Safe From Me

Safe From Me

<>

somedays it isn’t safe

for me to be seen in public

not safe for others I mean

<>

the welfare of others 

has to be considered

when a glance from a male

can become triggering

send someone spinning

into painful childhood memories

my mere looking where I am going

can send people off 

<>

I never ask how are you doing

lest that appears to be disrespect

for their boundary issues

I won’t compliment your appearance 

never talk about my happy childhood

because it seems by doing so

I’m am diminishing 

what you experienced in yours

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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 assume 

that just because they are a clerk

that they have 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

There some real-life experiences in this piece. Once when dodging people on a busy street I stopped to let someone pass me & that someone said ‘What the fuck are you looking at!’ I shrugged & kept on my way. I’ve seen similar confrontations on the subway – people snapping ‘stop looking at me like that’ – this is why most people now stare at their cellphones – it’s less intrusive to bump into people because you aren’t looking where you’re going than it is to look where you are going.

A few years ago, on an open stage & read a poem about my Dad – about finding gifts he has hidden before he died, not knowing he was going to die. After the show I was accosted for not issuing a trigger warning before I had a poem about my father. The last time I read it I did it with a trigger warning & someone accosted me after for making fun of trigger warnings. You wonder why I shun open stages.

When someone says ‘I don’t want to talk about …’ I respect that but then am leery of what to say when they continue to talk about it. Is it my job to change the subject or say ‘You said we weren’t going to talk about that.’ As I’ve often said here people will talk about whatever they want even when they ask ‘how are you?’ They are preparing what they want to tell you about themselves. A good reason I never really start conversations about myself. One of the good things, to me. about social distancing is an end to negotiating permission for hugs. 

Unlike that last verse I leave my house regularly. I have no fear of being in pubic, in public places -one my morning walks I rarely see anyone anyway & the only negotiation is social distancing. In recovery I’ve learned the balance of conversation – I listen without the need to develop a response. 

When people ask me what I’ve been doing I resist going into details about my writing, my sex life. I fall back on generalities ‘pandemic purging’ being a good fall back – because it has been something I’ve been doing. One thing that I purged years ago is guilt for inadvertently triggering someone.


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Have A Not

Not

Not visit houses just before noon

Not to slam the door when you leave

Not to wear out your welcome

Not to reveal how you really feel

Not to be the one to leave

Not to a give a damn

Not to bear false witness

Not to let the truth stand in the way

Not to be the guilty party

Not to wear you heart on your sleeve

Not to eat fish only any day but Friday

Not to take your name as witness

Not to give a fuck you too 

Not to wear the same underwear two days in a row

Not to wear clothes when you slam the door behind you

Not to let on how you really feel just leave

Not to came back apologetic

Not to fish for more than there is to catch

Not to ignore that there is always a catch

Not to damn the bare body

Not to be the last one to know

Not skip lunch

Not to be afraid of knowing 

Not Not Not Not

The rule that prompted this one is the actual first line – it was intended to avoid having whomever the monk visited offer them lunch. Word association kicked it off – over staying your welcome came to mind quickly. Without a second thought it became a list poem of variations on what not to do.

Some of the nots combine nots that have come before. Some are almost aphorisms ‘not to fish for more than there is to catch’ which is also a play on ‘fishing for a compliment’ also springs from ‘eating fish on Friday’ which is a Catholic commandment – the miracle of the bread & fish takes some of this into a very biblical subtext.

Canadians have a reputation for politeness – I will not say what’s on my mind lest I offend someone. Though I suspects more a case of – I will not say what’s on my mind lest I get too much attention 🙂 As a result some of this not list are admonitions to placate – they struggle to find the balance between being firm and being aggressive. If you are like me there comes a point when you don’t care. If you think I’m a prick, such is life.

The best list poems, to me, start to hint at a story. This one is about lovers not getting along, or are they playing out a familiar structure of push-pull, argue-make up, control-resistance. It almost reads like a magazine list of ‘do’s & don’t’s’ to make a relationship work. I don’t think I’ve ever slammed a door, that wasn’t asking for it 🙂


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