I Love My Shirts

A few months ago I watched a British series ‘ Stitch In Time’ in which the fashion historian host, with her team of specialists, replicates clothing worn in famous oil paintings – giving us a context for the painting & the fabrics used etc. Sometimes they went to an archive that had actual clothing made in the period in question. It led me to think of the oldest clothing I now owned.

My mother was a seamstress, making clothes for herself & my sisters most of the time. She wasn’t fond of the construction of collars or putting in button holes but I did get her to make me a few shirts. On my semi-regular trips from Sydney to Halifax I would buy albums & fabric. The stores in Sydney didn’t carry ‘fun’ prints & as far as I remember, there were stores dedicated to fabric just departments at Zellers etc. I found these at a sort of Fabricland in Halifax.

I had two of the movie star shirts. This one in blue with the brown insert & one in brown with blue insert – both in this sort of western style. I made sure it had the Frankenstein monster pocket. The fabric is a heavy cotton, almost denim. I loved wearing these because of the campiness of the print & because they echoed my job – I worked at the Famous Player theatres in Sydney. This one still fits me, if I don’t button it up, but the thread is ‘delicate’ with age.

The dashiki style with the racing cars still amazes me. I love this kids pj print, though it is cotton not flannel. I also had another with a cowboys & stallions print but has been lost to time. My mother liked this pattern because it had no collar or buttons to bother with. I’ve kept my eye open on visits to Fabricland or something similar without success. Truly vintage I guess. this one doesn’t fit & the fabric itself is now delicate with age.

The tie is made from another of my Halifax fabric finds. Another cotton print that I may might have had a dashiki made of too. I have worn this tie a few times to perform at poetry readings. My mother wasn’t too sure of the construction of ties so it lacks the interlining fabric that keeps the tie in shape so it never really knotted properly so it proved not to be practical for tying someone to the bed 😦

In Sydney at this time men weren’t wearing prints expect plaids. Shirts were nondescript in mild colours. Mine were attention getters. I see now how these print choices were a part of my coming out at the time with their tres gay sensibility.

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy fabric
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Picture Perfect 103 

Picture Perfect 103

The Historic Society table was on the cafe side in a corner by the window. Two period costumed manikins, one male one female, flanked either side of table. 

“Good morning?” A middle-aged man explained. “These are original manikins. The lady is from Jacobson’s Ladies Wear. The other from Crowell’s mens’ wear department. She dates from the twenties and is in pretty good condition for her age.”

The hands were chipped and white plaster showed under the beige-pink of her skin. She was wearing a  black beaded flapper’s dress.

“Not exactly daily street wear.” Dan said.

“Well, no … but we Capers didn’t wear kilts all the time, if that’s what you mean.”

“No. But he seems more appropriately attired.”

The male manikin had on a brown worsted wool suit, high-collared blue shirt with a dark red tie underneath it.

“I would agree.” the man said.
“The clothes are from the stores the manikins are from?”

“No.” Someone said from beside Dan. It was Stan. “Even if they had period garments having them on open public display wouldn’t be wise. These are approximations. The real are behind glass.”

“Thanks.” Dan finished his tea. “I better get rid of this.”

He found the recycle trash bin for his cup. It was near the books. He had hoped to find out more from the Historic Society man but with Stan there he wasn’t comfortable. Cliff Dingwall, owner of the 2nd hand book store was behind the table there.

“Great day if don’t rain.” Cliff said.

“East Coast sunshine is what my mother used to call it.” Dan said.

“Right she was.”

“I was wondering if you had any books on the history of New Waterford? Even a photo history would be great.”

“There is some that deals with the area but never heard of one about Waterford in particular.” Cliff answered. “Let me just check on line for you.” He took a lap top out from under the table and did a few taps on it. 

“Marvellous,” he said, “to have me whole catalogue at m’finger tips like this. And if’n I don’t have it I can find it pretty good too.” 

Cliff scrolled through a few pages. “Don’t seem to be anything still in print. There’s some that can be ordered if’n you want to pay for it. Not that they is rare books but scarce.”

“Don’t need them that much. Here’s my card. Could you send me the links. I can check them out when I get back to Toronto. Might find them in one of our libraries there.”

“Sure thing. But I do have a couple of similar things here. This pictorial history of Hans County ….”

“We’re about to do the draw for next prize.” Came over the sound system. It was Gracie from the snack bar. “If we could have the tickets, Flo m’dear?” 

Flo was the teen who greeted him when he arrived. The tickets were in a squared cookie tin.

“Shake’m up good this time.” Someone called out.

“Jim you come up here and make the draw.” Gracie said. “Prize this time is place setting for four made from Cape Crafts.”

She held up one of the place mats.

Jim shook the tin again. Gracie opened the lid so he could draw a ticket out. He read the number slowly. Dan found his tickets and checked them. 

“Not even close.” Dan shook his head.

Jim repeated the last three numbers again. 

“It’s me!” Someone called out.

“Okay folks. We have a winner. Don’t forget, all tickets go in to the big draw at 5. Next draw in thirty minutes. Get your tickets now if you want a chance to win a selection jams from Gracie’s Kitchen.”

“Thanks Gracie.” Someone called out.

“We have young Gordie O’Neil here now. He’s going to play us some songs.” Gracie said. “Let’s give him a big hand.”

The tea had gone directly to Dan’s bladder. He looked for washroom signs. He didn’t want Stan to spot see him going to the men’s room and follow him there. He wasn’t usually pee shy but the less pressure the better. 

The men’s room was up two short flights of stairs at the top of the building. One flight at either end of a midpoint landing. The view overlooked the floor. He took pictures of the swirling iron work of the stair railing and the leaded-glass transom window over the door. A sign said the washrooms had been maintained to keep the original tile and fixtures but the actual plumbing was new. 

There was nothing particularly distinct about that tile. There was ice in the dual floor level urinals. He glanced at the toilets and they too were nondescript but clearly of some period other than this one.

There was another door in the washroom with ‘showers’ over it. It was locked but the window in the door allowed him to see where the fireman would have showered. Here the tile was black and white. He got some pictures of the shower floor and the shower heads. How much head did they get in those showers? That’s a lost history he’d find interesting.

“Next raffle draw in ten minutes. Get your tickets now for a selection of Gracie’s Jams.” Came over the PA system.

Dan checked his cell for messages before he left the sale & went back out into the rain. 

“Oh! Mr. James.” Cliff called to him. “I remembered than I have some albums you might be interested in.”

“Photo albums?” Dan walked over to the table.

 “Yes. I bought them in an estate sale a few years ago  in New Waterford.” He pulled a largish cardboard box out from under the table. “You can look’em over at the Gracie’s.”

He handed the box to Dan. It was heavier than it looked.

“I usually don’t buy this sort of thing but it was part of a lot deal.”

Dan found an empty table at the cafe & plopped the box down. Inside was a lot of loose photos, some in their original envelopes, many loose & two large albums. He did a quick glance the loose photos. Many were in colour & several were in black & white. He loved at them a litter closer. At glance he could tell they were from the forties or early fifties.

He gathered them into a pile so he could take out the albums. The top one was one of those eighties  spiral bound. The other was older & the covers were laced together. 

The first pages had pictures with dates underneath – beginning with 1919. He took pout his loupe to examine them to make sure they were authentic to the dates & they were. A quick though the pages showed family photos, baby showers, picnics, school graduations. Many with first names or events written underneath. He filled back to the inside cover but there was no last name. It was the same with the envelopes of developed pictures – first name, drug store rubber stamped. Someone who used the same drugstore often enough that last names weren’t needed.

He flipped open the more modern album. More family gatherings, Christmas trees, birthday parties. Then one set of three pictures stopped him cold. Three girls in their late teen or earlier twenties on a lakeside wharf making faces at each other r& the camera. He recognized one of them as the woman wielding the in his father’s photos.

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  sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Snow Forts

A major snow fall on Jan 17 halted the return to classes in Toronto schools resulting in a couple of extra days of play for the kids. This resulted in a boon of snow fort & tunnel building. These are all east-end Toronto in the Greenwood/Coxwell/Danforth area. Brought back memories of snowed in days in Cape Breton & building snow forts.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & build snow forts – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 


I Got You Covered

I Got You Covered

I wanted to throw

the 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 when I had it covered properly

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 kraft paper

brown

attempting to make covers

for my school books

as demanded by the school

if they weren’t kept tidy enough

we would have to pay

I wasn’t even supposed to write on the books

not even to underline

couldn’t dog-ear the pages

<>

the book wouldn’t fit perfectly

I managed to get it wrapped

taped the corner to keep it in place

it was bunched up

that there was a crease 

on the back of it

I hid it at the bottom of the pile

went to bed

<>

in the morning 

it was covered perfectly

The brown paper covering of school books is a real memory of growing up on the east coast. Grocery stores were still using good quality brown paper bags in those days. Life before the plastic bag! My mother would save them for garbage & also for wrapping packages to mail to Wales at Xmas time plus for the all-important covering of school books. 

I can recall doing this until I left high-school. School issued books had to be returned at the end of the term & checked for condition. The same books, in each grade, would be used year after year until they wore out. Apparently keeping up on the latest development in science wasn’t a priority.  Grammar & spelling books didn’t need updating.

Some years my folks would pay a damage deposit on the books & get it back if they were return din good enough shape. Though I don’t recall ever having to pay for a damaged book. If a book had been in circulation for a couple years I would end up with one that was a little tattered & once I lucked out with one that had important passages underlined & even a few answers on the margins.

Some years we were given already cut covers that had been donated by various business which had their advertising on both sides of the paper. Of course ads appropriate for our ages. I can see the layout of these ads with a space left for writing the name of the book etc but I don’t remember what any of them were for – clearly a successful campaign. Maybe for local dairy, clothing stores. 


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Easter Summer

Easter

without a doubt

the slimmest hope

is held on to longest

that ghost of a chance 

that finds a ledge

to balance on

awaiting the opportunity

to dash into view 

when all the chips are down

can’t you just hear

his heavy footfall

up the stairs

or tripping over a chair

with a drink in one hand

resurrection in the other

1975

Ending this look back with something humorous. I’d say funny but the ending is a bit too sardonic. I’ve written similar pieces in which I play with clichés in unpredictable ways. I enjoy the way this poem twists around language &, hopefully, takes the reader by surprise with the unexpected ending image.

The poem a bit didactic with the almost aphoristic opening about holding on to hope. How long will Trump hold on to his unsubstantiated conspiracy theory? Pride keeps some holding on rather than letting go & moving on. Slim hopes: like ‘this time it’ll be different,’ ‘he/she didn’t really mean it’ etc. We find it easier to continue to invest in hopeless causes than move on.

Lessons learned can be quickly forgotten or ignored with the promise of resurrection. Red flags ‘heavy footfall’ ‘tripping over a chair’ are ignored with that promise ‘I’ll change.’ Or we get caught in being the nice guy afraid that by establish & maintaining a boundary we won’t be liked. ‘If you love me you’ll forgive me.’ ‘Don’t you trust me.’

Alcoholics often continue to drunk, well aware of the consequences – often there is no event, consequence or loss painful enough to get them to stop. In fact that pain becomes an excuse to keep on drinking, the promise of forgetting. Doing the same thing over & over expecting a different result. 

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & visit Cape Breton
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Welcome To The F Files

https://topoet.ca/2021/06/26/welcome-to-the-f-files/

Reconnect

tangled plots

Met up with Lizzie Violet, an actual f2f visit, with someone outside of my bubble for the time since the initial pandemic lockdown. I haven’t spent time with Lizzie since the unexpected demise of her Cabaret Noir a few years ago. We’ve had a few coffee dates with a group of writers but this was a one-on-one without distractions. The day proved to be hot, for me, to sit on a shady patio, so we enjoyed the a/c cool of my dining-room for a couple of hours. (http://lizzieviolet.com)

story building blocks

She writing a novel set during the 30’s set in Toronto & one of the characters is from the east coast. I was a natural resource seeing as my novel, Coal Dusters, is set near that time – there was little change in Cape Breton due to the depression after its own disastrous labour struggles with the coal/steel industries. They were already a hard-scrabble people making the most of what resources they had. But I digress, slightly.

some plot steps lead nowhere

I do get to talk ‘writing’ with one of my Loyalist crew every month or so but was great to do so with with an almost new face 🙂 I also got to share some of the books I picked up in my Cape Breton research & some of the things I discovered for other sources – things like the black miners imported from the Caribbean with promises of company houses etc only to arrive totally unprepared in the middle of a blizzard with no real place to live. There’s a book that needs to be written.

I also shared how I read novels written in the 20s/30s to get sense of the language used, I also read some boys adventures written at that time too. In Dusters I wanted my characters talk like 20’s people not like the over-articulate people of today. In rewatching the The Tudors recently I was dismayed at the over use of the word fuck – I know it existed at the time – but as a word of mocking not vulgarity. 

too many diversions?

Hopefully there’ll be opportunity to reconnect f2f with more of my writing/poetry community before the the lockdown rolls back to protect us from people who feel their personal rights supersede their responsibility to others. 

from August 2008

Dreaming Of Me

you tell me 

you’ve been dreaming about me

you think about me all the time

you think such talk is flattering

but because 

we’ve only been together 

three times

to me these are warnings

things too much too soon

from someone I don’t dream about

about whom my only thought is

how do I break this to you gently

<>

you really are quite sweet

but being attracted to me

isn’t enough anymore

not that I think I’m so hot

that I can pick and choose

it’s just that I’m no longer

driven by opportunity

the way I once was

<>

the longer you dream

the longer it will take

for you to wake up to the fact

that you aren’t in my dreams

I don’t fantasize about you 

I don’t long for your call

I’m not hungry for your kiss

I didn’t want to say no thanks

too quickly

opportunities like this

don’t come often in my life

the last time it did

I was eager like you

for more of that mouthful of wonder feeling

but this time

I’m more inclined to keep my mouth shut

let someone else do the talking

then I’ll do the walking

<>

I’m out of here

once I figure out how to tell you that

after all we’ve only been together

what three times now

not long enough 

for me to consider it an investment

more of an investigation

a chance for both of us 

to check out the goods

and as much as I’m pleased 

with what lies beneath the sheets

I’m not drawn back for more of it

even when you tell me

you dream of me

that you waited all week for my call

the fact that I waited a week to call

should have told you something

if I was that into you

nothing would’ve held me back

<>

I wish you sweet dreams though

feel a little flattered 

some of them are of me

but I’m not selling 

myself for a dream 

anymore

cabaret noir march 2015
Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Summer Striptease

Our Lady of the Striptease

<>

1

<>

she

becomes an angel by intimation

an angle of departure

<>

I

call on her 

at random

when the answer

needs to be atomized

<>

atomized

atomic

breaking chains

disintegration 

she

becomes

the unpiecing of form

the distortion of winter

the glare of silk

<>

2

<>

in the dressing room

she flounces once

in the golding mirror

washes past shadows

for a new wrinkle

to offer her lurching toys

<>

each ruffle in place

nipples rouged ready

pasties perk sparkling 

before she climbs the stairs

mounts the stage

<>

runs quick hands 

over her waist down

soothe fingers on rhinestones

tests the outline of a dream

plunged into a startling spotlight

<>

3

<>

our lady

steps on stage

kaboom

the curtain opens

a lace dream vista

behind her

kaboom kaboom

golden ropes

brass chains

silver buckles 

shish kaboom

<>

gold gloves peeled

ta ta ta ta booma

pink panties drop

kaboom

the sagging grind

of hips breasts

ta kaboom boomba

held up  out

robbed

kaboom

by her own hands

shish kaboom

<>

4

<>

our lady

the form of a woman

she

holds warmth

constructs life

wishbone purity

snaps 

her fingers

eyes

linger

come hither

sleepy shoulder 

turns cold

at the wrong rush

of worried air

<>

clouded

thick with mystery 

the night’s chocolate 

in torn across beds

tumbled searched under

in the look for

the afternoon caress

of roses

brushing one another

as they follow

the sun

<>

our lady

undresses

alone at midnight 

slips

silent between unsweetened sheets

our lady

listen to me call

answer me

answer me

<>

5

<>

she

brushes her hair

<>

outside her window

my legs ache

from standing

tiptoe 

for so long

untangles her hair

used a black comb

powders her shoulders

her cold white back

arches her leg

scratches her belly

my legs ache

<>

she

dims another light

opens the curtain

a lace wider

dances

the bedroom tango

alone at midnight 

slides secretly

between unsearched sheets

<>

6

<>

she

disappears 

the idea of touch

loses contact

the secret caress

hovers

passes as a mist

atomized 

unsearched

aching legs

plow home

through the snow

through the clouds

an angel sings

answer me

answer me

<>

76

This version of Our Lady is from 1976. It went through several revisions before this one was considered done, the writing of it may go back to 1974. The one change I made in 2021, beside proof reading, was to move one section to improve flow. It did come to me as a whole piece starting with that title, which is a sardonic play on Catholic reverence – ‘Our Lady’ almost being the same as Saint. There’s also an echo of The Lady of the Lake. Here Striptease is elevated to a sacred art form.

Here, too, is my structural reliance on numbered sections, a lesson learned from T.S. Elliot. I thought it made my poetry look more serious on the page. Section 3 features my interest in sound poetry ‘kaboom kaboom’ as I give Our Lady a drummer for her number. In other pieces I explore this use of sound even further. I don’t think I’ve ever performed this one so I don’t know how the sounds sound 🙂

There is almost a story line as Our Lady prepares, then goes on stage, performs, then relaxes after & goes to bed. We are the audience for this show & the tip-toe observer literally turns the reader from audience into a secret voyeur. The point of view shifts subtly through out the poem from the ‘I’ to the omniscient poet’s eye that decides her toys are lurching. Finally to the figure spying.

Striptease is essentially a heterosexual male pleasure that invites lust with distance, without real investment in the object other than the surface. Writing about it was a way of establishing my masculinity as a poet. I wasn’t really out at the time, unless getting drunk & having sex with a drunk buddy counts. I was okay being bi but I kept my poetry focus on women.

It’s also about unrequited sex. Our Lady offers it to men who can’t have her, she goes home alone. Our peeper also goes home alone satisfied with his glimpse of the off stage Lady. Both of them caught in a culture in which the observed surface replaces real connection. 

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & visit Cape Breton
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Welcome To The F Files

https://topoet.ca/2021/06/27/welcome-to-the-f-files/

Summer Resolution

Resolution

<>

today

the grey is a force

outside of me

it is cold clouds

brooding  complete

<>

I am a part of this day

a piece of this air

thick sleepy

with a slight breeze

to move me

from room to room

from talk to thought

<>

the breeze

a fussy flute

complicates 

each motion

with a contra-melody 

is in me

as I move formless

to fill the rooms

with a frosted rush

of talk  threats

<>

the threats

aren’t serious yet

but as the wind picks up

even these subtle hints 

can’t resolve its shape

<>

a haunted flute

in a cold hall

played by a winter breeze

waits for resolution

<>

Nv75

Although music has always played a big part in my life – at time when an lp, cassette, cd, mp3 would start up within minutes after I woke up – I rarely wrote without it, but seldom actually wrote about it. This piece is partially inspired by two pieces for solo flute: Syrinx by Claude Debussy & Density 21.5 by Edgar Varese. I had  an lp with both of these by Severino Gazzelloni. Both pieces were merely over as opposed to having a definite conclusion, they ended without resolution.

The poem also uses images, variations on those images – like melodies repeated with slight harmonic changes. The breeze moving me, the shades of cold, frost echoes grey. Haunted resonated with the emptiness of the room, the hollowness of the flute. I move formless, like frosted breath, like clouds that seem to have shape until you get close, they become fog around out, you breath them in.

This was written in 1975 – what was waiting for resolution in my life? I was living in a grey area of sexual anxiety knowing I was gay & being careful about how out I could be. Gay panic was an acceptable for murder, for assault. I had an English Lit prof tell me that writing about queer sexuality would not serve my writing well (or something to that effect). Sex was drunken fumbling with other drunk guys. Sex was a fussy furtive opportunity.

My writing ‘career’ was also unresolved. I had no real mentors. I was stumbling through the writing of fiction as best I could. I have a couple of novels that I wrote between 1970 – 77. Some short stories too, even a play. All full of emotional pretence & the striving to find a voice. A striving haunted by cultural shaming. I was waiting for resolution.

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & visit Cape Breton
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Welcome To The F Files

https://topoet.ca/2021/06/26/welcome-to-the-f-files/

The Beaches August 2021

From a morning excursion to The Beaches area here in Toronto, Queen East past Woodbine. Walked the boardwalk on an overcast cast morning – sadly the threat of thundershowers turned into another hot sunny day 😦 

stunning sky over the The Beaches
boardwalk was lined with painted rock – every rock matters
pleasure cruise on choppy waters
almost Cape Breton seashore
dino that didn’t escape la Beaches sand pit
wild for adventure
ARc de Blob in Kew Gardens
ARc de Blob in Kew Gardens
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 


My Summer Conceit

My Conceit

<>

he said

‘you treat me like shit’

I just laughed

not worried at all

barely caring  surprised 

he felt

I treated him like anything at all

<>

later

when he was really drunk

he called me buddy

confessed

he was afraid of death

that things were slipping

out of his hands

out of his head

he started to break things

to shatter my distance

so I pushed him

a little too hard

with a snicker

a left hook

neither did much good

<>

he said

‘you’re still the same old prick’

I laughed

not worried at all

barely caring 

dismayed

he felt

I had to change because he couldn’t

<>

Oct18/76

Another of the stumble-drunk poems. This one about those drinking pals I look forward to so much simply so I didn’t have to drink alone. I recall one booze buddy who said I was the best pal he ever had – sound familiar – years later I heard that line in a song about drinking. Years later, I don’t remember which booze hound said that about me. I’m sure it was after buying a round drinks.

‘you treat me like shit’ is an actual line said to me, more than once. As a drunk I was emotionally overwrought while being detached at the same time. I was sardonic, even cruel, when not feeling much sympathy for the travails of others. Partially because I thought that a nasty streak made me appear more intelligent, witty, intellectual. It was also a way to keep people from getting to close. I’d rather they thought I was nasty than gay.

Things did get broken 🙂 The drunken confessions weren’t mine, though I may have felt some of those things. I wasn’t afraid of death – after all being a drunk is a slow death. I had suicidal thoughts & imagined drinking myself to death like my hero Dylan Thomas or doing some theatrical gesture like another of my heroes, Yukio Mishima.

My conceit wasn’t in thinking I was not as bad as my drinking buddy but thinking only I recognized that I was probably worse than him & he was humouring me so he could get another drink. Neither us were looking for change unless it was to try a different mix for our drinks.

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & visit Cape Breton
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Welcome To The F Files

https://topoet.ca/2021/06/26/welcome-to-the-f-files/