Next Time

Next Time

the sex was good

but at this stage 

good wasn’t enough

I craved more than contact

<>

he certainly enjoyed 

the flesh on flesh

but not nearly as much

as he enjoyed the down low

the secret assignation

<> 

his exploration of excitement

of things his wife didn’t provide

I was his walk on the wild side

that made the cultural box

he felt he had no way of avoiding

bearable

<>

the sex was good

I was a non-threatening opportunity

that had nothing to do with me

as a person

as a spiritual entity

he only wanted the release

when he wanted it

<>

his travel here

often took longer

than we played together

play that was clearly more than good for him

but a vitally needed contact

<>

the sex was good

but for me

good wasn’t enough

I want desire

chemistry

there wasn’t enough chemistry 

for me to want more

not enough chemistry

to get an yen for him 

I knew enough about him

I didn’t care

<>

now to tell him

the next time he calls

and I know he will call

they always do

A guy I saw decades ago once joked ‘How long before I show up in one of your poems?’ He never did but he was aware that writers, poets in particular, often write about their lives – it is a way of processing our experiences & a way remembering them. I didn’t tell him that poetry is a fiction that reflects the truth without telling it – reflections are often distorted by the light, by time & the surface that sends back the reflection.

Some of my pieces are composites of real events that I’ve experienced or that friends had told me about. This is one of those composite pieces that reflects that balance between lust & opportunity. One would think with changes in cultural mores men (or women) wouldn’t feel so bound to fulfill the roles of husband or father but many still do.

Whether out of a sense of not letting down the folks, or maintaining their ethnic standards they find themselves in domestic relationship boxes – often though, as in the case of the married man here, he felt little conflict in maintaining two lives. He also enjoyed the ‘sneak’ of meeting up to spending time with me – overtime, going to the gym tonight, etc.

Things between us developed beyond this stage as we talked about our lives outside the bedroom. Not that he was going to leave the missus or anything stupid like that but a mutual fondness was strong. But fondness is no mask in these pandemic years. So I haven’t seen him in over year now; we email occasionally but, to be honest, if we never meet up again, life will go on. He’ll be a sweet memory not a heart ache. He texted that he’s had his vaccine so I know he’ll call.


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Zero Interest Rate

Zero Interest Rate

why I lost interest

wasn’t relevant to letting go

neither of us was that invested

or at least I wasn’t

he was a good technical fuck

made it clear how much he enjoyed

the time we spent together

but as much as he filled me up

he never fulfilled me

he was chatty enough

but conversations went his way

he listened to his voice

his point of view

would ask the same questions

give his answer

talk over mine

so I lost interest

<>

I blocked him on dating sites

rather than go into why 

I lost interest

why I found his paranoia

around identity theft 

made me distrustful of him

he knew too much for the innocent

because he was black

his racism couldn’t be confronted

he’d merely repeat his view

to call him out

meant that I was the racist

<>

it was a few years

since we’d had contact

then one day there he was

on my door step

having changed his online identity 

he’d made contact with me

never let on who he was

did a few things differently

gave me his email

which he’d never done before

though I still didn’t know his real name

the date was set

and there he was

with a slightly smug smile

<>

I wasn’t flattered

but was amused

he was still a good technical fuck

friendly enough

not a listener

talked over my replies

to questions he’d asked

<>

when he left

I blocked him again

somethings don’t change

and he was one of them

“I Can’t Quit Him” – actually ‘Her’ in the Blood, Sweat & Tears song, comes to mind when I think about this poem. If this basic ‘boyfriends past’ seems familiar, it is but is also a different occasion & a different guy too! Now if you are think – he’s bragging, or worse yet, he’s a slut. Get over it! If you are thinking – I hope I have as active a sex life when I’m his age – congratulations. Though those first two thoughts have some truth too.

Often guys who won’t take no for answer think they are demonstrating their persistence, their ardour for you. I see it either as, in one case, sex addiction – no thanks or even sadder desperation – no thanks. It’s not as if I have that active a sex life than I can ‘afford’ to turn down opportunity – but as I’ve said before – just because you’re interested doesn’t mean I have to be.

