The Soft Slip of Hot-Sauced Flesh

It was with anticipation & gratitude that I went to the Supermarket Grill to co-feature at the March – World Poetry Day edition of Hot-Sauced Words. I arrived at the grill with time to have a meal – excellent mango salad & a great burger. I glanced over my set – made some mental edits – with the Kindle it’s impossible to make actual edits. I was ready.

After greeting the warm, receptive audience host James Dewar set the poetry challenge for the night – a poem about the weather from the weatherman’s point of view. The show started with several strong open-stagers. Here’s a smattering of lines: silence as passing, the silence of keeping your mouth shut for once, text message silence, sounds like gunshots under the ground, bundled like ghosts, a wafer of desire dissolves, attention subway passengers there is a delay at Royal York – the operator has forgotten how to drive a subway, of the strangers one or two may be insane, an odourless glass office sits in it’s place, pale blue coat, pretty girls are often seen but seldom found. (this line gave me chills), I am the things thrown away, I’ll cover you with death, I’ll drain you when I’m good & ready, I’ve killed enough for one night, contented murmur of Friday evening diners, standing all the home with heavy bags, Hank who stank, murdered the piano musically to pieces, shivering from sun poisoning.

After a break, in which I sold enough chapbooks to cover the cost of supper – I was first up. I like starting with Almost Dead – it gives me a real emotional text to get my performance juice flowing, hits the audience with, what I hope is, a sharp social punch. Each piece worked well, for me, I could feel reactions to my endings. Chalk & Hard On got the expected laughs. Breaking in Grief is a bitter sweet emotional tone to end a set on – emotive in a way none of the other pieces try to be. I did what I call my ‘stand and deliver set’ – little talk about the pieces with just a dash of ‘in your pants raunch.’

After another break Brenda Crews took the stage. She is a dance & deliver performer – costume changes, wigs, a Martha Grahamesque piece – she was the opposite of me. The audience sure gots its money’s worth. Some lines: blanket of black feathers, she held the tide line in her hands, crazy old woman at the edge of time, she who turns life into art with her gaze, sunset spilling out of her eyes, seeking a freedom that is terrifying, the way we enslave ourselves, serpents of protection or do I hallucinate, the soft slip of flesh etched in stone, written in the night blindly.

This was followed by the weather writing challenge: who can say where the tornado’s toe will touch down, what was I thinking – I was think about the money, dark ruminations until spring, it was very cloudy outside the day we started to over throw the government, today we are in for a real shit storm. The winner was Zak with the amazing stach.

It was a great night. Heather Babcock and I created a glamour zone at our table. Brenda Clews was kind enough to video my set, which is probably on Facebook by now. It’s always good to have real proof one actually performed. Chap books were sold, even some paypal orders the next day. My next performance: if the prevailing pattern continues it’ll be another 3 years before any series will come knocking.

the video:

