Coal Dusters – Chapter LV – Birk Faces The Future

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet

Coal Dusters – Chapter LV

Birk

Faces

The Future

The next morning Birk went to the colliery infirmary. Dr. Drummond carefully removed the bandages. The skin on his hands was torn and rubbed away along his knuckles but otherwise he was uninjured. 

“The swelling has gone down considerably.” Drummond said.

“Too bad this had t’happen.” Birk said to the doctor washing the medicated ointment off his hands. “Things getting back to the way they used be.”

“Still some splinters here. I’ll have get them out before they get infected.”

“Do what you have to.” It was odd to Birk to have a man handle his hands so gently then so firmly as the doctor used tweezers, sometimes needles to pull out the splinters.

“Not sure I’m goin’ to get all of them today though.”

Birk’s father came into the infirmary.

“How’s he looking Doctor.”

“He’ll pull though but it’ll be a few weeks before he’ll be pulling anything else.”

The two men laughed at something that Birk didn’t understand.

The last of the miners were being brought into the infirmary.

“We’re getting them up from the levels that were blocked by the cage.” One of the rescue team said. “Someone did a good job to get that trap open.”

“Some times good things happen when a miner opens his big trap.” Birk’s father said..

Dr. Drummond had one of his nurses do the final work on Birk’s hands so he could attend to the other men. The nurse rubbed a salve on Birk’s hands then wrapped them both in fresh gauze.

“You’ll need to leave this on for a day. Keep it as clean as you can. Come back tomorrow and we’ll check to see if all the splinters are cleared out and make sure no infection has set in.” The nurse left to attend to the recent arrivals.

“You been home yet?” He asked his father. “Ma was wondering?”

“I’ve had to keep an eye on the ….”

A woman’s shout cut him off.

“Who is it?” Birk stood and walked toward were the woman was.

“It’s Lillian McTavish.” One of the rescue workers said.

“Christ!” He had forgotten that Seven O’Dowell had gone down with the second group of men.

“They did bring him up alive.” His father said. “But died in her arms.”

Birk didn’t know if he should offer condolences. “She was kind to us, you know, Mac. Very kind.” He began to cry.

“It’ll be hard for all of us.” He father put his arm around Birk’s shoulder. “They were wed before he drew his last breath.”

“Not much we can do about that is there.” Birk didn’t know how to respond. “Married?”

Birk watched as Lillian was taken out of the infirmary and lead to the manager’s office.

“Ah, Birk, sure is good to see your face again.” Clancy said from behind him. 

“Only been a couple of hours.” Birk tried to smile.

“Ah, Mr. Sinclair.” Dr. Drummond walked over and put his stethoscope to Clancy’s chest.

Clancy coughed and spat up coal dust and blood. “That’s a pain I never expected to feel.” he tapped the bottom of his rib cage. “Right close to m’young heart.”

“You been spitting up much blood?” Drummond asked Clancy.

“Some but not every time.”

“Take as deep a breath as you can.”

Clancy breathed in. Pain flashed across his face as he coughed again. He spit onto a cloth a nurse handed him. The doctor examined it. 

“A bit of blood but if it was worrisome it would be a lot redder. Any in your urine?

“Not that I’ve noticed.” Clancy said.

“To be safe you should go the hospital for an X-ray.” The doctor said. “There’s some other’s going shortly. You can go along with them.”

Once they saw that Clancy was on his way to the hospital Birk and his father started to leave for home. He saw Lillian being taken to the back of the infirmary where the bodies were kept. Her screams and sobs started him weeping again as his father lead him away.

“There’s nothing to be done. She has …”

“She has no family here. Nothing.”

“She has those who’ll look for her. Trust me Birk.” He father said. “The O’Dowell’s are good people.”

Birk broke away from his father and stepped through the door at the back of the infirmary. The smell made him dizzy.

“I …” he started unsure if what to say.

“You!” Lillian screamed and rushed at him flailing at him with her fists. “You miners killed him. He did his best for you minders and now you’ve gone and killed him. Murderers. Butchers.” She struck his chest and shoulder several times before being pulled away. She sagged sobbing into the arms of one of the nurses.

“Come on Birk.” His father pulled him out of the room by the arm. “I told you we weren’t wanted here.”

“What did she mean by murderers?” He asked as they exited the colliery.

“When you got out of the cage did you get a good look at the cage cable.”

“I was working to get up and out of there nothing more.” Birk thought for a moment. “It was fair snapped.”

“Clean break or frayed? You know, frayed as if it had worn through.”

“It was some dark down there Blackie. Felt more of a clean break though.”

“Yeah, that’s what they found. Management’s saying someone tampered with the cable.”

“Sabotage?”

“Looks that way but we won’t know till those inspectors take a closer look at things.”

“The ones as said it was safe for us to go down in the first place?” 

Birk woke the next morning and dressed for work without thinking. His bandaged fingers couldn’t manage his buttons or his boot laces but Maddy would be happy to do that for him again. When came down to the kitchen Clancy was already there.

“They didn’t keep you then?” he asked.

“No. They found a pulse but no heart.” Clancy half-laughed. “Can’t laugh though, hurts too much.” He lifted his shirt to show bruises that spilled over the bandaging around his ribs. “Gotta keep still and not press on my chest for a few weeks. One rib broken but not going to move too much. The other moved a bit but still where it’s supposed to be. How’s your hands?”

“Feel okay but will get them checked again by Doc Drummond later this morning.”

“You have to go to the parish hall for that.” His mother said. “Colliery is done for. Closed up tighter than it was before.”

“Closed!” Birk said. “Over night!”

“Yep. The sab – o – tage,” she pronounced each syllable. “Gives them the perfect excuse to shut down another mine. Plus proof positive there are dangerous sub- vers -ive Reds who don’t care about anyone’s property.”

“Reds! Ha!” Clancy said. “Word at the hospital yesterday was that they done it themselves.”

“The BritCan? Why??” Birk said.

“They wanted to shut it down all along and now they can and blame the one’s that needed the work the most. They get to collect the insurance. More money in insurance than in the coal profits.”

“Could be.” his mother said. “You know how they collected when all the company stores were done in. I hears it was more than the goods in the stores was worth. They made a profit on that while we struggling to put food on the table.”

“Wouldn’t put that past them.” Birk found himself agreeing. “But to do that to the pits?”

“Who else?” Clancy asked.

“Maybe they are right. Maybe there is some Bolishi element here that wants to see to it.”

“What? Who’d go along with Bloshi’s after that. Destroying our chance to work isn’t going to bring anyone to their way of thinking.”

“Either way there’ll be hell to pay what with Steven O’Dowell getting killed because of the collapse.” His mother said.

Birk and Clancy went down the colliery gate and sure enough it was locked. Hoardings were already up around the various building. Posts on either side of the gate had notices about the closing of the mine till further notice.

“They were mighty quick to get things shut down.” Clancy said. “That hoarding some sturdy for a hasty job.”

“Almost as if they had planned it already.” Birk nodded. “Wonder who they payed to put that up?”

Jake Malone man joined them.

“Further notice! At’s what they said about the number six last year while they sold off what they could and let it fill with water. Same’ll happen here.”

“My hands was finally getting back in to shape.” Birk held up his bandages. “I wouldda been happy to stick with it.”

“Even when we was willing to settle they weren’t happy. Guess we learned our lesson.” Jake laughed bitterly.

“Which is?” Birk asked.

“Fucked if you do and screwed if you don’t.” Jake laughed again. “I’ll probably be packing it in now. Nothing now to keep any of us here is there. I should have gone with your bother Geo when he left.”

There weren’t too many at the parish hall infirmary. The doctor peeled the wrapping off Birk’s hands.

“Good. No infection has set in. No splinters have worked their way up so we put have gotten them all.”

Birk flexed his fingers. They were still sore from all the climbing he had done in the shaft. 

“It’ll be another week or so before the skin’s healed up enough for you to put them to much use. You can lift a spoon if you need to but best get the missus to do up your fly.” The doctor grinned. “That is if you can afford a missus. How’s the ribs Mr. Sinclair?”

“Okay if I don’t laugh or roll over in my sleep.” Clancy answered. “Or don’t push me out of the bed.”

“You’re still boarding with the Nelson’s?” The doctor asked.

“Yeah.”

“Wonder what’ll happen to the houses?” Birk said. “Company owns ‘em.”

Outside they talked with a couple of the other miners. There was to be a meeting that night to discuss what to do next.

“Not much we can do.” One of them said. “They got us over a barrel and they want us to pay for the barrel to boot.”

“Least ways none of the other mines is going to be closed.” The other miner said.

“Course not.” Clancy said. “This one had the strongest union support for one thing. Get rid of us and they get rid of the ones they called trouble makers. No need for a black-list when you chop everyone out of the picture.”

The union meeting was being held at the usual hall in New Waterford. The men sat in a sullen silence on the ferry over to New Waterford. Some smoking. Some sipping from flasks.

“Shame about Steven O’Dowell.” One of them said.

“Yeah. When had someone willing to stand up fer us this has to happen.”

“BritCan going make sure the inspectors point the blame away from them.” another said.

The union meeting offered nothing new for the men. There were no job opportunities unless they wanted to move out of the province and even then they wouldn’t be assured of work where they went. There was no money left in the union coffers to help them financially.

The only good news was that BritCan would let them stay in the company houses until they decided what to do about the colliery.

As they walked back to the wharf a sense of what the future was going to be dogged Birk’s steps. He’d never thought of being anything other than what he was. Never thought of being a miner anywhere else except here where he had grown up.

