.

“I sure hope I’m not keeping you from your chores?” Jen asked. “But I wanted to meet you, you see.”

“My uncle, Father Patrick says my best work can be done talking with his parishioners. Thank you.”

“I hears you are from away. Boston, is it?”

“Yes that’s right. Father Patrick is my father’s brother.”

“Ahh. And who’s your father?”

“James Whitely McTavish.”

“Not from these parts is he?”

“No. In truth, none of my family is. Father Pat is the only the family I have here, but I have been made to feel most welcome these past few days. He has told me the congregation has made him feel he has always lived here.” 

Holding the child Lillian began to wonder if this is how it would have been if she hadn’t lost her baby. At least Jen was married. She wasn’t sure if would have even been allowed to keep the child.

“Not the same as living in Boston though is it? My sister Kelly’s in Boston now. Working for a rich family in the kitchen. The Gibbons?”

“I may know them.” The last thing Lillian wanted was for anyone here to make any contact with families she knew in Boston. “I see. What are your children’s names?” Lillian didn’t want to talk about Boston.

“The wee one is Moira. We named her after John’s mother. The big ’un is Chester. That’s my granddad’s name. On my mother’s side. She was a McDonald. From up Inverness.”

“Chester already getting to be quite a little man I see.”

Jen was keeping Chester from climbing on the back of the settee by holding the back of his pants at the waist.

“Don’t I know it. He’ll soon be working with his Dad I can tell. He’s as stubborn as his father too. That’s be Davy Hollerhan. Get’s a notion in his head and won’t let go especially when he’s been drinkin’. Davy I mean ”

“I see.” Lillian wasn’t sure of what to say. 

“Look, Miss McTavish.”

‘“Miss Lillian, please.” One thing her uncle has told her was to let his parishioners feel she was a part of their lives without becoming overly familiar with them.

“Miss Lillian it’s about my Davy that I’ve come to see yer. His drinkin’ ‘s getting worse.”

“That must be difficult for you.”

“I knew you’d understand. It isn’t as if it was my doing but when he comes home I don’t know how to settle him.”

“But where does he get the drink?” Lillian knew prohibition was keeping the saloons closed.

“There’s those that know where to get it when they want it. Bootleggers. Many makes their own, you know. I guess yer wouldn’t know being here in the priest’s house. But there are lots of places a man can get a bottle. Easy.”

“Perhaps we should tell the constabulary?”

“The what? Oh, you mean the law. Not much they can do. They can’t be at every house. Besides one of them makes his own, too. Only Our Lord can be in every house.”

“Yes, I know.”

“I was hopin’, Miss Lillian, that you could pray for my Davy. Perhaps if you spoke to him, tell him how much it is hurting me and the children.”

“Speak to him? I’m not in a position to do that sort of thing. That’s my unc … I mean, Father Pat’s work, isn’t it? To speak to the men and help them see the light.”

“Yes, but if a proper lady such as yerself spoke to him the shame might make him see right.”

“Shame?” How could she cause shame in anyone?

“Then you won’t help me?” Jen began to cry. “The other is even harder for me to bear.”

“The other?”

“Davy has been …. I don’t know how to tell you this Miss … you being such a lady and all.”

Lillian resisted the temptation to tell Jen that she wasn’t such a lady. That she had done things in her recent past that made her less than a lady, that she was in need of repentance and salvation as much as Jen’s husband was. She longed to share her heart with someone, another woman who might understand, but she held her tongue.

“Go on Jen.”

“Miss, I know you aren’t sworn to silence the way Father Patrick is but what I tell you can’t be repeated.”

“Yes. Jen.” she reached out and grasped Jen’s hand. “I promise.”

“John has been keeping with another woman.” her voice dropped after ‘keeping’.

“He has what?”

“Tis adultery ma’am. S’ another woman. On t’other side of the village, in the orange. Only them type would do such a thing. At first I didn’t mind. It meant he wouldn’t be using me to satisfy his bestial cravings. I know a woman has duty to perform but anything more than that is sinful.”

