2020 Umbrella Blues

Over the past year by TOpoet.ca following blog grew from 363 to 445! That’s over 80 new followers without me going out of my way beyond blogging regularly. The WordPress map show my hits have come from some 85 countries around the world. India still tops the list is interest but that Italy & Japan are in the top 10 is a surprise. Kenya still in the top 20 – but Malawi! Still no hits from North Korea 😦

The 2020 post that got the most hits was https://topoet.ca/2020/06/10/catholic-girls/ but a post from 2014 made a surprise showing too https://topoet.ca/2014/01/24/born-to-be-blown/. The post with the most all-time hits is also from 2014: https://topoet.ca/2014/06/06/there-was-the-word/. My Tumblr is at 295. It would be much higher but I frequently block follows for buxom babes, porn slam (shooting up crystal meth) sites. Twitter 229 followers.

Picture Perfect is moving along nicely with 48 sections, just over 73,000 words posted so far with about 116,000 words to be edited & then posted. Editing it is fun &though I recollect most of the plot I am getting to expand somethings & fill in others. I need a cheat sheet of names at all times though.

In this has been the year of the pandemic, I never expected to be living in a scifi movie. The threat is real but the stress comes from not knowing when or if it might strike me. I take all the precautions, masks, hand washing & social distancing – which have all proved to be enough so far. Zoom has become one of my best friends 🙂

Getting to AA meetings is simple & no having to deal with winter wear has been an additional plus. Members there frequently mention how they miss all the face-to-face contact but you know I’m indifferent to it. I have never been one for social gathering , of any sort, of more than four or five people. Another bonus is this lack of social contact has resulted in no colds or flu, so far, this winter. I’ve quickly embraced face masks & have amassed a nice collection with fun patterns. a few solid colours, that allow me to feel less medical when I put one on. One way of making masks work is to make them fashion. But I’m not enjoying the realization that going to the store for a loaf of bread is actually playing Russian roulette without knowing who is holding the gun.

My 2020 plans for Capturing Fire in Washington never materialized & I doubt if I’ll be visiting the US, or anywhere else, even in Canada, until 2022. With the travel industry decimated even in country travel will be a challenge. No boats, trains, buses or airplanes to the Maritimes  might bring back the car 🙂 It isn’t clear what will happen with the Stratford Festive, they have planned a season but social distancing requirements may scuttle it even if the vaccine roll out goes well. Maybe one will need a proof of vaccine to get in to see a show? Maybe a return to classical Greek theatre style where all the performers wore masks?

Umbrella Blues

that rain is wet

comes as no surprise

it’s just that sometimes

I’m bored of the rain

tired of its endless fall

the sound of the drop

the feel of it on my skin 

by rain

I mean life

<>

not that life is wet

but it’s just that sometimes

I’m weary of it all

even more so these covid days

<>

so far

I’ve dodged that bullet 

as the numbers of infected

go up & up 

I’m not yet in that number

I say a prayer of gratitude

but I’m tired of dodging that bullet

to go the the store

to walk down the street

<>

peeved by walking into on coming traffic

to create social distance

between me and others

on sidewalks narrowed by patios

I’m weary of the worry

of the avoidance

of the feel survivor’s guilt

<>

have you seen my umbrella

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Stratford photos taken a day trip earlier in 2020.

MISSING: 2020

I miss the smell of the restaurant – of food cooking, of someone serving the meal & taking away my dirty dishes, of being able to ask for suggestions. Taking your chicken souvlaki out of a paper bag and finding out it is pork isn’t the same as seeing it on the plate & sending it back right away. I miss plating – the art of someone else arranging food on your plate.

I missing being able to give your order at a coffee shop without having to shout through your mask & over-enunciate words like ‘sweet & low’ & having to repeat yourself as they still don’t hear clearly over the music. I miss paying for things with cash. What do people without plastic do?

I miss wearing shirts to public events, because there are no public events to wear them to. I have a wardrobe based on public appearances, even if the appearance is meeting someone for lunch or doing a feature in front an eager audience of poetry fans. The face mask has replaced the shirt, the t-shirt for now.

