Our Demands

The past few weeks have been productive – the cold weather keeping me in nights has helped some – plus reducing the amount of time I put into reading. Those books, ebooks will get read eventually – what’s the hurry. Reading is a sly way of avoidance as I’m doing research into facets queerdom, identity as well some fiction & even a few literary journals. I have to confess that I’ve let nearly all my lit journal subscriptions expire. They aren’t my market & often don’t speak to my interests – unless someone starts a Ginger Pubes Quarterly.

sweaternice green but needs some ginger

I’ve been clearing the blogged City of Valleys off WordPress – to publish there needs to be no ‘free’ versions of available. While I was doing that I also edited out those lists of my upcoming events – stale is stale. If you missed the show that boat ain’t coming back.

toquegingery rust

I’ve been getting material ready for three upcoming shows, as well. Winter Snow Ball (winter’s no ball); my guest spot at the Dildettes show, and my February feature at Racket at the Rocket. For the Racket show I also designed a flyer – one of my favourite things to do, plus created a Facebook invite for people to rsvp then ignore 🙂

baghairy (not ginger) bag

Our Demands is the last in this current little flurry of list poems. In editing it, I did change the time sensitive cultural references to something more recent. I enjoyed the idea of these cold-blooded killers also being sort of whiney cry-babies at the same time; while the authorities are silent and mostly unresponsive.

coming

January 22, Wednesday – featuring – Winter Snow Ball, 7 p.m. – urban gallery, 400 Queen East https://www.facebook.com/events/792356567447501/

snowsmall

January 30, Thursday – guest spot -The Dildettes, 8 p.m., Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander Street. https://www.facebook.com/events/234979810009039/

February 21, Friday – featuring – Racket at the Rocket: 7 p.m., Red Rocket Cafe, 1364 Danforth Ave.

February 21, Friday – featuring – Racket at the Rocket: 7 p.m., Red Rocket Cafe, 1364 Danforth Ave. https://www.facebook.com/events/818441091515505/

stsml

March 1, Saturday – attending – Toronto SpecFic Colloquium

June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words

June 23-27 – attending – Manuscript to Book – Loyalist Summer Arts – Belleville https://www.loyalistbanner.com/PROD/cewkcrss.P_IndexPage

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada

samples

Our Demands

1 p.m.

Here is a list of our demands.

You have exactly three hours to fulfill them

two large pepperoni pizza – thin crust

four 2 litre bottles of classic coke

an escort to the airport

where a plane will be waiting

the plane will take us to St Nities

no police will follow

there will be no charges laid against any of our family

we will be given political asylum at St Nities

there will be no reward placed on our heads

if these demands are not met we will start to kill the hostages

after each killing there will be further demands

4 p.m.

your three hours are up

we have killed the first of the hostages

here are are our new demands:

no punishment for killing the first of our hostages

freedom for two of our compadres currently incarcerated

two large pepperoni pizza

four 2 litre bottles of classic coke

bring our families to the Larry King show

send interviewers from CNN to us

give us more press and TV coverage

stop the helicopter’s flying overhead

re-run the Phoebe gives birth episode of Friends at 9

failure to comply will result in the death more of the the hostages

8 p.m.

thank you for the

two large pepperoni pizza

four 2 litre bottles of classic coke

the Larry King show was a lousy Princess Di repeat

you have another hour to comply

we will not speak with Joan Rivers

send credible press & tv representatives

have Obama sign the Kyoto accord

bring back Square Pegs

bring us the latest P Daddy CD & a sound system

stop blaring sirens

don’t think we won’t kill again

take this body

bring us fresh water

how much longer before the plane to St Nities is ready for us

1:00 a.m.

we are running out of patience people

how many of you have to die

before you capitulate to our simple demands

an escort to the airport

where a plane will be waiting

the plane will take us to St Nities

no police will follow

there will be no charges laid against any of our family

we will be given political asylum at St Nities

they will be no reward placed on our heads

a chance to bid farewell to our families on the Ellen Show

a direct phone line to the white house

more will die.

