‘the inner narrative of a vase’

The September 19 edition of the Art Bar hosted by Mike Lipsius went around the world in approximately 80 minutes. Barbara Pelman, visiting in Victoria BC – took us to Sweden, Italy & BC; Klara du Plessis, a South African expat, visiting from Montreal took us to her roots; while I visiting from who know where took the audience to Cape Breton, Japan & Queerville.

 

Barbara Pelman read a series of poems about bridges filled with evocative memory, colour & taste – Matisse rich with a tinge of Munch realism. ‘there is nothing you can take home in your melting hands’ ‘everything the same & not the same’ ‘blackberries summer in her mouth’ ‘unfolds the hours without lists’ ‘the blue doors still asleep’ ‘the morning opens slowly’ ‘reds browning blues blackening’ ‘if only you believed this was enough’ ‘or jump.’

Klara du Plessis started several short pieces with words locked like with stones & carefully placed for the right effect: Serrault precision with a hint of Monet. ‘to welcome the warm’ ‘like saying the skeleton is sexing the bone’ tangible but illegible’ ‘cling to acts of a future self’ ‘rain  redefining the meaning of rain’ ‘the guilt of imperfection weighs me down’ ‘a female five o’clock shadow’ ‘the inner narrative of a vase.’ Her long piece Waxing Lyrical was an unexpected foreshadowing of my set.

I started my Lichtenstein pop art set with Don’t Touch (My Hair), finished it with Arrg Godzilla. The ‘topical’ social commentary pieces didn’t go over as well as my nostalgic Waiting For The Boats (http://wp.me/p1RtxU-2rt) or the fun & funny Socks but I’m determined to be heard as more than just another funny gay guy with a great shirt. I sold a couple of chap books too, which is always nice.

It was also great to see several of the Renaissance Conspirators in the audience – fellow writers who have heard & seen me grow & change over the years.  The Free Times is a great spot for any series. Good sound quality, a cozy room & of course a great kitchen. I last appeared at the Art Bar in 2009 so get ready for my return there in 2025.

Socks

where did you get those socks

my mother had a pair of

argyle socks in her left hand

these aren’t yours

they certainly

don’t belong to your father

 

I didn’t want to tell her

I got them from a girl

in my class at school

we had swapped socks at recess

I had loved the way

these argyle socks looked

in her brightly polished penny loafers

she liked my ordinary red socks

that matched her tartan skirt

so we swapped

 

I saw them as socks

not as girls’ clothes

yet at that moment

I was afraid

ashamed

to tell my mother

that I owned that pair of girls’ socks

 

I found them in your drawer

she said

looking for the mate to this one

she held up a crusty black sock

going through my drawers

was something she often did

to make sure I hadn’t

just stuck my dirty undies or socks

in there

not to have them

all over the floor

 

I found them

I finally blurted out

found them!

she exclaimed

you brought a dirty pair of socks

into my house

how did you know they didn’t have fleas

or something worse?

 

I washed them before I brought them home

I said

 

washed them where!

 

at school.

 

then you can take them back

to where you found them

and don’t let me ever catch you

bringing home dirty clothes

you find in the street

ever

 

they’re nice socks I said

 

what do think

people will think

that we can’t afford to buy socks

I nodded

I guess you’re right

 

she was lucky

I didn’t bring the skirt home too

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Nothing Doing 

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.

Nothing Doing 

when I came of age

I left the village

I was gone for many years

before I came back

there was nothing to draw me back

I left under clear skies

with no anger or attachments

except to certain of my memories

that I have been writing here for those of you

who are interested in times long ago

when things weren’t as they are today

 

when I went back to my village

I was surprised how little things had changed

sure they allowed night at night

but the cathedral still stood

so that boys could break the windows

so the bishop could intone

the service of moose divinity

that was to lead us to righteousness and piety

the choir wasn’t as good as it was in my day

the boys weren’t as dedicated to it

what with play stations and laser pointers

to keep them amused

they felt no need to sing

the Whistling Woods still howled

with a late night wind

that brought back even more memories for me

 

I walked the streets of the village

along the dock side

now a mere family stroll area

the fleets no longer going to trawl

the smelt being fished out

there as nothing for the fishermen to do

the moose had been about depleted

which was one of the reasons

I left with so few regrets

the old ways were being replaced by nothing

no one could figure out what to do

how to make boys into men

sending us off to war was one way

and many of us were willing to fight

even if we didn’t understand

what we were fighting for

there was public shaming

of those of us who wouldn’t fight

but making boys into body counts seemed pointless

so many of us to left

to make our way in the world

 

a world where it was so hard to find

what made a man man

it was more than well lit strip bars

it was more than money cars electric toys

it was something that many of the lads

who left with me never found

they were dragged into the morass

of quick hit drugs and flashy feelings

to escape the sense

that they could never prove themselves

the lessons I had learned from the girls

held me well though

I continued to undress men

though unlike the boys of my youth

these men weren’t willing to sit still

they were always in a hurry to get naked

get clothed to be on their important way

 

life outside the village was better and worse

I was never sure if I was to be happy

or if I was to mope about

how things had changed

I liked the change

liked being in the flow of a life

bigger than my village life

but at the same time

this big city lacked the legends and lore

that had comforted me

the red and silver here are decorative

they mean nothing

the strip bars are antiseptic and numbing

the women had no respect for the sacred pole

 

I lacked for nothing

yet felt nothing

It was some twenty years after I left the east coast before I returned. Much like my narrator I left with no real attachments to anyone, any place or even anything. There were no family issues that needed to be fixed either. I never felt the need to go back to prove how well I was doing. I didn’t miss anything about the place in face.