Shopping has changed here in Ontario. Not that I spent a lot of time in stores but I miss the sense of destination, of discovery as I browsed the aisles looking. When I do shop I am focused on what I want but there are times when going through the tables of remaindered books at Book City, or even Indigo, results is amazing discoveries. 

Not that I mind online shopping for most things & I sure do love packages showing up at my door but I miss the hunt. No more impulse shopping. No more checking every aisle in the grocery store for specials, now it’s all about following the right arrows to maintain social distance. 

I missing not knowing what day of the week it is because I’m no longer doing what I used to do every Wednesday that took me out of the house. My cell phone now tells me what day of the week it is. I think this is Monday.

Old Feet New Shoes

it’s never a fresh start

there is no clean page

no expanse of innocent white

to start in on

there is always a past 

something to remember to avoid 

lessons learned

something to escape from

to forget

to write over scribble out 

<>

new shoes always go on old feet

we stand on what we are familiar with 

bring the same skill set 

to each fresh opportunity

to do the same thing in a different place

yet how different is the place 

a chair is always a chair

lights are always lights

<>

different shades fabrics 

but new jeans are still jeans

same hair changed style

anxious for the new

as if the old 

was worthless inferior

<>

why should things last at all

the longer cars last 

the fewer cars get sold

the fewer cars get sold

the economy grinds to a halt

people are out of work

it’s all your fault

you fucking pedestrians

we’ll make narrower sidewalks 

to discourage all that walking

<>

nothing new in this same old rant 

about the same pointless crap

words won’t fuel the economy

who reads 

who listens 

who cares

nobody wants a fresh start

just new shoes

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Decking The Covid Halls 2020

Over the years the decking of my house has become more elaborate. Every room  had its share of holiday decor – figurines, snow globes, even action figures. Of course there was also the tree, the lights, the porch ‘treatment’ & of course festive towels & linens. Friends would add ornaments to the magic. Much of it was done for our Christmas feast guests or friends who would drop by. Thanks to covid19 restrictions that isn’t going to happen to the same extent this year.

Perhaps that’s just as well so that I could give some of those things a rest. Let’s leave the snow globe collection in the box for change, what’s the point of that kitch crèche? As a result things remain in their bins & boxes. In fact as I sorted what to put out this year I tossed things. Thanks for the memories but bye bye.

Opting for simplicity meant less staple gun noise 🙂 The lights went up, the tree went up, the linens got washed & will be used but the bulk of the treasure remain in their bins & boxes. You know not having all that hanging tinsel is fine. Next year maybe they’ll get hung in the trees on the front lawn. 

The festive lights remained a must though because they aren’t just for me, they are for everyone & anyone who sees them. This year, in out neighbourhood, they seem to have gone up sooner & gotten fancier. I’ve going out some nights after supper to do a walk around different blocks to enjoy them. I stopped to talk to one woman about her lights & she said, what I figured most people are thinking, ‘we need lights in this dark covid climate.’

https://topoet.ca/2016/12/16/lights-delight-2016/

Yes, let there be less interior clutter & more external light.

Christmas 1983

The Word Is 

this was this word 

I knew a child

it was Welsh or Gaelic

it meant love

a kind of love 

I no longer experience

<>

I learned it from a neighbour 

of my grandmother’s

when I was visiting Wales 

one summer

she gave me toast 

with mayo and tomatoes

she baked the bread herself

I’ve never tasted bread like that again

sort of burned and peppery

<>

I didn’t really like it

but I liked her

she taught me all these words

how to say things

I don’t remember

about plants playing 

the in sunlight

about kittens saving puppies

she made me laugh

<>

then I came back to Canada

all I could remember was that one word

the word I’ve forgotten

for love

not just any kind of love

I used to feel for a boy in school

he wasn’t even in my class

I would feel it whenever I saw him

but when I didn’t see him

I didn’t even think of him

I never even knew his name

just the way his eyes would make me feel

even if he wasn’t looking at me

I’d spot him

and feel this yearning

not to know him

but just to look at him

to watch him

playing with the other boys

they would run shout tackle each other

<>

if you asked me what I was feeling

I couldn’t tell you

I might have said that word 

I no longer remember

for a feeling I no longer have

for someone 

I can’t in my mind

beyond his eyes

<>

all I see is this scramble of bodies

tussling in the school yard dirt

then us lining up to go back into the school

sitting in rows in the class room

trying to learn math 

spelling

that feeling gone in the terror

of being asked to answer the teacher

I didn’t want to be there’

wanted to be lost in the feeling

in that yearning

<>

what was 

that word

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy more Christmas kitch- sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

