Between The Lines

Between The Lines

so this is how it ends

no bang

no whimper

but with a snort

two lines of blow

careful spread 

on your cellphone screen

<>

that you did 

this sort of thing

didn’t bother me particularly

as long as you did it

without me as an audience

as long as you did it

outside of my residence

<>

when you aren’t here

it’s not a part of my life

not a part of our play

our play is best confined

to the two of us

<>

substances

are like a third party

one that quickly becomes the focus

it takes over

demands to be 

the only thing that counts

me being in the room

was a distraction

<>

you being in the room

was now a disappointment

and when you left

I was relieved to see you go

not wishing you could stay longer

those two lines

closed a door

that will never open to you again

This is a real life experience. I met this man on a site were younger men who prefer older men ‘meet.’ Most gay sites do have a range of ages but on many, older is horrifying, unseemly &, to be frank, discouraged. But agism is another post. I’m not an aggressive looker but if you want to win the lottery you at least have to buy a ticket 😉 Trust me online dating is a lottery.

He contacts me. Sends me a few sexy pics. Young, straight neither of which do that much for me but he was short, hairy, dark & eager. Number, texts get exchanged & eventually he shows up at my door &, gasp, is almost exactly as he presented himself to be. By almost I mean he looked younger than he claimed but he did show me his ID. By young I mean early 20’s, though emotionally he was just an over sexed 16 year old.

I saw him irregularly for a few years. My experience with guys in recovery kept me from taking him too seriously but I saw no reason to be parental with him either. He loved texting me on the sly when he was at clubs with his girlfriend. My lack of trust was justified. My availability decreased & we weren’t so attached I felt the need to tell him why.

He lost job. He got another one. He moved in with a girlfriend. He lost a girlfriend. He moved back in with his parents. He’s text at 6 in the morning wanting to see me asap – as if that could happen. I was more amused than anything else. This last time was after being ‘busy’ when he texted three or four times with a months between each text, I relented.

The occasion, two years ago now, went pretty much as the piece describes it. I may have heard from him since, I’m not sure, as I deleted his # from my phone, which I do often when I haven’t heard someone for a while or don’t care to hear from them. You know, some people will text expecting you to know who they without tell you who it is that is texting. This year I did get a few festive hellos from these unrecognized number strangers.

So guys keep this in mind – If I’m not the main attraction I’m not interested 🙂

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Nine

Nine

O when I was nine

I was still a child

there was no instant communication

news travelled slow

on the radio TV newspapers

that provided an innocence

I knew about war

because my Dad had fought in one

he was a man

my mother was a woman

I was a boy child

who only knew what the culture 

of the time

expected of my gender 

<>

O when I was nine

I did know I wasn’t like other boys

I played backlot baseball

I played with dolls

I  wasn’t the boy my dad expected

I didn’t like to fight

like other boys

I never understood 

why physical violence was required

to be accepted

<>

O when I was nine

I learned to swim

looking at the differences

between boys and girls

anatomy I didn’t understand

the boys where more interesting

I knew shame

when we were caught

I had fear

but no closet

sex was dirty regardless

of the gender of the object

<>

O when I was nine

I don’t that I was making waves

as I waded from nine to nineteen

by the time I left nineteen

I knew

these were dangerous waters

at nine there was only

the fear of getting caught

not the fear

of my culture drowning me

like an unwanted litter of kittens

I heard on a TV documentary about children that our sense of self was basically formed by the time we are ten years old. By then we have absorbed the ‘teachings’ of TV behaviours that inform our subconscious. So, back in the day, I was aware of what the culture of the time expected of my gender. I was also aware that it wasn’t the right fit but I hadn’t developed the language for that beyond feeling it was the wrong fit. Today thanks to instant communication children have a greater knowledge of gender variations. I doubt that at the age of five I would have understood what a faggot was, children today do know what it means. 