When I did go back it wasn’t quite stepping back in time but not much had changed physically. They were in the midst of tearing down the steel plant & cleaning up the soil – at one it was the most polluted place in Canada – but that’s another story. The last I was back that work was complete & it was weird seeing the levelled land that was once belching hot smoke & filled with hundred of men risking life & limb to put food on the table. That hot smoke was corroding their lungs & the lungs of anyone who lived close & breathed it in.

When I do visit one of the things I do is walk to school. I went to several different schools as removed around in the city. Some were gone, replaced by modern school boxes. One remained. Next time I visit I may see about actually going into the school to see what memories the corridors hold for me.

Many of the churches remain but have been closed due to lack of congregation. I was never a couch going kid, nor was my family, so all the references to the Cathedral are fantasy. There was a real division between the Catholics & all other faiths though. Some of the rituals in Village Stories as based on real rituals mixed with wiccan ceremony.

One of things I did grow up with was this need to prove myself a man. Being gay didn’t take that easy, perhaps impossible. I wasn’t a rough-houser by any stretch of the imagination. It seemed the only way to be a ‘man’ was to get married, have kids, get drunk & beat them – that was a real man. Being ‘male’ was demonstrated by mindless use of women for sexual gratification.

As I progressed through this series I tried to retain some of the whimsy but as you might tell it becomes a little rooted in reality – at least in an emotional reality. Leaving home was one of the ways one became an adult but just as the villagers wanted to step into the future my narrator discovers that the step doesn’t fulfill as promised. Not that it was an empty promise but he’s human – we all want to still believe in a literal Santa Claus as opposed to the spirit of giving.

 

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

Tuesday – September 19 – feature – Art Bar Poetry series – 8 p.m., Free Times Cafe, #20 College At., Toronto – $5.00http://It’s No Accident

http://www.artbar.org

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Suspicious Curtains at the Art Bar

Lauren Carter opened the Art Bar show with new pieces about ‘a family uprooted’ more than once, full of details from her family tree research and strong visuals “buds like tight white purses” – “a wing written into the rock” – she read from her new book ‘Lichen Bright.’ Her work has a strong sense of family, history and rural life. I especially liked “their smiles spread like suspicious curtains” – from Witches.

I miss the miracle

I was up second and the feature went very well, if I do say so myself, though people were a little disappointed that it wasn’t a set of my funny, over-sexed pieces – but every now and then it’s good to change things up. As I always do for a feature, I put together a set with a sense of flow – one that covers a bit of history as well – in this case east-coast life from moving there, local industry in motion, some growing up stuff, touch down in high school, early 70’s sexual fumblings, a quick trip underground & finally an echo of the first piece. Sold lots of chapette books & even a few PDF’s.

During the break I was approached by one local small press to get in touch. Another small press asked if I was ready to do a full length book of poetry. Plus one of my Bloody Words pals talked about a consortium of several writers pooling to create an ePub venture. On top of which I did a little pitch to do a feature in the new year at one of the shows I haven’t performed at for some year. So a better experience for publishing opportunities than Bloody Words & I even got  paid quite well for being there.

floating alley art

Final feature was Ian Hanna whom I met Hot-Sauced a few years ago during the pre-show writing. He almost had to be forced to read a bit of what he had written but now look at him! His set was funny, tender, comfortable and even romantic. Many of his pieces were short, almost punch line – “in the past they used antiques for everything.” “I wandered forth days and nights and came home lost”

Alana Cook hosted with warmth and efficiently so the evening moved along pretty quickly. The open stagers were a great mix – with as many woman as men. Pauper’s  a/c was working a bit too well – if I had know I would have worn a sweater and not just a t-shirt. So I hope those you took notice of my perky nips realized it was the chill and nothing else.

I do have a few chapette books left – $3.00. Also a PDF version suitable for eReaders for a buck. For Pride I’ll be doing a couple of dance pieces. My Plasticine set will be totally different from my Art Bar set – possibly giving the people what they want – hot, sexy & funny.

 

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a place to see delight
a place to see delight

Here’s one of the pieces from my set –

Dad’s Pockets

as a kid

I would go through the pockets

of my Dad’s suit coats sport jackets

as they hung in the closet

I would find quarters which I’d take

sometimes fifty-cent pieces which I’d leave

 

I’d slip the over-sized jackets

off their hangers

wear them in the dark of the closet

in the smell of his things

his shoes miles too big for me

trying to steal into adulthood

 

I’d skulk out

from my secret foray

a little daring thief

sneaky   guilty

fearful of being found out

 

when he’d miss the pocket change

I’d be confronted

say too quick I don’t know what he meant

blurt out I didn’t do that

which he never believed

 

if only I’d hung those coats back the right way

he’d let me go with warning

that I never heeded

I’d be back there in a week or so

go through those pockets

try on those sport jackets

 

grow much too slow into adulthood

much too quick into guilt