East End Toronto Ghosts

I ate here often enough – a decent if unspectacular kitchen – close thanks to the double whammy of astronomical rent increase & covid restrictions – corner of Danforth/Broadview

breakfast cafe at corner of Gerrard/Woodbine
interior of above
interior of the ghost below
Cafe on Main south of Gerrard
corner store east of Danforth/Woodbine
Terminal Grill in a pervious life time – I’ve eaten here in all it entities then it was closed a year or so but now about to be resurrected as an A&W
Danforth & Monarch park – clearly the wrong neighbourhood for a designer pillow store
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Blood Stained

On last seasonal piece:

Blood Stained

<>

you bleed I smile

I bleed you smile

we slither around in pools of blood

smeared white flesh 

glimpsed

in gradually clotted red browns

incarnadine couple

the blood stream carries us away

to the sea of candy apple red

smooth then rippled

we sink slowly into the sludge

seeking pudding for breakfast

tottering along scabbed shores

of idealized tissues

patterned lace across a windshield

when the car hit the pole 

the head hits the window

flecks of blood dance in the air

to settle in cunning trails

along a grassy lawn

on someone’s open-mouthed 

shocked face

into that open mouth

found new home in a new body

<>

the dainty dangling red dew

dripping off the overhead street light

the morning rain 

will pull blood to the earth

make for better roses next year

you just wait and see

it happens all the time

the undignified deal of war

bargains for blood

sacred weeping virgins

in dusty obscure orthodox churches

is that her blood 

his blood 

blood of the lamb

immaculate and sloppy

caked and flowing

we are in the the presence 

of the great bleeder

confessing the inability of science 

to stop the flow

of medicine to suture the wound

the inability of philosophy to cauterize

the challenge of where to flow

taking us along 

not for a ride

for we are the ride 

the tide

the blurred fingerprint 

on a rear view mirror

touched in the act

the tactile moment of it 

between our fingers

brought to a tongue

can these hands be licked clean

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Spirit Photography

Spirit Photography

a shadow

in the shape of a hand

a slow drip

the colour of blood

the stain on a wall

mottled into a face

stairs that squeaked

with no one climbing them

the tv that turned on

with no one in the room

the phone that rang

with no one there

the picture 

you were once in

the bush 

whispering your name

the toast burned

with a number

the door

that wouldn’t open

the window that

closed itself

the bed sheets on the line

reaching for a child

a clock that chimes five 

no matter what the time

the cemetery

dark at noon

the book

that never opens

to the right page

the letter

from a relative

you’ve never heard of

the breathing

behind you

in an empty closet

the shaft of light

that falls on a claw

the ending

that remains unresolved

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Recorporated

 

Recorporated 

I was on the subway. Standing & avoiding those crowding close me. Breathing slowly into my mask, head down to keep as from contact as possible. The new reality.

People got on & off at each stop. Each negotiating space around them & between others. Some apologizing for brushing up against someone when it was impossible to avoid brushing up against someone. The old reality.

In the window reflection I saw someone stand close beside me but when I glanced to them there was no one there. The reflection was unchanged though. There was clearly a person – I say a person because though the shape was clearly there, the face was distorted by the glass. I couldn’t tell if it was male or female. I couldn’t even see any race. I could feel them press against me as the subway stopped. When I looked to apologize there was no one there. No one.

They were only there in reflection. Wearing a mask much like mine.

The train stopped at my station. I moved to get off but stopped for a moment to glance at the figure by me. I saw it moving past me in reflection. I followed. It turned. I saw it full face. It was me. He exited. Stunned, I couldn’t follow.

The door closed. I had no reflection. I merge back into the crowd. Stood behind someone, willing them to look up. When they did I saw my refection.

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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 

I Did It

I Did It

because 

I wasn’t a star pupil 

I lost to a cheater

I was mocked for being fat

I wasn’t good enough

I saw what I shouldn’t

I was put in a closet under the stairs

I was always picked last

I was misunderstood

I was shamed

I was bored

I was the wrong colour

I wanted to see if I could get away with it

they were vulnerable

they deserved it

it was their fault

they were sinful

I had to punish them

the Bible told me to

voices in my head said it was right

I had the opportunity so took it

I was forced to

I just felt like it

I was entitled 

they disagreed with me

I did it to get even

to get famous

to teach them a lesson

to make a statement

to find out what it felt like

to be President

I did it

to have something confess

so I could say

I did something

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Distant Music

Distant Music

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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