Measure Up

Measure Up

I concede 

I’m not that competitive

whether you are the better

isn’t that important to me

I want to be judged

on my merits alone

not on how much 

better or worse I may be

compared with anyone

better is relative

 

who is the winner

the one who comes in first 

or the one who finishes the race

on their own terms

 

I grew up

in a school system

where I learned 

I would never measure up

because I wasn’t smart enough

to memorize the times table

smart enough

to regurgitate passages of text books

when I wrote exams

even when I was right

I was given no credit

because my spelling was so wrong

 

coming out

I learned I would never measure

I was never young enough

buff enough

hung enough

to be desirable enough

in the eyes of those

who I wanted to measure up to

without realizing

I was trying to measure up



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We Insist!

A link to a YouTube video of We Insist! an amazing 1961 jazz lp by Max Roach that featured wife Abbey Lincoln lead me to download that lp along with a couple of other lps by Abbey: That’s Him; Golden Lady. We Insist! is a powerful black rights statement backed with dynamic music & vocals. When I think of 60’s protest music sweet folk songs like Blowin’ In The Wind comes to mind but We Insist! is not folk music – the sense of struggle & urgency dominates & propels the music in a way that most protest music of the time never managed. Lincoln’s voice is strong. Him & Lady are not as ‘revolutionary’ but are great introductions to anyone stepping into jazz vocalists for the first time.

On this mp3 collection there is a mix of female vocalists – all different styles, eras, fames & countries. Staring with Mireille Mathieu’s Les Grandes  Chansons Francaises. Mireille has a wonderful resonant emotional voice. As the title suggests this is a set of ultra-famous French songs i.e. ‘Non je ne regrette rien’. Her version of La mer is astonishing – search it out on YouTube. I want her version of ‘Ne me quite pas’ played as people leave my memorial service.

The totally unknown folk singer Michele is here with her Saturn Rings. A pleasant voice, some unexpectedly psychedelic accompaniment for a set of love songs, pleas for Mother Earth that got lost in the shuffle of the likes of Joan Baez & Judy Collins. Another lost in the shuffle is Barbara & Ernie’s Prelude To. This is a gentle, relaxing but sexy r’n’b duo making good massage music.

 

Finally I added Laura Nyro’s New York Tendaberry to this compilation. I love Laura Nyro & have nearly everything so I won’t say much more than this a great lp by her, not one of her strongest – but even at her weakest she is worth hearing. More about her when I get to ’n.’

The Circle of Strife

John sneered at Betty. Betty flipped Jasmine the bird. Jasmine gave Frank a dirty look.Frank didn’t leave a tip for Gwen. Gwen short changed Bill. Bill called Abdul a terrorist shit head. Abdul told Fatima to shut the fuck up. Fatima pinched Ryan. Ryan shoved Rachel getting on the subway. Rachel went home and smacked the baby Patrick. Patrick cried and cried and woke up Ted. Ted kicked his dog Rover. Rover chewed up Barbara’s favorite shoes. Barbara didn’t feel Gary’s work was up to snuff and told him. Gary spilled his coffee at lunch at Maria’s del

Maria shouted for Paco to clean up that mess. Paco wanted to kill Delorosa his mother. Delorosa didn’t wait for Greg. Greg was rushed and slammed the car door on Tina’s coat. Tina didn’t show up for her date with Mike. Mike waited and waited and bought drugs from Carla. Carla needed more money from Jeff. Jeff took an extra twenty from Deb’s purse.  Deb didn’t have enough to pay the bar bill . Larry felt she was playing him

Larry barked at Gina. Gina went crying to her boyfriend Philip. Philip punched Marg the bartender in the face. Marg pulled out a knife and cut Phil’s brother Brian. Brian pulled out his gun and shot Sgt Tracy O’Brian, one of the cops who came to quiet things down. John sneered at Betty for being afraid of guns.

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

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

May

Richard III – Stratford Festival

June

June 25-26-27 – Capturing Fire 2020 – Wooly Mammoth Theatre -Washington D.C.
 capfireslam.org 

July

All’s Well That Ends Well – Stratford Festival

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee

at Ted’s Bulletin in Washington DC

at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

The Cutest Beatle

Who is the cutest Beatle? Who is the most talented? Did Yoko break up the best band in the world? None of these questions will be answered here 🙂 All I can say for sure is that John Lennon was the uncut Beatle. Yes, that’s right I’m looking at my John Lennon music collection – not the shirts.