Where was I when I was nine? We had just settled in Sydney, Cape Breton after moving across Canada for a couple years. My mother & I had spent some time with her family in Wales during this time as well. I remember ‘living’ in Moncton, Stellerton or was it Truro for short periods of time & going to schools there, briefly. Finally in Sydney, were we lived in three different neighbourhoods before my dad bought a house in Ashby.

One result was that I spent those formative years as a displaced person – someone who was different. My Dad prodded me into things that could show me how to ‘fit in’: cub scouts, YMCA. I did the best I could but felt like an outsider &, as I recall, was fine with that. I did get these weird mixed messages ‘why can’t you be like other kids’ then when I wanted some fad item ‘why can’t you think for yourself.’

I survived partially by hiding in booze & partially by writing & painting as I gradually found language for what I was. Though then that language was loaded – an abomination unto the Lord – sort of stuff. Today I know the tragic flaw wasn’t my sexuality but the way culture regarded not only lgbtq but sexuality itself.


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I’m So Cute

I’m So Cute

you’ve used up my trust

yes 

I know you don’t mean any harm

no 

it doesn’t hurt

but I asked you to stop

because it is meaningless

yet distracting

<>

it is like the tip of the ice-burg

that small act

is meant to be affectionate

but I can’t stand it

I don’t enjoy it

it represents your lack of respect

after I’ve asked you not to

<>

if it means 

to you

that I don’t have a sense of humour

such is life

it’s not a control issue

on my part

it is the same as

serving food I’m allergic to

then getting pissed off

when I refuse to eat it

or insisting on playing

music you know I can stand

just to be playful

to be annoying

because I’m so cute

when I’m annoyed

<>

enjoy that memory

One of the bunch I used to hang out with on the east coast was a table tapper. It was a habit he wasn’t conscious of & as we talked he would play rhythms to whatever music might be on. He didn’t find it distracting but I did & told him a few times. He tried to control it but after a few drinks tappy tap tap tap. It was harmless enough but eroded my willingness to spend time with the gang when he was around. This piece isn’t about him, directly, nor is it about my need to control, really 🙂

It’s more about the power shifts in relationships – how much is one party willing to put up with or sacrifice in a spirit of cooperation. For some people the meaning of love is putting up with anything & everything, you know, the codependency dance romanticized by movies.

There’s also a micro-aggression subtext here – if what is said or done isn’t all that bad or direct then get over it. In fact being told to ‘get over it’ or ‘it’s just a joke’ is micro-aggression. To question their ‘control issues’ gets turned around into you having ‘control issues.’ 

This goes beyond someone tapping a table, which is usually not done to irritate but a nervous habit, but to something like someone who – thinking sticking their tongue in your ear is fun & should be sexually arousing when you find it intolerable. When you say things like ‘stop it’ they try to turn into a game & it becomes you being a wet blanket for not playing along – they just want to be playful. When you tell them where to stick their tongue they aren’t playing anymore. 🙂


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Genius

Genius 

if you won’t trust

someone who won’t drink

with you

then you’ll never trust me

<>

if all your close friends

smoke up with you

we’ll never be close friends

<>

if you only respect 

someone who’ll do a line with you

shoot up with you

share a bowl with you

then I have no role in your life 

we’ll never bond

over self-destruction

<>

if only self-destructive writers

are real writers

then I’ll always be a fake

a wanna be

who really doesn’t warrant

your attention

<>

I’m just one of those shallow dilettantes

a hanger-on

without the guts

the stamina

the creative genius

to deal with life through

a haze of booze 

drugs

<>

you are clearly better off with me

I’ve heard variations of this more than once: ‘I’ll never trust someone who won’t drink’ or sometimes to the effect ‘someone who won’t take a drink with me.’ You can replace ‘drink’ with ‘toke’ ‘line’ or any other substance. There are men & women who will only party-and-play – if there’s no drug involved they aren’t interested.

The history of destructive addiction & creativity is deep. Considering Dostoyevsky’s alcoholism, gambling habits & writing by hand I’m amazed he got so much written 🙂 For many writer’s i.e Hemingway, Dylan Thomas their drinking is seen as an unfortunate flaw that somehow enhances their reputation. They didn’t have rehabs in those days.

I’ve been involved with workshops, readings etc where there has been a very clear division that occurs when I decline a drink of excellent triple malt scotch. It seems I say ‘no thanks’ without sufficient apology. Ditto for declining to slip out for a toke or do a line. 

Then again that division may come from the fact that I’m not super-social in most situations to being with – by super-social I mean I don’t share stories about my medical condition, children, recent escapades – I’m just there to write, maybe read on the one mike. Nothing to prove, nothing to lose. This piece is more an observation than a complaint though. I am more amused by this equating of a drink with trust. Though I’d rather be judged by my work than the quality of the scotch I decline. 

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iWitness

iWitness

I turned off the sound

mute evidence

is easier to ignore

if I could turn of the headlines

the bottom of the screen scroll

I would do that

<>

I don’t look at the images

as closely

when I can’t hear

the inane babbling of announcers

underlining what is flickering

<>

I don’t want to witness 

this camera-shaped reality

any more than I want to eyewitness 

these events

I can’t look away though

that would be denial

I have to admit these things happen 

are happening

regardless of the spin

that results in 

no one being accountable 

except the victims 

it is clearly their fault

for being where the camera is pointing

<>

I’m fine with that

as long as the camera

never points at me 

Talking with a friend recently about the effects of covid distancing & isolation it was clear we live in a culture addicted to distraction. It is almost irrelevant what that distraction is, we want entertainment not information. Take the US election situation, the ideal distraction from the covid pandemic. I’m surprised that the votes of those who have died of covid since the U.S. election have not been declared invalid.

I stopped reading the newspaper many years ago & trust me I became less stressed. I have another friend who suffers from insomnia & ends up watching the news to pass the time. When I suggested turning off the news they reacted ‘this is important, I can’t hide my head in the sand.’ They get NO sympathy from me when they complain about not sleeping well. Stress is more appealing to them than sleep.

All news is ‘camera-shaped reality.’ The lens has no consciousness but the the user of the picture can change its meaning without altering a pixel. History is seen through the eyes of the historian, not the context of the actual time, but by the time of the historian. There is so much history lost because it was considered irrelevant, or unsavoury by the historian. All those female impressionist painters considered dilettantes in favour of male real painters. Don’t get me going on the erasure of lgbt facts of famous lives.

The piece reiterates another of my hobby-horses – the blaming of victims. Not to forgive is often perceived as being even more serious than the actual ‘crime.’ Pressing charges becomes seeking revenge as opposed to having some one face the consequences of their act. ‘I’m sorry’ isn’t enough but for some it should be – if they go that far. 

Are you ready for your close-up?

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I Sleep Around

I Sleep Around

when I say

I sleep around

I really mean

I have regular sex

with the same different men

<>

I don’t actually sleep

I’m quite awake when I’m with them

they on the other hand

sometimes fall asleep

in my arms

not out of boredom

or even exhaustion

but out of comfort

<>

men who have had an opportunity

to step away from the stressors

of their lives

for a few hours

escaping 

lovers wives kids jobs 

empty apartments

where they can leave behind definitions 

to be naked

to be nothing but enfolded

safe

I still check in at certain gay dating sites & am amazed that they are still as active. I decline all approaches & let those interested know no play until covid is ‘controlled.’ Not going down until the numbers go down – actually until the vaccine is provided. Not that I’ve been totally celibate but I have severely limited my contact to one buddy I’ve seen for years, who works from home etc. Even that is sporadic thanks to the pandemic.

BC (before covid19) I could predict when who would be looking for their ‘step away.’ If it’s Tuesday is must be …. Some wanted a quick shower alone as they were dropping by after work, another liked to shower with me. One drops by earlier to watch a movie, have supper & play after 🙂 I’ve never been a hump & dump sort of guy. 

As I write this I’m sure some of you might think my moral compass is broken, that I’m reckless, that I have no shame – a man my age should be beyond such base interactions. Obviously I am not an example of a good homosexual who is eager to be assimilated into acceptance by the heteronormative culture I’m stuck in. Or perhaps I’m a compulsive liar whose sex life is confined to looking at dick pics on gay causing site & this all a fantasy.

Maybe all that is true but, you know, I’m not to lose any sleep over that.


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Patriotism

Patriotism 

it wasn’t a war

of ideology 

or for our defence 

it was a battle

for the sake of the economy

manufacturing jobs for profit

selecting the undesirable 

sending them off to die

to thin the population

to spare those who could

afford not to go to war


so they could stay at home

reap the financial rewards

of others’ sacrifice

<>

it wasn’t a war

to prove what a patriot you were

but to keep fat wallets

from thinning

On one of my trips to Washington DC I made a point of visiting Arlington National Cemetery. It was a standard hot & humid day so I was spared the ambiance of those overcast or just after the rain photos. I was moved all the same by the rippling shifting patterns of the endless rows of crosses as I walked through. Some had roses tucked to the tops, or wreaths, even one with photos left at the base. I experienced a sense of a loss that spans centuries. 

https://topoet.ca/2016/06/02/arlington/

I also knew a bit about the racial nature of demographics the draft in the USA. War is big business – military production pulled Canada & USA out of the depression. Wars have been declared solely to bolster the reputations of national leaders & divert attention from domestic issues (which in the USA haven’t been successfully addressed since the Civil War).

I find it dismaying when a head of state praises the patriotism of the services from the comfortable security of his million dollar office while those in the services struggle with the physical & psychological damage of war. If they choose not to be exploited they are unpatriotic.

The fact of war, being a soldier is something I can imagine but most of my imagination has been fed by films, by the rhetoric of brave men & women fighting for my freedom. I had considered, at the end of high school, enlisting but being a little queer boy knew it was ultimately not the place for me. I had no examples of lgbt serving in the forces to encourage me either. I’ve read enough about the history of lgbt in both the US & Canadian services to know we did exist there, but just like all minorities, we were okay as long we served a purpose then we could be drummed out for our sexuality without pensions etc.

What wallets did that pension money end up in?


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Out of Control

Out of Control

I am a man

in a man’s body

there was a brief time

when I doubted this

a time when gender was fixed

by cultural controls

<>

to explain

variations in object desire

people were reduced

to data

that data was used to explain

what didn’t fit

so that men

in men’s bodies

who desired other men’s bodies

were actual women in men’s bodies

genders misplaced

trapped and looking for release

that a man would desire another man

was explained

in terms of heterosexual norms

because only a woman

could would should

have sexual desire for a man

<>

when I realized I desired men

I almost accepted the theory

that I was a woman 

trapped in a man’s body

though it never made sense

but it was deemed more acceptable

than man to man attraction

the data proved that

yet my human experience

refused to conform to that data

<>

facts spun to conform

not inform

a pervasive compulsion to control

what 

at least in my pants

in out of control

One of the things that Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam encouraged me to do was examine, in even greater detail, how our sense of sexual self is ‘created.’ Much of it comes from pop culture. Rampant heterosexuality dominated & even as the lgbtqia community was coming into the mainstream it often remained caught in those heterosexual behaviour constraints such as marriage for acceptance, being a good homo by adopting children to create the typical family.

Even sexual interactions were caught up in this coding – top, bottom, fem, butch, masc, whatever. This piece looks at some of the theories I read about in exploring sexuality – the wrong body has recently morphed into trans body diaspora, which, to me, it logical. But back in the day it was considered a fringe rationalization to make non-het sexuality acceptable.

Similar is the theory that one is haunted/possessed by the spirit of the opposite sex- so its really not me that likes men but the ghost of the woman that has taken over my body. 

Both theories that I find amusing as opposed to informative or definitive. I still live in a culture that is sex-a-phobic period. As much as there appears to be an appreciation, say, for women owning their own sexuality it’s still seen through the male gaze of acceptance. It’s also a culture in which suffering is deemed authentic & while pleasure is deemed intellectually shallow.

So I’ve stopped wondering about the puzzle of my sexuality & have opted to ignore any data, any attempt to explain it & choose to enjoy because I am fine with being intellectually shallow.

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Have A Not

Not

Not visit houses just before noon

Not to slam the door when you leave

Not to wear out your welcome

Not to reveal how you really feel

Not to be the one to leave

Not to a give a damn

Not to bear false witness

Not to let the truth stand in the way

Not to be the guilty party

Not to wear you heart on your sleeve

Not to eat fish only any day but Friday

Not to take your name as witness

Not to give a fuck you too 

Not to wear the same underwear two days in a row

Not to wear clothes when you slam the door behind you

Not to let on how you really feel just leave

Not to came back apologetic

Not to fish for more than there is to catch

Not to ignore that there is always a catch

Not to damn the bare body

Not to be the last one to know

Not skip lunch

Not to be afraid of knowing 

Not Not Not Not

The rule that prompted this one is the actual first line – it was intended to avoid having whomever the monk visited offer them lunch. Word association kicked it off – over staying your welcome came to mind quickly. Without a second thought it became a list poem of variations on what not to do.

Some of the nots combine nots that have come before. Some are almost aphorisms ‘not to fish for more than there is to catch’ which is also a play on ‘fishing for a compliment’ also springs from ‘eating fish on Friday’ which is a Catholic commandment – the miracle of the bread & fish takes some of this into a very biblical subtext.

Canadians have a reputation for politeness – I will not say what’s on my mind lest I offend someone. Though I suspects more a case of – I will not say what’s on my mind lest I get too much attention 🙂 As a result some of this not list are admonitions to placate – they struggle to find the balance between being firm and being aggressive. If you are like me there comes a point when you don’t care. If you think I’m a prick, such is life.

The best list poems, to me, start to hint at a story. This one is about lovers not getting along, or are they playing out a familiar structure of push-pull, argue-make up, control-resistance. It almost reads like a magazine list of ‘do’s & don’t’s’ to make a relationship work. I don’t think I’ve ever slammed a door, that wasn’t asking for it 🙂


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A Quiet Spot

A Quiet Spot

<>

I sit at a table

a quiet patio section

in an empty cafe

one with no view

of the tv’s

each turned to different sport

football baseball basketball

all silent

cafe music non-intrusive

<>

then

she was seated

at the table behind me

the back of her chair 

bumped mine as she sat

<>

what was wrong 

with all the other empty tables

why this one

why jostle me

<>

she sniffed

as if to say

it was my fault

she had to squeeze in

I pulled my chair 

a little closer to the table

my salad served

<>

her cell burbles

she answers

a loud personal conversation

that I don’t need to hear

I take my salad

move to another table

as far from hers as possible

<>

I can still hear her

‘some fucking asshole just

shoved my chair’

<>

I ask the server

to turn up the volume

on all the tvs

All this is a true incident except for the last verse. It happened on a Washington DC restaurant’s patio. It was a standard 40 with humidex day & the patio shade was most welcome. I’d eaten at this cafe the summer previously. On my visits to Washington I rarely ate as the same place twice during the same trip but would got back to places from previous trips if I’d enjoy them enough.

This place was decent & close to my hotel. The menu hadn’t changed much either. Greek with a sprinkling of Italian. Nothing challenging to my palate 🙂 This was around 4 pm before the supper crowd would show up. All I wanted was that salad& to sit in the shade while I ate it. I usually avoid eating in places with too many TVs but for this short a time I was willing to read my kindle. 

If I sound unsympathetic to this patron I am. Actually it was her actions & this sense that I was invading her privacy by being there. Could be she always came in at this time, sat at that table. If it had been a man would I have been as impatient? Probably, but male species behaviour is more territorial, so I figure a guy would have staked out his own domaine.

Sure I realize the server may have directed her to this section so we’d be in the same area – not scattered over the patio; I realize I sound like one of those cranky old assholes who expects everything his own way but you know, even it’s true, I can live with that just don’t shout it out on your cellphone within my hearing 🙂


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