Blessed Breasts


For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton. Check the Village Stories page for links previous pieces in this series posted in July/August 2014, July/August 2015

Turn of the Century

for a century my village

was forbidden to have light after dark

when that ban was to come to an end

some were happy

others  were fearful

we had managed to live well and content

all these years – why change

why let light into to strip joints

where the writing on the blessed breasts

could be seen

it would lose its power in that harshness


discussions were held in the cathedral

to prepare the citizens for the transition

some felt we hadn’t fully atoned

for the curse that plunged us into darkness

not even the bishop could tell us

what that sin was

he knew but to mention it was forbidden

it was so horrid he could not

or even write it for others to see

like our nights

our sins were to be kept in the dark

out of sight but not out of mind

we carried the taint of transgression in our blood


as a boy I wasn’t allowed a say in the discussion

I wasn’t sure

if I was ready to leap in the full light of

the adult world

now that I am an adult

I wish our village had stayed in the dark

that we had retained that vestige of our past

a century isn’t such a long time

a few more years of the unlit comfort of night

would have been sweet nourishment


I’ll never forget that new year’s eve

when the century mark was reached

we were in the cathedral listening

for the tinkle of the moose bell

as it chimed down each second

abruptly at midnight lights when on

the village was bathed in artificial light

store windows strip bars fishing boats


every light was illuminated

to wash away the past

shadows I had never seen were created

dust that had never been swept was revealed

the air was filled with shouts of joy

mixed with screams of fear


I no longer had to lead my sisters home

from their shifts at the fission plant

or their duties at the strip bars

as these chores of childhood

began to slip away I became a man

in a world of light and shadows

an adult wandering and longing

for the dark once again


This another piece in which I explore some of roots of the myths. Some of them had no ‘back story’ when they first came to me – the unlit strip bars in particular – the initial idea was that paradox of going to strip bars where one couldn’t see the strippers. As the series developed the spiritual signifies of sacrifice & light became clearer to me.

10blue02There’s also a sense of how small towns are reluctant to progress. Things like Sunday drinking, then Sunday shopping were major political issues at one time, even here in Toronto Sunday shopping was limited to areas, some stores would have aisle blocked off if they were opened on Sunday.

10blue03With each piece I tired to expand the various elements of the myth I had invited – the role of the moose, of the strip bars, the power of light itself. New elements would appear – the village’s curse for example – elements that would be seeds for future development should I want to pursue them. Some out of the blue, others from actual Cape Breton history. There was a heavy water plant at one time hence the fission plant, which is also a play on the fish processing plants that eventually closed.

Here too is more that need for my hero’s life to change – as his village steps into the light, he worries about stepping into the light of adulthood but longs to do it at the same time.10blue04

I love the notions of religion, the taint of sin that a family can never remove, what is kept hidden yet is always there. I enjoy the sense of loss that is felt when all is revealed. Why will we do without our guilty secrets, were we better off in the dark?


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington – sweet,eh?

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