Dames – Wiggles and Bates

Heather Babcock’s Filthy Sugar is a noir window into a Wanda Wiggle’s life in the 30s – the writing is rich in hard-boiled dialogue, descriptions & situations. Set in the Toronto sex-trade of the time it is refreshingly non-judgemental, funny & at times sexy. Wanda does sort of wander through what we se of her life – an opportunity, & her overflowing bra, take her into the burlesque world.

At times Wanda reminded me of Playboy’s Little Annie Fanny – a buxom gal who innocently engages in sex & yet isn’t exploited or emotionally scarred by it. Matter-of-fact as opposed to unsavoury or shocking. Wanda has this same attitude & is aware & in control without being manipulative (unless pulling gun can be called manipulative) or deceitful. Heather builds a world that is true to the times but still has an element of fantasy that keeps it from feeling depressing or hopeless, which I suspect those times were. Characters are well-developed, situations are real & the emotion level is also real – no melodrama here. Check out her excellent blog https://meetmeatthesodafountain.home.blog .

From the 30s we move into the 40s – I was lead to Betty Bates: Lady at Law by The Stiletto Gumshoe‘s blog. I ordered the collection of complete stories from Amazon. It is full size pages but sadly in black & white. She is a kick-ass female lady, public defender at one point, district-attorney at another point. She battles gangsters, spies, mad scientists & the occasional unsavoury miscreant. There are enough great plots here for endless movies & I’m surprised she never made it to the screen.

Perhaps she was too independent for the male movie moguls to consider. Men are either villains or irrelevant, even her love interest goes undeveloped. No sidekick either. She gets into & out of jams mostly by her wiles & her martial arts skills. The drawings are classic comic book. The story writers & illustrators changed over the years. Some years she might have been naked except for a line drawn for hem & collar.

The collection is sweet though sadly the scans are not in colour, as the originals were, which results in more greys & blurred images. Also with her is Miss America: gifted with powers of the Statue Of Liberty she – fights criminals & spies. Fun rah-rah America propaganda. A collection worth checking out. The The Stiletto Gumshoe is another excellent blog.

Hooterville

the one area I feel empathy 

for straight guys is 

cleavage

where are you supposed to look

when caught up 

in a barrage of boob

focus on her eyes if you can

and hope 

she doesn’t perceive 

the wavering flickers

as you try not to get drawn down

<>

it is easy to see how women 

become objectified

even when they object to it

how to pretend she isn’t pretty

that you find attractive 

attractive 

without being demonized

brow beaten by breasts 

for being such a beast

<>

there’s no way of making up for it

no apology

no affirmative action

removes the taint of having a dick

of having two competing heads to think with

of being faulted 

for thinking with the wrong one

regardless of which one is being used

berated being opportunistic slaves 

to base male instinct

all men are guilty

no way out no absolution 

to be hormonally driven dick heads

is punishment enough

<>

I have this simmering empathy 

when I get caught 

as they often do

in décolletage

try to make conversation

as subtle light shifts with each motion

as she pushes her hair behind her ear

try to focus on her words

try to ignore non-verbal communication

<>

I’ve never heard a guy tell a woman 

‘stop looking at my package

my eyes are up here’

yeah I know

eyes are the window to the soul

I don’t think either of us is 

ready to go there

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Yellow Haze

All of these, except the sunflower, are from my garden – most as I experimented with the camera’s close up function

I love the pollen heavy legs of these bees

unknown small bush in my front yard
orange marigold – orange is almost yellow
zinnia on my front steps
rose begonia
marigold in same basket as the orange
portulaca in my back garden
dusty miller – no petals
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Bad Bad Spirit Pie in Your Hair

Next on the shelf is a mp3 cd collection of radio fodder male singer/songwriters of the 70’s, with one exception. Here is Don McLean’s American Pie, Don McLean, Homeless Brother. Pie & Vincent are era defining songs that are used in countless movies for instant period ambiance – in fact all it takes is the ‘buy buy’ oops, I mean ‘bye bye’ & you know where your are in time. I loved that song. Vincent less so – too gentle & greeting card for me. McLean never matched this early success but continued to record. The self-named album sees him as a pop version of Noel Coward with fun songs two of which are worth tracking down: Narcisissma, On The Amazon. He’s sort of the US answer to Gordon Lightfoot 🙂 

I loved Jim Croce. On this cd I have You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, I Got A Name, Life & Times. As a stand alone Photographs & Memories; Greatest Hits. His writing & music was emotionally accessible, unpretentious & catchy. He wrote about ordinary men & women with lived-in affection. Looking for the track listings for his lps I want to name check every song as they are each classics. The emotional directness of some of the songs can make me almost tearful. His unexpected death in 1973 at 30 ended an amazing career.

Also inescapable was Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky. The album is sweet folksy, slightly psychedelic & fun with of course his big hit. Canned Ham his second ‘hit’ was good. He recorded a few more stepped lps then back – the music industry wasn’t for him.  The same is true for Scott McKenzie: The Voice Of … smash hit with If You’re Going – that road the crest of flower power sweetness – the album is a tad bit darker but those flowers lost their petals, as it were. Thanks to Papa John Phillips he (& Barry McGuire) fill blanks in the Mamas & Papas catalogue nicely. In fact Scott became a member of that group for awhile.

Lastly in this compilation is Elmore James: The Final Sessions. I wanted something to balance out the flower power weight of the other performers & this set. James is a true blues slide guitar magician. Only one album by him was released during his lifetime. This set collects his final two sessions from February 1963 in New York City, and he would be dead within three months of a heart attack at the age of 45. Timeless music.

The Kick Outside

On the subway the little girl kicked me in the ankle. She was about six but at that size and age who can really tell except a parent. I’m no parent. She was one of the prime reasons I wasn’t interested in being a parent.

I said, “Stop.”

She laughed and kicked me again.

I looked for a parent. Across the aisle was a woman beaming at her cute little girl, smiling at me to indulge the little sweet thing.

The little sweet thing had on patent leather shoes. Black shiny hard. As she was about to kick me again I gently pushed her back.

“Stop that.” I said.

The mother glared me.

‘“How dare you touch my child. Keep your hands to yourself.”

“Tell your child to keep her feet to herself.”

“You perverted slime ball.” The mother stood. “Touching my child. Don’t think you’re going to get away with that.”

Grinning, the child kicked me harder. People looked at us. The little girl began to cry.

‘“Look what you’ve done! Hold him there while I get the police.”

Two large men appeared and held me by the shoulders.

“The child was kicking me and I pushed her away.” I explained as they pulled me off at the next stop.

“She musta had a reason to kick you, you asshole. Your type makes me sick.” One of the men grunted.

They held me there for about ten minutes until the subway police showed up to see what the fuss was. The woman and child where gone. The guys holding me admitted they saw nothing.

When I got home there was a bruise on my ankle.

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Distant Harp

Wind Harp

<>

Night, gripping the stars,

tightly clutching the moon,

could only hold my glance briefly;

I knew it too well

one look brought back everything

too many jumbles of clustered sky

<>

so I was thinking of you,

my eyes closed,

blinking open for safety,

fast snatches of night, feeling the wind on my face,

hearing the tumbling leaves

prepare of the shock of rain

<>

I almost called your name;

funny,

me alone there in the night

calling to unhearing ears

instead of being home safe

out of the impending storm

<>

funnier still,

it never rained;

I waited, longing for it,

but, well, it never rain;

which was why

at five-thirty in the wind

I found myself asleep

with your name in my dreams

flashing in a torrent downstream

with a mile or so ahead

to leave your name behind

humming as blue

as the red morning air

Ah the pain of the dream of unrequited love. I had crushes but no real emotional involvements on the East Coast so perhaps the ‘you’ I was thinking of in this piece was not a person but the opportunity to be fully out. An opportunity like the impending storm that never materialized.

I enjoy the deliberate play of words that reflects struggle: gripping, clutching, tumbling, torrent. Clutching also implying ‘clutching at straws’ – the striving for unsubstantial, unattainable goals. The moon is always out of reach 🙂 

A wind harp (an Aeolian harp) is a real instrument. Often on top of a hill where it can be played by the wind. Sometimes a natural phenomenon created by trees growing in the right spot. Often man-made out of metal of different thickness, set at different angles to carve notes out of the wind. Ethereal. Great fun in cemeteries 🙂 I have a recording of Jan Garabek using a wind harp as part of a sonic texture. 

I like the ambiguity near the end – ‘found myself asleep’ – is the poem a dream of that windy hill or did I fall asleep on that windy hill waiting for rain that never came? I’ve also learned to ‘nail the landing’ by this point as that ending is perfect – unexpected & satisfying. The hum of the wind harp bounces the colours into a strange harmony.

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet 

Picture Perfect 35

Picture Perfect 35

The office space that Curtis Baxter occupied for his company was’t what Daniel expected. It was a second floor walkup that shared the front door with a first floor sandwich shop. The wooden stairs needed painting, the faux marble walls needed to have their faux freshened up. The black lacquered door with ‘Baxter Bits’ on it in red glitter letters stood out from the peeling wallpaper of the hall. There was a glittery red mat in front of it.

The suite took up the front half of the floor with a view of the street. A tiny reception area was barely large enough for a desk. Opposite it were two black lacquered wooden chairs. A sparkly red lacquered door with Curtis Baxter on it was dead centre of the wall. On the walls were posters for various TV shows that Dan assumed were Baxter Bit productions.

There was no one at the receptionist’s desk however. He knocked at the door.

“Enter.” Boomed from behind it.

He went into the office

“Daniel James! I never expected to see you here.” Curtis practically leapt over his desk to shake Dan’s hand.

“Nice set up you have here.”

“I’m usually on the go so I didn’t really need anything more elaborate.”

“Here’s your coffee, hun.” A short Asian woman in a very short skirt bumped the door open. “Oops. Sorry!”

“That fine Lin.” Curtis said as he put the coffee on his desk. “This is Daniel James.”

“Pleased to meet you.” She bowed and exited.

“What’s this about ACTRA rates? As I understand it, you are asking me, I’m not asking you. If you want me, and I am certainly interested, what is it worth to have me attached to this project?”

Curtis gulped. “I … uh … until we are sure Quintex wants the show I can’t make a real offer. That’s why I mentioned the union rates. You would get at least that much.”

“Okay. What are you willing to offer right now to get my participation? A signing on bonus, separate from any salary for doing the show.”

“I thought you were such a push over. Man, oh, man, I was wrong.”

“When your old host got shoved into my eye I stopped being a push over.”

“We had no idea that he’d do anything that stupid.”

“I don’t doubt that. When you’re usually on the  go it’s easy miss what’s going on. I looked over your initial proposal. I won’t be available to travel until after July 6.”

“We can accommodate that.”

“I don’t really care if you can or can’t. You have a figure for me?”

“Five thousand signing bonus.”

Daniel remained silent.

“I’ll make it six grand.”

“Try that again and be more precise.”

“I can manage seven, only if you come with me when I make the presentation.”

“Why is it so important that I be there?”

“Jeremy Moxham will be there. I saw the two of you at Kevin McLeod’s circus. He has the final say and I know he likes you.”

“So that’s it.” Dan stood. “My credentials didn’t matter to you at all did they?”

“Yes, they did. That’s what brought you to our attention. I didn’t know you knew Moxham till the party. Honestly. You and I were in contact before that. Right?”

“Yeah. Yeah. We’ll do a bank transfer for the seven or do you want me to wait till the cheque passes before the pitch? Because I’m not in till that cash is in my account.”

“What if I don’t sell the show?”

“Not my problem is it? But I have full confidence that you could sell cameras to the blind.”

“We can do the transfer tomorrow.”

“I think we have a deal.” He shook Curtis’s hand.

  On the street his knees where shaking so badly he went to the nearest cafe ordered a latte and sat there sipping it. Apparently Kilpatrick’s punch had more of an effect than he expected. Seven k! Not a bad day’s work. Now if he can deal with Linda this well he’ll be happy.

<>

He could smell grilling as he went up the sidewalk to his house. That meant Sanjay was on the patio. He wouldn’t have been surprised if Sanjay was not there after their conversation in the morning.

He dropped his shoulder bag on the couch, pushed his shoes off to let his feet breathe and went out to the patio.

Sanjay turned from the grill. “Ah, perfect timing. I hope you are hungry.” All he was wearing was a lungi loosely tied around his waist. No shirt, no shoes, and from the bulge, no underwear either. “Another five minutes and these would have been over-cooked.”

There were two steaks over the coals along with slightly charred red and green peppers. 

“There is a salad in the fridge. Bring it out and we can eat here.”

“Aren’t you afraid of singing your nipples.” Dan said as he put the salad on the patio table.

“Not when I have you to sooth them.”

“What’s come over you?” Dan sat at the table.

“You said you loved me.” Sanjay put the plates on the table and sat. “I know many married people who are not in love.”

“My point exactly.”

They ate and chatted about the weather, about Dan’s eyes, Sanjay’s work, each avoiding more conversation about their relationship.

“There were a couple of calls for you.” Sanjay said as he cleared the table. “You shouldn’t leave your phone turned off all day. People call here.”

“Not many have the house number. So it must have been Warszawa?”

“Yes.”

“And not Linda.”

“Right.”

“Mother.”

“Yes and someone who didn’t leave a name. The number was unknowable according to call display.”

“I have ways of finding out. What call display doesn’t know doesn’t mean I can’t find out.”

The landline rang.

“Maybe I won’t have to resort to drastic measures.” He went into the house to answer the phone. “Hello?”

“Mr. James?”

“Yes.”

“This is Phil Kaplan from City News. I was wondering if you had any comment on John Kilpatrick’s allegations?”

“Allegations?”

“From the press conference he had today.”

“No. Did he mention that he tried to put out one of my eyes.”

“He claimed that he was bounced from Unsolved Cold when he refused to allow Curtis Baxter to sexually harass him and that now Baxter is hiring you, someone who was once charged with sexual harassment.”

“What the fuck!” Dan shouted. “What the fuck!” He wanted to slam the receiver against the wall. “It’s true I’ve been approached by Curtis Baxter for a … project. Not to host Unsolved Cold. As for the rest I have nothing to say.”

“I see. Can I get an exclusive interview you.”

“Not at this time.” He hung up poised for it to ring again. It didn’t.

