The Name Game

The Name Game

this is not my real name

in fact

I use my given name so infrequently

no one is sure what it is

I’m not sure of what it is

 

I won’t tell you what you want to know

not that it’s a secret

there is no deep shame

that I am hiding

 

names that I use

change from time to time

location to location

in fact

we may have met before

when I was someone else

that’s why I sometimes

seem so familiar

 

I don’t go out of the way

to disguise myself

to cover my trail

only who I might be

so that when you say

you understand me

I know 

you don’t even know who are talking to

 

everything you know

is about another person

someone with a name you know

that’s not my name

it wasn’t then

and it never will be again

I’ve met guys on line who. for privacy, I guess, have more than one name. In fact nearly all people on line do – a handle, a nickname, an email address that doesn’t reveal who they are. On dating sites guys have names like Toppugood43 or flexlexy – that may hint on what they want to do. Some have given one name in chat, then another one shows up as part of their email response & when they text another name & when we meet maybe their real name.

 

Some never give a name at all, really. ‘Hi it’s Toppu.’ Or not even that much, as if their phone number will tell me who it is. Names are one of the way we define people, so I can accept people needing to self-define by choosing their own name & using it as a sort of mask. Would John Wayne have made it big with his birth name Marion Morrison?

One of the reasons for ‘branding’ myself as TOpoet, was to remove immediate information about myself. All I want you to know is there – where I am located & what I do. No gender, sexuality, race or even age is alluded to. The only preconceived notion one may have is about poets, not about me as a person – unless it is to conclude that anyone labeling themselves as a poet is a pretentious fop. Guilty.

So this piece is about the ambiguity of names, of what we think we know about people & how insubstantial image is. It is easy to be someone else on line. I’m never sure if who I may be chatting with for the first time is actually the person in the picture (if they have a picture). I don’t know until I meet them face to face & it is the face in their photos. I don’t even fully believe what they’ve said in our chats, or in their profile. It is easy to flirt, overstate interests in text. Meeting moves things to the next level of negotiation. Which may require proof of identity 🙂 


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Re-created

Law 25: Recreate Yourself

this is how I started

a small fear filled child

a bit moved across Canada for a generation

a new home every year

each new home a new opportunity

but never enough time to develop

to make friends

finally settling

the only child

a small fear filled child

discovering things about himself

that weren’t what he observed

in other children

children with rough tumble values

gender roles unquestioned

reinforced by parental and scholastic approval

mine rarely reinforced

opting for invisibility

those moments when I was observed

winning an art prize

flunking miserably at math

art devalued

math venerated

the first invention

the arty poet uninterested in approval

bravado rather than conviction

the shield of music

flowed into the the drunk

the numbed to identity

the first man on man sex

wanting more

but with more to hide

inventing to we did drunk sex

so it doesn’t count

the writer published

the man escapes from

with his life

not another new world

once again the new face in town

remade into the timid bar hopper

manic dancer

reinvented as the sober housemate

the lover for life

the return to the word

the uneducated director

set designer lighting sound tech

discarded to be replaced

by the novelist poet

spoken-word performer

spun into the out spoken queer

This was an interesting law to work with – I did take it rather literally for a change – first by looking at the ways I was reinvented by the culture I was growing up in. There was a fair bit of moving until we settled in Sydney Nova Scotia. Even there we moved at least three times before my dad bought the house I grew up in. All that moving made it hard to learn how to interact with others.

I was also small, blond, a bit spoiled and fearful. My final height growth didn’t happen until after I finished high-school. I’ve written about my east coast growing up extensively but never from this particular point of view. Even then I did feel the pinch of never being the ‘boy’ my Dad would have liked – sporty – my younger brother took that role on.

I did want to be a writer from an early age but that was never seen as a viable or suitably masculine role for me & so it was never really encouraged. Learn to spell first was a frequent admonition. No one knew about spellcheck in those days. Oddly enough the ability to spell was seen as girly – maybe that was why I resisted it. Girls could be smart; guys could be dumb.

Things then that I didn’t really question but felt shame around – this cultural coding of what gender meant as a value judgement. All I knew was my fear at being found out, called out & mocked. Some of those fears were realized in high school being designated as a gearbox – one of those olden day terms for queer – fairy was also used but I preferred gearbox as it at least sounds a little butch, right? 🙂

This follows the changes in identity over the decades, the fearful drunk, the quiet rebel who was hidden but resolute all the same. Writing, painting where modes of expression that probably kept me alive. Same with drinking as other hidden gay guys I sort of knew killed themselves. I survived. Some of these changes are way out culture reinvents us from cute young thing to handsome older to doddering dirty old man.

One of the comments about my After The Falling chap book is that there was no clear through line – that each of the pieces, as well written as they were, came from different writers. Which to me says I have a multi-layered world view that reflects a more complex person than my image may project at any given time, or rather, than you may project on me at any given time.

The most recent re-invention is #DadBodHot.

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Airto Moreira

Airto Moreira first came to my attention thanks to Chick Corea’s Light As A Feather. Airto was everywhere at one time: from Miles Davis, Bitches Brew, to work with Weather Report, John McLaughin & Keith Jarrett. I have lots of his work with these jazz icons. In fact he is one of those icons himself.

trunk03 who saw you?

He’s recorded extensively with his wife Flora Purim and also has many releases under his own name. On one of my mp3 compilations I have Virgin Land, In Concert w/Deodato, Fingers & Identity. All dupes from Lp or direct downloads. I can remember buying the original Lps, some from Cheapies on Yonge Street.

trunk01 how old am I?

Brazilian rhythms ground his music which runs from almost traditional folk to jazz fusion to pure jazz. His tracks on the Deodato concert are amazing (too bad Deodato is such a snooze).

trunk02

stumped again

Also on this cd is Chico Hamilton: The Dealer – which features more Latin rhythms with the amazing Gabor Szabo on guitar. Al Hirt: Music To Watch Girls By – a sixties radio throwback; Jimmy Smith: Peter & The Wolf – yes, this a jazz version of the classical suite – fun & funky; Joe Pass: The Stones Jazz – yes, instrumental versions of the Rolling Stones – some of which work; Tough Young Tenors: Alone Together – more contemporary than the rest of the compilation – great hot playing by a handful of excellent, young sax players. You know they must have amazing tongue control 🙂

sample

Unfolding The Map

As the last of Jill’s clothes fell to the carpet Jack felt he finally stood on the border of manhood. The blue-pink light from the television in the corner of the hotel room rippled on the wall, danced on Jill’s bare skin.

‘Like what you see?’ she stepped towards him and undid the top button of his shirt.

He didn’t know how to convey the confusion of this moment, to tell her that he wanted to look, to stare but to have a real woman there made him feel embarrassed, ashamed of his need to look.

‘Uh … yes.’ He wished that the news announcer would tell him just what to do next, that the weather map would show which highs and lows his hands were to reach for first.

His skin was cool and then warm once his shirt had dropped to the ground. He resisted the temptation to pick it up, to fold it neatly on a chair. Jill’s breasts were hot against him. His arms moved around her of their own volition.

‘Mmmm.’ Jill’s mouth opened to his.

He’d imagined many times what this would be like, he’d watched enough adult videos to know what was supposed to happen, but now that it was happening to him, he was unsure, unscripted. He felt watched by the news announcer, now the sports announcer, soon to be a talk show host telling jokes.

Should he turn off the TV? No. The light was fine but perhaps he should turn it down.

The Leafs had scored, a race was run, he moved towards the bed with Jill. It seemed she was doing as much of the lean to the bed as he was.

‘There. There,’ she moaned as his hands moved slowly along her sides. ‘Why don’t you get out of … ’ she gave his belt buckle a gentle tug.

‘Yes yes.’ He sat and pulled at his shoes laces, knotting one of them. He stood to slide his jeans off, the shadow of his erection sprung across the wall.

My what a big shadow you cast, he though.

‘Come on Jack. We don’t have all night you know.’ Jill patted the bed beside her.

He turned to her. The pink-blue flicker made strange dark areas across her stomach, between her legs. He wanted more light so he could really see, to explore. He knew this wasn’t the body of his favorite adult actress. He’d know that body anywhere; that body never looked back at him, didn’t blush to avoid his gaze to make him feel dirty for looking.

‘What are you looking at?’ she giggled.

He closed his eyes to kiss her. As he stretched beside Jill he regretted that he wouldn’t be able to rewind to inspect and savour each moment of discovery.

As his passion was accepted, responded to, he wondered if his memory could ever be as crisp, as accurate in it’s replay, as those favorite video moments he was about to recreate for real.

map map to summer

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You Aren’t You

Unexpectedly I got asked to do a feature at Plasticine Poetry. I was working on my Racket set and getting the flow of it into shape. Two features in less than a week can be demanding for me, because unlike many poets I aim to do relatively different sets for each feature. Sure I could easily repeat the Plasticine set at Racket but that would bore even me. If I expect my ‘following’ to come out twice in one week I better offer up than a few stale retreads.

scibblerI needed a concept to build the Plasticine set on – Racket will romantic/relationship, bitter or otherwise, poems. I looked back at a few of my recent shows and decided to expand the Winter Snow Ball feature into a set on identity. What and who defines us and why do we need to feel defined anyway. Just like plasticine who we project is very malleable by others.

mirror

There’ll be some ‘persona’ pieces – character masks the poet puts on that often listeners can’t get past. I’m always aware of Rimbaud’s “Je est un autre. I is another.” Because there is a strong trend to believe all poetry is confessional, people often assume what I write is my experience, as opposed to my world-view. Trust me if I had as much sex as my poetry indicated I’d be an even happier guy.

walkin

I have to confess I do like to play with people’s perceptions of me – that’s one way of evading definition. A step I’m taking this year to distance ‘image’ from ‘self’ is to perform as TOpoet.ca. Branding my performance self lets Duncan become more anonymous in a way and I like that freedom.

sample

Identity

you aren’t you

she shouted pointing at me

I don’t know who you are 

you aren’t you

he’s you

she went on

pointing to a heavy set black man

who smiled and waved at me

 

great, I thought,

I’ll finally know what it feels

like to have a thick black cock

 

how long did you think 

you could get away with it

she stepped closer

pretending to be yourself

some one you clearly are not

 

thanks, I finally got a word in edge wise,

now that I can stop being me

I can be who I really am

 

that’s not how it works

she glared at me

you can’t just become anyone else

because you aren’t you

 

what about me

the black guy came over

to shake my hand

pleased to meet me

 

he’s not you

she pushed us apart

neither of you are each other either

you are both not

who you are

can’t you get it through your heads

she was nearly screaming

 

but I’ve always wanted to be a white dude

the black guy said

if I’m him

I’m not this big black guy anymore

 

no no no the woman was scornful

it’s not that simple

stop thinking you are who you think you are

because you aren’t you

he’s you

identity is in the eye of the beholder

don’t you get it 

she was exasperated

as if we were children

how can I make it any simpler

you can’t change what you are

 

well, I tried to reason

I’m not you, for starters

are you you

 

of course I am she snapped

but trust me I know you aren’t you

he is you

and don’t you forget it

 

okay okay I get the picture

it felt good not to be me

to let go of all that identity crap

I was finally free

 

I said to the self

I was just introduced to

let’s get out of here

it’s time we learned how to 

play with myself

ddeadJe est un autre