6 a.m.

okay so we’ve killed the last of the forty hostages

the bodies are beginning to stink

if you don’t give us

an escort to the airport

where a plane will be waiting

the plane will take us to St Nities

no police will follow

there will be no charges laid against any of our family

we will be given political asylum at St Nities

there will be no reward placed on our heads

if you don’t comply completely

we will go on a hunger strike

we will kill one another

we are willing to resort

to what it takes

to get the world to listen

we want an Oprah town hall meeting

we want this to be over as much as you do

so please please

give in to our demands

or our blood will be on your hands

 mannthe good went shopping

#NaNoWriMo and the ‘blackened stains of thieves’

Travel was on the menu at the November Plasticine Poetry. Features took us  from PEI, to Brazil, then Cuba, and back to Toronto with Cathy Petch, our attentive stewardess and Michael Fraser, the navigator who plotted our course.

bike

First up was Rod Weatherbie who opened his set with Invitation to ‘let the dog shit on this poem’ from his new book Chain of Islands (launch: Hot-Sauced, Thursday, 7 pm, Nov 21, the Black Swan on the Danforth). His pieces have a strong sense of place, family and unforced humour. Full of strong images: ‘this northern waste at the edge of everything,’ ‘tar like warm bread dough,’ ‘blacken stains of thieves on the wall.’

wchair

Next up was Susie Berg with a set of sharply funny pieces – speed-daters who move from chair to chair ‘with even lower exceptions of what love is.’ Her pieces about family where emotionally accessible, and her cancer poem touched many of us, ‘the word relapse is like collapse,’ ‘you can’t beg too many blessings.’

After the break Heather Birrell hit the stage with two well chosen scenes from a novel in progress. Both, set in a poetry workshop, had a fine sense of the individual participants, their motives and their separate voices, even thought it was not told from their pov. She captured the syntax of creative writing teachers and the feel of that sort of class. I enjoyed the ex-pat Cuban protagonist on the TTC, feeling his aloneness ‘the blank rocking is like love.’

carts

Last up was Priscila Uppal who took us from Brazil in her search for her mother and to London for sports poems. ‘my poetry comes form my father’s chest’ led me to think of my own father & how his life view effected my writing. I loved the observation about men ‘all they need is something to carry to feel they have a place in this universe.’ Who can resist a pentathlon pantoum.

Brazilian water polo team

Brazilian water polo team

 

nasample

Birk climbs up the blocked mine shaft.

The miners pulled back from the sudden fall of dust and scree. Moments later Red and Sandy Smit stumbled out of the shaft and onto the floor.

“Cage is jammed between two floors.” Red said. “Can’t squeeze past it.”

“What about the trap in the floor?” one of the miners asked.

“Twisted and we I couldn’t get a good enough grip on it with m’hands. We need some sort of way to pry at it and hold our grip to the wall at the same time. Someone light enough so as I can give hold to him in place long enough.”

“He’s talking about you Birk!” Clancy whispered.

Birk nodded but wasn’t sure he’d have the strength to do what was expected.

“Who’s the smallest here.” Sandy asked.

“That’ll be me.” Birk stepped forward.

“So y’are Birk MacDonnell, so you are. You’re dad’ll ner forgive me if anything happens to you.”

“He’ll never forgive me if I don’t do what I can now either. So what’s the plan.”

“Anyone got a pick or a better yet a crow bar. Small enough to carry up a few hundred of feet.”

A couple of the miner’s dropped to their knees to feel through the rubble.

“All’s we have is these couple of shovels Red.” Sandy said handing him one of them.

Birk took the shovel and struck it hard against the floor. The blade bent. “We’ll need something stronger than that. But if it’s best we got it’ll have to do.”

“Give me your belts boys.” Red said. “We can use them to strap on to the cage floor for safety.”

Birk strapped a couple of belts around his chest and the shovel with the head at his back so his hands would be free for the climb up. He hadn’t clambered up the cage shaft since he was a kid. Once he Geo had snuck in to the pit and without thinking began to climb down the side of what they thought was the empty shaft. When they heard the creak of the car being hauled up they panicked and didn’t know what to do. Didn’t know if they could get up before it reached them.

He found a shallow recess barely big enough for him yet he and Geo were able to press themselves into while the cage rattled past.

He took a deep breath and reached up for the first of the hand holds in the framework and pulled himself up. He could hear the drip of water from below. Once he had pulled himself up far enough for his feet to find the holds he moved faster. Red was right behind him.

Some of the holds were loose in the rock, others were tight to the frame. His eyes peered for the next one. Once he reached for one and that wasn’t there and lost his footing. “Oh God!” he gasped as he pulled himself hard to the wall with the hand that was clutching the scaffolding.

“You okay, Birk.”

“Yeh Red. Hope I didn’t piss in yer face.” He was cold and sweating at the same time. His undershirt was sticking to him and he longed to scratch his balls. “Got an itch that I can’t scratch.” he laughed and the laughing calmed him down.

“That’s the story of every man who gets married.” Red laughed a little.

