George Michael Way

Along with George Michael’s Faith & Older on this mp3 collection is : Hutch (Leslie Hutchinson): The Ultimate Collection – Grenada-born singer and musician was one of the biggest cabaret stars in the world during the 1920s and 1930 – a friend and lover of Cole Porter; Love Is A Drag: For Adult Listeners (Lover Man);  Elton John: Blue Moves (Sorry Seems); Flash & The Pan: (Walking In The Rain); Rexy Spice; Arsenal. A cd that spans  generations, styles, continents & levels of queerness. 

I was not a Wham! fan. They are a great pop group but too pop for me. Michael’s life, to me, is more compelling than his music not that his music is of no interest. His lyrics took one a more ‘spiritual’ turn as his career progressed. It was cool to have this out gay equivalent to Justin Timberlake, though Michael was more creative in the long run. I enjoy these albums & I am sad that fame killed him.

I heard about Hutch (Leslie Hutchinson) from a BBC series about British Black History. The host visited spots, neighbourhoods were noted but forgotten black people had lived or performed. I was intrigued by Hutch’s sexual reputation which, as the time, only enhanced his reputation. The Ultimate is a fun, sound quality  is decent, his voice pleasant & the songs are the best of the period by the likes of Cole Porter (with whom Hutch had an affair). Good music by someone seemly forgotten about in gay/bi history.

‘Love Is A Drag’ is a fun, fine 60’s collection of nightclub/show tune torch/love songs about men sung by a man. I came across an article about this lp being reissued & downloaded it from iTunes. The songs are given ‘ordinary’ direct performances – no mocking or sexualizing – at the time this was sold in the backs of magazines & was considered very out there. Another fine piece of queer history.

Elton John’s navigation of being out has been a benchmark, role model for decades now. Blue Moves a great double that I enjoy & it’s hard not to listen to his pre-out catalogue for signs – but he was merely the singer not the lyricist. An example of the universality of human emotions – love is love regardless of gender or sexuality. 

Flash & The Pan’s Walking In The Rain with the lyric ‘Feeling like a woman/looking like a man’ highlights a great power pop album of songs. Grace Jones does a good take on this song but I prefer this original. Rounding out this trip though queer music history is the contemporary Rexy Spice – a Toronto folk/punk/protest rocker. His ‘Arsenal’ is a great look at what non-mainstream (i.e. Adam Lambert) queer music can be – funny, energetic & thoughtful. A modern day Cole Porter worth hearing. Highly recommended.

Balcony

There was this noise on the balcony. A heavy shifting of weight, like a body falling, dropping, as if someone falling had reached out and caught the edge of the balcony and stopped their fall & heaved themselves over the rail and into the folded lawn chairs I had no where else to keep in the winter. I wanted them near at hand in case I ever had company. Wishful thinking, I know, but it says to be prepared for the best.

I turned down the TV. I could heard the wind. A rustling of something, not leaves too late in the year for them. Tentatively I went to the window and looked. Half expecting it to be one of those fright movie moments when a distorted face would be peering back at me of some sort of alien entity that tumbled from a UFO to my balcony. 

I saw nothing. As my eyes became accustomed to the dark I could make out a clump of something green plastic. Was that fucking a garbage bag? Had someone tossed their trash over their balcony & the wind blown it onto mine.

The living room light didn’t illuminate the corner it was in. I got my flashlight and went out for a closer look. The wind was as cold as a January wind would be. I should have put on my gloves. It wasn’t a bag but a bundle-like a sheaf of papers or old towels. The wind making it move like it was alive. Like something alive was wrapped in it. 

I reached down to it. I heard a small moan. Pulled my hand back.

What the fuck!

