Layers of Lavender Power

It’s almost as if Orville Peck or Lil Nas X invented lgbtq pop but the history stretches back to Johnny Ray, all the’s changed is it is easier to be out. The road for Orville was paved by rockers like Tom Robinson. Tom Robinson Band’s ‘Power In The Darkness’ (1978) was released the year I moved to Toronto. I also have Two (1979) & his solo: North by Northwest (1982) – on a pair of mp3 cd’s. Tom was an openly gay rocker in the Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson vein. Politically charged & musically dynamic & unequivocally resolute in his stance.

Songs about queer bashing, the complex search for acceptance & love. One – Glad To Be Gay became almost the Queer Nation’s international anthem with its sing-along, music hall chorus. I say almost as he never had the diva appeal of Ross’s I’m Coming Out.

I was thrilled at the time & for the most part the music has stood the test of time. I remember one reviewer saying something to the effect: ‘Robinson’s new album is excellent except his gay lyric is distracting’ I’ve ever read a review of any ‘straight’ perform like Springsteen of Sting in which it was said ‘his heterosexual lyrics are distracting.’ Robinson is still around & after his band broke up he moved into a more folksy direction.

Paving the way for Robinson was Jobriath, who died at 32 in1983. In this collection I have Pidgeon (1969), Jobriath (1973), Creatures of the Street (1974) & As The River Flows (2014) – a compilation of unrelated tracks. I’d read a review way back when I was living in Cape Breton but finding it was impossible. So when I finally had high speed I did a search for some of his recordings.

He was also openly gay from the get go. His voice reminds me of Mick Jagger. The first lp is a rock, by 73 he starts becomes a mix of Bowie & Reed. The music is a touch of music-hall, rock & the lyrics are bitchy. Creatures is a clear influence on Bowie’s Aladdin Sane. As often happens his label wasn’t happy with his direction & held back much of his later work well after his death. This is a biofilm that needs to be made.

A group that was influenced by both Robinson & Jobriath is Bronski Beat: Age of Consent (1984) which rode the wave of electronic dance music by the likes of Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys. The many mixes of Small Town Boy packed dance floors around the world – who knew a song about queer bashing was danceable? The album is good with an eclectic mix of songs. Summerville’s falsetto is sweet & his uses it well on his solo lp ‘Suddenly Last Summer (2009)’ on songs like People Are Strange! 

I balanced the queer content with some other performers who also packed dance floors: Canada’s own Mitsou: El Mundo (1988) – Mon Cowboy was inescapable for sometime partially thanks to CanCon rules combined with great videos. Elton Motello brought an art punk energy to both Victim of Time (1978) & Pop Art (1980). Jet Boy Jet Girl let us pogo under disco balls. Then there was Cory Hart: First Offense (1983) Sunglasses at Night is a CanCon classic & his boyish good looks worked their way into many a jack-off fantasy.

Finally, rounding out the Robinson cds are Eddie & The Hot Rods: Teenage Depression. (1976) – high energy, punk attack that has smart pop hooks & an  angst that was universal. This is a re-release with dozens of bonus tracks. Their ‘Kids Are Alright’ is dynamic & angry & does The Who proud.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 



Taking The Bait

Back in the BS (Before Sobriety) days I was a fountain of opinion, often rather uninformed, but that didn’t slow the flow. The less I knew the more dismissive & cynical it would be. I felt obligated to have something to say. In recovery I eventually realized that I didn’t have opinions just smart-assed one-liners that could shut-down any dialogue so my lack of thoughtful insight would remain hidden.

Over the years I have learned to stop taking the bait to be dismissive & cynical, particularly with things that are irrelevant to me – you know I frankly don’t care who wins an Oscar, which political party is in crisis mode, what newsworthy figure looks amazing in a jaw-dropping anything. If anything I more dismayed that some of these things are worthy of taking up so much space in the media.

One good thing about not taking the bait is that I hardly notice things that once would have got me wisecracking or disturbed. Even things that I know something about I can step back & think – Is it worth it to wade in? How important is it, to me, in the long run? Am I saying things to appear smart, intelligent, witty to be smart-assed or to add something constructive to the dialogue? In a culture where being critical, negative is a sign of intelligence & to be positive, non-judgemental is to be delusional or stupid – it can be a challenge not to mouth-off.

Through spokenword performances I’ve learned that what I say & what you hear are often two different things. I’ve stopped apologizing when people choose to take offence when none was intended – the fact that my piece about my Dad triggered bad memories about yours is not my fault. The fact that my gay sex positive outlook is a sign of the moral decay & destruction of family values isn’t my issue.

When people ask for my opinion what they hear isn’t what I say but what they feel is in accordance with theirs, if it isn’t then I’m being argumentative or shaming, or am just not as hip, sensitive, liberal, conservative as they are. They don’t want my opinion they want to educate me as to how right theirs is. Then again that’s only my humble opinion.

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy fabric
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

No Morals Inventory

genderizing toy

The dreaded, by many, fourth step in the recovery program calls on one to take a fearless moral inventory, which at first glance seems to be a list all the bad things we did. The lies, money we stole – if only it were that simple. Growing up queer I was confronted with things like ‘an abomination unto the face of the Lord.’ if one is an abomination to begin with what difference to those petty failing make?

the almost hidden heart

I didn’t have any morals to begin with anyway. What I did have was a cultural encoded set of behaviours & expectations that were in place before I was even born. Men do this, women do this – not to conform was a no-no, to question those suppositions was also a no-no. If one was a bit of a girly-boy you got teased into manhood. To confront bullies was a step to manhood: violence = masculinity. Not to confront = cowardice.

conformity shattered

In the lgbtqia world not to get married was to be a bad queer, to sleep around was to be a bad queer, not to fly the rainbow flag with the added trans chevron was to be transphobic. Assumptions & encoded expectations can’t be avoided – there is always a pressure to conform in the queer community or rather to ape heteronormative behaviours to be ‘acceptable’ – please no leather men at the pride parade, hide those drag queens, hide anyone over 60 (or it is 50 now) so we don’t scare the children or our corporate sponsors with the bare breasts of motorcycle dykes.

Getting back to my inventory, I eventually had to address deeper issues than a list of people I resented or who resented me for what I was. Some resentments are hard to get to the roots of, as my biggest abuser was/is the culture I grew up in & one in which I have to live. One result of doing this step several times over the past decades as guided me to confront those cultural encoded behaviours & realize that being the sort of non-conformist I am isn’t cowardice but bravery. 

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees,
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

I Love My Shirts

A few months ago I watched a British series ‘ Stitch In Time’ in which the fashion historian host, with her team of specialists, replicates clothing worn in famous oil paintings – giving us a context for the painting & the fabrics used etc. Sometimes they went to an archive that had actual clothing made in the period in question. It led me to think of the oldest clothing I now owned.

My mother was a seamstress, making clothes for herself & my sisters most of the time. She wasn’t fond of the construction of collars or putting in button holes but I did get her to make me a few shirts. On my semi-regular trips from Sydney to Halifax I would buy albums & fabric. The stores in Sydney didn’t carry ‘fun’ prints & as far as I remember, there were stores dedicated to fabric just departments at Zellers etc. I found these at a sort of Fabricland in Halifax.

I had two of the movie star shirts. This one in blue with the brown insert & one in brown with blue insert – both in this sort of western style. I made sure it had the Frankenstein monster pocket. The fabric is a heavy cotton, almost denim. I loved wearing these because of the campiness of the print & because they echoed my job – I worked at the Famous Player theatres in Sydney. This one still fits me, if I don’t button it up, but the thread is ‘delicate’ with age.

The dashiki style with the racing cars still amazes me. I love this kids pj print, though it is cotton not flannel. I also had another with a cowboys & stallions print but has been lost to time. My mother liked this pattern because it had no collar or buttons to bother with. I’ve kept my eye open on visits to Fabricland or something similar without success. Truly vintage I guess. this one doesn’t fit & the fabric itself is now delicate with age.

The tie is made from another of my Halifax fabric finds. Another cotton print that I may might have had a dashiki made of too. I have worn this tie a few times to perform at poetry readings. My mother wasn’t too sure of the construction of ties so it lacks the interlining fabric that keeps the tie in shape so it never really knotted properly so it proved not to be practical for tying someone to the bed 😦

In Sydney at this time men weren’t wearing prints expect plaids. Shirts were nondescript in mild colours. Mine were attention getters. I see now how these print choices were a part of my coming out at the time with their tres gay sensibility.

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy fabric
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Tchaikovsky

I was introduced to Tchaikovsky through Fantasia without knowing who I was being introduced to. When I bought my first real stereo: turntable, speakers, receiver – from Radio Shack – the first album I played on it was a recording of his first piano concerto. It was a wow moment. 

Since then my collection of his work has grown from box sets to cassettes & to cd box sets & mp3. buy Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian 1840 –1893) I have as stand-alones: Queen of Spades 3 cd, Nutcracker ballet, 1812 Overtures & other orchestral work, Complete Piano & orchestra 2cd, Complete String Quartets 2cd, Choral Work, Violin Concerto w: Beethoven: Violin Concerto 61.

On 3cds of mp3 I have the Complete Symphonies, Complete Solo Piano Music, Piano Concertos, Orchestral works: Capriccio Italien, Francesca da Rimini, Ballet Suites, Romeo & Juliet, Swan Lake, Nutcracker; Violin Concertos. Rounding out the cds are Dvorak: Four-Hand Piano; Prokofiev: The Buffoon ballet; Berloiz: Romeo & Juliet ballet; Stravinsky: Firebird.

Some duplicates but each version is a different interpretation. Melodic, lyrical, some radical at the time, romantic, over-the-top, melodramatic & sometimes saccharin & sentimental – what’s not to like? Some of the music barely contains his personal inner turmoil around his queerness – at time when it was a capital offence – actually in Russia I think it still is.

