The Right Price

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

The Right Price

Nothing was the right size. He stood in the centre of the hotel room. The windows were too high to look out of and were too large for the room. Standing on tip-toe he could get a brief glimpse of the high-rise across the street.

It strained his neck to keep looking outside. His suitcase took up half the bed. The bed would clearly be too small for him to stretch out on. The desk was more like ledge. There wasn’t enough room under it for his legs. Not enough room for the top for his laptop to open properly. The chair back came half-way up his spine and offered no support when he leaned back.

The wall-to-wall carpet wasn’t quite wall-to-wall. One one side there was a bare angle of concrete floor that hadn’t been covered. The sink in the bathroom was so low he had to stoop to get his hands under the taps to splash tepid water on his face. There was no cold or hot just lukewarm. The shower stall door didn’t close properly so water splashed out on the floor when he took a shower.

Nothing was the right size except for the price.


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Not to mention it

The Not To List

Not to sew a robe for anyone

Not to ask for an excuse

Not to wear a hat for a funeral

Not to tell the time for a year

Not to clean a room for a photographer

Not to ask for another chance

Not to fix a sandwich for a questioner

Not to erase a mistake for a reporter

Not to fix a noose for a saxophone

Not to give a shit for logic

Not to hope a day goes by for a minute

Not to worry a teabag for example

Not to make space in a crowd

Not to mention it again

Not to question the powers that be

Not to complain about a bad photograph

Not to be culpable

Not to make that bed again

Not to ask them why why why

The 227 Rules For Monks cover every aspect of their life – from how much fabric can be used to make a robe, to how to walk into a room. Many are variations, refinements of the one before it. So I guess half their time is spent memorizing these rules the rest in enforcing them 🙂 

We live in a world hemmed in by rules almost as restrictive & unevenly enforced. If one is in the right social class they can get away things that others can’t i.e. rape, spousal abuse, homophobia (that list is even longer the the 227 Rules.)

Watching ‘The Crown’ I realized the rules of etiquette for interacting with the Royals was equally as ‘refined’ right down to what honorific is appropriate for different occasions & from different people – Presidents as opposed to other Royals. ‘Your Majesty’ or ‘Your Royal Highness’ aren’t equal & one never says Mrs. Mountbatten or Queenie.

Oh, yes, then there’s the rule where, when dining with the Queen, one must stop eating when she stops & go on the next course but cannot start eating it until she does. One monarch was such a fast eater, often dishes where barely smelled before the new one was served.

So this is a list poem that consists of things ‘not to do.’ Some off which almost make sense, some of which come from my experience with others. I have a good friend who is a real photographer (unlike me who is a point & snap). He wants things as they are as opposed to magazine tidy. Same when he does portraits – ‘Don’t smile.’ 

Some of these rules have a ‘subtext.’ ‘Not to make that bed again’ is about getting out of bad relationships. Unlike some of my list poems this one doesn’t develop a narrative line as it progresses, it lacks inner logic (who give a shit?) The first rule is a direct reference the the 227 Rules. My usual rule is photos & blog content aren’t directly linked 🙂



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Undercover

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Undercover

I wanted to throw

the math book across the room

the brown paper didn’t cooperate

as I folded it over the cover

one side was too big to fold

the other too small to cover

I tried to slide the book

so everything was even

so it would be neat tidy

the real cover protected

I wanted it to look as perfect

as the book my mother had done in minutes

 

I lacked her eye hand coordination

perfected by years of knitting

of dress making

I couldn’t even colour between the lines

now here I was

with a pair of scissors

a roll of heavy brown kraft paper

attempting to make covers

for my school books

as requested by the school

if the books weren’t kept tidy enough

we would have to pay for them

I wasn’t even supposed to write on the books

not even to underline

couldn’t dog ear the pages

 

the book refused to fit

I managed to get it wrapped

taped the corner to keep it in place

I didn’t care that it was bunched up

that there was a crease 

on the back cover

 

I tried to slide myself

through grade school

high school

so everything was even

so I would be neat tidy

bland as brown kraft paper book cover

a cover that never quite protected

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True Love

True Love

 

she shows me

the new backpack

that her boyfriend had bought her

for her sixtieth birthday

he was so pleased with the colour

her favourite green

she hates it

but she didn’t tell him that

it’s not the right fit

on her shoulders

like the wonderful red parka

he bought her for Christmas

she loves the colour

but the zipper doesn’t work right

she has to zip a little 

before putting it on

 

I guess he’s from India

as she imitates his accent

I like so much to give you things

she’s grateful to receive his gifts

but will insist

that in future she go with him

when he’s going to buy 

a surprise for her

she asks me

if that sounds reasonable

 

I’m not sure

why she’s asking me

or if she’s showing off

that she has a boyfriend

who buys her things

Another true life adventure – well adventure is over-stating the incident. The ‘she’ is a recovery  acquaintance. We don’t constantly talk about the futile battle of life 🙂 Life if full of small pleasantry & learning to recognize & share them is a part of becoming life-sized. Though sometimes I do wish some people would develop a better sense of boundaries 🙂

The conversation here is about the trivialities of life, relationships &, for me, control. Not that I haven’t received gifts that didn’t quite suit me but I’ve never thought, I’m not going to give specific directions on what I can be given – “here’s a file of my sizes, preferred colours, flavours & if your gift doesn’t fulfill these strictures I’m not interested.”

I found the conversation amusing but found myself thinking that here was someone who may never be pleased with anything so I’d better not give them more than a handshake. I’m also is favour of boyfriends as any age. I rarely talk about my own romantic adventuring though – as accepting as many people are they don’t need to hear me brag about my active sex life.

 

So the piece ends with me projecting a bit on her about the nature of ‘brag.’ But it also reflects that fact that what people tell us isn’t always in the content of ‘what’ they say but the ‘why’ they say. The subtext. Am I telling you about the randomness of ‘ordered on line underwear’ sizing (some countries large is medium in North America) – to find a better place to order or just to let you know I like underwear & that I order it on line. (btw I do know the right underwear size for all my boyfriends).


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Early

Early

am I too early

is this the right time

is this where I am supposed to be

did I wake you

I’m usually early

is this seat taken

I’m not the first to arrive

I’ll walk slower

I’ll get off one stop sooner

walk around the block to kill time

I don’t really want to be here anyway

I’m not as eager as it seems

transit was faster than expected

there were no delays for a change

I’ll come back later

someone has to arrive first

maybe I shouldn’t be the first one they see

I’ll be one of the first to leave

I’ll only stick around awhile

only the late have a place in this room

the ones who struggled to get here

who had trials & tribulations

they arrive breathless agitated apologetic

eager to be there 

all I sacrificed was time
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Worthless

 

Cheap

how cheap

is too cheap

cheap is the wrong word

it implies shoddy

lacking in quality

how inexpensive 

is too inexpensive

before something becomes worthless

before self-worth not seen

as egotism

 

you look at me

as if the price of my chapbook

is too much to ask

after all

the paper itself isn’t that valuable

the cost of printing it

isn’t much greater either

so why should you be expected

to pay more than the paper is worth

the words are worthless 

clearly

expecting to cover more than costs

is egoism as its worst

 

besides

you’d rather buy a beer

to numb the pain

of not getting my chapbook

for free

Based on a true life experience, or should I say, experiences. Experiences I have had & ones that I’ve seen other poets go through. Over the years I’ve produced several chapbooks mainly so I had merch – so I had the physical proof of my writing. I do almost all the work – layout, page layout, cover design & prepare a copy to deliver to a printer. At one time I was doing my own stapling as well. Now I leave part to the printer, but I usually do my own folding. Flat product is easier to store. Plus I write the contents.

 

I price chapbooks to make giving change easy but not so inexpensive as to be giving them away. As printing cost went up my cover price went up. But because I am asking for more than the cost of materials there is often this reaction that I am being unreasonable expecting to be paid anything. I should be grateful they even looked at the chapbook. I have done trade-offs at times. Freebies go to hosts & co-features but that’s it.

More than once I’ve had people attempt to guild me into reducing the price because they too are ‘starving’ artists & to be supportive of them I should be considerate. I fell for this a few times but stopped when I saw them enjoying a glass or two of wine at the bar. Clearly the bar deserves their support more than the artists. Though I know many poetry events count on bar sales to access the space – if they don’t bring enough they are no longer welcome at that bar. That’s one reason I pretty much stopped doing open stages or features for a share of the passed hat.

There’s also this expectation that because something in ‘homemade’ it should be less expensive than ‘manufactured’ or something with a ‘brand’ such as Atwood of DeVinci. I know painters, musicians etc who aren’t brandnames who hit this same reluctance when selling their work. Undervaluing myself in order to sell is a bad bargain & is not going to happen. I am not worthless regardless of what someone may decide. paypal.me/TOpoet 


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Going Public

Going Public

the tenderness here

must remain here

only for the two of us

to enjoy to cherish

 

for the sight of it

in the open air

in a public space

would sully it

 

would turn it into performance

it would cease to be sacred

it would be an assault

on common decency

 

for two men 

to hold hands in public

for them to kiss

in front of innocent children


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Kensington Poetry Market

There’s nothing like performing for a full house – in particular a full house for a poetry reading – in an art gallery not a bar – on a bright Sunday afternoon. Who knew people still enjoyed poetry without libations 🙂 This was The Secret Handshake Gallery, Poetry Reading Series with bill bissett sitting at the top of stairs warmly greeting the poetry fans.

I was on the bill with three other poets – none of whom I was familiar with so I didn’t know what to expect & they each gave us the unexpected. First up was Carol Malyon who opened her set with a charming children story about grandmothers. She also read some unexpected east end Toronto poems. One named checked street car stop  how we often ‘think short turns are metaphors for our lives.’ ‘compound words in cupboards – pork & beans’ ‘each day she feels herself slide a littler closer’ ‘at dawn they move apart.’

She was followed by Naomi Faufer who did a set of angel/cosmic imagistic poems. ‘air hold the invisible buoyant’ ‘music temper by insistent whispers’ ‘we can dance eon silver spoons’ ‘darkness wore her invisible cloak’. She finished her set with and unexpected interpretive dance to, I think, Kate Bush song.

Next up was David McCue with some times funny pieces that rattled the foundations of corporate greed, conformity & indifference. ‘free thought can be contagious’ ‘parched deprivation of the spirit’ ‘an inflated sense of self worth that could fill party balloons’ ‘oppressive toxicity of avarice’ ‘life preserver of convention’ ‘relentless bully of life’

I closed the show with with set that I sensed connected with the audiences in unexpected ways. First I corrected my misnaming on the poster – how hard is it to get people to understand TOpoet.ca is the name I’ve been writing, blogging, publishing & performing as for the last several years – at least I don’t have to worry about pronouns too. My set went well from the first piece, then the Terra Cotta pieces shook people – saying the names of the victims is always a challenge but stumbling over them make the piece resonate even more. The 227 Rules pieces were fun, funny. Ending with Jesus on toast was the right decision.

You Never Know Where He’ll Pop Up Next

you saw the face of Christ

in a piece of toast

you don’t own a toaster

 

why was it only the face

was the slice of bread

too small 

to hold His entire body

was the holy toaster

limited to specific body parts 

 

was it the result of

ancient aliens

who after they built the pyramids 

designed a toaster

specifically to replicate

the face of Christ in toast

a face that seems rather caucasian

for an ancient alien

 

beside you aren’t the first 

to have seen the face of Christ

where it doesn’t belong

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March
March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April
April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

May

Richard III – Stratford Festival

June

Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

July

All’s Well That Ends Well – Stratford Festival

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at Ted’s Bulletin in Washington DC

at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

The Off-Guard Room

The Off-Guard Room

the last thing I expected 

was for this to last

beyond the first blush brush of heat

so when I found myself

looking around

a room I didn’t know I’d entered

I was caught off guard

 

while you 

remained unaware 

as if this sort of thing

happened so often

my being caught off guard 

didn’t draw your attention

 

I wasn’t looking 

to finding a way out

but wanted a way 

that would take me deeper


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Real After Midnight

Only Real After Midnight

he didn’t understand

that too late is too late

that too late had nothing to do

with my desire for him

with my affection for him

it was about my desire for sleep

my affection for walking up

clear headed and well-rested

 

he insisted that it was proof 

of my lack of real interest

that midnight wasn’t that late

only boring guys

went to bed that early

gay life didn’t get into full swing

without moonlight

 

I recalled my disco days

when getting to a bar before eleven

made one look desperate

the place would be empty

filled with loud music

get there at midnight

and the crowd was starting flow

by 1 a.m. it was a packed house

 

that was the gay life

I left to those that enjoyed it

just because I was man enough

to take it

didn’t mean I had to take it

like I didn’t have to take 

his definition of desire

being only real after midnight

Based on a true story 🙂 More than one ‘he’ has presented this illogical definition of real desire – if you don’t want to have sex when they want to have sex then you really aren’t interested. Sure I understand the role ‘availability’ can play is sex but to take non-aligned schedule personally is a bit much. It is a ‘red flag’ in fact. Just like men who take my no drug boundary as personal affront.

Also just because the timing is right doesn’t mean I have to say – oh sure. ‘Looking right now’ doesn’t mean looking for anyone who is eager. When I first came out in Toronto that was the case for awhile though then I developed taste 🙂 When I tell someone that ‘we aren’t a good match’ I don’t explain, if they should ask why – that fact that they ask is another of those red flags. 

As the piece says I was once a disco dolly hanging round until as late as one in the morning, back in the day, & often would go home smelling like an ashtray. Many gay bars didn’t get busy until midnight at the earliest, even if they had a happy-hour 🙂 I got bored of the night bus. This was when my gay card was first demoted from first class – choosing sleep over cruising made me a less-than-queer.

The piece also echoes the ways in which we define ourselves & how others define us as a result. Someone who opts not to have sex at midnight is usually seen as an uncooperative tease or probably not that attractive after all. Sure I could wait around until midnight but that doesn’t mean I want to or will. 


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