“So I understand. The good book is very clear ‘He who commits adultery destroys himself.’” Lillian said.

“But he comes home sometimes smelling of her. Drunk and saying as I think I’m too good for loving. He thinks that …. that bestial act is love. It’s a sin. He’s is destroying himself and his family at the same time. He used to be sweet and gentle too. Taking my clothes off and folding them tidy. Now he don’t even bother. Pawing at me and shoving his tongue in my mouth.” She stopped to shiver. 

“Father Pat sermonized about it once. Carnality is the tool of Satan. We must not let the flesh come between us and Our Redeemer.” Jen began to weep loudly. She let loose her grip on Chester who slid the floor and began to cry as well. This set off Moira who had been dozing in Lillian’s lap.

Lillian didn’t know what to do or say. She recalled her degradation at the hands of James Dunham. She had remained almost fully clothed, as had he. The notion of being naked with him had never occurred to her at that time.

“When I told him what I suspected he went into a rage. The worst I have ever seen. He …” she covered her face with her hand. She stood and removed her shawl to reveal bruises on both her arms. “He shook me so hard I couldn’t see. I feared he would strike the children. Said all I did was complain.”

“How …” Lillian was about to say ‘how could any man raise his had to a women but stopped.

“It’s a good man’s fault.” Jen wrapped her shawl around her again. “I know it isn’t fittin’ for me to say anything but I don’t know what to do. It’s first time he put his hands on me to make me mind what I was saying.”

She sat back down. 

“Perhaps the children would enjoy some warm milk.” Lillian suggested. She handed Chester a biscuit from the tea tray. He stop crying and put it in his mouth.

“You are too kind for listening patiently to the likes of me. I have no one here in Castleton Mines to talk to, you know?”

“No family?”

“Other than Davy’s kin no. I have some cousins for sure, but my family is from Inverness. Jake Struthers is m’ father. I’m the only one to have made a leave from them.”

Lillian handed the bawling Moria back to her mother. Jen unbuttoned her blouse and breast fed the infant.

“She’ll be quiet now miss.”

As the baby began to suck eagerly Lillian felt a flash of heat in her body. She had come so close to motherhood. 

“I … I’ll make fresh pot of tea.” She stood and went to the kitchen. Nothing in her upbringing had prepared her for this sort of emotional out pouring. She was embarrassed to hear such intimate details about another person’s private life. Then to have a child breast fed causally in front of her. That sort of thing was to be done where no one could see it.

She opened and closed drawers and cupboards loudly so that if Jen should be listening she would think Lillian was occupied with domestic duties. Tongue in her mouth? Was that some sort of kissing? The two men she knew had kissed her cheeks or her hands but never on the mouth. 

When she came back into the parlour with tea Jen had put on her shawl.

“Thank ye very much. Hearing me out Miss McTavish. I knew when I saw you helping at the colliery the other week that you would be the one to listen to me. I know there isn’t anything you can directly do other than have a word with Father Patrick. Perhaps if he spoke to Davy he might set Davy back on the righteous path.”

“There is one thing I know we can do.”

“Yes Miss.” Jen said eagerly.

Lillian took out her rosary. “We can pray right here and right now.”

Jen took out her rosary as well.

“Thank you Miss. He’s going to that fight tonight and I fear he’ll come home blind drunk.”

The two women knelt and Lillian started in on the hail Mary. 

“Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. And if you can please intercede with John Hollerhan so that he may once again see the light and be brought back to salvation in Your Son, Jesus. Amen.” 

Jen quickly joined her.

“Thank you!” Jen said when they were finished. “I knew you were the right one to talk to.”

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

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Harper Hartman

I first heard Ben Harper on a CMJ (College Music Journal) compilation cd. I like the sample & eventually found the cd Cruel World – I think the song was Mama’s Got A New Girlfriend – a cheerful song about having two moms. I have it as a stand-alone as well as Burn To Shine, & there will be a light.

Harper is adult pop with some folksy, bluesy, even soul undertones. He plays a wicked slide guitar. His voice is appealing & emotional without striving to over-emote. ‘be a light’ features the Blind Boys of Alabama & is uplifting, spiritual without being overly religious. As much as I enjoy his cds I found that three was enough. I’ve heard others but, to be honest, I couldn’t tell one from the other.

A quick word about CMJ. I was a loyal follower of this monthly magazine & loved the compilation cds that introduced me to endless music. They were as eclectic as my collection with sample tracks from jazz, electronic, dance music, blues, pop, punk, rap, world music all on the same cd. The frustrating thing was that often what I really liked was unavailable in Canada.

Near Harper is an lp to cd transfer of Dan Hartman’s Instant Replay, with some tracks from a disco compilation Hot Nights & City Lights. ‘Replay’ was one of the few disco lps that was more than a hit song. Each track had energy & I always love hearing it when it comes up in my play rotation. I remember being compelled to dance to that title song when ever a dj played it, the same was true for Countdown. Hot Nights is a nicely mixed set of classic disco songs such as Boogie Oogie Oogie; Love Is In The Air – all of which make me feel like a teenager coming out 🙂

Pagan

‘Just smell the pine.’ Chris took a deep breath. He nodded to Peter to do the same thing.

‘Yeah. Pine.’ Peter breathed out. He didn’t really smell anything like pine. ‘Not very strong though.’

‘What do you mean?’ Chris pushed aside a branch and held it so Peter could pass. ‘Can’t mistake that smell. Or were you expecting Pinesol?’

‘Yeah. Something like that.’ Peter felt himself redden. In this cold it wouldn’t be noticeable.

‘Something like reality.’ Chris’s laugh echoed through the trees. ‘This is real. This is the goddamned outdoors.’ He stooped and pulled up a clump of snow, dirt. ‘This is the land. Not some high-def image. The soil. Something we don’t get enough of in the city. ’

‘I have enough dirt in my back yard.’

‘Yeah, right.’ Chris scoffed.  ‘All that chemical fertilizer and weed control doesn’t leave much of nature in that soil.’

‘Enough for … ’

‘There it is.’ 

They stopped. Peter saw the tree. Tall. Green. Biggest pine he had ever seen.

‘She is a beauty.’ Peter said.

‘She! Hell, that’s a he tree if I’ve ever seen one.’

‘I’m not going to argue that with you. So we going just gawk or chop.’

‘Neither.’ Chris took off his back pack.

‘I thought we were going to get real trees this year. None of that tree farm shit for us.’

‘Right you are but by real I meant we’d get real ourselves. Here … ’ He handed Peter two red candles. ‘Put one over there and the other directly opposite it. Stick close to the edge of the fir.’

‘You crazy or what.’

‘Trust me.’

‘Okay.’

Chris trod a path around the tree that criss-crossed at several points. In each another candle was placed and lit. A slight wind came up.

‘Next …’ Chris handed him a beer and opened one for himself. ‘repeat after to me … We drink to the spirit of the fir.’

‘We drink to the spirit of the fir.’

‘Now take a swallow and spit it out.’

Peter did.

‘Turn around and do the same thing again.’

Peter did. At first he felt foolish. He glanced around to make sure no one was watching. He closed his eyes and when he opened them the light had changed.

‘You see the difference?’ Chris asked.

‘Yeah? What is this? Some sort of pagan ritual.’

‘Could be. Just intent. Something my Dad showed me once. He said he had to pass it along to someone. Now I’m passing it along to you. We have to revere the land a little. Acknowledge the spirit.’

Peter took a deep breath. He could smell the pine. ‘I smell it.’

‘What?’

‘The pine! The pine! I can really smell it! I smell the earth too.’

