Distant Tartan

Tartan Africa

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1 – Africa

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Africa genesis

so far from the Louvre

Africa Baroque

in thick damp brown earth

Sahara sands

drums rain jungle

lion black man

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mother mother

I’ve wandered so far from home

this time & every time

the gate was left open

building destroying
enjoying

finding myself so far

from so many old home weeks

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I would make Africa my home

take her

lover her forever

in torrential river beds

waterfalls
endless grassy antelope zebra plains

waterholes

birthplaces

leopard spots tiger stripes

so far from snow

so close to my pillow

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2 – Never Never Land

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it would be too hot

it would rain too much

I’d never understand their customs

never ride a camel

never drink the water

never touch their women

never sleep in their huts;

I could never do much

except this sitting,

smiling, laughing, drinking

reaching to touch

with pocketed hands

never never never never

<>

even in the darkest sky

there is al least one star

I wonder where you are

I wonder who you are

Tribale twinkle

in the Paris night

by there tower;

could I reach out

could I touch you?

the Tower is too high

I am too weary

cheery

lilting

song birds in a thousand cages

on a dusty side street

in an Arab bazaar,

singing to be bought

but not set free;

never could survive

for being trapped so long

they have no instincts left

death would be their survival

if I bought them all

to set them free

so I won’t

besides I don’t have enough money

it would take too long

to open every cage

it would never work

never never never never

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3 – Tartan

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tartan country

Gaelic

coal mines

crying masladh

dieing dean bacach

sifting sandily

the rust dust air

struggle bosdail

while clinging to the seachad

the good old days

clans

Royalists

fortresses

Metrople la France

too bad it can’t be ended

too good to be believed

so much calmer than the mainland pace

creaking down hill it seems

if you read it in their papers

if you believe in their bad dreams

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time is slowly changing

in the land of endless hills

twisting Cabot Trails

sunset autumn trees

that even when you go

it has you coming back

for final peace

on its unpaved roads

shady Sugar Loaf’s

falling away now

to the unhaltable

eating up of everything

by prosperity 

with its more more more

high-rise hotels & all

but kill ‘er gently b’ys

‘cause ‘er kids are tough 

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4 – Africa Too

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Africa mother

I know you are so close

I sense your warmth

yet cannot touch you

the stars are hidden

by cotton candy-clouds

drifting too slowly

monkeys screaming

elephants trumpeting

rhinos charging

through the dusky morning mists

<>

none of its is really there now;

in Africa, I mean.

the wild is in parks;

houses is rows

schools

doctors

I Love Lucy

in the Heart of the Darkest Continent

<>

it would do no good

to shut the gate

I would only climb the fence

or push it down;

running scared, down the street,

away from revenge

crawling back at night for safety

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Ahhh Africa,

the oldness of Egypt

growing up 

into snotty street punks

makes me want to cry

to die to

keep the rich raw earth

feelings in my mouth

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5 – Tartan Fading

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when I try to speak

of this Smokey Island

I cannot find

the right combination

of tartan cobwebs

to spin into a picture

of coal-dust steel-plant flower beds,

growing the heather of tarns;

the ice winter of dreams

the laughter of the people

moving & flowing alive

in the salt smell of coal sea air

<>

Jan.Feb/Mar73

Over time I’ve come to see this as one of the ‘better’ pieces in the chapbook. It reveals more about growing up Cape Breton than any of the others. Even with the abstract moments it is a good snap shot of my sense of displacement as I search for a sense of safe haven.

It opens with any array of African clichés – a distant place I knew very little about & much of that thanks to Tarzan & similar safari movies populated with fully dressed white dudes & a panoply of half-naked black men. It is a dream retreat in this first section.

It is not so dreamy in the second part with my list of realistic drawbacks. I’m also caught by the distance of that Paris escape, another place far from me, from my artistic longings. Like birds caged so long the freedom of Africa would kill me? The closest I ever got to that wild was already in cages.

The third section drops us into Cape Breton with another list of cliches with a decent dash of Gaelic. The economy there was becoming unstable with long-time major industries struggling in the world market. Tourism was always strong there & was to become even more important so the twisting Cabot Trail was no longer for the locals 🙂 There was an exodus of generations who had family ties & nostalgic roots that kept pulling them back.

Four takes me back to Africa where like Cape Breton tourist dollars, exploiters needs were controlling the continent. The ancient history seemed to be confined to Egypt as seeing though colonist exploiter’s eyes. Even today I see documentaries where talking heads are astonished that such primitive tribe could produce such fine artifacts -ahem – maybe they weren’t so primitive.

