glueleg vs Gnarls

glueleg is a Canadian band you might not expect me to enjoy as much as I do. I have as stand-alones: Heroic Doses, Clodhopper. A now defunct Toronto band they had a hard-edged progressive, art-rock sound – think punk Blood Sweat & Tears! That’s right or even Chicago thanks to a section of sax, trumpet along with their distinctive grunge sound. Reminiscent of Kind Crimson – they even do a cover version of Red.

 

I saw a video on MuchMusic – remember when that as a video channel? The horn sound held my attention – the rhythm  was a bit clunky in a funky boozy jazz way. The lyrics were a bit surreal but romantic in the hetero angsty way. A rare Canadian art-rock band that worked well without feeling contrived or bored with it all. 

 

Next is Gnarls Barkley. I have St. Elsewhere, the odd couple as stand-alones. Yes there is a sprinkle of ‘modern’ pop in the my collection 🙂 These guys produced great summer hits that are an updated Marvin Gaye – r’n’b, urban trip-hop that is not overly challenging. I’d say it is perfect radio music but who listens to the radio anymore? I guess it’s perfect Spotify music (I don’t have Spotify).

 

Not as overtly sexual as say LMFAO but with the same pop smarts. Beautifully engineered the band is a delight to hear on headphones. Danceable, romanic, humorous, hetero music that is safe for the whole family. It’s good to know that there is urban music that isn’t all anger & angst. Crazy, eh?

Thought 

The phone hadn’t rang all night. Dave kept hearing it though, over the sound of the dishwasher, while he vacuumed but it didn’t ring. Not once.

If his sister thought he was going to be a hotel at a moment’s notice she had another thing coming. This place was barely large enough for him, let alone her and Sally.

The phone didn’t ring. He picked it up several times times to call her but stopped. Calling would  only alert her mistake, as she called Matt, the guy she had married.

He could still see that wedding photo taken at the reception. She and Matt by a painting. He figured they weren’t aware of that painting. But he couldn’t miss the fact that it was a sailing ship going down in a storm with the face of Christ in the clouds offering salvation. An omen.

Only he was no salvation for anyone. No, she’d have to make other arraignments. Besides that letter was postmarked almost a week ago. If they were going to arrive they would have been there by now. 

The phone hadn’t rung. A good omen.

He wasn’t going to lose sleep over this. Couldn’t. Too much to do at the denim mine tomorrow. New shipments to sort. Make more sales. His real life. The life that give him purpose, accomplishment.

The vacuuming done he put the Hoover in its corner of the front closet. Closets in apartments were just too small. No storage space for much of anything. If he bought anything new he had to get rid of something else to make space for it. Kept life simple and compact.

Yes that was good. No room for anything more. 

No room for dolls, sister’s suitcases. She would bring the dog too. Was he allowed a dog in this building? Yes he’d seen some on the elevator. Stoop and scoop. Oh no, not him. Something to teach Sally to do.

It was nearing midnight. Everything was in order once again. Ready for the wave of his morning departure to scatter things here and there so that when he returned from work he had something to do, something to look forward to. Yes it felt good to make things neat and tidy. Kept them in their place.

The phone didn’t ring all night.

Dave drifted off to sleep quickly. Another dreamless night

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6


http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked)
 capfireslam.org 

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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

 

Saying Too Many Names

At the end of 2017 there was no proof of a Toronto serial killer – the lgbtq community was merely being theatrical – it was just a bunch of swishy, disgruntled attention seekers who didn’t feel getting the right to marriage was enough to keep their fucking mouths shut. They weren’t professionals whose duty it was to protect the public. 

