That Tone Of Voice

Chalk It Up To Experience

‘don’t use that tone of voice

young man’

grade seven

the visiting maths teacher

the one the guys in the class

called blubber boobs

oh oh blubber boobs this afternoon

hope she can see my homework

over those blubber boobs of hers


she came to our school three times a week

Miss Dunlop

we also had a Mrs. DeMoine

who came twice a week

to teach us French

we called her Madam to her face

and Mizdammit behind her back

Miss Dunlop was another story

with her small waist

and gigantic breasts


she was berating me

I hadn’t written my homework

in the strict form she required

I can’t remember my reply

nor can I recall my tone of voice

perhaps I had slipped into

that school yard sexual intonation

we used when talking about her

erasing the blackboard with her boobs

there’s chalk on them there hills


I stood silent before her

after she ordered me

not to use that tone of voice

I couldn’t even apologize

not knowing how to control

how I sounded

I did know it was pointless

to ague with her

like my mother

winning wouldn’t get me anywhere

all I’d prove

was that I was a smart mouth

not that I was smart


Miss Dunlop taught me well

it’s better to be thought stupid

than it is to prove a pointless point

This is the 4th of the saṃghādisesas. It practically wrote itself. School memories are usually great to revisit, even the unpleasant ones. This one was more embarrassing than unpleasant. Like many of these  ‘true to life’ pieces it is a composite of different moments as I struggled through school. Not all of them were in Grace seven.

In Cape Breton many schools had travelling special teachers for things like maths, art, music & French. Usually female, young & sometimes pretty. Each brought different routines, different disciplinary tactics – that usually involved getting one of the male teachers to tell us to behave. The guys would always joke about these teachers breasts or lack of them. The bigger the boob the greater the respect for some reason.

I was told, more than once, to watch the tone of my voice, but many of the guys got the same command too. As I say here I just didn’t know what was meant as I couldn’t hear myself talking and once I was told to watch my tone I couldn’t hear anything else for at least ten minutes. Being singled out never helped my focus or ability to absorb information.

Being made so self-conscious opting for silence was the only choice I could think of at the time. Confrontation would only result in one of the male teachers, or the vice-principal, being called for to keep us all in line. The vice-principal was prone to giving the entire class detention not just the ‘smart mouth.’ So keeping my mouth shut was as much due to peer pressure than anything else.

One result was that I became very dismissive of my actual voice. I hated to hear recordings of myself. If you’ve been one of the fortunate ones who have seen me perform you know I got over that 🙂

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And The #Winner Is

Another season of SYTYCD crowns this year’s favourite dancer – the judges stress there are no losers, how proud they are of each of the dancers etc etc etc but I wouldn’t want to be the grief counsellor for the the top three who don’t get crowned. It’s always a matter of personality in the long run but talent sure can help & the top four had lots of both. The winner Kida was no exception but he didn’t amazed me until his AfroJazz routine to Din Din Da Da. 13-pinkhat-01The judges favourite routines came as no surprise. For me they begin to blur into those momentary isolation locks, or hands reaching out for some distant ideal, or eyes peering at that same ideal, or a small fry being tossed round by their partner like a feathered boa. The competitors all delivered in any genre they were challenged with even when they didn’t quite get the finer points of say, ballroom technique. 13-blackmonkey-03As usual Can Dance introduces me to lots of fine music. Shawn McDonald’s Over the Rainbow reinvented that song, as did Sarah Vaughn’s take on Send In The Clown; DaDaDa was reinvigorated by Kevin Aviance’s take on it; Son Lux ‘You Don’t Own Me’ wow. I’m surprised there isn’t an annual compilation cd of the music or at least an iTunes site devoted just to the music so one doesn’t have to search for it after putting the show on pause just to write down the name of the song & the performer.13-blackshoe-03I enjoyed many things about this season. The next generation was a smart idea to refresh the show and I hope they got the audience numbers for another season. I love seeing the all-stars; Can Dance, the the Food Network, gives its past contestants lots of work even if they lose their particular season. I really like the episode where the kids did the choreography.


I did get tired of the same judges every week. I suppose that was financial decision. But I missed Mary Murphy (none of these kids could be put on the tamale train I suppose). Toni Basil was probably too old school scary for this next generation. Reinventing the show can’t be easy. What next – the Geritol Generation?

sampleDancing and Necking

Lorna and I

moved around each other

to the push-n-shove of rock-n-roll

she was 14 and I was 15

that we were awkward didn’t matter

we were happy

as long as there was distance between us

at the first waltz we sat in the bleachers

after it was over

she pulled me into the dance

where we made windmills to the music


the boys not dancing

feigned a disdain of everything

they claimed to want to get some chick

outside into their Dad’s cars

Lorna and I laughed at them

as we caught our breath between songs

when another waltz came up

she pulled me tight to her

she smelled of roses

put her head on my shoulder

just like a song

I could feel her heartbeat

as we turned in small circles

her breasts pressed into me

my hand moved along her warm back

felt her bra strap

the mystery of undergarments

her head moved into my damp neck

I was startled when she licked my ear


I turned my face to hers

before I knew it we were kissing

turning in small circles

her tongue in my mouth

mine dizzy in hers

and I sighed

finally doing something

to prove that I was as much a guy

as those boys

who would never take

me out to their Dads’ carssoon

on going 🙂 when new podcast are posted:  Disability after Dark  iTunes

October  6 – Thursday Toronto, 7:30 pm, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.hotoct

November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo


December – Thursday Dec 1st – Toronto, 8 pm, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.divine


Early 2017:

my first local feature in over a year: location date TBA

it came in

April season 3 FINALS – Friday April 15th Buddies in Bad Times – early show – 7pm startgames

June 2-4: attending: Capturing Fire 2017 –


check out these poets from Capturing Fire 2015:


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington – sweet,eh?

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblrredpiano

Square Root

Square Root

I wished him dead

every time I sat in his class

I wished he were dead   buried

not someone I had to face every day


I would only have to glance up at him

writing formulas on the black board

the drone of his voice

and wish him dead


he would always call on me

to read out what he had written

I picture his brain exploding

bloody cosines gush from his nose

all over his spotless white shirt


I wanted a sharp steel edge

on my protractor

to cut out his heart

save the class from algebra trig calculus

his stories of sailing

how he figured directions

with his slide rule


die die die

so we can figure out the angle

to bury you so your rotting corpse

will slump into your penny loafers

bones a jumble of secants

and underpants


the formula on the board

meant nothing to me

it could have been written in flame

blah blah squared

equals something degrees


my feet burning by the time I sat down

he would pat me on the shoulder

say   you seem to be catching on

when I was really catching on fire

his abacus belt buckle at eye level


I’d stare at the rubble on my page

hope his hand would stay a bit longer

hope some of his knowledge could rub off

what was the angle of the dangle

behind that zipper


if he were to die I wouldn’t have to wonder

about where to look

when he stood so close


I leave the class

can’t remember a formula or anything

all I could see was that glint of belt buckle

and that wouldn’t be on the exam


This is based on memories of my high school days. The teacher is question is a merge of a couple of male teachers I had at different times, in different years. One taught English for a year & was gone, the other taught chemistry, I think, here I’m a bit unsure. I do recall the writing of formulas and the bulk of shoulders.

These two stood out because they were young men both in their first year of teaching. All the other teachers were older men & women, some of whom I really did wish were dead, or at least sick for a month or so, so we would get a substitute. Preferably male.


In high school it was pretty clear me that I was into men. Sneaking glances at cocks in the shower room before & after gym classes. In memory, one of those teachers presented a nice package when he leaned back against his desk to face the class to instruct. I’m not sure if he was at all aware of it though & if he was, it was probably for the benefit of the young ladies of the class.house03Math was not my strong point. Thank God for calculators. I know now it was more to train the brain in logic than to give me information for future use. I have never had to do a trig function since leaving high school. I was a lazy thinker even then, given to losing focus easily as my eyes wandered & wonder about ‘dangles.’house04

Much of the imagery comes from the adult writer, not from the teenager. ‘written in flame’ is a reference to the Ten Commandments – it adds a Biblical resonance to growing up queer. I love the title because by the time you get to the end of the poem you know exactly what root I wanted to square off with.


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me face down flat on the floor

me: fifteen

the floor: high school gym

pine slats and the smell of socks

lift from the waist

me lifting sweating

I could do this much of the class

I felt safe in one spot


not facing anything   anyone

now roll over

this was a little worse

I could see the other guys in my class

but I’m still safe

in one spot on the floor

I dreaded it all so much

I’d arrive at school in my gym clothes

to avoid the change room

okay on your feet boys and boys

we groaned up

jumping jacks


I was still safe in one spot

I could keep up with this

it was basketball that did me in

where I could never remember left from right

never could manage a lay up

traveling with the ball – whatever that was

I would pass whenever I could

sometimes I’d fall to get out of the way


but that fear was merely prelude

to what I dreaded the most

the showers

I’d yank my glasses off right away

soft focus everyone

into naked fuzzy forms

I would slink in as small as I could

rinse down

dart back to my locker

keep my eyes to the floor – to faces

but there was always someone too close

someone I couldn’t keep from focusing on

when I was trying not to look

at hair everywhere on some of them

asses backs around their balls


I would dress barely dried off

rush up the stairs and outside

to breath

to keep from drowning

in the damp desires

that were suffocating me


This piece comes from my project of writing sweet memory pieces about growing up gay. Sexual memories that weren’t about molestation or queer bashings. This one is 100% real.

It starts what I know to be an almost standard phys ed memory for many non-jocks, regardless of sexuality. Yes, even straight guys are sometimes non-jocks and were awkward in gym class, hated being naked in front of anyone.


go to the light

My high-school gym teacher was a Mr. Mills, he had a brush cut, when many of us were burgeoning hippies with Beatle cuts. My physical coordination was worse when I was being watched by him. But I did excel at one sport – badminton – really. Won a few trophies.

The whole shower/locker room scene is so true just reading it takes me back to it. Our lockers were assigned for the year so I frequently had a good look at Wayne Gaudet’s cock. Mine was white, his was very dark even though he wasn’t. I didn’t know how to find out why this was either. Who do you ask? Sir, why is his dick so brown when he isn’t?


have a seat

Being blonde my hairiness was invisible, so the hairiness of the dark haired guys was pretty clear to me, even with my glasses off. I was asked more than once if I shaved my legs. But those hairy legs were great jo material for me for years after. In fact they still are. Not those hairy legs of teenage memory, but those of adult Tumblr stars 🙂


‘not insolent but not interested’




the things I learned in school

still haunt me to this day

I see a multiplication table

and it gives me fear

I balk when asked

to add a few simple sums together

to figure out which is cheaper

400 grams at some price

or 750 at less than double that price

I try to see feet as meters

I pretend I feel as cold at Celsius

as I did at Fahrenheit



smelting of steel

all those things

I fretted worried cried over

for what seemed like year and years

thank god

time hasn’t gone metric

or that I had to worry in nanoseconds

light years

how many lights years was school

grade school  high school


small cramped desks

force my hand to hold the pencil

just right

the flow from the shoulder

to the page

to write with the the whole arm

not just the fingers



thanks to the miracle of the keyboard

I can barely write my signature

so I guess those whacks

across the fingers with the pointer

paid off

I learned that lesson

better never to write at all

than write badly

was that a crab

  did the dog write your homework


where I learned to real lessons

was not in the class room

but in the little thicket of trees

over the hill just behind the school


pants got pulled down

kisses where exchanged

we discovered what

we needed to learn

wasn’t going to be taught in that classroom

what we discovered

the drop of pants

unmasked Satan

we saw the face of evil

as we snickered



we were the bad kids

but not as bad

as the ones who smoked behind

the jr high across the street

they were really bad

we were just evil

spoiling our chances of heaven


then we were in that jr high

never to return to that ticket

learn to fight dirty

to hear drivel drivel drivel

from teachers

no more worry about handwriting

if it was bad   so be it

here the battle was for notice

to be one of the good kids

one of the bright kids

not one of the slow kids

I was never good

never bad

hardly every really there

the body sat

lessons flew around me

etre avoir

the Constitution

the founding fathers

city by-laws

growing bodies

and laughing knowing looks

the smokers above it all

they became the object

of teachers scorn

as long as one wasn’t like that

there was hope


I was the one of many

who had so much to offer

a beacon of hope

good smart but unreachable

not insolent but not interested

the strange wonder

that not one of them

could ever get through to

to harm hinder help or educate

neither bright nor bad enough

to bother with

much like today

I can’t be bothered with

algebra or trig

the useless things I learned but never used

the useful things I did learn

I don’t use enough

wooly dropped on the way to school

Educate is out of the archives. One of the earliest of my many school memory pieces. I have so much to remember and some of it so clear to me still. The smell of cigarette smoke on some guys jacket. The pecking order of good and bad, of who deserves attention. For some any attention at all was enough.

nightschool night school

I, for the most part, avoided attention – at least didn’t behave in ways to make me noticed. In high school I sometimes dressed in ways that got noticed (how things have changed 🙂 ). I let my hair grow as long as I dared, it covered my ears – think Brian Jones long – long enough to be teased ‘are you a boy or a girl?’

I sweated over those trig formulas. I doubt if I would even recognize one now if I saw it in print. French verb declensions were a nightmare too. We even had Latin to cope with. It’s a wonder anyone survived.

books expelled

On top of which was knowing the difference between boys and girls but not caring about the girls. I deal with that in more recent pieces. Educate was a first draft to get some of the surface issues on paper. Once I scratch the surface is becomes easier to dig deeper and deeper as I explore that rich territory.

The whole smokers culture. The tough guys and bad girls who smoked and the reputations they created by lighting up. Reputations many of them didn’t live up to, they couldn’t. Hmmm sounds like the start of a new high school piece there.


August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada


October 19 – feature – Cabaret Noir – Welcome to Lake Pinebow

pineoct school my old school


There Was The Word

Specific first words escape me but I recognized the power of certain words in my early teens. Swear words – fuck, cock, tits and cunt; as well as the insulting words: fairy, gearbox, tramp, fruit. I can recall my sense of pride at being able to say these swear words with my friends for the first time but also knew the fear of having my folks, or any adults, know I knew or even said these words. I knew automatically that I couldn’t use them at home or even make oblique reference to the knowledge they intimated: sex. I knew the words long before I knew the actions.


NOW! style on ice

The insulting label words told me who I was and how people felt about people like me. This was a shame I knew was deeper than swearing, one that I had to hide yet one my peers recognized even if I wasn’t willing to admit to it.


 composition in red yellow blue

One memory from high-school: I had watched a pop group on Ed Sullivan and talked my mom to making me a shirt similar to one the drummer had worn. Solid color with a patterned fabric on the cuffs and collar. Our TV was black and white so the colors we ended up with were solid blue with a red, yellow & blue paisley for the trim. I was so pleased with that shirt and wore it school as soon as it was ready. It got a few glances during the first two periods and by then I had sort of become used to it. I was changing rooms between periods when some guys began to mock me with those powerful labels: ‘You fruit’ ‘Only a fairy would wear something like’ that and so on. My inner physical reaction was fear, of not wanting others to hear these guys mocking me. My outer reaction was to be indifferent, to just get to my next class. I continued to wear the shirt occasionally, as often as I wore any other shirt, but that first wearing had completed the job of labelling me. Not that I cared about fitting in but those labels pushed me further into acceptance of my basic differentness. It gave me something to think about as I withdrew deeper into my own world. Those names pushed me to write, to paint, to express things in a less public way that I couldn’t communicate to anyone.


 trippy obscured by trees

Another word that I caught was ‘psychedelic.’ It represented a life of color, music, experience, clothing that was worlds away from where I was trapped. The image of that trippy world kept me brave through years of taunts. I see now the power of those words to bully, to impress, to hide and know they don’t have that power in my life today. As a writer they taught me to the secret power of language, showed me that how you say something will change the content of what you say, that the same things can be said in ways that are comforting or confronting or insulting or so on till you have a whole book. When I look back at these memories it’s a miracle I survived as intact as I am. I also know there were no words that could have spared me that past but how it speaks to me and how I speak of it today frees me and sometimes frees others too.


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Nuncle John

‘by the quivering tits

of the unfucked mother of je-sus’

I’ll never forget Nuncle John

he was a friend of my Dad’s

not an uncle

so we called him Nuncle

but no nun he

he would remind us kids

‘not by the quivering

all-smooth nut-sack

of the unsucked dick of K-rist’

I could never tell if people

were more shocked

than amused by Nuncle John

when he’d launch into a stream of cursing

he would often be muttering

‘fucking fairy’

‘useless bitch’

‘dumb cunt’

‘call that driving you fart fucker’

when he drove

glaring at other drivers

‘you using that stick shift on your pussy lady’

my mother would leave the room

the house

if he was coming over

his wife Mildred

would look simpering and apologetic

when Nuncle John

got caught up in a tirade

usually about ‘the stunned cunt Leafs’

or some ‘asshole licking mayor’

he swore without thought

it rolled off his tongue

as easily as good morning

ask him how he was doing

he’d reply ‘better than a hand job’

not that I knew, as a kid,

what half the stuff meant

but it lead me on my own voyage of discovery

‘there’s no such thing

as useless cock sucker’

he once said

‘if you’re horny enough’

I did figure out

the mother of christ

and the virgin birth

the immaculate conception

that complex vulgar blasphemy

it was a useless bit of knowledge

but his lesson on the use of cocksuckers

has proved it self to be very true

so even if he was ‘a pussy munching

unwiped asshole of a jerk off’

he did lead me to

more than few colorful turns of phrase