The Best

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

The Best

‘you will be my third today’

he was proud of his virility

‘I save the best for last’

I wasn’t interested in being his best

‘you have a nice ass’

 

not that I thought he was

anything more than a fun fuck

but to hear of his conquests

wasn’t impressing or arousing me

 

we’d met on line

he was a 30 something

whose nickname was blktop4u

blk meaning black

it started with him messaging me

I had glanced at his profile

even though there was no pic

it laid out the facts honestly

 

the first time we hooked up

I didn’t expect him to show

but he did

he was as he claimed to be

though his profile

didn’t say he needed to fuck

three times a day

 

that fact didn’t come out for a year

we’d meet every month or so

I’d hear about his background

but he was so fearful of identity theft

we could only make contact

via the dating site

no cell phone

no email

 

sometimes longish text chats

on the site

then he’d show up

as arranged

until one day he didn’t

he contacted me two days later

to explain

he’d had a better offer

in a deluxe condo

 

so my interest changed

next time we chatted

and he was so keen to play

I declined

I declined another two times

then said sure come on over

but if you’re a no show

it’s no go ever again

things were okay

for another year or so

but I began to discount

everything he told me

there was no truth

in the shifting life of a man

wouldn’t even tell me his name

okay until he told me

‘you will be my third today’

‘I save the best for last’

 

I declined to be part of his body count

said no

he asked why

I replied

you can’t always get what you want

then blocked him

because he wasn’t the best

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Childhood’s Swirl


For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton.

Childhood’s Swirl 

my childhood was such a swirl 

of legends superstitions and secrets

I was never sure what was real

and what was allegory

like sifting through the red bible

to find out if there was a truth 

or merely a moral

 

the village thrived on these stories

on things that would shift from fact to fancy

as if that sift was to teach 

us children something valuable

mostly it taught us fear and anxiety

 

the leaping men of the Whistling Woods

the hiding places of the traitor robins

how the moose came from the moon

all these things would haunt us as children

then amuse us as adults

 

even what we experienced

would be called in to doubt so quickly

we couldn’t trust our senses

the Bishop would try to teach us

what he was taught

when he could remember it

the choir would sing without knowing the notes

 

it did teach me

that with the grace of the moose

one could experience doubt and survive

one could sing without knowing the notes

and become a multimillionaire pop star

just because some talk show host

saw your video on line

and thought your hair looked terrific

When you realized Santa Claus wasn’t real did you think: I’m growing up – or: what else have my parents been lying to me about? This the sort of swirl my hero is reflecting on as he reflects on his village past. The secret of Santa was that this legend oils the wheels of commerce. One of those secrets that some people never realize. It was also a way of manipulating children with guilt.

Fairy tales that were to entertain us as children were ways of teaching us that all old women were witches and not to trusted. That gallant men would always save us if, in the case of girls, they were pretty enough. Those tales showed boys that only through over coming the giant could we be victorious. Winning was proof of masculinity, being rescued was proof of being femininity.

“even what we experienced/would be called in to doubt.”  I can’t imagine the uncertainty children grow up in today when a politician can blithely deny saying something that he said in an interview. People with ‘truth’ are accused of being unfair for insisting on that truth. Making someone accountable  for their actions turns them into victims. To correct someone’s spelling is now elitist.

 

It ends with our hero being more than a little bitter about the nature of fame and how to acquire it. In a world were working hard is supposed to be the road to success it often is merely the road to working hard. In reality there are no multimillionaire pop star who can’t sing, who rely on their great hair to as the ladder to success. A sly nod to yet another myth – Rapunzel. 

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Chapter XX – Birk Catches A Fish

Coal Dusters

Chapter XX

Birk Catches A Fish

“The crying’s coming from over there.” Birk nodded to a nearby back garden.

They walked over to a fence covered with sweet pea vines. A woman sitting on a bench in the corner of the garden was sobbing.

“Why, miss, what is the matter?” Clancy asked.

When she looked up Birk recognized her. “Ah tis her.”

He saw the bruise on her face and though she explained it as some sort of accident she caused herself he didn’t believe her.

“Come on, Clancy we best be on our way.” Birk didn’t feel comfortable in this part of the town and especially talking with with someone in the priest’s yard. After the way they had led on Manny last night he didn’t want to add anything to that fire.

 

They continued on their way.

“Burns me up,” Clancy kicked a stone on the path. “See a woman treated that way. Any man that’d do that don’ deserve to live.”

“We sees it often enough around though don’t we. Ma says it’s a sin but a good man’s fault too. Some wives can’t keep their mouth shut when a man needs a bit of quiet. I hear that in the house next to ours. He says ‘Give me a bit of rest’. She says ‘Rest! I got them kids all day, I needs the rest.’ And the next thing you know – bam.” He hit the palm of his left hand with his right fist.

“Not right.” Clancy shook his head.

“Another reason fer me not to get married. You see how fast I can be with m’ fists.”

“Yeh but who’d want to hurt her? Surely not Father Patrick, a man of God would never do that sort of thing.”