A few years ago I downloaded a bit set of what purports to be all his solo work (though Yoko appears frequently enough.) So I have, as mp3, on 2 cds: Unfinished Music: Two Virgins; Wedding Album; Live Peace in Toronto 1969; Plastic Ono Band; Imagine; Some Time in NYC; Live in NYC; Mind Games; Walls & Bridges; Shaved Fish; Rock’n’Roll; Double Fantasy; Milk & Honey. Of these the only one I had as lp was Walls & Bridges. 

Of the Beatles I would say John was the most adventurous (yes I know McCartney did some electronica) & at one point was avant-garde thanks to Yoko & their early sound collage work. Though I suspect Virgins/Wedding work more of a fuck you to the pop music industry – similar to Lou Reed’s Metal Music. These aren’t lps I feel drawn back to more than every ten years.

I enjoy much of his studio work once he got over his collage mood. The albums all have tracks I enjoy, tracks that have become classics. He was the most directly political of the Beatles & never really followed pop trends. The only one of his lps that I actually bought, when it was first released, was Walls & Bridges. Probably his most Beatlesque work.

To round out the mp3 cds I added The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl 1965 – the Beatles sing against a backdrop of ceaseless screaming. George Harrison w Bob Dylan: New Morning Sessions; self-titled. The Dylan sessions are sweet but probably more interesting to real fans. The ‘self-titled’ flows with his mystic explorations & love songs. Julian Lennon: Valotte – solid pop from the son of John who looks & sounds like his dad. Finally Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run – I love this album. Paul has real pop smarts & this of all his recordings is the best. I’ve listened to much of his other work & well, who cares.

Magazine Machismo 

I am walking down the street across from the park. Fall. Leaves swirling around me. I spot a few colourful magazine pages caught in a wrought iron fence. As I get closer I discern faces, bodies on the pages. I pull them off. They are pictures of naked men. Full color but not fully naked. These men have on panties, stockings, their dicks can be seen through the sheer fabric. Faces pouting. 

I look around alarmed, afraid someone might see me looking at this that I just happened to pick up. There is no one around. 

I turn the pages over and more of the same photos only  in black & white. There were no other pages swirling in the wind. Where had they come from? I had never seen anything like this before. I guess I was 14 15 at time time. I’d had my own dreams about naked men but never ones that included this sort of fantasy.

I was astounded, alarmed and puzzled all at the same time. I didn’t have any sort of role model to follow and these pictures seemed almost logical – gay men wanted to be women in some way. But I didn’t want to be a woman in anyway, so maybe I wasn’t a really queer after all.

I looked at the pictures a few more times in a street light. Again making sure there was no one around to see me looking. Had someone planted them to be found and where they watching from some window to see who would take them, linger over them.  Where had they flown from to be caught in the wind, tossed around with the leaves like this.

I shoved them in the first garbage bin I came across. I felt free without them, without those faces, cocks, garters, daring me to consider things I didn’t how to consider.

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

April
April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales

Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

May

Richard III – Stratford Festival

June

June 25-26-27 – Capturing Fire 2020 – Wooly Mammoth Theatre -Washington D.C.
 capfireslam.org 

July

All’s Well That Ends Well – Stratford Festival

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee

at Ted’s Bulletin in Washington DC

at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

I Can’t Get No 

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Satisfaction 

it went exactly as planned

the only one disappointed

was me

I wanted things to be better

the story of my life

 

the right size is never right enough

a good fit isn’t adequate

the praise adulation 

are mere stop gaps

diversions

from going beyond expectations

 

good enough

feels like settling for less

it isn’t satisfying to measure up

it has to be unforgettable

sure your good enough is fine by me

but my good enough

isn’t worth bothering with

even when I am the only one disappointed


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees – thankspaypal.me/TOpoet 

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Water

Swim

 

it’s not that I can’t swim

I don’t trust the water

what lies underneath it

in the silt 

until my foot feels it

even in a swimming pool

I cringe at the thought 

of all those other bodies

of those pieces of broken glass

invisible in the reflected light

 

the water is safe

the lake is pure

the seaweed is harmless

the chlorine protects me

none of which adds to my comfort

the bathtub is deep enough for me

but people drown in tubs

 

I minimize my risks

yes I can swim

I don’t go the the beach

I don’t sit by the side of the pool

I won’t expose my skin

to the sun

for longer than necessary

and never for pleasure

I won’t even wade

with bottoms of my trousers rolled

 

it’s not that I can’t swim

I’m not in love

The key to this fun piece is “I minimize my risks.” I’ve buried that line in the middle so that what this starts out as – a sort of display of paranoia – becomes about well, actually, it is pretty much about paranoia. It’s also a list poem – running through variations of what the ‘dangers’ might be – some quite real, others on the silly side.

Some come from my own past – I hated silt in lakes, wouldn’t go in the ocean if there was too much sea weed. I did see someone cut their foot on broken glass on the beach. Lake Ontario water is often deemed unsanitary for swimming. Even if they say is is ‘safe’ today I wouldn’t risk it on any day.

This is also about the paranoias in general – I have a friend who won’t take the subway alone, just in case it stall between stations. Thanks to the corona virus I am being smothered on line by ads for face masks. Costco runs out of toilet paper & bottled water as people prepare for the end of time. I’m pricing disposable plastic gloves for wearing in transit.

‘my trousers rolled’ is a reference to T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ in which his narrator is walking along the beach, musing on the risks he has taken or avoided in his life. The nature of the risks we take today are often as banal as this. Skin cancer didn’t seem to excising when I was a boy frolicking in the sun – now I use a 110 sunscreen. 

The piece takes an even more sudden turn with that last line – drowning in a sea love.



Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee at Capturing Fire 2020 – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Hallway

When does a hallway become a vestibule? You step into one (or the other) when you come in the front door of my house. On the wall to your right hangs a print of a calm English waterside scene. A lake? Could it be coastal France? Impressionist. Nicely framed. Not something I bought but rather inherited form a friend who died several years ago. He may have told more about it at one time but that’s forgotten. My friend isn’t. Best part of it, for me, is that you can’t read into it anything about me.

On the right side of the door is this stained glass window (original with the house) with this owl standing on the sill. The owl is my partners & he owned it before we met so it goes back at least 45 years. Metal (of some sort) painted black. On the base it says Austin Prod 1976. Prod is not a weird last name but short for (Austin) Productions Inc. The owl represents wisdom & thus is a good thing to see when I leave the house after I check to make sure my hat is on straight.

A little deeper in the hall one is confronted with one of my original paintings! Painted way back in 1981 when I was newly sober & reawakening creatively. ‘Clowns At War’ is written on the back so I guess that was my working title. The guns are cut out from a magazine. It tells several stories – clowns fighting over a hat, shocked dress shop sales person. I love the details in the windows over the dress shop. 

 

As one goes up the stairs hangs this very Cocteau/Toulouse Lautrec sketch of my friend, the late Jackie Burroughs. It was done by one of the stage hands when she was in a production of Colette’s Chéri. She played the maid. It was fun play. The secret to her performance was getting the right shoes. She insisted there be at least one moment when those shoes were seen by the audience.

Here’s a piece I wrote after Jackie’s funeral

. . . walk through . . .

her casket unadorned pine

pale

unvarnished for burning

heavy even with three on each side

the gentle struggle

to get it up church steps winded me

all glad to let go

let it glide on the gurney

through the narrow granite arch

into

the vaulted cathedral

massive stained glass window

images promised resurrection

 

we followed the minister

a slow steady pace

he held aloft a silver cross

each a single hand on the casket

 

oppressive organ music

muffling the simple choir

I longed for unadorned chant

then wanted the droning reverential

minister’s voice smothered

too much scripted polished scripture talk

and none of the real in the casket

 

      silence

 

then her voice

  previously recorded

  “… I walk through … ”

  all breaths held

  to take in

  her reading “ … I fear no … ”

  sobs for this real presence

  I looked to the casket

  expect it to shake   giggle

 

next the rites

  holy water sprinkled

  dense incense wafted

  I choked   gasped

  air thick

  smothered through the rest of the ritual

  we walk the casket out

  again the gentle clumsy struggle

  out the narrow granite arch

  the dead weight down the steps

  to the hearse

  where we all took a deep breath

  as it drove off into the sun

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

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 and Bad Times Theatre

May

Richard III – Stratford Festival

June

June 25-26-27 – Capturing Fire 2020 – Wooly Mammoth Theatre – Washington D.C.

 capfireslam.org 

July

All’s Well That Ends Well – Stratford Festival

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee

at Ted’s Bulletin in Washington DC

at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Snowy February Day 2020

Between snow falls February 26, 2020 – mostly along Strathmore Blvd., except for the lion which was on Sammon Ave. – in Toronto

cedars dusted with snow

lion in winter

toothless

tree dusted with snow

or is this a mantle of snow

holly berries

holly berries

rosy with cold cheeks

https://capfireslam.org

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees &  eat at Capturing Fire this June in Washington DC – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

February 2020 Recap

My TOpoet.ca following blog grew to 383! Many days topping 40 hits & some as high as 60. Adding the Sunday photo post has worked & has bumps dup hits & added new followers. Picture Perfecting progressing slowly but surely – with 10,500 words posted so far with about 170,000 more to go. Getting back to these characters is making me ready for their next mystery.

Started to follow this excellent WordPress blog: https://freetripdownlhopmusicblog.wordpress.com. The blog started to follow me. I don’t always follow back mind you  (sorry Dog Training Tips). I like listening to this curated blog that gives me fun, new sounds, a few of which I have purchased. It is perfect for me (or anyone who might enjoy a range of trip-hop, jazzy instruments from around the world – sometimes folksy fun too).

My Tumblr is at 260 followers. It would be more but I block follows by hetero buxom babes & drug slammers (shooting up). Twitter is at 222 followers. I’m following 85 tweeters though many of those are on mute 🙂 I can only take so much political angst & queer outrage.

Watched Louis Malle’s ‘Au revoir les enfants’ (1987). This is an amazing movie. Set in a Catholic boys’ school during WW2. The priests ‘hide’ some Jewish boys from the Nazi’s. Emotionally resonant, real, & brilliant work out of the leads. I wasn’t sure I wanted to see yet another movie in a boys boarding school. Bullying, class conscious struggle etc but this transcended all that quickly – though some of that does happen. Highly recommended.

My feature at The Secret Handshake went very well. Review of show: https://wp.me/p1RtxU-47j  , video of show: https://wp.me/p1RtxU-44f  I can’t say that I miss performing in this context through. $ in the bank is always welcome though. Hot Damn! is coming up March 5 so I hope to have a couple of new pieces for that open stage. Which reminds me I have booked my flights & hotel for Capturing Fire 2020’s 10th anniversary at the end of June. I will be missing Toronto Pride. Best of all I’ll be celebrating my birthday there. You can wish me well via my paypal link 🙂

https://capfireslam.org

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees &  eat at Capturing Fire this June in Washington DC – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Full Up

Full Up

he tells me

I’m full of it

does than mean

full of hot air

full of bullshit

full of blessings

full to the brim

or spilling over

dripping down the sides

with a puddle of it

all around me

a puddle that keeps getting bigger

 

is there no room

for anything else

am I so full of it

I can’t change

learn

share

 

am I’m so full of it

that I feel nothing else

 

I feel empty 

not full up

unfulfilled

even as full as I supposedly am 

 

this being full of it

accusation

is an attempt to shame me

I get that

but I’m so full of it

I feel no shame

there’s no room 

for your judgements 

to find footing

I’m not adding your shame

to the it

I already carry

at least I carry it well

no thanks to you

who aren’t full of anything

all I hear is the hollow echo

of your emptiness



Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee at Capturing Fire 2020- sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Conversation

Text Me

he’s behind bars

so the streets are safer

yet I still say

text me when you get home

these streets will never be safe

 

all those years 

when I never worried

about more than someone getting wet

waiting too long for a bus

 

all those years

when this was happening

men lured into a van

expecting a lift home

not a fight for their life

 

I’m feeling retroactive fear

regret

for dangers I never knew existed 

for men coming and going

from my house

from my arms

making their way home

at night

 

some who have in fact

disappeared from my life

moved on

I presumed

but now I’m not sure

 

I know he’s behind bars

but the streets

will never feel safe again

so text me when you get home

I’ll text you when I get home

I find it unsettling to revisit the Terra Cotta poems. Some were written during the manhunt. This one after the arrest. I live a relatively protected life – not quite a cocoon but one at a distance from the downtown core where my immediate physical risks are minimal. I feel much safer walking the my east end streets at night that I do walking along, say, Jarvis at night.

Many of the killers victims were met on-line – which is where I do meet men – geography only plays a role when travel is involved. So it is not unlikely that I could have met this man. It isn’t even impossible that we did have some on-line contact but I’m clearly was not the ‘type’ he was looking for. Being a non-drugger, sober, white queer offers some protection 🙂

I knew men who knew some of the victims. One who was sure there was something going on before the police acknowledged there was something going on. I’ve been told that the killer went to some recovery meetings in his hunt for vulnerable men. I mention these things as context for all the Terra Cotta pieces. I felt I had tom write something about this, about the way the media responded to the man hunt.

It impacted the community is many ways. This piece reflects one of those ways. Our concern for friends & lovers whom we cannot protect. The text request was a way to offer connection to friends – not necessarily just fwb. I always make the request when one of guys who drive to my place head home. Even when men are ‘out of the closet’ they may not be out about who they are seeing. If they have an accident I may never know unless family alerts every # on a cell phone that so & so etc.

 

The fact that this guy is behind bars hasn’t changed the culture in which what he was doing was so easy to ignore. The indifference to crime/assault against the LGBTQIA community hasn’t changed as a result. It may have started a ‘conversation’ but let’s face it talk is not a change.



Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee at Capturing Fire 2020 – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet