You Can’t

You Can’t

<>

you can have it

it isn’t mine to give

but you can have it

I don’t know who it belongs to

so take it

<>

the land rights

aren’t really protected

well enough

to balance the profits you offer

what is good for the most

is more important

than what is sacred for a few

you can have it

<>

there’s no need for consultation

what do they know

about business anyway

superstitious paganism

is always pointless

in the face of cultural expediency

they only want to preserve their comforts

by denying you yours

so take it

<>

do what you have to get it

just because it is theirs

doesn’t mean anything

to anybody

expect the press 

the cellphone gawkers 

twitter won’t save anyone

you don’t have a reputation

worth protecting anyway

so take it

<>

it’s not mine to give

but not theirs to keep either

yet they are keeping it 

no matter what the cost

to you

<>

The law isn’t as permanent as expected. There is always a political party whose agenda is to undo laws of the past – the repeal of Prohibition is an example. There are rumblings about rolling back lgbtqia rights, dispensing with employment equality, with discrimination. Laws regarding women’s bodies decided by men. So it’s no wonder the history of land rights is rife with contradictions & continued colonist imperialism.

My family claimed the land you lived on for centuries because you had no deed, no proof of ownership, so now it’s ours. Or was until some sly stranger juggled mortgage papers to take it out from under our noses, too. How dare he defraud the people who defrauded you to get the land.

As I recall I wrote this partially in response to the inclusion of land acknowledgements in various settings – a Stratford productions, poetry readings. As if the acknowledgements could undo what had been done. I see churches with rock gardens filled with children’s shoes to memorialize the children who died in the Residential Schools but wonder if that is as effective as a #.

When the Spanish conquered the Inca’s they demolished the Inca temples & built Catholic cathedrals on the ruins to show that primitive society the beauty of civilization. Clearly they were unaware that there were complex cultures that preceded the Inca’s by nearly 10,000 years. Native Americans built cities laid out to reflect the movement of both the the sun, the moon & the stars, not where it was best to put a Starbucks.

Civilizations come & go, come & go. Because we can’t undo the past doesn’t mean we should forget it. History repeats itself, progress isn’t fair, the present is mine to live not to give. As the song says, in the end we’re all dust in the wind.


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Eyes on the Despair

Eyes on the Despair 

<>

I knew it

I just knew it

that Karen was getting the prize

that should be mine

because the teacher 

didn’t like me

because Karen was sick

the whole class had voted

to give her the prize

she deserved it

because they felt sorry for her

<>

I was eight or nine at the time

I still feel that resentment

it became message

‘no matter how good you do

someone else always deserves

the prize more

so why bother’

<>

this message resonates

when I think

only the damaged

can write with an authentic voice

only the disenfranchised

have the right to attention

a loop of self-pity

<>

I spoke up

when Karen won the prize

I was told not to be so selfish

I was sent home from school

with a note 

telling my parents that I was

an ungrateful

greedy

pushy child 

I had to write 

an apology to Karen

<>

lesson learned

don’t speak up for yourself

you only sound

indifferent to the plight of others

who deserve to be heard

…….

I enjoy watching competitive cooking reality TV. Yeah I know it is edited & we never ever see those kitchens been cleaned up between challenges – which why the chefs never worry about making a mess 🙂 There is always a little backstory for some of the chefs – their family, their motivation & often they are ‘inspired’ by a spouse/parent/child who has passed away it is about to with some dramatic disease – so they deserve to be there because of their suffering as well as their cooking skills.

I did try a couple of the Jr. versions of these shows but stopped because I am not a fan of child exploitation – I can imagine being a twelve-year being eliminated in front a potential audience of millions & having to be a good loser, while feeling like a total loser & disappointing your parents – who claim to be proud you went as far as you did. Do they have grief therapists on set for these children?

This piece is more about our cultural fixation on suffering as the only key to authenticity. If you haven’t been traumatized you have nothing to say. When I was involved in the slam scene I eventually got dismayed at the way some performs would re-traumatize themselves for points, not for healing. 

Which brings us to the Karen of this piece, to the incident in this piece. Did it actually happen? Is it a fabrication? Does the emotional conflict ring less true if this is a fabrication? Will I answer these questions? No.

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Our Glorious Leader

Our Glorious Leader

I won

I won

I’ve been elected

there’s no doubt about it

<>

yes the other candidate 

got more votes

but you don’t understand

those are votes for the candidate 

they didn’t want to see

lead the country

I got the least votes

which means the people

want me the least 

least of all the slate

that’s how it works

it’s not my fault

the voters didn’t read the ballot

to mark an X for the one

they least wanted to see win

<>

my first act

will be to decrease spending

on education

so fewer people can read

because reading leads to understanding

as long as they can’t read

I’ll be able to lead

Some of you may recall a recent USA electoral kerfuffle in which even the winner wasn’t allowed the privileged of being acknowledged as the winner by the loser, who quickly became the whiner – no that’s not true, he was a whiner from the first time. He did win that first round but proved to be as bad a winner as he was a loser.

The united in the USA is dubious notion as each state is fiercely autonomous as demonstrated with the continuing & persistent lack of mask & vaccine uniformity – rules change from state to state. In some it is permissible for bars to ban anyone wearing a mask; in others you can’t enter a bar if you aren’t wearing a mask. How do you keep track? I guess there’s an app for that.

I sometimes feel the conflict comes from the ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ even if what is being ‘suggested’ is for the good of all. Or a sort of stubborn toxic male pride – you know the sort of pride that keeps men from asking for directions or from even looking at map. A real man is never lost he’s just not going where you thought he was going.

That’s the art of spin – where being lost becomes a matter of interpretation not what has happened. So losing an election is a misreading of the votes. After in editing drawing X through paragraphs, even pages, means it is to be deleted, discarded. So the fewer ‘x’ you get on the ballot the more people approve of you. Congratulations! Welcome our glorious leader.


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No Room

No Room 

I’ve lived with the same man

for over forty years

I don’t use poppers or party and play

so I’m not gay enough for the room

<>

I did hiv home care 

buried friends 

stepped away from the front lines

so I’m not queer enough for the room

<>

I sleep around

sometime have unprotected sex

so I’m not a good example

for anyone in the room

<>

I don’t like Celine Dion or Babs

which is enough to get my

gay card denied

so I don’t have the credentials for the room

<>

I’m over several hills

hills only survivors 

know how daunting they can be

such as shame for not being young enough

to be in the room 

<>

the web sells us

face lifts work out routines 

websites for grandpa devotees

to keep them away from the room

<>

being acceptable in heteronormative 

assimilationist terms

was too conditional

I was amused 

abused

by the need

for the conformity

to be gay enough to be in the room

<>

I’m not sure 

if I ever was in that room

if I was

I wasn’t long for the room

I was tempted to call this No Room At The Inn but the religious connotations were inappropriate. The piece is clearly about assimilationist attitudes that try to rule the queer community. Attitudes that said it was fine for trans men & woman to fight for our rights but then tried to hide them so as not to cast a bad light on all those good, unassuming queers who didn’t want to scare the horses.

I’m not that I am preoccupied with the ways I may or may not fit into various categories I can’t ignore the ways my ‘not fit’ is made clear to me by others, directly or indirectly. PRIDE is clearly focused on a very specific ‘market’ defined by age, appearance, substance of choice, & body type. The one marked improvement in PRIDE over the years has been its greater awareness of race/nationality inclusivity – but honey if you don’t look good in heels, or leather chaps, or jeans you really aren’t that welcome regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

Many years ago I was invited to be part of a PRIDE reading by those of us over a certain age. Cool, I thought, we’re given some recognition. The event was unpaid, we were to be so grateful to be included we would perform for free (a standard PRIDE stance for many performers), the location was as far from the Church street core as possible – I was surprised they didn’t stick us down in Fort York. Only us performers & our friends could find the room.

One of the fallacies of inclusivity is that everyone has equal  footing – there is nearly always someone deciding who is the best example of what is to be included. The decision gauge is often unpredictable even when that someone deigns to use it on you. You could be let into the room but please stay in that corner there. 

Time to clean my room 🙂


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Safe From Me

Safe From Me

<>

somedays it isn’t safe

for me to be seen in public

not safe for others I mean

<>

the welfare of others 

has to be considered

when a glance from a male

can become triggering

send someone spinning

into painful childhood memories

my mere looking where I am going

can send people off 

<>

I never ask how are you doing

lest that appears to be disrespect

for their boundary issues

I won’t compliment your appearance 

never talk about my happy childhood

because it seems by doing so

I’m am diminishing 

what you experienced in yours

<>

I get tired of negotiating permission

to continue a conversation

is it okay if I talk about ….

negotiating to avoid making

others uncomfortable

<>

it isn’t wise to assume 

that just because they are a clerk

that they have to be of service

<>

I haven’t left my house

for years now

it’s the easiest way

of keeping the world safe

from me

There some real-life experiences in this piece. Once when dodging people on a busy street I stopped to let someone pass me & that someone said ‘What the fuck are you looking at!’ I shrugged & kept on my way. I’ve seen similar confrontations on the subway – people snapping ‘stop looking at me like that’ – this is why most people now stare at their cellphones – it’s less intrusive to bump into people because you aren’t looking where you’re going than it is to look where you are going.

A few years ago, on an open stage & read a poem about my Dad – about finding gifts he has hidden before he died, not knowing he was going to die. After the show I was accosted for not issuing a trigger warning before I had a poem about my father. The last time I read it I did it with a trigger warning & someone accosted me after for making fun of trigger warnings. You wonder why I shun open stages.

When someone says ‘I don’t want to talk about …’ I respect that but then am leery of what to say when they continue to talk about it. Is it my job to change the subject or say ‘You said we weren’t going to talk about that.’ As I’ve often said here people will talk about whatever they want even when they ask ‘how are you?’ They are preparing what they want to tell you about themselves. A good reason I never really start conversations about myself. One of the good things, to me. about social distancing is an end to negotiating permission for hugs. 

Unlike that last verse I leave my house regularly. I have no fear of being in pubic, in public places -one my morning walks I rarely see anyone anyway & the only negotiation is social distancing. In recovery I’ve learned the balance of conversation – I listen without the need to develop a response. 

When people ask me what I’ve been doing I resist going into details about my writing, my sex life. I fall back on generalities ‘pandemic purging’ being a good fall back – because it has been something I’ve been doing. One thing that I purged years ago is guilt for inadvertently triggering someone.


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Holy Toaster

Holy Toaster

you saw the face of christ

in a piece of toast

yet you don’t own a toaster

<>

you can’t even boil water

you have enough trouble

opening a granola bar

<>

you aren’t the first 

to have seen the face of christ

where it doesn’t belong

<>

why was it only the face

was the piece of bread

too small to hold his entire body

<>

was the holy toaster

limited by propriety

to specific body parts 

<>

was it the result of

ancient aliens

who after they built the pyramids 

<>

designed a toaster

specifically to replicated

the face of christ in toast

<>

a pleasant enough face 

that seems rather caucasian

for an ancient alien

This is a fun, almost silly, piece ripped from the headlines – based on a true incident! You can now buy a toaster that will singe the face of christ, or the virgin mary, or even the name of your diner into every piece of toast. Apparitions of icons have now become kitsch icons. This hasn’t stopped stories of these sacred faces appearing in unexpected places & those places, for a time, becoming shrines.

It was a simple leap from the sacred toast to aliens. I’ve seen a few TV documentaries that prove, by reinterpreting ancient texts, cave drawings, hieroglyphics, that we were visited by advanced civilizations. Yes, there is one in which Jesus was a spaceman. In the typical modernist mind if we can’t do it, clearly those backward civilizations in Egypt or Peru clearly lacked the ability to build pyramids, construct stone cities in the Andes. Aliens with levitation devices did it.

The people who testify to the veracity of their insights are so invested in their truth logic doesn’t sway them. I sometimes think they are trying to convince themselves a much as anyone else. History is rarely objective – it is seen through the filter of the times of the seer. Like that face in the toast – why is it not, say, Czar Nicolas of Russia? or John Lennon? Much like our Santa Clause, the face of christ we see is one invented for commercial purposes to appeal to the middle-class Caucasian market.

I guess those advanced civilizations have decided we aren’t worth re-visiting, or perhaps they are still here disguised as toasters 🙂


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The Flirt

The Flirt

<>

I don’t flirt

unless I mean it

a compliment is not flirting

unless you feel

insecure

a compliment is not a threat

is not a come on

but sometimes

it is another condescending 

patriarchal comment

based on cultural imposed definitions

of what is pretty 

handsome 

acceptable

<>

so I often say nothing

that might reflect an opinion

it is less complicated

when you don’t have an opinion

you aren’t responsible

for defending it explaining it changing it

I can be a little more open

to what is around me

it is easier to negotiate the traffic

when one isn’t preoccupied

with an inner monologue

about the driving habits of others

I get to pay attention

to what I am hearing 

as opposed to formulating

a response

to what I think someone is saying

by the way

I was flirting

Working with language one learns to say what one means – not that ambiguity or unreliable narrators aren’t useful tools in fiction & poetry – but in conversations with real people ambiguity can be treacherous: ‘That’s not what I meant’ ‘You took that the wrong way’ “I was just joking.’ 

Which can be complicated by the person who hears what they want regardless of what you say, or who reads more into what you say than you mean, or take offence at simple things – “Good morning – What’s so good about it?” “Have a great day – You don’t care what kind of day I have.”

It’s a wonder people have relationships at all with the often unreliability of language itself. To spare one another’s feelings, or merely to be likeable we end up snared by codependency. Rather that saying ‘no – never’ we say ‘not now.’ People say ‘just sex is fine’ while hiding ‘let’s fall in love’ so as not to appear too demanding.

At times we over-compensate to be ingratiating or cheerful. “Nothing fucking rainy day. – Oh, but rain is good for gardens.” You get the subtext 🙂 These are all examples from my life. I learned the ‘don’t flirt’ many years ago. In the queer world sexualizing language is easy & considered sort of campy & clever. A guy I did this sort of word play with took it as a serious come on. I was only interested in the word play & was pissed when I told him that. So I stopped that sort of interaction, unless I mean it.


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Snapped

Snapped

some people

are just asking for a slap

you know what I mean

so I snapped & slapped 

it was so fast

I hardly felt it

but it worked

it shut them up

for a few minutes

a few scant moments of bliss

of silence

<>

there wasn’t even an echo

of the slap

my hand hardly felt it all

you know what I mean

if it doesn’t hurt me

it surely didn’t hurt them

beyond a bit of humiliation

in front of the others

<>

I know to be slapped

is more of a social thing

if we were alone

I doubt if a slap would have happened

but with an audience

what else could I do

to teach them a lesson

about what I won’t to put up with


boundaries have to be established

so I slapped

<>

I would do it again

only harder the next time

you know what I mean

“some people/are just asking for a slap” says what this poem is about. No subtext, no secret message or even an analogy. A slap is always a slap. In this case it isn’t meant to punish, hurt or teach a lesson but to express frustration. It is an expression of displeasure that is stronger than merely saying ‘Get of out here Veda’ & stepping away, but saying that with a slap confirms ‘I mean this, pack your bags & go.’

A punch is anger, a shove is control but a single quick slap is a statement. A punch is assault, a slap is insult. More than one is escalation & usually invites revenge. It doesn’t even have to be that hard to get the point across but hard enough to be felt. 

In movies I’m often dismayed that the blows exchanged in fist-fights seems to have no real impact – yes, I know it is stage choreography & no one actually gets hit. But I see body blows that would break an ordinary person ribs, or that wold damage the hands of the puncher – why do you think boxers wear gloves? 

I have never slapped anyone as an adult. As a kid I got in one to two slap fights with other kids that we’re more emotionally, than physically, bruising. I’ve never seen a fist fight, not even one in a boxing ring. I guess I’ve lead a very sheltered life 🙂 I have smacked a few asses, on request, which how I know the slapper’s hand hurts as much as the ass.

But as the first line says “some people/are just asking for a slap” which is why I don’t watch the news 🙂


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Bossy Bossy Boss Boss

Bossy Bossy Boss Boss

you aren’t the boss of me

no one is

doing what pleases me

pleases me

sure others can’t get away with it

but some of us

don’t have to be bothered

with what is required

so stop pointing out

what you consider to be the right way

this way is my way

so get out of my way

<>

let those who have to obey

obey

let those of us who are above

that sort of thing

do what ever we deem fit

and you can deal 

with the mess we leave behind

at least we’re leaving you something

This is a piece about entitlement period. There is no subtext. We live in a world in which consequences are for victims, not perpetrators. Usually the lives of victims are rarely put into a context that shines a favourable light on them, whereas perpetrators often come from troubled homes, or were good guys until they suddenly snapped thanks to something about the victim triggered them – colour, gender, class. Guilty victims innocent perpetrators.

The first line is one of those childhood retorts that we supposedly grow out of but many never do they nearly learn less petulant & more articulate ways of saying the same thing. My station of life, my bank account, my …. is above your so you don’t have the right to tell me anything. Or if you tell me I don’t have to listen or obey but if you don’t do as I say I can make you suffer consequences.

This sort of passive-aggressive behaviour often shows itself in people & their devices – having loud cellphone conversations in restaurants (remember dining in?) & glaring at anyone who glares at them. Just look at the continued spoiled-brat, you-aren’t-the-boss-of-me, behaviour of a recent President. Accountability is for those who don’t have $ to evade it.

‘The mess we leave behind’ often is so convoluted those that can’t clean it up get blamed for creating it or get ousted for trying & end up leaving their own mess. The world is still trying clear up the mess in the middle east. Religious factions continue to face off because each side is the blessed one. All that gets left behind is a bucket of rusty nails.


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The Ruled Class

The Ruled Class

rules change

I get that

this is not a democracy

I get that

we can bite & complain

no one has a choice

we can’t force rule makers

to unmake the rules

we can’t force rule followers

to stop following

rules they have no control over

what they enforce

is not by choice

but by the mandate of others

others whom

we have voted into power

there is no even playing field

rules change

but usually not 

in the middle of a game

of a fight

<>

we are responsible

for knowing what those rules are

for reading the fine print

for understanding the fine print
for being able to sense

what community standards are

even when we aren’t

a part of that community

if what is illegal there

is legal here

when the rules that apply to you

don’t apply to the rule makers

we have to find balance

because

even question their rules

is breaking their rules

I’m no longer an in-your-face nonconformist. I’m not crazy about wearing face masks but I do it – but I do it my way – no disposable green/pink/colourless surgical masks for me. Chances are I’ll wear them on public transit or when shopping even if the current pandemic ever gets under-control. 

One thing that has become very clear is that the law is never applied equally. If one is rich enough, the right colour, race then laws are dispensed with which makes rules & laws unfair. To call attention to this inequality makes one an ungrateful cry-baby complainer who should know their place – which is obey without question. 

Often though the rules are unspoken culturally approved codes of behaviour that often go unexamined until one travels to a different culture that has its own set of codes – that all too often are challenged & forced to suit the visitor – look at the history of Christian colonialism. My rules are better than your rules you ignorant uncivilized heathens whose cultures predate ours.

In the past decade many of these ‘rules’ have started to be questioned but not without resistance – look at the treatment of women in entertainment who are still shamed for being too …. you fill in the blank. The push to have characters played by people who are of the same race as the characters they portray, no more changing the race of a character to make it easier to cast or if you expect backlash.


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