“True. Maybe she was speaking the truth. Ma slipped in the kitchen once’t and hit her face some hard on the table. Most knocked herself out. Bruise was bad for days after that. Everyone thought Blackie done give her a whooping.”

“Yeh but …”

“Funny thing to see her right after Manny jumping to defend her honour against us.” Birk said.

“It’s a sign or something do you think?”

“A keep away sign, if you ask me.”

It took them another half hour to get to Blue Lake.

“It isn’t a full lake, ya see. River starts somewhere in the hills there.” Birk pointed to some distant mountains. “There’s rapids along not too far that cuts it off, makes it swells up here before turning back into the river. Best place for fishin’ is along here.”

They went along the rocky shore of the lake. Then walked through a patch of purple wild flowers and scared a rabbit into the open. Some ducks squawked and swam away from the shore.

“Gramp Dusty used to bring me and Geo along t’ here. Dusty lost an arm in the mines and two fingers off’n his other hand – wasn’t much he could do after awhile but he kept busy lookin’ after us boys. He always said we was more than a handful. That’d alway make us laugh ‘cause he didn’t have hands. But he could sure catch fish.”

“Gramp Dusty was your father’s father.”

“That’s right. Lost the fingers when he was about my age. Crushed in a rock fall. But didn’t stop him from becoming the best fuse man they had. Then one shift he’d set the fuse and it didn’t go off. They waited long enough and he went back to check and boom!” Birk had held his hands apart as if he was holding a ball then threw them apart when he said ‘boom.’ “Not a chance to think of gettin’ away.”

“Don’t expect I’ll want to be a fuse man any time soon.” Clancy scratched his forearm. “Even it does pay more.”

“Company pensioned him off with hardly anything. He taught us all how to cast and fish though.”

They climbed over a small rocky bluff above a cove that was sheltered by maples and willows. There was a trail that lead down to the lake.

“This is best spot.” Birk pulled off his boots and socks. Slipped a basket across his chest to hold the fish he caught. He rolled up his pant legs and waded into the lake. 

“Cold?”

“No worse ’en the wash tubs at the mine.” he said. He cast his line, pulled it back, cast it again. “Gramp Dusty taught us this way to give the impression of a fly flying.”

Clancy waded out a few yards to Birk’s left. “Ya think she’ll remember who we are?”

“She? Ya mean that Boston gal. Maybe.” There was a yank on his line. “Got something.”

He let the line play a little then pulled it back. The fish darted up into the air trying to escape. Birk let it have its head then begin to pull it back in again. 

“Just a brook trout but got some fight, eh?” Birk grinned as he dropped the speckled fish into the basket around his belly.

With an hour they had caught a dozen fish between the two of them. Birk catching the most. Most were trout but here were a couple of smallmouth bass.

“How you tell ‘em apart?” Clancy asked.

“Can’t till we lands ‘em. Bass shaped a different. Trout’s got spots. Ma’ll be pleased with these. We’ll save the bass for her.”

“I’ll be pleased with these. Don’t care what yer mother thinks.”

Clancy found some dry scrub brush and started a small fire. 

“Let’s see if I’m a better cook than a fisherman.” He gutted and cleaned two of the smaller trout and speared them with a branch and held them over the fire, a little out of the flames.

“A grand day.” Birk laid back on the rocks and shaded his eyes with his forearm.

“Yes.”

“How did you end up here in Castleton?” He rolled over to watch Clancy turning the fish carefully to cook them.

“Took the train.”

“Yeh, I know that, but why here? You could a gone anywhere, Halifax even Montreal.”

“When my Da died I knew I had to something. I was still in school, you see, doing pretty good.”

“School? How far did ya get.”

“Grade ten. Graduated that but with my Dad gone and us needed something, I knew I had to do something for my mother and sister. Not that they needed much. My mother comes from good folks. She went back to their farm. I didn’t see myself working in some farm so I set out.”

“Yeh, but with schooling you could be doing more than raking coal. You could be one of them clerks, even an engineer like Blackie. Why break your back.”

“I had to prove to myself that I could do it.”

“I sees that. Wished I stayed for more schoolin’ though.”

“Suppose it was different for you though. Not much opportunity for anything else, eh?”

“Once a miner’s son always a miner. I knew I was going to follower me Dad as he followed Gramp Dusty into the pits. Not the same pits mind you but coal’s in the blood. No need to decide anything.”

“These are ready.” He pushed one of the charred fish onto a piece of bread and handed it to Birk.

Birk took a bite. “Not bad.”

“Nothing beats fresh air and sun to make a bad cook job taste the best thing you ever ate.” Clancy laughed. He took off his shirt. “Sun feels good.”

“Yeh.” Birk finished his fish. “Yer right about sun being the best salt.”

“You saying you didn’t enjoy my cooking?” Clancy swatted at Birk’s bare back.

“The branch might’ve tasted better.” Birk joked.

“You …” Clancy rolled on top of Birk and they wrestled each other.

It started playful but became serious as each refused to surrender to the other.

“Think you tough, ya mine rat.”

“Tougher than some soft arse like yourself.”

Unaware they rolled into the embers of the fire.

“Ouch. Ouch. Yer burning the hair off m’back.” Birk shoved Clancy off himself and jumped up. He dashed to the lake and dove in.

Clancy followed suit.

“Whoa that’s cold water.”

“Not too bad once you get ducked under.” Birk jumped on Clancy and pushed him under then released him.

Clancy surfaced sputtering water. “Guess I had that coming. Turn around I see how bad the burns are.”

Birk turned. He could feel Clancy’s fingers as they pushed his hair.

“A bit red.” He shivered. “Too cold to say in this water though.”

He went back to the rocks and peeled off his pants and under drawers and put them to dry in the sun. Birk did the same. They lay back on the sun warmed rocks using their dry shirts as pillows.

“This is the life.” Birk sighed. “Can’t remember having a quiet day away from the mines.”

“Think I’d rather be spending it with that priest’s niece though.” Clancy said.

“You got that gal stuck in your mind. You never seen a pretty gal before or what?”

“Sure but there’s something about her. I can’t say what though. She goes from my mind to down here.” Clancy put his hand between his own legs.

Birk glanced over and saw that Clancy was handling his manhood.

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Bricks to Banksy 

Somehow I lost the notes I took at the Hot Damn! Showcase as part of Unit2’s Bricks & Glitter queer festival 😦 https://www.facebook.com/bricksandglitter/ So what I may quote from the show come entirely from my memory. One thing burned in my memory from the night is the actual getting to the west-end location on Stirling Road. Google was helpful to a degree, it got me in the right direction 🙂 The heat was intense, which wasn’t helped by a text message from a FB wanting to play that night. 

I gave myself time to get lost, which I did but I quickly got back on the right track. I have never been in this area, near Lansdowne. It is a simmering art warehouse district. One was dedicated to a Banksy show, a parking lot was set up as a sit-down outdoor movie theatre. A Museum Of Contemporary Art is being built. The House of Anansi  is nestled beside a craft brewery.

I found Unit2 easily & stepped back into my Cape Breton past. In Sydney friends of mine had gotten a grant to set up a store front children’s theatre for the summer. They made puppets, did show there & in playgrounds. Unit2 had that feeling of repurposed space, not finished or polished, of people working together for change, as opposed to profits. I felt more at home than I expected. In some ways it was like being in a large rec room to watch friends perform.

The showcase was excellent. Charlie Petch opened, as they do the ‘real’ show, with acknowledging the stolen land we are on & then played the Damn! anthem, on the saw. First feature was D’Scribe: ‘I pretended my parents loved me.’ I’ve seen him perform many times now & each time I have been caught up in his vision & struggles.

Charlie did the second set in which they gave us samples of Mel Malarkey, & Daughter Of Geppetto. They also did an amazing grief piece with live multilayered vocals, sound fx that invited the audience in to experience their own feeling of personal grief & loss after the recent Danforth mass shooting. It was a performance that transcended language & took us into pure emotion.

Sadly it was getting too late for me so I left before seeing Truth Is … I wanted to be home by 11 & to bed by midnight. It was a fine show & makes me eager for the start of Hot Damn!’s season 5 this fall at Buddies in Bad Times.

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The Maple Mantras


For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton.

The Maple Mantras

Juck Jackson

the greatest living Canadian poet

came to our village

as part of his mission

to use his reputation

to close down fission plants

everywhere in the world 

he wanted world peace

he dreamed of golden sunsets 

unlike the ones we now had 

of mustard smeared ketchup 

suns sinking down in shame

as he said in one of his poems

in his collection ‘The Maple Mantras’

that had won more prizes

than you could wrap around a strip pole

Booker, Griffin, Governor General

Lambda, Nobel

 

Juck Jackson

the greatest living Canadian poet

arrived on a rainy day

he refused to step into the rain

lest the chemicals it has absorbed

for the fission plant

sullied his skin

as he wrote

the rain is the carrier

of progress’s pernicious poison

 

when he appeared to the public

the following day exactly at 12:15

he was wearing

the golden hazmat suit embroidered 

with red gulls and beaded maple leaves

his shimmered like an apparition

in the relentless afternoon sun

from one of his pockets

he took an actual maple leaf

he held it over his head

this is not a maple leaf’

he declared

‘this is our nation

 

I was shaken to my core

the use of image and language

changed how I saw the world

how I saw myself

 

‘when ever you see

a mottled maple leaf

when ever you see the moose

you will be not be seeing 

a leaf or a moose

you will be seeing yourself

these are Gaia mirrors of your soul

 

I looked around me

at the crowd filled stadium

these were longer people to me

familiar faces ceased to be memory 

they became chains

to hold me here

that kept me from

flying on the wind like a leaf

it was then I decided

it was time to leave my village 

to leave the island of isolation

 

in the dark of a strip club

I cornered Juck Jackson

freed him from his hazmat suit

to thank him for the revelation 

of his maple mantras

‘yes fly young man’

he said once he had confirmed 

by touch that I was a man

‘you can find a way

but I cannot help you

my funds are limited 

I only have a tiny apartment 

in the big city

too many people want 

what I cannot afford to give

I hope you have purchased 

a copy of my Maple Mantras

for an extra $5 I will autograph 

it with my blood’

 

I left him there

feeling his hands

still on my body

his kisses on my lips

knowing they were the taste

of the future

There is no Juck Jackson ‘any resemblance to any person, poet living or dead is not intended or should be inferred’ 🙂 But he does represent an archetype. The name is unreal as well but I wanted something sounded ultra-Canadian yet slightly pretentious – I think Juck does that, it sounds like Jack & joke at the same time. 

Growing up in the east coast I don’t think we were ever visited by a great Canadian poet though. If we were they confined themselves to higher academies of learning than high school. We did get visits by Don Gillies – who would choreograph Rotary shows. (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0319174/) Though when I attended some writer’s workshops at UNB I did get to meet some literary stars, the most notable being Alden Nowlan. 

His mission to create change via his reputation is real enough as so many ‘noted’ writer, movie stars, use their fame to bring attention to noble causes. I’m commenting sardonically about the real lack of power poets have regardless of their awards. Awards that rarely result in profit, but maybe the opportunity to teach courses in creativity. The poetry quotes are fiction but reflect a type of Canadian many find worthy of awards. I love his hazmat dash of glamour.

Juck’s visit to the village is chance to sell more of his books while protesting the fission plant. Like my hero my decision to leave was based on freeing myself from my growing isolation in Cape Breton. My example was more of other’s who had left to pursue opportunity, to capitalize on their village success. I’m thinking of a man who won a play festival, went to Toronto & sort of vanished. I did run into him & he was plugging away in the theatre scene & living in a tiny apartment. 

 

Nearly every work of fiction I have read about writers visiting small towns had included their sexual dalliances with locals – cis-hetero conquerers so I had to have Juck get lucky with my hero but I wanted to keep than within the odd naive point of view of my hero. A hero, like me, knowing that kisses were the taste of a future worth pursuing.

 

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Outsider

On a recent Disability After Dark podcast Andrew Gurza talks with his new research assistant Rae. Both of them talk candidly about the layers of ‘outsider’ they have & still do experience as a result of many factors involving their disabilities. Having spent the first ten years of my life on the move as my Dad’s job took us from Manitoba to the east coast & ultimately to Sydney in Cape Breton, I certainly experienced being an ‘outsider.’

Even in Sydney there was three moves before we settled into a house we called home (which is still in the family). On top of which my mother returned to Wales regularly in the summer to visit with her family taking me with her. I was never like other kids wherever I was.

I put a lot of energy into being normal enough to get along with adults, kids, teachers & never felt I was succeeding. Not that I knew what success was supposed to be. Good marks? Lots of playmates? A girlfriend? Being invisible seemed like a good option. I am not disabled in the clear way Andrew is but I can sense the complexity of his need to be accepted for who he is but not knowing who to do that in the lgbtq+ world, let alone the world outside that. 

Albert Camus says in The Stranger: “Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” I didn’t realize how much energy I put into being seen as normal until I said ‘Fuck it” – I’ve done all I can & it hasn’t happened yet. I certainly tried all the things that to make me attractive, desirable, acceptable and I was usually left disappointed & even a little bitter. 

Things like free-weights, good hair products, name-brand jeans with the perfect tee-shirt for bar appeal. When I stopped doing that for others but for myself I felt free. Not that I don’t work out enough, or enjoying looking presentable but the fact is I’ll be that hot gay guy I was sure everyone wanted. I became comfortable in my own skin.

But I don’t have to face the same struggles for even accessibility that Andrew does. I can walk up the stairs to get to the dance floor. 

Oogie Inferno 

if you’re thinkin’ I’m too old to boogie

boy oh boy have I got news for you

I love the sweaty potential of the dance floor 

the solid mass of men mobile   shifting

eagerly crammed    crowded by the bass line

the righteous revival fever of a contralto

everybody here tonight must boogie

 

let me tell ya

I was no exception to the rule

the heat was on (burnin’) rising to the top, huh!

eyes closed   hands open

shirtless strutters in sweat soaked satin shorts

muscles    bloated bellies   

a man spinning his wheelchair in circles

no one cares

as flesh wound around  pulled by the driving

boogie oogie oogie

 

an endless moment of contact high

thigh to thigh contact

the heat was on, rising to the top

where the keyboard was underfoot

put your feet to the beat

peak after peak of solid state sweat

turn this beat around

no voice heard that wasn’t amplified

no time to waste, let’s get this show on the road

listen to the music and let our bodies flow

yowsa yowsa yowsa    dance dance dance

shame shame shame  ga ga ooh la la

we were shimmering glittering

ready to take on the future    beep beep toot toot

 

I love the moment of stepping into the mass

the sooner I begin 

the longer I’ve got to groove

listen to the music and let bodies move

make a space for myself

get approving once overs

then not care who’s lookin’

but when my spark got hot

I heard somebody say

burn baby burnin’ the house down

gonna boogie oogie oogie

till you just can’t boogie no more

 

I love the blur as I am transported 

out the body   out of the mind

satisfaction (uhu huh huh) in the chain reaction

released from all sense of self

except for the one caught     immersed 

push push in the bush bush

lost for hours

boogie oogie oogie

 

taking a breather wet glistening

asked what are you on

my nothing being disbelieved

as if the music and testosterone  

aren’t enough for me to

burn that cocksucker down

because have I got news for you

this could be the last dance

last chance for a bad romance

everybody here tonight must 

boogie oogie oogie

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September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe


2019

June 8/9 – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked) capfireslam.org 

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Fambrough, First House and Jazz Psychedelia

Some jazz is defined by the record label. One knew what to expect from Riverside, World Pacific, Blue Note, ECM or CTI. Each presented different niches of jazz. Though sometimes there would a slight step into one another territory.

I have a stand-alones two Charles Fambrough: The Charmer; The Proper Angle both on CTI (Creed Taylor) – I bought is at a dollar store for a dollar each. I late found out that CTI went out business & thus their stock was sold off & some of it ended up in dollar stores as opposed to record stores. I also picked up some Larry Coryell as a result of this sell off. I later saw the Fambrough at full price at HMV.

Anyway the music itself is solid acoustic jazz & so has a timelessness about it. Fambrough plays bass well. His sidemen change from cd to cd but he’s working with top-of-the-line performers. Not overly challenging but definitely not easy listening either. Tasteful & good beginner listening jazz.

I have this stand-alone by a British group I’d never heard of before: First House: Erendira on ECM – there was time I’d buy anything on ECM. The label specialized in chamber jazz – slightly experimental work by the likes Keith Jarrett, Jackie DeJohnette & many many others. All of which I loved & still enjoy a lot. So I wasn’t really taking a chance on First House. The music is progressive jazz with a few dissident moments making a bit more challenging that a lot fo EMV releases. I picked up 2nd hand & am happy whenever it comes up my play rotation.

Finally some lp to cd transfer of a pair of World Pacific lps that I bought on the east coast as delete at Zeller’s or Woolco.  Eddie Fisher Quintet: The First Cup; Wilbert Longmire: Revolution. Both of these guitarists blend jazz, soul, blues, funk and a touch of psychedelia in originals & cover versions of late 60’s hits. Longmire does a sweet version of the Beatles’ Revolution. Both verge on instrumental but their guitar playing elevates them beyond lounge. Think Wes Montgomery but funkier.

Monitor

With a sweep of her hand windows around her shattered into tiny fragments. Not shards, not cracking, creaking but crumbling into a coarse ground glass like diamonds. She turned several times, fingers open wide, arm muscles bulging, the veins standing out along  her wrist and the back of her hand.

‘You see!’ she stopped as suddenly as she had started. ‘To resist is futile.’

‘To capitulate is equally as futile.’

‘Then you leave me no alternative.’

She clapped her hands together. With each clap the sound became deeper. Blood spurted from ears and noses to mix the with the ground glass.

‘I have only just begun.’ She walked a few steps to the front of the embankment. The water in the stream began to ripple faster. ‘You have no way to resist. Why not capitulate. No harm can come of it.’

‘This is harm enough. Cease or be ceased.’ A fist raised up to her. Frail and pale. The veins blue and thin under the skin. The fingers slowly opened. One by one. Each with a small creak. In the palm was a pink stone.

‘Ho ho.’ She reached out to it. ‘You have The Pink. You think that can help you.’

The stone leapt into the air before her. She reached out and crushed it.

‘You see! You all see! You have no defence against me. You have wasted your strength on useless resistance. It is hardly worth my effort now to conquer.’

She rubbed the palm of her hand against her cloak. It stung where The Pink had been crushed. Where she rubbed left a thin blood print.

‘It will not even be worth my while to monitor your obedience.’ Her breath became short.

‘What?’ She moved unsteadily toward the stream.

She stopped and spread open her palms. ‘Oh you fools! Fools. You attempt this little ploy.’

She spat on the red boundary of the crushed Pink. It became blue. The small shards of the pink danced out of her skin. her breathe became normal. She laughed.

‘Such a foe. Such a puny foe.’

Her laughter rocked through the very soil, buildings crumbled, became dust as her body floated into the air.

‘Farewell.’

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every Tuesday

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September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

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I Fly

As much as I miss the comfort of my little bed in Toronto leaving DC is always a little sad. I’m not sure why, as I haven’t made any real human connections there outside of the Capturing Fire clan & even those I only see during the Fire – they have busy lives & often are so into the friends they already have there’s no opening for someone they may never see again.

Final morning was my DC routine, breakfast in the room, Dupont club at 9:30. Excellent Bagel from Bagel … Etc. I’ll keep them in mind for next year. Ate that checking email. Check out at 12, but wifi off at 11 for some reason. Got packed in record time without the wifi distraction.

Taxi to the airport was ‘interesting’ thanks to construction detours & the Capitol’s Stanley Cup victory parade. I particularly enjoyed President Trump thanking the people for congratulating him on scoring the winning goal. No one would call him a sore winner. I take taxi, as opposed to shuttle, because it is faster & cheaper. Last time I ordered a shuttle it arrived an hour late by which time I was already at the airport.

As I said everything went smoothly. Check in was longish, but such is life. The Reagan is a pretty airport. I had my annual Dunkin’ Donuts. Asked for old fashioned glazed twice & when I sat to enjoy it found that I had been given something else. The banal coffee has caffeine in it. Found my gate – it was in another part of the terminal. so had to take a shuttle there, got checked in once again & assigned a seat -18A. Jumped into another shuttle to the plane. Five minute delay there as the flight was awaiting stewardess. 

Boarded & like my flight there it was a three seat wide plane, Two on one side of the aisle, one on the other. 18A was the final seat, a single & right by the washroom – which gave me the opportunity for a sky-high washroom selfie. Flight was just over an hour. Smooth skies. Arrival was trouble free except we were at farthest of the Person terminal. the exiting the plane, walking to customs & finally exiting to arrivals took nearly as long as the flight itself 🙂 As much a love flying I hate lugging shoulder bag, carry on (with all my vital cables for recharging phone, cameras, airmac – as well as upload cables for those cameras. A day at a time I can’t wait for next year.

Coal Dusters – Chapter XI – Birk Takes A Bath

Chapter XI

Birk Takes A Bath

Birk and Clancy went into the back yard. The shed door was stuck.

“Winter does that. Sometimes when we open it in the spring there’s been red squirrels living in here.”

He gave it a hard pull to drag it open. The bottom was mired in the ground. Clancy grabbed a shovel by the door and dug away enough of the mud for the door to open.

The inside of the shed smelled of mud, oily rags and cedar. There was a wooden tool box with some hammers and screw drivers.

This’ll do it.” Birk hefted the box. “Garb that jar of nails .”

“So, Birk, you aren’t sweet on some gal?” Clancy asked as they worked on the bench. It needed a new back and one of the legs was out of place.

“Me? There’s better things for a man to do than botherin’ some frail thing.”

“Frail thing?” Clancy laughed.

“That’s what Ma says. Most women are frail things who need protecting from the needs of men. They marry sure, but only to do their duty by us. Expecting more than that isn’t Godly.”

“And what is their duty?”

“Keep the house. Bring some children into the world.”

“I see.” Clancy chuckled. “So you never look at a gal and wonder?”

“Wonder what?”

“How she might look under those clothes?”

Birk dropped the board they were nailing.

“That talk isn’t welcome here. No gal wants a man to think that! It isn’t fitting, proper. It is, what Ma would call, an insult to those who count on us to protect them from those who would think of them in that common way. If you are one of those disrespecters you won’t last another minute in our house. Ma won’t have it.” He started toward the house.

“Wait. I’m joshing you.” Clancy grabbed his arm.

“You better be.”

“You ever talk this way before. I mean about the … frails?”

“Tisn’t fit conversation for Godly people.” Birk’s face reddened.

“So you have.”

“I hear the men go on at wash up. Not fittin’ for me to say anything. I’ve heard enough in the church about not polluting yourself. It isn’t right. I know that. But …”

“What?”

“I once kissed a gal.”

“Once?”

“Yeh. A couple of years ago at the church picnic, me and Grace had been setting together. Talking about stuff. She wanted to know what it was to be in the mine and me so young. Made me feel I was a proper man to be talking to her about such things. When I showed her how strong I was and how tough the skin on m’hands is. She was feeling the calluses and almost crying then she kissed me.”

“In front of everyone?”

“No! We was by ourselves in the shade on the church steps. But my Ma saw and wailed the tar out of me. Wasn’t as if I was offering Grace any disrespect.”

“Where did she kiss you?”

“I told ya! On the church steps.”

“No! I mean, was it on the cheek?”

“Oh no. On the mouth. Sweet taste she had too. Same as the apple’s we’d been eating.” Birk touched his lips. “But I learned.” He rubbed his backside. “You have to be on guard all the time. It’s best if you don’t look at ‘em for long.”

They uprighted the bench that they had flipped over to fix the loose leg.

“Good as new.” Clancy said.

The afternoon was hot. Birk wiped at the sweat on his forehead and around his neck. He was used the sweating in the mine. It was odd not to be wiping off the grit of coal. He rubbed at his chin, this would have been a shave day after his shift.

“Don’t sweat like this in the pit.” He said to Clancy. “Flows free without that dust to hold it down.”

“True. So this is what what day light looks like? I only remember it dimly.”

His mother came out in the yard carrying Sal in her arms. Maddy carrying Sal’s doll and the A B C book.

“You men have done a fine job.” She set Sal on the bench.

Birk bent to kiss her but she pushed him away. “Go way with you! You stink of the coal.”

“He sure do.” Maddy curled up her nose.

His mother laughed. “Those girls got a better nose than me. I get used to.”

Sal sniffed at Clancy. “But he don’t. Didn’t you wash up before you came home?”

“Men was dying in the mines. Getting out alive was more important than washing up.”

She began to tear up.

“So this is the thanks we get for fixing this bench for you, m’lady. Sorry if don’t smell as sweet as some.”

He went into the house. Clancy followed him.

“She’s only a child, Birk.” he said.

“I knows that but …”

“And she is right. You do smell a bit ripe.”

“I washes up after every shift. Gets into the tub room there at the end of the week too, whether I needs it not. Then I give myself a good wash.”

“Once a week!”

“S’all Blackie or Geo did, far as I know.”

“Mrs. Franklin was pretty strict about that. She didn’t want no unwashed hooligans spoiling her sheets so we had to tub wash hot Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”

“What! Even if we had a tub here big’ nuf for that, we can’t heat that much water on the stove.”

“You can go to her wash house, you know. Don’t cost that much to keep clean.”

“Yah, who cares? Not as if I go visitin’ the way Geo did. Sheila made him get clean. Too clean, if ya ask me. Going get dirty all over again the next day anyway. Foolish waste of time and water and money. Not to mention water. Feedin’ the family’s more important.”

“Come on! We got time.”

“Come on where? To that wash house?”

“Yeh, you can show up at the union meetin’ tonight smelling human not the way mine rat would.”

“Ah … you’re hoping that gal will be there, right? Look we’re not micks you know. She works for that priest, she won’t take no notice of you no matter how clean you be. You’ll never wash the orange off you.”

“Look, one thing my Dad taught me, was that a man who looks after himself will get looked after by life. You treat yourself like a mine rat and people will treat you like a mine rat.”

Birk grabbed Clancy by the shirt front. “Nobody treats me like a rat. You got that. You stop calling me one or you’ll be packing that bag of yours for the graveyard.”

“Yer as mad as a mine rat too.” Clancy said as he wriggled out of Birk’s grasp. “What you afraid of? Being clean won’t make you a soft arse. Is that what you think.”

“I’m not afraid.”

“I’ll spring for it. Come on.”

“Yeh, Birk.” It was his sister Maddy in the doorway.

“How long you been there?” Birk asked.

“Long enough to be tired of you stinking all the time.”

“Why you …” he stepped toward her. 

“Come on.” Clancy stopped him. “Do it for your sisters. Let them see what you hide under all that coal dust.”

“Very well then. But I’m not using any of that fancy smelling soap. You hear.”

“You got a clean shirt and under drawers?” Clancy asked.

“Course I do.” Birk started up the stairs. “Socks too, before you ask. Only wore once this week.”

“You mean that pair I smelled when I was putting my stuff away in the room.” Clancy winked at Maddy.

“Yeah. Them.” Birk stomped up the steps.

“Guess we can give them a soak too while we’re at it.” Clancy called up after him. “Bring your shavin’ gear as well.” 

Clancy followed him up to the room to get some clean clothes for himself.

The sign over the door said ‘Salon De Bain.’ Mrs. Franklin had converted the old hotel’s former stables into a wash house. It had three tubs in it separated by thin wooden panels. She had a separate boiler to make sure there was ample hot water for her boarders or for those who didn’t have a facility at home. Most of the miner’s company houses hadn’t much more than a rudimentary washroom. The wash tub used for clothes often doubled as the wash tub for family members.

“Salon de …?” Birk asked.

“Yeh, a bit for French to make a bathtub sound more fancy than it is.” Clancy explained. 

Clancy showed Birk where to hang up his clothes while the tubs filled with hot for them. Birk sniffed the various soaps that were there and picked one that had the least sweet smell to it.

The walls were decorated with pictures cut from newspapers and magazines of women in corsets, some on stage, some pulling up hose along with pictures of George V and his wife Mary. There was even one the prime minister Mckenzie King that someone had drawn a moustache over his moustache.

“You used a tub before I hope?” Clancy joked.

“Sure, the ones at the mine wash up. They aren’t much like these though.”

Mrs. Franklin’s tubs were large claw-foot tubs painted black on the outside and were gleaming white on the inside. Birk had never seen such clear water as filled the tub.

“That’s about full enough.” Clancy said stepping out the the cubical and pulling the curtain shut. 

Birk quickly shed his clothes and stepped into the hot water.

“Not too hot.” Clancy asked from the adjacent cubical.

“No. It’s fine. Perfectly fine.” Birk laid back in the tub. He could hear Clancy doing the same next door.

This was a new experience for him. He’d been swimming lots of times but the lake water was never this hot. At the mine wash up there was never enough hot water for all the miners so he’d gotten used to washing as best he could in warm or even cold water.

He ducked his head under the water then lathered with one of the wash clothes Mrs. Franklin provided. He scrubbed his feet and toes harder than he never had before. The skin was always tender between the toes.

He ducked again. When he came up he was stunned to see that the once clear water was now black. He got out of the tub, dropped his socks in it and then wrung them out and began to dry off.

“You decent?” Clancy asked.

Birk pulled on his under-drawers. “Yep.”

Clancy came in with a towel wrapped around his waist.

“You as white as a ghost.” Birk said. 

“You hairier than a sheep. A black sheep at that.” Clancy said. “Where’s yer razor?”
Birk handed it to him.

Clancy brushed the sharp end across his palm. “This the one you been usin ?”
“Yeh. Used ta be Geo’s.”

“You ever sharpen it?”

“Once in a while.”

“Couldn’t cut butter with this blade.” He sharpened it on the razor strop attached to the stall wall. “Now lather up.”

Birk used the soap there to lather his face. He reached for the razor.

“You sit.” Clancy had him sit on the chair where he had put his clothes.

He stood behind Birk and tilted his head back. “This’ll be a what shave is supposed to be.”

Birk resisted for a moment but let his head be pulled back. He closed his eyes as Clancy wielded the razor over his neck and under his jaw.

“By God there is a face under those whiskers.” Clancy joked.

It took him a few slow strokes to do the bulk of job followed by some faster ones to deal with what was left.

“Where you learn to do that?” Birk asked as he looked at himself in the mirror.

“My pa was often too drunk to shave himself. Job fell to me.” he handed Birk a small bottle. “Splash this on.”

“What’s it? Geo’s toilet water made me sick to smell it.”

“Rosewater.”

Birk patted a bit on his face. It stung then quickly soothed his bare skin.

“Not too bad.” Birk handed the bottle back to him.

“Before you get dressed you better give this a scrub too.” Clancy pointed to the tub.

Birk blushed as he saw the grey sludge that coated the once sparkling white tub.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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From CupCakes to Pride Parades

A full day of presentations, workshops, a cup cake and a Pride parade – what more could one ask for 🙂 I sometimes try to pace myself – no back to back sessions but this year I did four in a row starting at 11:15 & finishing around 6:15. with no real lunch break either. I was pleased with myself for getting from the Fairfax to the Woolly Mammoth with no trouble at all. The route I worked out was shorter & faster than the one suggested by Google maps. So there!

Of course I did a Starbucks stop to get a little jolt of energy. First stop at Mammoth was the washroom for a piss & a washroom selfie. Next up was a presentation of poetry as theatre – three artists gave samples of their poetry adapted for stage work. All very different & all very effecting. One saw that process challenges a poet to build a piece that can sustain itself beyond the slam time limit of 3.10 minutes. What if there was 10 minute slam? hmm.

Next was a presentation on Dangerous Art that started with a bit of art history & finished with some readings from Essex Hemphill & wrapped with some poets sharing their dangerous work. What was once considered dangerous by say Botticelli is now pretty safe stuff compared to Mapplethorpe.

Another brief lull and the session I hosted on geriatric writers over the age of 40. A fair turn out & some amazing work was shared. Clearly age doesn’t diminish but sharpens anger. I presents some of the Terra Cotta pieces & my transformation from comic queer to fuck you queer has been accomplished, though the comic hasn’t been abandoned.

Another longer lull & I got out for some sweltering weather, photos & a cup cake. Finally took in an actual hands-on writing workshop. A challenging exercise to write from the point of view of a randomly picked body part. I picked wrists. Then was partnered off with someone who had picked eyes & written about that. Then, this is a bit confusing, we each were to write a piece from our body part to their body part. I loved it.

This brought us up to after 6. I headed back to the hotel & exited into the DC Pride Parade still in full swing. How f-ing long is this parade? Pushed through the clouds of rainbows to the Fairfax. Had some water then had to go out to get to CVS for juice & a salad for my supper. Usually CVS is step out, go around the corner, cross the street & I’m there. But the streets were blocked so I had to do a circuit around & back. Lots of rainbow eye-candy – but nothing under that rainbow for me. Hey! There’s the start of a new piece – nothing under the rainbow 🙂

ages  names

44 44 58 37 49 47 50 40

 

Selim Esen

Abdulbasir Faizi

Majeed Kayhan

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam

Andrew Kinsman

Dean Lisowick

Soroush Mahmudi

Skandaraj Navaratnam

 

all men

old enough

adults

not teen-age runaways

not ‘I’ll live forever’ twenty somethings

men

one commentator said

‘who should know better’

 

all men

all found dead

two white

6 missed

2 not missed until found dead

1 unnamed even when found dead

 

7 found online

all looking for love

that isn’t clear

all looking for sex

that isn’t clear

some seeking asylum

acceptance

finding limits pushed

but not expecting

to be pushed beyond limit

 

most so fearful

of discovery

they took what they could get

without … I want to say complaint

but no one knows

no one can know

what they were looking for

what they expected

we know what they got

death

 

a talking head on TV said

‘they learned their lesson’

what lesson

that homosexual men

are all sadistic murderous predators

a cliche

once more proved valid

or

dating apps aren’t to be trusted

that searching for sex

deserves to be punished with death

that they got what they deserved

 

they deserve better

than some talking head on TV

shifting blame

from perpetrator

to the dead