Nothing Doing 

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.

Nothing Doing 

when I came of age

I left the village

I was gone for many years

before I came back

there was nothing to draw me back

I left under clear skies

with no anger or attachments

except to certain of my memories

that I have been writing here for those of you

who are interested in times long ago

when things weren’t as they are today


when I went back to my village

I was surprised how little things had changed

sure they allowed night at night

but the cathedral still stood

so that boys could break the windows

so the bishop could intone

the service of moose divinity

that was to lead us to righteousness and piety

the choir wasn’t as good as it was in my day

the boys weren’t as dedicated to it

what with play stations and laser pointers

to keep them amused

they felt no need to sing

the Whistling Woods still howled

with a late night wind

that brought back even more memories for me


I walked the streets of the village

along the dock side

now a mere family stroll area

the fleets no longer going to trawl

the smelt being fished out

there as nothing for the fishermen to do

the moose had been about depleted

which was one of the reasons

I left with so few regrets

the old ways were being replaced by nothing

no one could figure out what to do

how to make boys into men

sending us off to war was one way

and many of us were willing to fight

even if we didn’t understand

what we were fighting for

there was public shaming

of those of us who wouldn’t fight

but making boys into body counts seemed pointless

so many of us to left

to make our way in the world


a world where it was so hard to find

what made a man man

it was more than well lit strip bars

it was more than money cars electric toys

it was something that many of the lads

who left with me never found

they were dragged into the morass

of quick hit drugs and flashy feelings

to escape the sense

that they could never prove themselves

the lessons I had learned from the girls

held me well though

I continued to undress men

though unlike the boys of my youth

these men weren’t willing to sit still

they were always in a hurry to get naked

get clothed to be on their important way


life outside the village was better and worse

I was never sure if I was to be happy

or if I was to mope about

how things had changed

I liked the change

liked being in the flow of a life

bigger than my village life

but at the same time

this big city lacked the legends and lore

that had comforted me

the red and silver here are decorative

they mean nothing

the strip bars are antiseptic and numbing

the women had no respect for the sacred pole


I lacked for nothing

yet felt nothing

It was some twenty years after I left the east coast before I returned. Much like my narrator I left with no real attachments to anyone, any place or even anything. There were no family issues that needed to be fixed either. I never felt the need to go back to prove how well I was doing. I didn’t miss anything about the place in face.

When I did go back it wasn’t quite stepping back in time but not much had changed physically. They were in the midst of tearing down the steel plant & cleaning up the soil – at one it was the most polluted place in Canada – but that’s another story. The last I was back that work was complete & it was weird seeing the levelled land that was once belching hot smoke & filled with hundred of men risking life & limb to put food on the table. That hot smoke was corroding their lungs & the lungs of anyone who lived close & breathed it in.

When I do visit one of the things I do is walk to school. I went to several different schools as removed around in the city. Some were gone, replaced by modern school boxes. One remained. Next time I visit I may see about actually going into the school to see what memories the corridors hold for me.

Many of the churches remain but have been closed due to lack of congregation. I was never a couch going kid, nor was my family, so all the references to the Cathedral are fantasy. There was a real division between the Catholics & all other faiths though. Some of the rituals in Village Stories as based on real rituals mixed with wiccan ceremony.

One of things I did grow up with was this need to prove myself a man. Being gay didn’t take that easy, perhaps impossible. I wasn’t a rough-houser by any stretch of the imagination. It seemed the only way to be a ‘man’ was to get married, have kids, get drunk & beat them – that was a real man. Being ‘male’ was demonstrated by mindless use of women for sexual gratification.

As I progressed through this series I tried to retain some of the whimsy but as you might tell it becomes a little rooted in reality – at least in an emotional reality. Leaving home was one of the ways one became an adult but just as the villagers wanted to step into the future my narrator discovers that the step doesn’t fulfill as promised. Not that it was an empty promise but he’s human – we all want to still believe in a literal Santa Claus as opposed to the spirit of giving.


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

Tuesday – September 19 – feature – Art Bar Poetry series – 8 p.m., Free Times Cafe, #20 College At., Toronto – $5.00http://It’s No Accident

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