Fear Walks In

Fear Walks In

some people

bring fear into a room

ideologies that I am expected

to accomodate

without knowing

<>

they prejudge me

for prejudging them

merely because of who I am

of who I appear to be to them

<>

I am an enemy on first sight

without having to say a word

or take any action

other than being there

of being unlike them

they feel unsafe

because I am not invisible

and it is my fault

<>

all my fault

for not understanding

what they haven’t told me

At a recovery meeting, when we could meet face to face, after a step had been read aloud – going from person to person around the room – a member shared on their difficulty with the hetero male normative language. When they read their section they de-gendered the language & as did some of the others who read. They implied that those of us who did not, lacked sensitivity to important gender issues. 

I gave an inner shrug – I’ve been around recovery rooms long enough that I am not unsympathetic to this but at the same time I’m in recovery to recover not to deal with linguistics or how to do the gender appropriate reading aloud of the literature. 

Referring to God as a him is off putting to some people, referring God at all is off putting to some people – if I don’t take pains to make the proper substitutions I make them feel unsafe. What can one do. Stop reading aloud? Ask for a show of hands, before reading starts, of people who feel unsafe because there are cismales in the room who don’t mind being called he? Online some people are including their pronouns as part of their names. (By the way my pronouns are it or that.)

After reading at an lgbtqia open stage an audience member spoke to me about enjoying my pieces but wondered if such sexually explicit material was appropriate because many in the community were triggered by such material. I had introduced one of pieces as being explicit but I guess I hadn’t allowed people enough time to leave the room. I’ve spent enough energy in saying my ‘partner’ & avoiding gender specific pronouns so as not to offended delicate hetero sensibilities that I’m not going spare lgbtqia by suppressing myself. I’d rather not perform than get trapped by self-censorship.

The fact is I’m not all that sensitive.

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

Nine

Nine

O when I was nine

I was still a child

there was no instant communication

news travelled slow

on the radio TV newspapers

that provided an innocence

I knew about war

because my Dad had fought in one

he was a man

my mother was a woman

I was a boy child

who only knew what the culture 

of the time

expected of my gender 

<>

O when I was nine

I did know I wasn’t like other boys

I played backlot baseball

I played with dolls

I  wasn’t the boy my dad expected

I didn’t like to fight

like other boys

I never understood 

why physical violence was required

to be accepted

<>

O when I was nine

I learned to swim

looking at the differences

between boys and girls

anatomy I didn’t understand

the boys where more interesting

I knew shame

when we were caught

I had fear

but no closet

sex was dirty regardless

of the gender of the object

<>

O when I was nine

I don’t that I was making waves

as I waded from nine to nineteen

by the time I left nineteen

I knew

these were dangerous waters

at nine there was only

the fear of getting caught

not the fear

of my culture drowning me

like an unwanted litter of kittens

I heard on a TV documentary about children that our sense of self was basically formed by the time we are ten years old. By then we have absorbed the ‘teachings’ of TV behaviours that inform our subconscious. So, back in the day, I was aware of what the culture of the time expected of my gender. I was also aware that it wasn’t the right fit but I hadn’t developed the language for that beyond feeling it was the wrong fit. Today thanks to instant communication children have a greater knowledge of gender variations. I doubt that at the age of five I would have understood what a faggot was, children today do know what it means. 

Where was I when I was nine? We had just settled in Sydney, Cape Breton after moving across Canada for a couple years. My mother & I had spent some time with her family in Wales during this time as well. I remember ‘living’ in Moncton, Stellerton or was it Truro for short periods of time & going to schools there, briefly. Finally in Sydney, were we lived in three different neighbourhoods before my dad bought a house in Ashby.

One result was that I spent those formative years as a displaced person – someone who was different. My Dad prodded me into things that could show me how to ‘fit in’: cub scouts, YMCA. I did the best I could but felt like an outsider &, as I recall, was fine with that. I did get these weird mixed messages ‘why can’t you be like other kids’ then when I wanted some fad item ‘why can’t you think for yourself.’

I survived partially by hiding in booze & partially by writing & painting as I gradually found language for what I was. Though then that language was loaded – an abomination unto the Lord – sort of stuff. Today I know the tragic flaw wasn’t my sexuality but the way culture regarded not only lgbtq but sexuality itself.


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

Elevator

Elevator  

the elevator door opened

there was a woman

alone

she stepped back

to let me enter

I didn’t get on

I let the door shut

so she could continue

her ride alone

I live a relatively insular life – social distancing was fairly easy for me even before covid19 made is culturally appropriate. My social interactions are limited to clerks & fellow travellers on the recovery road. That being said I am aware of the complexity of gender relationships, of the cultural context of masculinity, femininity, race.

I’m not sure what sparked this particular moment. The pācittiya spoke to not being alone with a woman & this is where it lead me. For the monks I suppose it was to keep them pure, untainted by temptation – because, clearly men cannot control their sexual urges & avoidance is the only solution. The same sort of reasoning was behind sexually segregated schools.

Rather than men having to exercise restraint just keep the bait out of sight. If they should get at it, it’s not their fault, it’s biology etc. For me some of this comes from our the dichotomy of our sex-o-phobic culture. Look but don’t lust – lust but don’t touch. If you don’t touch what’s your problem?

I’ve heard female friends talk about not feeling safe just walking cross the street after dark, feeling paranoid getting in an elevator with a male they don’t know. I’m glad I don’t have to live in that persistent undercurrent. I can’t remember the last time I was in an elevator.

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

Ordinary Dress

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Ordinary Dress

I’m looking at dresses

skirts

something for me

but it’s all too fem

I wonder

why is fem a bad thing

there was a time when

nothing was too fem for a man to wear

all those portraits of men 

in wild oceans of lace

satin

brocaded jackets

did they dress like that

hanging around their homes

what did they wear

when they weren’t posing

do I want a dress

to pose

do I need something practical

utilitarian

genderless

I’m looking at vintage photos 

of men going fishing

they’re wearing shirts & ties

shirts & ties to the beach

on picnics with the family

working on the roof

I can’t remember 

the last time I wore

a shirt & tie

I’ve never worn a dress or a skirt

I don’t want to make a statement

but that is impossible

if I showed up

in acceptable formal

Henry VIII court wear

it would be a costume

how many times 

would I have to dress that way

for it to be as ordinary

as a shirt & tie

would a dress on me

ever be as ordinary

as a shirt & tie

is ordinary a bad thing

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it.

paypal.me/TOpoet 

Kiss The Monster

The Monster 

whose lips are these

did they kiss 

before they were grafted to my face

this attitude to the kiss

where did it come from

what cultural imperative 

was infused into my brain

to tell me the power of the kiss

 

I look down at this body

ruminate about this brain

all the things woven into 

my sense of self

that I don’t know were they originated

though I know they are controlled

by attitudes I can’t alter

 

the history of dominant needs

sutured to my ideologies 

as seamlessly as these lips

as these hands

which send ripples of fear

through the global villagers

 

a monster created in their minds

moving in this world

asking them

are your lips yours

or have they too been grafted

seamlessly

as you groped with those hands

(your hands?)

into adulthood

 

Stepping away from the Rules for a break 🙂 Each October I’ve been writing poetry inspired by horror movies. I’ve been a fan from an early age – ghost stories, spooky stuff had a distinct appeal for me. I can’t pin-point an actual age or movie that sparked my interest. Maybe it was ghost stories at Y camp?

 

One approach is to see the world from the creature’s point of view. This is the most famous monster of all – Frankenstien’s creation. I’ve given him a more introspective sensibility that is even present in the novel. In the book he is quite chatty & thanks to his bad brains, rather vengeful. My creature is stitched together from similar parts from movies, books & shoe-gazer angst.

He questions the sociological construct of the kiss, of the sense of self. The sort of questioning that many non-conforming gender people often go though as they sort though the history of dominant needs. LGBTQ people often end up with a sense of sexual self that they have to put together for themselves. How do you adapt this self to a culture that says self-acceptance still doesn’t change the fact that you are fucking monster that can send women & children screaming when you go to the washroom.

Part of the fear of the monster is often how it makes us question our own sense of self. Are these my lips. Is this kiss, is this gender, me or is it a cultural costume I wear to fit in, fit in so well there’s no need to make any decision. Why not accept the pre-made identity that allows us to conform so that we don’t scare even ourselves when we look into the mirror.

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

The Right Entrance

The Right Entrance

the girls

had their own school

a Catholic separate school

we’re talking 60’s – 70’s

Cape Breton

 

I don’t know if there was one

for Catholic boys

but the girls had their own

to protect them 

from the unruly attentions of boys

 

schools I went to were mixed

but there was

boys’ manual training

girls’ domestic science

separate entrances for boys for girls

mixed classes

but boys’ gym

girls’ gym

 

the best way to control

those masculine urges

was segregation

guys who got laid were men

girls who got laid were easy

girls who didn’t were teases

guys who didn’t 

bragged about doing it

or salivated endless about pussy

boobs

because they were men

 

never once

never

was there a sense

that the guys were in the wrong

it was only the girls 

who need to be protected

guys weren’t taught

to think differently

in fact

we were encouraged

to get a little

get laid

get into her panties

 

find’em

feel’em

fuck’em

forget’em

 

this was masculine prerogative

entitlement

a natural urge

that resented any attempt

to curb it

do you want your sons

to grow up to be fags

yeah sure

free and easy access

to pussy

is the cure for queer

 

yet I grew up

gay queer a fag

full of fear

yet sure of who I was

& who I wanted to have sex with

 

I tried dating

getting a little

getting a little wasn’t enough

to cure me of anything

so I forgot’em 

but I did learn 

which entrance

was right for me

This piece is a documentary. All of it is my high-school experience though some of the facts go back even further in my history. When my family moved to Cape Breton I was enrolled in a nearby school with a mixed gender & to a degree religious population. Entirely white as well I might add. Protestant with a scattering of Jewish students – who we knew were Jewish because of the many holidays they had.

It wasn’t until I got to high-school that I realized there was a separate school system for Catholics, particularly girls. Rather it was a high-school run by a teaching order of Catholic nuns. It wasn’t limited to Catholic’s as I think one of my sisters went there because it offered better secretarial training. A class that was never offered to boys – we did get an introduction to basic accounting though.

Beyond this religious segregation there was a gender divide in the rest of the school system for sports, non-academic vocational options – boys got manual training & shop; girls got domestic science & shopping. Most of the academic classes were mixed but there was separate entrances for grades & genders. 

Sydney did have a sizeable black community, as well as a large Native community – but we only saw them if our teams were playing against them. As best as I can remember there was no racial mix in my high school except for one, lone Japanese girl.

 

The four f’s ‘find’em’ was a real mantra usually used by ‘guys who didn’t but bragged about doing it’ The piece also reflects how gender doesn’t equate sexuality – that even though I had all this male behaviour example I turned out queer, having no queer male behaviour example to lure me into the unnatural side. 

The ‘entrance’ that was right for me? I’ll leave that to your imagination 🙂


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

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

The Facts of Life

The Facts of Life

I am a man

in a man’s body

there was a time

when I doubted this

a time when gender was fixed

by cultural controlled behaviours

men felt this and only this

women felt this and only this

 

to explain

variations in object desire

people were reduced

to data that was used to explain

what didn’t fit

so that men

in men’s bodies

who desired other men’s bodies

were actual women in men’s bodies

genders misplaced

trapped and looking for release

 

that a man would desire another man

could be explained

in terms of heterosexual norms

because only a woman

could would should

have sexual desire for a man

 

when I realized I desired men

I accepted that theory

I was a woman trapped in a man’s body

though it never made sense

but it was deemed more reasonable

than man to man attraction

the data proved that

yet my human experience

refused to conform to that data

 

