TOpoet.ca fills the gap between form and content where he strives to give an objective presence to imaginary constructions of bourgeois or radical psychology. He embraces the realm of the ‘superficial’ as a refusal of ‘substance,’ which is culturally inscribed in heteronormative terms. TOpoet is a poet, short-story writer & novelist who has hit stages from Sydney, Nova Scotia to San Francisco, California - in Toronto he has performed at HOWL, Cryptic Chatter, Hot-Sauced Words, Poetic Justice, Word Jam, The Art Bar, Word on the Street, Pride, Queer West Fest, Plasticine Poetry & The Beautiful and the Damned.
Moving along the ‘j’ shelf of my jazz collection we come to the Jazz Crusaders. I have as stand alones: at the Light House, Chile Con Soul, Old Socks New Shoes. On a nearly 7 hours Mp3 collection: Les McCann & the Jazz Crusaders: Jazz Waltz, & Way Back Home 4 cd set. plus; The Modern Jazz Quartet: Plastic Dreams, Bluesology, In Memoriam 1974. These groups represent opposite ends of the jazz spectrum.
One of my co-workers when I lived in Sydney was a major jazz fan. He loaned me many amazing lps by musicians, such a Hampton Hawes, whom I still love today. One lp was Tough Talk by the Jazz Crusaders. At the time I didn’t realize it was a best of compilation. I was taken by the use of harpsichord almost as a percussion instrument. I heard it often in pop by groups like the Left Banke, Procol Harum.
At that time I made an lp to cassette copy of many of the lps I borrowed from him & eventually replaced them with cds, then mp3. I never did find Tough Talk 😦 But did come across a 4 cd collection of the Crusaders & then some stand alones of stuff not in the collection. The group’s sound was rooted in hard bop, but with a slant towards R&B and soul music; a jazzier version of Booker T & the MG’s. The sort of music that shows up in movie scenes set in hipster night clubs.
The Modern Jazz Quartet as their name indicates a ‘serious’ quartet playing more traditional jazz – not quite chamber music but very controlled & harmonious – not freeform experimental like say, Coltrane. Piano, vibes, upright bass, quiet drums. No jazz-rock-fusion here.
I bought Plastic Dreams because of the amazing cover art. I had never heard of them before so wasn’t prepared for what I did hear. Jazzed up Christmas carols, jazzed up classical music & originals. Not as bouncy as Brubeck but similar. Tasteful, controlled like a dry martini – whereas The Crusaders are funky, nearly juke-joint sloppy like a Singapore Sling. I enjoy them both.
On The Exams
She was the first person I had met who had suffered the loss of an elbow. I had so many questions I wanted to ask but knew here in class wouldn’t be the right time or place. I had to know how did it happen. The nub was so smooth. Almost as if there had never been anything beyond it. Did she feel anything when it happened. Did she wake up in this morning and her elbow was gone.
A couple of the students had gone to the office to get the vice-principal. It felt like we were telling on her but something had to be done and we students didn’t know what to do.
Mr Jackson took her by the shoulders and gently lead her out of the room. “You boys behave. Someone will be with you directly.”
We did behave. We sat still, silent looking at the scattered smudge she had put on the blackboard. A few of us tried to copy it as exactly as we could. One never knew what was going to be on the exams
One of the things that Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam encouraged me to do was examine, in even greater detail, how our sense of sexual self is ‘created.’ Much of it comes from pop culture. Rampant heterosexuality dominated & even as the lgbtqia community was coming into the mainstream it often remained caught in those heterosexual behaviour constraints such as marriage for acceptance, being a good homo by adopting children to create the typical family.
Even sexual interactions were caught up in this coding – top, bottom, fem, butch, masc, whatever. This piece looks at some of the theories I read about in exploring sexuality – the wrong body has recently morphed into trans body diaspora, which, to me, it logical. But back in the day it was considered a fringe rationalization to make non-het sexuality acceptable.
Similar is the theory that one is haunted/possessed by the spirit of the opposite sex- so its really not me that likes men but the ghost of the woman that has taken over my body.
Both theories that I find amusing as opposed to informative or definitive. I still live in a culture that is sex-a-phobic period. As much as there appears to be an appreciation, say, for women owning their own sexuality it’s still seen through the male gaze of acceptance. It’s also a culture in which suffering is deemed authentic & while pleasure is deemed intellectually shallow.
So I’ve stopped wondering about the puzzle of my sexuality & have opted to ignore any data, any attempt to explain it & choose to enjoy because I am fine with being intellectually shallow.
Stephane quickly re-introduced Dan and Cliff, the camera person for this interview, then to Mark Forestier the father of Madeline and Gerrard the first children reported missing.
“I’ll let you two talk a few minutes,” she said. “We won’t really start shooting for about half-an-hour. Brenda is still setting up the kitchen for the real interview.”
As she left Cliff stayed behind with his shoulder mount camera aimed at Dan and Mark.
“She said we’d be alone?” Mark asked.
“Yeah, yeah. But this is to get you used to being on camera. After awhile you’ll forget I’m here. Trust me.” Cliff explained.
Dan shrugged apologetically. “They never say what they mean. You’ve lived in the Valley all your life?”
“Yep. Place has been in the family since I don’t know when.” Mark began. “Once was more of it though. You know parts got sold off over the years till this is all we have fer now. Was the biggest dairy farm in d’region. Now all been took over by the big corporations. You from around these parts?”
They walked around the yard with Cliff following them.
“I was born in Cape Breton.” Dan said. “Moved to TO when I just a kid.”
“So yer da’s from here too?”
“Yes. My mother too. She was a McPhee from Dartmouth. Then she met my Dad.”
“Marie was a Beaudroux. Her mom was from Dartmouth.” Cliff sighed. He pulled a small flask out of his coat pocket and took a long swig. “She died a few years back. Never got over the loss of our kids, you know. Even though we had another, she was never the same. Left me, you know. Blamed me. Wasn’t my fault, you know.”
“You understand? What the fuck do you think you understand?” Mark looked away from Dan. “Weren’t your life, was it.”
Cliff ’s camera followed Mark’s head as it turned. He nodded encouragingly at Dan.
“No. I just meant that it must be hard to lose something, someone like that.”
“We’re ready for you.” Stephane called to them from the back door.
They went into the kitchen.
“This such a great room Mr. Forestier. Big and bright.” Brenda said. “You must cook up a lot of great meals in here. I hope you don’t mind we moved a couple of things around for better lighting.”
She sat them at a wooden kitchen table with a bowl of apples in the middle of it. There was photo album beside the bowl.
“I made you fresh coffee. Should be better than Tim’s. Hope it isn’t too strong. Now you don’t have to drink it, really, but take a stop every now and then to bring it to your mouth. It’ll make this more casual. How does that look?” She asked Cameron, the other camera man.
“Good frame.” he replied.
Dan sipped the coffee. It was strong. He glanced over his shoulder and on the kitchen counter behind them there was a couple of green glass vases placed to catch the sun.
Mark fidgeted in his chair, took another swig from his flask, then settled down.
“Place never look this tidy.” He said. He leaned over to whisper to Dan. “Stopped usin’ it much of late. Only when Stacy comes over.”
“Stacy?” Dan glanced down at his notes. “Right, your other daughter. The one you had after …”
“Yeah, we though it might help us get over things but it didn’t. Nothing helped.”
“Okay,” Stephane said. “We’re all set. Don’t worry about pausing to think we can edit all that out to make it smooth. You don’t even have to make sense. That’s our job.”
Dan took another sip of his coffee and looked to Mark for a sign that he was ready to start. Mark smiled back.
“Thank you for letting us into your home Mr. Forestier.”
“I wish I could say it was a pleasure but no one likes to reach back into the past for unpleasant memories. But if this’ll help solve what happened I’m willing to try.”
“How old were your children that summer?” Dan asked.
“Mad was nine and Gerrard was seven. They got along so sweet, you know, fer bother and sister, that is. She’d help with his school work even though he didn’t want help. We thought she might …” he hesitated, “to grow up to … ” he wiped a tear away, “ … to be a school teacher.” He started to get out his flask, stopped and took a sip of his coffee.