This is based on a true story! It did happen about two years ago. I have heard from him since mind you. He showed up once day, out of the blue, unmasked & expected me to be eager & grateful. I was neither, even when he did mask & he didn’t get past the porch. He was just in the neighbourhood wanted to drop by.

I didn’t say drop dead – not in the midst of a pandemic – but I was clear this was unacceptable. He was dismayed & claimed other guys have been less inflexible about lockdown restrictions. I told him I’m not like other guys & sent him on his way. I didn’t apologize or even say ‘try me when the pandemic is over’ – though that would have been a good delay, as covid19 will never be over. But better no hope than false hope.


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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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Scriabin

 By Alexander Scriabin (1871-1915) Russian, I have stand alone double cd sets: Piano Sonatas 1 2, Symphonies 1 2; lp to 4 cds transfers of solo piano music that includes mazurkas, etudes etc. As mp3: symphonic poems: Prométhée, Le Poème du feu; Le Poème de l’extase; Piano Concerto. 

The lp transfer were of a VoxBox 3 lps set. Much of this is influenced by Chopin & delights, if you like Chopin. Romantic, sometimes a bit cloying but never as over-the-top as, say, Liszt. He doesn’t say too far from the various forms & like all Russian composers incorporates fold melodies. They don’t break new ground. The Piano Sonatas – the early ones are traditional but as he ages they become more sonorously challenging when he moves into atonal scales. Dense & brilliant.

Scriabin invented the light show! He was influenced by his synesthesia, and associated colours with various harmonic tones. Some of his orchestral works were meant to be performed with coloured lights proved by a colour organ – which created an effect similar to the aurora borealis. This did give rise to a resurgence of interest in him during the trippy 60’s, 70’s. 

So when I listen to his Symphonies or symphonic poems I try to imagine colours. The liner notes to the cds might have clues but I’d rather let my own slight synesthesia take over. Symphonic tone poems was/is popular form in which the composer creates a mood. Debussy’s La mer is a prime example. They are often impressionist & without really reaching a dramatic climax. Scriabin’s tone poems – Prométhée, Le Poème du feu; Le Poème de l’extase – are more moody than anything else. Relaxing, ethereal & spiritually up lifting. Try them.  

Just a reminder that this story goes back, way back, to the mid-70’s, when I was living in Cape Breton. I have done minimal editing for things like spellings, punctuation & name consistency. As you may gather I was not out at the time but clearly wrestling with the process.

No Fanfare 4

I sat back in the chair & pulled on my other boot. He want angrily back tot he stern & shoved on the record. Soft, blurred guitar hovered in the silence between us.

“I didn’t …” Afraid that I had lost this chance, I wanted to explain what I intended but couldn’t rationalize his feeling of being used inot a scene in which that wasn’t true.

“Oh, shove off. I’m bored with apologies.” He sat at the piano & began playing along with the album.

“Do you want me to leave?” The sting of tears had become an anger; an anger I tried to keep out of my voice. Anger toward myself for not cutting clear enough through my confusions, anger for expecting easy motions, anger with him for turning his back on me. I felt I had to stay; not ‘had to’ but ‘wanted to’. I’d been so involved with my own inner struggles I hadn’t expected to find someone else with them & was willing to open up about them the way I wanted to to be about mine. Jean always claimed to feel she was the closed one but I’m sure she even realized what was troubling me. Perhaps she was more afraid of confronting me with it that I was on telling her.

“Do you want me to leave?” I repeated louder, to make sure he heard me over the music.

The muscle sun his back poised to continue as stopped playing. “Whatdo you think?”

The bitter edge to his voice made me look up as I was unlacing the one boot I had tied. “I think I’d like one more for the road.”

“Why bother?” He bristled, once again picking out the melody of the piece on the stereo.

“Because,” dropping one boot, “I’m” dropping the other “scared. Afraid that if I leave I may no be able to face myself for losing this opportunity. Maybe this is using you. I don’t know. I hope it isn’t.”

Determinedly I went to him, still unsure of how to my words but needing to reach him, unsure of where to put my hands but wanting to touch him. I sat on the bench beside him. Keeping his back to me he straddle dit with the same easy motion of his leg.

I had expected to be coaxed not to coax. Putting my arms around him from behind I pulled him closer, one hand feeling his heartbeat, the other rubbing the tightness of his stomach.

“What am I suppose to say? I’m no rapist, either.”

Steve put his hands on mine, caressing them.

“You seem to be saying more than I thought you could.”

His caress became a squeeze as he pushed my hands down.

“I still think you haven’t realized just way you have to come to grips with.”

There was a light laugh with ‘grips’ as he pushed my hands down to his bulging crotch. 

“I realize I should know better but if this going to be the start of your voyage, you’d better understand that this is the point of no return.”

He pressed my cupped hands onto him. I felt him become as aroused as I had already become. I recalled my easy appraisal of his corduroy stretching equipment when he stood before not so long ago. Minutes that now seemed a long, distant, embarrassing yet fondly recalled memory. The meeting in the park seemed to stretch further into the past.

“So you’ve never touched another man, eh, Dave? How does it feel?”

He released my hands. Savouring this new anticipation my fingers moved gently over this zipper, timidly down the sorrows of the corduroy that separated them from actual contact with his flesh.

I bit his earlobe & whispered. “It feels alright. Super.”

Turning slowly, he stood to face me, pulling me to my feet, his hands touch me as mine were touching him. 

“Does this conflict with your image of yours?” He chuckled huskily.

We were face-to-face. 

“Yes.” I kissed him quickly. “Did you expect it not?”

I kissed him again, slower. Although I didn’t completely fathom this, I knew I wanted him. Not out of loneliness or love but out of lust. Me a man, wanting this man,I wold have to accept & experience this even if I never fully understood. Understanding wasn’t a solution anyway.

He stepped back, unbuttoning my shirt. “See, there’s no fanfare. No thunder. No hell fire.”

Our eyes met as I began unbuttoning his shirt.

“At least the fear has gone for your eyes.” He said.

“It might be,” flesh touched flesh, tongues again, “but not from here,” I Laughed, patting my heart. “Let’s have that drink.”

Steve was right, there was no fanfare, no earth shaking. Even the sense of relief I’d expected had only been enough to make me laugh. It seemed so foolish. Poor Jean, all the confusions & hurt because of a part of me, an awkward mortalness that I’d let hurt because I was afraid it would hurt me more.

Even if acceptance didn’t make anything easier, it would, I hoped, bring some form of ending, a feeling of completeness. Once I learned the scope of lust maybe I could even cope with love. All I see now is a beginning, a start. At least I see that much. 

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Out With The Bathwater

Out With The Bathwater

he wanted to drink

my bathwater

or so he said

I never did take him up on it

if he had said that

after a few dates

I might have found it

appealing  

almost flattering

but to start with that

was a bit much

it was the sort of

coming on too strong

I called ‘a red flag’

similar to sending a phone number

in the first message

or as the first message

not even a call me

or I liked your profile

I’m not going to call that number

<>

he wanted to drink

my bathwater

when I asked him why

he said that it was pretty obvious

the water

was something that had touched

every inch of my body

the way he wished he could

I was amused

intrigued

all his pics were blurry

or close ups of his nipples

no face pic

<>

I asked for a face photo

never heard back from him

The on-line hook-up world is full of every fetish you can imagine. Obviously I know more about the ‘gay’ male faction but am sure this array of kink is found to the same degree in the hetero scene. Most sites are full of vanilla guys with a dash of leather, s&m, b&d & there some sites are devoted to specific types of play or types of men: bears, older, black – so you can narrow focus.

Profile info usually includes what sort of play the person is interested in & I, unlike many, read that section of a profile (after I check out their hight 🙂 ) Even profile nicknames tell me enough: PoppersRus – is not for me. If approached I make it clear that, based on their interests, we aren’t a good match. Some guys get a bit huffy mind you as if my not being interested in x is judging them. Whatever. If you want to, say, dress as a baby including a diaper, that’s fine by me but I’m not interested – my lack of interest is not a sign of disapproval.

This piece is based on a couple of actual non-encounters. I am perhaps more cautious than some, mind you, but some first contacts don’t even get responded too. Bathwater Jim did a reply though because his (I assume it was a man) approach was novel enough to warrant that much. The reply turned into one of those corny dating book pick-up lines. ‘if I told you you had beautiful body would you hold it against me?’

The anonymity of the internet allows people to approach strangers in ways they probably wouldn’t in person. It’s easy to brave when both parties are faceless, voiceless. I enjoy profile pics but know that with the right angle, lighting & photoshop anyone can be larger than life. 

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Recap February 2021

Over the past month my TOpoet.ca following blog grew to 463! The WordPress map shows my hits in February have come from 91 countries around the world. Mainly USA & Canada with South Africa in 3rd spot! Bangladesh & Malawi remain in the top 10. The most viewed (non-photo essay) was The Thieving Slut, https://topoet.ca/2021/02/15/the-thieving-slut/, with F**k Gratitude, https://topoet.ca/2021/02/11/fk-gratitude/ close behind. Both are personal faves.

My Tumblr following is at 304. Twitter 229 followers.

Picture Perfect is moving along with 56 sections, about 84,500 words, posted so far, with 101,000 words approx to be edited, then posted. This month I was at the point where I got sidetracked in the rough draft so I did major cut of about 5000 words. The cut removed a scene I didn’t need but a character I did need so re-invented him keep the flow. A fun challenge.

I watched some interesting movies including O Ébrio (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Ébrio_(film)). Out of Brazil,1946, starring popular singer Vicente Celestino – who co-wrote it with Gilda de Abreu, who was also his wife. Imagine an Elvis film set in 1946 – fame & faithless women & songs & redemption. Eye-catching costumes for the women. A fascinating look at the culture of the time. The music & lyrics are idealized romantic, religious & dripping with sincerity. Performances are good to adequate, with some sweet silent-movie nods.

Another, an even wilder musical, is the Polish film The Lure (2015) directed by Agnieszka Smoczyńska. One critic calls it “the best goth musical about man-eating mermaids ever made.” I wouldn’t call 80’s EuroDisco Goth but … the music is sublime, the visuals at times are stunning & performances good. Plotting uneven but well worth watching. I saw both of these as part of TCM series of women directors.

A couple of books I’m currently reading. Paper: Coming Out Under Fire by Allan Bérubé about gay men and women in the U.S. military between 1941 and 1945. This quote ‘ … being a homosexual, I had that constant compelling need to prove how virile I was.’ still remains one of the male gender identity struggles. The book is stunning – easy to read, easy to understand & at time heartbreaking & frustrating.  Read it asap.

Kindle: Fairs’ Point: A Novel of Astreiant by Melissa Scott book 4 in the series. I read the first in this series a few years ago. It was part of a StoryBundle of 10 lgbtq fantasy/horror novels & I loved it. I’ve read the pervious in the series. Amazing world building, sweet male lovers & understated sex scenes. Set in a magic Mediaeval land. Only one more in the series after this one though 😦

in clearing out an archive of old writing in a file cabinet I found this piece from the early 80’s. It is about HIV fears but some of the lines about ‘a virus more virulent than love’ echo the current covid19 pandemic where a stranger’s breath could be deadly. Replace roses with masks & it’s ready for today

war/mist

1

i’m pressing the mirror

to my face

not looking for contact

not seeking any content

needing any slight

sign of mist

to reassure me

i’m still alive

i’m still breathing

<>

hey! it’s alright everybody

i’m still breathing

there’s nothing breeding in me

hey! you guys

don’t you hear me

I’m still breathing

2

something in the blood of lovers

has brought this war

to my attention

to my very front door

to my one & only bedroom

sullen pillow whispers

imploring an unwilling caution

for this angry end to innocence 

<>

‘so, we don’t meet again’

a thought

in the corner of my eye

catching you

wandering through the throng

of sights unseen

untouched

a man missed again by me

a stranger in your mist

<>

a kiss is no longer a kiss

it’s an affront to our political awareness

it’s flirting with a virus

more virulent than love

a disease befuddled by language

leaving us

untouching

unflinching

imploding

& afraid

<>

so i’ll send you roses

yellow green black

olive drab camoflage

for our war of wait & see

our war of hide

then die

<>

a lift of the hand

a nod of the head

a thin smile of acknowledgement

i practice the arts

of indifferent recognition

so i can cast them upon

unobtainable flights of obsession

‘is this the wave of the future?

or just an unobservable mannerism

by this stranger in your mist

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Death and the Trout

Franz Schubert (1797–1828) – I remember first hearing Schubert’s Death & the Maiden. It was love at first listen. I was sometime in the late 60’s. I had ordered it from Record Club Of Canada, which dealt with inexpensive reissues &, as it turns out, pirated cassettes. It was not the classical music I was accustomed to, that sweet, romantic Mozart stuff. This was strident, rhythmically challenging & almost rock’n’roll. Relentless & emotionally demanding.

In my collection I have a bunch of lp to cds that include Minutes/ Lieder/ Tanze; Lieder; Tanz/ Dances/ Valses; Waltzes/ Lieder; Waltzes/ Quartet/ Tanzes. The piano pieces were transfers of Vox box sets – sadly I didn’t note who played them. The lieder were sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. 

As stand-alones I have Wanderer Fantasy & over paint music; Trout Quintet & other chamber music; 12 German dances & other orchestral work; Complete Symphonies & overtures;  The Last Four Quartets (includes Death & The Maiden); Works for Violin & Piano; Auf den Strom & other vocal pieces.

No, this is not the complete works 🙂 But the bulk of it. The solo piano music is pretty to romantic. He wrote music for over 600 lieder! I only have a small selection of these – which I picked up only because of the Trout Quintet which was based on one of the lieder. I would love to hear a less concert set of the lieder – all version I have heard are too controlled & polished. Museum pieces.

His chamber music is delightful & comes from a time when people would host salons to listen to this music – or families would learn the pieces to play for themselves. The symphonies & melodic, sweeping & satisfying. Some of his work is surprisingly modern: songs for soprano, French horn & piano! 

If you are unfamiliar with Schubert I’d suggest the Trout Quintet to start as it is fun, the string quartets are good springboards to the rest of his work. He wrote an astonishing amount of amazing music & died at the age of 31 – 31! Did he write in his sleep?

This story goes back to mid 80’s. Dot-matrix print helped to date it, plus the subject matter. I was involved in the early days of ACT & some of it reflects the resistance of bar owners to become activists for safe sex. 

Cooler

“This beer isn’t cold.”

“Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!” Carl replied. “Hardly opened & already the queens are bitchin.”

“It tastes kind of weird too.”

“You should know.” Carl, standing on a stool in front of the upright cooler, turned to look down at George. The cooler was about seven feet high, & as wide as two refrigerators.

“Try it, if you’re so smart.”

Carl finished wiping the sign over his station & stepped down, pinning on a Play It Safe button he had found on top of the cooler. He was pleased, having worked at Matthew’s for only about a month, he already had a sign over his station. The pink-on-black sign read:

CARL’S COOLER

cooler than most

“Well,” he sighed stepping down. “What seems to be the problem George.”

George, usually his first sale every night, dropped in on his way home from work to unwind & unload. Carl had gotten used to life stories. He discovered that there was something about his size, a smidge over 5’4”, that made men want to confide in him. He sort felt like everyone’s little brother.

George handed him the beer. “You tell me.”

Carl took a sip & spit it out. “Jez! That’s piss.”

“You should know.” George joked.

Carl had never tasted piss, but the instant he held the bottle the word flashed in his mind. That flash was something he had gotten used to since he started working here, as the names of regulars he had never met, popped into his head, along with their favourite brands.

“Holy fuck.” Carl turned to his well-stocked cooler. “Has Jack been playing games with you babe? We’ll see about this.”

After giving George a fresh beer, he ducked through the entrance way under the bar & went looking for Jack, the manager & resident clown. If there was something funny happening, Jack’d be behind it. Of all the staff, Jack was the only one who rubbed him the wrong way, mainly because Carl wouldn’t rub him any way.

Jack was in his usual haunt, chatting up Barry, that week’s coat-check boy. 

“What’s up frost bite? Let’s not get political!” He ripped the Play It Safe pin off Carl’s t-shirt. “I had enough of that crap with Will, & now that he’s gone we’ll have no more politics, thank you.”

“Staying alive is more than politics.” Barry butted in.

Jack gave him a quick, dismissive glance. “We’re not going to discuss it. As I said, before I was so rudely interrupted.” He dropped the button into an ashtray. “What’s up, ice box?” He smiled pleasantly at Carl.

Carl handed him the bottle. “You tell me.”

Jack sniffed. “Well?”

“Piss. I guess.”

“Huh?”

“Some creep put a bottle of piss in my cooler.”

“You on the rag or what?” Jack replied.

“Full moon tonight.” Barry added cheerfully.

Carl was getting a bit steamed. He really liked working in gay bars, but sometimes these fucking queens got a bit too ditsy to tolerate. Even though this run-in with Jack had lasted less than five minutes, Carl knew he wasn’t going to be able to put up with any more if it.

“Just letting you know, boss,” He squealed to imitate Hervé Villechaize. “Don’t want any trouble on Fantasy Island.”

“Okay. I’ll check with the others. You get back to your cooler.”

Carl’s cooler, facing away from the dance floor, was in one of the darker corners of the bar. Being close to the men’s room it got a lot of traffic. George was waiting for another.

“Find out anything?” George asked.

“Yeah. Ghostbusters are on their way over.”

The first week at Matthew’s had been a bit rough, but once he got into the routine it wasn’t bad. One of the other staff had helped rearranged his cooler one night, so that the most popular stuff was always at hand. He discovered that stepping on the right spot on the floor the cooler would open for him. The beer he was reaching for was always the nearest. Tips were all right, & he did get to meet nearly every available man around. After two months he was comfortable there. Even Jack wasn’t hard to take, in small doses.

Other than the few regular early birds, things were quiet until after eleven. Carl was chatting with Dan, a somewhat intense blond, who didn’t drink but had a rare passion for tiny perfect men.

“Here’s my number.” Dan said encouragingly, giving Carl his number written on a corner torn from a page of the book he was reading. “You won’t regret it & I know I’ll enjoy myself.”

Carl was used to drunks hitting on him, looking for sympathy & to be humoured, but for someone sober to show an interest was unusual. Dan had been telling him about a play he had seen earlier, & Carl, for the first time, realized he was missing a big section of night life by being this part of it.

“I’m just a deep-in-the-sleazy-dark barmaid.” He laughed to Dan.

“You’re still alive, honey, so can’t have been all that sleazy,” Dan replied.

“I guess staying alive is more important to my sexual identity than sex.” Which was true. Despite the more than ample supply of available men, Carl had always been cautious. Even before AIDS, he hadn’t been one for sleeping with anyone just because they wanted him. He liked Dan, & felt his hormones beginning to hum. He folded the number & put it in his wallet.

“So give me a call. I’d like to see you in the daylight.”

“So would most of the guys here.” 

 part 2 next week

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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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Jonesing for Joplin

Quincy Jones is a chameleon. His work with others is classic without a sense of his personality over-shadowing theirs. He lets the artist shine & I’ve heard anything he’s been involved with & thought ‘that’s a Quincy Jones production.’ He is not a revolutionary like, say, Phil Spector.

I have a couple of lp to cds of his ‘solo’ work: This Is How I Feel About Jazz, Plays Mancini, Ndeda. The first I found in a remainder bin & it is smooth bop. Ndeda was double set I bought used, that is a compilation of some of his soundtrack music (In The Heat of the Night) & instrumental things like Soul Safari. The Mancini is sweet & they are a perfect match. If nothing else Quincy Jones is a tasteful, elegant producer.

Near Jones is a set of lp to cd transfers of Scott Joplin music performed by Joshua Rifkin, Southland Stingers, Canadian Brass & New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble. Joplin almost became a footnote, his music relegated to music scholars until the movie ‘The Sting’ that made his rags universal & they were resurrected by so many ensembles one lost track & sometimes couldn’t tell who was playing which one. I enjoyed them in small doses 🙂 

Most of the recordings are too respectful, treating them like Chopin Etudes, some are jazzier & some are more in the line of sweet polite salon orchestras. So many artists recorded these I’m surprised there isn’t a Tomita version 🙂 Unlike many early 1900 blues performers there are no historic recording sof Joplin actually playing but there are some player piano rolls he made which are fun & can be found on YouTube.

A short story discovered in my archives. It goes back to pre-1995 as the original printout is dot matrix 🙂 I’ve done minimal editing. It is based on a real incident. 

The Allegory of Love

1

“Not again!” I reluctantly pushed Steve’s roaming hand away. “Don’t start something you’re not going to finish.”

He squinted up at me, uncertain & a bit drunk.

I leaned in to speak directly into his ear. “Just because I don’t like being used doesn’t mean ‘stop so soon’.”

“Used?” He took a deep swallow of his beer. “What do you mean?” He stepped back & bumped into a man in leather.

The bar’s music was so loud I couldn’t hear myself. “Call me. I can’t talk here.”

Steve nodded & disappeared into the crowd. 

Thank God I thought, breathing a sigh of relief & dismay. I do like Steve, but too much to continue with pointless flirtation.

I suspected that time a couple of weeks ago was our last encounter. It had been under the same circumstance. Me feeling the lure of the full moon & Steve feeling the lull of enough brew. We’ve had fun many times before & I always look forward to what I called ‘rubbing our two sticks together.’ 

Steve shared an apartment with Ron. When I met them both several years ago at a mutual friend’s birthday party. I was instantly attracted Steve. They were introduced to me as friends not as boyfriends. Ron was a bitch, or so it seemed. Ron & I got into clawing at each other for some reason. Something we’re all too good at, I suppose.

I ran into Steve a few nights later & came on to him like the proverbial ton on brick. It was a meltdown in the sack & has been nearly every time we got our sticks together. Usually at my place but sometimes at his, if Ron wasn’t in. Over the years sex was so good, & Steve comparable enough, I would have set up housekeeping with him, except there was that Ron in the ointment. 

Steve never described them as being lovers, but Ron seemed to run more of Steve’s life than anyone should run anyone’s. But who am I to judge?

I was open with Steve about my affection for him. He wasn’t displeased, but I could sense that emotions frightened him. Staying with Ron seemed to be his way of keeping scary feelings at bay. For lat couple of month I felt their relationship was about to change, but our last encounter made me see things differently.

I’d arrived at the bar later than usual & was making my first foray into the smokey land of men, when Steve reached out of a dark corner. He grabbed me by the belt & pulled me in for one of those long, sloppy kisses that turn me to jelly.

“Good to see ya, Brian.”

“It’s been awhile.” I laughed. I knew he was a bit looped; he usually was to be so bold.

“Watcha’ been up to? The photo biz still keep you in focus?” He teased, running his free hand over my stomach.

“Things are developing well enough. And you? Getting anywhere in men’s wear?”

“Got a promotion.” He said proudly.

“Things must be going well.” I gently bit his ear.

“We’re opening a new branch since I took over.”

“Great! Soon you’ll be Queen of the Reduced to Queers.”

He giggled. “I really like you. You make me laugh.”

“You make me …” I squeezed his bunds.

“Same here.” He returned the squeeze, while draining his beer. “I’ll be right back.”

He darted off for another beer. As I watched him merge into the crowd, I wondered if this was going to lead to one of our meltdowns. Short, stocky & hairy, he was the perfect teddy bear for me to curl around tonight.

Back with a beer, he hugged me affectionately. “You know my little wang goes ‘boink’ whenever I see you.”

“That’s nothing to complain about.”

“How am I in the sack?”

Feeling a little insecure tonight?’I thought, as I replied. “You’re great. I keep coming back, don’t I”

“You treat me so …” he took a swallow of beer.

“Tender?” I offered.

“Yeah! Like you cared.”

“Why shouldn’t I? You deserve it. Just one thing.”

“What?”

“Often we’re too rushed. I want to savour what I enjoy. I hate to eat & run when the food is so good.”

“Thanks.” He pulled me in for another fly-popping kiss. “Let’s go.” He said pulling on his jacket.

“The coast is clear tonight?”

“Ah, who gives a fuck? It’s my home as much as his.”

“You’re sure? You know I …”

“You coming?”

“Sure.” I felt a slight misgiving. “What the hell. We can go to my place, if you’d rather.” I suggested as we walked along. “You really don’t a nose-bleed going that far north.”

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Ghost of a Chance

Has this ever happened to you? It’s a bitterly cold, but dry, night & you’re just relaxing after supper & checking your email when the phone rings. Oh yes, rings, my landline. How quaint, a landline. I answer & it is a fwb ghost from the past. He was in the neighbourhood & could we meet for a chat. I think a moment & say sure – in five minutes at the Greenwood Station.

I get dressed, walk over & he’s pacing, masked. in front on the station. I recognize him by the pace & the hefty backpack that was his trademark style when we first met some, I’d say, nearly twenty years ago. We do a loop south down one block & up the next & back to the station.

We first the ‘catch up’ – he’s in the same profession but now in the private sector – from Crown Prosecutor to criminal lawyer for hire. He called on a whim, a polite term for ‘horny’ & had been meaning to call me for some time now & felt this was the right time. He apologized for our last conversation, which I didn’t recall at all, (but which I did blog about) & also for the way things ended many years ago, which was essentially him disappearing.

https://topoet.ca/2015/05/08/the-ghost/

He wants to renew our sexual acquaintance. I am flattered but not that interested. There other men whom I have been unable to see thanks covid who I would much rather renew acquaintances with 🙂 Being the polite Canadian & feeling a little sorry for him I say I’ll think about it. He wants to drop by now that he’s in the neighbourhood. I firmly decline & we part company.

An hour or so later he calls again to apologize for coming on so strong earlier. I am flattered but indifferent. Beside, to me, this is a red flag of neediness. I say no problem & agree that he can me later in the week, knowing that if he sticks to his usual form I’ll hear from him in 2025 at the earliest.

Boo Hoo Hoo

the fact is I don’t care

I know this comes as a surprise 

to make matters worse 

I never did care

I listened out of politeness

struck the right pose of concern

a sweet smile of encouragement

my look of worried affection

that you found so comforting

allowed you to feel cared for

that someone loves you

but to be honest

I never gave a shit

about your tedious victories

good job reviews weight loss 

or whatever cheered you up that day

I also never gave a shit about

your weary tribulations either

that diagnoses 

that lost wallet

replacing all your credit cards and ids

oh boo hoo hoo

stop acting so shocked

life happens to poor little you

stop dragging your tired trite daily events

in front of me

the thought of me hearing about them

puts me to sleep

the sleep of the righteous

<>

I fake human compassion

only too well 

when I want to slap you

up the side of the life

take that drivel somewhere else 

the sex isn’t worth it

can’t remember if it ever was

so please shut the fuck up 

I don’t care

no one does

oh boo hoo hoo

<>

that’s not what you expected to hear

it’s not my worry 

that your cellphone headset never worked right

that your mother is dying

that you love those new shoes

that you had some deep insight 

to your inner tender core

you feel on top of the world

getting ahead of the curve

whatever

so whoop-de-do

who gives a flying fuck

certainly not me

so wake up and smell me gone

oh boo hoo hoo

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