Sign of the Beast

Sign of the Beast

I wondered

is it a neon sign

something hand-painted

sprayed on a subway car

does it swing on a board 

over the door of a pub

or at a street corner

like a stop sign

<>

will I see it

at the bottom of a contract

does it come between

aries & scorpio

a wave of the hand

to say

here I am

I’ve saved a seat for you

is it an early warning for cancer 

<>

I don’t think I’ve seen it yet

they say you’ll know it

when you see it

there’ll be no question in your mind

you can’t ignore it

when you see it

it’s too late

to do anything about it

<>

no matter what you do

to avoid it

you will see it

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Harvest Home

More local urban front yard farmers in my neighbourhood. The apples had fallen from a tree over-looking a laneway. The corn was a welcome surprise one day. It seems to be doing well enough in containers. I don’t know the difference between gourds & squash – I’m just a city boy 🙂

pair of pears
gourd
rotten apples
squash
tomatos
pumpkin
corn
ear of corn
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I Don’t Know Him

I Don’t Know Him

he was sure

we had met before

he knew my name

where I lived

what I had for breakfast

<>

I was sure he was mistaken

the name he called me

wasn’t mine

I never lived at that address

I skipped breakfast

<>

he was puzzled

he wants to know

why I pretend not to know him

he wants proof

of not being who

he is sure I am

<>

I walk away

I’m not showing some stranger

anything

that would identify me

he’s not getting a glimpse

of my credit cards

my health card

I’m not even going to tell him

where I live

where I’m going

<>

now he wants to know

what I’m hiding

what am I afraid of

he said I was never this paranoid

that I need help

people are gawking at us

<>

I control my anger

I don’t want his blood on my hands

but I want him

to shut the fuck up

to get out of my space

leave me alone

<>

I don’t know him

I don’t want to know him

I want to call the police

but what will I tell them

how long will I have to wait

<>

I stop answering his questions

I walk as fast as I can

dash across a street 

just as the lights change

he’s right behind me

<>

car wheels screech 

thud

thunk

I keep going

he’s not behind me

I won’t turn back

I don’t know him

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Recap September 2021

Stratford safety protocols

Over the past month my TOpoet.ca following blog grew to 465! The WP map does show my hits have come from  countries around the world. That USA & Canada top the list is no surprise but India is back to third place while Sweden &  Bangladesh remain in the top 10 is a surprise. Hello Zimbabwe! 

Most popular posts were Pandemic Poetry Project (https://topoet.ca/2021/09/16/pandemic-poetry-project/); Sunlight & Shadows (https://topoet.ca/2021/09/13/sunlight-and-shadows/). My particular favorite was Tales of Brave Trending (https://topoet.ca/2021/09/19/tales-of-brave-trending/).

My Tumblr is at 350 followers. 226 Twitter followers. Picture Perfect: 86 sections, about 126,000 words posted so far with approx 66,000 remaining to be edited then posted.

A surprisingly great watch has been American Horror Show: Double Feature. All the usual throat slashing & blood drinking but this time combined with a sharp, merciless look at creativity & the sacrifices made to be productive. In this case a drug that unlocks a writer’s, painter’s blocked inner potential. If you are brilliant & blocked you become genius, if you are mediocre & blocked you become a sort of stumbling grey person. Intense performances with Frances Conroy stunning & Macaulay Culkin excellent. 

Finally got around to seeing Parasite – a visually & philosophically stunning film. Figuratively & literally the plot moves through cultural levels to a fugal climax that is breathtaking. The rich house set is an amazing piece of modern architecture – one of those sets like the astounding deco apartments that show up is 30’s movies but only existed in movies. The plot made me think of Dante’s Inferno as it takes us literally through the rings of Hell. 

Also watched Valley of the Dolls, again 🙂 https://topoet.ca/2021/09/26/valley-of-the-bras/ 

nice tongue action

Finished reading Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem (1928). McKay was part of the Harlem Renaissance & wrote several novels & books of poetry but his approach was ‘earthier’ & deemed not elevated enough to cast a favourable light on his race. The novel is a fun, fast slice of the night life, the work life, the love/sex life of the times by someone who lived those times.  His hero has a strong emotional bromance with another male character: Wiki tells us “McKay was bisexual; he pursued relationships with both men and women throughout his life. He never officially “came out” (nor did anyone else in his time) nor explicitly stated his sexual preference.” 

The highlight of the month was a day trip to Stratford to see Three Tall Women. https://topoet.ca/2021/10/01/ah-yes-i-remember-it-well/ 

The Tingler

as a boy

I couldn’t tell the truth

if my life depended on it

mot that I was a compulsive liar

or even lied that often

but under any sort of questioning

I was guilty

regardless of being innocent

Did you do that?

no – which was the truth

Go to your room

Until you are ready to tell the truth.

but

No buts. Now go you lying loser.

<>

to avoid that banishment

I’d have to tell a lie

but I was even a worse liar

thanks to some movie I saw

where some sort of centipede

would materialize

around the spine

when you were scared

lying scared me

as much as telling the truth

I would feel those

million sharp legs 

sinking into my back

my skin would tingle

The Tingler!

that’s what that movie was called

<>

a lie would kill me

it would crush my heart

burst out of my nose

brain spattering everywhere

insect legs would dig out from my eyes

<>

so I was afraid to lie

the punishment for telling the truth

was bad enough

not be be believed

not to be trusted was confusing

it was better to leave the room

let them think what they wanted

because the clearly truth 

made no fucking difference

<>

at that age

they made sure

I knew I was a lying loser

a useless dishonest kid

which I know now was a lie

and that’s the truth

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Off Guard

Off Guard

the last thing I expected 

was for this to last

beyond the first blush brush of heat

<>

when I found myself

looking for a way out

of a room I didn’t know I’d entered

I was caught off guard

<>

you remained unaware 

as if this sort of thing

happened so often

it didn’t drawn any of your attention

<>

after awhile

I wasn’t all that concerned

with finding a way out

but one to that would take me deeper

At first glance this is yet another poem about obsession hinting at unrequited love ‘you remain unaware.’ Almost a variation on ‘they don’t know I exist.’ I’ve seen this place out in thousands of movies, plays, TV shows & novels. Sometimes played in which they dislike each at first then realize that they are actually in love. Or they break up & then realize they want to ‘take it deeper.’

I’ve experienced some of this ebb & flow of the first blush turning into something more involved but am too pragmatic to mistake that blush, that off guard moment, for something worth a movie. Things last as long as they do & often that isn’t forever. Like a blush, the blood cools & my emotions become temperate.

The poem is also about the nature of … I’m not sure what to call it …. the nature of ‘deeper.’ My recent post about Valley of The Dolls is a clue to how I can become more that a little compulsive about certain things. When I read the Patty Duke had recorded the  songs I had to have that recording. I also have tracked down other versions of the song. I tried to find Tony Scotti lps but without luck. 

When I was watching the complete Peyton Place (514 episodes) I really liked Christopher Connelly & when I read somewhere he had released an lp at the time, I had to have it & ordered the original vinyl from some lp collectables in the States. It didn’t take me any ‘deeper into’ Peyton Place mind you, but what the hell. Ultimately Patty & Chris remain unaware (besides both being dead) but I think they’d be pleased someone is still enjoying them all the same.

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Valley of the Bras

After reading Stephen Rebello’s Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! I was keen to see the movie, again, & had planned watch it on my own on a rainy day but after seeing the excellent ‘Hitch’ which was based on Rebello’s ‘Alfred Hitchcock & the Making of Psycho’ my partner read ‘Dolls! Dolls! Dolls!’ also wanted to see it again. So we dug out the 2 disc ‘Special Edition’ – loaded with great extras. I had reread the novel earlier this year so I was eager to rewatch the film.

Where to start? The movie pales in comparison to the novel & I understand why fans were disappointed in the adaptation that removed 3/4 of the book. The characters are reduced to stick figures – gone is the fact they women live together for a time – in the film there isn’t one scene of the three of them together. Gone is Anne’s friendship with Helen Lawson – in fact Helen is almost excised from the script – Hayward’s performance jump starts the movie whenever she appears.

Don’t get me started the those songs – we get a glimpse of the Lawson’s Broadway show number ‘I’ll Plant My Own Tree’ & it is clear that no one involved in the film every saw, or was involved with a Broadway show. The song is clunky & staged with all the Broadway stage reality of a Busby Berkeley number but absolutely no sparkle. Hayward lip syncs it well enough. No Broadway set designer would ever ever use a mobile that covered the star’s face constantly.

Patty was not pleased to be dubbed & as result released the lp Patty Duke ‘Sings Songs from the Valley of the Dolls.. Yes, I have it thanks to iTunes & it fits perfectly with the music misfire of the movie. It did nothing to enhance her reputation as a singer 🙂 Nor did the film do much to enhance her reputation as an actress. In fact none of the cast’s career potential was increased by the film. Such is the harsh reality of life in the valley of the dolls.

I felt for Barbra Parkins when I saw those beige ‘office’ costumes when they matched the beige every wall she stood in front of. I laughed at the fab cosmetics commercial montage – a product supposed for any woman while she looks like an alien. But as she climbs the ladder to success her costumes do improve even as they remain impractical. 

Patty Duke bravely & brazenly barrels though Neely without taking a breath. Her few scenes with Hayward are rich – Duke noisily claws the scenery, Hayward demolishes it by simply putting on a scarf. Yes, this movie needed more Lawson. Sharon Tate is nearly invisible as her story line is gutted by the screenplay. 

How these actresses where treated by the industry is worse than how the characters they play are treated by the industry. I really think the guys who made Feud should consider this Making of Valleys as their next project. Oh yes my title ‘Valleys of the Bras.’ There is nothing lurid in the film but Parkins, Duke & Tate, at different points in the film, spend an inordinate amount of time emoting in bra & half-slip. 

Ready

it turns into a trade

this is what I want

this is what it’ll cost

is that the price I’m willing to pay

is the sacrifice worth the result

<>

why can’t I have it my way

is that too much to ask

I’m willing to compromise some

but when is enough enough

can I say no 

to losing more of myself 

to gain something I expect to get

by saying yes to

what I want to say no to

<>

can I say yes and no 

at the same time

how will you do

when I say yes I want what you offer

but not with the conditions you offer it with

do I want to give up

the comfort of abstractions

for the sake of superficiality of the concrete

if I’m ready for my close up

do I want to stand in front of the camera

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You Can’t

You Can’t

<>

you can have it

it isn’t mine to give

but you can have it

I don’t know who it belongs to

so take it

<>

the land rights

aren’t really protected

well enough

to balance the profits you offer

what is good for the most

is more important

than what is sacred for a few

you can have it

<>

there’s no need for consultation

what do they know

about business anyway

superstitious paganism

is always pointless

in the face of cultural expediency

they only want to preserve their comforts

by denying you yours

so take it

<>

do what you have to get it

just because it is theirs

doesn’t mean anything

to anybody

expect the press 

the cellphone gawkers 

twitter won’t save anyone

you don’t have a reputation

worth protecting anyway

so take it

<>

it’s not mine to give

but not theirs to keep either

yet they are keeping it 

no matter what the cost

to you

<>

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

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

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

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

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


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Tales of Brave Trending

Oscar Wilde said something the effect that it doesn’t matter what people say about you, as long as they are talking about. Bad press is better that no press act all. It is better to be trending for being an asshole that not to be trending at all. The recent US President was a master of trending & seemed to get ‘fatter’ on the negativity than on praise.

A couple of rock legends have breathed life into their trending by being vocal anti-vaxxers. Releasing new music to articulate their stance. Eric Clapton, Van Morrison – as a duo & separately have chosen to stand up for the common people with their recent releases. 

I’ve listened to the songs, read the various comments & am more amused than impressed. Positive posters praise them for their anti-establishment stances & their decisions not to play where masks are mandatory etc. I want to say ‘Honey, these men are millionaires not anti-establishment spokespersons. They represent their own bottom line not your rights as an individual.’ Check out the ticket prices to their concerts.

As I said, I’ve listened to their brave anti-lockdown songs & you know, if they weren’t publicized as anti-safety-protocol songs it would easy to assume Eric is mildly peeved that his latte wasn’t milky enough. The music itself is low-energy, the singing is indifferent & the lyrics are cliche. 

Those who are critical of Eric & Van’s anti-establishment stance have derided them for being uninformed. There have been pics posted of their cds being tossed in the garbage. I want to say ‘Honey, these men are millionaires you can’t un-buy their music.’ 

I see all this more as p.r. than anything else. A way of seeming culturally relevant in ways their music isn’t, unless nostalgia is a radical construct. Their search for self-expression was rarely anti-establishment. A man who sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads turns out to be an anti-vaxxer. Gasp!

Civic Duty (2008)

I’m believin’ what Stephen has to say

Harper harping on what ordinary folks

think of the arts 

sad to say he’s right

ordinary guys are more interested 

getting in cheap dope

getting their hands on the latest xbox

than they are in 

Canadian Short Story anthologies

they want hockey scores 

blow jobs on demand

they don’t want no Canadian identity TV 

they want CSI not Little Mosque on the Prairie

they want Steven King 

not David Adams Richards 

<>

in fact Mr Harper 

you would do us all a favour 

if you out right banned 

anything that called itself Canadian 

who needs McLean’s 

when we can have People

who wants to see Canadians 

give us Linsey Lohan in a yellow thong

not Sarah McLaughlin in gossamer scarves

<>

the ordinary folks don’t give a crap about much 

they would really love it if 

you could see to it t

hat they never have to work

because they don’t like getting up

dragging their weary bones 

to some soul sucking job

so if you really want to get elected 

let us live in luxury 

without having to do anything

we don’t want no education 

studying is a total bore

and a waste of taxpayers money 

creating art elitists 

university degrees 

they only use to make them act superior 

to us ordinary Joes and Janes

whose backs they are climbing on 

to get to the opera

while we have to sit around Tim Horton’s

waiting for our Old Fashioned glazed 

to be digested

we want tv’s everywhere

free cable

free data plans

get rid of the cbc

give us all sports channels

free porn for my android

<>

it has to be free

if you want to get elected 

free beer for teens

that’s the ticket

give the ordinary folks 

what they truly desire 

a life free of want

free of any responsibility

the arts are the pretty tip

of that ugly iceberg

<>

I’m so believin’ 

what Stephen has to say 

glad someone had the balls 

to finally say those arts phonies 

are just cry babies 

who suck the vital masculinity 

from our country

we gotta get this country

back on track

take back Canada

redirect the wasted energy 

we put in to the arts

we finally have leader

who can lead out of the cave 

& into the deep dark forest

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Pandemic Poetry Project

I have two pieces in the Pandemic Poetry Project ed. David Bateman published by Buddies In Bad Times. I’m is good company as the anthology includes work by Patricia Wilson, Kathleen Whelan, Robert Standish, Neta Rose,Charlie Petch, Stedmond Pardy, Dianne Moore, Ashok Mathur, Merle Matheson, David Marshall, Marcy Rogers, Sri M., Peter Lynch, Amy Lester, Steve Keil, Brock Hessel, Sky Gilbert, SK Dyment, Judith Chandler, Philip Cairns, Ashley Bomberry, Marusya Bociurkiw, bill bissett, Paul Bellini, & David Bateman. A superb sampling of lgbtqia writers.

Buddies glitter washroom floor

I was asked by David to submit a couple of pieces last year. I sifted through some recent writing & sent in the two that appear. At the time I was unaware that it was a ‘Pandemic’ project or I might have sent pieces with a lockdown subtext. It is a handsome little book the size of a cd case with 150 pages of insightful, silly, spiritual, sexy, political writing.

It can be bought for $19.95 , in person, at Buddies In Bad Times on Alexander St. Glad Day Bookshop also has it on the shelf or you can order it, but there will be shipping costs.

Buddiehttps://gladdaybookshop.com/item/kUIAuTpWhPwIbxRv1yQZuA

ISBN: 978-1-7775101-2-1

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Eyes on the Despair

Eyes on the Despair 

<>

I knew it

I just knew it

that Karen was getting the prize

that should be mine

because the teacher 

didn’t like me

because Karen was sick

the whole class had voted

to give her the prize

she deserved it

because they felt sorry for her

<>

I was eight or nine at the time

I still feel that resentment

it became message

‘no matter how good you do

someone else always deserves

the prize more

so why bother’

<>

this message resonates

when I think

only the damaged

can write with an authentic voice

only the disenfranchised

have the right to attention

a loop of self-pity

<>

I spoke up

when Karen won the prize

I was told not to be so selfish

I was sent home from school

with a note 

telling my parents that I was

an ungrateful

greedy

pushy child 

I had to write 

an apology to Karen

<>

lesson learned

don’t speak up for yourself

you only sound

indifferent to the plight of others

who deserve to be heard

…….

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

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

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

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

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