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


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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Cubs Scouts to DeMolay

On my recent visit to Sydney I check out some of the places, other than schools, that were a part of my growing up and some of them are still standing !! One place was the First United Church on Whitney Avenue. It is no longer, as far as I can tell, a functioning church. Signage out front has been removed for one thing.

I went to the Sunday school here for a while. This is where I went for Cubs. My memory is quite vague though. I recall the uniform, neckerchiefs and the Jungle Book power structure of the dens. We earned badges of learning knots, doing community service. It was an exclusively male territory. Girls had Brownies, Pixies & such. Our den had a den mother though – wife of the the Akela. She died in a car accident & the dens attended the funeral service. There was lots of crying even though there was no badge for that.

I ‘graduated’ from cubs to Boy Scouts. Our troop meet at, what at that time I think was a Baptist Church, on the corner of Charlotte & Townsend St. (Now it is the United Heritage Church). Points & badges for being on time, tying knots & neckerchief slides. The troop did out of town a couple of times to do a treasure hunt with compass directions & cook outs. I got a badge for cooking – baked potato wrapped in foil in an open fire.

Next level possibilities were things like Air Cadets – which my dad though was too military. He was a Masonic member so I advanced to DeMolay. Both of which are exclusively male domains. In fact my dad was one of the organizers so I guess I’m one of the founding members. We met at the Masonic Temple on the Esplanade at Dorchester St.

Like the Masons it was very ritualistic, Knights Templar stuff. There was a password to get in – that sort of thing. We did fund-raising for community organizations, I think. I know there was at least on car wash. Once we were sufficiently organized we went to New Glasgow to be officially installed. The intent was good but I found the ‘religious’ stuff silly & the ritualistic aspects even sillier. I was not, in the end, a good candidate.

The Visit

I went up to my room. Parents can be so weird at times, even though I had changed, they had room had restored to pretty much to what it had been like when I was in high-school. Maybe that was when they were happiest with me. When I was still the boy who would grow up to fulfill their dreams of ae perfect heterosexual son.

True I had taken much of my furniture with me when I finally left home for university so they unearthed what had been stashed in the basement – including my old, narrow, single bed. I could remember the fight when I wanted to get rid of it for a larger one. Mom was sure a bigger bed would take up too much of the limited space in the room. She was right but at the time I wasn’t giving in a an inch. The oak frame had a new mattress on it though. The headboard had been sanded lightly but some of my carving still remained as reminders of time frittered away. Initials of girls, I now didn’t remember, in little hearts with my initials. 

Maybe some boys though, as then I didn’t know better, or maybe couldn’t admit what I sort of suspected. Like the only reason I went out with ‘D.K.’ who I remember as Darla, was because her older bother mesmerized me with his smile. I could still see his face so clearly while her’s a blur in a yearbook.

“I’m about ready to leave.” My Dad called up to me.


Outside, I looked over the house, the garden. It had been over five years since I’d been home last. Trees were bigger.

“You want a lift anywhere?” My Dad opened the car door.

“No, thanks. Think I’ll just take a stroll.”

“Enjoy. Some of us have to work you know.” He laughed.

I watched from the front steps as he drove away.

I walked to the corner and stood for a minute to look in each direction. One way was the walk to my grade school, another direction to my high-school and a third, the direction towards downtown. Which set of memories did I want to tackle first?


every Tuesday 2019


17 – Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

22 – Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

Tuesday 24 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre


15 – Stratford Festival – The Crucible


Thurs 7 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre


The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA


Thurs 23 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre


Thurs March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre


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

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet