Burned At The Stake

Burned At The Stake

this is not 

what I started

not what I expected

I didn’t ask for it

I don’t know how to stop it

no one does

<>

yet I get blamed

from so many sides

that push me to be

responsible

for being born male

for being born white

for being gay queer nonconforming

<>

if I don’t use

what ever entitlement I have

to advance the agendas

of those who fault me

I remain an enemy

but that is fate

my lot in life

<>

it doesn’t matter

who burns me at the stake

they all have legitimate reasons

who am I to complain

I’m getting what I deserve

not what I asked for

I’m not sure at what age I realized I wasn’t good at fitting in. Perhaps it was when I was 8 or 9 when my Dad began his move from Manitoba east across Canada, finally settling in Cape Breton. We hopped, skipped & jumped from place to place, including a few months in Wales with my mother & her family, for a year or so – staying in some places long enough for me to go to school for awhile. I was a frequently dislocated child.

Even when we settled in Sydney there were moves from one neighbourhood to another, one school to another. It was an adventure at the time but I really had no choice, I couldn’t stop it. I meet kids with stable living conditions – some living in the houses one of their parents were born in. I arrived there with no history & only the family I had was in a house new to us.

I did try at times to fit in, finding playmates to hang out with, joining in laneway baseball games – I even had my own baseball glove, joined cubs, boy scouts, went to the YMCA – none of which turned me into a butch boy. I wasn’t a great joiner – which really hasn’t changed.

I was, without realizing it, resistant to the insistent heteronormative inculcating that was the agenda of these things. This is what boys do, this is what girls do. I was mocked by gym teachers, parents of the kids I hung out with, even my own Dad, for not fulfilling these agendas. Blamed for not cooperating – for not living up to my potential – for not eagerly participating in things that were for my own good, things I didn’t start but didn’t know how to stop. 

I survived nicely & happily – occasionally got burned at the stake of public opinion but that is the lot of us abominations unto the face of the Lord & those who turn that righteous face in the directions of their choosing. In the end I’m not sure what I was asking for then – some sort of emotional guidance which never came. What I did get is the self-acceptance I deserved, which is better than being burned at the stake.


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Nine

Nine

O when I was nine

I was still a child

there was no instant communication

news travelled slow

on the radio TV newspapers

that provided an innocence

I knew about war

because my Dad had fought in one

he was a man

my mother was a woman

I was a boy child

who only knew what the culture 

of the time

expected of my gender 

<>

O when I was nine

I did know I wasn’t like other boys

I played backlot baseball

I played with dolls

I  wasn’t the boy my dad expected

I didn’t like to fight

like other boys

I never understood 

why physical violence was required

to be accepted

<>

O when I was nine

I learned to swim

looking at the differences

between boys and girls

anatomy I didn’t understand

the boys where more interesting

I knew shame

when we were caught

I had fear

but no closet

sex was dirty regardless

of the gender of the object

<>

O when I was nine

I don’t that I was making waves

as I waded from nine to nineteen

by the time I left nineteen

I knew

these were dangerous waters

at nine there was only

the fear of getting caught

not the fear

of my culture drowning me

like an unwanted litter of kittens

I heard on a TV documentary about children that our sense of self was basically formed by the time we are ten years old. By then we have absorbed the ‘teachings’ of TV behaviours that inform our subconscious. So, back in the day, I was aware of what the culture of the time expected of my gender. I was also aware that it wasn’t the right fit but I hadn’t developed the language for that beyond feeling it was the wrong fit. Today thanks to instant communication children have a greater knowledge of gender variations. I doubt that at the age of five I would have understood what a faggot was, children today do know what it means. 

Where was I when I was nine? We had just settled in Sydney, Cape Breton after moving across Canada for a couple years. My mother & I had spent some time with her family in Wales during this time as well. I remember ‘living’ in Moncton, Stellerton or was it Truro for short periods of time & going to schools there, briefly. Finally in Sydney, were we lived in three different neighbourhoods before my dad bought a house in Ashby.

One result was that I spent those formative years as a displaced person – someone who was different. My Dad prodded me into things that could show me how to ‘fit in’: cub scouts, YMCA. I did the best I could but felt like an outsider &, as I recall, was fine with that. I did get these weird mixed messages ‘why can’t you be like other kids’ then when I wanted some fad item ‘why can’t you think for yourself.’

I survived partially by hiding in booze & partially by writing & painting as I gradually found language for what I was. Though then that language was loaded – an abomination unto the Lord – sort of stuff. Today I know the tragic flaw wasn’t my sexuality but the way culture regarded not only lgbtq but sexuality itself.


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Remembering Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sister found a cache of old photos during her isolation house cleaning & sent a jpeg of this one of me as a very wee lad in Wales. I have very vague memories of the several months I spent there but it was pre-kindergarten years. I was an only child, we were living in Winnipeg – where I was born. We were visiting my mother’s huge family in Merthyr Tydfil. By huge I mean at least 10 bothers & sisters. I had lots of aunts, uncles & even some cousins.

How did we get there? I vaguely remember spending time on a liner – The Franconia II (?). We did have a photo of the boat for many years & my sister may yet find that 🙂 as she digs though decades of papers.

It must have been a cool day in Cardiff as I’m wearing top coat & well wrapped in a scarf. Anyway the most telling thing about the photo is the rather wide belt. I was a hyper child & the only way my mother could keep me from climbing light poles was to keep me tethered. I’ve marked the actual tether & its shadow in one of the pictures. I remember the tethering but have no memory of the cause 🙂

 

The other pictures are of a more mature me – all unearth by my sister several years ago. On the beach at Broad Cove along the Cabot Trail. I loved that hat & stuck feathers in it. The shirt had blue stripes. I also love what we called ‘pit socks’ thick wooled, not exactly summer wear. The child I’m dragging might be one of my sisters but looking closely at it I doubt think so.

Next is me in a nice white shirt, possibly one of my Dad’s. The car was Prefect that my dad bought me to teach me how to drive. We’re at Memorial Gardens so I could drive around the road there. Despite the nerd look I never did learn to drive 🙂

 

The final ‘remember me’ is early 70’s in my almost hippy days 🙂 US draft dodgers had bought & started a farm in vape Breton. We became friends & I visited them a few times. I had a crush on a couple of the guys but didn’t know how to go from thought to action. Other than hair (& weight) I haven’t really changed much, have I?

Odds 

these days if I don’t know 

I’m willing to step up and say so

I no longer waste time 

with bluffing and postulating

on what I thought it might be

wasting time 

on half right information

that gets no one anywhere 

except back to blame

blame an easy place to get trapped

it means not going forward 

but is the ideal excuse

to look for what went wrong

that might have been avoided 

if i had been willing at one point

to say 

I don’t really know

my guess 

isn’t going to be close enough 

let’s get the right info 

then see where that leads us

because sometimes 

even knowing isn’t the solution

I have the right fact for the wrong situation

I may have no idea 

what the fuck is going on

so it is better 

to make that clear from the start

let someone else 

with half right information 

take the lead

so we have someone to blame

though sometimes 

there is no right or wrong way to go

it’s just important to go

to not stay stuck 

waiting for a clear sign

for verifiable facts 

to present themselves

but waiting can be 

such comforting thing to do

a great place to be

in which nothing gets done

and no one is to blame

we may not get ahead of the game

but at least were still in it aren’t we

I don’t know

there see I’ve admitted it

I don’t know 

if we’re in the game or not

I don’t know 

how to find out either

does it matter

is it all really a game 

or is that an allegorical handle

used to make things 

seem more manageable

one that does really work

because rules shift so fast

it’s impossible to keep up with them

impossible to repeat 

them make them work

we have to keep plugging 

away on available information

be prepared for change

take another step 

in some direction

think we get the clear sign

step up 

and get flatten 

by an on coming car

I hear that can happen

that’s why I’m afraid 

of winning the lottery

42 million dollars at last 

& a piano falls on me

as I go to the bank to cash the cheque

no I’m not a fatalist

a pigeon could shit me 

on the way to the bank

but that’s the worse 

regardless of how big the cheque is

or is it a cheque 

an automatic bank transfer

a few click of keys 

it’s in my account

I don’t know

I’d love to find out 

I’m willing to learn

I am open to suggestion

to new information

but this is postulating

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Prize Wise

Prize Wise

I knew

just knew in my bones

Karen was getting the prize

that should be mine

because the teacher 

didn’t like me

just because Karen’s mother was sick

the whole class had voted

to give her the prize

not because she deserved it

but they felt sorry for her

 

I was eight or nine at the time

and decades later

I still feel that resentment

that became the message

‘no matter how well you do

someone else always deserves

the prize more

so why bother’

 

this message resonates

when I think

only the damaged

write with an authentic voice

only the disenfranchised

have a right to attention

only the six-pack seniors

have a right to sex

I should feel lucky

grateful for what I  get



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Safe From Me

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Safe From Me

somedays it isn’t safe

for me to be seen in public

not safe for others I mean

personally I am unconcerned

but the welfare of others 

has to be considered

just a glance from any male

let alone a gay male

can be triggering

sending someone spinning

into painful childhood memories

that don’t involve me directly

but my mere looking 

where I am going

can set people off 

 

I never ask how are you doing

lest that appears to be disrespect

for their boundary issues

I dress to deflect attention

I won’t compliment your appearance 

never talk about my happy childhood

because  by doing so

I may be diminishing 

what you experienced in yours

 

I get tired of negotiating permission

to continue a conversation

is it okay if I talk about ….

negotiating to avoid making

others uncomfortable

it isn’t wise to presume 

that just because they are a clerk

that they want to be of service

 

I haven’t left my house

for years now

it’s the easiest way

of keeping the world safe

from me

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Cape Breton Day 9

A fun day of driving & dining that started with a morning walk to a great recovery meeting. Did my first Tim Horton’s stop of the trip. The coffee is no longer stronger than than Toronto’s. I like morning meetings as a way to start a day. Familiar faces are comforting. All the meetings I went to turned out to be topic-suggested-by-members meetings. I suppose there are some that discuss the literature. All started with the serenity prayer 🙂 & all ended with the Lord’s Prayer :-(. No hand holding to deal with.

Walked up to my sister’s & took the Terrace St. hills I used to walk to Sydney Academy. They seemed much steeper then. My sister had dug out some old photo albums, one that included some toddler pics of me. After a few minutes of looking though them & taking pictures of pictures we headed out on the day’s real adventures.

 

My Dad was fond of taking us kids for country drives and my sister has the driving bug in her blood too. our first real stop was in Sydney Mines so I could get pictures of the Municipal Region Police Station that was once a Customs House. An impressive building that dates back to the early 1900’s. It certainly stands out amidst the endless aluminium sided boxes that abound everywhere. Why does progress mean lack of architectural character?

 

 

Next we went to North Sydney. I was hoping to find out information about the German U-Boat that surfaced in the harbour – the local citizens jumped dirtier boats to defend out shores. North Sydney was a major communications hub & thus targeted by the Nazis.

Blank faces were all I got from the staff. I did get lots of pics though included some of a 1918 fire engine. We had a decent lunch at The Black Spoon. I was hoping the name referred to some naval jargon or iron smelting but Black was the last name of the owner.

Tomorrow Fort Petrie.

 

Colby Days 2


Our Cottage Road house, between Park St & Whitney Ave by a laneway, was a compact two-story home belonging to Miss Kelly who lived in the house next door. Her house was huge. She had boarders on the second & third floors & she lived alone on the first floor. Her house was the model for the boarding house in my novel Coal Dusters. She deserves a post of her own, so this is all I’ll say about her now 🙂

This was a more upperclass neighbourhood. Larger houses, doctors & lawyers & sport celebrities abounded. Larger houses too – many 3 story, single family dwellings. Colby remained within walking distance & I would trudge Cottage Rd. in the morning, home for lunch, back for the afternoon. I’d walk home along central with the guys.

I was at Colby for grades IV & V. I have a class photos of me in Grade VI at Ashby school. I don’t recall if that was another summer move though. I do remember some of my Colby teachers though. The principle Miss Greenwood, Mrs. Butterworth & Mrs. McLeod. There were others but even seeing the list of teachers on the Colby School page didn’t ring any lunch bells. https://www.facebook.com/groups/colbyschool/

I do remember the hand bell that rang to get us into the school. I was a middling student even then. I had attention issues 🙂 I was also aware that I didn’t have the same feelings about girls as the boys claimed to have. I was, in fact, a sissy who preferred hopscotch to baseball. I don’t recall having any real pals or playmates of either sex.

I did get into a couple of fist fights though & lost. It was hard to keep punching when everyone around you was encouraging the other guy to teach me a lesson. I became a coward because proving my masculinity with violence was beyond me. Shame & fear were the biggest lessons I learned at Colby School.

It was here that I had to spend a summer writing out  words from a speller. I did page after page of writing each word out twenty times. Then had to retake the spelling exam at the start of the new term before I could go on. I did pass but again, the real lesson learned was shame, not how to spell.

The other thing I remember from then was the birth of my brother. Now that my Dad was settled in Sydney, his job was going well, may parents felt secure enough to raise a family. I felt I was a disappointment & now they wanted to get it right this time. My brother was about a year old when my mother was pregnant again, & we moved again, this time to the Ashby area.

Fully Human

I’m not enjoying this

so it must be good for me

the less I like it

the better what I am getting

the more I suffer

the more fully human I am

what I enjoy is to be avoid

it is merely a diversion 

from suffering

because life is suffering

 

any attempt to diminish suffering

diminishes all life

we a cannot afford pleasure

to admit to liking something 

someone

is to admit to weakness

is to admit to being 

a shallow fun-loving 

corrupter of basic human dignity

dignity requires suffering 

and sacrifice

 

those who aren’t willing to suffer

aren’t worth the breath 

they take to live

they should be face 

the error of their ways 

or be shunned

 

if you are having a good time

do it in another room

quietly

we don’t want reality 

sullied by gasps 

of sexual indulgences

we don’t want to hear laugher 

behind our backs

take to another room

another city if possible

 

here we are on the righteous trail

suffering to fulfill our real 

authenticity as humans

as a parade of weeping assholes

(poem prompted by one of Montaigne’s essays)


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When I Was A Young Boy

For the summer I’m looking at my Brown Betty chapbook. All the pieces dealt with growing up in Cape Breton. As usual WordPress imposes its own line breaks 😦

When I Was A Young Boy

when I was a young boy 

I kissed a girl 

when I was a young boy

about 11 

I kissed a girl 

she was about 11
it was at a birthday party
not hers 

she was wore a frilly rose-yellow dress 

I wore a white shirt and tie 

so maybe it wasn’t a birthday party 

maybe a wedding

 

there were about a dozen of us
kids from various families 

kids that sort of knew each other 

made to dress like little adults 

 

we watched adults kissing greeting 

and like little adults we kissed 

I don’t remember her name 

but I kissed her
she didn’t seem to mind 

then we chased each other 

sneaking kisses 

till we were caught 

someone’s mother
gave a little shocked shriek 

‘oh you naughty kids’ 

 

the other kids picked that up
and ran around 

calling me ‘naughty boy’

‘naughty boy’
while the little girl I kissed 

blushed then joined in with them 

as if it was all my fault
all my idea

 

the adults got in on it after awhile 

‘oh look there’s the naughty boy 

watch out or he’ll kiss you’ 

 

when I was a young boy
I kissed a girl
I learned my lesson
I never a kissed another girl

This piece starts as a traditional English ballad. There are many variations on this beginning – when I was a young …. is the start of many a story, almost like ‘once upon a time.’ Even the ‘I kissed’ come out of the old school tradition. Though there is also a nod some recent pop songs. The party setting is also very tradition – the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner starts with the mariner talking to a wedding guest.

The piece plays on the nature of memory, of place, circumstances. Growing up I ended up at similar events, wearing a shirt & tie with kids I didn’t know, some of whom I never saw again either. The story unfolds in a sweet logically way, much as the traditional ballad would tell the story, adding layer so detail as it progressed. In ballad the hero always faced some sort of ‘conflict.’

I’ve always found it puzzling when young children are asked if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend while the idea of children’s sexuality is so fought with fear & shame at once. Their lack of sexual knowledge is praised, almost encouraged & shamed all at the same time.

This piece was written for a class I took Make-A-Scene on performative story telling. https://wp.me/p1RtxU-7V, https://wp.me/p1RtxU-83,  When I performed it I wore shorts, a white shirt & a playful tie. The girl was played by a helium balloon with a string that put it at about about shoulder height to me. I found one with a girl’s face on it. My class mates did the ‘naughty boy’ shaming. At the end of the piece I cut the string and it floated away. 


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Nine Lives

Nine Lives

O when I was nine

I was still a child

there was no instant communication

news travelled slow

on the radio   TV news   newspapers

delay that provided an innocence

I knew about war

because my Dad had fought in one

he was a man

my mother was a woman

I was a boy child

who only knew what the culture 

of the time

reported of my gender 

 

O when I was nine

I wasn’t aware of so much

I did know I wasn’t like other boys

I played backlot-baseball

I played with dolls

I  wasn’t the son my dad expected

I didn’t like to fight

like other boys

I never understood 

why physical violence was required

to be accepted

 

O when I was nine

I had indulged in sex play

with boys and girls

looking at the differences

anatomy I didn’t understand

the boys where more interesting

I didn’t come out

but I knew shame

when we were caught

I had fear

but no closet

sex was dirty regardless

of gender

 

O when I was nine

I don’t know I was swimming

that I was making waves

as I dog-paddled from nine to nineteen

by that time I knew

these were dangerous waters

 

O at nine there was only

the fear of getting caught

not the fear

of my culture drowning me

like an unwanted litter of kittens

that were denied their nine lives


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Wrap

sample

WRAP

I wandered the mall

without parental guidance

to get something festive for my mother

she liked anything we ever gave her

things that remained in their gift boxes

tucked in a safe place for a special day

I was tempted to take one of those old gifts

rewrap it to see if she would remember it

I was too young understand treasured memories

 

did she need atomizers bath oils perfume

I touched sweaters blouses earrings

clerks would glance at me glance away

I was stumped

I knew all about my mother

she liked to drink tea smoke watch TV

make clothes for my sisters

that was an idea  – bags of yarn

no that would turn into gifts for my sisters not her

she rarely wore the jewellery she had

would read reread the same mystery books

maybe something for the kitchen

something to remind her of her childhood

I wanted one thing that would be hers

she didn’t need another tea mug tea pot

more imported teas

to store behind the one she really likes

 

I floated from one store the next

noticed some woman tagging along

not looking at me when I look at her

as I head for the exit she stops me

you find what your looking for?

I shake my head no

I’m not so sure about that – come with me

kids think you can get away with anything

we go to the security office

empty your pockets

 

she searches my coat pats the lining

tells me what’ll happen for shop lifting

go to jail – parents will be ashamed 

we kids are all the same

look so innocent and can’t be trusted

she finds my wallet my money

my dad’s list of  things for my mother

looks like I was wrong honey

she pats my shoulder

now you run along home

 

I went outside

mom’s little boy no more

how did I wrap that

grarl01

the knot of memory

Wrap is a sweet memory poem with some real memories and events mixed together. The shopping for Christmas gifts was always challenge for my Mother. One year I had found a great collection of teas – a dozen little sample boxes of tea in bags from around the world that I did find a few year later never opened.

In fact when she passed away my sister discovered gift boxed handkerchiefs, gloves that we’d given her in past years still in those boxes. The perfume started to vary over the years once we progressed Evening in Paris (http://wp.me/p1RtxU-VE). But there were bath salts and such she had never opened, stashed in a closet.

grnal02 childhood roots

I don’t think my Dad ever gave me a list though, I was clever enough to find interesting enough things. She liked mystery novels which were easy enough to find but I realize now she preferred cozies as opposed to police procedurals. Music was fun to find for her as well.

Wandering department stores was something I did from time to time at different ages & stages on the east coast and more than once was followed – once I about 12 was stopped too but only talked to briefly at the door as my panic was so clear the floorwalker knew I had merely looked.

1964 Xmas_01 a real christmas pic from 1964 – what my mother got

The other time I was in later teen’s and knew I was being tailed, as it were, and so faked lifting something and when they checked me out in a little private office and found nothing in my backpack they let me go after a stern warning about consequences.

My loss of innocence was quite different than the one here – it came when I realized I was queer and had no way of wrapping that as a gift so kept it on a shelf in my own little safe place and didn’t share it with family until I had moved to Toronto. But that’s another story.

soon1

January 3 – attending – HOT DAMN! It’s a Queer Slam featuring Johnny Trinh

Hot Damn

https://www.facebook.com/events/1521088544810933/

January 18 – hosting – Out of the Fire – a fundraiser for Kyle Andrews

KyleD

https://www.facebook.com/events/575346262566333/

 

 

xmashedge

Christmas constrictor

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