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Spirit Photography

Spirit Photography

a shadow

in the shape of a hand

a slow drip

the colour of blood

the stain on a wall

mottled into a face

stairs that squeaked

with no one climbing them

the tv that turned on

with no one in the room

the phone that rang

with no one there

the picture 

you were once in

the bush 

whispering your name

the toast burned

with a number

the door

that wouldn’t open

the window that

closed itself

the bed sheets on the line

reaching for a child

a clock that chimes five 

no matter what the time

the cemetery

dark at noon

the book

that never opens

to the right page

the letter

from a relative

you’ve never heard of

the breathing

behind you

in an empty closet

the shaft of light

that falls on a claw

the ending

that remains unresolved

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Masking My Personality

Who knew that investing in protective face mask manufacturing would be as profitable as investing in pharmaceuticals 🙂 Along the Danforth nearly every nail salon, dry cleaners, ethnic grocery store, tailor, corner store even takes outs are selling them – some making them or claiming to or that their masks are locally made. I’m waiting all those charities that send me endless unasked for Christmas cards to start sending masks.

The range of styles, fabrics, patterns & layers has certainly increased so one is longer ‘stuck’ with black accordions. Some are fixed ear loop, some adjustable, some head loop. I prefer the ear loop, for now. I’ve bought masks locally, ordered them on line, even from Amazon & most have been good. The Old Navy was a good price but some turned out to be single layer – so I have to add my own extra layers. 

DIOP has a great, African print selection if you are daring. (https://weardiop.com/). Afrisocks also makes great bold masks. (https://afrisocks.com/) Rather than, as some feel, being the latest in mass control, the mask can become another way of self-expression. Besides offering mutual protection from covid they will also cut down on the spread of colds & flus – which may affect the the sales of NeoCitron 🙂

I’ve started posting a Facebook pic each day of the mask I’ll be wearing (if needed) that day along with where I bought the mask. I am powerless over this virus, over the way anti-maskers & such choose to deal with it, but that doesn’t mean even when wearing a mask I have to mask my personality 🙂

Mask of the Breath Death

<>

perched above the city

from Prospero’s castle tower

the vast sea of lights

spun in endless eddies

cloudless night sky

the naked face of the moon

was the one we all looked to

the moon didn’t breathe

as it rose in our dreams

<>

the movie panic

didn’t materialize 

beyond a few shoving matches

over toilet paper

there was no riotous looting

at least not because of breath death

the civil war continued

only now with masks

of white yellow orange, 

blue violet or black

a legal requirement

shooting one another 

was taken for-granted 

breathing on one another

was criminalized

lungs were weaponized

<>

Prospero chose to be unmasked

even though to hold your breath

was more vital than

hold your fire

as the his guests arrived

they were forced

to shed their masks

to greet their host

<>

he retired to his tower

while they were fast tested

only the negative

could continue deeper

into the protected chambers

those that couldn’t afford

to be safe

didn’t deserve

his breath death

<>

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Funky Disco Soul

This ‘M’ is a all about old school sweet soul music & disco with a dash of funk. This mp3 collection starts with MFSB: Love is the Message, Summertime, The Gamble-Huff  Orchestra; (Soul Train) The Whispers: And The Beat Goes On; The Temptations: Masterpiece; The SOS Band: On The Rise (Just Be Good To Me); Mtume: Juicy Fruit (expanded); Oliver Cheatham: Get Down Saturday Night; McFadden & Whitehead: self-titled Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.

Many of these have songs I remember from the dance floor but were groups I was not familiar with. Some where introduced to me on Tumblr. MFSB is 70’s while the rest are 80’s. The songs are in some ways interchangeable with lyrics about universal love, dancing & the power of having a good time. Ain’t No Stopping Us now has become a ‘no more shit’ anthem you can dance to.

MFSB: mother father sister brother- is a group of studio musicians plus The Three Degrees. This known as the Sound of Philadelphia – strings, funky bass lines & romantic. The Soul Train Theme is theirs – show that I don’t think I’ve ever seen, mind you, but the Philly sound is/was everywhere at one time. Some of the albums are concept lps – the soul equivalent of The Moody Blues. Masterpiece by The Temptations flirts with the Philly sound but sticks to its Motown roots. Political & spiritual Masterpiece lives up to its name.

The Cheatham was used in the movie “Ex Machina” – the video was of a cute guy (Oscar Isaac) dancing with a female – one of them is an android. It made me want the song & an android Oscar Isaac 🙂 Many of these songs are used to establish time era in films, or on TV. The sound – strings, singers, electronic keyboards are enough to do the trick as opposed to the fame of the song itself. Apparently many have been become sample mainstays for hip-hop. 

If you want a real boost of old-school good-times any & all of these are worth adding to your collection.

Bête Noire

Jen sat at her desk and reviewed the facts. Body found. Peter Manonotti. Noted, mouthy, city councillor who had hopes of even bigger political opportunities. He was making a name for himself in transportation. Insisting on accountability. Found dead in a public washroom of his bête noire – the TTC. Officials state it was heart attack but no one knows how he got there. Not seen on security camera – though the image was so grainy who knows. Lots of men seen coming and out. Someone lucky police officer was now watching it in slow mo to count heads as they go in and out. There was nothing distinctive about what Manonotti was wearing making it harder to find out when he was there. 

He left his office at 4 p.m. the day before. They did have a shot of him going through the turnstile at King station at 4:15. So they knew that time. If it was just a heart attack why where they so intent on tracking his movements.

So far no one was talking or saying anything more than it was a medical situation not a crime. How long had he been in that booth. The dates and times made it appear at least 24 hours. Didn’t anyone clean those stalls overnight? Could some one actually be in one of them for thirty-six some hours and not have been noticed. Yes, there was more to this than the public was being told.

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Recorporated

 

Recorporated 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Distant Music Coda

It has been fascinating to go back into my past by reading & writing about this chapbook. Memories of writing the pieces have been fragmentary, to say the least. Motivation, inspiration & locations are more nostalgic than revealing. 

Many old the first drafts were written by hand run little note books, many on my clunky typewriter in my basement room in the family home – that room is still there though I think it’s had new floor & walls since I left. The walls were covered with my paintings, shelves of books, lps, my stereo system & my little desk.

Some in my first apartment in Sydney. I shared a workroom with my roommate. He made pottery & I made poetry. I remember renting an electric typewriter to do the final drafts of Distant Music. That  second-story apartment had a huge front balcony where I would sit & write in notebooks & drink. This was the first time I had a room for sleeping & one for writing.

Some of the poems are solid, some reflect the pop music of the time, the striving to be deep, poetic rather than … I’m not sure what ‘than’ … I wanted to impress as much as I wanted to express something about myself. I was in the process of coming out, letting go of the pretence that I was bi so the sexuality that appears in the work is very suppressed.

The sequence of the pieces was mine & the flow, in general is pretty good. Today I would probably have not started with the Dance but with something less abstract such as Woodsman – which would invite readers to search for the chainsaw wielder. 

a piece that didn’t make it into the chapbook

Having Lost

having lost that moment

when we stood side by side

I wander down some well-worn path

looking neither way

without stumbling over unseen stones

I wonder of it’s possible that

I might have been wrong

if I should have given in this time

& said what you wanted to hear

I wonder off it’s possible that

I might have been wrong

having lost that moment

I wonder if I was wrong

<>

having lost that letter

she sent me the next day

I wonder where she is

perhaps I’ll see her tomorrow

perhaps she’s hiding in yesterday

maybe she too thinks she was wrong

maybe she’ll soon come along 

then again yesterday 

may hold her too well

I could never her again

not know where to look

having lost the letter

she sent the next day

<>

old men wearing

white hats pass me by 

nodding & asking why

I sit so young 

yet am so alone

<>

having lost all sense of time 

I find that question still unanswered

was I wrong? was i right?

either way i lost that fight

now I stand & watch her pass by

a memory of my yesterday

me a memory of her yesterday

our lives going on, apart

complete but not the same

having lost that moment

I wonder who was wrong

August 69

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

Keith Jarrett

By Keith Jarrett I have box sets:  The Impulse years: 73-74: 5 cds, 75-76: 4 cds.  On 4 mp3 cds: Facing You, In The Light, Luminessence (Jan Garbarek), Arbour Zena, Ruta & Daitya (Jackie deJohnette), Bremen, Lausanna, Eyes Of The Heart, the Koln Concert, Staircase Hourglass Sundial Sand, My Song, Standards NY Sessions; as stand-alone: Yesterdays.