Breaking In Grief

he talks of wearing

his dead son’s sneakers

bought a month before the son’s

step off into oblivion

new shoes a sign of hope

of a future planned for

not of a life too soon to be ended

they found the sneakers

still in their box

in the cupboard

worn once to try them on

designer expensive

too nice to toss or donate

so he’ll wear them

it gives me the creeps

practicality in the face of catastrophe


I visited home

the summer after my dad died

his death was sudden

it was the body that gave out

he didn’t go out of his way

to find that oblivion

I go through his clothes

to help my sister winnow out

throw out donate

to share some memories

I end up keeping a couple of jackets

that actually fit me


the shirt and pants

were easy to part with

most of the shoes too

my Dad was all business

when it came to shoes

his idea of comfort wear was

hard onyx red oxfords

there was a new onyx pair

only worn to try them on

they sort of fit me

very stiff and inflexible

never being broken in


I take them


I wear them a few times

then drop them in a clothing box

they don’t fit

right size but wrong shape

maybe that’s why my Dad never

wore them either


the life my Dad hoped I would fit into

was also the right size

but the wrong shape

I was unwilling to do the work

that would break me in

so it would be a comfortable fit


I meet my friend one day

he’s sporting wildly neon runners

these were his son’s

a year after the suicide

he wears them

knowing he’ll never leave that grief behind

but ready

to walk forward with it

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I Get Sauced

Hot-Sauced Words that is. Thank to Facebook’s ‘on this day’ feature I’ve been clearing out old posts – who goes into the past on anyone’s Facebook page? Except deranged ex’s? So I delete things over a year old – old Word Press posts, pics – things that I already have on line & backed up at either Word Press of Tumblr. I like to keep things sort of simple. But I have been keeping video evidence of past performances.

By past I mean in the last decade. I’m lucky enough now these days if I get someone taking blurry cell-phone pics of me on stage, let alone actual performance footage. So I repost them when they come up just to reassure my followers that I actually do perform given the opportunity.

One these was me at Hot-Sauced. I’m not sure if was from a feature or just hitting the open stage back in the day when I was hitting that, & other open stages regularly. A habit I eventually broke when I realized it was costing me more $ to be there than it worth being there. But I digress.

James Dewar saw the old video & figured it was time to have me back t Hot-Sauced again. Once a decade is clearly the limit for most spoken shows to consider having me perform a feature. Coming so soon after my Hot Damn! set it presented a good opportunity for me to sell more chap books & pull out some the pieces in it that I didn’t do at Damn! Tuesday, March 21: 7:30 p.m. Hot-Sauced Words –

Don’t worry it’ll be a fairly different set – some pieces reworked, sequence changed, new things added & some old faves added to buffer the raw political push of the Damn! set. Not that I care that audiences will find the political hard to take but frankly I get bored of doing it. This way you won’t get bored of hearing me.

Chapbooks available:


kiss3April season 3 FINALS – Friday April 15th Buddies in Bad Times – early show – 7pm start – Featuring Queen Sheba. Slam winner gets trip to Capturing Fire & maybe coffee with me in DC.


June 9-10-11: attending: Capturing Fire 2017 – flight & hotel booked already

check out these poets from  Capturing Fire 2015 & 2016

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The World Split Open

It took me a couple of days to decompress from inkslingers‘ Ellen Bass intensive The World Split Open Workshop held at the Bill Boyle Artport on Toronto’s Harbourfront. Twenty-two eager, dedicated poets & some who weren’t sure if they ere poets gathered to have their worlds split open – if not their worlds at their words.hf13

Organized by Sue Reynolds and James Dewar things ran smoothy & mostly on time – though even with a 9:30 start there never seemed like enough time to do everything. Ellen did three craft talks: the long arm poem, discovery on the first day; metaphor on the second day. The talks were to the point, filled with meaty quotes by living, working poet such as Mark Doty.hf14. Even though she referred to her notes frequently there was feeling of a one-on-one conversation with her, as opposed to a secure in front of room full of acolytes.

Among the poetry examples she used was a rough draft & a final draft of one of her pieces. Following her decision process around editing was practical & encouraging. Many found it comforting to realize even an accomplished writer doesn’t write perfect first drafts.


The workshop portion was limited to listening & commenting to what was liked. Issues of rewriting were not addressed due to time constraints – this certainly kept the sharing move quickly & avoided those defensive explanations of what we didn’t get. We were in the same groups each day but switched up facilitators. I would have liked an opportunity to hear what the other group was writing.


The loft spaces we used were adequate & functional. The a/c was noisy in both rooms & it was hard to find a seat that wasn’t under one of the fans. Some of the women wore their parkas through the day. Washroom were close. The acoustics were good. inkslingers did a excellent job of organizing the event, Ellen Bass was a  great choice & I hope they can be as creative if they chose to import another poet next year.hfme

By the end of the workshop I had produced two reasonable pieces, met a few people I might keep in contact with. Many of them were already aquatinted & those social ties didn’t loosen for those they didn’t know. I didn’t feel my world split open – Ellen hoped we would learn to write wilder, with greater emotional fluidity. I suspect women, which was the bulk of the workshop, experience a greater sense of repression than men or at least a different sort of repression. I gained a confirmation of my own practices, goals & spiritual values as embodied by my writing. Once again I realized I’m a writer, not an academic or even a literary theorist.



her mother had planted the sugar maple

the only tree in the back yard

some twenty-five years ago

years of raking leaves

waiting for the sap

they never did get syrup

though Dad would pretend he had

with a store-bought jug of maple syrup

when she caught on

it made her wise to the ways of men

whose hearts were never honest


her mother long dead

her father sat on the back steps

coffee with shot of rum

to warm him up

as cigarette smoke

caressed his face


it was mid-July

the tree was leafless

the bark was blackened

peeled off in several spots

by raccoons years ago

that bared skin

let the ice of winter

into the honest heart of the tree

for weeks they had talked about

cutting down Mom’s maple

never going to give them sugar


worried where it might fall

she looked to the top of the maple

then back to him

the trunk was thick

she wanted to get a professional

Dad wouldn’t hear of it

said it was too bad he didn’t have son

he could really count on

she sighed as he muttered those old refrains

wondering if he was as sapless as the tree


she pulled on goggles

started the chain saw

took a wedge out of the side

toward the house

the saw cut quick deep

the swift crash

on the back steps

caught her father unawares


a thick ooze of blood

a thin trickle of sap

oozed out of the maple’s heart

it tasted sweet


November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo

November 18, Wednesday: judging at Hot Damn! it’s a Queer Slam – Supermarket Restaurant and Bar 268 Augusta Ave., Toronto, Ontario M5T2L9




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Elegant #Metaphors #Harbourfront

Sunday started as an overcast morning after night of rain. By the time the final session of the workshops tarted the sun had come out & most of the writers were eager for more & at the same sadden that this was the last day of the intensively focused opportunity. Ellen Bass asked how many were tired, how many were wired – a lot of hands went up.


The day focused on ‘metaphor.’ Her talk explained how metaphor can jar the reader into empathy, into a sense of understanding even if they don’t agree with the poet. A reader gets it or they don’t but will never get it if it isn’t offered. The use of metaphor shows how the writer’s mind works – the nature of associations & allusions to illuminate without directly saying ‘this is what I mean.’ The best can create a conflict of tactile & emotional response ‘like finding a slime soaked $100 bill on the ground.’

Our lunch homework to write a piece full of metaphor – to not be afraid of going too far-out. I went back to the hotel to finish packing and to write my piece, I’d already started it during her talk so it flowed pretty quickly. She didn’t give us any constrictions, a word list etc but I stuck to the one I impose – one side of one page. I dragged my suitcase, like a reluctant stubborn St. Bernard, over the cobbles stones to the Artport. Then I grabbed a pizza slice & sat in the lakeside sun to eat.


The faclitators switched groups so we had James Dewar & Sue Reynolds for our session. The presented pieces covered some of the same territory as Saturday: aging parents, memory loss, parenting. The writing was looser, a bit more humour surfaced as well. My piece was one of the last so by then people had been pretty much tapped out or perhaps mine was just too distance for them – the ones on parents, children got ten minutes or more in feed back – I got maybe 2. I’m not emotionally complex enough I guess.


A sampling of lines: ‘I imagined darning by firelight would be romantic,’ ‘we are … the sound of television in the next room,’ ‘green green green to the ground,’ ‘an invisible slingshot,’ ‘my mothers ticks died with her,’ ‘we learned how to read the closed door,’ ‘lean in the ‘f’ lie I was about to say fuck,’ ‘do you? do you?’ ‘you lit up like a magnesium flare,’ ‘you knew I wanted to know how many guys you fucked,’ ‘I’ll be your father,’ ‘eyes as big as buoys,’ ‘I can’t put the genii back into the bottle,’ ‘like a child lost is a department store,’ ‘a foot soldier dodging the mines of memory,’ ‘she made a roast beef sandwich for a hobo after the war,’ ‘I always though it was the fear of being heard that stopped me,’ ‘all the judges will burn,’ ‘all torso like her twisted psyche,’ ‘the signs & symptoms of being a bad parent,’ ‘arguments as convincing as the one lone blue tory sign on my block,’ ‘too close to be seen like our faults,’ ‘trying to spell out something I needed to see,’ ‘who lived where she visits,’ ‘my mother turns to her other kingdom,’ ‘it must be her weekend with the kid,’ ‘the boat of fries playing dead.’


There was a final hour q&a with Ellen. People wanting to know the ‘best’ book to read help their writing; wanting to know her writing habits. Some of the information was practical. I did make notes over the two days of some of the writers she mentioned the most frequently. I may look for their books of essays but I know the search for the right book is an avoidance of writing.

Farewells were made, to one another & the organizers. It was rewarding to be working with writers who were actually actively engaged in writing. Plus I was grateful for a lift home by one of my fellow writers.


here’s the 30 minute piece I presented on day two

Bone Hollow

the status update

to bait an opportunity

like those hot jeans

that always got me laid

even when all I wanted was a cup of coffee


the on line dinner’s ready

waiting at the Admiral

ready to be boned

profile poised in the best light

to look interested

not pig sex desperate

the click counter alert

never hitting the expresso lane

of on my way over & out


the status update

changed from the hot pants

to the extra shot jock

the package back lit with potential

it says

I’m not a lurker on the threshold

I’ll take you past that to experience

I last a waiting hour

not being a dedicated palaeontologist

digging for longing-to-be-buried bone

I’m merely exhausted not extinct

no grave dust on this shelf selfie


I am not hollow

just willing to be boned deboned

this hollow man

now a full stop

the status update deleted

departing unboned


satisfied with the opportunity

November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo


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#Harbourfront #Saturday #Conformity

The first day of the Ellen Bass workshop was packed full of ideas, words, writing & even some socializing. The first three I pretty good at buy the fourth isn’t my forte. I’ve never been one for networking, for handing out business cards & such. I can carry a conversation though because I know when you say ‘how is your writing going’ I get to listen. Even when someone asks me that I get to listen.

A large group of over 20 ‘student’ plus Ellen & the two organizers James Dewar & Sue Reynolds made for a good mix. there were actually some other men in the group. Plus I did know some of the other writers too. hf07

The day started with self-introductions followed by a talk by Ellen on ‘the long arm poem’ – this is a piece that rambles, takes tangents, in a seemingly random way but in the end reveals something about itself. Over lunch we were to write a long arm piece with a set of conditions & even a list of words to possibly use.

After lunch we returned – split into two groups with different facilitators to share what we had written. Saturday I was in Ellen’s group. Most of us produced rather polished rough drafts – many dealt with complex emotion problems: death, aging parents, the loss of a marriage etc. My piece, below, dealt with none of those things but was well received anyway.


Here are some lines from the pieces presented: ‘ashes os embers long cold,’ ‘a scream that never ended even after forty-five years,’ ‘carpets shopped for relentlessly,’ ‘left behind the idea of being marriage,’ ‘painting over all of it with fire,’ ‘eyes an empty black,’ ‘night outside the frame growing,’ ‘but there was no bed,’ ‘what he doesn’t realize is I am begging for mercy,’ ‘rows that keep thinning in the wind, ‘the raven’s voice scratches on the air,’ ‘recall the last thing I said to my daughter, ‘smiles in that gap-toothed way,’ ‘I want to touch you but you like to be right,’ ‘a world in which he did not feel safe,’ ‘dying in all the wrong places, ‘she sings Medea in her fleece pyjamas,’ ‘and so it goes,’ ‘Magdalene  wants me to read the angel poems.’


After this session we had one last presentation by Ellen on the role of discovery – ‘a mind puzzling its own way out of its own shadow.’ She feels a poem needs to do more than entertain but it should lead bot the reader & the writer to a new realization, a new way of looking at life.


You know something as much as I appreciate this I also know that what I say/write are often not what people hear/read. I’d rather write heedless of those ends because I wrote with that in mind I might not write at all.



It’s a SOCA convention

a man in a rust-red tweed sport coat

riches out his hand

‘are you here for the convention’

it’s my hotel but not my problem

though I am awake & out before 9 a.m.

not hungover or looking to score

the schooners around me are boats

not beer glasses

in some brassy sports bar

I know about recovery

rooms of people sitting in circles

rounds of support

restless feet in black shoes

where they end by

holding hands

they want to show me mercy

but I don’t want to hold their hands

joining in that circle

won’t bring me into their lives

one is the loneliest number

who has one rusty nail

sees one snow flake

though no two flakes are identical

I am recovering like them

but I don’t enter their circle

won’t make snow angels with them

I felt the itch that induced SOCA

but never scratched it that way

he reaches out his hand

I say ‘not here for the conference’

and sail out into the morning

not ready for conformity

(SOCA – Southern Ontario Cocaine Anonymous)

November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo


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Harbourfront Toronto

It has been decades since I spent any time at Toronto’s Harbourfront. I used to come down quite regularly back in the 80’s for the Equity Showcase productions, dance shows. The Center building was full of little shops, the first & only Hello Kitty Store was there for about a year. A couple of decent restaurants too. But that was about it.hf02

Now the north side of Queens Quay is like a strip mall with a Swiss Chalet, at least three falafel shops, Subway, Shoppers, at least 3 Starbucks (one right here in my hotel – The Radisson Admiral). Walked in & out of a couple of sports bars – I’m clearly not their client base – I want a decent burger NOT to be pummelled by dozens of huge flat screen TVs & cranked up arena rock. hf01

Actually I’m the ‘crank’ – comes with age. Age is why I’m here a day early anyway – the thought of TCC-ing down here for a workshop that starts at 9:30 is not in my old age cards anymore. Plus a day early gave me a chance to check out the area a little – take lot sou pictures. Most importantly find where the workshop is being held & nearly as important find out where the washrooms are.hf04The area has undone major changes in the past decades to open it up. Transit runs pretty frequently. There is more car traffic the I would have expected. But the area feels more that a tourist attraction than anything else. But it sure lights up pretty at night.hf03

The hotel is a bit more deluxe than I expected. But I’m getting my $’s worth. I’ve been in more hotels the last few years than in my entire life before. Each of them has been very different with levels of comfort, service & condition. Here I’m at the level where there are bathrobes & slippers in the room, a variety of toiletries – two kids of body lotion, a plastic loofa, even emory board – 3 kinds of tea! IN DC I had to call housekeeping to get tea.

Let’s see how well I sleep 🙂sample


Nicotine slippery come hither breath

Over the bottle smudged bar

Muted signals flicker lighter fast

Allure enhanced with each drag

Nets trawling hazy the most willing of waters

Inhaled recognition of smooth opportunity

Signals become smiles become words

Ashes flicked to the interested slouch

Necks stroked fingers tapped toes nudged

Incidental information exchanged

Sides picked positions hinted at

Lips approved legs compliant

Anxiety lapsed into laugher and departure

Now morning greets the stubbed out combatants

Desperate to remember one another’s brandssoon1

November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo


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Plasticine Turns 5

Got out to Plasticine Poetry (October 16, 2011) to help celebrate their 5th anniversary. Congratulations to Michael & his host Cathy for being so dedicated. having run &/or hosted more than a couple of reading series I know the hard work that goes into it – the sweat waiting for people to arrive is the icing on the cake – speaking of which thanks for the anniversary cake – great poetry and eating your cake too – who could ask for more?


Plasticine has wisely moved their stage to a more central point in the room and away from the piano – poetry in the round – which gave improved sight lines for more of the room. Unwise was to put the few open-stagers on at the end of the show – by the time they hit the stage over half the room had departed.

Cathy Petch, in a kick-ass pair of boots, didn’t seemed all that exhausted from competing in the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, but was happy to participate in a show where score cards weren’t being held aloft.


The first set started off with Plasticine’s organizer M F – he read romantic new pieces, tributes to his youthful inspiration: James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and some from his book which he was going to offer for a special anniversary price but left the copies at home. He was followed (I think) by Natalie Zina Walschots, whom I have never heard before. She did a great engaging set of comic fan-gal material that transcended its  origins with pieces that worked even without knowing the supervillians to whom she paid tribute.


She was followed by David Silverberg, also looking remarkably fresh from the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word – which helped organize here in Toronto. As always he did a strong set of accessible yet cerebral material, some comic, some commentary. Plus a great audience participation – we gave nouns, verbs etc that substituted for nouns verbs etc in a well-loved piece of poetry.

After the break the second set started with James Dewar – another poet I’ve heard many times before and always enjoy. Relaxed and tender – he makes heterosexuality almost seem like a good thing. The final feature was Margaret Christakos – another poet I’ve never heard before. I found her an engaging reader. The material lifted well from the page but some of the connections were in the tangental shifts in the way words on the page bounced off of each other with echos that got lost, for me, as I tired to follow the drifting images.

If it’s fair to judge a series by the quality of it open-stagers Plasticine shines with short turns by RC Weslowski (here for the Festive), Adam Abbas (a feature at next month’s  Plasticine), Liz Howard  & Christian with a flame-thrower ode to the Art Bar.

writing sample
writing sample

I also hit the open stage with two new pieces. Here’s one of them:

Only Three Units Left

a grudge match

women with baby buggies

jostle to get by

each other

the patio

the man with his two sweet little dogs

the dog bark

the babies cry

the women

glare    dart their baby carriages

at each other  bitch   bitch

get out of the way bitch

fingers start to itch

welcome to murder city

new condos going up

thousands of units available

store clerk watches

teenagers shove each other

in front of the magazines

the pop cooler

teens mutter

get your fuckin’ eyes off me bitch

bitch bitch

prick prick prick

is it a crime to be a teenager

well in fact it is

here in murder city

shots or backfires

smell of burning

bbq or arson

something   someone

falls from a balcony

screech of car ties

blood  ketchup  paint on the street

all the same

here in murder city

don’t walk at night

behind a woman

even if you just

leave the subway at the same time

don’t walk behind her

she could turn scream  shoot you

get away with it

here in murder city

condos go up

poverty increases

throats cut   babies battered

cameras everywhere

to catch each drip

reporters to ask

did it feel sacred

were you scared scarred

here in murder city

chokes from the ally

gasps for help or sexual pleasure

who can tell

yeah fuck yeah fuck

ouch yeah ouch

yeah crime is sex

here in murder city

only three units left


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Shape-Shifting Reptile

James Dewar is not a shape-shifting reptile from outer-space but his Hot-Sauced Words is a reading series that is not afraid of shape-shifting – sometimes offering us a night of all female poets, or a poetry book launch, or his anti-Christmas show the series always has something distinct to offer –


On September 15 the series returned from summer hiatus with a juicy, high-energy show by the Toronto Slam Team – each of whom brought their distinctive spoken attack – starting with David Delisca’s sweetly crooning – almost shy set, followed by Cathy Petch’s brash fun sexy & definitely not shy, porn-o-ramic set – after which we took a much need chill out break – Electric Jon – (subbing for LipBalm) gave us a sprawling shark-a-delic workout – ending with Eytan Crouton’s swag-a-licious  throw-down – well not quite ending, as he & Jon brought what was left of the roof down with Reptiles – Eytan’s final lizard tongue lashing is sure to please the ladies (& some laddies given the chance).

the patio is very open

I haven’t been the the Black Swan for a few months and was dismayed to see that the tables (as usual) hadn’t been wiped from the last show that had been there. Atmosphere is one thing but beer and booze sticky tables make me question the cleanliness of their glassware.