They came to where the cage was jammed. The trap was on the bottom of the cage on the side furthest from them. Little light filtered from above. Birk could see where the slide catch was but could also see that there was rubble on top of it as well.

Red looped a couple of the belts and rope he had brought around the openings in the cage floor.

“Hold on to these as best you can.” He helped Birk slip his arms through them. “If I lose grip of ya these’ll hold you.”

“Like that guy in the circus.” Birk was trembling.

“It’s alright to be scared, lad.” He kept an arm around Birk’s waist as Birk leaned as far forward as he could and tried to pry at the catch.

Birk locked his gaze on the underside of the cage. Even though it was pitch dark beneath him he also knew it was a far drop with nothing between him the the four levels beneath.

He tested his weight on the belts that Red had wound around his shoulder and slotted through the bottom of the cage. They held firm enough but didn’t leave Birk much head room either. He angled himself as best he could and pushed at the catch with the blade of the shovel. It didn’t give.

“How’s it lookin’ lad?” Red asked.

“Doesn’t feel’s if it’s been opened in some time. Maybe if I can reach with m’fingers I can grasp it.” He leaned a bit further. One of the belts slid and his heart raced as he abruptly lurched out of Red’s hold.

“My God!” Red shouted. Red pitched forward off his perch on the scaffolding.

Birk felt Red’s hands grab at his coveralls but not hold on. Birk twisted to see if he could see what what happened. Red was gone. A few moments later he heard a dull thud as Red’s body hit the bottom of the shaft.

Birk was dangling, held by the belts, to the bottom cage. His whole weight thrown on it. The cage groaned and shuddered but held where it was.

Birk tried to get a foot hold on either wall but he couldn’t reach. The seam in his coveralls cut into the flesh between his legs. He looked again to the trap. Each motion caused him to sway a little in the dark. He smelled his sweat. His fear. He swung the blade of the shovel at the metal grid of the trap and the sound echoed in the shaft.

He wiped the sweat from his face and peered at the underside of the floor. There were some holds in the grid work, drains to keep the cage clear of water. He worked his fingers of his left hand into the furthest ones he could reach and pulled himself forward toward the catch. The belts held him so that he couldn’t quite reach. His neck was twisted as he was pulled tighter to the cage.

red in white

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Noir and #NaNoWriMo

Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir brought some welcome heat to a chilly November, as well as a needed respite from my NaNoWriMo (22300 words so far) tunnel vision 🙂

November Cabaret played on a chilly windy night to a warm receptive audience. After a quick round of open stagers (including myself with some of my in-your-pants raunch) we were treated to the antics and songs of the clown duo Hans von Struddlebutt and Frauline Clothesline.

snow01

Some of their scene was traditional clown fair – objects out of a carpet bag, wildly over dramatic gestures and  with a modern twist of frank sexuality. I loved the Toronto song: ‘When in Toronto/You can do what you want to/any time of day.”

snowbow

Last up was music duo (Giraffe) (Lynne Rafter and Mike Copley) with a sprightly set of wryly comic songs. I enjoyed their sweet then piquant harmonies and bouncy stage presence. A crisp guitar playing propelled their sharply written folk pop songs. ‘I don’t want to be a dead fucking star” was a great take on the rise and fall of rockers who want to stars more than they want to be alive.

Doing the door I also got to observe the belly up to the bar drinkers – a trio of whom rapidly went through a variety of beers and shots. Drinking the way I used to – trying to impress others and paying for it with a credit card.

snowstove

Next Noir is December 8 – I’m to be one of the features. That’s right – the last of my rare features this year (why don’t I feature more? Why not suggest me to host of your local spoken show.)

 

nasample

[as you can see this draft is so rough full names, or even names, aren’t used in my need for speed]

The miners who were still in the church rushed out. Some pulling the picket fencing up around the church garden to give them something to use in self defense.

Lillian cautiously went to one of the side exit doors to peer out. She saw a mass of men with pickets flailing at men on horses weilding thick black clubs. Both sides were shouting accusations at each other.

“Coal Co doesn’t even want us to go to church in peace. They have no respect for the God.”

“Commie rabble. Papiest scum. Pray to your God now.”

“I knows you father Billy Dunfield.”

“Get off the streets now or …”

“These are our streets, ya goddamed company bastard.”

Another shot rang out. The fighting stopped a moment. The miner’s fell back to the chruch grounds. The militia pulled back a few yards to regroup as well.

A runner dashed up to one of the horsemen with a message.

“A child is dead because of you.” The horseman said. “How many more have to die before you learn your place.”

“Who?” several men shouted at once.