I had seen on TV around that time, early 70’s, that I Love Lucy reruns were the most popular TV show in the world, that she was watched in every country. They showed glimpses of her being watch by natives in huts in Africa. I was watching Lucy in Cape Breton – she represented an American culture that was not mine or theirs. So where does our cultural sense of self come from, when what is under our feet gets co-opted by a materialistic monolith without us even being aware of it.

In the end I am left with a wistful nostalgia for Cape Breton – which isn’t where I was born, but Manitoba where I was born has no resonance. I was a man searching for more than a sense of heritage, more than the concept of home but for a sense of safe haven.

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet 

Japan India Dominica Germany


This next mp3 collection is a trip around the world starting in Japan with Kuni Kawachi: Love Suki Daikirai. Someone in my tumblr feed posted ‘Graveyard of Love’ a track by Kuni & I loved the title & the song itself. This is moody, sweet early 70’s folksy psychedelic music. Kuni has an appealing voice & I was delighted by the songs. Do I understand Japanese? No, but that isn’t the point.

Next stop is Germany with Gunnar Winckler: A few hits. Once again thanks to tumblr. I follow an lp cover list – usually cheese album covers from around the world. The cover for Gin und Rum was sweet so I  checked out Gunnar. There were only a few of his tracks on iTunes. A late 1950’s hit maker in Germany. The music is rock-a-billy fun.We jump from there to India with Ganesha – My Lord. A collection by various performers of chants, rajas & spoken word in tribute to Ganesha. This a great exploration of this genre of ‘sacred’ meditation music. Some tracks over 20 minutes that are journeys worth taking.

Next we visit Guinea with music by Djelimoussa Cissoko – Kora. A kora is a 21 stringed lute-like instrument. Cissoko is considered a master of the instrument. On this lp he plays a variety of classic styles. The sound is melodious, at times meditative, sprightly & enticing. There are some jazz groups that are based around this instrument. I love this particular set though & it makes for an excellent introduction to West African music. 

Finally we come to a more modern sound with Adventura – The Last – this is a Bronx-based Dominican boy band. Latino boy bands still exist! But the competition of J or K Pop is giving them a run for the money. Fine harmonies, funky songs, nice production & in the videos they look more like men than boys.

Another Sunday Drive

“Look you little shit I’m only taking you along because Dad is here. Remember that. Get out of line and you’ll be sorry. Got it.”

“Yes, I got it.’ Dave glowered at me from the front seat of the car. He was still pissed at me for the other day, I guess.

Dad came out of the cabin and got into the front seat passenger seat.

“Okay Dave, let’s see what you’ve learned.” 

“Sure enough, Dad. I’ve been practicing all week. You know …. just driving Mike here down to the beach.”

“Sticking to the private lane I hope.”

“Of course. Dad. Didn’t I Mike.” He slowly backed out of the drive. 

Slower than I had even seen him back out. I sat quietly with my eyes peering out the window. Dave had driven me to the beach exactly once. He had been out in the car every day. Going on the highway to the store in town a couple of times. I wanted to tell but had promised not to say a thing. 

When we got the beach Dave puleld into the parking area and backed the car into a spot. This time he didn’t back right into bushes that separated the lot from the beach.

“Very good. I’m proud of you son.”

Dave beamed. “Thanks Dad. Maybe I could take us to town. We need … milk.”

“Maybe when you get your beginners. This is enough. Might as well enjoy the sand while we’re here.” Our Dad got out of the car.

We got out too. By the hotdog stand where two of the girls Dave had his eye on.

“Hi Dave,” the shorter of the girls waved and walked over. “Can you drive us into town again this afternoon?”

He scowled at her and glanced back at my Dad. “Hi Sally, this is my Dad.”

‘Oh! You taught Dave to drive great. He’s like a race car driver. He never misses a curve.” She ran her hand along her hip.

“I see.” My Dad’s eyes narrowed, as a thin smile played across his face. “You don’t say. Well, Dave why don’t you show me how you take those curves.” He pushed Dave gently back toward the car.

“Mike, you stay here till we get back.”