A CanCon Christmas

I’ve been reading some great CanCon that is worth adding to your Christmas shopping or reading lists. 

 ‘The Dame Was Trouble’ is a collection of ‘the best female crime writers in Canada.’ This is a fun, culturally diverse collection, that spans genres: noir, supernatural, interplanetary & hard-core crime – edited for an excellent flow of styles & lengths.  Some read like perfect 30’s noir movies & some deserve to become star of their own novels; Kelly Armstrong’s Indispensable Ivy for one, & M.H. Callway’s hard-driving Grace is another.

Rosemary McCracken’s ‘Uncharted Waters’  continues the saga of Pat Tierney: Financial Planner. Much like Jessica Fletcher, murder & deceit follow Pat wherever she goes 🙂 This time she is opening her business in Toronto’s Annex & is confronted with … well, you’ll have to read the book to find out. Nicely plotted, it moves quickly with some humour & lots of Toronto. 

Peter Unwin’s ‘Written on Stone’ is also humorous, Parkdale is one of its Toronto location but the bulk of it happens in buses out of the city & in the wilds of Northern Ontario. One element of the plot is the nature of ‘authentic voice’ as perceptions are spun by various characters to support their view point. The language is richly imagistic, the characters tend to blend into each other & events flow in a non-linear way. Unlike ‘Unchartered Waters’ this is not a murder mystery and leaves the reader with unanswered questions.

I’d be remiss not to mention Heather Babcock’s “Dirty Sugar.’ Read all about it here:  Dames – Wiggles and Bates https://topoet.ca/2020/09/13/dames—wiggles-and-bates/ . All of these can be found on Amazon.

Finally a non-book recommendation. The song ‘Toronto’ by Bloodstone surfaced in my Tumblr feed. From the 60s it was well-produced with a semi- Chicago sound. I did a bit of a search & found it & the flip side on band camp. Apparently this was the only release by the band lead by Dee Long. The lp is a sweet collection of his song, some are polished, some are demo. If you treasure Canadian pop history you’ll love this set. https://deelong.bandcamp.com/album/1235

Do You Breathe

do you hear what I hear 

even when I’m not listening 

when I walk unawares 

through the streets

through the crowds

through the malls 

do you hear the infinite variations 

of footsteps clothing rustle whispers

cellphone chatter

do you hear something in that burble 

people being people

something that gives you reassurance 

life is worth while 

<>

or do you hear

dispirited distracted unfocused clatter

people looking for a way out of

something they don’t fully understand

yet feel they have no other option

than consuming depleting the bounty of the planet

<>

bounty of the planet

who do I think I am

drivelling out such a tired reflection

do I hear myself 

when I say such things

do I find it profound silly 

I’m not expecting to change any minds here

another shopping opportunity

another listening experience 

where I’m not fully attuned to anything

except the sounds of

cars slipping through slush dogs barking

glass breaking doors opening closing

coffee being poured

masks lifted for a smoke

<>

do you see what I see

when I look around 

dimly aware there are people around

the focus is on not bumping one another

but avoiding at the right distance

finding a safe place to look

that isn’t already an advertising nook

wrapped in earbuds mask

magazine on the subway

fearful someone might think

that casual glance at their shoes

is a violation of their person

stick to what is safe see nothing hear nothing

except what one can control

<>

if you hear what I hear

see what I see

you are too close

I don’t want to breathe

what you breathe

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee & donuts – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Epic Ripple

I’ve been reading & thinking about the epic economic ripples of covid. Luckily I’m on a fixed income so I have no real concern about earning an hourly wage. I recently read about a shopping mall declaring bankruptcy because its tenants have lost so much revenue due to necessary covid restrictions they can’t pay the per-square-foot rent. Seems the only ones making $ are food delivery services & labs processing covid swabs 🙂

When a restaurant closes – as many have along the Danforth here in Toronto it is easy to see the direct results: waiters, cooks out of work. But this ripples out, as the restaurant also has supplier such as laundry service, bakeries for breads & desserts, equipment (broken dishes have to be replaced), butchers, fresh produce. 

So the providers of those supplies have less customers. Bakeries have suppliers too – flour, dairy etc – suppliers who now have less demand for their goods. The restaurant has less income to tax & so the actual tax base our country runs on is gradually reduced too – less taxes effects the services we count on – health care for one. 

I’m not an economist just an occasional diner. I sometimes buy coffee on my morning walks but I can’t drink enough coffee to save any indy coffee shop, or even a chain – Starbucks has been closing stores. I suspect the economic structure is going to have to be restructured because once the low income base crumbles there’ll be no money to bail out the billionaires.

Walk Away

I walked away

didn’t look back

I would have if

as in the legend

it would have sent you back to Hades

then again maybe not

I wasn’t that invested in revenge

just in getting out of there

freeing myself of what wasn’t working

even though you seemed to feel it was working

each step away became easier

each hour away was easier

each day each week each month

now years later

there’s almost a sense of nostalgia

not that I miss you as a person

but as an emotion

<>

I didn’t return your calls

there was no point

especially as they decreased in frequency

even when you got me on the phone

or waved to me in the street

I didn’t invest more time that necessary

didn’t open that door any wider than I had to 

didn’t want that old cat sneaking back in

between my legs

as you did with such grace and dexterity

no done is done

<>

I didn’t want to be friends with you

you never understood why

which was one of the reasons 

I walked away

each step another one 

back to myself

the apologies and promises

stopped meaning anything

they weren’t worth the air they were uttered with

<>

I supposed it would have been easier for you

if had gotten angry

stormed and raged

but I left in quietness and security

one step after the other

no regrets no hesitation

I walked into silence

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee & donuts
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Masking My Personality

Who knew that investing in protective face mask manufacturing would be as profitable as investing in pharmaceuticals 🙂 Along the Danforth nearly every nail salon, dry cleaners, ethnic grocery store, tailor, corner store even takes outs are selling them – some making them or claiming to or that their masks are locally made. I’m waiting all those charities that send me endless unasked for Christmas cards to start sending masks.

The range of styles, fabrics, patterns & layers has certainly increased so one is longer ‘stuck’ with black accordions. Some are fixed ear loop, some adjustable, some head loop. I prefer the ear loop, for now. I’ve bought masks locally, ordered them on line, even from Amazon & most have been good. The Old Navy was a good price but some turned out to be single layer – so I have to add my own extra layers. 

DIOP has a great, African print selection if you are daring. (https://weardiop.com/). Afrisocks also makes great bold masks. (https://afrisocks.com/) Rather than, as some feel, being the latest in mass control, the mask can become another way of self-expression. Besides offering mutual protection from covid they will also cut down on the spread of colds & flus – which may affect the the sales of NeoCitron 🙂

I’ve started posting a Facebook pic each day of the mask I’ll be wearing (if needed) that day along with where I bought the mask. I am powerless over this virus, over the way anti-maskers & such choose to deal with it, but that doesn’t mean even when wearing a mask I have to mask my personality 🙂

Mask of the Breath Death

<>

perched above the city

from Prospero’s castle tower

the vast sea of lights

spun in endless eddies

cloudless night sky

the naked face of the moon

was the one we all looked to

the moon didn’t breathe

as it rose in our dreams

<>

the movie panic

didn’t materialize 

beyond a few shoving matches

over toilet paper

there was no riotous looting

at least not because of breath death

the civil war continued

only now with masks

of white yellow orange, 

blue violet or black

a legal requirement

shooting one another 

was taken for-granted 

breathing on one another

was criminalized

lungs were weaponized

<>

Prospero chose to be unmasked

even though to hold your breath

was more vital than

hold your fire

as the his guests arrived

they were forced

to shed their masks

to greet their host

<>

he retired to his tower

while they were fast tested

only the negative

could continue deeper

into the protected chambers

those that couldn’t afford

to be safe

didn’t deserve

his breath death

<>

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy masks, coffee & donuts-
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Mask of the Breath Death

Mask of the Breath Death

perched above the city

from Prospero’s castle tower

the vast sea of lights

spun in endless eddies

cloudless night sky

the naked face of the moon

was the one we all looked to

the moon didn’t breathe

as it rose in our dreams

<>

the movie panic

didn’t materialize 

beyond a few shoving matches

over toilet paper

there was no riotous looting

at least not because of breath death

the civil war continued

only now with masks

of white yellow orange, 

blue violet or black

a legal requirement

shooting one another 

was taken for-granted 

breathing on one another

was criminalized

lungs were weaponized

<>

Prospero chose to be unmasked

even though to hold your breath

was more vital than

hold your fire

as the his guests arrived

they were forced

to shed their masks

to greet their host

<>

he retired to his tower

while they were fast tested

only the negative

could continue deeper

into the protected chambers

those that couldn’t afford

to be safe

didn’t deserve

his breath death

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy masks – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 



Time Waits for No Mask

Sept 2020 Recap

Time flies when you are having a good time, but it also flies in a time of turmoil. Recently a friend wondered where the summer went, he couldn’t really recall spring either. He was one of the lucky ones those job allowed for work from home so he isn’t fully idle during the lockdown as it becomes less a lockdown & more a social distance challenge.

I told him that as one gets older time seems to move quicker plus in a time of crisis it moves even faster. One of things I learned when I was involved in palliative care in the early days of HIV is that one loses awareness of the ‘stress’ – I think the same thing is true of the covid19 crisis. The stress becomes normalized but the threat hasn’t gone away. With both the fluctuations of numbers, restrictions & the civil war news from the USA one loses track of the passage of time. Thus time moves faster.

At the start of the lockdown I joking told a couple of friends ‘see you in September’ – they thought I was being overly pessimistic, little did we realize then that I should been saying ‘see you in September 2021.’ We have learned more about covid & its transmission since the first of the year but the threat still exists. 

September has been a month of living in this new reality. Masks are fashion accessories. Social distancing is an acceptable excuse for avoid people you don’t want to see anyway 🙂 Masks as seen as infringements of personal rights by the same people who berated gay men for not wearing condoms. I use both but masks are much easier to get on & off 🙂

Blogging less has been productive as I have been writing more. October will see some of that new work with a fresh set of spooky poems to show up on Fridays. I’m still working through the annotated Distant Music. One of the books I read in September was Allen Ginsburg’s look back at Howl in which he discusses inspirations, explains his intent, names & context – which is pretty much what I’ve doing with Distant Music.

Time for stats 🙂 Over the month my TOpoet.ca following blog grew to 385! The WP map show my hits have come from 31 countries around the world. That India still tops the list is interest but Portugal & China are now in the top 10. Venezuela! America Samoa! 

My Tumblr is at 292 – it would be higher but I block buxom babes & guys who slam drugs, not poetry. Twitter is at 226 followers it would be higher but I block buxom babes, editorial services & mavens eager to show me how to make big bucks on the internet. Picture Perfect: 37 sections, about 58,000 words posted so far with 130,000  approx to be edited then posted.

Fog Tarantella

<>

for too many years 

I was in a tree top

shouting out for love

I didn’t care where it came from

the louder I shouted the less I heard

the higher I climbed

the further I got away from it

yet I didn’t think of climbing down

I wanted the love that was in the air

not the common stuff of the earth

not knowing then

that was where love grew from

<>

one morning during a snow storm

the first after a long hot autumn

of yelling myself hoarse

give me love  I want love

blood flecks dappling the leaves 

the snow at first a few darting specks

then a steady scrim hush

to cool my eyes

flakes on my fevered tongue 

letting the sky satisfy 

as best it could 

but the sky doesn’t love back

except with echoes

<>

while the snow cloaked me

my own limbs mantled like branches

a peacock

clumsily descended

a bird that at a distance has stunning beauty

but this close it was motley 

squawking as it settled by me 

our eyes met

his tail opened

the breathtaking fan of feathers

stopped my shouting

I reached out to touch 

fell

earth bound by beauty

at the foot of the tree

<>

a mist arose around me

through the winter fog 

came men dancing

their arms around wisps of white

the imagined bodies of lovers

caressing the backs

touching the hair

making it as real as they could

kissing empty haze

could I join them

should I

was this all I could expect on earth

or would I be bold enough 

to allow one of these dancing men

to dance with me

before I climbed a tree

lost in the fog

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

East End Toronto Ghosts

More closed business, some thanks to covid, others thanks to rental increases

East Indian at Danforth/Pape corner that was just getting settled in when covid hit
nice tile work wasn’t enough to keep them going
a couple of these opened near odd subway stations i.e. Donlands – no school kids = no business, besides the Danforth has enough coffee spots
Coxwell at Dundas E – not so convenient after all
chains under the window were for strollers not tots
now an inactivity studio
Danforth has enough coffee spots with no room for this one – soon to be a fried chicken joint –
I ate here frequently – massive rent increase closed its doors after what seemed like 100 years of being a Queen E dining destination spot
Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Not That Elephant

‘Give me individuality or give me death’ seems go be the slogan for a well-publicized segment of the population. How large is that segment? Large enough to have a decent press agent to see that their anti-mask agenda gets maximum coverage – while child poverty remains in the shadows. Or maybe it’s all a smoke-screen?

The anti-maskers, line-up with the anti-vaxxers line up with the anti-speller. Sides are constantly being picked. There more energy that goes to picking sides, defending sides, denigrating the intelligence of those who don’t pick your side creates so much dust we can’t even see if we are standing up for anything or just groping in a thick cloud of a smoke-screen. Is the pandemic the real elephant in the room or merely the most obvious one to detract people from bigger social issues.

Is Covid19 a real disease? Or an excuse for draconian mind-control. How soon before not wearing a mask (expect for medical exceptions with proof of said exception) becomes ‘reckless endangerment’ then upped to ‘assault with a deadly weapon’ – breathing will be criminalized. 

Don’t get me wrong – I wear my mask when requited & without complaint – I see it as a fashion accessory (I have twenty or so already) as opposed to a part of a government conspiracy to perpetuate the invented pandemic. My need for individuality isn’t going to force me into a shouting match or fist-fight with some underpaid mall security personnel. 

But this masking is masking people’s addiction to injustice seeking & attention. I stopped following or seeking out the latest covid #s, restrictions, re-openings, conspiracies or prognostications. Life is about change and being pushed out my comfort zone is better than dying to stay in it.

Part of the Solution

<>

I don’t come here to solve anything

or to go on about the environment 

what’s the point of telling you

what you already know

<>

I’m not here to help your relationship 

some things are beyond human help 

I’m not looking for validation

to take away my loneliness

I have to live with that

<>

I don’t come here to pick up chick 

guys

or fashion tips

nothing will be solved by the right shoes

if it were that simple

we’d be dancing in the streets

in shiny new save-the-world sneakers

<>

I don’t debate about what is right to do 

what political sides we should be on

what sports team is the one true team

<>

I don’t have a clue 

what piece of pop trivia 

will tickle and delight

what book you need to read

what TV show will make a difference

<>

we all wait to star in our own TV shows

our first major sale to a minor literary journal

our face on the cover of Italian Vogue

<>

it’s not as if life is an equation

wherein x plus getting an Oscar

equals life is beautiful

besides life isn’t so bad

<>

in fact it’s pretty good

when I don’t get trapped 

by this sense that it has to fixed

by anyone up here

I don’t come here to solve anything

but to experience the mystery with you 

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet