Annoying Children

Annoying Children

the children had no clean clothes

they had no clean drinking water

they had no direction

they walked walked and walked

around the particle accelerator

<>

it cost millions

needed clean water to keep cool

it had direction

it had a film crew

to make a documentary

about the important work

about the progress of science

<>

these annoying

children in dirty clothes

were in the way

these selfish children 

in the way of the cameras

wanted the water

the accelerator needed

<>

even worse 

they were in the way of progress

I can’t recall if there was an actual incident that sparked this piece or if it was a response to the oil-pipe line protests. Or perhaps it was the paradox between the cost of political party advertising what they do to help the less fortunate vs using the advertising money to end child poverty. If there was no child poverty what could they use to score compassion points?

When I see documentaries about space exploration & how it is furthering our understanding of the universe & hear the cost of the exploration I wish we recognized that cost in more human terms. Today in the midst of the pandemic it is the countries that cannot afford health care that are suffering the most. Often the same countries industry counts on for cheap labour.

One of the Olympic factoids I was dismayed at was the removal of the homeless, the destruction of shack towns solely to make the location more presentable to foreign press. More money spent on that process than actually spent to improve those lives. Who wants those dirty, shoeless, children in the background of their vacation selfies?

Progress is for those who will profit from it, not for those who are used for the labour to make progress for those who will profit from it. You want better wages? Better working conditions? Health plans? Stop standing in the way of progress.


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Hover

Hover

don’t hover

please don’t hover

in fact

please go to another room

the need for appreciation

that is so apparent on your face

drains the moment of all pleasure

I can’t enjoy

what you want me to enjoy

while you are glaring at me

daring me not to enjoy it

just go away

let me eat in peace

let me find my satisfaction

on my own

because as long as you are so eager

I’ll keep my pleasure

to myself

I won’t let on if I like it or not

I know the power of the poker face

in the face of your anticipation 

before you leave

please pass the salt

your croquembouche has lost its choux

I love most competitive cooking shows. I’m amazed that these chefs can cook with cameras all around them, with close ups of their hands as they chop, close ups of their sweaty brows, of them slipping & falling, dodging around each other as they scramble for the ice-cream machine. I’m sure audition process includes some sort of screen-test. Cooking in your own kitchen with maybe the kids or the partner, or no one, watching is one thing, but in fronton cameras, lights, judges it must be quite stressful, to say the least.

The other side of the proposition is the judging, as the food is ultimately sampled by the panel under the expectant gazes of the chefs. I’ve learned phrases like: depth of flavour, unctuous, umami (I have no idea how it is spelled), caramelization, croquembouche. ‘Mmm these bacon & eggs have great depth of flavour.’

I don’t envy these judges, usually ‘celebrated’ chefs themselves, who have to render instant opinions – actually I don’t know how instant, as their savouring time is edited out & we rarely see how they come to their ultimate decisions. Chefs usually lose for technical issues (undercooked) or for lack of imagination. Rarely is there a blind tasting – where the judges don’t know whose food they are sampling. 

The piece is also about approval seeking – on the TV level the chefs don’t take the judging that personally but on the ‘home front’ it’s little more awkward. ‘I made this just for you.’ or even worse ‘I bought this just for you. I saw it & knew you’d love it.’ Yikes – more than once I’ve been given something I never like but one has to grin & be grateful. It’s the thought that counts, right? 


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2021 Recap

Over the past year by TOpoet.ca following blog grew from 445 to 468! Doesn’t sound like much but I did a cull of followers who are no longer active on WordPress. The WordPress map show my hits have come from over 70 countries around the world. USA still tops the list but that China & Bangladesh are in the top 10 is a surprise. Nigeria in the top 20 – but behind Malawi! Kazakhstan! Still no hits from North Korea 😦 My Tumblr is at 346 followers. 229 Twitter followers.

My top ten posts of the year include 2 out of the archives! Born To Be Blown – from 2014 – https://topoet.ca/2014/01/24/born-to-be-blown/; & Sydney Academy 2 from 2019 https://topoet.ca/2019/08/12/sydney-academy-2/.

I made a few changes in my blogging routine to give me more time for actual writing 🙂 At the start of the pandemic blogging daily was an excellent way to get through the lockdown. Then it became work I had to keep up with & was no longer fun, so I cut way back.

In 2020 I did 322 posts; in 2021 I only 260 blog posts – of course having no live poetry readings or Stratford show to review reduced the quantity. Though on of the highlights of 21 was seeing Three Tall Women on stage in Stratford. Martha Henry’s tour de force final production.

Picture Perfect: Picture Perfect:  98 sections, about 142,000 words posted so far with approximately 45,000 to be edited then posted. I’ve been enjoying the slow process of edits & have made some major cuts in the final set of rough drafts. As usual my biggest issue is keeping names straight – what did I call that rcmp constable a hundred pages ago? I’m really enjoying creating the weekly graphic for each section. I do have an endless supply of frame & paintings that people have thrown out.

Like many people I’m weary of the pandemic, of people’s reactions, of the roller-coaster of restrictions, & now the paranoia. Is it allergies? A cold or covid? How ‘sick’ does one have to be to get tested? Who pays for it? By the time you get tested, have the results, early onset treatment is too late. How long before neo-citron markets a neo-covid hot lemon drink?

Highlights of the year: contributing a forward to Philip Cairns book Hollywood Poems; having some pieces of mine included in Pandemic Poetry. Extensive work on my garden. Deep house cleaning in a lock-down pandemic purge of the house top to bottom, in particular a basement full of stuff – some not touched since we moved into the house some 40 years ago. 

I did get used to zoom recovery meetings & now seriously doubt if I’ll go back to face-to-face. I do meet up with fellow recoveries for face-to-face conversations & sharing. Going up to my room for a zoom is much easier than getting ready an hour or so in advance to get there with the hope the TTC hasn’t shut down. 

What am I looking forward to in 2022? Good question. Travel out of the country is out of the question. Even for travel within Canada testing rules can change while I am landing so I might never get off the plane or end up living in a tent on the runway until I can get an appointment for the right test. But I am considering another week or so in Cape Breton if pandemic travel rules loosen up enough. Stratford has a tentative season with a couple of shows we’re interested in seeing but will it end up a repeat of last season’s open air productions?

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Gift

Gift

what am I accepting

when I accept this gift

is it a sign of an emotional bond

one that I’m not interested in

that I haven’t instigated

it’s not that I don’t like you

but I’m not that invested

<>

I know the gift comes from a good place

that one cannot have too many friends

but at the same time

one can be 

shall we say 

discerning

the gift comes without strings

I can accept it

say thanks

but never 

you shouldn’t have

Actually that last line is a lie. I said ‘you shouldn’t have’ recently when someone I handed me a bottle wine as a Christmas gift. Being a non-drinker I declined as graciously as possible. He was more distressed at not knowing me well enough to realize I don’t drink. It never came up in the context of our friendship. Neither of us ever needed a few to loosen up.

I am a fairly generous guy partly because of recovery – one of the slogans is ‘to keep it you have to give it away’ Recovery continues by sharing it with ours when called to do so. Though the thing with gifts is often the the strings are attached by the getter not the giver. The kind gesture is mistaken for something more promising. 

People project an agenda when there isn’t one & then get sort of huffy when there isn’t one. So as a giver I’ve become a little more aware of what I give to avoid unnecessary complications. Socks are a fun neutral gift, underwear, though fun, is not so neutral, a jockstrap is fun but clearly not neutral. A wrestling singlet? Well, that’s a whole different blog post.

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December 2021 recap

The WP map shows my hits have come from  29 countries around the world. China at #4! Romania & Jamaica in the top 10! Most popular posts were, as expected, the sets of Christmas Lights – Lights Delight. Tied top blogs were Here to Stay & Measuring Up. Both of which are personal faves as well.

Picture Perfect:  98 sections, about 142,000 words posted so far with approximately 45,000 to be edited then posted. I made another major cut of just over 4200 words – fun stuff but a tangent that didn’t add enough to any of the plots. There’ll be more cuts to come in what remains – so maybe Perfect will be done by the end of 2022. Then what?

Watched a great Argentine film-noir La Beastia Debe Morir  adapted from the novel The Beast Must Die. The novel begins with a diary entry “I am going to kill a man. I don’t know his name, I don’t know where he lives, I have no idea what he looks like. But I am going to find him and kill him …” Which is perhaps one of the best openings I have ever read next to “Which one of us is going to kill Mother.” Anyway the film adaptation beings with the killing, eventually gets to the reason. It is tense, heated & excellent. I recorded it from TCM. 

Alan Zweig’s follow up to his 2000’s Vinyl is called, for some reason, ‘Records.’ It is another, less depressing, look at record collectors & what drives them to collect. The collectors run from single men, women, married couples with children, even one gender questioner. Having been an amasser at one point I have major empathy for these people & the lure of one more. Not that I don’t have a vast mp3 collection already, but you know one more is waiting to discover me.

Fortunately, I guess, for me the closing credits that listed all the music played slid past too fast & was too small for me to read 🙂 There was more than one moment of ‘listen to this’ as an interviewee dropped the needle on a track. That brought many memories of me doing the same for a friend. I have to admit I did make note of a couple of lps: J. K & Co., Rusty Kershaw & listened to samples on YouTube but stopped there. Both Vinyl & Records are highly recommended.

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Measuring Up

Measuring Up

I concede 

I’m not that competitive

whether you are better

isn’t that important to me

I want to be judged

on my merits alone

not on how much 

better or worse I may be

compared with anyone

better is relative

who is the winner

the one who comes in first 

or the one who finishes the race

on their own terms

<>

I grew up

in a school system

where I learned 

I would never measure up

because I wasn’t smart enough

to memorize the times table

smart enough

to regurgitate passages of text books

when I wrote exams

even when I was right

I was given no credit

because my spelling was so wrong

<>

coming out

I was never young enough

buff enough

hung enough

to be desirable 

in the eyes of those

to whom I was supposed to measure up to

<>

it’s hard to give up

trying to measure up

in a culture were getting ahead

is the measure of value

if you aren’t competitive

you’re a loser

no amount of self-confidence

will change that judgement

<>

so I concede

now leave me alone

judge someone

who deserves to measure up

This piece (finished on Dec 27, 2021) is a variation on one of my themes – cultural expectations vs nonconformity. Regardless of which fragment of our splintered culture one may fit even that splinter has it own set of expectations to measure up to. To step out of heteronormativity isn’t enough – because one ends up in one way or the other duplicating that power dynamic. Good queers ape hetero – adopting children, looking askance at non-monogamy, drag queens are now commercially viable.

The imperative to measure up starts early – prizes for best marks, best attendance from kindergarten on. It’s not a big step from beating the shit out of that kid who bullied you to prove you are manly enough to fucking the shit out that guy you pick up at bar proving you are more manly than him.

It’s not enough to be a good writer or published, you have to be profitable or you aren’t a real writer. Home cooks are inadequate until they win competitive baking shows (usually to make their children proud). Recognition becomes the point of productivity. Getting that gold star becomes the point of school not learning; a gold star to make your parents proud of you, not learning much beyond the power of approval.

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Big Lights Delight 21.3

More East End Toronto festive lighting – these are mostly park displays – some are daytime & nighttime shots to make the trees look even more spectacular.

East York Civic Centre
East York Civic Centre
Withrow Park
Withrow Park
house on Harcourt St.
house on Harcourt St.
East Lynn Park
Alexander The Great Parkette

Wooden Soldiers

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The Haunted

The Haunted

there is this theory

that unfinished business

keeps spirits on earth

but we had no unfinished business

so I don’t know why

I’m haunting him

<>

it wasn’t my intention

to haunt anybody

when death fit me like a glove

I thought

this is it

I can take it easy

let myself relax

so this new dimension

can give me whatever shape I need

I don’t have to think

of who I am

what to do

I can be nothing

<>

I welcomed the loss of self

only to discover

him

he was holding 

onto more than a memory of me

we were merely familiar 

with each other

as far as I knew

affectionate 

not emotionally invested

to the point

where I would haunt him

<>

showing up hovering

behind him

in a shower steamed mirror

gone before he could turn around

<>

I didn’t want to be there

he’s not the one

I’d pick to haunt either

it would be you

I love this piece. I love a good ghost story too. The ‘rules’ of the ghost world tie them to places, tie them the particular people (or their relatives), tie them to some sort of emotional connection. I’ve written a couple of ghost pieces where I try to find a different angle on the trope.

I’ve read stories where objects are haunted – i.e. the dead man’s shoes that give the wearer visions of his murderer. One author has written a series about the spirit of a dead detective that solves cases for the living. I have one I wrote where a guy hooks up with another guy whose dick is haunted by a deceased boyfriend.

The best ghosts are the ones the reader/viewer doesn’t realize are ghosts until the very end as in The Sixth Sense. Also enjoy ones where you are never sure if their is a ghost as in The Haunting. Was it a ghost or was it a trick of an unbalanced mind?

Ghosts always seem to want something – to warn you, revenge, completion so they can move on, your energy so they can remain on this plane. Rarely have I come across ghosts who don’t want express some sense of purpose. So this piece is about a ghost looking for a purpose.

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Protection

Protection

I didn’t feel pain

or rather

I didn’t know 

it was supposed to hurt 

I thought this is how

it’s supposed to feel

not that I enjoyed it

it wasn’t pain

it wasn’t pleasure 

it was merely

this is how I felt 

it always would be

that everyone lived in fear

this was my fear

<>

what I was supposed to hide

or be hidden from

after enough time

I became unaware 

callose

I learned to live with it

didn’t conceive of being with out it

it was like growing up

in a dark room

not knowing there was light

then one day

a window opens

<>

I see the layers of dust

protection

I’ve been cloaked in

choked in

one fear replaces another

<>

how much can I shed

and still feel safe

One of my theories is that we are taught pain – both physical & emotional – sometimes by the fuss made over us a children when we fall down. Things hurt because we get told they are supposed to hurt – like our fear of emotional pain – of making mistakes – of not being great successes. I grew up in a culture in which being uncomfortable in any way was to be avoided. So to avoid emotional pain – don’t get into relationships, to reduce the pain of failure – don’t try in the first place.

Not that I think being stoic is an ideal but taking the bumps of life personally is not helpful either. No pain no gain – which leads to staying in pain to prove how tough you are – to suffer is noble. Not to suffer is shallow. Tolerating emotional abuse becomes a badge of honour that can be flashed in the face of those who where so ‘self-consumed’ they recognized red flags they didn’t wade in. 

We seem to be in a culture in which being inconvenienced is seen as an affront to personal freedom & identity. ‘Wear mask’ – ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ ‘I don’t want the government controlling my life’. Sound familiar? Being inconvenienced vs dying in intensive care? Dying is another of those context in which we are told how to feel so that if one doesn’t feel the depths of grief they end up guilting themselves for not living up to that expectation.

I was talking with friend recently about a sense of … what is the opposite of inclusion? … exclusion? from the commercialized picture of seasonal bliss – a picture primely aimed & including only family units of one sort or another. Single persons are almost faulted & always pitied for that choice. It’s as if choosing once’s own company & avoiding the noise & clamour of the season is not authentic option but an emotional wound that needs to be healed.

Festive greetings in keeping with whatever belief system you follow with others or by yourself – lol.

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