Four months later we have an alleged serial killer with, so far, eight murder charges against him. Apparently these guys start young so the case has been extended back to the 70’s! The disgruntled, attention seeking police are now even more disgruntled at being denied the opportunity to march in the Pride Parade. So this is how we show our gratitude for all they do for the community. I just hope evidence doesn’t end up ‘compromised’ as the case advances. That sort of mishandling never happens

As I see the photos and information about these men, who are all dead (& that is incontestable) I am sadden to see that some of them had never been reported missing in the first place. Such as Kanagaratnam who was probably murdered in 2015. Did families figure ‘oh he’s gone to work in Calgary & will get in touch when he is successful enough?’ Were the families so fearful of the police thanks to their experiences in their troubled home countries? Or where they like Dean Lisowick, men no one really cared what happened to? 

 

These are the identified victims (so far) Selim Esen, 44,; Abdulbasir Faizi, 44; Majeed Kayhan, 58; Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37;  Andrew Kinsman, 49; Dean Lisowick, 47; Soroush Mahmudi, 50; Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40. I’ll repeat their names. His will probably never be forgotten so there’s no need for me to mention it.

La Mer

What I miss most about the sea

is the sound of waves

                              Not

The waves themselves

With their deeply melodic cold

Or their careless foam caps

But their thunder

as they blast the kelpy rocks

   Lightning in a hail of night

 

What I miss most about the night

is the black of waves

                             Not

The dark itself

With its ungiving distance

Or its depth of stars

But its moon

As it unfurls unwilling waves

   Flags in triumphant passage

 

What I miss most about the passage

Is the motion of waves

                                Not

The heave itself

With its unbreathing breath

Or its reflections of the moon

But its tongue

As it rolls pebbles into sand

   Raindrops calming the sea with kisses

 

What I miss most about kisses

Is the waves of sleep

                             Not

The sleep itself

With its endless silver bed

Or its too soon morning yawn

But its caress

As it nudges my fathomless ache

Sirenes tugging me to the sea of you

What I miss most about the sea

Is you

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6


http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked) capfireslam.org 

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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

 

Isolation

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks. Who knew the simple life could be so complex. This another of the 92 pācittiyas.

Isolation

we’re doing this

for your own good

think of this cell

as your special place

a safe haven

from everyone around you

where no one is around you

no one to judge

mock

manipulate you

 

a place where you can be

yourself

regardless of how difficult

others will find that self

they won’t have to learn

how to get along with you

nor will you have to compromise

in any way to fit in

 

isolation

will make everyone happy

comfortable

because being comfortable

is better than accepting change

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

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

Hip To Be Them

 

Hip To Be Them

because of my entitlement

pronouns are irrelevant

but to some 

every he his him

in a text is an attack

on their identity

they feel discounted distanced

 

I could think

don’t be such sensitive

cry babies

who feel every thing in life

that doesn’t kowtow to your comfort

is an attack on your sense of self

but I accept this sense

of being made invisible

being treated as a non-person

not included 

not seeing yourself represented

in a meaningful respectful way

 

I grew up as a queer boy

who never saw otherness of any kind

represented except in a sneering way

that equated gay with feminine

setting the standard

that anything not masculine 

was not valued

 

if it wasn’t represented 

it didn’t exist

or merely wasn’t worth representing

I began to realize

that mens’ fragile masculinity

wouldn’t allow anything

to reflect on that fragile masculinity

so buddy movies always had the

culturally acceptable romance subplot

so no one could sense any homoerotic 

shenanigans were possible

between the men

 

pronouns have become relevant

definition creates awareness & possibly change

but because it’s irrelevant to me 

what pronouns anyone chooses

that doesn’t keep me from respecting

its relevance to you

I sometimes forget who has opted to be a them. I find it awkward to do a review of a poetry reading when there are assorted pronouns to deal with which them is them referring to? I try to stick to names as much possible particularly when it isn’t clear who is a they from the outset. At the Playground Conference people were given stickers to chose from – he, she, they, or ask me. I chose the ask me, but no one did. At my age one is no longer considered sexually viable & are rendered invisible – so pronouns are my irrelevant.

 

Gendered neutral language is still so tentative that using it is a political statement. I wonder if sometimes people are looking to be argumentative rather than self-defining – a sense that use of pronouns covers the itch to get into a intellectual slap fight. If one chooses to use the pronoun that goes with their cisgender, regardless of how supportive they are, they become the enemy for not shedding culturally imposed grammar.

I like the way that gender roles are being challenged by something as simple as specifying a pronoun. The reactions to this have mainly been cisgendered heterosexual men who are intrenched in their right to decide just how you are to demonstrate your gender – i.e. all gay men are limp wristed feminine punch lines to jokes. Any challenge to their entitlement turns them into self-righteous victims of the very people they want to victimize.

Fragile masculinity forces these men to say things like ‘no homo’ rather than express some sort of affection towards another men. They respect a bully and elect proudly womanizing presidents. Imagine if that president wanted to be called they – I half expect him to start using the royal we. Personally I have chosen “it” or “that” for use in my bio, or, when given the opportunity, at conferences or readings.

   

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

Coal Dusters Chapter III

Chapter III

Birk Teaches Clancy Sinclair A Lesson

When he was back in his spot Birk chopped faster, sent larger chunks of coal down to Clancy. He didn’t worry about making them smaller as he had for the first load. Let Clancy break ‘em. Call him a monkey would he. Time to show that soft arse how hard mine work was.

When he knew there was enough for another load he scrabbled back to Clancy. 

“Gettin ‘re done b’y.” He peered at the scree. “Not bad.”

He pounded hard with the head of his pick to reduce the larger chunks. The smaller the pieces the more the cart hold. The more they shipped up the more they would get paid.

After the third load Birk got his lunch pail from the niche by one of the support staving. He hunched with his back against the wall and opened it up. Clancy leaned gingerly against the wall, his legs stretched out as far as he could in the space they had. He rubbed at his back.

“Being big’s not always good, eh?” Birk said. “Some never gets to stand up straight after a a few months down here. You’ll see’em hunched wherever they go in or out of the mine.” He took a swallow of his tea. Didn’t taste right without a bit of sugar. He rinsed his mouth with it and spat it out. Cleaning his mouth of coal dust as best as he could before biting into his lunch. Bread with some grease drippings spread on it. Today he had a thin piece of the wedding cake. His sisters had already picked the icing off it. The bit of sweetness left almost cut through the taste of the coal in his mouth. The cake was as tasteless as the bread. He wondered if he could dissolve it his tea to sweeten that some.

“Done?” he shut his pail.

“Yep.”

“Back to it then b’y.”

“Yep.”

“That all ya got ta say?”

“Not much of a talker.”

“Couldn’t shut Manny. Talk the head off a rat given the chance.”

“Yeh, well, its bad enough t’work with one let alone wanna to talk to one while I’m eatin’.”

Birk twisted around. 

“I’m a rat, eh? Monkey ‘s bad enough, ya snotty main lander.” He swung at Clancy and slipped on the uneven ground at the same time.

Clancy was on top of him, batting at Birk’s ribs then ears. 

“You half-size rat giving me orders all day. Think l’m going to put wid that.”

Birk got one knee into Clancy’s stomach and pushed him off. The tunnel wasn’t high or wide enough for either of them to stand and take punches. They wrestled each other to his knees. Head butting when possible.

Birk could taste blood in his mouth.

“Yer a tough guy for a rat you know.” Clancy had his forearm under Birk’s chin. “Smell worse than one, too.”

Gasping, Birk hit Clancy as hard as he could in the side.

“Christ, breakin m’ribs.” he rolled off.

“Ya stay there for now laddie.” Birk leaned against the wall. “I got work to do. This way yer not underfoot.”

Birk went back the face he was working on. Each blow of his pick axe was a blow into the grinning face of Clancy. No one pushed him around. At eighteen he’d been in the mine for five years now. He knew what he was doing and how not to take anything from anyone. If you took it yer were on the losing side. 

He could hear Clancy raking away the scree. The need to prove he was the top man here was as important as making sure they got enough coal loaded.

They worked the rest of the shift without speaking. Eating their supper in separate nooks in the shaft.

It was night when they came to the surface with the rest of their level’s day shift. Birk headed straight to the wash up room after he hung his work clothes on their hook and pulled them up to the ceiling.

This was when he moved as fast as he could. The first in got the cleanest water. He wasn’t sure where the blood in the wash bowl was from, then he recalled the dust up with Clancy. Showed him this little guy can’t be dealt with that way. 

He took a straight razor out of his lunch pail, lathered his face as best he could and began to shave under his chin. He glanced up at Clancy who was opposite him splashing water onto himself. He was trying to wash the grime out of his red hair.

“Yer hair will be black fer’ver m’son.” He stopped shaving a moment.

“Only those don’t know how to wash proper have that problem.” Clancy replied.

Birk finished his shave, rinsed his face off. The skin was always fresh to the touch when he’d done that. He ran his hand long to make sure he got most of his whiskers. Without a mirror he did as best he could. At least he missed a different spot each time.

“Get a move on,” one of the waiting miners shouted. “Some of us got dust to wash outta our arse hair too, you know.”

The miners laughed.

Birk dried himself quickly and got back into into his overalls and shirt. He could smell the clean of the shirt. His body ached for that big bed. Ah, yes, that almost made the day bearable now that he had that all to himself. Something to look forward too. No snoring Geo to deal with ever again.

“Same time tomorrow, soft arse.” Birk gave Clancy one last shove. “Keep pissin’ on them hands too or ya won’t last the week.”

Jake was at the exit gate waiting for him. Birk couldn’t wait to to tell him about the new guy he was breaking in. 

“Main landers always think they know it all.” Jake said.

“Thanks to the union we have ‘ta let ‘em work then act as if we’re the ones doing them a favour.”

When he got home he tugged off his work boots and socks. The cool air was always good on his bare feet. He tossed the socks and his face rag into a bucket and poured water over them. He’d scrub them out in the backyard later.

Blackie was home sitting at the kitchen table.

“Gotta another new guy. Why do I always get’ em. A big mouth main lander. Manny got that sweet job in the train yard. When’s the union gonna do something for me beside taking dues. I shoudda had that spot, you know. That Red Mac never considered me much.”

“My fault b’y.” Blackie nodded his head. “Should a been a mick. Not yer fault he takes his direction from the priest. Manny ‘s the priest’s pet. You know that. Probably told Red Mac the devil would get him if he didn’t do right by Manny.”

“What about right by me. I’s been there longer ‘n him, too. But I showed that new guy his place fast enough.”

“Whose his father?” Blackie asked.

“He’s outta Stellarton.”

“His Da’s probably a train man then. Wonder why he ended here and not the trains. Good money in that.”

His mother came in from the backyard with some carrots from their garden.

“Jus look at these.” She held up a some stunted roots. “Soil here’s so bad nothing grows. I tries every year and it’s the same.”

Maddy followed her in with some daisies.

“Thank you little miss.” Birk reached for them.

“They’s for Geo.” she hid them behind her back.

“I should a guessed. How long for we eat?”
“When they get here. Sheila bringing a fish stew she made to thank me for the cake I baked.” His mother wiped at the table.

“I’ll be above.” Birk went to the stairs. “How’s Sal?”
“Same. Sat up for a spell to look out the window. Weather’ll be fine soon to take her outside for awhile. Sunshine’ll fix her up fast.”

Birk went up to his room. Before he went in he looked in on Sal. She was propped up with a couple of pillows stroking the hair of a rag doll his mother had made for her.

“How’s my sweet sister today.” He said gently as he sat on the end of the bed.

“Don’t” Sal flushed in alarm. “Don’t get that dirt on dolly.”

“I … ” Birk stood and walked out of the room. “T’ think I shaved special for you. That’s all the thanks I get, eh?”

He flopped on the bed and stared at the ceiling. At least his room didn’t want to be rid of him the way his sisters did, or his new workmate did. It was a change to not have to put up with Geo hounding about the smell of his feet, as if Geo’s feet smelled of roses. Good luck to Sheila getting Geo to clean up better.

He drifted off to sleep to be wakened by loud laugher from below. His brother had arrived with his new wife. Same old Sheila but new all the same. He went down to the kitchen. 

Someone with his back to Birk was talking to Blackie. The someone turned around. It was Clancy.

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

Jolivet Chinese

Andre Jolivet is an amazing mid-20th-century genius whose music is at time as challenging as free jazz to get into (Heptade for trumpet and 6 percussionists), soothingly accessible (Incantations for solo flute) or out of this world (Concerto for Ondes Martenot). It was my love of sci/fi that brought Jolivet into my collection. The Ondes Martenot is the now cliche electronic warble used 50’s sci/fi movies. 

I was an avid Musical Heritage Society (MHS) member before I moved to Toronto. They offered a collection of Ondes Martenot that included Jolivet’s concerto. I loved it & bought from them another couple of lps. Fast forward to the more recent past when I felt it was time to up grade my lps to cd of his music to mp3. Low & behold iTunes offered a sweet box set that included more than I ever wanted but which I was delighted to have.

It includes his many concertos: Cello, harp, trumpet, flute, His music for flute is sublime, as his is writing for harp. He bridges romantic, dissonant, jazz textures and modern with work that is accessible even when it is sonically challenging it is always rewarding. 

One of Jolivet’s influences is clearly Chinese music so I opened this mp3 collection with Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra that does work like Nessun Dorma as well traditional fare like My Heart Is As Vast as the Sea. I close with with Shanghai Virtuosi & Xiaogu Zhu: China Beautiful Lady Hanfei – it sticks to traditional pieces such as the tile work & Flower Drum Dance of Fengyang. It’s always a delight to widen my musical world view. Try it you might like the view beyond Beethoven.

Sister

David stepped off the elevator. The hall to his apartment seemed endless, like a carpeted tunnel, a tube that he slid along to his door. 

He switched the letters he carried to his door opening hand. Letters! He rarely got real mail and was desperate to read the one from his sister but the elevator was full. 

Of the several things one didn’t do in crowded elevators opening mail was near the top.

He sat on his sofa and tore the envelope open.

‘Hi Dave:

It has been some time since I dropped you a line. I wish I had better news for you but I don’t. If Greg doesn’t smarten up I’ll be leaving him. I know Sal will be unhappy but we can’t stay here & live like this any longer.’

David laid the letter down. He could write the rest of it without reading it. The letter was dated nearly two weeks before the post mark so the situation wasn’t as dire as Nancy claimed. Plus she would have phoned.

He was hoping for news of his niece Sally. He scanned the rest but Sally’s name didn’t appear, only, in big letters, asshole several times. Such was married life. He was glad, in a way, that she had made that chose as it kept him from making the same one himself. She was duplicating their parents marriage.

TV didn’t look promising.  News was the same. Game shows changed people, clothes, lives and perceptions of reality. Ha! If only they could. Comedy that didn’t make him laugh, news was the same only with more cameras, news was the same, was the same.

Fortified by a real ski slope tragedy he went back to the letter but couldn’t take more than another sentence or two. He went to the last of it.

‘So if you could see it clear to let me us stay with you for a week or so I know I could pull things together.

Your sister Nancy.’

Stay here! With me! It would be a change but where would I put them. On the couch? When?

He read through the whole letter. This last paragraph looked like an add on, different ink.

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6


http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked)
 capfireslam.org 

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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

 

Pretty Pictures

On a recent Disability After Dark host Andrew Gurza has a conversation with Kayla Whaley about body image, disability & swallowing. Amongst the many things they talk about is how each has used their appearance as protection or as a way of hiding from opportunity – deciding that people will reject you because of your looks so you do it on their behalf by not giving them the chance.

Lookism runs rampant through our culture & regardless of how one tries to transcend it is inescapable. A friend of mine recently had a make-over to do some TV appearances and posted photos of it – wow! – people flooded the pics with super flattering comments about ‘prettiness’ ‘hotness’ that left me wondering – what did they think of my friend before? 

I don’t deny that I know the power of a good shirt thanks to What Not To Wear. I’ve never known how ‘flattered’ I should be when someone who has heard me perform meets me months  later & all they remember is my shirt. They don’t even remember my name. They don’t even wonder about my body image – would I want them to?

On the podcast Andrew & Kayla discuss the power of body image – how they strive to accept themselves with all their physicality in the face of what is considered cute, handsome or even presentable. They come from a history in which a disabled family member could be restricted to a single room in the house & would never appear in public. Things have changed but I know how the struggle for not only recognition but acceptance continues. There are some who say that they wish queers were back in the closet & out of public sight.

 

I like to imagine how they will feel when they see Andrew making out with some guy? Now, that’s a pretty picture.

Bed Songs

Light

I am the light that plays

across you at night

as you turn to drift into a deeper sleep

to dream of kisses so gentle

they won’t wake the dark

Intimacy

when I visit friends, strangers

I like to see where they sleep

an intimacy of knowledge

living rooms and kitchens only hint at

that bathrooms are mere prelude to

Fortune Teller

I read beds

like a fortune teller reads palms

mounds folds life lines

the placement of pillows

reveals more than revels to be

Pin

are the corners tight 

to pin dreams to sleepers

or untucked all the way round

to free the sleeper to dream

Snug

is the bed in the middle of the room

under a window 

or snug in a corner

as far from light as possible

Warm

is it still warm from you

 

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6


http://www.queerslam.com

April 03 – every Tuesday

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked)
 capfireslam.org 

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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

 

Nothing To Lose

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks. Who knew the simple life could be so complex. This another of the 92 pācittiyas.

Nothing To Lose

I was sure I left it there

it was there the last time I looked

I haven’t seen it

have you looked in here

have you looked anywhere 

or did you expect me to know

to keep an eye on things

without being asked

I don’t know where it is

I have more important things to do

no I didn’t move it

I didn’t see anyone take it

this is where I usually put it

I can’t leave the house without it

it can’t be replaced

there’s no reason for it to be moved

it has to be here always

it’s the perfect spot for it

it didn’t move itself

did it fall off the floor

is it under here

is it upstairs

did you even bring it with you

did you leave the house without it

you can always get a new one

it was time to move on

time to let go

of the hold of things

free yourself of objects

find a place

where there is nothing to lose

nothing to be looked for

nothing to be hidden

and everything

to be revealed

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

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

Falling Rocks

Falling Rocks

thinking for yourself

is a good thing

thinking only of yourself

isn’t the same good thing

 

I appreciate originality of thought

but not of disruption

when it seems

all you are interested in

is disruption

 

shaking things up

by destroying them

is not productive

not conducive to growth

when we spend more time

repairing or building anew

as opposed to building 

on what we already have

 

if what we already have

is so unsound

it will fall of its own according

and not

according to your judgement

so you can stop

jumping up and down on the earth

you may dislodge a few rocks

you can’t bring down the mountain

and those rocks 

will only fall on you

I’ve been involved with groups in which someone will come along with a great idea to improve things but only if the group does them without this someone having to take the action themselves. When the group resists or things don’t go as predicted the ‘someone’ blames others & rarely examines their initial suggestion for flaws. There are enough empty apartments, condos, & townhouses in Toronto that no one needs to be homeless. Property value trumps homelessness. Maybe housing isn’t the solution for homelessness.

I don’t pretend to be a paragon of unbiased virtue & easily see myself on all sides of this dichotomy – wanting change but sometimes unwilling to pay the cost or put in the effort to sustain such changes – particularly in the face of so many others who resist or even deny the need for change. We’ll solve homelessness by criminalizing panhandlers or by refusing to create a social system for them and sending them to where there is such a social system. Then gripe about all the panhandlers in downtown Toronto.

There are those who want the welfare system tightly controlled to eliminate fraud so only the truly deserving get the benefits of their tax money that fund that system, while they have clever accountants making sure they pay the least amount or if possible no taxes. I’ll end here before someone reports me to Canada Revenue to send those rocks down on my head. 

 

Political events in the USA were in my mind when I wrote this – people voting for Trump because of the smart changes he promised to make in the health system to give people greater freedom of choice that once he got in, they discovered their vote resulted in that they didn’t have the financial ability to enjoy the freedom of choice of accessing the benefits that had been enjoying. Ouch! Falling rocks 🙂

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

Coal Dusters Chapter II

Chapter II

Birk Nelson Gets A New Rake Man

The sun was rising over the steaming mounds of slag coal. The mound never got any smaller no matter how much was carted away to the wash plant. Coal was already being loaded into a rail car to be transported to the dock.

They went into the change room and lowered their work clothes from the overhead hangers. 

“Birk Nelson!” Red Mac, the shift foreman, called to him.

“Yeah.” Birk grabbed for his brass counter. 

“Birk,” the foreman nodded for him to come over to the small office. “This is Clancy Sinclair. He’ll be your rake man.”

“Manny was doing okay.” Birk squinted at Clancy.

Clancy looked to be a head taller than him, a lot wider in the shoulders with blond almost brown hair. 

“Not my say so,” Red Mac shrugged. “Orders from above. Manny’s moving on to the scuttle yard.”

“Fuk,” Birk spat. He had hoped to get that position. Scuttle yard was where the coal was loaded into the rail cars. It was as hard work as being under in the mines but it was above ground. All the miners longed to work above ground.
“I know you wanted it but yer too good. Yer a lucky chap Clancy. Birk Nelson is one the best we got.”

“Yeah sure. Sticking me with this skinny rat. He must disappear down there.”

“Whose yer father?” Birk asked.

“Scott Sinclair.”

“The Bras D’Or Sinclair’s?” Birk said.

“Nah, Stellarton.”

“Main lander?” Birk said.

“What of it?” Clancy replied.

Birk grabbed Clancy’s left hand. Clancy pulled it away.

“What you up to?”

“Checking to see how tough your hands is. Skin’s too soft this job.”

“Least we’ll know when my hair ‘s clean. You black as coal already.” he sniffed the air. “You sure you washed ‘for you came here?”

“Mac, you stick me with puddin’ boy here and I won’t make enough to pay for a pint let alone our tic at the pluck me.”

“Soft! Least I’m full size.” Clancy stood as tall as he could. “Not some half-sized hairy mine monkey.”

“Who you callin’ a monkey, you soft arse.” Birk launched himself at Clancy and landed two solid punches in quick succession. One to the side of Clancy’s head and the other to his stomach.

Clancy staggered back and was ready to punch back when Red Mac pushed stepped between them.

“Nuf of this. You want beat the dust out of each other do it out of my yard.”

“Then stick this soft arse with someone else ‘cause only one of us is coming back up and you know it’s me.”

“Both of you will come back. Listen and listen good Birk Nelson. You have sisters who need what you put on the table. Next time to want to take a swing at someone keep that in mind, ‘cause the next time you take a swing at me you’re out of here. You understand that.”

Birk snatched his lunch pail and rammed it under his arm.

“And you Clancy. You’re new here. You gotta learn to mind your tongue. This isn’ a place to run off at the mouth with guys you don’t know. Some here wouldn’t be as gentle wid ya as Birk here was.”

“No one calls me soft.”

“Who is to say.” Red Mac pulled himself up to his full height – a head taller than Clancy, two heads taller than Birk. “Only a soft arse would let himself get riled up this easy. And that goes for the two of you. Birk you take him down to the face with you. I’ll be down soon enough to make sure you’re acting the way men should and not school kids. Understand.”

“Yes sir.” Birk glared at Clancy. “Follow me.”

“I’m not taking orders from him. You’re not paying enough for that.”

“You want to work or not. I git plenty looking for work here me son. Plenty. You can go back to …”

“Christ! I’ll give it a try.” Clancy cut Red Mac off.

“Come along then,” Birk grunted and added under his breath, “soft arse.”

“What you say?” Clancy snapped back.

“I said come along we got a long way to go. Level Ten.”

They got into the cage with a dozen other miners. Adjusted their head lamps as it rattled down the shaft. The shift car pushed the men back and forth. Each time Clancy was forced up against Birk, Birk roughly shoved him away. 

The smell of earth got stronger as the cage descended. Earth and coal. The dampness increased. As the cage passed some levels Birk could hear water dripping, or blasts as new seams were opened. The levels spread out from the elevator shaft. Some for a few hundred yards, others went for miles. Some, such as the one on Level 10 went under the ocean. Birk still expected his pick would punch right through to the sea bed above.

Total blackness quickly enveloped the men but not all of them turned on their lamps. It was better to let the eyes adapt to the dark as quickly as possible. Birk could find his way to the face he was working on without light. 

“Stick close now or yer arse is going get hard fastern than you want it.” Birk said when they got off the cage. He took a deep breath. “Better take a breath while you can. That’s the last of the fresh air you’ll get till we’re ready to head up.”
“Get moving.” Clancy give Birk a slight shove.

Knowing his way Birk moved quickly over the uneven surface to the crease where he was working. He could hear Clancy stumbling behind him. That’d teach the big mouth who was the big man.

“Watch yer head here.” He muttered as they came to the final turn. He ducked down and then up avoiding the staving joist that was holding the ceiling.

“Oof.” 

“Y’d think y’d never been in the dark before.” Birk chuckled as he heard Clancy bump the rafter.

“Never down this deep.” Clancy was trying to catch his breath.

“Better get used to it quick, as yer going t’be spending most yer awake time in the dark, same as in your sleep time. Day light’ll not be your pal again.” He stored his lunch can behind the upright paling that helped to support the weight of the ceiling.

“Thanks.” Clancy gasped.

Birk stopped and Clancy stumbled into him.

“Watch it.” Birk pushed him back. “Tight nuf in here ya know. Here’s yer rake. You know how to handle one.”
“Christ yeh. I rake, pile and when pile is big nuf we shovel it in into the cart, when the cart is full we get it to the line to dump it into the shuttle.”

“Trick is to keep up wid me boy.”

Birk tied his face rag around his mouth and nose, tuned his headlamp on and starting hammering with his pick axe at his crease. As the shards and chunks of coal loosened he pushed them behind him for Clancy to rake away. 

After a few minutes his shoulder muscles loosened and his mind stopped thinking about anything except what he was doing, how fast he was doing it. Steadily he deepened the vein as he followed it along. He could feel the change in vibration in his pick as hit different types of rock, sulphur, granite, different strata of the vein, even different hardnesses of the coal itself. He had no sense of time but of quantity. Once he had dislodged enough coal to fill the hopper he wriggled out to help Clancy push the cart to the main line. Before they dumped into the shuttle he relived himself on the coal.

Clancy was about to do the same. Birk took Clancy’s free hand and peered at in the light of his headlamp. The skin on the hand was rubbed raw, bleeding along the thumb.

“Just as I thought soft. Piss on it.”
“What?” Clancy tired to pull away.

“Yeh it’ll help toughen the skin faster. Took me a week before m’hands could take it.” He watched as Clancy rubbed his hands in his own urine.

“Christ feels okay.”

“Don’ think I forget what ye called me up there but don’t want you to slow me down any either. You un’stand.”

“Yeh.”

“Do ya think ya can keep up wid me by?” Birk muttered.

“Nothing to it.” Clancy wheezed.

“You gotta learn to breath down here.” Birk said. “You breathin’ too deep.”

All they could make out of each other in the dim light of their head lamps was their eyes. Their face coverings were coated with black dust.

“I’ve been keepin’ a bit slow. Two more of these and we take a wee break for eatin.” He began to shove the cart back to where they were working. 

“Oof.” Clancy bump hard into the low rafter.

“Listen an learn. Not goin to warn you every time m’boy.”

“I’m not yer b’y.” Clancy snarled. “Keep goin’ ya damned monkey.”

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