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every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

https://www.facebook.com/TorontoGratitudeRoundup/

September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

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

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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The King and My Memories

I have seen a few big productions on the big stage in Toronto but very few. The last ‘real’ musical I saw was Cats decades ago. So when I was given tickets to see The King & I was more than happy to accept them, mainly because this a piece that plays a strong role in my childhood – it was one of my mother’s favourites. She had the movie soundtrack & we would sing along to some tracks – Shall We Dance. Her other fave soundtrack was The Student Prince – Drink Drink Drink.

I loved that lp cover with Deborah Kerr in the amazing gold dress – I always wondered how did she get that – and beside her was Yul Brenner as the King – majestic, macho & Asian. I’ve seen the movie a few times & suspect that my attraction to Asian men started here. The cd soundtrack now includes the The Small House of Uncle Tom ballet sequence which I remembered from the film.

 

So you have a context of what I brought with me when I saw the stage production at the Princess of Wales. I was not ready for the power all of these songs had over me. Richard Rodgers music is emotionally compelling & romantic in My Lord & Master, I Have Dreamed. I could name check every song mind you. A Puzzlement with its shifting rhythms is more musically complex that I realized. The lyrics for most of the songs are unabashedly romantic.

The performances were solid. The singing itself was good as well. Jose Llana as the King was handsome but a bit young, to me, & Elena Saddow as Anna seemed more of mother figure than a possible next wife. Their scenes together was more fun than simmering.

The text was more political than I recalled. Her feminism was strong without being strident. The role of the arrogant colonizers in Southeast Asia was not overlooked either. The King was considered a barbarian mainly because he was resistant to European’s seeking to exploit his country. The European notion that ‘civilized’ meant conforming to their standards of dress & religion was used to belittle & suppress, not to advance & improve.

The production had a great diverse cast. Were all the Asian performers actually Thais? I can’t say – cast photos were on display not their family trees 🙂 As I said earlier performances were solid but the over-all production lacked energy. Only Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang seemed to fully invested in her character, though Jose Llana had some fine moments of puzzlement. Finally the Small House of Uncle Tom was given an excellent interpretation. 

My reviews of:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K

 

“My rage is gone”

Thanks to director Robert Lepage the Stratford Festival’s production of Coriolanus is stunning from the first line of dialogue. The level of stage craft is constantly amazing as it supports & expands the plot. Considered one of Shakespeare’s lesser plays this re-imagining of it in modern times makes it perhaps one of his most prophetic plays. Imagine a ruler who feels offended when anyone questions his decisions.

The special effect projections (if that’s what they are called), sometimes as subtle as a curtain moving in the breeze or as dramatic as rain on a speeding car were executed with a precision I didn’t know was possible. The rain on the car, for example, was streaming across the car in the right direction & at the right speed as the car went faster. Oh yes, there was a real car on stage!

Scene transitions were smooth, the use of moving scrims, of moving sets, sliding frames had to have been done by the bank of laptop & desk top computers one saw on entering the theatre. All this tech did not detract from the emotional heart of the play but amplified its beat though news casts, talk-show, multi-view camera coverage &, of course, text & emojis.

The performances were excellent, as one would expect. Lucy Peacock as Mom stole every scene she was in; André Sills as our Hero was solid, energetic but rarely displayed the arrogance his character was credited with (or that one is used to seeing displayed by politicians); Festival stalwarts Tom McCamus, Stephen Ouimette, & Tom Rooney were sharp & clarly relished the characters they were playing. Graham Abbey as the opposing general was excellent & his closing lines “My rage is gone; And I am struck with sorrow” were emotionally delivered & resonant in a way that needed no stage craft. A must see production. 

My review of Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

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Buffy Season 4 – Nearly Dustless

 Recently finished watching Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is so much sex in this season – everyone, including Giles, is getting laid I now think of this as season fornicate. This is also the season when I gave up on it when it was first broadcast. Buffy’s emotionally vulnerability was, to me, forced & distracting. There was hardly any vampires slain either. Lots of demons though. I  didn’t buy into the military complex plot line – government conspiracy is so X-Files, it was tepid at best.