“What was that all about?” Sanjay asked.

“Publicity for John Kilpatrick.”

“Ah. Let’s just turn all this off for now.” He turned the ringer off.

Sanjay took him by the hand and lead him back out to the patio. “The hot tub should be the right temperature by now.” He undid the knot on his lungi and stepped into the tub. “You need to relax. What are you waiting for?”

Dan quickly undressed and got in, sitting opposite Sanjay.

“It’s hot alright.” he said standing up. “My balls weren’t ready to be boiled.”

“I am sorry.” He leaded forward to kiss Dan’s balls then sucked on his cock.

“That isn’t cooling them down.”

Sanjay leaned back. “I forget you are not as used to the heat as I am. This feels like a humid night on the balcony of my parents’ home.”

Dan lowered himself slowly into the water. 

“Have you had time to give any thoughts to Sylvan’s proposal.” Sanjay asked. “He wants my answer soon.”

“I have to speak with the family.”

“They do not have to sign off on it, do they?”

“No, but they have a right to know before I make such a big decision.”

“What if they disapprove?”

“I’ll deal with that. I have to get the house appraised first anyway. Then I’d have to repay mother too.”

“Repay?”


“She made the downpayment for me. I had just left the force and wasn’t yet reestablished in the family business. Not that I ever really left it but … it’s a long story. That’s one of things Linda hasn’t forgiven me for. She helped Dad with the store while I was in training and fully expected it would be hers one day.

“No one expected me to leave the force so soon and then when Dad died she expected to inherit the larger share.”

“Ah, family. Nothing like it.”

“What if I can’t get the money?”

“There is always India. With what I have saved now and a little help from my family I could open my own resort, an amusement park if I chose.”

“Are you serious.”

“Yes. I am at the age where I want to build more of a life for myself. You own this house, you have a business, two of them. All I have is a job, and a reputation. I own only the clothes on my back and of course my knives.”

“Is that what the let’s get married is all about? So you would own what I own?” Dan asked.


“No, that is not how that works. I know. We would need an agreement before marriage.”

Dan got out of the tub and sat on the edge with his legs in the water.

“Do you think you would be happy living in India again?”

“Perhaps. I now have the vision of how to make my own opportunities there.”

Dan got completely out of the hot tub and wrapped a towel over his shoulder. “That whack in the head may have damage my eyes but I am seeing somethings much clearer than I did before.”

“What to do mean?” Sanjay got out of the hot tub.

“All this … the ‘I’m over you sleeping around’ … the dinner … it’s all to sweet talk me into the loan for you. Isn’t it.”

“No. I am not asking for a loan.”

“A gift? Or if I don’t I’m forcing you to move back to India?”

“That is not my intention.”

“That is what I see.” Dan grabbed his clothes and went into the house.

Sanjay followed him.

“Dan!” He turned Dan around to face him.

“I’m tired. It’s been a long day. I have decisions to make.” He rubbed along his eyebrows. “I have pain to numb.”

“I have no wish to go back to India.” Sanjay said. “I don’t want a life without you. When we first met I didn’t believe men could care as we did, share as we did. But it seemed the longer we were together the harder it was for me to feel we were part of each other’s lives. I hoped you would change about marriage as the laws changed. But you have never changed. I doubt if you ever will. That is my pain. It is one I don’t think I can ever change, even if I leave you.” Sanjay began to weep.

“Then we have a basic philosophic stand-off. I don’t see a solution. I do know one thing, emotional blackmail isn’t going to change my mind.”


“Emotional blackmail.” Sanjay shouted.

“You may not even realize you are doing it. Just like that guy in the force who thought I was harassing him by answering questions about the gay lifestyle. I didn’t realize I was harassing anyone.”

“I’m sorry you see me that way.”

“I am too. I’m going to bed. This conversation is over.”

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

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Upstairs with Satan and Archie

Moving to the upstairs in my house we come to these on the walls of the upper hall. First this wonderful paint-by-number that I bought, framed, at a Goodwill on Queen E decades ago. Luckily it was light enough to carry home. I knew this painting from my childhood, though not this specific one, as part of a set that my mother had painted. She did several of such sets & finding it brought back sweet memories.

On the opposite wall is this portrait of me as rendered by Dan Parent who was, at that time, one of the illustrators & writers for Archie comics. I had it done at Fan Expo. I went that year specifically to commission it. He took my photo, I roamed the ‘market’ buying dvd’s, tee shirts, searching for old school horror [Karloff vs Kruger] & come back an hour later & it was ready.

The same holds true for the other portrait that I had done the following year. for an extra five dollars I had  more torso 🙂 As you can tell I haven’t aged since these were done but neither of these are my Dorian Gray – that is in a secret spot away from prying thighs.

The ‘demonic force’ was a Christmas gift from a friend at the end of the 1990’s. He enlarged a panel from a Chick Publication & hand-tinted it for me. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chick_tract#Chick_Publications) I still see this little tracts around, sometimes left on a bus, or rumple dup on the street. Cute propaganda.

Not propaganda is this self-portrait a friend did & gave me as a birthday gift. He was experimenting with colour for that Warhol effect. The last was a gift from David Bateman he gave me during the run of the poetry cabaret The Beautiful & Damned. It is a fun amalgam of Keith Harding & Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime images. It goes up in value every year 🙂

Modern Safety

Kevlar sweats

modern day chainmail

designer duds armour plated

for style lightness and protection

don’t want to look bad 

when someone shoots at me

or tries to stab me in the mall

because I looked at them the wrong way

because I was the wrong color

wearing the wrong colors

in the wrong neighbourhood

<>

how to be safe enough

and still look good

don’t want private guards

they’re not the accessories 

I had in mind to complete this outfit

to be safe enough 

to go to Starbucks for a latte

<>

the fast walk and the scowl

now becomes a challenge

they’ll take me down a notch or two

kick the crap out me to liberate 

my limited edition nike’s and iPhone

which they don’t realize

now features global positioning hardware 

<>

I hesitate to answer

because I only listen 

through an ear piece

that picks up everything you say

funnels it though lie detection software

that tells me I can trust what you say

I stick to the simplest of responses

double double

no don’t super size that

<>

unless those fries 

are a bullet resistant shield

I can hold in front of me

as I struggle to get home

without a scratch

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East End Toronto Ghosts

More closed business, some thanks to covid, others thanks to rental increases

East Indian at Danforth/Pape corner that was just getting settled in when covid hit
nice tile work wasn’t enough to keep them going
a couple of these opened near odd subway stations i.e. Donlands – no school kids = no business, besides the Danforth has enough coffee spots
Coxwell at Dundas E – not so convenient after all
chains under the window were for strollers not tots
now an inactivity studio
Danforth has enough coffee spots with no room for this one – soon to be a fried chicken joint –
I ate here frequently – massive rent increase closed its doors after what seemed like 100 years of being a Queen E dining destination spot
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The Trance Horn World

Next on the jazz shelf are a pair of cd mp3 collections built around the work of flautist Paul Horn. He became a pioneer of world and new age music with his 1969 album Inside. But the ‘roots’ of that go back to a couple of earlier lps: Jazz Suite on The Mass Texts, Here’s That Rainy Day. On Texts he works with orchestra & choir & on Rainy Day he works with rain effects.

I remember when Inside The Taj Mahal was released & all my pot-head buddies where into the echo soothing meditativeness of it. Inside 2 is more of the same. Both are timeless & meditative. 

George Winston is new age, meditative piano player I was introduced to when I facilitated a meditation healing circle for ACT. I have Winter, Winter Into Spring – instrumental music that lulls, ripples with touches of classical & very subtle jazz. I was also introduced to (& have) Suzanne Ciani: Seven Waves, Neverland, History of My Heart; Kitaro: Silk Road I, II; G.E.N.E. Grooving Electronic Natural Environments: Fluting Paradise. Ciani’s electronic work has an element of deliberate design using various sound frequencies to create mood. GENE weaving rippling brooks & sound frequencies.  

For a time I was a weekend- warrior learning about medicine wheels & Native spiritual beliefs. Here I heard  R. Carlos Nakai a Navajo/Ute who plays Native American cedar. On Earth Spirit there are original compositions for the flute inspired by traditional Native American melodies.

In this collection is also Hamza El Din’s Escalay: The Water Wheel which recognized as one of the first world music recordings to gain wide release in the West. He is Egyptian and plays the oud. A friend had me transfer his lp version to cd & I kept a copy, which I later upgraded, via iTunes, for better sound quality. Worth seeking out.

Also from that neck of the woods (or is that sands?) comes Bustan Abraham: Fanar – a sweet concoction of Arab music, Turkish music, jazz, flamenco, western classical music, and blues from an Israeli band. Finally a selection of Hussain Khan from Radio India, shared with me by a friend – this is harmonium, sitar, tabla & chanting that transports one to another world.

Parenting

Kayla found the bones in the backyard. We had been getting ready for planting a garden for the kids. She and her bother Dall weren’t all that eager to watch things grow but I figured it would be a good experience for them. Being a step-dad wasn’t a dream come true mind you but I was willing to do what it would take to make it work.

I figured digging and planting things together would be a good bonding experience for us. 

Kayla called to me. “Jake … Jake ….”

The fear in her voice gabbed me by the heart. I rushed over. 

She pointed her trowel at the shattered bone. 

I hunched down to get a closer look.

Dall came over to join me. He pushed at the bone with a finger.

“Don’t touch it.” I pulled his hand away.

“What is it?” Kayla began to tear up.

“Probably a cat or a squirrel. Too small to be anything else.”

I gently pushed the dirt from around the bones to see how many there were. I could tell it was some small animal.

“What’s going on.” John had come out of the house.

I stood a bit to quickly & was dizzy for a moment. He steadied me.

“Kayla found a dead body.” Dall pointed at the bones. “Looks like a dead baby.”

He looked at Kayla hoping for a reaction.

“Looks like you.” She retorted.

“I’m not dead.”

“That’s what you think.”

“Probably just a cat that the last owner buried here when it died. See …” I hunched down again. “There’s fur in the ground around it.”

John took the kids into the house while I dug out the bones. I wasn’t sure what to do next. Bag them for recycling? Put them in composter? Bury them somewhere else in the yard? 

I had a lot to learn about being a parent.




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Distant Tartan

Tartan Africa

<>

1 – Africa

<>

Africa genesis

so far from the Louvre

Africa Baroque

in thick damp brown earth

Sahara sands

drums rain jungle

lion black man

<>

mother mother

I’ve wandered so far from home

this time & every time

the gate was left open

building destroying
enjoying

finding myself so far

from so many old home weeks

<>

I would make Africa my home

take her

lover her forever

in torrential river beds

waterfalls
endless grassy antelope zebra plains

waterholes

birthplaces

leopard spots tiger stripes

so far from snow

so close to my pillow

<>

2 – Never Never Land

<>

it would be too hot

it would rain too much

I’d never understand their customs

never ride a camel

never drink the water

never touch their women

never sleep in their huts;

I could never do much

except this sitting,

smiling, laughing, drinking

reaching to touch

with pocketed hands

never never never never

<>

even in the darkest sky

there is al least one star

I wonder where you are

I wonder who you are

Tribale twinkle

in the Paris night

by there tower;

could I reach out

could I touch you?

the Tower is too high

I am too weary

cheery

lilting

song birds in a thousand cages

on a dusty side street

in an Arab bazaar,

singing to be bought

but not set free;

never could survive

for being trapped so long

they have no instincts left

death would be their survival

if I bought them all

to set them free

so I won’t

besides I don’t have enough money

it would take too long

to open every cage

it would never work

never never never never

<>

3 – Tartan

<>

tartan country

Gaelic

coal mines

crying masladh

dieing dean bacach

sifting sandily

the rust dust air

struggle bosdail

while clinging to the seachad

the good old days

clans

Royalists

fortresses

Metrople la France

too bad it can’t be ended

too good to be believed

so much calmer than the mainland pace

creaking down hill it seems

if you read it in their papers

if you believe in their bad dreams

<>

time is slowly changing

in the land of endless hills

twisting Cabot Trails

sunset autumn trees

that even when you go

it has you coming back

for final peace

on its unpaved roads

shady Sugar Loaf’s

falling away now

to the unhaltable

eating up of everything

by prosperity 

with its more more more

high-rise hotels & all

but kill ‘er gently b’ys

‘cause ‘er kids are tough 

<>

4 – Africa Too

<>

Africa mother

I know you are so close

I sense your warmth

yet cannot touch you

the stars are hidden

by cotton candy-clouds

drifting too slowly

monkeys screaming

elephants trumpeting

rhinos charging

through the dusky morning mists

<>

none of its is really there now;

in Africa, I mean.

the wild is in parks;

houses is rows

schools

doctors

I Love Lucy

in the Heart of the Darkest Continent

<>

it would do no good

to shut the gate

I would only climb the fence

or push it down;

running scared, down the street,

away from revenge

crawling back at night for safety

<>

Ahhh Africa,

the oldness of Egypt

growing up 

into snotty street punks

makes me want to cry

to die to

keep the rich raw earth

feelings in my mouth

<>

5 – Tartan Fading

<>

when I try to speak

of this Smokey Island

I cannot find

the right combination

of tartan cobwebs

to spin into a picture

of coal-dust steel-plant flower beds,

growing the heather of tarns;

the ice winter of dreams

the laughter of the people

moving & flowing alive

in the salt smell of coal sea air

<>

Jan.Feb/Mar73

Over time I’ve come to see this as one of the ‘better’ pieces in the chapbook. It reveals more about growing up Cape Breton than any of the others. Even with the abstract moments it is a good snap shot of my sense of displacement as I search for a sense of safe haven.

It opens with any array of African clichés – a distant place I knew very little about & much of that thanks to Tarzan & similar safari movies populated with fully dressed white dudes & a panoply of half-naked black men. It is a dream retreat in this first section.

It is not so dreamy in the second part with my list of realistic drawbacks. I’m also caught by the distance of that Paris escape, another place far from me, from my artistic longings. Like birds caged so long the freedom of Africa would kill me? The closest I ever got to that wild was already in cages.

The third section drops us into Cape Breton with another list of cliches with a decent dash of Gaelic. The economy there was becoming unstable with long-time major industries struggling in the world market. Tourism was always strong there & was to become even more important so the twisting Cabot Trail was no longer for the locals 🙂 There was an exodus of generations who had family ties & nostalgic roots that kept pulling them back.

Four takes me back to Africa where like Cape Breton tourist dollars, exploiters needs were controlling the continent. The ancient history seemed to be confined to Egypt as seeing though colonist exploiter’s eyes. Even today I see documentaries where talking heads are astonished that such primitive tribe could produce such fine artifacts -ahem – maybe they weren’t so primitive.

I had seen on TV around that time, early 70’s, that I Love Lucy reruns were the most popular TV show in the world, that she was watched in every country. They showed glimpses of her being watch by natives in huts in Africa. I was watching Lucy in Cape Breton – she represented an American culture that was not mine or theirs. So where does our cultural sense of self come from, when what is under our feet gets co-opted by a materialistic monolith without us even being aware of it.

In the end I am left with a wistful nostalgia for Cape Breton – which isn’t where I was born, but Manitoba where I was born has no resonance. I was a man searching for more than a sense of heritage, more than the concept of home but for a sense of safe haven.

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet 

Picture Perfect 34

Picture Perfect 34

David Dell was waiting for them at reception when they went into his office.

“Nice to see you, Daniel.” 

“Good to half-see you, David. You remember Sanjay?”

“Oh, yes, of course. Come into my office.”

Dan always liked the comfy client chairs at Dell and Strong. He wished his Depot office was large enough for them.

“What can I do for you?” Dell asked once he was seated.

“I’ll let Sanjay tell you.”

Sanjay explained about the partnership deal, the money needed and what Sylvan brought to the deal as well.

“Half-a-million isn’t an insubstantial amount.” Dell leaned back in his chair. “So, Daniel, were you considering this as a personal loan or as an investment by James Photo.”

“Basically, I want to know if I was in a position to make this sort of capital outlay.”

“Let me check your records.” He pulled up a some files on his computer. “Oh!”

“What is it?” Daniel asked.

“First as a personal … investment. You might swing it with your house as collateral. You’ve done a fair amount work on over the last couple of years and your area is doing exceptionally well on the housing market.”

“Good.”

“But as James Photo, because of the way the corporation is set up, for such a substantial amount you would need all three of the partners to sign off on it. Even then, until the other deal is fulfilled that wouldn’t be possible.”

“Other deal?” Daniel asked.

“The one with Cuppa’s. Your sister obtained a line of credit for twenty hundred for that.”

“Two hundred thousand?” Daniel asked.

“Yes. Surely she told you how much, when you signed off on it?”

“No, she didn’t. Do you have the agreement so I can refresh my memory.”

David went to the door. “Deena can you bring me the James Family Photo file.” He waited at the door until she returned with them. “Thank you.”

He opened the folder, quickly flipped to a document and turned so it faced Dan.

“You see there’s the amount.” He flipped it to the last page. “There’s your signature. Right under your mother’s.”

He looked at Sanjay. “I’ve never seen this document before.”

“That’s a very serious allegation Daniel.” David said. 

Dan’s mind was reeling. He rubbed at the pain around his eyes. “What’s the date on it?” he asked but he didn’t hear the answer.

“I’m sorry. I’m not feeling so well.” He mumbled. “I need some fresh air.”

Sanjay steadied him as he stood.

He took a couple of deep breaths. “I may be mistaken. I do recall co-signing some contracts for Linda at about that time. Let me speak with her. I’ll be back later in the week, with her, if needed.”

“Of course Mr. James. What about the other matter.”

“Now that I know where I stand financially Sanjay and I have some things to discuss.”

“Thank you Mr Dell.” Sanjay shook David’s hand.

They went out to the car. “I will drive.”

“Not yet. I have to walk and breathe. You wait here.”

Linda wouldn’t forge his signature on a document. He must have signed it and forgotten or not realized it when he was signing the FairVista invoices. Surely she didn’t forge his approval. After all he was a documents specialist. He could find out if it was his signature. Then what? Press charges?

He went back to the car and got in.

“Are you alright?” Sanjay put his hand on Dan’s and squeezed it gently.

“I think so. It’s pretty clear though that with the house I might be able swing a mortgage for you. I’m not sure I want to do that though.”

“I understand. I didn’t realize your business was so complex.”

They drove home in silence. 

“I’m going to hit the sack.” Dan said. “My head is throbbing.”

“Should I give you a massage. That will help you sleep. Align your chakras for clearer thinking?”

“Tempting but no thanks. I won’t be up for much longer once I take a couple of pain killers.”

“There is always tomorrow.” He kissed Dan long and hard. “Now you relax for awhile while I get washed up. I’ll be in to tuck you in about ten minutes.”

Dan plodded up the stairs. What sort of scheme was Linda trying to pull anyway. It wasn’t as if he would have not signed on if she had approached him. They both had a talent for getting their way with the other. The thought of even confronting her about this made him sick to his stomach.

He took his clothes off and and sat on the edge of the bed. The air was cool and he shivered. What he wanted was Sanjay’s hands to warm him up. To take all this worry and pain. Mortgage the house?

He stretched out with his hands behind his head.

Sanjay came into the room.

“I was trying to figure out who these belong to?” He flipped a pair of underwear at Dan. 

They slipped off his chest and fell to the floor.

“Must be mine.” Dan groped for them.

“Neither of us owns Aussie Bums.” Sanjay said. “Unless you’ve been shopping while I was gone.”

Fuck they must be Peter’s!

“Maybe someone named Hamid does though.” Sanjay went to the guest bedroom and shut the door.

The next day Dan was getting to leave the house for his appointment at the eye clinic. His pain meds and sleeping pill had overrode the stress of the previous day. His mind was cluttered with various scripts where he said this and did that and Sanjay or Linda or Curtis would nod and back down slightly crestfallen and fully apologetic. He knew that talk often never leads to a solution and that the less he said would give people the rope they needed to hang themselves.

Sanjay was on the phone when he came down to the kitchen. Dan poured himself a cup of coffee.

Sanjay ended his call. “Mother is very excited about the anniversary and my visit. She sends her regards.”

“Fifty years is an achievement.” Dan said.

“Quite right. Sleep well?”

“As well as my meds allowed. You?”

“What do you think?” Sanjay sat at the kitchen table. “I was restless thinking of what has to change, between us.”

“Did you come up with anything other than these mixed signals.”

“How can you be so .. so … placid? I’m disappointed that you turned out to be like so many gay guys. Sleeping around at the drop of a hat.”

“He wasn’t wearing a hat.” Dan wasn’t going to be baited into defending his actions. “I was.”

“It isn’t that funny. To me.”

“It isn’t to me either but I did what I did. I’d probably do it again, whether we were married or not.”

“Don’t start in on your assimilationist bullshit. It’s just an excuse to to act out. It’s pathetic.”

“No more pathetic than your judgmental condescension.”

“Whatever.” Sanjay sighed sadly. “I hope you wore protection.”

“We didn’t go that far. And by the way, it wasn’t Hamid. One Desi at a time is more than enough for me.”

“I know it wasn’t some Desi guy.”

“Oh? Aussie Bum not Punjabi style.”

“Dan, you aren’t the only one who knows how to check the video security logs.”

“You did that?”


“I couldn’t sleep. I had to know who it was. I came down and went through them. A little young for you and rather pale too.”

“Yes to both. We never did discuss the age gap.”

“His face wasn’t on camera long enough for me recognize him.”

“It doesn’t matter who.”

“Must have been someone you knew. Maybe tricked with before.”

“You sound pretty sure of that.”

“You’d never bring a stranger back to the house. You’re too paranoid for that, I know you. So it had to be someone you were familiar with. I’d’ve guessed Silver’s assistant but he isn’t as tall as this guy. ”

“You’ve been watching too much CSI.”

“But,” Sanjay took the underwear out his back pocket and smelled it. “By the aroma of sweat and caffeine I’d guess someone who works in a coffee shop.”

Dan grabbed the undies from Sanjay. “What’s the point of this? You’re trying to turn this into some you-betrayed-me scene and that isn’t going to happen. So I had sex with someone. Here in the house.”

“In our bed?”

“Sanjay get over it. I haven’t ‘tricked’ as you called it, with another man for years, not once you moved in here.”

“Oh, so for the first couple years you were getting your dick wet whenever you could?”

“No more than you were!”

“Me.”

“When did you stop seeing Harold? Before or after you moved in here?”

“Harold was … well, he wasn’t some teenage trick. You knew about him when we met.”

“Not that you were still fucking him”

“It’s that kid at the Carafe.” Sanjay snapped his fingers. “I thought he looked familiar.”

“So it is.” Dan took off his house slippers and put on his runners.

“You are old enough to be his father.”

Dan went to the hall to make sure he had what he’d need for the day in his shoulder bag. “Should I take my iPad?”

“I don’t care. We were …”

“No. You were …. whatever. I have to get a move on. I should be home for supper. You’ll be here?”

“How can you be cold?” Sanjay asked.

“Frankly, Sanjay either you’ll stay or you’ll go. Or do you just want another chance to line up my chakras for a mortgage?”

<>

He caught the Queen streetcar. One down and two to go, Dan thought. Confronting Linda could wait till his regular Friday at FairVista. He texted Dell and Strong that he would drop in to re-read the Cuppa contract. He texted Curtis next to find out what progress there was on the cold case project. Funny how having one eye forces you focus on one thing at a time. Fewer distractions.

He got off at University and walked up to the the clinic. Dr. Grey was pleased with his progress and suggested he could use the eye for short periods of time as long as he kept it away from bight lights or glare.

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