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

October

15 – Stratford Festival – The Crucible

November

7 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

January

23 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

March

March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April

April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies andBbad Times Theatre

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Ousmane Sembène

As I mentioned last week during September I watched a couple of amazing films by Senegalese writer/director Ousmane Sembène: Emitaï, Ceddo. I’ve also seen his Black Girl, a look black displacement & diasporia in France which I found predictable & so didn’t resonate with me. Emitaï, Ceddo were constantly surprising.

Both are set in Senegal & presented an Africa I was barely familiar with. I grew up with the Africa of Tarzan & countless white safari movies. The blacks were toters of luggage – often superstitious, cowardly and/or stupidly obedient. Also the men were usually stripped to the waist & given to wearing ceremonial tribal bones, feathers & the like when running through the jungle. Their lives were peripheral to story even when the story was about them.

Emitaï deals directly & mercilessly with French colonial attitudes & actions. When the villagers resist sending their sons to fight in WWII they are treated like children who don’t understand the right of the French to do what ever they want. When the village is also ordered to give all its rice to the war effort & refuses as it means they will starve they are treated like selfish children whose cultural values aren’t valid. 

The film shows their ordinary daily lives, their tribal religion & burial rituals as well as rice planting. All ordinary & all in direct relation to the land. They are more interested in maintaining their own dignity & families than they are in defending France against the Germans. I loved the scene where the native militia doesn’t understand how de Gaulle, a two-star general can over-rule Pétaina four-star general.

Ceddo deals with religious colonization with Islamic persecution of villagers who won’t convert. The class system, enforced as much by guns as history, is one that runs through many cultures. The disregard of other belief systems as illogical superstition is still one of the middle east’s bones of contention. The Christians aren’t much better mind you.

I was quickly drawn into each film & appreciated this ‘insider’s’ look at colonialism – cultural & religious – that wasn’t balanced by the need to appease either the French or the Islami. Both films are in native languages & maintained the rhythms of their everyday speech. The performances were excellent & I loved the music in Ceddo by Manu Dibango (Soul Makossa). I found the Ceddo soundtrack on iTunes 🙂

If you want to step out the confines of the usual film story-telling these are two films worth tracking down.

The Trade-Off

what I want

what it’ll cost

is that the price I’m willing to pay

is the sacrifice 

going to be worth the result

 

it is so unfair

why can’t I set the price

is that too much to ask

I’m willing to compromise

but when is enough enough

when can I say no

to what want to say yes to

when I think I’m losing 

more of myself 

to gain something I think I want

 

if my price was unreasonable

I’d understand

but they’re not reasonable

with their barriers of cost control

 

you can have this steak 

but you have to eat it with a spoon 

I suppose that’s possible

how can I say yes 

and no 

at the same time

say yes

I want what you offer

but not the conditions you offer it with

 

don’t forget

the cost of keeping it

will be greater

than the cost of giving it to me

who doesn’t want it

anymore

even for free

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

October

15 – Stratford Festival – The Crucible

November

7 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

January

23 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

March

March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April

April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies andBbad Times Theatre

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Niger River

For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton. Check the Village Stories page http://wp.me/P1RtxU-1fT for links previous pieces in this series.

Niger River

unlike many of the boys in my village

who dreamed of becoming

great moose hunters

or owners of strip joints

I wanted to become a famous writer

I would spend hours writing out the stories

that were told to us by the elders

I would try to copy down what the bishop

would chant in his sermons to us

each word was like a precious stone

that I would read and read

time after time

even if I had written

the same thing every time

it wouldn’t have mattered

it allowed me to travel away

from the routines of village life

away to escape the smell of the smelt

the groaning of the moose

the flying of the frenzied flags

 

no our flags didn’t do that

that was a phrase in a book I read

‘the flying of the frenzied flags

as our boats guided by the dark natives

darted down the dangerous Niger’

I could taste the frenzy in those words

a taste sweeter than blueberry pie

I could hear the Whistling Wood wind

tear at those flags

as my tiny birch bark canoe

was flung along the white water of the Niger

 

I didn’t know where the Niger was

the sound of it was enough to take me away

to let my mind fumble with visions

so I was determined to become a writer

I wanted the lesson of those waters

of those native guides

that I was sure would fulfill

with the spiritual freedom

the bishop’s sermons promised

Thanks, mainly to Tarzan, I had a boyhood fascination with Africa. Little did I realize the extent of how fake that movie Africa was – stock footage for jungles east, west Africa, India, South America were mixed together. I can’t remember when I first realized that King Kong was set on some Polynesian Island – I always though it was Africa. The Niger runs through several nations in western Africa including Nigeria.

Of course part of my interest was in those usually stripped to the waist native bearers. Often gleaming in the jungle sun. It was the nakedness that I found curious – at that age I didn’t have an awareness of sexuality mind you but this (along with furry men in sword & sandal pics) certainly informed my future sexual fantasies. Never the professor’s daughter.

I’m not sure where the flying flags phrase came from though. I may have made it up when I was writing this piece or it might be from Tarzan. I had several of the novels in hard back, along with some based on the TV series. In fact I still have some of those books on my shelf & have re-read them to see just how much influence they – and Tom Swift, Hardy Boys – had on my world view. http://wp.me/p1RtxU-uJ

Being a writer was a dream that started very young too even though teachers went out of their way to discourage me at every opportunity – one even calling out in front of the whole class for my bad spelling & mocking me for thinking I could ever be a writer. Looking back I was probably slightly dyslexic – reversing letters in words – bit I survived. It took more than some bitch teacher to smother my dreams.

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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‘The Witchdoctor’s Bones’

‘The Witchdoctor’s Bones’ is the latest from Lisa de Nikolits. I’ve heard Lisa present sections of her novels at various reading nights over the past couple of years. She always manages to present tidy snippets of complex novels, that stand alone but invite us to want to read the whole novel.

blue lonely blue

Witchdoctor follows the well-establish structure of strangers on a journey revealing their lives, secrets and fears as they travel. ‘From Canterbury Tales’ to ‘Then There Were None’ this story telling framework gives writers a strong form to work with.

shrug day of the dead tree

In Witchdoctor we join a disparate group of travellers on a bus tour from Cape Town, South Africa to Fort Namutoni, Nambia. As they travel tempers and passions flair. Death follows them with increasing tension as the novels progresses.

Lisa handles a large cast well, each of the tourists has a clear personalty, motives become clear then vague as more layers of their lives are peeled back. She also conveys a real sense of place, the heat, the dust, the humor and the endlessness of the bus ride itself.

red didn’t make it to the lights

In conveying so much details about the tour the book verges on a travel guide but the information is parcelled out in digestible portions and never overwhelms the story as it unfolds. With so many characters I did get a bit lost and some didn’t really propel the story forward.

If romance, suspense and serial killers under the African sun are your cup of tea this book is for you.

samples Door

I shut you out

with a smile  a little joke  a judgment

about the small minor little trivial things

the way you sit

the way you clack the giant spoon

against the coffee cup

that small gesture

shakes the foundations

I shut you out

by deciding

this isn’t exactly perfect

in my dream

you aren’t so tall  so thin so willing

so ready wanting  needy  omnipresent

you are so right

in the dream

I have shut you out so effectively

you aren’t even present

so effectively that no one is present

the room is plain empty white

silent self illuminating

I shut you out

buy sneering at your taste

in music in friends

those dope smoker idiots

who never come around

unless you use the lure of diversion

whilst I am there

regardless

you don’t have to entertain me

I shut you out

by not giving you that chance

force you to just be

to just sit and not move

so I can look and enjoy the vision of you

silent  sullen  in a quiet room

no loud cranky aggressive music

only a faint echo

from across the street

a piano tinkle  a snore

I shut you out

by acting as if I don’t care

that you are so busy

that you have made a life

that allows you

to enjoy life without me

there

like an over eager parent

with milk and cookies

for you and your sleazy little

druggie buddies

oh oh there I’ve gone and done it again

like I always seem to do

brought in a judgement

that shuts you out

that lowers you

that raises me

how silly I can be sometimes

I can use that guilt to shut you out

I’m too judgmental for you

I don’t really care what you do

is the lie I use

to shut myself out

from myself

I don’t say a thing

that is the hardest slam

I know

the silent nudge

the ponderous heavy superiority

I don’t want to maintain

but want to blame it on

something

my upbringing

my righteous path to the glory of god

anything

to keep that smudge

away from my little clean corner of the world

I come back to you

because you are the human one

so sweet angry tender  hurt

looking for something

but not sure what

while I am here nose up turned

distrustful of your search

not allow it to just be

I have to judge it rate it

oh well

what’s a man to do

there is love in the air

when someone on the other side of the door

knocks to be let in

scratches at a window

plays in the sun

I know I have to let myself out

before I can let anyone in

and that means  open the door

come in  come out  move about

as I try not to shut you out

SAM_1020tip 1: toss what you don’t need

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