Circles Within Circles

The past week I engaged in a couple of the social sides of Toronto’s poetry world. Monday I attended a TSP workshop lead by Ebony Stewart. Tuesday I was one of three features at the Art Bar show. Two very different groups of writers & performers. Although I felt quite comfortable in both it was also clear that I was an anomaly. I only have a place at these tables because I make myself take a place at these tables.

At one time I was the only out queer male in the poetry room – thankfully that has changed but the issues of gender, race & age haven’t really changed that much. One of the exercises at the workshop was circles within circles, with self in the middle circle, then each circle out one put names of people starting with the friend(s) one would go to for support in crisis, then working out.

This was challenging because thanks to AA I have many people I might easily go to for emotional support but they aren’t necessarily that close to me. Who do I talk to that listens to me? My partner of over 30 years? My friends in recovery? In the writing world? I’ve found most people, even those who are closest to me, aren’t such good listeners. So my inner circle was pretty empty.

At the Art Bar there was many familiar faces from my Renaissance Conspiracy days. Yet I had more conversation with one of the co-features than I did with the familiar faces. In the break after each feature to performer had several people eager to chat with them. After my set it was as if people were more interested in avoiding me – really. I guess my set was pretty bad & lacked the poetic gravitas of the real poets who went before me. 🙂

This is more observation than complaint. You know I really don’t give a shit. I write because it is what I do. Over the years I’ve become more politic & less in your face sexual. I’m not looking for approval or gushy flattery. I may not have a place in this milieu but, honey, I’m taking one anyway.

‘By the Moose of Moses’

‘by the enflamed dick of the moose of Moses’

my Dad was shouting

we knew he was really really angry

the more words he used

when he stared to swear

the angrier he was

none of wanted to know why he was angry


my mother would bundle the clothes

and head down to the river

my sisters would go to their rooms

to start preparing for their shifts at the strip bars

my brothers

if they were around

would be suddenly very very busy

with the gutting of moose

helping one another bloody their hair


I was often the only one left

for him to vent his wrath upon

that wrath was always words

never directed at me

but someone had to bare witness to his anger

or it got worse and worse

till one of the neighbours would come over

eyes darting around fearfully

to see what the commotion was


‘by the scraped udders of mother moose’

my Dad kicked at the bench in his workshop

I peeped around the corner

‘come in here now you little smelt fornicator’

‘yes Dad.’

I would inch into the room

‘have you been in here?’

‘no Dad’


I hunched my shoulders to hide my guilt

because I had been there

enjoying the play of sunlight on his tools

that hung in neat rows on the wall

or playing with boys

in the bone dust on the floor



‘just take a look around’

I couldn’t see anything amiss

the skidoo he was rebuilding stood

where it had for years

except on the two days

when it was working properly

the outboard motor he had salvaged swung overhead


‘i … i don’t see anything’

‘then open your eyes boy’


night had fallen

it was now so dark

I could barely make out his eyes


‘when I find out who did

this there’ll be hell to pay’


he struck match

in that brief flare of light I was aghast

he had dared to break the prohibition

even a glimpse of light

after nightfall was punishable

I knew whatever this was it was serious


‘you sure you weren’t in here’


‘no dad. i swear it wasn’t me’

taking my first step

to becoming

a guilt ridden adult

chapbooks for sale


HotDamn! It’s A Queer Slam

November 1-30

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