“What you thinking?” Clancy asked.

“When I was a kid all you need to worry about was getting up and goin’ to school or the mines. Not that I ever took to goin’ to the pits but I knew it was was I supposed to do. Then when I was old enough I did what m’dad and bother did. Now that’s gone.”

“There’s a whole world outside of there, you know?” Clancy said.

“I can’t imagine going away the way my brother did. Least ways Geo had some one with him. I’d be on my own without a family to fall back on.”

“I’d go with you, you darn idiot.” Clancy said. “You should know that much.”

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Out With The Bathwater

Out With The Bathwater

he wanted to drink

my bathwater

or so he said

I never did take him up on it

 

if he had said that

after a few dates

I might have found it

appealing  almost flattering

but to start with that

was a bit much

 

it was the sort of

coming on too strong

I called ‘a red flag’

similar to sending a phone number

as the first message

not even a call me

or I liked your profile

I’m not going to call that number

 

he wanted to drink

my bathwater

when I asked him why

he said that it was pretty obvious

the water

was something that had touched

every inch of my body

the way he wished he could

I was amused

intrigued

 

all his pics were blurry

closeups of his nipples

I think

no face pic

 

I asked for a face photo

never heard back from him

I was going to take a bath

anyway


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When I Was A Young Boy

For the summer I’m looking at my Brown Betty chapbook. All the pieces dealt with growing up in Cape Breton. As usual WordPress imposes its own line breaks 😦

When I Was A Young Boy

when I was a young boy 

I kissed a girl 

when I was a young boy

about 11 

I kissed a girl 

she was about 11
it was at a birthday party
not hers 

she was wore a frilly rose-yellow dress 

I wore a white shirt and tie 

so maybe it wasn’t a birthday party 

maybe a wedding

 

there were about a dozen of us
kids from various families 

kids that sort of knew each other 

made to dress like little adults 

 

we watched adults kissing greeting 

and like little adults we kissed 

I don’t remember her name 

but I kissed her
she didn’t seem to mind 

then we chased each other 

sneaking kisses 

till we were caught 

someone’s mother
gave a little shocked shriek 

‘oh you naughty kids’ 

 

the other kids picked that up
and ran around 

calling me ‘naughty boy’

‘naughty boy’
while the little girl I kissed 

blushed then joined in with them 

as if it was all my fault
all my idea

 

the adults got in on it after awhile 

‘oh look there’s the naughty boy 

watch out or he’ll kiss you’ 

 

when I was a young boy
I kissed a girl
I learned my lesson
I never a kissed another girl

This piece starts as a traditional English ballad. There are many variations on this beginning – when I was a young …. is the start of many a story, almost like ‘once upon a time.’ Even the ‘I kissed’ come out of the old school tradition. Though there is also a nod some recent pop songs. The party setting is also very tradition – the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner starts with the mariner talking to a wedding guest.

The piece plays on the nature of memory, of place, circumstances. Growing up I ended up at similar events, wearing a shirt & tie with kids I didn’t know, some of whom I never saw again either. The story unfolds in a sweet logically way, much as the traditional ballad would tell the story, adding layer so detail as it progressed. In ballad the hero always faced some sort of ‘conflict.’

I’ve always found it puzzling when young children are asked if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend while the idea of children’s sexuality is so fought with fear & shame at once. Their lack of sexual knowledge is praised, almost encouraged & shamed all at the same time.

This piece was written for a class I took Make-A-Scene on performative story telling. https://wp.me/p1RtxU-7V, https://wp.me/p1RtxU-83,  When I performed it I wore shorts, a white shirt & a playful tie. The girl was played by a helium balloon with a string that put it at about about shoulder height to me. I found one with a girl’s face on it. My class mates did the ‘naughty boy’ shaming. At the end of the piece I cut the string and it floated away. 


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Chapter LIV: Lillian Tends Steven’s Wounds

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet

Coal Dusters – Chapter LIV

Lillian

Tends

Steven’s Wounds

Lillian lost track of time while the recuse workers brought the men from the lower faces up. Other than some cuts, scrapes and broken arms none of the injures were that serious. 

Clancy Sinclair from Level 8 had a couple of broken ribs. She assisted Dr. Drummond as he wrapped a bandage around Clancy’s rib cage.

“Nothing we can do to set your ribs Mr. Sinclair.” The doctor explained. “This is just to hold them in place while they knit properly. At your age they’ll be fine quickly.”

“No sweet hugging for me.” Clancy winked at Lillian.

“I should hope not.” Birk said from behind them.

“I thought you went home?” Lillian said.

“I did, but there was nothing for me there with all the worry. I couldn’t rest wondering. I can’t do anything to help.” He held up his bandaged hands. “But I had to be here. How is he Dr Drummond.”

“He’ll be fine in a week or so.”

“I … when you went up that shaft I was afraid that was the last I’d see of you or anyone.” Clancy tried to sit up.

Lillian teared up thinking of Steven trapped under tons of coal.

“I promised I’d get you out of there.” Birk went over to off a shoulder to help Clancy stand. 

“We’re even now.” Clancy said.

“How so?”

“You saved my life this time. I saved your life before.”

“When?”

“That gas build up.” Clancy said.

  “Is it okay if he walks.” Birk asked.

“Yes. His legs are fine. Best thing for him to move around.” Dr. Drummond said.

Lillian came over to help as well. She remembered seeing Steven looking so brave in his Draeger suit as part of the rescue team at the gas build up. Was the the first time she realized he was more than bravado?

While Clancy was standing Dr. Drummond pressed along his back and spine.

“How does that feel.” He asked. “You can feel my touch?”

“Yes.” Clancy was unsteady as he took a few steps.

“There doesn’t appear to be any nerve damage.”

“I can take him home?” Birk asked.

“I’ve only checked him for visible injures.” Dr. Drummond said. “He could have internal damage. Promise that if there’s blood in your spit or such you get over to the hospital in Sydney as fast as you can.”

“If’n the roads don’t kill me.” Clancy winced as he tried to laugh. Oh! My ribs are some sore.”

“To bad they aren’t half as hard as your head.” Birk said.

“Don’t make me laugh.” Clancy bent over in pain holding his ribs at the same time.

“Ma’ll keep an eye out on both us.” Birk said. “You look after the ones as is really hurt. Thank you Miss McTavish.”

“Lead on McDuff.” Clancy put his arm over Birk’s shoulder.

Lillian watched them disappear into the dark. Dear God, let Steven’s injures be as gentle as these, she prayed, so he can continue to play a role in the men’s lives. Thank you. 

Lillian was dozing on one of the infirmary cots when a shout woke her.

“They are bringing up the men from level nine now.”

The rescuers had spent the past few hours clearing the debris away so they had access to the final level. The first body they brought up was completely shrouded which meant it was dead. 

“Is it?” she asked Dr, Drummond as he lifted the cover off the face of corpse.

“Nope. It’s Red Mac.”

“There’s another coming up.” One of the rescuers said. “In bad shape.”

The next was Steven strapped to the stretcher hoist. His face was uncovered so Lillian knew he was alive. She took his hand and squeezed it. His eyes flickered briefly as they looked at her. She wiped the dirt off his face as best she could.

Dr. Drummond gently undid the straps that held Steven to the gurney.

“He’s lost a lot blood.” Drummond said as he did his preliminary check. He lifted back the blankets that covered Steven’s torso and quickly dropped them.

“Lillian, perhaps you should wait outside while I check him completely.”

He nodded to one of the orderlies to accompany her.

Steven grip on her hand tightened.

“No. Lillian stay.” Steven said hoarsely. “I ….”

“I’ll stay Dr Drummond. You know, I saw worse after the power plant attack.”

“Yes.” Dr. Drummond nodded. “Please look away, if you can.”

Lillian kept her eyes on Steven’s while the doctor lifted the blankets away from Steven’s torso. She could smell the blood, the muck of the coal mine. Steven’s grip on her hand loosened and tightened.

“Okay.” Dr. Drummond said once he’d finished his examination

“How does it look?” Steven asked. “Hope it isn’t as bad as it feels.”

“Steven, both your legs have been crushed. I doubt if I could save them even if I had the best of equipment. We’ll do what we can to staunch the bleeding but you have lost a lot of blood already.”

“I see.” Steven sighed. “Lillian will have to be brave for both of us. That is if she’ll still have me.” He smiled faintly.

“Of course I do Steven.” Lillian said. 

“We’ll have to work fast.” Dr. Drummond said. “Bring him into the operating area.”

Steven released Lillian’s hand and he was taken into the infirmary.

“Lillian, I’d rather you wait here while I do what I can. I have to tell you there is little hope he’ll survive even if I can stop the bleeding. His legs will have to be amputated.”

“My God!” Lillian leaned heavily against the wall. 

“I’ve given him something for the pain.”

“He’s asking for Miss McTavish.” One of the orderlies came out the room. 

She followed him into the room.

“Lillian,” Steven tapped his jacket over his heart. “In here. Take … out.”

Dr. Drummond nodded his approval.

Lillian slid her hand into his inside pocket as gently as she could. The cool of Steven’s body chilled her. She pulled out a thin packed wrapped in canvas.

“My good luck.” Steven said. “Open.”

She unfold the canvas and inside was their wedding licence. There was also a manila envelope.

“Read later. Please.” He struggled to sit up.

“Yes. You must rest.” She put hand on his forehead to keep him in place.

“Not yet. No rest for the wicked.” He laughed. “Is Father McTavish here?”

“No, but Father Dunlop is. Yes.” Lillian said. “But you won’t need him for unction, yet. Will he, Dr Drummond? He’ll pull through. Won’t he?”

“There’s a good chance.”

“Bring Dunlop here.” Steven said. “Is Clara here?”

“She was but she went to Mrs. Franklin’s to rest.” Lillian tried not to cry. 

The orderly returned shortly with the priest.

“Father Dunlop I have a service for you to perform.” Steven said.

The priest opened his kit and took out the oil for final unction.

“No! No!” Steven whispered. “Give him the license. We are to be married.”

“Married!” Father Dunlop took the license from Lillian. 

“Dr. Drummond and his orderly can be witnesses.” Steven said.

“I …. I’m not prepared to … the ceremony …”

“It doesn’t have to be the whole service Father. Do the legal part. You can do that can’t you?”

“Yes, I suppose I can.” The priest flipped though his handbook of rituals. “Here we are.”

“Steve McTavish and Lillian McTavish, have you come here to enter into marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?” He read from the book.

“Yes.” They replied in unison.                   

“Are you prepared, as you follow the path of marriage, to love and honour each other for as long as you both shall live?                        

“Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”

“Yes.” they both replied 

“Steven, do you take Lillian to be your wife? Do you promise to be faithful to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love her and to honour her all the days of your life?”

“I do.”

“Lillian, do you take Steven to be your husband? Do you promise to be faithful to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love him and to honour him all the days of your life?

“I do.”

“The rings?” Dunlop asked.

“Here.” Steven tugged at a piece of ribbon around his neck. 

Lillian pulled it out and their wedding rings were suspended on it. 

“It pays to be prepared.” Steven smiled.

The priest said a blessing over the wedding rings. They placed the rings on each other’s fingers.

“I now pronounce you man and wife.”

There was brief silence. 

“You may kiss the bride.” The priest said.

There was some applause as Lillian bent to kiss Steven. As their lips met his body shuddered and his head fell limply to one side.

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School’s Out – Colby Days 1

When my father settled down in was in Sydney. Our first house was on the corner of Rigby Road & Centre St. It was like a giant playhouse too big for the three of us – Mom, Dad & me. Living-room, dining room, kitchen & a parlour on the first floor, another four rooms on the 2nd floor. So I had my own bedroom plus a play room. Attic, basement with a sprawling hot-air coal furnace. Barn-size garage too.

 

It was a mid-income neighbourhood. Lots of families. I remember being friends with a girl who lived across the street, whose name may have been Wendy. There was a boy I hung around with but I don’t remove this name at all. We lived there for about a year.

 

I was enrolled in Colby School (now Brookland Elementary) at corner of Royal Ave. & Cottage Road. I can’t recall if I was there for the start of the school term or not. I do recall my Dad walking to school along Center St the first few days to make sure I knew my way. It was about a 5min walk. The first time I walk home along I ended up walking along Cottage Road & getting lost.

 

This past week I did some research on Colby Elementary (there is a FB page https://www.facebook.com/groups/colbyschool/). That research brought back lots of memories but none of my first year there. Colby went up to Grade VI. So I was there for IV & V. There was a special ed class in the basement. My memories of some teachers names have stuck with me though – Miss Greenwell, Mrs. Butterworth, Mrs. McLeod.

The building was essentially a box with windows. Two floors, two entrances one for boys, one for girls. Big school yard in back for recess where we would play baseball, hopscotch – nothing organized. at the end of the school yard was Wash Brook – which ran through the city. It was forbidden territory during school hours.

Summer of that year I went to Wales with my mother & when we returned my father had moved us into a smaller house on Cottage Road. More about that & some actual school moments next week 🙂

 Sing

as a child I liked to sing

used to do it a lot

around the house 

on my way to school

with my dad when we went fishing

with my sisters when they got old enough 

we would sing bits of songs off the radio

sing along with records of my mother

Mario Lanza 

drink drink drink

each trying to out sing the other

 

then there was 

hey you with the stars in your eyes

that would become

hey there

you with sausages in your eyes

don’t fry my heart

it always broke us up 

hey there 

you with the bananas in your eyes

don’t monkey with my heart

hey there

you with the beans in your ears

can’t you hear I love you

 

the children choir at the United Church 

was looking for new members

my mom suggested 

it would be great opportunity

I could learn to sing for real

learn how to carry a tune 

instead of burying it under volume

 

a bunch kids at the church hall

were lined up according to height

mostly girls and some boys

mostly around my age 10 to 12

we where given a song sheet

words between dangling fangs of music

I didn’t know notes rests 

 

we where told 

just worry about the words

a woman played a few notes on the piano

we started in with a din

a few tries and we worked through it

then girls only  boys only 

individually

some got a nod from her

yes you’ll do fine

my turn she played a few notes

I started

no no no this note

finally she gave up

thank you but you really can’t …

 

blood rushed to my face ears

the other kids gawked at me

I ran out ran home

told my mother 

I never wanted to sing

never ever ever

and really haven’t

except for the occasional

hey there 

you with the fingers in your ears

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

July

Stratford Festival – Nathan The Wise

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton

August 8: Highland Arts Theatre: https://www.highlandartstheatre.com 


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September

Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

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

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Joy of Jobim

Antonio Carlos Jobim is considered an elder statesman of Brazilian jazz – though in Brazil, samba, bossa nova were considered street music they became jazz in the USA & hence in the rest of the world. Best know for his his breakthrough recording with Stan Getz, Jobim is more than a fine guitarist. As stand alone’s in my pop collection I have his Echoes of Rio, Rio Revisited (with Gal Costa), Jazz Masters. Sure it is easy listening but well worth it & perfect for quiet nights of quiet stars.

Not quite next on the shelf is an mp3 collection of Joy of Cooking. Here is their First & Closer To The Ground. Folk-jazz with sweet harmonies and congas – nearly very song is propelled by the pitter-pat of congas. The songs are romantic, feminist & easy on the ear. The First was a moderate ‘hit.’ Joy of Cooking was an unusual example of a late 60’s rock band fronted by women.

When Joy broke up the women worked together on Toni Brown & Terry Garthwaite: Cross Country. This is more country blues folk. Solo Terry Garthwaite released Terry – an amazing jazzy rock album that I consider a hidden treasure & it is well worth hunting down.

Also in this mp3 collection I added Cass Elliot: Dream A Little Dream; Bubble Gum, Lemonade. Cass never regained the momentum of her Mama & Papas days. The production on these lps is merely adequate & the songs lack energy & focus. There are few good tracks mind you, but over all she needed a stronger musical guide as she has one of the great rock voices.

Also in here is Kathi McDonald’s Insane Asylum. Why didn’t she become a huge star? This is one of the best Canadian albums ever with great songs i.e. Bogart to Bowie is amazing. Kathi can sing the pants off nearly any female vocalist out there & probably teach the guys a few things too. A hidden treasure worth seeking out.

Wait there’s more. To balance all these female voices I added The Association: And Then … Along Comes the Association – an immensely popular mid-60’s group that was never taken serious because of their success. Complex harmonies, some stunning production & songs that will live on forever. And finally Candymen: The Candymen – power driven 60’s garage rock of the best kind.

Brother

‘What do you mean, your brother? You never mentioned a brother before.’

‘Well I’m mentioning him now.’

‘And he’ll be here for supper? Tonight!’

‘That’s right. We can order pizza. He loves pizza. Save you cooking.’

‘That’s not the problem.’

‘There’s a problem?’

‘Damn rights there is. I’ve known you how long now?’

‘Five years.’

‘Right, and we’ve been living together for the last three and now you tell me you have  a brother?’

‘Didn’t seem like a thing to tell. There’s lots of things we don’t know about each other.’

‘Yes, but not something this big. How could you not mention a brother to me? How?’

‘I guess it never came up. You never asked if I had siblings.’

‘It’s not the sort of thing one asks about. It’s the sort of thing that comes up, in conversation.’

‘That conversation never came up then. Christ. I’m sorry I never told you I had a brother. Is that what you wanted, an apology?’

‘I just want to know why you’ve never told me. Didn’t you trust me?’

‘Oh, now it’s a trust thing. I told you, I never thought him important enough to talk about. Lots of things are like that. He didn’t seem relevant to our relationship.’

‘Till now.’

‘Yeah, till now. He’s in town for the week-end and wants to meet you.’

‘So, he knows about me?’

‘Of course. Everybody knows about us.’

‘You’ve talked to this brother about me. How many times?’

‘A couple.’

‘How often do you speak to him?’

‘Once or twice a year since I met you.’

‘Once or twice! What aren’t you telling me? He’s just been let out of prison or something. Is that it?’

‘No. Why? Do you think my family is the criminal type.’

‘Now that I know you’ve got a family it wouldn’t surprise me.’

‘My mom was right you are …’

‘Mom!’

‘What? Didn’t you think I had a mother?’

‘You never mentioned a mother. Or didn’t she ever come up in conversation either?’

‘Christ you are on a tear today. Yes I have a mother. And a father too.’

‘A father! This is going too far. Why have you kept all these secrets from me?’

‘Secrets? How do you think I got here – you didn’t find me under a cabbage leaf. Of course I have parents. Everyone has parents. Don’t they?’

‘I suppose you’re right, but it’s still a shock to find out. You know. A shock that you’ve kept these things from me all this time. First a brother. Then parents. What else have you neglected to tell me. What other dirty dark secrets do you have.’

‘These are not secrets. Just things I didn’t think important enough to bother you with.’

‘So, now I have to face this opportunity to meet your brother, whom I didn’t even know you had. How am I going to do that, how can I admit I never heard of him before. How?’

Echoes of Rio, Rio Revisited, Joy of Cooking, Toni Brown, Terry Garthwaite, Cass Elliot, Kathi McDonald, Insane Asylum, Bogart to Bowie, The Association, The Candymen

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every Tuesday 2019

July

Stratford Festival – Nathan The Wise

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton

August 8: Highland Arts Theatre: https://www.highlandartstheatre.com 


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September

Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

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

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Death By Proxy

Death By Proxy

I let death happen

by proxy

 

if I didn’t eat the meat

wear the shoes

would their treatment

become more humane

 

do I take a stand

no more meat

nothing with a face

search out alternatives

 

plants may have faces

that I don’t recognize

does that makes it fine

the air that I breathe

is teaming with life

the water I drink

is alive with microorganisms 

that may have faces

my vision isn’t that good

 

atomic microscopes

focus so finite 

I can’t recognize anything

but that jellyfish like shimmer

darting around other shimmers

as if afraid of being seen

shamed by our look

not ready for their close up

they aren’t animals

are they

 

is my decision that they don’t count

relevant to anything

other than another brick

in a sense of superiority

the smug comfort

of valuing all life

 

whereas people

like me who still eat meat

will always be ethically

self-indulgent creeps

who should be shamed

put to bed without any supper

or better yet

shot


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Man With A Past 1

For the summer I’m looking at my Brown Betty chapbook. All the pieces dealt duh growing up in Cape Breton. Sadly WordPress had imposed line breaks that I can’t figure out how to fix.

Man With A Past 1

I am from a cup of King Cole black tea

steeping in a Brown Betty pot
flat fried scones
burned pancakes on Sunday mornings

born in Manitoba
moved to Cape Breton before I was ten
the Cape is an island of cousins aunts uncles 

I had none
only good parents

who couldn’t protect me

from a context they wanted to fit 

I am from the rusted rain
seeded by steel plant exhaust
black pearl gritted snow
that fell in layers of grey white grey white 

my mother a Welsh war bride
a family of eleven brothers and sisters 

lots of cousins aunts uncles in-laws 

oceans too far away
to coax me into this island world 

told that not fitting in was my fault
why didn’t I try harder 

be more like other kids 

so I hid    but that’s not the point
because we all hide 

I am from an east coast pollution pulsation 

I still call home
where paying the rent and feeding the kids

was worth the cold damp steel poison price 

while the blast furnace
spewed the air
to pepper the food we ate
at night no one saw it
flood our dreams

I am from Swedes who changed
the last name of their first born to Armstrong 

a name I could never live up to
never defend in school yard brawls
would come home
with a bloodied nose   bruises
that disappointed my dad
who didn’t understand
why I couldn’t stand up for myself 

stranded on the molehill of 

growing up queer
no role models to offer hope
in a culture of judgement and fear 

so I hid   but that’s not the point 

because we all hide 

I am diverted from
the history I have
by a history that is denied to me 

when researchers into
the lives of gay men and women 

in WWII fighting forces
are asked 

why sully the memory 

of our brave men and women 

I am from an unrecorded past 

where there was no name
till what I am became labelled 

by incomprehensible fear 

the point is – I survived what past I had
by creating a self 

out of the fear and shame 

hidden in my past
but today
no longer hiding from it

I suppose from the context you know that King Cole is a black tea 🙂 It is blended for the Maritime market & first sold in 1910. It is a strong, black tea found, at one time, in nearly every Cape Breton home. Brown Betty is a common tea pot also found in many east coast homes. Traditional, functional & not ornamental. Solid. I’ve had mine for so long I don’t remember when I got it.

My mother preferred Red Rose. She was the maker of the flat, fried scones – they were almost cookies. She added raisins & pressed the thick dough with an egg flipped onto the frying pan to brown each side. Yummy with butter. My Dad was the pancake man. He would make them nearly every Sunday for us kids.

As you might conclude by now this piece is autobiographic. Full of real details & understanding. Though the understanding came years later. I don’t think my Dad realized how interconnected the families were when he settled us in Sydney. All my cousins were in Wales. I couldn’t visit them after school, or stay with an aunt for a weekend. Fitting in was my problem not theirs.

The main industry in Sydney was the steel plant. As the piece says it belched clouds of smoke regularly. Sometime white, sometimes black, sometimes grey. In school we were taught how steel was made but it was never explained to us what this smoke was made up of – clearly it wasn’t just steam. Years later, when the Steel Plant closed it was revealed how dangerous this was & how poised even the soil in areas closest to the plant were.

But that’s not the point of this piece – except that it was merely one of the secrets hidden like the the secrets I kept hidden. Looking back I see how isolated I was in this culture – on that molehill – knowing my queer secret & the shame that forced me to keep it. 

 

The WWII book is Paul Jackson’s excellent One Of The Boys. He had to deal with this attitude of ‘why sully’ while doing is research. The ‘why sully’ still exists when it comes to allowing queer representation to be part of my history. It was only recently that Tchaikovsky’s love letters were allowed to be published. That they weren’t destroyed at the time – which happened to many ‘creatives’ though history – is a surprise. My ‘love letters’ will live forever thanks to the Internet 🙂 There is no hiding here.


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Jethro Tull


I am amused by the press Lizzo gets for bringing the flute into pop music when decades ago Jethro Tull brought flute into pop in a bigger way. Sure Moody Blues used it occasionally but never the same driving way Ian Anderson did. I played those early lps constantly. I loved the scraggy hippy look the band embraced which was a strong contrast to the complex blues baroque jazz pop music they  produced.

I have stand alone’s This Was, Stand Up, Aqualung, Thick As A Brick. In mp3 collections Benefit, A Passion Play, War Child – plus another version of Aqualung that has been remastered etc. All with various bonus tracks & interviews. I had all as lp at one time & gradually replaced them with either cd or mp3 versions.

Tull was the epitome of progrock without delving too much is not the classical end of things, sure there is enough of that but they weren’t flaunting it, the way ELP did. Lyrically the songs were about love, the system, war. Two lps Thick as a Brick (inspiration for Another Brick In The Wall?) & A Passion Play – are two long suites – with mp3 one gets to hear these without having to turn over the lp :-). Brick is commentary on British class & schools, Passion is a fun mess & includes a rather twee fairy tale in the middle of it. Both lapse into British music hall at times.

Later lps – War Child, Songs from the Wood are good with real social commentary & the band is drifting into Celtic folk territory more & more. If you are unfamiliar with Tull start with This was or Stand Up.


On the mp3 collection I’ve added Noel Harrison: Collage – sweet nostalgia for me. Maggie Bell: Queen of the Night, Suicide Sal – bluesy work by a British Maria Muldaur – adult pop. I rounded out this mp3 collection with the classic Steely Dan: Countdown to Ecstasy.

Set A Spell

‘It’s dry.’ his chair creaked as he leaned back against the sun-stripped paint in the shady part of the porch.

‘Been that way for a while now.’ The other rubbed his eyebrows.

‘Yep.’ The third rubbed his nose.

‘Looking to stay that way for awhile longer, if you ask me.’

‘Yep.’

‘Don’t need no one to tell us what’s as plain as the nose on your face.’

‘Yep. That’s right hard to miss.’ He rubbed his nose again with a small grin.

‘Not much we can do about this dry, is there?’

‘Time for …’

Silence.

The three men turned to look at the fourth. He leaned back against the porch rail and spit into the dust.

‘What! What!’ He dabbed at his mouth with the tattered almost-white hanky from his back pocket. ‘You all been thinking the same thing. I know. I can tell when that thought is in the air.’

‘Least you got enough wet in ya ta spit. Some of us aren’t so lucky.’

‘Takes more than luck.’ the first leaned out of the shade. ‘You got something up at that place of yours we don’t know about?’

‘Me? Yeah. Come on up and I’ll show you the hidden river that runs through Dust Canyon. It comes up right under my bedroom. Keeps the missus happy to be so damp all night.’

‘Good thing. Nice missus you got there.’

‘Yep. Some would envy a gal like that.’

‘Sure is dry though. Can’t remember seeing it this dry before.’

‘Years back it was bad. Real bad. That was the last time we …’ he pulled back into the shadow, took off his straw hat to fan his face.

‘You remember that?’

‘Sure enough. I was just a boy, mind you. Just old enough not to worry about being asked to participate.’

‘That was the Gimbly kid wasn’t it.’

‘Not going to say one way or the other. Can’t. Not proper to talk about that sort of stuff. Not here or now. Too much talk takes the power away from it. You understand?’

‘Yep.’ 

The heat couldn’t be avoided. The sun blistered down on the four of them. Each edged more into the scant shade the porch afforded. Time to make plans and in the heat thinking became harder, slower.

‘Can’t take much of this. It’s hot enough to set things afire.’

‘Almost. We don’t need to worry about that. Nothing left to burn. Is there?’

The four of them laughed.

A black-haired girl, about five, came out of the house with a bucket of water.

‘Ma says you might want a splash of this.’

They looked at the water. The first tickled it with his finger tips and splayed the others with it.

‘See. Told you this was the right house to come to. If anything’s gonna done. This is where we’ll find it.’

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

July

Stratford Festival – Nathan The Wise

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

September

Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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Out In The Open

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Out In The Open

I was hiding

my feelings from him

not hiding exactly

but not declaring them

not putting them into words

what was communicated in my touch

 

was that enough

did he

could he

read between the kisses

between my legs

 

was there enough

emotional import

in my smile

my eagerness

to convey 

what I was afraid 

to put into words

 

as I waited

for him to put into words

what I felt in his touch

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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