Some episodes suffered from too many characters & the writers never found a balance between them. At times it felt like they were given dialogue that kept them on screen as opposed to adding to the plot. At least they dropped the one trope I hated – you know the one in which no one believes there are vampire etc. This season everyone in Sunnyvale acknowledges there are evil forces at work.

The season has some of the worse episodes (so far) of the series. “Beer Bad” being one, the other, for me, was “Pangs” the Thanksgiving episode that is so embarrassing I was ready to give up again on season 4. But I’m glad I stuck with it because there were also some of the best written & performed eps as well.

The departure of Oz was emotionally resonant but (spoiler alert) he returns before the end of the season for another great episode. In fact some of the best episodes involved returning characters. Ethan Raine does things to Giles in “A New Man” that were thrilling to see. Danny Strong shines in “Superstar” a brilliant episode. Faith surfaces again in a well plotted & emotionally satisfying two-parter. 

Adam as a villain never felt like a threat. The shenanigans of  The Initiative – the military complex were predictable & left me feeling ‘who cares’ though Lindsay Crouse as the evil doctor was always a joy to watch. I was sorry to see her dispatched without a real face off with Buffy.

It took the writers ten episodes or more to get their footing after the departure of Angel & Cordelia. Spike was to be the smart mouth but seemed totally wasted in every episode. Anya was the best addition to the gang & it was clear the writers loved writing for her. 

There were some great stand alone episodes. “Hush” with the floating Gentlemen was creepy & fantastic; the abused children spirits, is “Where The Wild Things Are” seeking revenge was chilling as was the actress playing their ‘keeper.’ I’m hoping there a another episode in future seasons that deals with her.

The season did expand some of the Slayer mythos, as well giving us more a glimpse into the Watchers that I hope is explored more in future seasons. Willow became more of character, as opposed to a side-kick, as her magic powers & confidence grows. At times it felt more like the Witch Willow show than Buffy. Oh yes, Willow gets Tara – as a love interest. I still think it would have been more revolutionary if Zander got a boyfriend though say in the form of Forrest – as Forrest is clearly resents Riley switch of affection to a girl, namely Buffy.

Speaking of Forrest it was great to see a black character on Buffy in a recurring role. Though he was not a good guy he certainly made Riley seem almost interesting with the powerful gay subtext he was playing in all their scenes. Even in the final fight between them his motivation was more ‘how could you choose her over me’ than ‘I’m helping Adam conquer the world.’

By the end of the season I was glad I stuck with it even if there are some episode I wish I could un-watch. I was also missing the lack of vampire dustings. Come on she’s a vampire slayer – not a demon hunter. On to Season 5.

The Cell

a man weeps on the subway

well-dressed   mid-thirties

turns his face from us

with no corner to hide his tears

rubs a cell phone in his left hand

squeezing it as something to hold on to

glances at the screen

bumps his head on the window

harder and harder

should someone stop him

he lurches up

gets off at the next station

stares immobile as the train pulls out

 

was that even his stop

was he ashamed of strangers 

seeing his sorrow

our eyes wanting more than they could see

was our pity   curiosity   inaction

too much more to bare

on top of what he wept about

 

his cell phone still where he sat

I pick it up look around

no one acknowledges what I have done

what should I do with it

try the numbers on it

track him down

did he abandon it   leave his sorrow behind

I get off at my stop

take the cell with me

 

at home I press the right buttons

nothing lights up dead

my recharge cable doesn’t fit

I’m at a loss about what to do

suddenly it lights up   rings

hello

all I hear are 

 

painful gut-wrenching sobs

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http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

https://www.facebook.com/TorontoGratitudeRoundup/

September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

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

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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The Not To List

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks. Who knew the simple life could be so complex. This is another of the pācittiyas.

The Not To List 

Not to sew a robe for anyone

Not to ask for an excuse

Not to wear a hat for a funeral

Not to tell the time for a year

Not to clean a room for a photographer

Not to ask for another chance

Not to fix a sandwich for a questioner

Not to erase a mistake for a reporter

Not to fix a noose for a saxophone

Not to give a shit for logic

Not to hope a day goes by for a minute

Not to worry a teabag for example

Not to make space in a crowd

Not to mention it again

Not to question the powers that be

Not to complain about a bad photograph

Not to be culpable

Not to make that bed again

Not to ask them why why why

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The Violet Moon


For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton.

The Violet Moon

see how the full moon 

is wrapped by red cloud

in our village 

we call that the Violet Moon

this the one night

when the one beast

which the Denizen fears

walks the earth

a shape shifter

that usually lives as human

as you or I

humans who forget 

what rests coiled inside

till the violet moon appears

to nudge a latent beast to wakefulness

none who have this curse

can resist its call

can remember what has happened

those who have met the beast

have been struck dumb

speechless with fear

 

I mean the weremoose

don’t laugh

because your derision is the one thing

that can invite it to occupy your body

you will awake

feeling cold breath shivering

your feet   your hands

toes will start to point

fingers will become stiff

your bones will crack

your neck will thicken

you will scream as your hips rent apart

backbone snapped reshaped

each moment of the change

is an agony

any who hear will fear

your family will hide

but you will hunt them down

 

there is no escape the weremoose

you can recognize one

if you have time

because the antlers seem slightly askew

like the roof of a house not quite right

or the colour of the fur

that never stays the same brown

when you try to focus on it

a mist of violet hue

flows behind it

scarring any tree that it caresses

the cloven hooves

can crush skulls

the jagged teeth

can rip a throat in one bite

the same teeth

can crack a man’s ribs

to pull out your heart

and eat it

while the last of your blood

spurts through your veins

you are alive

long enough to see your own blood 

oozing from the satisfied maw

of the weremoose

This is a ‘new’ village piece thatI  wrote specifically for Camp Pinebow. It harkens back to Moose-mare https://wp.me/p1RtxU-1Vv as I extend moose myth into a darker territory – this one even more cinematic. Moose-mare echoed Jacob wrestling the with angel – here we get sense that perhaps many men of the village have a beast within them that is affected by the moon – which is were according village legends the moose came from.

The piece clearly uses werewolf legend as well. One is powerless to stop the transformation or even it initiate it. I also call on that horror trope that disbelief invariably turns the scoffer into the next victim. I enjoy the description of the change. I was probably thinking of Seth Green as Oz on Buffy during his werewolf changes – though he looked like & moved more like an orangutang with a wolf’s head than a wolf.

 

I dwell on how the weremoose kills because this was originally meant as a scary campfire story. Those stories call for a certain amount of visceral gore to make them effective. Do moose have cloven hooves? I’m not sure but we do know who the Cloven One is, right 🙂

Some of details are invented – the acidic mist that scars tree bark is my own addition to the cannon. Violet comes up a few times as the host of the show where I first performed this was Lizzie Violet – it never hurts to pay tribute to your host in a way that isn’t too overt. Violet is also a nice change for the colourless mists that appear in horror most of time. They are either murky blacks or, for some reason, lime green.

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Coal Dusters – Chapter XV  Birk Rides the Dingle Dandy

Chapter XV 

Birk Rides the Dingle Dandy

At the dock a ferry, The Dingle Dandy, was ready to set out to cross the small bay to North Sydney. The Dingle Dandy plied a small circuit around the area starting in New Waterford with stops here, then over to North Sydney and Sydney Mines. There were about a dozen men waiting to board. Tonight it was doing a couple of special runs between Castleton Mines and North Sydney for the fight.

“Ever think of goin’ out of the boats.” Clancy asked.

“The sea don’t call to me. Too wet. Too tr’cherous.” Birk replied.

“You saying coal damp isn’t tr’cherous?”

“Not the same.” Birk took a few running steps and pushed up reaching for the spar that stretched over the wharf. He missed it with his left hand but caught it with his right hand. He swung there for a moment – let go and grabbed with his left hand as he turned to face the others.

“You are more monkey than I thought.” Clancy shouted over the laughter of the others.

Birk let go and dropped lightly to his feet.

“How did you learn to do stuff that that?” Clancy asked.

“Don’t know if I learned ever. It was something I could do.” He stepped away from the group and did a quick back flip.

“What! You didn’t even move. You must be part …”

“Monkey is right!” one of the guys said. “You should see him on the pipes around the coal yard.”

“You should be in some circus Birk.” Another of the guys said.

“Ma’d never let me go.” Birk grinned foolishly.

“That all you got?” Clancy nudged Birk’s shoulder.

“So, there’s finally something you can’t do?” He pushed Clancy back. It felt good to know he had some ability that Clancy didn’t have.

“No denying that. At least what I can do serves some use. Not as if you can hop around the mine that way and get more coal out of the seams.”

“Fine by me.” Birk flipped over to his hands and walked to the edge of the dock then somersaulted back to his feet. “But I can save a bundle on shoes if I have to.”

“You mean something other than those work boots of yours?” one the guys flipped dirt onto Birk’s boots.

“Hey!” Birk shook the dust off, “These are my going to town boots. M’work boots is at home.”

“On the back stoop airing out I hope.” Clancy chided him.

“Right next your drawers.” Birk replied and backed away for the men. 

“Don’t let’em get to you.” Clancy said. “It’s all in fun.”

“Maybe.” Birk tucked his  faded blue shirt into his pants wishing he had a real belt instead of the woven burlap cord he used that tied in the front. 

The bell clanged for boarding.

When they disembarked in North Sydney it was a short walk up from the dock to the street car stop. The car filled quickly.

“Almost same as being jammed into the cage to go to the face.” Clancy said.

Birk watched the stores and people flash by as the street car rolled along. It stopped and started smoothy to let people off, take more people on.

“This how taking the train feels?” He asked Clancy.

“No. Train seats more comfortable and don’t stop often either.”

At each stop it clanged and the conductor called out where they were stopping.

“Arena.” he shouted out. “Fight tonight.”

The car emptied and started back.

“Such a waste to send it back empty.” Birk said.

Birk was glad they had sprung for these tickets before the shifts were cut. All they could afford was the standing room tickets. 

There were posters of the boxers pasted up outside the arena. Jamaica Jackson was so dark that his eyes were popping out of his head in the fighting stance he was pictured taking. There was no photo of Bodak only a woodblock drawing. The posters promised the fight of the decade between the mainland great and the hometown favorite.

“Is this Jackson a black man?” Birk asked.

“Sure looks it.” Clancy said.

Inside the North Sydney arena there was lots of talk among the men about the fighters but mostly about the troubles in the mines. Castleton Mines’s wasn’t the only colliery caught up in unrest and unhappiness about the way both management and the union was treating the miners. Shift cuts and tonnage cuts were being implemented in all the mines. Since the war the demand for steel had declined which forced the Sydney Steel Plant had gradually cut back on production and as a result needed less coal. Worse yet was the fact that for the same reasons the plants in Ontario and Quebec also need less coal.

Being in the crowd of rowdy men made Birk restless. The men in the pits he knew, here he saw very few faces he recognized. Seeing them smoking, some swigging from bottles even though Prohibition meant they weren’t supposed have access to booze at all, put him on the alert. The over-made up women around the doors and the men drinking made him feel this was the den of iniquity his mother warmed about even though he wasn’t sure what iniquity meant.

All the prime seats where already bought, by what Clancy referred to as the ‘upper muckers.’ The the standing room view they had barely allowed Birk to see the head and shoulders of Jamaica Jackson. Being taller Clancy could see a little more but not enough for him to get caught up in the fight. It only lasted four rounds with Jim Bodak’s knock-out and the crowd disappointed dispersed.

Birk and Clancy decided to walk back along Commercial Street to the harbour checking out the store windows on the main street. Hotels, tea rooms and O’Dowell and South’s recently opened department store. Three stories high in alternating dark and pale red brick. The display windows were filled with stoves, gleaming kitchen wear, clothing for men women and children, sports equipment, bicycles.

“All this in one place.” Birk was amazed. “How’s anyone afford such things.” 

He stopped at a window of manikins wearing what a sign proclaimed as “The Latest Thing For Modern Men.” at their feet were tidy arraignments of hats with gloves, motoring caps with car glove, a colourful pile of suspenders & three tiers of shoes for “True Gents.” What’s Argyle socks?”

“Which?”

“The one’s here with the weird patterns. Almost looks like a tartan.”

Clancy stepped beside him to take closer look.

“It’s a tartan alright. Not big enough cover what a kilt covers through.” Clancy laughed.

“No, but surely would cover what hides under the kilt.” Birk shook his head. “Where would one wear the likes of this.” He looked at the middle dark-grey suit with a “Hundred Percent Mohair” notice pinned under the breast pocket. 

“Funeral. Most likely.” Clancy said. “Sure not anyone at the colliery. Not even the office.”

“A shirt that white wouldn’t stay white long around here. Why’s there a piece of tie in his pocket?”

“Very smart to match your tie with your hanky.”

“Hanky? You mean they’d blow their nose in that?” Birk began to laugh.

“Yeah. Too many buttons on the sleeve to whip your nose on.” Clancy wiped away a tear as he double over laughing.

“He’d have to use his Argyle socks.” Birk stepped back to steady himself on the streetlamp. 

“You ever have anything like that?” He asked Clancy as they continued on their way.

“Can’t say as I have. Ma knitted all my socks.”

“You ever have anything store bought, I mean, besides food.”

“Those shirts of mine I bought new. Rather my ma bought new from Eaton’s catalogue.”

“Lucky guy. I can’t remember having something to wear that wasn’t a hand-me-down. Ma’d remake Geo’s old clothes to fit me. Even his wedding suit was borrowed.”

“What did you wear?”

“Clean white shirt. Even my work boots were a pair of … Jake Malloy’s … they had been re-soled for me after he died in the mine.”

“Not afraid to wear a dead man’s boots.”

“Gotta make use of everything to get by. But I wonder what that’d be like.”

“What?” They stopped at the path down to the pier. “To be dead?”

“No. To have something store-bought new that one else ever owned or wore. I think even all the dishes at home came from Ma’s family. I got nothing to really call my own.”

“There’s those that can afford new and then there’s us working folk, that breaks our backs for the coal they sells so they can buy new goods while they make sure we never can.”

“You talk same as those union guys.”

“I suppose I am but even those union guys can’t afford to shop here. We can’t and probably never will.”

They waited on the dock for The Dingle Dandy to return after taking its first load of passengers over to New Castleton.

“Look who it is.” Manny O’Dowell came along the dock with a couple of other miners Birk recognized. 

Birk could tell they had been drinking from the careless way they walked. Manny flicked the cigarette he was smoking into the water.

“Sometimes I get out from underground.” Birk said.

Manny took a step closer to him and sniffed. “You don’t stink o’the pits either. That was the best part of getting that promotion. Getting away from the stink of you.”

Birk’s fists clenched.

Manny turned to his friends. “Sometimes I wondered if he ever wiped that hairy rat’s ass of his.”

Manny and his friends laughed.

“Or if he wiped with one of the rats.”

“You fat …” Birk fist darted out and sent Manny sprawling into his friends.

Manny got up and came at him, flailing his arms. He was too drunk to put much force behind his blows.

His pals began to laugh and pulled him back.

“Manny you certainly isn’t no Jim Bodak.”

Manny reeled around to his friends. “I suppose you guys think you can do better?”

The Dingle rang it’s departure bell and they got on.

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

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice-cream in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet