T.S. Eliot

Writing about ‘inspirations’ has me thinking about my high-school English literature courses where we had some Shakespeare, some Dickens – smattering of short stories (The Lady or the Tiger) and lots of verse, most of which I have no real recollection of, by the classics Tennyson, Shelly & the like. Ornate & fussy is all I recollect – though I have read them since as an adult & now merely find them lofty.

There was some Canadian poetry represented by E.J. Pratt, Robert Service – butch man’s writing. The only female I recall is the dainty Emily Dickinson. No actually modern poets except for T.S. Eliot. One it was his big hit: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. After the forced feeding of the sacred texts by Tennyson, Shelly – Eliot was a breath of fresh air.

Surreal imagery that used ordinary English but wasn’t a pop lyric. Did I understand him? Probably not, because trying to write an exam essay on this was a stuttering stumbling mess. The layers of meaning in his work was merely hinted at by our high-school English teacher. 

This was probably the same English teacher who told me I’d never be a writer because my spelling was ‘inventive’ and my grammar was hopeless. That teacher made me feel stupid. But I persisted.

I have Eliot’s collected poetry & plays in one book & his essays in another. Plus a biography. I’ve read them all. His essays are a bit too academic for me to say I enjoyed them. His poetry is more comic than one expects. reading it today I find him to be more sardonic than perceptive. Prufrock is much easier to ‘understand’ when seen as a humorous poem. The Waste Land has great comic moments as well. I re-read the poetry every three or four years.

What inspired me about him was his concise use of language to covey multifoliate meanings. His work isn’t melodramatic or high-flown the way the romantics became. He wasn’t confessional even while talking about himself. Narrative line was more stream of consciousness as opposed to story telling. He freed me find the shadows that fall between the words.

Calypso’s Cave

I want to return to Calypso’s cave

for more erotic instruction

the ways of love I had been taught

never seemed enough for this world 

 

like Lazarus I could not 

remain in the shelter forever

I cannot rely on Neptune

to fulfill all my body’s longings

 

released from his tender endless coil

onto this shore where

I am unsure of my welcome

unsure of my name

 

unsure of anything except

I need another seven years 

to prepare me for cities of silver glass

for the fumbling turmoil of men

 

who tumble excitedly 

grasping for quick satisfaction

not having the time

to indulge in the erotic lore

I have received and long to pass on

 

let me return to Calypso

for another seven time seven

this school of sorrow and longing

I have been cast into a world

that holds no secrets for me

or is this the next lesson 

 

pleasure isn’t the end 

only a beginning

sorrow isn’t the result 

only a symptom

 

as I wander these streets

I cannot feel the river’s flow

I see their mouths open 

but no water comes forth

 

I want to return with Neptune

after sailing seeking

from one golden fleece to the next

is there anyone awaiting me

 

or am I the one waiting

to bring new light the cave

where Lazarus wrote on its walls

Calypso’s joke

Neptune’s revenge

 

the lover of the world 

ready for love 

yet no river bed 

to lay my body on

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Ginsberg


Is Allen Ginsberg taught on any Canadian high-school English course? The most daring poet I remember readings at that time was T.S. Eliot, some Dylan Thomas (more about them later.) Then the rock bomb went off with Bob Dylan, Paul Simon & the like. My first exposure to Ginsburg was via pop music. Only at the time I didn’t know it.

 

It wasn’t until years later when I picked up the City Lights edition of Howl that I realized where Bob Dylan had sprung from. Reviewers mentioned the Kerouac influence but not the Ginsburg. Was it to avoid tainting the new rock God with Ginsburg’s deviant sexuality? No that couldn’t be there was no homophobia is that scene.

I have the massive Collected Poems, Barry Miles’s biography, “Howl” Fifty Years Later, edited by Jason Shinder, plus cds of Ginsberg performing his work. I have read Ginsberg’s direct influence as well: Walt Whitman (more about him later). I am a fan.

I was lead to him via the beatnik connection & reading a Kerouac biography. I knew the famous opening ‘I have seen the best minds’ but was unfamiliar with anything else of his poetry. The Collected Works is a challenging read solely for the quantity but it is worth working through. Not that everything he wrote is a work of genius but it is compelling, emotionally real & his imagery is frequently stunning.

What inspires me about him is that he was only queer though the hippie era at a time when ‘free love’ merely meant men getting as much sex from women as they could. Where there any gay people at Woodstock? At the love-ins? Much of his work is of the moment & about himself in a gentle yet revealing way, frequently very conversational. Some of it is also timeless & reflects things in today’s world that remain true – I have seen the best minds of our times lost to drugs, street violence & cultural genocide. 

end song 

the float of cups and spoons
moons and leaves
wet midnights broken by laugher
left to reflect on the puddles
red sticky slicks that caress the stage
invite the applause of over-hanging gaspers
soon to be disgraced with apologies
wondering not aloud 

what if this isn’t the moment 

to leap up once and for all 

get it over with

no beginnings only ends
only a bar counter to wipe ready
for weary prisoners to stop   rest   gripe
about the fairness of their sentence
how they deserve what they want

and they want it now 

piping hot
heaped dishes of freshly chopped
branches of moon strung stings
to replace the end of things

we all know that end is looming
bigger than 

a pole-dancer’s ass 

that hovers over 

your out-stretched glass

another drop pretty pretty please
please squeeze harder 

we know you can do it
before the song changes
it has to be on that note
the universal choir
chasing clouds of chords around
looking for the car keys put down in a hurry

your car running in the garage
who is in the back seat drifting
as the red slick sends
reflection of spoons to the moon

each prisoner barely turning
in their stools asking
are we up to guessing what comes next 

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George Harrison

I have to confess I was never a huge George Harrison fan. One of my least favourite big hits of the Beatles is  Something & if I never hear it again I’ll be happy. But I admired & respected his outlook on life & his willingness to trade on his fame to help. He also opened the door to music that I may never have discovered.

I had the Wonderwall soundtrack on lp, replaced eventually by mp3. I have never seen the movie though, has anyone? 🙂 It certainly wasn’t pop music. I also had All Things Must Pass on lp. Eventually replaced by mp3. His spiritual leanings weren’t as interesting to me as his reflections of life eon the road as a Beatle – Apple Scruffs. 

But after Pass I took a pass. I heard bits of other things, Bangladesh but never felt drawn to having anything else by him. His guitar work, to me, was good but unexceptional, same for his voice & his lyrics. 

In the past few years I added the New Morning Sessions: his work with Bob Dylan which is of interest as a curiosity; George: another solo lp that I can’t recall a track of. In fact most of his writing, except for Pass, hasn’t drawn me into it. I searched out other stuff via YouTube & found it unexceptional.

I have the 30th Anniversary edition of All Things Must Pass – the bonus material is endless but worth hearing. It is on an mp3 collection along with Shankar & Friends – a nice set of instrumentals & song with Ravi Shanker that sparkles. On this particular is also Paul & Paula: Best of  – Hey! what can I say Harrison needed a historic context 🙂 Here too is the Electric Prunes: Release of an Oath: a rock group infusing music with spiritual searching. The Best of the Troggs: Beatles compatriots. Harrison did collaborations so I found Pay Pack & Follow John Phillips collaboration with Keith Richards! It’s a bit of a mess mind you but fun.

Wait there’s more on this cd: Paul Butterfield Band’s Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin’ – great fun blues work Finally Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert – where Harrison appears uncredited due to some weird contract, record label conflict. An interesting concert that also features Steve Winwood, Pete Townsend & others. Sound quality is good.

Land of the Lost

‘I must say this room has never looked neater.’

‘Thanks.’ Stef wasn’t sure whether this was a compliment or a dig. ‘Every now and then strange things do happen here.’

‘So what brought it on?’

‘Brought what on?” Stef wished her mother would come right out and say things. If she thought Stef was a bad house keeper why not just say it.

‘You know what I mean, dear.’ Her mother smiled and sat at the dining room table. Stef’s ‘office’ was under the window in that room and the dining room table was often an extension of it. It spent much of its time buried under piles of papers, magazines, books and, as much as she hated to admit it, the occasional pizza box.

‘It was time for some tidying up. After all, you’ve told me many many times cluttered house cluttered mind.’

‘Did you find it?’

‘Huh?’

‘I remember the one time your room at home was spotless was the time you had lost … what was it now … some political button a boy had given you.’

‘I did not lose anything.’

‘Just misplaced.’

‘Misfiled. Mother I’d rather say, I misfiled it.’

‘And you never found it.’

‘Not yet, I mean I stopped looking. But …’

‘There there dear. I know you creative types aren’t the best of maids.’

‘You are right there.’ She didn’t want to tell her mother how she had spent the last three days going through nearly every corner of the bungalow looking for the dust cover of the book she was reviewing. Bad enough it even had one but she had put it in a safe place while she lugged the book around on buses, read it in coffee shops. Now she was done.

‘You have no idea how much like you father you are. The same furrow of the brow.’

‘Thanks. I guess.’

‘So how are things. You know when I see the place this neat I worry you aren’t working as much as you should.’

‘Things are good. Better that they were last year.’

‘Getting any work done on your novel?’

‘As much as needs to be done.’ Stef knew she was avoiding that project with all these others. But it was these others that paid the rent, paid the bills, for now.

‘You need to concentrate on one thing at a time. That’s how things get misfiled. Thinking of too much at one time.’

‘Thank you mother. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I’m homeless.’

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The Great Fire

For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton.

The Great Fire

we were awakened

but the resonant howl

of the harbour foghorn

deep endless 

blasts so rapid they overlapped 

 

away to the window I flew like a flash

the black of night was blacker

than the print in the red bible

no stars or moon to be seen

then

at the edge of my vision

I saw the flames

scatter sparks like leaves

into the sky

‘fire fire’

someone below was shouting

‘the great cathedral is aflame’

 

my father dashed out of house  

men from other houses followed suit

‘fire fire

we must save the relics’

I had this terrifying image

of the Moose at the foot of the cross

melting into a golden puddle

at the feet of the blessed one

everyone in our village

gathered to watch and pray

as the firemen did their job

the choir spontaneously burst into song

singing ‘The Moose and The Saviour’ 

 

the hoses were attached to the hydrants

only a trickle of water appeared

this was also the hour

the fission plant

was flushing out the their flow valves

when contacted

they refused to stop

because if the flow valves

were not flushed 

there would be hell to pay

 

we stood and watched

as our beloved

centuries old cathedral 

paid the price of prosperity

while the acolytes 

darted in and out of the flames

rescuing all they could

up and down the 10001 steps

like an army of ants

 

then from out of the smoke

the men from the Whistling Wood appeared

they danced around the fire

chanting

arms linked

the flames flickering & illuminating

their private parts

as a group they coiled up the steps

stopped

faced the flames

holding their flame framed privates 

began to piss on the fire

 

the stench of their burning urine

made many vomit

the naked men

began to pelt the fire

with moose dung

the stench of the burning shit

made many vomit

the flames began to die down 

in the steaming smother

of piss and moose shit

that oozed down the 10001 steps

 

the fire stopped

the naked men 

vanished into the mist

 

the next day

when the water pressure returned

the fire department

hosed down the ashes 

to wash it clean of the shit and piss

to reveal

no scorch marks

only glistening golden surfaces 

 

the cathedral

was whole again 

In Sydney we lived one street away from a fire station. We were occasionally awakened by sirens. There were a few big fires but none that we ever saw, unlike my hero. The worse, which happened after I left, was when Moxham Castle burned down – actually it was gutted by flame & then the brick shell collapsed. My experience of fires comes from movies. 

This entry in the Village Stories pulls on many threads of the mythology: the choir, the moose, the 10001 steps. I recently saw a documentary on the Windsor Castle fire in which people were rushing in & out of galleries saving the art. They weren’t regarded as reckless but as heroes. Oh no not the Faberge egg collection! 

I also had to take another poke at the fission plant and water. I have read of cases where, in some cities, the water pressure was so low thanks to ‘industry,’ fires couldn’t be put out – hence the invention flame suppressant foam. Yes I know fire engine pumpers supply the pressure but if there’s not enough water they are useless.

The praying & singing villagers make me think of those politicians who sent their thoughts & prayers at a time of crisis but that’s it until they tell people to be strong: i.e. don’t moan & bitch about your losses because we’ve done all we can by praying for you. Cheer up because your unhappy faces won’t make things better, neither will we.

I was happy to see a reappearance by the naked men of the Whistling Wood. They present a facet of male magic that isn’t destructive while at the same time isn’t pleasant. Often the things that rescue us have a cost one doesn’t expect. Like the dentist’s freezing – slurring & drooling for an hour is a cost. I also couldn’t resist that image of male private parts illuminated by the fire.

I love the way this ends with a miracle. The Villagers prayers were answered by the outcasts of the Whistling Wood. These men pissing on the cathedral have magically restored it. 

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Jan Garbarek and the Windharp

 

Jan Garbarek is another of those jazz players I discovered via ECM. Like many in the ECM stable he was sideman to many & also a solo leader, so I can’t recall where I first heard him. He is a sax player mainly soprano. I have him in various settings. In the collection are as Lp to cd transfers: Esoteric Circle; Dis, Circle; Red Lanta; Red Lanta/Herbie Mann. In an mp3 collection I have Places/In Praise of Dreams w: Eberhard Weber/Parker/Kitaro/El TrioTucked in other mp3 collections is his Dansere; Sol Do Meio Dia. As stand alones I have: Twelve Moons; Officium; Ragas & Sagas

 

Theses range from the free jazz of Esoteric Circles to the meditative Officium. His soaring sax sound is to distinct I can recognize it in works I have never heard before. At once time I would pick up anything he was playing on. Now I suspect I have enough 🙂 His playing is more ‘intellectual’ than swing or bop. He rarely displays the energy of Coltrane but never becomes as sappy as the, to me, unlistenable Kenny G.

 

He is also a master of sonic tapestry as in Dis which features the use of a Wind-harp that is played by gusts of wind coming in from North Sea, creating tones and overtones. How cool is that. On Officium he plays with the classical Hilliard Ensemble, on Ragas & Sagas he is joined by Pakistani musicians.

 

Not all of his work is this conceptual. But he has never been trapped by one genre or texture. Well worth searching out if you are unfamiliar. Dis is a good starting point, as is any of his work with guitarist Ralph Towner. 

Larking About

No one was sure what it meant. The first order larks were positive this was a sign of unwelcome change. The first order robins, on the other talon, were certain that it boded only the best possible opportunities for all the creatures.

‘No. No. No,’ the larks bounced from branch to branch.

‘Yes. Yes. Yes,’ the robins jumped across the ground. ‘We have nothing to fear.’

‘Fear. Fear. Fear,’ the larks insisted. ‘That fear will unravel the nest of our safe lives here. Something must be done.’

‘Nothing must be done.’ the robins replied. ‘Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.’

‘Stop.’ a second string blue jay rasped. ‘This bickering isn’t going to get us anywhere. Does anyone know where it came from.’

‘Cat. Cat. Cat,’ the larks warned and the birds dispersed. 

A quick fragmented scattering of black, red and blue dots lifted into to the air over the trees and settled on higher perches to wait until the cats left.

‘Well. Well,’ the orange cat purred to the grey puss with him ‘We still have our power.’

‘Not all have fled.’ The grey puss looked up into the tree.

‘Ah. A new nest? Let’s investigate.’ the orange cat sprung up. ‘Coming.’

‘No that’s fine. I’ll wait here for you.’

The orange cat clawed up the side of the tree to the branch where the nest was wedged. 

‘It’s not nest. Just some toy that got tossed up into the air and landed here.’ The cat swatted it with his paw. One eye came loose. ‘Teddy bear.’ 

His claw got caught in the string. A tug, two tugs and it was more knotted up. He yanked and the bear came loose and they both fell to the ground.  The grey puss streaked under the gate.

The orange cat shook himself free, paced the yard, rubbed its scent where it was fading and curled up under the tree. Not asleep. Just waiting for those robins to come back. Tasty treats they were. Robins. Yum. 

‘See. See. See.’ the first robins began. ‘It has brought us luck. No cat has ever climbed so high before. 

‘We should have attacked when they fell.’ the blue jay pecked in the direction of the cat. ‘We would have no trouble ending its life. All of us could have attacked at once. But we’ve lost our chance.’

The orange cat stretched out in the sun its head on the teddy bear’s stomach.

‘See. See. See. They are accomplices. He will never leave. We will have to find new homes.’

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Bricks to Banksy 

Somehow I lost the notes I took at the Hot Damn! Showcase as part of Unit2’s Bricks & Glitter queer festival 😦 https://www.facebook.com/bricksandglitter/ So what I may quote from the show come entirely from my memory. One thing burned in my memory from the night is the actual getting to the west-end location on Stirling Road. Google was helpful to a degree, it got me in the right direction 🙂 The heat was intense, which wasn’t helped by a text message from a FB wanting to play that night. 

I gave myself time to get lost, which I did but I quickly got back on the right track. I have never been in this area, near Lansdowne. It is a simmering art warehouse district. One was dedicated to a Banksy show, a parking lot was set up as a sit-down outdoor movie theatre. A Museum Of Contemporary Art is being built. The House of Anansi  is nestled beside a craft brewery.

I found Unit2 easily & stepped back into my Cape Breton past. In Sydney friends of mine had gotten a grant to set up a store front children’s theatre for the summer. They made puppets, did show there & in playgrounds. Unit2 had that feeling of repurposed space, not finished or polished, of people working together for change, as opposed to profits. I felt more at home than I expected. In some ways it was like being in a large rec room to watch friends perform.

The showcase was excellent. Charlie Petch opened, as they do the ‘real’ show, with acknowledging the stolen land we are on & then played the Damn! anthem, on the saw. First feature was D’Scribe: ‘I pretended my parents loved me.’ I’ve seen him perform many times now & each time I have been caught up in his vision & struggles.

Charlie did the second set in which they gave us samples of Mel Malarkey, & Daughter Of Geppetto. They also did an amazing grief piece with live multilayered vocals, sound fx that invited the audience in to experience their own feeling of personal grief & loss after the recent Danforth mass shooting. It was a performance that transcended language & took us into pure emotion.

Sadly it was getting too late for me so I left before seeing Truth Is … I wanted to be home by 11 & to bed by midnight. It was a fine show & makes me eager for the start of Hot Damn!’s season 5 this fall at Buddies in Bad Times.

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Harris Harrison

I can remember hearing Richard Harris’s McArthur’s Park for the first time on my radio & being amazed & impressed by the lyrics & that such a long long song was on the charts. It wasn’t rock or actually pop music as I knew pop music. In some ways it still defies category – adult pop? Harris’s voice clearly wasn’t a rock voice either, nor was it say, Tom Jones or Frank Sinatra. But it worked.

I bought the album A Tramp Shining – which my buddies at time dismissed as romantic tripe but I loved it – here I am a tramp shining. It was unapologetically adult romantic, with little or no political or even trippy subtext. Later I realized the work was more the product of the genius of Jimmy Webb than of Richard Harris.

The follow up, The Yard Went On Forever, had no hits & was even more adult & also much darker in mood & lyric content. I liked it a lot as well but no one I knew cared for it. It had no freaky guitar work. It also was not pop, folk or rock. I have both of these – Tramp as a stand alone cd & The Yard in an mp3 collection. Both are too short for my liking 🙂

Another singing actor was Noel Harrison. His first lp Collage was a collection of folksy covers of thing like Whiter Shade of Pale, Strawberry Fields. I liked his low key take on these massive pop hits of the time. Not strictly folk as there was some sweet psychedelic flavouring, even sitar, to some of the tracks. I played that lp grey & now have it as an lp to cd transfer. 

As a stand-alone I the limited edition Life is a Dream – a compilation of songs from his other lps. It repeats some of Collage & there is some of Santa Monica Pier as well. He never did get a major pop career. He lived in Nova Scotia Canada for a time & hosted Take Time a TV show out of Halifax. Much like Richard Harris he was too adult to become a pop star.

As I said both were actors – though Richard Harris had a ‘bigger’ career. Harris became a singer thanks to film of the musical Camelot – he eventually did live touring shows of it. I don’t know that Noel ever did a film musical but he also did do touring shows of Camelot. 

Poor Old Marat

‘And on your left we have the bathtub in which Marat died. Poor old Marat.’

The group came to a stop behind the tour guide. 

‘But that’s not a tub at all. Looks more like a big pail.’ One of them said.

There was some polite laugher.

‘Perhaps,’ the tour guide smiled, ‘You are unaware that they didn’t have all the modern conveniences we do. You know,’ he lowered his voice, ‘they didn’t even have shower heads.’

‘What!’ another member of the tour said.

‘Please, you all must be aware of that! Our lives are very much different from those of people in the past.’

‘Yes, but still they must have had something.’

‘Not even a tooth brush.’

The tour guide continued up the hall.

‘Who was Marat?’

‘Pardon.’ The guide stopped.

‘Who was Marat? It’s all well and fine to tell us this is the tub in which Marat died but, if it isn’t too much trouble, please tell us who Marat was.’

‘Sir, this is an exhibit that encompasses famed baths of the past not personages. Now if you have a question about the fixtures, plumbing or such, I’d be only too happy to tell you what I know.’

‘See. He doesn’t even know who Marat is, only that he was too poor to own a real bathtub.’

The guide reddened. ‘I certainly do Madam, but that is not my job.’

‘Not your job?’

‘Quite right. I am to show and explain these particular relics. Period. If you wish to know more perhaps you should sign up for a different tour.’

‘I’m disappointed you don’t know more about these people. I mean these famous personages.’

‘I do, but that is not what I am permitted to tell you.’

‘Permitted?’

‘Right.’ The guide sucked in air between his teeth. ‘I am in the Plumbing Relics Tour Union and therefore cannot overstep those boundaries without infringing on the territory of another union.’

‘I see. Why didn’t you explain that before. How long has there been such a division of union jobs?’

‘I’m sorry, Sir, I cannot tell you that. You’ll have to speak with someone from the History of Unions Union.

‘Now if you’ll please follow me, we next have the toilet stall in which Lenny Bruce was found dead. As you can tell it wasn’t very clean but functional. The cubical was designed for single occupancy.’

‘Single occupancy? How did they manage.’

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Harper Hartman

I first heard Ben Harper on a CMJ (College Music Journal) compilation cd. I like the sample & eventually found the cd Cruel World – I think the song was Mama’s Got A New Girlfriend – a cheerful song about having two moms. I have it as a stand-alone as well as Burn To Shine, & there will be a light.

Harper is adult pop with some folksy, bluesy, even soul undertones. He plays a wicked slide guitar. His voice is appealing & emotional without striving to over-emote. ‘be a light’ features the Blind Boys of Alabama & is uplifting, spiritual without being overly religious. As much as I enjoy his cds I found that three was enough. I’ve heard others but, to be honest, I couldn’t tell one from the other.

A quick word about CMJ. I was a loyal follower of this monthly magazine & loved the compilation cds that introduced me to endless music. They were as eclectic as my collection with sample tracks from jazz, electronic, dance music, blues, pop, punk, rap, world music all on the same cd. The frustrating thing was that often what I really liked was unavailable in Canada.

Near Harper is an lp to cd transfer of Dan Hartman’s Instant Replay, with some tracks from a disco compilation Hot Nights & City Lights. ‘Replay’ was one of the few disco lps that was more than a hit song. Each track had energy & I always love hearing it when it comes up in my play rotation. I remember being compelled to dance to that title song when ever a dj played it, the same was true for Countdown. Hot Nights is a nicely mixed set of classic disco songs such as Boogie Oogie Oogie; Love Is In The Air – all of which make me feel like a teenager coming out 🙂

Pagan

‘Just smell the pine.’ Chris took a deep breath. He nodded to Peter to do the same thing.

‘Yeah. Pine.’ Peter breathed out. He didn’t really smell anything like pine. ‘Not very strong though.’

‘What do you mean?’ Chris pushed aside a branch and held it so Peter could pass. ‘Can’t mistake that smell. Or were you expecting Pinesol?’

‘Yeah. Something like that.’ Peter felt himself redden. In this cold it wouldn’t be noticeable.

‘Something like reality.’ Chris’s laugh echoed through the trees. ‘This is real. This is the goddamned outdoors.’ He stooped and pulled up a clump of snow, dirt. ‘This is the land. Not some high-def image. The soil. Something we don’t get enough of in the city. ’

‘I have enough dirt in my back yard.’

‘Yeah, right.’ Chris scoffed.  ‘All that chemical fertilizer and weed control doesn’t leave much of nature in that soil.’

‘Enough for … ’

‘There it is.’ 

They stopped. Peter saw the tree. Tall. Green. Biggest pine he had ever seen.

‘She is a beauty.’ Peter said.

‘She! Hell, that’s a he tree if I’ve ever seen one.’

‘I’m not going to argue that with you. So we going just gawk or chop.’

‘Neither.’ Chris took off his back pack.

‘I thought we were going to get real trees this year. None of that tree farm shit for us.’

‘Right you are but by real I meant we’d get real ourselves. Here … ’ He handed Peter two red candles. ‘Put one over there and the other directly opposite it. Stick close to the edge of the fir.’

‘You crazy or what.’

‘Trust me.’

‘Okay.’

Chris trod a path around the tree that criss-crossed at several points. In each another candle was placed and lit. A slight wind came up.

‘Next …’ Chris handed him a beer and opened one for himself. ‘repeat after to me … We drink to the spirit of the fir.’

‘We drink to the spirit of the fir.’

‘Now take a swallow and spit it out.’

Peter did.

‘Turn around and do the same thing again.’

Peter did. At first he felt foolish. He glanced around to make sure no one was watching. He closed his eyes and when he opened them the light had changed.

‘You see the difference?’ Chris asked.

‘Yeah? What is this? Some sort of pagan ritual.’

‘Could be. Just intent. Something my Dad showed me once. He said he had to pass it along to someone. Now I’m passing it along to you. We have to revere the land a little. Acknowledge the spirit.’

Peter took a deep breath. He could smell the pine. ‘I smell it.’

‘What?’

‘The pine! The pine! I can really smell it! I smell the earth too.’

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every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

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September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

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Kuhlau to Takemitsu

This mp3 collection is filed under ‘K’ for Danish composer Friedrich Kuhlau. I have here his Elverhoj Overture/Concerti, Grand Duo Concertante for flutes. I had a MHS lp to cd transfer of his Grand Duo & figured it was time to upgrade to a clearer version & searched for more by him & found the Elverhoj. The flute music is charming chamber music in Mozart style. The Elverhoj is stirring, verging on Rossini – the concerti are romantic & sweeping.

Here to Andrei Krylov’s Bard Music Fantasy – a wonderful set of gothic & renaissance lute pieces ranging from Celtic sadness to French court music. Beautifully engineered this music is transporting without falling into the rut of new age banality.

More renaissance music comes from Jan of Lublin. I have a lp to cd transfer of a MHS lp of guitar music from The Tablature which I love & so I wanted more. I discovered that the Tablature was/is of organ music so I ended up with An Organ Evening in the Lublin Palace: funeral at time but charming & oddly relaxing. I never did find any of the organ to lute transcriptions though 😦

 

Finally to take a real leap are some pieces by Toru Takemitsu. A Japanese composer (influenced by John Cage) whom I discovered when I watched the film Face Of Another – I loved his percussive soundtrack & did an unsuccessful search for that soundtrack  but found some of his ‘serious’ works: Tree Line, Nostalghia, Tangled Flow some which was included in a recording of Dun’s Concerto For Pipa. This is all mid-20th century classical music. Worth seeking out if you want to broaden your music world view.  

Lawyer

Elisabeth Mae Johnston (1885-1968)… born in Surrey Count, Great Britain to Samuel Vernon Johnston MD and Marie LaFleur. Immigrated to Canada with her family in 1895. She studied first at Glendale Girls Academy where she excelled in arts and elocution. Elocution lead her to pursue a degree in law which proved to be her calling and despite the hopes of her family she pursued the legal and her artistic expression through out her life.

        One of the first female lawyers in Canada she devoted her legal time and attention the immigrant Chinese community in British Columbia. 

        She became known as Saint Amah of the Yellow. She was scorned and shunned by the white community for her work with non-whites but she remained stalwart in her dedicated to the causes of the new citizen.

        Her many painting and sculptures show a side of immigrant life few were privileged to see. The series of paintings of Chinese weddings and funerals reveal a rare glimpse into the lives of these people attempting to make a home for themselves in a strange country.

        Her legal offices were attacked and burned  more than once. On one occasion Asian Slut and Chinese Whore was painted across the building where her offices where. Elisabeth took that as inspiration for her most famed painting ‘Office of the Chinese Whore.’

        When she wasn’t dealing  with the immigration system she taught English and in return was taught techniques of Chinese calligraphy and painting. This made her one of the most informed Western practitioners of these arts and she also brought this to the white public.

        She never did marry. She claimed there was no time for romance with so much to be done for these poor unfortunates. 

        Her work has been exhibited around the world. In 1959 she became the first female appointed to the Canadian Supreme Court. In 1964 she was awarded the Governor General’s award for the Arts.

        For more information see Gwendolyn McVeedy’s biography: “The White Whore – the life of Elisabeth Mae Johnston”

(a reminder – this bio is fiction – there is, as far as I know, no Elisabeth Mae Johnston)

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http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

https://www.facebook.com/TorontoGratitudeRoundup/ 

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Taking the Fourth at 40

Someone asked me recently “What keeps you in these rooms after forty years?” They asked because this month (July 6) I hit the forty year point in my recovery. I get asked various forms of this question often enough & I try not to give an overly glib answer like ‘where else can i wear this shirt.’ But there is no simple answer.

Part of the why is that each year my understanding of the power of the steps deepens. Even if I ever feel bored, judgemental of members who wallow in their misery, or who quote the literature rather than share on a person level I know that those thoughts are better than being dead drunk somewhere. Actually it’s better than being dead period.

 

In Step 4 we are encouraged to make a moral inventory of ourselves (not of others). I’ve done this step a few times as a part of the process. One thing that I recently realized is that I have no morals merely a set culturally encoded behaviours that lead to acceptable behaviour – things I have conformed to without questioning. My notion of ‘moral’ was coloured, or is it discoloured, by heteronormative concepts of relationships, privilege, race, gender and consumerism. Not to overlook being labelled (or rather libelled) by a bad, but universally accepted Bible translation, as being an abomination unto the Lord.

 

So a part of recovery has been, for me, looking at how I’ve absorbed these cultural imperatives – some of which are so subtle they are absorbed without awareness – sort of like getting a tan but not seeing it until one sees the line been tanned & untanned skin. 

When I did my early inventory work things such as privilege or entitlement were certainly not on the list. That list was stuff like procrastination, lying, theft – things clearly disapproved (at the time). These days a politician can lie outright & when confronted with it become the victim of being held accountable – which is the essence of entitlement. Or expect their apology to get them off the hook for any consequences.

Sermon On A Mount of Plastic Bags

the plastic bag shall inherit the earth

it already owns the wind

the sea the shore claimed

by our need to carry crap

these bags choke India’s sacred cows

fill their intestines

but cows spew so much methane

they cause global warming

so it’s a fair trade off

fuck the ecology

I’m tired of trying to save our planet 

 

why bother reduce reuse reclaim

as much as I reduce my electric usage

my bill keeps going up

while energy honchos

make bigger and bigger profits

as they drive in fuel-efficient SUVs 

I’m told to take public transit

that if really care about our planet

I’ll only use plastic bags made in nations

that have paid carbon displacement fees

environmentalists make me sick

if they really wanted to save the planet

they’d stop shitting, breathing, breeding

 

I love the plastic bag

what would life be without it

Christ only knows

and he’s looking for one

that’ll hold lumber without breaking

won’t tear at the first rough patch

one that can handle any sharp edge

then reuse a shroud later

 

the next time that granola book store guy 

with the corporate logo on his hemp shirt

asks me do you want a bag for that

printed-on-reclaimed-non-chemically-treated-paper-with-soy-based-ink

book

I’ll say – sure buster, double bag it

fuck the ecology

I’m tired of trying to save our planet

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http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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