A major snow fall on Jan 17 halted the return to classes in Toronto schools resulting in a couple of extra days of play for the kids. This resulted in a boon of snow fort & tunnel building. These are all east-end Toronto in the Greenwood/Coxwell/Danforth area. Brought back memories of snowed in days in Cape Breton & building snow forts.
Over the past year by TOpoet.ca following blog grew from 445 to 468! Doesn’t sound like much but I did a cull of followers who are no longer active on WordPress. The WordPress map show my hits have come from over 70 countries around the world. USA still tops the list but that China & Bangladesh are in the top 10 is a surprise. Nigeria in the top 20 – but behind Malawi! Kazakhstan! Still no hits from North Korea 😦 My Tumblr is at 346 followers. 229 Twitter followers.
My top ten posts of the year include 2 out of the archives! Born To Be Blown – from 2014 – https://topoet.ca/2014/01/24/born-to-be-blown/; & Sydney Academy 2 from 2019 https://topoet.ca/2019/08/12/sydney-academy-2/.
I made a few changes in my blogging routine to give me more time for actual writing 🙂 At the start of the pandemic blogging daily was an excellent way to get through the lockdown. Then it became work I had to keep up with & was no longer fun, so I cut way back.
In 2020 I did 322 posts; in 2021 I only 260 blog posts – of course having no live poetry readings or Stratford show to review reduced the quantity. Though on of the highlights of 21 was seeing Three Tall Women on stage in Stratford. Martha Henry’s tour de force final production.
Picture Perfect: Picture Perfect: 98 sections, about 142,000 words posted so far with approximately 45,000 to be edited then posted. I’ve been enjoying the slow process of edits & have made some major cuts in the final set of rough drafts. As usual my biggest issue is keeping names straight – what did I call that rcmp constable a hundred pages ago? I’m really enjoying creating the weekly graphic for each section. I do have an endless supply of frame & paintings that people have thrown out.
Like many people I’m weary of the pandemic, of people’s reactions, of the roller-coaster of restrictions, & now the paranoia. Is it allergies? A cold or covid? How ‘sick’ does one have to be to get tested? Who pays for it? By the time you get tested, have the results, early onset treatment is too late. How long before neo-citron markets a neo-covid hot lemon drink?
Highlights of the year: contributing a forward to Philip Cairns book Hollywood Poems; having some pieces of mine included in Pandemic Poetry. Extensive work on my garden. Deep house cleaning in a lock-down pandemic purge of the house top to bottom, in particular a basement full of stuff – some not touched since we moved into the house some 40 years ago.
I did get used to zoom recovery meetings & now seriously doubt if I’ll go back to face-to-face. I do meet up with fellow recoveries for face-to-face conversations & sharing. Going up to my room for a zoom is much easier than getting ready an hour or so in advance to get there with the hope the TTC hasn’t shut down.
What am I looking forward to in 2022? Good question. Travel out of the country is out of the question. Even for travel within Canada testing rules can change while I am landing so I might never get off the plane or end up living in a tent on the runway until I can get an appointment for the right test. But I am considering another week or so in Cape Breton if pandemic travel rules loosen up enough. Stratford has a tentative season with a couple of shows we’re interested in seeing but will it end up a repeat of last season’s open air productions?
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to pay for travel covid tests – thanks? paypal.me/TOpoet
Picture Perfect 99
Dan pressed the doorbell at 412 and there was no answer. The mailbox had the Donaldson name on it so he hoped this was the right house. He knocked and waited a few minutes before pressing the bell again. He held his ear close to the door and could hear it ringing in the house.
He gave up and went to the front door of his old house. Well, if his sister was still visiting it it must still be in the family somehow. He tried the door knob and it was locked. He rang that bell and it chimed in the house. He started back down the steps when the door opened.
“Sorry, I was in th’basement.” An out-of-breath women said.
He went back to the door. “Mrs. Donaldson?” he asked.
“The same.” she replied. “Marge Donaldson to be exact.”
Except for the black hair she could have been Cassie McLeod.
“Daniel James.” He introduced himself. “You’re … uh … Cassie’s sister?”
“Cousins.” She pulled a pair of wire framed glasses from her apron and put them on.