“Take your time.” Dan said. He wondered about the nature of memory. How would his Dad have described his relationship with his sister Linda? All he could remember was how distant she was when she wasn’t tormenting him.
“You have some photos of them?” Dan asked. “I’ve only seen these pictures.” He put copies of the Unsolved Cold photos on the table.
“That’s the sundress Marie made for her. Man she loved them flowers. Daisies.” He looked Dan in the eyes. “That was taken just a few days before … whatever happened. They had been down at Ma G’s.”
“Ma G?” Dan consulted his notes.
“My mother’s sister. She owned the farm over by ours. Raised me. More like a grandmother than an aunt. My mother died giving birth to the one after me.”
“They visited Ma G often?” Dan asked.
“They were always going over there when they could. Marie and I had so much to do around here, you know, we really didn’t have that much time to keep on eye on them every minute. Not that we ignored them or neglected them you know but we’ll … we let them run loose. That’s how I was brought up around here too you know. My folks had ten kids so there wasn’t always an eye on us anyway. You come from a big family?”
“No. There was just me and my sister. Unlike your Madeline, she hated to mind me. Came a time when she couldn’t even be bribed to babysit me.” I was so happy when that torment ended.
“Ma G was happy to do that. It wasn’t that far a walk there fer them. Short cut through the orchard took less than five minutes to get there. The road’ll take twenty minutes, at least.”
“They didn’t take the shortcut that day?”
“Nope. If they had it might have been different, you know. But the rain had made the stream into a swamp. Heavy rain always did that. It’s since dried right up. Thanks to … well, that’s a different thing isn’t it. How modernizing hasn’t really improved things much.”
“About that day.” Dan saw that he was going have keep this interview on track. “You didn’t realize they were missing right away?”
“No, they often stopped overnight with Ma G. So often, nothing need to be said. Ma G didn’t take to the phone. Christ, it was the 80’s, right. Anyone without a phone was just stubborn. If she had one we might have found out sooner. Different these days with cellphones and such.”
“Once we knew that wasn’t here we got ahold of Dave down in Shediac.” “Dave?” Dan looked at his notes.
“My cousin Dave Forestier. He was in the RCMP there. They come over right away. Asking us lots of questions. Made me feel like they thought we knew more than we were saying. Making it seem it was our fault, or that we had done it. You know. Did away with our own kids.” He punched the table and the coffee mugs bounced into the air. Dan kept his from spilling over.
“Sorry about that, still gets me steamed up. Dave was no help to us. Said those trained from the mainland felt they knew better than locals. I figure if they had done started a search faster instead of asking us questions and questions they might have found them. Gerrard was so excited about getting back to school you know. I can’t remember me ever being that excited about school. I hated it.”
“They didn’t find anything?”
“Nothing. No one saw them on the road or the highway or anywhere. It was as if those kids never existed. Except they did. I … it wasn’t until those Cold Canada people got in touch with me that I even looked at these.” He flipped open the photo album.
“Not that I forget what happened but after decades life goes on. Marie never did get over it though. She blamed me for trusting Ma G too much. What was I supposed to do? They’re both dead now, too. Ma G died of grief, I’m sure, before the end of the year. She never forgave herself. Never.” He got up from the table, yanked out his flask and drank. “I need to take a break.” Mark left the house. Cliff followed him.
The camera lights shut off. Ma G’s death was not in Dan’s notes. He knew Marie had died but there was nothing about the family after the disappearance. The part of picture you never get to see – where the people go after the wedding photo shoot.
Time to continue the tour of my house as we move upstairs to bed & bath. The bathroom has remained one of the least ‘decorated’ rooms the house – too, much moisture for one thing. There are shelves of towels, body wash, shaving stuff so the room is cluttered enough as it is.
This stained-glass star is in the bathroom window. Handmade by my partner before we met it is one of the oldest object d’art that isn’t shop bought. He made couple of such pieces at a workshop he took one summer. We did have remains of this stained glass supplies for decades & I got rid of them in my covid cleaning frenzy.
I won this sunset (or is it sunrise) train track photo in a GenX Bears fund-raising raffle in the early 2000’s. I think they were raising money for their Pride Parade float. A friend was a member of the group. It was, as I recall, a ‘blind’ raffle, in which I knew the range of prizes but they were assigned randomly. I was happy to get this & it was perfect for over the toilet – I can gaze down the endless track of life as I pizza my life away 🙂
Across the hall is my bedroom which is relatively uncluttered – unless you count the dressers, racks of cds, book case, shelves of frequently used clothes as clutter 🙂 This wonderful Tarzan poster what a birthday gift from my fans at Cabaret Noir. I have seen the film – Acquanetta fulfills hetero teen boy exotica fantasy, while Weissmuller & Sheffield fuelled many a confused lad’s sexuality as, like me, we wondered how they kept their junk hidden under those loincloths while swinging through the jungle.
While I’m going about exotica fantasy – these jungle ‘epics’ were where many saw an abundance of hairless male flesh in our formative years. In particular, when I’ve seen some of these recently, as well some set in the jungle serials – I am delighted by the abundance of bare chested native guides, bearers & tribal kings. I wonder if any historian of black performers in movies has looked at this pool of performers.
This Japanese noren was a gift from a Japanese friend. It is a door hanging, about half-a-door in length, split down the middle. The samurai protects my room from negative energy 🙂 While the celebrants usher in good vibes. The leaf leads to my Peace Lily.
On the wall, by the door, is this marvellous piece of religious kitch. A print I bought framed at an antique store, not longer there, near Queen & Broadview. It was love at first sight. Early 1900’s. This was a very popular subject – there are dozens of variations of the trouble soul clinging to the rugged cross in the storms of life. I love the face of Christ at the top of the cross – almost like seeing him in a piece of toast.
Next in the ‘m’ section is Mighty Baby: The Action, Mighty Baby, Jug Of Love, Tasting The Life Live 1971; Amen Corner (Scream and Scream Again); King Crimson: In The Court of the Crimson King (Bonus tracks). Beautiful People: If 60’s were 90’s: bonus Remixes.
Mighty Baby started out as The Action. I’d never heard of them until a track came up in my Tumblr feed a few years ago. There is an endless number of this good British bands that never made it to the North American market. Good wasn’t enough 🙂 The Lps are enjoyable if unexceptional. Solid pub pop that reflects prevailing trends with a touch of prog, some strong Traffic influences, psychedelic & music hall. Sound quality is good.
Amen Corner is similar though more ‘arty.’ They reminded me of groups like Savoy Brown, Procol Harum. I knew their name but had never heard them until they showed up in the horror movie ‘Scream and Scream Again.’ There was movie trend to include scenes with actual current pop groups. So Amen shows up in a disco scene singing the title song & looking like a dandified version of the Zombies. It’s clear that the dancers aren’t facing to the song the band is supposedly playing. They don’t have any scenes with the film’s star Vincent Price. Another fine British group that never crossed the ocean This is a sort of ‘best of’ collection. btw Amen Corner is out of Cardiff – Welsh pop 🙂
King Crimson is a British group that did make in big in America. I love In The Court of the Crimson King & added this re-mastered released that has live bonus tracks. This is the epitome of prog rock, psychedelic flower-power pop. It lives up to its reputation.
Lastly a reissue of Beautiful People’s If 60’s were 90’s with bonus remixes. As this is sampled & remixes of Jimi Hendrix to begin with it now has remixes of some of those remixes. I love this lp – I had it for a time as a stand-alone then opted for this remastered reissue. Hendrix purists dislike this but it is fun, funky, inventive and the remixed remixes are great.
In The Class Room
“Could you pass me that book’?” Mrs. McLean gestured with the stump of her left arm.
“This one?” I picked up the English text that had fallen off her desk.
She had two arms yesterday. In her sleeveless flowered yellow dress the stump was odd. A left arm that ended just before the elbow and nothing on the other side. As if it was a trick of the light; that my eyes were almost seeing what was once there.
I didn’t want to stare too obviously. It wasn’t red or raw, the end was smooth, healed. It seemed impossible to me that less that twenty-four hours ago she had a flesh and blood arm there & now it was gone. I wanted ask her what happened. Then I hoped maybe she’d tell us what it had happened.
She went to the board and started to write with an apparatus two of the students helped strap to her left arm. Her writing was jagged, child-like & it got worse as she went along. At one point she rubbed some of it off with her right shoulder. She stopped abruptly with her back to us, her head pressed to the blackboard, sobbing.
Not to wear clothes when you slam the door behind you
Not to let on how you really feel just leave
Not to came back apologetic
Not to fish for more than there is to catch
Not to ignore that there is always a catch
Not to damn the bare body
Not to be the last one to know
Not skip lunch
Not to be afraid of knowing
Not Not Not Not
The rule that prompted this one is the actual first line – it was intended to avoid having whomever the monk visited offer them lunch. Word association kicked it off – over staying your welcome came to mind quickly. Without a second thought it became a list poem of variations on what not to do.
Some of the nots combine nots that have come before. Some are almost aphorisms ‘not to fish for more than there is to catch’ which is also a play on ‘fishing for a compliment’ also springs from ‘eating fish on Friday’ which is a Catholic commandment – the miracle of the bread & fish takes some of this into a very biblical subtext.
Canadians have a reputation for politeness – I will not say what’s on my mind lest I offend someone. Though I suspects more a case of – I will not say what’s on my mind lest I get too much attention 🙂 As a result some of this not list are admonitions to placate – they struggle to find the balance between being firm and being aggressive. If you are like me there comes a point when you don’t care. If you think I’m a prick, such is life.
The best list poems, to me, start to hint at a story. This one is about lovers not getting along, or are they playing out a familiar structure of push-pull, argue-make up, control-resistance. It almost reads like a magazine list of ‘do’s & don’t’s’ to make a relationship work. I don’t think I’ve ever slammed a door, that wasn’t asking for it 🙂
Dan parked his rental in the parking lot across from the sub-division station. It was clearly one of those make-work government aluminium and slab boxes that went up fast during the 90’s. Post offices, Canada Manpower and RCMP buildings erected to ratify local communities, get votes in a coming election to repay voters for sticking with them. Utilitarian structures he always suspected were designed by engineers or siding salesmen, not architects.
Many of the post offices had been closed down and Canada Manpower was renamed & then had branches shut down as well. Not so with the RCMP. The number of officers serving each had been reduced. He had been a bit surprised to see four officers show up at the Waterside the night before.
Corporal Tyler was behind the desk in the small reception area. There was a closed room on either side of the room.
“Manning the fort on your own?” Dan said as he approached the desk.
“What do want?” Tyler looked up him.
“Here’s the Quintex shooting schedule for the next two weeks. Where we’ll be, who are expecting to be interviewing.” He held out the pages for the Corporal.
“We have that information already.”
He didn’t take the pages from Dan so Dan laid them on the desk.
“My cell number is there too. In case you need you contact us.”
“We have a contact numbers already. Stephanie Carter gave us her’s. As did Mr. Baxter.”
“I see. Is Sergeant Coster in today?”
“No. She’s not stationed here.”
“Oh!” So Dan was correct in assuming this was a sub-division. “She’s at the Moncton detachment?”
“What business is it of yours?”
“I don’t want to tread on the wrong boot toes.” Dan joked. “I’ve been through enough of that when I was in the ranks.”
“More like treading on the wrong jockey shorts in your case.” As Tyler stood up he raised his voice. “It didn’t take much for me to check you out Mr. James.”
“The past is the past. If you checked me out you’d know the tribunal found nothing to justify the charges.”
“Look,” He leaned towards Dan. “We both know how that system works. You were wise not to stick around after you were found so innocent. Even if you were innocent we don’t need pervs like you representing the Force.”
“If that’s an issue for you then I’ll recommend some sensitivity training for the division.” Dan wished he had been able to keep his mouth shut but whenever he hit this not-so-hidden hostility he found himself lashing out instead of being rational.
Tyler took a deep breath and came from behind his desk.
“Sensitivity! You big shot assholes come down here looking for publicity not for anything more.” He was about to push Dan in the chest with his index finger but stepped away. “It’s a fucking TV show out for ratings, so don’t act as if you have anybody’s interest in mind expect your own. Paid for by sponsors who don’t care about completion or whatever you want to call it.” He went behind his desk. “Digging up old memories that’ll upset people who have learned to live with the past just to make a couple of bucks.”
Dan stepped back as Tyler was nearly spitting on him.
“You doing this job because you have deep spiritual compassion & care about people or for your pay check?” Dan asked. “At least I’m not wasting tax payers money. It is them that pays your salary. Right?”
“You say we’re wasting tax payers money! You’re like every tourist who comes down here looking for quaint and then getting pissy with us for not wanting to to put on our dress reds and pose with you.”
“Look, just because you were led on some wild goose chase is not my fault. I know you had to follow up that tip. Now I’m trying to set things on the right track.
“As for the the dress reds I know that drill. I was stationed in Saskatoon for two years as a part of my training. There isn’t enough money to protect the public the way it thinks it needs to be protected by the fucking musical ride. That’s nobody’s fault.” Dan lowered his voice. “Sorry I didn’t mean to shout at you.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not sorry I did. Anything else I can do for you?”
“No. I’ll keep you posted if there are any last minute changes to this.” I tapped the production schedule he had put on the desk.
“Don’t expect me to thank you.”
“I don’t. By the way did you hear the tip that was brought you to the Waterside?”
“I’m not privy to that information. If I was I wouldn’t be allowed to divulge that to you.”
Dan went back to his car. The time he put in at Saskatoon was still fresh enough in his mind that he understood some of Sgt. Tyler’s irritation. The press would frequently question their procedures as if they knew better than the RCMP how to conduct an investigation or how to deal with criminals in general. Always clambering for services that there wasn’t money or manpower for, or that the Charter of Rights didn’t allow for in the first place. Every crime became the force’s fault for not preventing.
He could also imagine how he would have felt if some amateur film crew showed up to investigate something he had already looked into. Not that he was an amateur. Any new information they did uncover wouldn’t make the local forces look good for missing. All the more reason not to keep stepping on the wrong toe boots.
Sgt. Tyler must have been on his own in there. No one came out to see what they were shouting about. Even the sub-stations always had two officers on duty at the station at all times. As he pulled out he saw the branch SUV pull in to the division’s parking area.
Corporal Coster and another officer got out of the car. The man was probably the area staff sergeant. Did he want to talk with them? No. That was enough cooperation with the authorities for one day.
An acquaintance in recovery, someone whom at one time I guided through step work & some life decisions, called me recently. I haven’t heard from them in three or four years. They called to make an amend for their overly intellectual stance on sexual issues.
I wasn’t sure what to say. At the time I knew them, I never felt one way or the other about their stances on anything. I certainly was never offended or hurt by anything they said. An amend is to address damage done, offences given. When we went our separate ways it was with no rancour on my part.
Part of the process of recovery is to grow & change & to move on when one feels it is time to do so. I didn’t see any need then, or now, for them to apologize for moving on with their growth. I listened while they went though their amend & didn’t feel the need to ask for any more information than they gave me. I said I accepted the amend. We joked a little about covid & keeping safe & that was that.
It did remind of the last time a member made an amend to me earlier in my recovery & I accepted it. A month later he accused me of not even being able to accept an amend – apparently I was supposed to say how much I appreciated their humility & how hard it must have been for them to make the amend to begin with. But much like this most recent amend I had felt nothing much about the incident he was being humble about.
I also kept that to myself – why diminish what was important to them by saying it was nothing to me. I did look back on our interaction -nothing that transpired stood out for me. I listened, they talked, I made supportive comments & when directly asked gave opinions. Life goes on. There’s no need to make amends for that.