“Robbie Kelly.” The horseman shouted back. “Slipped under one of the horses. You redy to leave peacefully.”

“We was till you charged as us with no cause.” Someone yelled back.

The horseman nodded and all the troops stepped forward. “If that’s how you want it we’ll trample the lot of you.”

“Kill another child. Is that what you want?”
“Not us. You behave and there’ll be no trouble.”

Lillian’s uncle pushed through the men and stood alone in front of them. “How can we disperse with you blocking the street and sidewalk?” he asked quietly. He puts hands out palms up.

One of the horses reared and the front hooves hit her uncle. He fell foreward under the horse. Lillian darted out to try and drag her uncle out of the horse’s way.

“Get out of the way you Catholic biddy.” One of the other horsemen laughed and Lillian glanced at him as he swung his baton at her.

“That’s it!” a male voice from the other side of that horseman shouted as the horseman was yanked backwards off the horse. She caught a glimpse of Steven McD wresting that rider to the ground.

The rider of the rearing horse had it under control and had pulled it away from the prone body of her uncle.

She knelt beside him. He was on his stomach and she wasn’t sure if she should turn him over.

“Uncle Pat can you hear me.” she said.

“Yes child.” He turned his head toward her.

She saw that he was bleeding from his forehead. He pushed himself up painfully with his right arm. She struggled with his weight to help him stand. Two miners came over to take his weight from her.

“Thank you. I’m a bit winded. When I saw the beast rear before me it was like the horsemen of the apocolypse had come for me. But this one was only an animal, not a messenger.”

“Lillian …” Steven came quickly to her, brushing dust off his coat. “You haven’t been harmed in any way have you?”

“No Mr McD I haven’t. Father Patrick has suffered some though. We must get him some medical attenton.”

Thye helped her uncle back into the church. Inside on the benches were several others who had been assaulted by the militia.

In the evening Lillian returned to the McD’s after making sure her uncle was comfortable at the manse. Although he was gateful for her attentions earlier, he made it clear that was a matter of circumstance. His distrust of her remained as firm as it had been.

(Maybe we need this conversation)

The McD’s living room was crowded with union men, a couple of the more out spoken miners and the provinical member of the legislature. She stood at the door as inobtrustivly as she could.

“They have to go back.” One of them was saying. “After this violence they really have no choice.”

“But the union didn’t hire those goons from the mainland!” another man said.

“Yes but know how this will read in tne newpapers. That the miner’s insitgated the company guards …”

“Yeah. The fat over fed louts in unform with guns were forced to defend themselves from the miners who haven’t a decent meal in months.”

“You tell ‘em Neddy. It was those Godless Catholic whipped into a righteous frenzy in d’chruch who came charging out with candles to set fire to those poor deputies who just happened to riding their horses along the street by the chucrh to enjoy the Sunday sun.”

“It’s never any one’s fault but ours for wanting a decent wage.”

“Your points are well take.” MLA stood. “But I have some news for you that none of you are going to like.”

“What? Coal Co is pulling out of the fields here!”

“Our prayers have been answered.”

“No, boys, no. There’ll be a bill proposed that’ll force you back to work.”

Lillian backed away as the men exploded in profanity.

She went up to her room. She was happy to shut the door at last to the noise, to the day. She slipped her pretty blue shoes off. There weren’t so blue anymore. They were covered with dust, mud, horse dung and what she suspected was dried blood. With a damp cloth she wiped them off. Most of the grime came off easily but the leather had deep scatches she knew would never be removed. Another layer of her old life in Boston had been removed. There was knock at her door.

“Lillian?”

“Come in Clara. I was just washing the dust of the day off.”

Clara came in followed my Aileen with a tea tray.

“I thought you might like a cup of tea before you turned in.” Clara nodded for Aileen to put the tray on the vanity. “That will be all Aileen.”

“Yes Miss Clara.”

Once Aileen had left Clara poured them both a cup of tea.

“My mother would sometimes do this with me. Come to my room with tea and biscuits.”

cbcarts

Lazy

When I set out to upload my novel, City of Valleys, I didn’t realize it would take 70 excerpts and seven months to do the job. It certainly filled up my blogs pages and the number of ‘actual’ hits I got has steadily increased, even some new followers, and subscribers. Some get email copy of each post which only count as hits if they click through the blog (as opposed to just reading the email).

FanExpo2012
FanExpo2012

The next step will be a proof-read edit. Then I’ll contract it out for the final preparation for smashwords. I’ve read the style guide and could probably do it myself but I’m lazy. If it were as simple as uploading my present Pages version I’d do it, but it has to be formatting in some non-Mac program with all the Mac coding stripped out – too much work for me

Special Delivery
Special Delivery

Plan is to get it ready for October. I’ll have to delete all the excerpt first though because Amazon price point always equals the cheapest on line – so if I have it free here they’ll automatically price it free as well.

Last Friday I got out to my first writer’s group meeting – most of whom are writers I know from Loyalist. Felt good to be with such an attentive, tough bunch of fiction writers. I’ve tried to get into a couple of groups before only be told there’s waiting list in such a way that it was  clear they didn’t think I was worth their effort – ditto for some of the poetry workshops around – by invite only apparently & no one thinks I’m worth inviting. Such is life 🙂

Tim's Tanked
Tim’s Tanked

The writing sample, rough draft, is first part of the piece ‘Compound’ I submitted to the writer’s group. Part 2 Monday.

writing sample
writing sample

The Compound

The hostages were unhappy. Even I could see that but what was I to do? Overseeing captives was new to me, a promotion in fact. It had come quite unexpectedly. I’d been in the security branch of the service corps for several years. Kept my nose clean. Did my job, did what was asked without question.

I was proud of this advancement, more responsibility meant more respect, more money. The day I got notified I was Overseer, I couldn’t wait to tell my lover. He merely nodded. He never really approved of the corps, even though he found the uniform erotic. It was dark red with blue piping in the pants – blue stripes on the arms for each small advancement, then gold florets that equaled five stripes. I had five stripes but wouldn’t get my first floret till I had a sixth.

I flourished my arm with the the five stripes. Good things were bound to follow. That finally I was a son any father could be proud of.

My lover, as I said, wasn’t as pleased as I was. He said only war could follow. Did I want war, people to die, so I could get gold florets.

When we made love that night he was distant and mechanical.  I didn’t tell him he’d regret this coldness if I died in war. Guilt never leads to passion.

The hostages were sullen. Grim faced they walked the perimeter of the exercise field, scowling up at the cameras as they passed them.

My second-in-command suggested we try talking with them again. The hostages refused speak our language and acted as if they did not to understand us. Each time I had tried to talk with them had ended up with them slouching into the dark corners. Even when our linguistics experts spoke to them in their language they acted as if they didn’t understand. There was no way to reason with them.

There were nearly two hundred captives in our compound. Each bore a random number. No names were to be used.  I had a troop of twenty-four under my command plus my second-in-command. All good men and women. None of whom could communicate with the hostages. We had tried everything – mime, writing in the ground, pictographs, hieroglyphics.

Each attempt made the hostages more fearful. Blame was clear in their eyes, as if it was our fault for not trying hard enough. As if communicating with them was our job but it wasn’t nor was it our job to make them happy or comfortable.

We merely had to keep them alive till their nation met our demands.

My lover snickered at my frustrations. The fact that the war wasn’t my idea didn’t soften his attitude. Not that I cared, in fact, his indifference challenged me when we made love. I strove with a new found passion that left him limp and gasping when I was satisfied.

The hostages were restless. They paced their compound fast for a few laps, then slow, then they would stand huddled in groups of two or three in each of the corners. One of them in each group looking sullen at the cameras that followed their every move. We used sound sensors to pick up their conversations, to find out what, if anything they were plotting but I didn’t feel any threat. Well, I did sense a threat but knew that anything they tried to do would be an exercise in futility. But they never spoke, not even to each other. Even though my orders were to confine and protect them – to see that no harm came to them I wouldn’t hesitate to kill to one keep the others in line. Besides, after two weeks, they still hadn’t spoken.

We had had no word from Capital City for several days now. Communications lines were staticy and even when they worked would stop in mid-transmission. Our enemy had damaged our communications system with their bombs and their ultra high frequency jamming devices. Some days even the Internet wasn’t working.

I would go home after my day at the compound and look for some sympathy from my lover. He would snort and tell me that I shouldn’t act so dismayed, this is what life with captives is like. Both keepers and captives pay a price. My price was to be drained. I asked him why he was so bitter, told him it wasn’t my fault we were at war, that we had to do what was necessary to protect our fragile economy. After making sweet love he rolled away from me in the bed with barely hidden disdain because they hadn’t drained me of everything.

I lay in the bed beside him looking at the moonlight on the wall as it moved, dimmed and brought in the morning while I counted his breaths, my ears snuggled into his quiet sighs as he rolled unaware that I was wanting his touch once more. A touch that would make this war all worth while. What difference did it make to me if it didn’t make any difference to the ones I loved. The ones we were supposedly protecting yet who felt only a sense of discomfort when we tried to tell them what this war was like.

There had been no supplies from Capital City for over a week now. We were running short on water and food for the hostages. We had taken to rationing. I could tell they were unhappy. They stood in doleful clumps in view of the security cameras. Their eyes wide and glaring up at the lenses, through the lenses at us, pleading for something but unable to tell us what it was.

Perhaps they are thirsty my second-in-command suggested. I cursed at her that there was nothing I could do. We had barely enough water for the troops. I was taking water home to my lover to keep him happy too. The village’s water supply had been tainted in the last uprising and this war had come so fast on its heels we hadn’t had time to set it right. It wasn’t my fault. It had happened before we were stationed here. I explained this to my second-in-command who was no more understanding and sympathetic than my lover.

My second-in-command had children to worry about. Her babies, she told me. I knew this but chose to ignore it. I told her that she shouldn’t act so dismayed, that is what life of captives is like. Both keeper and captives pay a price. She toyed with the handle of her pistol and glared at the monitors as the hostages loomed at the security cameras.

Some of the hostages began to hover in front of the security cameras blocking our view of the compound. The operator was forced to swivel the cameras gently which caused the images to break up, smear across the monitors. We knew they were up to something.

I stationed guards along the perimeter of the chain-link fence to keep human eyes on them. The hostages would gather and stare. Hatred and frustration glinted from their dusty, dirty faces. This was the first time we had come face-to-face for several weeks. Even when food and water was delivered we merely put it in the eating room of their compound while they were in the open air yard.

The smell was so unpleasant when we did this that our sympathy for them was diminished. Who could  feel compassion for people who didn’t wash themselves. Even with limited water it was possible for them to keep clean.

Once again I attempted to communicate with them. I stood at the gate and called out a solemn hello. At first they paid little heed to me. Then two of them walked warily over to the gate.

With crusted eyes and dry voices they made noises at me. I explained slowly that there was a problem with the supply route, that even my own men were suffering from the same lack as they were. That I had to decide between water for them and and water for my men. It was unfair to all.

They looked at me blankly. They didn’t understand. Or they refused to understand. One of them spat at me and turned away. The other stepped closer with an apologetic shrug. He was unshaved. Unwashed. There was something familiar about his eyes.

He smiled weakly. Blood ringed his teeth. He fell to his knees with with a sob. One hand reaching out to me palm up for something. What could I give him when I didn’t understand what he wanted.

I had the gate opened and two of my men picked him up and brought him out. His eyes were rimmed with red.

The hostages shuffled quickly to the gate as it was locked shut again. Fear and dread in their eyes. I assured them that we wouldn’t hurt this man. But perhaps I was lying. I didn’t know. They wandered off.

…………..

structural.04
structural.04

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Pick me! Pick me!

Another strong, eclectic line up of fine writers at Plasticine Poetry last night. After a the initial open stagers (including myself) the first feature was Julia Zarankin. She read her short story The Chestnut Roast -an amusing, insightful tale of displacement and fitting in. Finding a slow cooking festival our heroine is lost, driving through Missouri back roads looking for a landscape that reminds her of home. Fine attention to clothing, food, & people met along the way made for rich and tender story – I loved ‘buying directly from farmers makes me feel like I’ve done manual labor.’

purple
purple

Next up was Margot Lettner who read from her project about Elizabeth Simcoe (1790’s). The pieces were excerpts from Simoce’s writing combined seamlessly with Margot’s. ‘then being a love of little things.’ She read in a slow carefully paced way giving each word attention – a nice change from readers who flood you with rapid images too fast to form even a mental image. ‘If we had tea/what would we talk about?’ Probably the royal baby.

red
red

After the break the second set was started by Lisa Young with a Ray Carver cover piece. Some new pieces with her fine sense of image ‘drink the night on a shadowy cup.’ Her poetry is very narrative, telling stories of life in everyday language then suddenly unfolds into powerful moments – ‘I listen to the rapids/ all those wants and needs gather there/ saying: Pick me! Pick me!’

pink
pink

Richard Glen Lett (aka Optimus Rhyme) closed the night with a great, energetic set that made is clear why he is a slam champion. ‘if you want to disappear without a trace: Canadian entertainment,’ telling a bill collector ‘when all the birds die who pays for it’ His piece about Tom Waits ‘Tom’s Angels’ about getting sober & still creating, name checks all of my own drunken heroes and ends ‘Tom’s angels did not leave him once his piano stopped drinking.’ A great rollicking set.

As always Cathy Petch hosted with the right cleavage, enthusiasm, sass & a helpful hint to how oral sex gets you good slam scores.

City of Valleys now removed for prepublication work.

seems like yesterday
seems like yesterday

I Don’t Count

pippi come home
pippi come home

I did the open stage at Noir Sunday without my trusty Kindle (now replaced.)  I have to confess that I took to using it without compunction. I thought, somehow, that’d I’d be missing the feel of paper, of speaking out on behalf of the higher aesthetics of the book, but frankly I don’t miss ‘the book’ at all. Having, as I do, the entire Zola to read but without the shelf space needed to contain I’m more that happy.

Using it on stage has been a blessing as well. Small, light & black it doesn’t pull focus the way white paper does. I can bump font up for easy reading & not feel like I’m depleting the rain forest.

snow mask
snow mask

Here’s one of the pieces I read at Noir. A recent one, it started with the first line kicking around in my head for a day or so. First draft was a fast ten minute dash. Early versions were more of a list poem

Lines that I cut, reluctantly, were ‘I no longer know/ how many holes it takes to fill/ a display case at Tim Ho’s.’ It’s a great line, right, but I felt it didn’t add to the flow of the piece, it was way too funny (to me) plus I wasn’t sure how many might get the Beatles reference – a reference that didn’t add to the flow of the poem either. Then there was the whole Tim Ho’s product placement thing. If Timmie’s sends me a gift card & I’ll put it back in 🙂

red in white
red in white

I Don’t Count

I don’t count anymore

I used to know how many steps

there were up  down every subway

from platform to exit

then I read that counting is

a sign of deep emotional problems

the need to hold on to numbers

was the need to hold on to a fragmented mind

that the awareness of the sum

of the numerical values of the letters of a name

was a way to avoid personal interaction

so I don’t count

and when I catch myself

I turn up my iPod

do whatever it takes

I don’t retain numbers anymore

I don’t know which subway station

has the most steps to which exit

yet I still know the number of steps

from your bed to the bathroom

but

I don’t remember your phone number

I am so over you

you don’t count anymore

……

City of Valleys now removed for prepublication work.

snow shoes
snow shoes

‘quack quack, darlings.’

A hot sweltering night didn’t keep Noir fans from packing the house. I kept hoping the ice-cream truck would show up during the breaks in the show. There must be an app for that 🙂

they breed in the sewer
they breed in the sewer

First up was Trasharella who give an reading of Philip Cairns’ ‘Why I’m Not A Star’ to be featured at Gay Play Day this fall. An affectionate reflection on Philip’s acting experiences starting with being told, at age 11, he was too effeminate by a casting director, to getting cast as a gay duck in last years Fringe ‘quack quack, darlings.’ Comic, ironic, sometime bitter, biting & always honest he left us wanting more.

one brown shoe
one brown shoe

Music feature Marcus Walker was up next. Accompanied by Nelson Sobral & a fine sax player (whose name I didn’t get) he did a set of songs whose sensual rhythms rode the pulse of a hot summer night. The soaring sax slithered sweetly over the Marcus’s well-crafted songs of romance and taxi rides. This what adult contemporary should be.

hop along
hop along

Final feature was Greg “Ritallin” Frankson – whom I have heard a few times. He opened with ‘My Home Is Here’ his response to being asked, frequently, ‘where are you from?’ As if being black means you are from somewhere else even when one’s family is tenth generation Canadian.

In my coal mine research I found traces of a ‘lost’ history of the black community in Cape Breton – men brought up from the Caribbean in the mid-1800’s to work in the mines, families that have never moved, yet who, I’m sure, still get asked ‘where are you from?’

I ducked out in time to catch the 10 p.m. street car to Bathurst so didn’t stick it out to the hot & sticky end for a great night.

City of Valleys now removed for prepublication work.

……..

on stage Noir July 2013
on stage Noir July 2013

‘handcuffs and stomach pumps’

The Damned launched their move to Q Space with another stellar line up – Philip Cairns hosted, his bejeweled emerald outfit brought out the Irish in him for sure. A jam packed open stage ran the gamut of 15-year -olds getting on stage for the first time to tired old bald guys, like myself. It’s good to see so many new, to us, faces on the open stage.

leg less
leg less

First feature Shawna Dimitry give us a set of emotional and romantic pieces some dealing with mental health – ‘the pills are dissolving, so am I’ ‘handcuffs and stomach pumps aren’t the luxuries we wished for.’ Her powerful, direct images connected with us all. She mixed in some tender love poems – ‘you cracked my fear with a kiss.’ A strong set delivered with a sense of humor and acceptance of the issues many deal with ‘I’m sorry I didn’t live up to your expectations/ stop looking at me as if I were dead.’

a growing up green
a growing up green

It’s been a few years since I last heard second feature Phlip Arima. His set was polished and emotionally complex. Reading from ‘Breath Now’, and from his new collection ‘Pin Pricks’ – I enjoyed the multi-layer images that sometime seem random but with theme and variation new resonances are set off as images contrast, collide then add up. His narrative piece Be Quiet ‘there’s something different about the house,’ captures a child’s fear and need to understand and yet be protected from that understanding. He summed up the paradox of Facebook: ‘why do we play alone when our list of friends gets longer.’

the red pillow
the red pillow

Music feature Matt Gerber was a delight. Accompanying himself on ukulele, tin can
ukulele, kazoo he channeled the fun and politics of Pete Seeger, Jim Kweskin – made the 60’s folk style fresh for this decade. His spelling song about the difference between US & Canadian spelling was hilarious ‘there is no flavour without u.’ Even if he is Mr Furious he brought us a set of bright summer-perfect music.

……

The News Is An Unreliable Narrator

cracked porcelain
cracked porcelain

I let myself get caught up in recent TV coverage of the ‘flood’ in Toronto & the train explosion in Lac-Megantic. I was quickly reminded why I don’t watch the news: too much blather & not enough facts – how many times did I see the same woman taken from the GO Train before I realized it was the same woman? The second time I thought – she went back into get her blackberry? After the third, within the same 90 seconds, I realized it was the same clip repeated.

pedestal for rent
pedestal for rent

I get dismayed by the lack of privacy in the face of the same inane questions: how did it make you feel? It seems the greater the catastrophe the more the news feels they have a right to get in there.

Then I remind myself that the news is an unreliable narrator attempting to give a story a sense of dramatic flow for optimum entertainment. The news is just show biz not reality, even when it purports to show us reality.

fine porcelain?
fine porcelain?

Stages of Grief a piece I wrote a few years ago after some event had swallowed the airwaves for a day or two. I can’t remember what it was, but it might have been yesterday – one of the reasons I stopped watching TV news, or even reading the papers, as it was the same news in different places. The lip-licking eagerness of reporters to get at the ‘victims’ made me sick. I can turn the news off! That’s much better.

writing sample
writing sample

Stages of Grief

I’m not sure

what dismays me the most

the rape of a child

or the rape of grief

the microphonic penetration

of anguish for our entertainment

the refusal to allow one’s grief be televised

becomes a refusal

to participate in national healing

our right to a private reflection

becomes a crime as dangerous

as the original rape itself

the interview is now

one of the stages of grief

grief is no longer a feeling

but a process

we each must be pushed through

whether we want to or not

we have to face the theme music

or be denied any sympathy

not wanting to speak out

becomes shame

that creates a backlash

oh you turned down that interview

then you really didn’t suffer

our suffering is only real

when it hits the airwaves

the private stuff

is mere self indulgent fantasy

the tears for public consumption

are the true and noble emotions

the greater the anguish

the closer the the close up

the more agony shared

the better your ratings

the closer to God

the longer the camera stays with you

the faster grief fades away

……

City of Valleys now removed for prepublication work.

message from above on sidewalk by my house
message from above on sidewalk by my house

Wrong+Wrong=Right

I first heard Robert Shearman last October and when I saw that ChiZine had him back for workshop on July 7, I was eager to sign on – four hours of short-story structure with him, plus a copy of his latest collection. My only apprehension was that the ‘workshop’ would get hijacked by rabid Dr. Who-ites & turned into a fan-gazim Who-fest about who the new Doctor should be. Thankfully this was not the case.

wicker dappled
wicker dappled

His presentation was focused, funny & constructive. There was about a dozen of us there, many from the ChiZine family, it appears. Robert made it clear that he sees the short story as a satisfying form in itself – not merely a prelude or training ground for someone who really wants to write novels.

rip in the sky
rip in the sky

He spoke about structure; some about pov; about how the narrative isn’t always what the story is telling us; how trivial moments become revealing moments; often short stories are about the wrong thing at the wrong time creating the right story – which to me translated into Wrong+Wrong=Right.

We did a couple of simple writing exercises, and some of us shared what we dashed off. I made sure I did just in case Robert still falls asleep with credits of the day rolling – credits that only include those who had speaking roles.

masts reflecting
masts reflecting

The basement room of Bakka Phoenix Books was an excellent – if a bit over air-conditioned – space for the workshop. Washroom near at hand, some choice cookies too. Time well spent.

serious root canal work
serious root canal work