So I am a bit of a fan. I can’t recall which of his was the first recording I had it was either the solo studio work Facing You or the Live Bremen concert. Both excellent places to start if you are unfamiliar with Jarrett. This is jazz that moves into modern classical with such ease you can’t tell you’ve made the move. I had some of the Impulse years as lps & picked up the two box sets 2nd hand to replace them. They are all group work with bonus cuts added to reach release, Fine modern jazz that rarely crosses into aggressive disharmony. Not easy listening though.

The bulk of these are ECM with various sidemen. All are pretty much amazing as he explores orchestral work, various instruments: he plays, besides piano, organ, flute, sax. One of my favourites is ‘Ruta & Daitya’ with the great Jackie deJohnette. It is perhaps the most playful of all this work – fun & lighthearted. ‘Arbour Zena’ is meditative & soaring. There are no disappoint or bad Keith Jarrett recordings.

His later work are explorations of jazz standards & are great listening but lack, to me, the freshness of his earlier work. He’s also recorded classical word by the likes of Bach, Soshakovich which I have heard but not added to my collection. 

Rounding out some of mp3 cds is work by: Jan Garbarek: Dis, Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti: Sol Do Melo Dio: Garbarek is another ECM star with his ethereal sax. Dis is his work with a word harp. John Scofield: Hand Jive;: Scofield is a jazz guitarist & this set is kind of funky. Really funky is Special EFX: Party; A Jazziz sampler cd from Nov 1994

Another fine pianist is Andrew Hill: Hommage. Master jazz piano McCoy Tyner with bassist Stanley Clarke is excellent. Stanley Clarke”s Journey To Love is prime late 80’s jazz that I love – buy it. Another amazing bass palyer Christian McBride: Finger Painting. Roy Haynes with Booker Ervin: Cracklin’ – fine set of almost tradition jazz that swings. Finally Groove Collective: We The People, It’s All In Your Mind, People People Music Music – funky soulful less pop that Booker T not as jazzy as The Jazz Messengers – the sort of jazz that shows up for chase scenes in movies but better 🙂

Don’t Quote Me

Jen looked a the people hovering around the scene. She wanted to call it a crime scene but that wasn’t clear. Manonotti could have had a heart attack. Whatever the cause these are the people who would have been called to the location. Police, medics, TTC security. All making the morning transit even slower. Worst of all, no washroom. They had even taped off the women’s room. 

She supposed that was some sort of precautionary effort. It was hard enough for the transit system to maintain some sort of positive public image as it was. 

Jen knew the All News would want the story but she had to know what the story was. First she had to confirm who it was that was found. Her sister had been wrong before.

She approached one of the less busy, female officials. She had found women were often more cooperative with women. She quickly glanced at the officers name tag.

“Officer Fenton, I’m Jen Oliver with the All News News.” She showed her press card.

“Can’t tell you much.” 

‘Maybe you can confirm what I already know?”

“Maybe.” She laughed.

“A body was found?”

‘“Oh yeah, that’s for sure.”

‘It was councillor Peter Manonotti?”

‘That hasn’t been officially confirmed.”

“But that’s what you’ve heard.”

“Yes. But don’t quote me on that.”

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I Did It

I Did It

because 

I wasn’t a star pupil 

I lost to a cheater

I was mocked for being fat

I wasn’t good enough

I saw what I shouldn’t

I was put in a closet under the stairs

I was always picked last

I was misunderstood

I was shamed

I was bored

I was the wrong colour

I wanted to see if I could get away with it

they were vulnerable

they deserved it

it was their fault

they were sinful

I had to punish them

the Bible told me to

voices in my head said it was right

I had the opportunity so took it

I was forced to

I just felt like it

I was entitled 

they disagreed with me

I did it to get even

to get famous

to teach them a lesson

to make a statement

to find out what it felt like

to be President

I did it

to have something confess

so I could say

I did something

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Distant Music

Distant Music

<>

1

<>

hush … can you hear the cat music

playing on flaying pigeon wings?

it brings out the hidden claws

of the once delicate lap warmer

now leaping wildly off the thinnest edge

to the beat of singing sounds

stirring safely behind glass

<>

2

<>

wittingly filling the room

with clicky busy city sounds

a thousand tiny tappers

rapping rhythms into the air

faster faster faster still

yet never flying to pieces

as I feel like doing

while lazily scrawling

symmetrical patterns

from my random pressures

wondering if the jazz flow

sounds as smooth to others

as it does to me

<>

3

<>

sometime I cannot make the energy

to go back over the old wrinkles

to make them smooth & clean

for the defining eyes of pryers;

I end up in some big armed chair

where I sit & stare so long

that I become a pile of creaking bones

yellowing skin & longing songs

<>

beside me now are empty chairs,

in front, beyond naked window.

crawls the night city sparkling

like a cluster of earth-bound stars

the wind whistles in dance

up & down the barren streets;

someone must be out there

to turn off & on all the stars;

but I cannot move

beyond these empty chairs

<>

while the dark & sullen moon

turns the stars aside to guide me

into letting the oars slip from my craft

so I can drift at last into my lover

<>

4

<>

changed are the ways of this Welsh lad

the days of longing are upon him now

with the first hint of cornfed comfort

making the long-by-gones seem so fine

here in the middle of my toss-up time

<>

I keep getting the feeling one gets

on dark, rain-spun, cloud-thick days

while looking out great bay windows

knees resting on velvet window seat

watching the mist nest in the elms

dawdling lazy-grey over the endless fields

of early morning English country side;

we discuss cricket or the government –

“frightfully so …

“rather, shall we say, common …

hey! hey!

stop the wheels before we go out of control

I’ve never been this close to that home

till now, & I hope, maybe, somehow

the clouds will have lifted by the time

I step, spanking-new, over-night, into there

<>

5

<>

hush … can you feel the man sounds

sailing on wailing baby cries 

it tries out the reveal cause

of the never ready bed charmer

now pacing softly the thickest floors

to the hum of distant music

floating unsure from Welsh hill

<>

Oct73

1 – I was visiting a friend in Halifax when I wrote this first section. I went there to see him & also to buy music that didn’t exist in the Sydney record store. One of the albums was of electronic/experimental music by the likes of Pauline Oliveros – yes even then I was pretentious enough to like the real thing 🙂 The music pulsed like wings flapping. My friend’s cat jumped up to the window ledge to confront the pigeons in the balcony but there were none there.

‘the thinnest edge’ is how one can leap to the wrong conclusion & get caught trying to figure out how to get back to solid ground. I’ve always had a ‘fear’ of balconies.

2 – I always write to music. These were the days of manual typewriters, when working on a manuscript could be retyping a whole page to correct a single typo. I was an okay typist & loved the sound in my workroom of the click of keys, the tempo of the pounding. Then I could never type fast enough to capture what I was thinking. 

I think the music I was more fascinated by was Santana’s Abraxas – chasing a thousand tiny percussionists with my keyboard. I was also digging Weather Report, Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew. Writing as fast I could before I flew to pieces.

3 – The old wrinkles are typos, edits, rewriting, re-sequencing the verses in a poem. I was also writing a novel at the time so energy was flowing in several directions. ‘creaking bones’ echoes ‘skin & bones’ from an earlier poem. The final verse is a direct reference to Dylan Thomas’s “In my Craft or Sullen Art.” Though at this time I had no lover to drift into.

4 – The Welsh connection continues in this section. This sense of of my heritage doesn’t appear in the chapbook until now. There is a feeling of the east coast, of Cape Breton, that is present in some of the pieces but here I am relishing, or it is wallowing, in my own roots.

After traversing Egypt, Japan, Africa & am brought back to my ‘toss-up time’ & my own origins. The workshops at UNB were acknowledgements of me as a writer – the ‘toss-up’ was the decision of what to do with my expectations of being taken seriously. Was it to dream of this romantic ‘velvet window seat’ success or something more realistic?

5 – a reprise, with variations, of the first part of this poem. ‘cat music’ becomes ‘ man sounds.’ ‘bed charmer’ echoes ‘bed-ridden’ from The Last Waltz  to give the whole book as sense of completion. The first piece in the collection invites you to ‘set sail on my body’ – this last verse asks you to ‘hear the man sounds/ sailing off wailing baby cries.’ The book progresses from that boy to this man. I hope you enjoyed the journey.

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

M-Miscellaneous

Les Mersey’s is a PQ pop group who thrived thanks to CanCon regulations about both the amount of radio airtime that had to be devoted to Canadian music & in Quebec how much of the time had to be in French. I have several stand-alone cds of the amazing series ‘Les Groupes des Années 60.’ The 25 Chansons include originals, a few sung in English but mostly French versions of English hits such as their take on The Rolling Stones – Stupid Girl, Fille Stupide. These are a delight.

I started to collect these when I visited Montreal in the mid-90’s. It was a vain attempt to improve my French but, well, that didn’t happen – c’est la vie. But it did help open my eyes to the insidious influence of US pop music & the sometimes hilarious ways it was adapted by other cultures. If you like this wonky cultural appropriation search out Cambodian pop for the 60s. 

Next M is Metro Station best known for their insanely addictive summer hit Shake It. Catchy & fun the album is solid, though nothing quite has the zip of Shake It. All the tracks would make nice movie/TV moments though. The band disappeared after this hit, as far as I know, though Wiki tells me they are still active. The subway in Montreal is known as Le Metro so there is a connection with Les Mercy’s.

The last of this M miscellany is MGMT. I have stand-alones of Oracular Spectacular & Congratulations. I picked up them first as at the result of reading about it in Entertainment Weekly. I may have also seen the video for Electric Feel – which is a great slinky summer hit. The lps are described as psychedelic rock – but, well, they aren’t Umma Gumma trippy. Enjoyable as they are, two cds were enough for my collection.

Maybe He Was Dead

So far there were no TV crews hovering around what was going on. Jan stayed within listening distance but tried not to seem too nosey. A few people were taking pictures with cell phones but they were being warned off by the police. TTC was always sensitive about what went on. She had to figure how to confirm what her sister had told her.

Manonotti was one of the more outspoken voices on city council when it came to almost anything, he never dodged the limelight. His latest mission had been to side with the cyclist union for more dedicated bike lanes. He felt that giving more money to public transit didn’t have to mean just the subway and that if there were more attention payed to alternate forms of transport the city would be better off.

As a result he was frequently at logger-heads with both the TTC and merchants. Merchants who felt more bike lanes meant less parking for paying customers who now had no where to park their cars. Manonotti was outspoken and blunt. Now, maybe, he was dead.

Jan had met him a few times. Interviewed him once when he his crusade was to halt the health spas that were popping up along the Danforth in long empty store fronts. The spas were covers for rub and tug operations where the massage was sexual and not medicinal. 

But when he saw that transportation was getting more press hw switched his focus to what would get him the greatest face time. He had hopes of parleying all this into a run for the mayor. He felt it was time the city had someone born and bred in Toronto at the helm and not some corporate clone.

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