“Daniel?” he squinted at him. “Let me get a good look at you.” She came out of the house. “Skoot back a bit so as I can get a good look at you in the good light. I suppose it is. What brings you to these here parts.”
“Wanted to visit the old neighbourhood.” He said.
“Time to see those you run away from.” She said.
“I did not …” he stopped himself. He had nothing to defend or explain. “Comes a time to stop running.” he said.
“I suppose you want to see the inside.”
“I’m not sure.” He really wasn’t sure what he expected to see or find when he came here. “It’s been so long I only have vague images of my life here. Linda comes back regularly enough.”
“Been awhile for that one too. Ats why I’m here. Says she’ll be here next week or so and wants things aired out. She was always one for puttin’ on airs.” Marge laughed at her own joke.
“You might as well come in. If’n you plan to sleep over I can make up the bed in yer old room. New mattress on the bed mind you.” She opened the door to let him into the house.
“That won’t be necessary. I’m staying at La Promenade in Sydney.”
The hallway was exactly as he remembered it right down to the starburst mirror over the hall vestibule, the spiked silver light fixture still hung there. His mother couldn’t get over it the first time she saw it. It was the future with its space-age promise. He expected to see his book bag and sneakers under the hall table.
“Some of this was in storage y’see.” Marge explained. “Your sister, Linda, only wanted a few pieces though. So she said. Which was what made the antiques guy happy. Sold most of that stuff. If you’re not living in a place, no need to fill it up with furniture that gonna get stolen or mouldier year after year.”
“I understand.” Dan went into the living-room. There were two recliners facing the fire place. No carpets, nothing on the wall. A table lamp on the floor in a corner by the window.
The discoloured shadows of where pictures once were mottled the walls.
“Don’t let me keep you Mrs. Donaldson. You were working on something.” Dan wanted to be alone to re-acquaint himself with the house.
“Was just finishin’ up. Got some things to takeout of the dryer in the basement. Washing dust out of the sheets. “I only be a coupl’a minutes.”
She disappeared into the kitchen.
He tried the light switches and there was power. Water ran in the kitchen. There was a couple of large coffee mugs in the cupboard by the sink. The water tasted like water. It didn’t spark any memory. The kitchen counters were the same. The floor tile was the same. Time had stood still. No, it had moved enough to shake the house free of its contents. The dining room was clean but empty.
The stairs to the second story were still solid. They never creaked. That was one of the things his father always bragged about. How solid the house was. There was an unmade kingsize bed in his parents room. Sheets were folded neatly at the head of it with some pillows. He recognized the wildly floral print as his sister’s taste. Something his mother would never have liked. She liked colour, solids, not prints. Busy prints would keep her awake she claimed.
The dresser was empty. There was a bathrobe on a hanger in the closet.
In his sister’s room was a work desk. Not one he recognized from his past. There was a wireless router on the window sill. A file cabin in one corner. Nothing in the closet.
He stood at the door to his room. The other doors had been open but this one was closed. It had been cleared off all the pictures and stickers he had covered it with. Gone was ‘ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK’ in letters that dripped blood.
“T’isn’t locked.” Marge stood at the top of the stairs with a laundry basket full of folded towels.”
“I’d be surprised if it was.” Dan said. His Dad had removed the mechanism and let only the door knob when Dan started locking himself in and his family out. He wants this privacy so badly then. Not that he had anything to hide from them but he so wanted a space that was his and his alone.
He pushed the door gently with his toe the way he did as a kid. It opened. Dust motes danced in the sun.
“I’ll be going then.” Marge said before he could go into the room. “You can drop the key at m’place when you leave. Or give it to m’cousin Cassie. You was talkin’ to her afore you came here. I saw you from the window.”
‘Still no secrets on this street.” Dan walked down the stairs with her.
“You ever find out what happened them Atkins. The guy who bought up your Dad’s school business?”
“Atkins? He never mentioned anything about that to me.”
“Seems some party from Montreal gave them a real hard time. Busted up the equipment.”
“Tough types. I saw ‘em at the tavern one night glaring at everyone that came in. They was waiting for Atkins. Beat him real bad, too. They, the Atkins, I mean had come from Newfoundland to buy that business. Moved here and everything. Did real well that first summer and then those frogs showed up the next spring.”
“I’ve never heard a thing about it.”
“They was gone fast. But I guess it wasn’t to do with you folk, if’n you didn’t know about it. Didn’t being your Dad back.”
“Linda was still living here though. With our Aunt Sissy?”
“Oh, no! They was at her place in Westmount.”
“That’s right. How could I forget.” What I never knew. “Thanks.” He put the keys in his pocket. I won’t be long and I’ll drop these off when I’m done.”
“Sit awhile, love. I’m sure the ghosts have lots to tell you.”
I Got You Covered
I wanted to throw
the book across the room
the brown paper didn’t cooperate
as I folded it over the cover
one side was too big to fold
the other too small to cover
I tried to slide the book
so everything was even
so when I had it covered properly
it would be neat tidy
the real cover protected
I wanted it to look as perfect
as the book my mother
had done in minutes
I lacked her eye-hand coordination
perfected by years of knitting
of dress making
I couldn’t even colour between the lines
now here I was
with a pair of scissors
a roll of heavy kraft paper
attempting to make covers
for my school books
as demanded by the school
if they weren’t kept tidy enough
we would have to pay
I wasn’t even supposed to write on the books
not even to underline
couldn’t dog-ear the pages
the book wouldn’t fit perfectly
I managed to get it wrapped
taped the corner to keep it in place
it was bunched up
that there was a crease
on the back of it
I hid it at the bottom of the pile
went to bed
in the morning
it was covered perfectly
The brown paper covering of school books is a real memory of growing up on the east coast. Grocery stores were still using good quality brown paper bags in those days. Life before the plastic bag! My mother would save them for garbage & also for wrapping packages to mail to Wales at Xmas time plus for the all-important covering of school books.
I can recall doing this until I left high-school. School issued books had to be returned at the end of the term & checked for condition. The same books, in each grade, would be used year after year until they wore out. Apparently keeping up on the latest development in science wasn’t a priority. Grammar & spelling books didn’t need updating.
Some years my folks would pay a damage deposit on the books & get it back if they were return din good enough shape. Though I don’t recall ever having to pay for a damaged book. If a book had been in circulation for a couple years I would end up with one that was a little tattered & once I lucked out with one that had important passages underlined & even a few answers on the margins.
Some years we were given already cut covers that had been donated by various business which had their advertising on both sides of the paper. Of course ads appropriate for our ages. I can see the layout of these ads with a space left for writing the name of the book etc but I don’t remember what any of them were for – clearly a successful campaign. Maybe for local dairy, clothing stores.
Picture Perfect 92
Dan looked around the Chambers’ parking lot for a familiar car then remembered everything had been impounded by the RCMP. The Amethyst Court was now a crime scene. It was cool and he wished he’d had time to grab his jacket before they went to the Chick Frick.
There was coffee & granola breakfast bars at the motel’s check in office. Bad coffee, whitener and expired breakfast bars. None of the crew was to be seen as he sipped from the paper cup.
“Good morning, sir.” A short, overweight woman came into the office. She had a box of muffins from Tim Horton’s. She put them on the counter & ran her hands over her arms.
“Kathy Stevens.” She reached out to shake his hand. “Manger. I hope these will be sufficient. I was no way prepared for so many guests at any time. It is horrible, just horrible what happened to you people there at the Amethyst. Such a shame they had spend a fortune, a fortune, renovating it last winter. The place was a total dump, a dump I wouldn’t let a dog sleep it. No one could believe how good it looked. Really! I thought they’d spent too much. And look all that money down the drain, up in smoke. All that money. Where did they get it from? The money I mean. Now this. Let me tell you people aren’t going to forget this. No siree.” She stopped talking and looked inquisitively at him.
“Do you know which cabin Stephanie Carter is in?” he asked.
“Oh, no sir. People arrived and took what keys we gave them. Grabbed them. No one officially checked in expect for that black guy, Baxter. He signed for all the rooms. Not how we usually do things around here but the Corporal said it would be okay and besides under the circumstances it seemed the fastest way to do things.”
Things were so confused after the explosion Dan couldn’t place things in order. The RCMP had escorted them over to the Chambers Motel. He’d stayed on the fire truck while the arrangements were made. Brenda had brought him the key to his cabin and walked him to its door.
“Hows the coffee?” Kathy asked. “Not too weak? I maybe should have picked up some actual cream while I was out too.”
“It’ll do.” Dan said. “Is any sort of car rental place around here?”
“That’s right! You folks will be needing transportation. There’s the one in Port Hawkesbury.”
“How about a Bell store.” He’d replace his cell as fast as he could.
“Oh yes sir. There’s one in Hawkesbury too.”
Perhaps he could get someone from the detachment to drive him there. The Amethyst Court would be a fifteen minute walk. There was bound to be someone there to secure the scene who could help him out.
“Airport, too.” She added. “Not a big one like Hal-e-fax but them movies stars sometimes flies in on their own little planes. Charters sort of stuff. Showing off I thinks. Some of’em have never driven a car themselves in their lives. Always got someone else to do for them. Spoils their kids. One bunch that stayed here last summer. I can’t begin to tell you the mess they left behind. If you can have kids of your own why adopt so many more. And if you do, why don’t you get ones that speak English for Christ sakes.
“It’s not as if was m’fault we couldn’t keep up with the amount linen’s they needed. Fresh sheets every day for all of them. Plus,” her voice dropped to a whisper. “they didn’t even leave a tip. Lest ways your boss already gave us a handsome one when by rights he didn’t even have too. Payed for all them rooms too for three nights but’ll only need’em for two, he says. That’s a man who appreciates good service. Guess being black and all he’d be more sensitive to people like us who run around to someone else’s beck and call all day long. Should I make you some fresh coffee?”
“No, no, this is fine.” He put the cold, soggy cup on the table by the percolator. “I’m going to find the … boss … see what’s up.”
Looking out the window he’d seen some of the crew (find out how many would be on such a crew and what their jobs might be) exiting their rooms and heading for a laneway that divided the motel’s strip in half.
“You know which room the boss took?” he asked.
“Oh yeah, that I do know. He took Cupid Cottage one of the honeymoon suites out back of the motel. There’s three of ‘em. Fully detached you know so as to guarantee privacy.”
Dan started laugh as he looked around ate the motel. Each of the cabins had cute name plaques over the doors: ‘Jack & Jill’ ‘Adam & Eve’. The first of the detached cottages, Venus Vale, was directly at the end of the laneway so it was framed by the curved arches on either side. The arches almost formed a heart. Cupid Cottage was well to the left of it. ‘ Behind the cottages was a swimming pool and some children’s swings and slides.
He turned around directly in front of Venus. The view through the arch was a perfect one of the mountains. Someone had done careful planning when they built this motel. Too bad they didn’t think of wifi.
“What the hell is keeping you?” Curtis shouted from the doorway of his cottage. “I’ve sent you a dozen texts. Stephanie has called you at least two times.”
Dan gestured with palms up. “No phone. No answer.”
“No phone!” Curtis said as Dan came into the cottage.
“Evidence.” Dan said.
“No phone!” Brenda said slightly shocked.
“No wifi here either.” Dan cocked his head at Curtis.
“Pardon me.” Curtis said. “We didn’t have time to find a five star hotel for you.”
“Even Amethyst Court had wifi.” Cameron said.
“Listen up.” Curtis raised his voice. “We have more pressing issues than wifi. The first of which is ..”
“Some decent coffee?” one of the crew called out.
“Honey there ain’t no Starbucks in this unwashed neck of the woods.” Curtis replied. “once the cars get here we can sort out coffee. They’ll be here by eleven.”
“One of them will stop at that Tim’s.” Brenda said. “I just texted them.”
“I said decent coffee.” Cameron said.
Curtis quieted the laughter. “It might even be hot when it arrives. But I have some bad news QTel has decided to shut down the shoot.”
“What the fuck!” someone called out.
“Temporarily. A pause to consider what direction to take things. The insurers are nervous as well. Too many ‘accidents.’ Have any one you worked on a show that had so much bad luck?”
“As soon as the RCMP says we can leave we’ll get you all back to Halifax. Flights home will be booked then.” Stephanie said.
“Fine but what will we do for clothes!”
“All our stuff is back at the Amethyst Court. When can we get back there. I need my meds.”
“I’ll go over to the Amethyst Court.” Dan said. “I know something about crime-scene protocols. If any of you need medication I’ll see what I can do. There’s bound to be a Shoppers near enough.”
“Use my Optimum card I want the rewards points.” One of the crew said to a round of relieved laughter.
“I’ll need someone with a working cellphone to come with me.”
“I’ll tag along.” Cameron guy said. “I still have my mobile pack with me. All charged up. As long I keep it running I’ll get paid.” More laughter.
“As long as you’re on camera you’ll get paid too.” Curtis. “Hiatus doesn’t start until we’re back in Toronto. If QTel doesn’t like that they can … they can blow me.”
“Maybe it was them who tired to blow you …. up.”
“Right.” Curtis sagged. “All those files, our equipment. Fuck I hope we don’t have to start from scratch.”
Picture Perfect 85
“Paula Morrison. 12 years old. The oldest of the girls to disappear. Father: David, step-mother: Rosemoon. One word.”
“Rosemoon?” Cameron asked.
“Hippy days.” She shook her head.
Dan nodded as Stephanie read the file to him. He’d gone over it several times already. He kept his eye on the road as they approached the Canso Causeway.
“How much more of this do you want to hear?” She asked.
“I’ll let you know when I’ve heard enough.”
“She’d been a runaway since the dad remarried two years earlier. Birth mother, Madeline, died of breast cancer. Father an American draft-dodger, birth mother from Whycoak …”
“You say that like a native.” Cameron repeated the name.
“One of those place names that stuck with me. It’s a Mi’kmaq word means Head of the Waters.’” Dan repeated the name. “Feels good to say it too.”
“I suppose. Anyway she died and he remarried several years later. Paula was an only child until Rosemoon had twins.”
“Which was when the runaway business started?”
“Yes. Rosemoon has since passed away. Breast cancer again. Must be something in the water.”
“That’s a different investigation, Stephanie. I’m sure there’s some report buried somewhere that shows an alarming coincidences of cancer and the water in the area.”
“Un-huh. Her twin half-brothers, Seal and Wolf no longer live in the area.”
“Seal! Wolf!” Cameron giggled. “More of that hippy draft-dodger stuff?”
“Probably. Wolf is in BC and the other …” she read the file. “Is in Hollywood! Seal Morrison. The director! He’s from around here!”
“Yep. I’m not the only famous person from the backwaters of Nova Scotia.” Dan said.
As they drove under Welcome to Cape Breton sign on the Causeway, Dan half-expected to hear his mother say “Turn down the radio so we can listen to the waves.”
“Will you look at that!” Dan was tempted to roll down the car window & stick out his head.” I haven’t seen the Causeway since we left here. It was always a mini-adventure to drive across it. One year a storm blew waves over our car. Mom was terrified but Dad kept on going. All he said was roll up the windows.” Dan rolled down the windows to hear the waves.
“You sure that’s wise?” Cameron took a deep breath. “Don’t want to get lung cancer.”
Cameron followed the curve of the Causeway to the other side.
“Pull off at the Souvenir Shop. Your first act here has to be one of shopping.”
“Dan this is not my first time at this .… cèilidh. You know we’ve already pre-interviewed people before you got here. Right?”
“Yes, yes, but did you drive across the causeway or fly into Sydney on the Quintex private jet?”
“As if a producer that insists ‘no four star accommodations’ could afford a jet.” Stephanie said.
Dan got out of the car. “What a view.”
“Yes.” Cameron said. “Just like a post card.”
Memories of Dan’s last summer there became clearer as he watched the waves breaking against the rocks that lined the roadway. Men fishing dotted the piers.
“I wonder what they’re catching?” Stephanie asked.
“Squid. Sometimes mackerel.” Dan said.
“You’re kidding?” Cameron laughed. “These are the squid jiggers like in the song? I gotta try that myself.”
The gift shop was a clutter of tartan objects. Coffee mugs made in China, tee-shirts from Bangladesh. One wall was devoted to local handicrafts and there was shelf of books about the area.
“Looking for something in particular?” The clerk came over.
“You have something without the Cape Breton tartan or a lighthouse on it?” Stephanie joked.
“Something like this?” The clerk handed her a roll of toilet paper. The wrapper said: ‘Cape Breton ass wipe doesn’t take shit from nobody.’
Dan laughed. “Maybe we should get a dozen for the crew.” He pulled out one of the books titled ‘Cabot Trail Mix Trivia.’ “Collected by David Morrison!”
“Let’s see?” Stephanie took the book from him.
“Is this the David Morrison from St. Peter’s.” Dan asked the clerk.
“Could be.” The clerk replied. “All of the books on that shelf are by locals.”
“It is.” Stephanie said. “According to the bio he’s a life long resident of St. Peter’s who had always been fascinated by local history. He is the proud father of Wolf and Seal.” She flipped to the inside front cover. “And it’s autographed.”
“Nice.” Dan took the book back. “You have many copies of it?”
“Just these three. We don’t tend to stock a lot of that sort of thing. Books, I mean.”
“Maybe if it had a kitten in a kilt on the cover. It would sell better?” Cameron said.
Dan bought all three copies. In the car he read through one of them. It was, as the title said, a collection of anecdotes, jokes, short historical facts about the area. No index and apparently haphazardly arranged.
“Wonder if he’ll sign them again?” Stephanie asked.
Cameron pulled into Amethyst Court, a motel just past the welcome to St.Peter’s sign. The remote truck was parked at the far end of the cabins.
“I never thought I said this but thank God for a normal drive.” Dan got out of the car. “I was beginning to think these highways were jinxed for me.”
“If they were you know it would be part of the show anyway. Baxter expects you at six to go over the next week of shoots. You’ll see Mr. Morrison in the morning. 10 a.m. sharp.”
“Right.” He glanced at his cell for the time. “Give sme time to freshen up. Which cabin is mine?”
“Not sure. I’ll check with Brenda. She’s doing the production coordinating here.” She texted Brenda.
Brenda came out of cabin 3. “Took your time. We’ve been here since morning.”
“Dan took his time,” Cameron said. “A little shy after recent highway to hell events.”
“Highway to heck, is more like it.” Dan said as Brenda gave him a door pass card.
“Cabin 10. Baxter is in 9.”
“Yikes.” Dan winced. “Hope he keeps it down. He must be deaf from all that loud TV.”
“Whatever.” Brenda said. “I’ve done two series with him and I never knew how he could keep track of everything. Must in the volume.”
Dan grabbed his suitcase, shoulder bag and went to his cabin. It smelled so strongly of lavender when he opened the door, he propped the door open with a chair to see if he could air it out. He put his laptop out on the tiny writing desk. He wondered why these desks were always smaller than the TVs. At least the Court offered free wifi. He tried it but the signal wasn’t as strong as his Lifend connection.
He had email from both this lawyers. The one dealing with his sister, the other dealing with Sanjay. He made the Skype connection with the Depot.
“Good afternoon boss. You’ll be pleased to hear that there is nothing major to report. Weekend sales were good. ‘While the boss is away’ made for a great promo.”
“More than good Sandy.” Dan looked over the sales figures. “Maybe I should stay away more often.”
“Please don’t.” she said. “You are our visible shield of protection from that sister of yours.”
“She been sniffing around again?”
“Nope. In fact the silence is ominous.”
“She has her hands full with the new contracts anyway. Thanks for the update.”
“I hope we can hold on until you get back boss. We can manage here without you but things go a lot better when you are on the premises. At least when you are in the city.”
“Go on. You angling for a raise?”
“Any more … rough spots?”
“No. I’m a bit surprised that the families we interviewed were so cooperative. I didn’t think their memories would be so clear about events so long ago. I know mine aren’t. Each day something new comes back to me about growing up here.”
“Fishing. I look back on my childhood and all I recall is tagging around with my Dad, setting up cameras. But when we stopped earlier today I saw people fishing off the piers near the Causeway.”
“Fishing! Safe to eat?”
“It was back then. My Dad would sometime stop for a day there just to fish. He called it his summer vacation. Mackerel and sometimes squid. My mother hated the squid.”
He got a beep that someone else wanted to talk to him on Skype.
“Keep me posted. I’ll get in touch again in a couple of days.”
“Let us know when you’ll be back so we can have a ‘The Boss Is Back’ sale.”
without a doubt
the slimmest hope
is held on to longest
that ghost of a chance
that finds a ledge
to balance on
awaiting the opportunity
to dash into view
when all the chips are down
can’t you just hear
his heavy footfall
up the stairs
or tripping over a chair
with a drink in one hand
resurrection in the other
Ending this look back with something humorous. I’d say funny but the ending is a bit too sardonic. I’ve written similar pieces in which I play with clichés in unpredictable ways. I enjoy the way this poem twists around language &, hopefully, takes the reader by surprise with the unexpected ending image.
The poem a bit didactic with the almost aphoristic opening about holding on to hope. How long will Trump hold on to his unsubstantiated conspiracy theory? Pride keeps some holding on rather than letting go & moving on. Slim hopes: like ‘this time it’ll be different,’ ‘he/she didn’t really mean it’ etc. We find it easier to continue to invest in hopeless causes than move on.
Lessons learned can be quickly forgotten or ignored with the promise of resurrection. Red flags ‘heavy footfall’ ‘tripping over a chair’ are ignored with that promise ‘I’ll change.’ Or we get caught in being the nice guy afraid that by establish & maintaining a boundary we won’t be liked. ‘If you love me you’ll forgive me.’ ‘Don’t you trust me.’
Alcoholics often continue to drunk, well aware of the consequences – often there is no event, consequence or loss painful enough to get them to stop. In fact that pain becomes an excuse to keep on drinking, the promise of forgetting. Doing the same thing over & over expecting a different result.
Welcome To The F Files
Our Lady of the Striptease
becomes an angel by intimation
an angle of departure
call on her
when the answer
needs to be atomized
the unpiecing of form
the distortion of winter
the glare of silk
in the dressing room
she flounces once
in the golding mirror
washes past shadows
for a new wrinkle
to offer her lurching toys
each ruffle in place
nipples rouged ready
pasties perk sparkling
before she climbs the stairs
mounts the stage
runs quick hands
over her waist down
soothe fingers on rhinestones
tests the outline of a dream
plunged into a startling spotlight
steps on stage
the curtain opens
a lace dream vista
gold gloves peeled
ta ta ta ta booma
pink panties drop
the sagging grind
of hips breasts
ta kaboom boomba
held up out
by her own hands
the form of a woman
at the wrong rush
of worried air
thick with mystery
the night’s chocolate
in torn across beds
tumbled searched under
in the look for
the afternoon caress
brushing one another
as they follow
alone at midnight
silent between unsweetened sheets
listen to me call
brushes her hair
outside her window
my legs ache
for so long
untangles her hair
used a black comb
powders her shoulders
her cold white back
arches her leg
scratches her belly
my legs ache
dims another light
opens the curtain
a lace wider
the bedroom tango
alone at midnight
between unsearched sheets
the idea of touch
the secret caress
passes as a mist
through the snow
through the clouds
an angel sings
This version of Our Lady is from 1976. It went through several revisions before this one was considered done, the writing of it may go back to 1974. The one change I made in 2021, beside proof reading, was to move one section to improve flow. It did come to me as a whole piece starting with that title, which is a sardonic play on Catholic reverence – ‘Our Lady’ almost being the same as Saint. There’s also an echo of The Lady of the Lake. Here Striptease is elevated to a sacred art form.
Here, too, is my structural reliance on numbered sections, a lesson learned from T.S. Elliot. I thought it made my poetry look more serious on the page. Section 3 features my interest in sound poetry ‘kaboom kaboom’ as I give Our Lady a drummer for her number. In other pieces I explore this use of sound even further. I don’t think I’ve ever performed this one so I don’t know how the sounds sound 🙂
There is almost a story line as Our Lady prepares, then goes on stage, performs, then relaxes after & goes to bed. We are the audience for this show & the tip-toe observer literally turns the reader from audience into a secret voyeur. The point of view shifts subtly through out the poem from the ‘I’ to the omniscient poet’s eye that decides her toys are lurching. Finally to the figure spying.
Striptease is essentially a heterosexual male pleasure that invites lust with distance, without real investment in the object other than the surface. Writing about it was a way of establishing my masculinity as a poet. I wasn’t really out at the time, unless getting drunk & having sex with a drunk buddy counts. I was okay being bi but I kept my poetry focus on women.
It’s also about unrequited sex. Our Lady offers it to men who can’t have her, she goes home alone. Our peeper also goes home alone satisfied with his glimpse of the off stage Lady. Both of them caught in a culture in which the observed surface replaces real connection.
Welcome To The F Files
the grey is a force
outside of me
it is cold clouds
I am a part of this day
a piece of this air
with a slight breeze
to move me
from room to room
from talk to thought
a fussy flute
with a contra-melody
is in me
as I move formless
to fill the rooms
with a frosted rush
of talk threats
aren’t serious yet
but as the wind picks up
even these subtle hints
can’t resolve its shape
a haunted flute
in a cold hall
played by a winter breeze
waits for resolution
Although music has always played a big part in my life – at time when an lp, cassette, cd, mp3 would start up within minutes after I woke up – I rarely wrote without it, but seldom actually wrote about it. This piece is partially inspired by two pieces for solo flute: Syrinx by Claude Debussy & Density 21.5 by Edgar Varese. I had an lp with both of these by Severino Gazzelloni. Both pieces were merely over as opposed to having a definite conclusion, they ended without resolution.
The poem also uses images, variations on those images – like melodies repeated with slight harmonic changes. The breeze moving me, the shades of cold, frost echoes grey. Haunted resonated with the emptiness of the room, the hollowness of the flute. I move formless, like frosted breath, like clouds that seem to have shape until you get close, they become fog around out, you breath them in.
This was written in 1975 – what was waiting for resolution in my life? I was living in a grey area of sexual anxiety knowing I was gay & being careful about how out I could be. Gay panic was an acceptable for murder, for assault. I had an English Lit prof tell me that writing about queer sexuality would not serve my writing well (or something to that effect). Sex was drunken fumbling with other drunk guys. Sex was a fussy furtive opportunity.
My writing ‘career’ was also unresolved. I had no real mentors. I was stumbling through the writing of fiction as best I could. I have a couple of novels that I wrote between 1970 – 77. Some short stories too, even a play. All full of emotional pretence & the striving to find a voice. A striving haunted by cultural shaming. I was waiting for resolution.
Welcome To The F Files
So we’ve entered another phase of pandemic life as we know it & in response covid has mutated to become more contagious – pharmaceutical companies are now pushing for booster shots – to save mankind while boosting their profits. The un-vaxxed surf their wave of ‘it’s my right to die & it’s my right to take you with me’ rational.
I’ve kept my eye on the loosening of travel restrictions & wonder who profits from the mandatory covid testing? In order to go you need a ‘fresh’ test, in order to come back you need another ‘fresh’ test but if you haven’t made appointments in advance you could be stuck. Will travel health insurance cover the cost of covid testing in the USA?
Google says average price is $150. for tests in USA but can cost up to $850.00! There can be additional fees for collecting the samples, for transporting the sample to the testing facility. On top of which not all vaccines are acceptable so one has to make sure they have two of the accepted shots!
All this is along with all the other preparations needed to travel: ie passport, hotel, airplane tickets, documentation to prove you have the above, proof of registration on some ‘return to Canada app.’ Do I have to travel with a printer to print out that proof? I’ll need an extra carry on just for all that stuff. Oh yes & a supply of masks.
Speaking of masks I won’t be taking TTC, shopping at Farmer’s markets, eating indoors or attending plays without wearing one. As for travel plans for now I’ll just stay home & take a zoom tour 🙂
Whitney Pier Museum
I visit little local museums
dedicated to the industry of the area
steel workers miners
displays about the various ethic groups
Jewish Black Ukrainian
old high school year books
pictures of teams hockey basketball
rows of mothers knitting for the war
soldiers returning or those lost
churches that have come gone
business that survived faded
as economies rose dipped
the first black owned store in the city
families in fields picnics outings
Christmas parties in church auditoriums
faces turned to cameras
or sullen in front of raging blast furnaces
smeared with cold dust at a mine exit
men in groups workers comrades
sometimes everyone named
who’s your father a tree of discovery
I sift through these
wonder about the real lives of these men
where is my history
I’m to assume each of them
had a wife kids somewhere
they sweated worked for that dream
a house garden
no way to find out if any of them
sought out something in each other
no mention that
Jack and John lived happily together
in this house on Lingan Road
everyone knew but no one cared
I don’t need to know the lives
of those famed homos of the past
Radcliff Hall Alan Ginsburg
the list gets longer
as we allow history to reveal
what historians thought too sordid
to bring to light
the sex lives of heteros
are fine fodder mind you
I look at these photos
what truths are unrecognized
no display of the same sex inclined
as if the queers in history
were not ordinary folks like these
in little local museums of the closeted