Paper Ghosts

Thanks to the pandemic I’ve been purging my past. Papers, first drafts, photographs & memories. A basement full of lumber, bricks, paint, nut & bolts saved, salvaged, kept for another day now gone, with out regret. Stage set pieces from Bushwack Theatre finally seeing the light of day in the back of a junk removal truck 🙂 

I have seeing my history in the paper I used for writing on. Scrap paper recycled from Famous Players old daily multi-coloured sales report forms – pads of which became redundant as they were updated. Colour coded for filing & mailing purposes. Flyers for movies, for theatrical productions. Lined or blank loose leaf, pages torn out of scribblers, note book of various sizes & even shapes. Notes, poems, fiction typed on various typewriters, hand written in various inks & pens, dot-matrix print outs that had never been separated. https://topoet.ca/2021/03/16/past-of-the-future/

The ‘See Europe’ was one of several road show productions that travelled around the maritimes with special presentations – this was Travel, another was Alpine Skiing – the most popular was the in person show by Raveen – a hypnotist, magician – I wish I had some of those flyers. The travel shows weren’t big draws mind you but they were rentals – in this case Tony Smith was in charge of his ticket sales. We got the rental fee plus sold lots of popcorn 🙂

The various papers help date when some of these pieces were written as many of them were undated. The Famous pages are before I moved to Toronto in 1978. Days Of Heaven is from my first year here. The Famous Players form bring back memories beyond what I had written on the blank sides. One of my jobs there was to type details onto them. There was carbon paper between the pages that were 4 form thick so one had to hit hard to make sure the bottom one was legible. A mistake meant whiteout on all copies before re-entering. A total pain. Life before computers & data entry. 

This piece was typed on the blank side of a ‘Days Of Heaven’ flyer

My Left Hand

he gives me a call

a peace offering

an invitation

an offer

to nail my left hand

to the floor

but he has no camera

<>

he calls

on days

when his memory

is fading

the echo of the moon

in an old well

he speak

French threats

innuendos

of vague violence

I cannot resist

<>

I cannot confront

direct violence

I have a fear of pain

pain as in death

facts to face

I am afraid

I’ll enjoy the nail

relish each thud of the hammer

<>

I remember

the bite of his teeth

even when I cannot

recall the feel

of his lips

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Future of the Past

The endless lockdown is making people long for things to get back to normal, to the way things used to be. Their sense of the future, of hope for themselves & their careers is cloudy. Before the pandemic their futures were relatively clear – career opportunities were promising but now that new office is whichever corner of your apartment are you going to work from home in.

One friend misses his coworkers presence – not that he misses them as people but he enjoyed being part of a team with whom he had casual physical interaction. Working at home you are your own annoying coworker – there is no one to shrug to after a phone exchange with a client. He can’t remember when he last wore a shirt & tie. His job is secure but he doesn’t feel he has a real future if it is going to be spent in his apartment all day & night. His solution is to look for a new apartment to be trapped in.

I’ve been inputting things out of my writing archive – some pieces going back to high-school, some from the mid-70’s before I moved to Toronto, before I ‘came out.’ As I reread these pieces I try to sense my frame of mind at that time, try to sense what I thought my future would be & how this writing figured into that future. With my fiction I dreamed of being a gay Stephen King at times. 

Stranded in the east coast I really didn’t have a vision of the future until I escaped in the late 70’s. But at least I sensed there would be a future that would be an extension of the comfortable present of the times. Now my friends are facing a future that isn’t as comforting, comfortable or secure. Anxiety has replaced hope. No matter how fashionable masks become the reason for them remains.

Incontrovertible

it’s all open to interpretation

no fact is provable

the side you aren’t on 

views that suits the truth you feel 

is the most suitable to your purposes

<>

no image tells all there is to tell

it’s all in the lighting

viewed often enough 

everything  changes

was that a head bounce off the ground 

or an attempt to get up

was that a punch back 

or a hand up to block a punch

was he asking for it

was that a look of distain

depends on the camera angle

the time of day

the race of the looker

<>

what other news feeds do we have

who decides what the news is

which aspect of the truth to report

can we deny what we broadcast yesterday

why not

who remembers yesterday’s news

the past is fiction 

there is no truth too incontrovertible

that it can’t be recast 

to something more dire

more trivial

which truth will get the most viewers

which is truly entertaining

which is merely information

does it matter if it factual

one study says yes

the other says no

<>

the methodology of studies

cast the questions

so there is no one answer 

to what is being asking

but one answer is all you are allowed

yes no

<>

do your believe your eyes

your ears 

what you read in the paper

is it real until it’s been on TV

until someone has been interviewed

do we wait till the the 11 o’clock news

to know what is going on

is it safe to go outside

<>

we are an endangered species

drowning in a sludge of facts and data

that tell us nothing

but fill us with fear or indifference

it may not matter 

what side of the bed you get up on

you haven’t actually sept

that was all in your mind

maybe because there is only your word

you slept

that night cam footage could be faked 

do you remember sleeping

you didn’t use the can

that wasn’t your piss 

splashing in the bowl

all in your imagination

you have no grasp on reality

<>

when nothing is real

nothing can be proved

the past is revisionism 

the futures can’t be photographed

so it doesn’t exist 

then again 

neither do you

you aren’t real 

just a demographic

irrelevant and unbroadcast

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Burned At The Stake

Burned At The Stake

this is not 

what I started

not what I expected

I didn’t ask for it

I don’t know how to stop it

no one does

<>

yet I get blamed

from so many sides

that push me to be

responsible

for being born male

for being born white

for being gay queer nonconforming

<>

if I don’t use

what ever entitlement I have

to advance the agendas

of those who fault me

I remain an enemy

but that is fate

my lot in life

<>

it doesn’t matter

who burns me at the stake

they all have legitimate reasons

who am I to complain

I’m getting what I deserve

not what I asked for

I’m not sure at what age I realized I wasn’t good at fitting in. Perhaps it was when I was 8 or 9 when my Dad began his move from Manitoba east across Canada, finally settling in Cape Breton. We hopped, skipped & jumped from place to place, including a few months in Wales with my mother & her family, for a year or so – staying in some places long enough for me to go to school for awhile. I was a frequently dislocated child.

Even when we settled in Sydney there were moves from one neighbourhood to another, one school to another. It was an adventure at the time but I really had no choice, I couldn’t stop it. I meet kids with stable living conditions – some living in the houses one of their parents were born in. I arrived there with no history & only the family I had was in a house new to us.

I did try at times to fit in, finding playmates to hang out with, joining in laneway baseball games – I even had my own baseball glove, joined cubs, boy scouts, went to the YMCA – none of which turned me into a butch boy. I wasn’t a great joiner – which really hasn’t changed.

I was, without realizing it, resistant to the insistent heteronormative inculcating that was the agenda of these things. This is what boys do, this is what girls do. I was mocked by gym teachers, parents of the kids I hung out with, even my own Dad, for not fulfilling these agendas. Blamed for not cooperating – for not living up to my potential – for not eagerly participating in things that were for my own good, things I didn’t start but didn’t know how to stop. 

I survived nicely & happily – occasionally got burned at the stake of public opinion but that is the lot of us abominations unto the face of the Lord & those who turn that righteous face in the directions of their choosing. In the end I’m not sure what I was asking for then – some sort of emotional guidance which never came. What I did get is the self-acceptance I deserved, which is better than being burned at the stake.


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Games

Growing up we had a frequent Sunday night family game with card games & board games. I don’t recall exactly when it started but may bother & sisters were included. We would play in the dining-room, which we rarely used for dining. The table was large enough & was usually clear of stuff. Card games were simple enough Hearts, Crazy 8s. I was told by my Dad not to try too hard to win to my siblings had a chance.

We graduated to Rummoli. I checked it out online & the fold out board is familiar but the rules for the various elements boggle the mind. I recall Cribbage mainly because keeping score was a pain. Gin Rummy was another but that too was a point counting challenge. I usually let someone else keep score for both.

Although we had Monopoly & Scrabble, the board games I recall best are Stock Ticker & Careers. Both were dice games with playing pieces. In Stock Ticker one bought & sold shares as they went up & down with rolls of the dice. The game had its own paper play money. It could go on forever, I think. Or maybe it was over when all the play money was gone or someone had gone bankrupt. The one with the most money was the winner.

Careers was a sort of Monopoly variation. Rolling dice. Moving your piece around the game board & landing on good or bad squares. There was also a form to fill in of what you wanted: fame, money etc. The winner was the one who first fulfilled what they filled in on their form. I was fond of going for all love or all fame as $ wasn’t as lasting 🙂

With the lockdown I hope more families are trying to this old school games. I have tried the computer/video versions of some of them but I like the simplicity of the hard copy 🙂 Card games are too fast even if the computer keeps score. The electronic sound of dice rolling or cards shuffling isn’t as satisfying. Besides you can’t ask the desktop to get you a sandwich while it’s up 🙂

(games photos sourced via yahoo images)

Eggs Rule

there were more eggs 

than the eye could see

they stretched from one door to the next

from one telephone pole to the next

balanced on electric wires

dangling from the tips of tree branches

<>

eggs of all colors and sizes

robin’s blue so simple and pure

lumpen grey brown emu 

shells that couldn’t be cracked 

shells that cracked at a slight breeze

eggs in mailboxes on street corners

rolling around with nothing to do

aimless without purpose

loitering without intent

<>

eggs looking to be scrambled

to be fried by the right pair of eyes

the temptation to let them all hatch

had to be resisted

too many feathers

the gritty remains of shells under foot 

was irritating enough without 

moulting and feathers in the equation

feathers that held microbes mites diseases

eggs were harmless

as long as they remain intact

it was hard to avoid them

<>

eggs on the subway

leaning over your shoulder 

hinting they wanted to sit down

trying to nestle in your pockets

for warm incubation

eggs on tv telling 

newsmen what to say

controlling the weather

refusing you a loan at the bank

spinning dizzy

at any hint of being interested 

in anything you say against them

<>

eggs rule the world now

we might as well accept that

put down that spatula

don’t go near that whisk

eggs are in control

so surrender

this is their world now

it always was

we have been forced out of denial

the truth can finally be told

<>

eggs invited the light bulb

made the first Atantic crossing

landed on the moon

all history books are to be revised

to reveal the awful inadequacy of humans

in the face of facts

that showed our greedy eagerness 

to hog all the fame acclaim glory

that belongs soley to the egg

the egg that wrote the ninth symphony 

the gg that found the first the rose

the egg that invented the book of love

and now wants 

to tear out all the pages

wants to break our hearts

to serve them sunny side up

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2020 Umbrella Blues

Over the past year by TOpoet.ca following blog grew from 363 to 445! That’s over 80 new followers without me going out of my way beyond blogging regularly. The WordPress map show my hits have come from some 85 countries around the world. India still tops the list is interest but that Italy & Japan are in the top 10 is a surprise. Kenya still in the top 20 – but Malawi! Still no hits from North Korea 😦

The 2020 post that got the most hits was https://topoet.ca/2020/06/10/catholic-girls/ but a post from 2014 made a surprise showing too https://topoet.ca/2014/01/24/born-to-be-blown/. The post with the most all-time hits is also from 2014: https://topoet.ca/2014/06/06/there-was-the-word/. My Tumblr is at 295. It would be much higher but I frequently block follows for buxom babes, porn slam (shooting up crystal meth) sites. Twitter 229 followers.

Picture Perfect is moving along nicely with 48 sections, just over 73,000 words posted so far with about 116,000 words to be edited & then posted. Editing it is fun &though I recollect most of the plot I am getting to expand somethings & fill in others. I need a cheat sheet of names at all times though.

In this has been the year of the pandemic, I never expected to be living in a scifi movie. The threat is real but the stress comes from not knowing when or if it might strike me. I take all the precautions, masks, hand washing & social distancing – which have all proved to be enough so far. Zoom has become one of my best friends 🙂

Getting to AA meetings is simple & no having to deal with winter wear has been an additional plus. Members there frequently mention how they miss all the face-to-face contact but you know I’m indifferent to it. I have never been one for social gathering , of any sort, of more than four or five people. Another bonus is this lack of social contact has resulted in no colds or flu, so far, this winter. I’ve quickly embraced face masks & have amassed a nice collection with fun patterns. a few solid colours, that allow me to feel less medical when I put one on. One way of making masks work is to make them fashion. But I’m not enjoying the realization that going to the store for a loaf of bread is actually playing Russian roulette without knowing who is holding the gun.

My 2020 plans for Capturing Fire in Washington never materialized & I doubt if I’ll be visiting the US, or anywhere else, even in Canada, until 2022. With the travel industry decimated even in country travel will be a challenge. No boats, trains, buses or airplanes to the Maritimes  might bring back the car 🙂 It isn’t clear what will happen with the Stratford Festive, they have planned a season but social distancing requirements may scuttle it even if the vaccine roll out goes well. Maybe one will need a proof of vaccine to get in to see a show? Maybe a return to classical Greek theatre style where all the performers wore masks?

Umbrella Blues

that rain is wet

comes as no surprise

it’s just that sometimes

I’m bored of the rain

tired of its endless fall

the sound of the drop

the feel of it on my skin 

by rain

I mean life

<>

not that life is wet

but it’s just that sometimes

I’m weary of it all

even more so these covid days

<>

so far

I’ve dodged that bullet 

as the numbers of infected

go up & up 

I’m not yet in that number

I say a prayer of gratitude

but I’m tired of dodging that bullet

to go the the store

to walk down the street

<>

peeved by walking into on coming traffic

to create social distance

between me and others

on sidewalks narrowed by patios

I’m weary of the worry

of the avoidance

of the feel survivor’s guilt

<>

have you seen my umbrella

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Stratford photos taken a day trip earlier in 2020.

Dear Santa

My mother was a memory hoarder. My sister has been going though boxes of things stored in our family home & has unearthed things from my past. This letter to Santa was one of those treasures. It tells me so many things about myself at that time – when was that time? Probably when we first moved to Cape Breton in the mid50’s. Before my brother was born. While I was learning cursive writing in school.

The spelling mistakes & writing errors are things that I am still plagued by in my hand written notes. Even then I couldn’t write as fast as I thought & so my letters stumbled over each other resulting in scratching words out or writing over them. 

I can remember learning cursive in grade school. We had to have a special scribbler with lines to train us how to keep uniform sizes for small & capital letters. I have vague memories of the actual exercises but, much liking tying my shoes, there is no specific moment. I do see the influence of my Dad’s writing in the shape of some of the letters.

I was very keen on that cowboy suit. It was not the first one I had – it was a hat, vest, chaps & a two-gun holster. A cowhide print but probably not on cowhide. I recall getting fire engines a few times. Red plastic with ladders that could be swivelled & cranked up with a gear. I love me asking for ‘any old toys you don’t want’ Even then there was no such thing as enough but willingness to accept the mystery ‘any.’ 

I suspect the ‘thank you’ was suggested by my mother though, that’s not the sort of thing I would have added. An early lesson in trying to curry favour though gratitude. The ‘good at school’ sounds like me. I can’t say if that ‘good’ means if my marks or my behaviour had improved 😉 

Envy

if I want what I want

& want it now

does that make me 

motivated

decisive

or obsessive

<>

is it better to be goal driven

or to live in the moment

is what happening now 

as an end itself 

rather than a step 

to something  better

something so much better in fact

that is happening now

loses flavour

makes me impatient for this to be over

so I can get on to the next best thing to do

<>

if i don’t what i have now

how did i end up with it

should i have had better plans

did i miss the turn

take the wrong page 

out of the wrong book 

& end up with the last thing i wanted 

or is this what i want

but don’t recognize it

have i been blindsided 

by some urge 

that spun me so far off reality

that i no longer know 

what i like anymore 

do i want what what i have

<>

if i have what i want

is it important to reach fulfillment

is contentment settling for less

or accepting things as they are

because things aren’t that bad

pretty good in fact

though it took some time

to sort through wants needs 

haves 

& don’t needs

<>

i always thought i wanted 

to be adored

worshipped in fact

because being loved 

wasn’t fulfilling

then it dawned on me

that what i really wanted was envy

i wanted people 

to wish they had what i have

not that i know 

what i really do have

<>

it took awhile to sort that out

to filter it through 

the expropriations of cultures 

to a point where i had 

a hard kernel of fact 

that then escaped me[

because there are so many

bubbling hesitations to distract 

direct my attention

that i forget what i discovered

so maybe that isn’t 

the hard truth either

though i’m better off now 

than i was once upon a time

when the world was young

and i was a mere boy

on his way to the old fishing hole

dangling a can of worms 

on the end of his line

hot sunny day barefoot on the path

he walks down to the stream bank

warm rocks to sit on

not evening thinking of writing a word

or getting laid

just being

just being

without want

<>

now that is something to envy

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Distant Music Coda

It has been fascinating to go back into my past by reading & writing about this chapbook. Memories of writing the pieces have been fragmentary, to say the least. Motivation, inspiration & locations are more nostalgic than revealing. 

Many old the first drafts were written by hand run little note books, many on my clunky typewriter in my basement room in the family home – that room is still there though I think it’s had new floor & walls since I left. The walls were covered with my paintings, shelves of books, lps, my stereo system & my little desk.

Some in my first apartment in Sydney. I shared a workroom with my roommate. He made pottery & I made poetry. I remember renting an electric typewriter to do the final drafts of Distant Music. That  second-story apartment had a huge front balcony where I would sit & write in notebooks & drink. This was the first time I had a room for sleeping & one for writing.

Some of the poems are solid, some reflect the pop music of the time, the striving to be deep, poetic rather than … I’m not sure what ‘than’ … I wanted to impress as much as I wanted to express something about myself. I was in the process of coming out, letting go of the pretence that I was bi so the sexuality that appears in the work is very suppressed.

The sequence of the pieces was mine & the flow, in general is pretty good. Today I would probably have not started with the Dance but with something less abstract such as Woodsman – which would invite readers to search for the chainsaw wielder. 

a piece that didn’t make it into the chapbook

Having Lost

having lost that moment

when we stood side by side

I wander down some well-worn path

looking neither way

without stumbling over unseen stones

I wonder of it’s possible that

I might have been wrong

if I should have given in this time

& said what you wanted to hear

I wonder off it’s possible that

I might have been wrong

having lost that moment

I wonder if I was wrong

<>

having lost that letter

she sent me the next day

I wonder where she is

perhaps I’ll see her tomorrow

perhaps she’s hiding in yesterday

maybe she too thinks she was wrong

maybe she’ll soon come along 

then again yesterday 

may hold her too well

I could never her again

not know where to look

having lost the letter

she sent the next day

<>

old men wearing

white hats pass me by 

nodding & asking why

I sit so young 

yet am so alone

<>

having lost all sense of time 

I find that question still unanswered

was I wrong? was i right?

either way i lost that fight

now I stand & watch her pass by

a memory of my yesterday

me a memory of her yesterday

our lives going on, apart

complete but not the same

having lost that moment

I wonder who was wrong

August 69

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 

Distant Music

Distant Music

<>

1

<>

hush … can you hear the cat music

playing on flaying pigeon wings?

it brings out the hidden claws

of the once delicate lap warmer

now leaping wildly off the thinnest edge

to the beat of singing sounds

stirring safely behind glass

<>

2

<>

wittingly filling the room

with clicky busy city sounds

a thousand tiny tappers

rapping rhythms into the air

faster faster faster still

yet never flying to pieces

as I feel like doing

while lazily scrawling

symmetrical patterns

from my random pressures

wondering if the jazz flow

sounds as smooth to others

as it does to me

<>

3

<>

sometime I cannot make the energy

to go back over the old wrinkles

to make them smooth & clean

for the defining eyes of pryers;

I end up in some big armed chair

where I sit & stare so long

that I become a pile of creaking bones

yellowing skin & longing songs

<>

beside me now are empty chairs,

in front, beyond naked window.

crawls the night city sparkling

like a cluster of earth-bound stars

the wind whistles in dance

up & down the barren streets;

someone must be out there

to turn off & on all the stars;

but I cannot move

beyond these empty chairs

<>

while the dark & sullen moon

turns the stars aside to guide me

into letting the oars slip from my craft

so I can drift at last into my lover

<>

4

<>

changed are the ways of this Welsh lad

the days of longing are upon him now

with the first hint of cornfed comfort

making the long-by-gones seem so fine

here in the middle of my toss-up time

<>

I keep getting the feeling one gets

on dark, rain-spun, cloud-thick days

while looking out great bay windows

knees resting on velvet window seat

watching the mist nest in the elms

dawdling lazy-grey over the endless fields

of early morning English country side;

we discuss cricket or the government –

“frightfully so …

“rather, shall we say, common …

hey! hey!

stop the wheels before we go out of control

I’ve never been this close to that home

till now, & I hope, maybe, somehow

the clouds will have lifted by the time

I step, spanking-new, over-night, into there

<>

5

<>

hush … can you feel the man sounds

sailing on wailing baby cries 

it tries out the reveal cause

of the never ready bed charmer

now pacing softly the thickest floors

to the hum of distant music

floating unsure from Welsh hill

<>

Oct73

1 – I was visiting a friend in Halifax when I wrote this first section. I went there to see him & also to buy music that didn’t exist in the Sydney record store. One of the albums was of electronic/experimental music by the likes of Pauline Oliveros – yes even then I was pretentious enough to like the real thing 🙂 The music pulsed like wings flapping. My friend’s cat jumped up to the window ledge to confront the pigeons in the balcony but there were none there.

‘the thinnest edge’ is how one can leap to the wrong conclusion & get caught trying to figure out how to get back to solid ground. I’ve always had a ‘fear’ of balconies.

2 – I always write to music. These were the days of manual typewriters, when working on a manuscript could be retyping a whole page to correct a single typo. I was an okay typist & loved the sound in my workroom of the click of keys, the tempo of the pounding. Then I could never type fast enough to capture what I was thinking. 

I think the music I was more fascinated by was Santana’s Abraxas – chasing a thousand tiny percussionists with my keyboard. I was also digging Weather Report, Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew. Writing as fast I could before I flew to pieces.

3 – The old wrinkles are typos, edits, rewriting, re-sequencing the verses in a poem. I was also writing a novel at the time so energy was flowing in several directions. ‘creaking bones’ echoes ‘skin & bones’ from an earlier poem. The final verse is a direct reference to Dylan Thomas’s “In my Craft or Sullen Art.” Though at this time I had no lover to drift into.

4 – The Welsh connection continues in this section. This sense of of my heritage doesn’t appear in the chapbook until now. There is a feeling of the east coast, of Cape Breton, that is present in some of the pieces but here I am relishing, or it is wallowing, in my own roots.

After traversing Egypt, Japan, Africa & am brought back to my ‘toss-up time’ & my own origins. The workshops at UNB were acknowledgements of me as a writer – the ‘toss-up’ was the decision of what to do with my expectations of being taken seriously. Was it to dream of this romantic ‘velvet window seat’ success or something more realistic?

5 – a reprise, with variations, of the first part of this poem. ‘cat music’ becomes ‘ man sounds.’ ‘bed charmer’ echoes ‘bed-ridden’ from The Last Waltz  to give the whole book as sense of completion. The first piece in the collection invites you to ‘set sail on my body’ – this last verse asks you to ‘hear the man sounds/ sailing off wailing baby cries.’ The book progresses from that boy to this man. I hope you enjoyed the journey.

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 

Distant Valentine

A Valentine

forced to love, 

now that’s a tear-jerker,

having heard no man

is self-contained & complete

I am forced to love

made to search 

through warm & folding bodies

for isolated responses

for unsure coincidences of desire

sparked by demand

structured into relationships

for the perpetuation of the structure

desperation in every meeting

(will this be the one?)

the eternal lunging crush

prisoners of seduction

fixed positions

bayonets of loving thoughts

tender traps

looked for only the fall into

forced to love

to rationalize tenderness

politicized into affections

scandalized by survival

it’s all one to one

paired by demand

one alone becomes distrusted

forced to love

forced to love

Feb14/76

Of the pieces in the chapbook this is one of the ‘newest’ & reflects a definite stage in my growth philosophically & emotionally. I’m actually directly questioning cultural norms around romance, sexuality & indirectly probing the nature of gender. Clearly I am ‘questioning’ not yet coming out but opening that door 🙂

‘Paired by demand’ hasn’t changed all that much though. We live in a culture where being ‘single’ is seen as an an unhappy choice, a sign of emotional immaturity. Being trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship is for some reason healthier than being single. Getting out of one is merely making one ready for the right relationship to come along. If you wonder how we are ‘structured’ think of how impossible it is to afford to live alone. Most restaurants are at least two seats per table. Bars stools are about the only single seating offered. Drinking alone, yea.

At the time I wrote this I wasn’t as articulate about this squeeze of the cultural imperative to mate bond. Being queer & somewhat closeted at the time I was conflicted by trying to fit the heterocentric romance module I was presented with. The sacredness of fidelity, the sinful cost of pleasure. Folding bodies like folding chairs that only the right person could unfold. You’re nobody until somebody unfolds you.

Looking back I see how the exploration of the cultural mating imperative has become one of my running themes. Like masculinity, it is something that goes unquestioned. Marriage for love & not politic – i.e. merge alliances between nations, merging financial concerns – is a somewhat recent development – maybe 150 years old. The nature of ‘forced’ is one of convenience & control that is accepted & goes unrecognized. The deepest loves of my life have never been forced.

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 

Distant Lady

Lady! Lady!

lady lady

put your parcels down;

forget the bus!

slip away with me;

live by my side

naked & nameless

for a day or two

your husband & the kids

may miss you a little

but will have to forgive

when they see the smile

reborn on your face

<>

you see me walking toward you,

the sidewalk is crowded,

a cloud hides the sun;

we can’t go on meeting this way,

I cannot bear missing this chance

every time our eyes meet

a moment long enough

for yours to scream

“yes! yes! OH YES!

take me! ravish me!

fair stranger so reckless

take me for a day or two

the shopping can wait;

my husband and the kids

can eat pizza, delivered,

just the way they like it;

they’ll be overjoyed at the chance;

despite the worry

they’ll forgive me

they always do”

<>

here comes your bus,

there’s still time;

it starts to rain;

throw your parcels away,

one is bursting already

crushed to your breast

the broken loaf of bread

slices falling at your feet;

I walk on one white crust

smiling directly at you;

you shrug, the weight of motion,

what can one do?

follow me! follow me!

I’ll take you for awhile

only a few naked seconds

your old cloth coat

crumpled on the floor

so its age won’t show

I’ll love your cologne

I’ll love you

<>

the doors kiss open

you hesitate

but get on

falling back a little

losing your balance

losing your grip on your routines;

I hand one back,

soft under crumpling paper;

a new sweater perhaps?

a blouse you’ve longed for

but never could afford?

(I’ll buy you thousands)

the husband & the kids

may miss the money

but when they see

how pretty you are in silk

they’ll forgive

<>

the bus pulls away,

my hands in overcoat pockets

stranded on the corner

waiting for the days to change;

I watch the grey shape pull away

I watch you fumble in your purse

as you fall into a seat

you look back

into the rain;

a smile flickers as I wave,

I’ll never forgive you

Fb 75

This piece has been one of the more enduring in the chap book – the one people still remember – the one that new readers will say – I really enjoyed the one about the bus. Several year ago an actress friend of mine included in her one woman poetry performance along with pieces by TS Eliot, James Joyce (yes yes yes). 

It is one of the story-telling pieces & became a poetry narrative structure I use frequently. You can read this piece & understand what is happening. It is almost like a film story board but with more subtext as text – a voice-over narration. It demonstrates one of the things poetry can do – with it one can select fragments to tell the story without having to fill in connecting details. 

One can use phrases like ‘the doors kiss open’ that gives a clear sonic sensation but also adds the sexual hint of ‘kiss’ – legs, like doors, can open to let in a kiss. As I recall it was piece that wrote itself. Edits were to add certain details ‘clutched’ became ‘crushed’ so that ‘crush’ would be echoed by crust.

The unspoken offer, mute opportunity, is the real story. The narrator is caught up in this fantasy, reading what he wants to see into every move of the lady. Does he even really make eye contact? How much of this actually happens: the bread, the falling back a little. Who hasn’t indulged in a sex fantasy on public transit while looking at a stranger, often looking away if the stranger looks back. Longing for contact it is easier to look away than acknowledge it.

Waiting for the days to change is a long wait. We have to forgive ourselves for opportunities not taken, for busses missed.

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