I tried on the dress

I pushed my butch button

swagger not sashay

I couldn’t conform

or commit 

to prevailing theories of the time

 

I changed

accepted that I am is this

undefinable entity

such is life

I am a man

in a man’s body

who is attracted

to men’s bodies

I’m not a theory

merely a fact of life


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

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

Never The Man

Never The Man

if you don’t ask

you won’t get –

no one says no

if you don’t ask –

often what you get

you didn’t ask for

 

I felt

I was never the man

my father expected me to be

I was never the man

I saw on TV

in movies

I would never be up to scratch

I would always be less than

all those guys who were real men

 

I would never be a real man

with sweaty rough-and-tumble garb

of that sort of pride

would never be mine

even if I wore that garb

it would a costume

a disguise

to hide my heart

 

the man I was 

was someone 

who strove not to be defined

contained by definition

so I lost

the comfort of the acceptable

an acceptability

I never asked for

 

I felt was was never the man

my father wanted me to be

not that he wanted me to be like him

but to be the man he wanted to be

 

I was never asked

if his expectation a good fit for you

I wasn’t aware

that I could say no

or that once I started to choose

the definitions 

that I hoped would suit me

that I’d have to constantly be adjusting

to make the shoulders fit

to make the pants crease properly

but by losing the comfort of the acceptable

I found the ease of being me

 

This starts with with a variation on the internet meme – if you don’t ask the answer is always no – an exhortation to less fearful in making our hopes clearer. What troubles me about this is that it is too easy to ask for what we think our culture wants us to ask for – things that supposedly make it comfortable for everyone – or at least more comfortable for the majority.

 

I grew up with the cultural narrative of what boys are & what they want to be is men – not ‘want,’ because ‘want’ has a sense of freedom of choice. The dominating narrative is too narrow to allow for choice. Even as laws changes, morals change, the majority is so uncomfortable with changes they feel attacked not enlightened.

The man my father expected me to be was not his fault – he fought a war that defined his masculinity in a culture that equated masculinity with physical prowess. You faced violence with violence – bullies were bested & defeated. As a kid I never questioned that equation but never could face violence with violence, hence I would never be a real man. I probably hated myself more for being a ‘coward’ than for any other reason.

So growing up has been a process of recognizing, questioning and putting those heteronormative notions of masculinity in perspective – the constant adjusting of shoulders. Not something I asked for but something I couldn’t refuse to deal with either. Today I have the ease of being me, most of the time. But I know enough ‘real’ men to know even they don’t have as much ease as I do.

 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2019’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Taking the Fourth at 40

Someone asked me recently “What keeps you in these rooms after forty years?” They asked because this month (July 6) I hit the forty year point in my recovery. I get asked various forms of this question often enough & I try not to give an overly glib answer like ‘where else can i wear this shirt.’ But there is no simple answer.

Part of the why is that each year my understanding of the power of the steps deepens. Even if I ever feel bored, judgemental of members who wallow in their misery, or who quote the literature rather than share on a person level I know that those thoughts are better than being dead drunk somewhere. Actually it’s better than being dead period.

 

In Step 4 we are encouraged to make a moral inventory of ourselves (not of others). I’ve done this step a few times as a part of the process. One thing that I recently realized is that I have no morals merely a set culturally encoded behaviours that lead to acceptable behaviour – things I have conformed to without questioning. My notion of ‘moral’ was coloured, or is it discoloured, by heteronormative concepts of relationships, privilege, race, gender and consumerism. Not to overlook being labelled (or rather libelled) by a bad, but universally accepted Bible translation, as being an abomination unto the Lord.

 

So a part of recovery has been, for me, looking at how I’ve absorbed these cultural imperatives – some of which are so subtle they are absorbed without awareness – sort of like getting a tan but not seeing it until one sees the line been tanned & untanned skin. 

When I did my early inventory work things such as privilege or entitlement were certainly not on the list. That list was stuff like procrastination, lying, theft – things clearly disapproved (at the time). These days a politician can lie outright & when confronted with it become the victim of being held accountable – which is the essence of entitlement. Or expect their apology to get them off the hook for any consequences.

Sermon On A Mount of Plastic Bags

the plastic bag shall inherit the earth

it already owns the wind

the sea the shore claimed

by our need to carry crap

these bags choke India’s sacred cows

fill their intestines

but cows spew so much methane

they cause global warming

so it’s a fair trade off

fuck the ecology

I’m tired of trying to save our planet 

 

why bother reduce reuse reclaim

as much as I reduce my electric usage

my bill keeps going up

while energy honchos

make bigger and bigger profits

as they drive in fuel-efficient SUVs 

I’m told to take public transit

that if really care about our planet

I’ll only use plastic bags made in nations

that have paid carbon displacement fees

environmentalists make me sick

if they really wanted to save the planet

they’d stop shitting, breathing, breeding

 

I love the plastic bag

what would life be without it

Christ only knows

and he’s looking for one

that’ll hold lumber without breaking

won’t tear at the first rough patch

one that can handle any sharp edge

then reuse a shroud later

 

the next time that granola book store guy 

with the corporate logo on his hemp shirt

asks me do you want a bag for that

printed-on-reclaimed-non-chemically-treated-paper-with-soy-based-ink

book

I’ll say – sure buster, double bag it

fuck the ecology

I’m tired of trying to save our planet

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


http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

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

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

 

Hip To Be Them

 

Hip To Be Them

because of my entitlement

pronouns are irrelevant

but to some 

every he his him

in a text is an attack

on their identity

they feel discounted distanced

 

I could think

don’t be such sensitive

cry babies

who feel every thing in life

that doesn’t kowtow to your comfort

is an attack on your sense of self

but I accept this sense

of being made invisible

being treated as a non-person

not included 

not seeing yourself represented

in a meaningful respectful way

 

I grew up as a queer boy

who never saw otherness of any kind

represented except in a sneering way

that equated gay with feminine

setting the standard

that anything not masculine 

was not valued

 

if it wasn’t represented 

it didn’t exist

or merely wasn’t worth representing

I began to realize

that mens’ fragile masculinity

wouldn’t allow anything

to reflect on that fragile masculinity

so buddy movies always had the

culturally acceptable romance subplot

so no one could sense any homoerotic 

shenanigans were possible

between the men

 

pronouns have become relevant

definition creates awareness & possibly change

but because it’s irrelevant to me 

what pronouns anyone chooses

that doesn’t keep me from respecting

its relevance to you

I sometimes forget who has opted to be a them. I find it awkward to do a review of a poetry reading when there are assorted pronouns to deal with which them is them referring to? I try to stick to names as much possible particularly when it isn’t clear who is a they from the outset. At the Playground Conference people were given stickers to chose from – he, she, they, or ask me. I chose the ask me, but no one did. At my age one is no longer considered sexually viable & are rendered invisible – so pronouns are my irrelevant.

 

Gendered neutral language is still so tentative that using it is a political statement. I wonder if sometimes people are looking to be argumentative rather than self-defining – a sense that use of pronouns covers the itch to get into a intellectual slap fight. If one chooses to use the pronoun that goes with their cisgender, regardless of how supportive they are, they become the enemy for not shedding culturally imposed grammar.

I like the way that gender roles are being challenged by something as simple as specifying a pronoun. The reactions to this have mainly been cisgendered heterosexual men who are intrenched in their right to decide just how you are to demonstrate your gender – i.e. all gay men are limp wristed feminine punch lines to jokes. Any challenge to their entitlement turns them into self-righteous victims of the very people they want to victimize.

Fragile masculinity forces these men to say things like ‘no homo’ rather than express some sort of affection towards another men. They respect a bully and elect proudly womanizing presidents. Imagine if that president wanted to be called they – I half expect him to start using the royal we. Personally I have chosen “it” or “that” for use in my bio, or, when given the opportunity, at conferences or readings.

   

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet