July 2021 Recap

Stratford flower box

Over the past month by TOpoet.ca following blog shrank to 450! I went through my follower list & removed people who were no longer active on WordPress. Active followers show up in a colour, non-active followers show up in black. The WP map does show my hits have come from 32  countries around the world. Nigeria, Bahrain in the top ten! India & Bangladesh holding steady & hola Spain 🙂 Ireland! Lithuania?

Most popular posts were: My Five Year (Dead Friends) (https://topoet.ca/2021/07/04/dead-friends/), Summer Murderer (https://topoet.ca/2021/07/13/summer-murderer/). Both of which are my personal favourites.

Shakespeare Pie Shop mmm

My Tumblr is at 331 followers. Twitter is at 224 followers.

Picture Perfect: 78 sections, about 116000 words posted so far with  approx 73,000 to be edited then posted. 

TLN (https://www.tln.ca) does an occasional Italian film festival of mostly recent films – films that don’t show up anywhere else on TV. Comedies for the most part but always with a sharp social bite & sometimes a dash of romance. One I really enjoyed was The Man Who Bought The Moon – set in Sardinia, one gets a glimpse of the political & social regard of the island by the rest of Italy. Our hero first has to be taught how to pass for a Sardinian. Hilarious at points & finally the moon itself appears to save the day. Charming & well worth searching out.

That touch of magic realism owes everything to Fellini. I watched, for the first time, his Roma – there is some bravura film making in this virtually plotless movie. There are reference to his past films & even a hint of Amacord which he already planning.. Impressions of his past mixed with look at his present film making. Fascinating.

from the gift shop

God’s Own Country – I was given this dvd for Xmas a few years ago & finally got around to seeing it. A refreshing gay love story in which coming out is not a part of it. Set on a sheep farm it is far removed from the usual druggy, bar scene fodder. Our hero becomes involved with Gheorghe, a Romanian migrant worker, is hired as extra help. Played by Josh O’Connor & Alec Secăreanu, respectively, they make photogenic couple. Similar to Brokeback Mountain one is not surprised when good looking men find each other attractive. Josh played Prince Charles in The Crown so I thought of this as the The Prince & The Underwear Model. 

Read the excellent Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! by Steve Rebello. A behind the scenes look at the making of Valley Of The Dolls – one of my favourite movies. He also goes into the writing of the book & JS’s career. Full of juicy feuds, casting wars & the sad misuse of Judy Garland; this is a great read that reveals as much about how actresses were treated as it does about the business of making movies. Highly recommended.

silk tie on sale at Gift Shop – yes marked down to $1.00 !!

Took a day trip to Stratford. We didn’t see anything – getting tickets online was problematic thanks to the pandemic seating restrictions. The weather was perfect, traffic as usual, lunched at Features, picked up a few things at the Gift Shop, hit the main box-office to reserve spots on a waiting list for Three Tall Women at the end of September – including the time it took to drive there it took as long as it would have on line 🙂 A call from the box-office the next day confirmed we had tickets – no more waiting list waiting for us.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & but Festival tickets – thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 

PreAdolescent Burlesque

PreAdolescent Burlesque

<>

we weren’t caught

in the dusty garage

pulling our pants down

to show to tell to see

where all the fuss was about
<>

it started out so easy

somebody’s little brother

scampering naked

down a summer street


looking for a hose

a sprinkler

finding instead laughter

<>

what fun we all had

his small white behind

slipping at the end of angry long arms

back into the darkness

of the afternoon house

<>

we six all saw him

us bubbling under thirteens

scanning the fun

red-faced & giggling

eyeing each other

to see if the sparkle was shared

<>

then someone had the idea

maybe it was me

sometimes I pretend it was

but I’m sure it wasn’t

I was the second to say ‘yeh’

I was the one who knew

where there was a secret space

<>

we called it hide-and-see

with all of us hiding

in one little corner

with all of us seeking

one see-it-all glance

one of the girls said

let’s do it again

we all agreed

<>

it was to be after supper

while the folks smoked

put little brothers to bed

only four showed up

there was barely room for us

thanks to the now parked car

one budding young woman


with three earnest little men

silent in shame

willing to look

but afraid to touch

June 19/76

Capturing the innocence of early sexual awareness was a challenge. Making it too explicit would turn it into child porn. I know many whose early sexual experiences were abuse. Mine weren’t as sweet as this, being fraught with my queer awareness without having words for that awareness. 

I did do some of ‘the pants down in the garage’ play but not as depicted here. The naked behind down the street was not unusual either. In summer we played jumping around the garden sprinkler & squirting each other with the hose. Often some clothing would be discarded to the ‘shock’ of parents. 

I like the way it conveys sexuality without being either coy or frank but in a matter-of-fact way. I also feel my poet’s fear here, keeping it heterosex focused because in 76 I was certainly more interested in men but hadn’t found a way to write about it that felt safe. This poem is mildly daring but totally safe too. 

In my pants down show & tell play I was more interested in what the boys had to show. I don’t know if I felt shame but more the fear of being caught. It was fun being naughty but the fear lead to guilt. It wasn’t until decades later that I found out this sort of adolescent ‘sex’ play was normal. I’m grateful for not being caught which would have turned this into some sort of parental outrage trauma as opposed to a sweet recollection of an event that didn’t damage my sexual journey of discovery with lectures & shame for being a child.

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Welcome To The F Files

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

Chrysanthemum Summer

Chrysanthemum 

<>

1

<>

the sword

as sunrise

highlights

the water

flash cuts of red

<>

2

<>

a silver bird

a black curve

at vision’s edge

cautiously circles

hedges preflight bets

against a perfect landing

<>

a black curve

of the slowly formed oval

figures into connections

liniar sensibility

practices the new motion

the cutting motion

of ends realized

<>

3

<>

I’ve caged

with sun & steel

the silver birds 

I hope

to dissect their eyes

to find what they see

beyond my sight

<>

I know they see more

they feed from other hands

I will not rest

till I’ve emptied

their hollow bones

of soaring fluids

I must know more

than the aching birth of flight

I must feel more

than the caress of turbulence 

I must have their sight

<>

4

<>

a feathered rhapsody

in a shimmer celebration 

of a perfect landing 

on an endless spiral

of consecrated breath

breath held

as long as possible

the released 

to form a lined cloud

<>

5

<>

I’ve released

the silver birds

they soar & shimmer

beyond all edges

black round flickers

their eyes intact 

they see black curves

they fly spirals

the black curves are death

a vision I leave to them 

till my own bones

are so hollow

all that remains

is the silver

<>

6

<>

from behind the cloud

a silver bird

wings on straw bones

a floating airfoil song

a crescendo of invention

in a shuddered moment

a moment of escape

a curve of celebration 

for this perfect landing

<>

7

<>

the vision

as heartbeat

reflects

the edge

fresh curves of black

<>

June13/77

This poem reflects my adoration of Yukio Mishima. His life, writing & death were inspirations to me. Over the years I have read nearly everything of his translated into English, as well as biographies & critical studies of his work. Through the piece are mentions of his works – Sun & Steel is his book about samurai culture & ritual. He saw suicide as an artist expression. He was also queer.

The opening & closing are like Japanese water colours with a few simple brushstrokes creating a vivid image in blank space. The in-between verses are like chrysanthemum – multi-petaled with repeated words, images, analogies that reflect, then vary as they move like a kaleidoscope to form then reform new pictures.

Words were carefully picked for sonics & meaning & poetic vibrancy. ‘feathered rhapsody’  ‘crescendo of invention’ are Dylan Thomas candy. I had some brightly coloured Java Temple finches at one time so I’m sure they were inspiration for all the bird imagery. I must have seen a documentary on bird feathers & bones & that relates to their ability to fly but it is possible I made that stuff up too.

T

hey learn to fly by being pushed out of the nest – it’s either spread your wings or die trying, discover their perfect landing or become part of the black curves. Poems have to pushed out the nest to fly into the lives people that the poet often never meets. We writers never know where our words will land once we set them free.  The vision one has of oneself as a poet, as person, also has to leave a nest, though unlike birds we have more options to try as we learn to negotiate life & often never find that perfect landing.

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/

Loyalist Memories 3

A follower asked what did we do a Loyalist for five days – as if there so little to writing one only needed a day or less to get the fundamentals. The structure was the same each year – morning lecture about an aspect of plotting, world building – & discussion of those aspects. Newbies were most curious about getting published & how sell a million copies of their book.

The more experienced where most interested in polishing their writing & the workshop critiques in the afternoon were where the real learning happened. It was after the first session of this that if someone as going to drop out they would drop. Some signed without fully realizing the amount of time reading & commenting on one another’s work would take. I know the first year I expected to have time to write new chapters for my current project – ha! I barely had time to blog – lol.

I was one of the few in the class that actually stayed on campus – the others lived in the area, had friends who live din the area, or preferred the full comforts of a nearby motel. I roughed in one of residence units. I brought breakfasts, snacks, & suppers for the stay. Without a car eating off campus wasn’t going to happen & what fast food there was closed at 4. I wasn’t rushing to hit Tim’s before they closed just to get a bagel.

Over the years I attended I brought chapters from my various nanowrimo novels Lazarus Kiss, Coal Dusters & Picture Perfect. Feed back was productive & when I got to doing edits of those novels I incorporated many of the suggestions. Asking for feedback on sections that appeared at say, the 100 page mark, in a novel did present the challenge of context – some fellow work-shoppers realized what wasn’t explained was probably already explained – other floundered not being able to make that leap. I did include a very brief recap one year.

The biggest thing I learned was that, to me, the writing is more important that publishing – one attender was dismayed they had to sacrifice their dream project after good a start because they couldn’t find a market for it – clearly the dream was the market not the project. Others discovered that once published they spent so much time on promo that they had no time write anything new. 

I hope the follower who asked what we did isn’t disappointed to find out there were no blood offerings to the moon.

The Reparation Room

<>

he acted as if I owed him something

for the way he was treated as a child

by someone I didn’t know

in a city I’ve never been in

because I was old white guy

I was the one to blame

I was the one who had to dig down

to make it up to him 

money wasn’t going to cut it

he wanted to see me hurt

as much as he had been hurt

there was no way to defuse this anger

to step back from the situation

no way was I capable of making him feel whole

<>

was the trade off

the memory of his pain

in return for the memory 

of the pain he might inflict upon me

how many times 

would he have to seek this opportunity

how many times would he have to strike out

before he realized causing pain

never removes the pain one feels

making me hurt as much as he hurts

won’t change his hurt

might numb him to it for a moment

then he’ll have to live with what he’s done

what he feels compelled to keep on doing

making me hurt as much as he hurts

won’t change his hurt

might numb him to it for a moment

then he’ll have to live with what he’s done

what he feels compelled to keep on doing

hitting out spitting out taking it out 

till it would finally consume him

<>

I don’t know how to lead him out of this cage

can’t tell him he’s a slave 

to a problem I didn’t cause

I refuse to be held responsible for it 

yet cannot deny his right 

to seek some sort of reparation

for his past

I’m not the one to apologize

not the one to pull out my wallet to pay him off

I have to witness his struggle

acknowledge it

know that I can’t undo

what has been done

try not to add to it in any way

but it seems no matter what I do

I add to it

just being present brings it all back to him

not being present 

seems to him like I’m hiding out of guilt

<>

neither of us can leave the room

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Summer Murderer

typed on Royal – around 1976

“… As a Young Murderer”

<>

1

<>

I

want to kill

rip apart

with my bare hands

I

want blood

to taste

to smear

across my face

over my chin

between the fingers

of my bare hands
<>

2

<>

I

want to kill

instead

I get on a plane 

reading

in the airfoil gamble

I want to rip my book apart

strangle someone

then

then

slowly pick up the pieces
of my half-finished book

then

then

wash my hands

after reading

I often wash my hands

<>

my hands 

are ordinary

not thin tapers

with long artistic fingers
but squarish

with solid grasping fingers 

that create

yes I paint 

you’d never tell from my fingers

that I do anything

except linger

<>

you’re never tell from my hands

that my fingers

savour the skin of knuckles

brick wall ground

grazed as they pound a head

your head

the head that would never think

that of these hands

my hands

passive now

as they touch

the corners of your mouth

<>

3

<>

down the back stairs 

playing on the pipes

‘nineteenth’

playing at them with spoons

‘here it comes’

tapping at the airfoil

pumping on the surface

‘nineteenth’

playing on the pipes

echoing up the stairs

‘here it comes’

<>

4

<>

then I dream

of regrets

sorry sorry sorry

I’m suddenly

all so sorry

I didn’t stop to think

I rarely do

I think of myself

I only prime the repercussion

percussion

playing on the pipes 

lead pipes

“pieces of flesh

and some hair 

were found …”

<>

my hair

is always clean

I like the feel

of fingers

gripping at my hair

pulling it out

roots & all

looking for a hold

to keep me looking 

as they slip away 

as my eyes disbelieve

my act of turning a corner

without looking back

to see if I did

or if I glimpsed the doing

reflected by alley darkness

blind alley

that’s how they found me

dancing

‘here it comes’

my knuckles raw

the spoon of blood

in my mouth 

singing

‘nineteenth’

<>

5

<>

suddenly

my perception clears

a book on my lap

spoons tapping on the pipes

something in the air

a taste of spring lamb

I want to kill

but

am too tired to clean

<>

I

want to kill

instead 

I come back to my vision

a dream revelation

of the endless tease 

of energy

within my grasp

without my control

<>

This poem equates violence with masculinity in a very direct, in your face way propelled by a barely contained anger. I was compelled to write something that was aggressive, unflinching to get away from the emotional delicacy of the poetry I was force fed in high-school. There was lack of real physical interaction beyond the tenderness of a lover’s kiss. I wanted to write things that weren’t safe because my real life was confined by culturally imposed rules of gender behaviour.

I performed this piece a few times while I was still living in Sydney. ‘ taste of spring lamb’ was the name of a poetry reading I gave & I loved the dark energy of this piece. It was also a lesson to me that people see what you’ve written as you – that this was confessional as opposed to a character I was exploring. More than anything it revealed my desire to shock not to kill.

The language departs from my Dylan Thomas influence – no pretty pictures here but definitely some very clear & visceral descriptions.  The narrative voice moves from that rage, to an almost tender self-awareness of both the speaker & he reader – the reach out to ‘touch the corners of your mouth.’ There is the dream logic word association that goes from ‘pipes’ to ‘some hair’ to ‘my hair.’

The title is a reference to both James Joyce’s & Dylan Thomas’ ‘Portrait of the Artist as a .…’ ‘nineteenth’ comes from The Rolling Stones’ 19th Nervous Breakdown. Writing poems like this is probably what spared me from actually killing some (or myself) & from having a nervous breakdown. 

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/

Summer Blackout

typed on Royal typewriter – around 1977

Blackout 77

1

the fear

aware of the light

shapes the unseen

<>

the fear

is being awakened

at the wrong trembling moment

to your own pulse

2

I gave in today

without a fight 

without a second thought

gave in to nothing

being nothing

doing nothing

going nowhere

<>

I gave up

my dreams & hopes

plans of a great future

that’ll never come true

all that’s left for me

is to relax into resignation

without bitterness

to keep on giving in

without a struggle

<>

the plan now

is to sleep in

on all fours

to a snug shadow

of calm reserve

a smug disinterest 

about the things

I once had to become

3

I’m getting old 

the feel of fall

is colder in my bones

every year

I find it easier to drink

to forget old unfinished fears

than to make new motions

toward an altered shape

<>

I find it easier

every time I empty another bottle

the next seems more welcome

not a proffered hope

but fleeting buffer

to remorse for old hurts

4

resignation

is a futile gesture

it is an admission 

to pretentions

I once had a vision 

a true sense of a special offering

a vision that proved to be

insecure self-indulgence 

a vision

that kept me so in awe

I could never confront

even my basic mortality 

<>

no one is fooled but me

there is no dream revelation

just the dream

just the dream

to black out the image

of the self-pitying 

aging

drunken

unfulfilled visionary 

with no shape

no broken heart

just his fear

<>

the fear

last feeling of fall

has no vision

5

the unseen

is the futility of resignation

the inability to admit

that even as these words are

I intend to deny their meaning

<>

this is not defeat

I have nothing to lose

this is not resignation

I have nothing to concede

<>

the dream

will never change

that it may never come true

is the heart of the plan

<>

the fear

pulse of the plan

has no end

………

Blackout 77

The title pretty much tells the reader what this piece is about – drinking, though it doesn’t get to the first sip right away. The first section is the opening of the bottle not of whiskey, but of the fear the propels the opening of the bottle in the first place. It also presents the idea of pulse as a protagonist.

At the time I didn’t connect my sense of resignation with alcohol. I didn’t realize it was a depressant – I saw it as a creative stimulant, as my escape from fears – particularly the fear of sexuality – getting drunk & acting out with other drunk men happened more than once. Opening a bottle with them was unzipping the pants. 

There’s also some wordplay – ‘sleep in on all fours’ sleep instead of creep – ‘giving in without a struggle.’ This repurposing of cliches is a way to let readers be comfortable with seems familiar while letting them see it in a different way at the same time. 

I wrote some of this while drunk in fact. Parts were in notebooks, some typed & the pieces assembled back in 1977. Some images were in the ‘original’ scribble – ‘sleep in on all fours, the feel of fall is colder in my bones’ – the sense of resignation, which I now see as melodrama, as opposed to real emotion, was more self-indulgence that anything else. Sections were made by sober reflections on what I had written. 

The last verse was handwritten several times as I tried, at the time, to make my drunken handwriting legible. Looking back I think ‘the fear’ was not only of coming out but of the ‘sense of a special offering’ & how it would be fulfilled. Sadly I discarded all those original scribbles way back in 1977.  

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/

My Five Year (Dead Friends)

With my AA anniversary this week (43 years on July 6) I’ve done some reminiscing about my early years in recovery. My memory is helped by the journals I kept at that time – this was before keyboards & morning pages. Handwritten & for the most part more a listing of events than reflections on those events. In my poetry archive I have pieces that I wrote then which are more about discovering the gay world than exploring sobriety.

One artifact I have is a cassette recording of my 5 year anniversary from 1983! I’m not sure if I have heard it since it was first recorded. I also have a photo taken of the occasion, plus some of the cards I was given! The photo brings back some memories. I listened the the tape a few months ago though before passing it on to the Archives for preservation as mp3.

It is, I’ve been told by the head of that committee, a piece of gay recovery history that shouldn’t be lost. I had to hear it first before letting it go. It was a bit embarrassing to hear myself praised, to hear my actual ‘acceptance’ remarks. It was bittersweet to hear these voices of members who, for the most part, are no longer with us. Dead friends. So many dead friends.

Some murdered by HIV, some who died of life itself, some who moved away to Vancouver or Calgary to struggle with their sobriety in different surroundings but didn’t make it, deaths I heard of eventually. Voices I still recognized. Voices that I was happy to hear again. I even recognized laugher of people in the audience.

I do recall the tape being made but don’t remember who made it. Side A says ‘Duncan’s Fifth – Key unknown – 7 July 1983.’ Side B ‘‘Duncan’s Fifth in AA major – 7 July 1983.’ Printed by the hand of the taper. I love the Beethoven reference. It is the entire meeting from opening serenity prayer, passing the basket & the closing prayer. 

I was a little surprised that it played at all. Cassettes often dry out, loose their ‘dynamic tension,’ tape ends become disconnected from the spools. One of the reasons I was so happy to to move to from tapes to cds. There was nothing more dismaying than having the tape on your Walkman jam up & pulling it out with endless feet of tape dripping out of it. I may wait another 43 years before hearing it again though 🙂

This is a piece I wrote in Cape Breton back in 1977 when I was deep into my alcoholism.

Blackout

1

the fear

aware of the light

shapes the unseen

the fear

<>

is being awakened

at the wrong trembling moment

to your own pulse

2

I gave in today

without a fight 

without a second thought

gave in to nothing

being nothing

doing nothing

going nowhere

<>

I gave up

my dreams & hopes

plans of a great future

that’ll never come true

all that’s left for me

is to relax into resignation

without bitterness

to keep on giving in

without a struggle

<>

the plan now

is to sleep in

on all fours

to a snug shadow

of calm reserve

a smug disinterest 

about the things

I once had to become

3

I’m getting old 

the feel of fall

is colder in my bones

every year

<>

I find it easier to drink

to forget old unfinished fears

than to make new motions

toward an altered shape

I find it easier

every time I empty another bottle

the next seems more welcome

more of a proffered hope

than a fleeting solace

leading to remorse for old hurts

4

resignation

is a futile gesture

it is an admission 

to pretentions

I once had a vision 

a true sense of a special offering

a vision proved to be

am insecure self-indulgence 

a vision

that kept me so in awe

I could never confront

even my basic mortality 

<>

the vision of immortality 

before more than I could bear

no one is fooled but me

there is no dream revelation

just the dream

just the dream

to black out the image

of the self-pitying 

aging

drunken

unfulfilled visionary 

with no shape

no broken heart

just his fear

<>

the fear

last feeling of fall

has no vision

5

the unseen

is the futility of resignation

the inability to admit

that even as these words are

I intend to deny their meaning

<>

this is not defeat

I have nothing to lose

this is not resignation

I have nothing to concede

<>

the dream

will never change

that it may never come true

is the heart of the plan

<>

the fear

pulse of the plan

has no end

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