The ballet suites are a good introduction to his music. The whole ballets can be a bit much without dancers 🙂 The Queen of Spades opera is pleasant enough. His string quartets are sublime. If you want melodrama, melody & heartbreaking romance this is the composer for you.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 



Easter Summer

Easter

without a doubt

the slimmest hope

is held on to longest

that ghost of a chance 

that finds a ledge

to balance on

awaiting the opportunity

to dash into view 

when all the chips are down

can’t you just hear

his heavy footfall

up the stairs

or tripping over a chair

with a drink in one hand

resurrection in the other

1975

Ending this look back with something humorous. I’d say funny but the ending is a bit too sardonic. I’ve written similar pieces in which I play with clichés in unpredictable ways. I enjoy the way this poem twists around language &, hopefully, takes the reader by surprise with the unexpected ending image.

The poem a bit didactic with the almost aphoristic opening about holding on to hope. How long will Trump hold on to his unsubstantiated conspiracy theory? Pride keeps some holding on rather than letting go & moving on. Slim hopes: like ‘this time it’ll be different,’ ‘he/she didn’t really mean it’ etc. We find it easier to continue to invest in hopeless causes than move on.

Lessons learned can be quickly forgotten or ignored with the promise of resurrection. Red flags ‘heavy footfall’ ‘tripping over a chair’ are ignored with that promise ‘I’ll change.’ Or we get caught in being the nice guy afraid that by establish & maintaining a boundary we won’t be liked. ‘If you love me you’ll forgive me.’ ‘Don’t you trust me.’

Alcoholics often continue to drunk, well aware of the consequences – often there is no event, consequence or loss painful enough to get them to stop. In fact that pain becomes an excuse to keep on drinking, the promise of forgetting. Doing the same thing over & over expecting a different result. 

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & visit Cape Breton
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Welcome To The F Files

https://topoet.ca/2021/06/26/welcome-to-the-f-files/

Reconnect

tangled plots

Met up with Lizzie Violet, an actual f2f visit, with someone outside of my bubble for the time since the initial pandemic lockdown. I haven’t spent time with Lizzie since the unexpected demise of her Cabaret Noir a few years ago. We’ve had a few coffee dates with a group of writers but this was a one-on-one without distractions. The day proved to be hot, for me, to sit on a shady patio, so we enjoyed the a/c cool of my dining-room for a couple of hours. (http://lizzieviolet.com)

story building blocks

She writing a novel set during the 30’s set in Toronto & one of the characters is from the east coast. I was a natural resource seeing as my novel, Coal Dusters, is set near that time – there was little change in Cape Breton due to the depression after its own disastrous labour struggles with the coal/steel industries. They were already a hard-scrabble people making the most of what resources they had. But I digress, slightly.

some plot steps lead nowhere

I do get to talk ‘writing’ with one of my Loyalist crew every month or so but was great to do so with with an almost new face 🙂 I also got to share some of the books I picked up in my Cape Breton research & some of the things I discovered for other sources – things like the black miners imported from the Caribbean with promises of company houses etc only to arrive totally unprepared in the middle of a blizzard with no real place to live. There’s a book that needs to be written.

I also shared how I read novels written in the 20s/30s to get sense of the language used, I also read some boys adventures written at that time too. In Dusters I wanted my characters talk like 20’s people not like the over-articulate people of today. In rewatching the The Tudors recently I was dismayed at the over use of the word fuck – I know it existed at the time – but as a word of mocking not vulgarity. 

too many diversions?

Hopefully there’ll be opportunity to reconnect f2f with more of my writing/poetry community before the the lockdown rolls back to protect us from people who feel their personal rights supersede their responsibility to others. 

from August 2008

Dreaming Of Me

you tell me 

you’ve been dreaming about me

you think about me all the time

you think such talk is flattering

but because 

we’ve only been together 

three times

to me these are warnings

things too much too soon

from someone I don’t dream about

about whom my only thought is

how do I break this to you gently

<>

you really are quite sweet

but being attracted to me

isn’t enough anymore

not that I think I’m so hot

that I can pick and choose

it’s just that I’m no longer

driven by opportunity

the way I once was

<>

the longer you dream

the longer it will take

for you to wake up to the fact

that you aren’t in my dreams

I don’t fantasize about you 

I don’t long for your call

I’m not hungry for your kiss

I didn’t want to say no thanks

too quickly

opportunities like this

don’t come often in my life

the last time it did

I was eager like you

for more of that mouthful of wonder feeling

but this time

I’m more inclined to keep my mouth shut

let someone else do the talking

then I’ll do the walking

<>

I’m out of here

once I figure out how to tell you that

after all we’ve only been together

what three times now

not long enough 

for me to consider it an investment

more of an investigation

a chance for both of us 

to check out the goods

and as much as I’m pleased 

with what lies beneath the sheets

I’m not drawn back for more of it

even when you tell me

you dream of me

that you waited all week for my call

the fact that I waited a week to call

should have told you something

if I was that into you

nothing would’ve held me back

<>

I wish you sweet dreams though

feel a little flattered 

some of them are of me

but I’m not selling 

myself for a dream 

anymore

cabaret noir march 2015
Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Summer Striptease

Our Lady of the Striptease

<>

1

<>

she

becomes an angel by intimation

an angle of departure

<>

I

call on her 

at random

when the answer

needs to be atomized

<>

atomized

atomic

breaking chains

disintegration 

she

becomes

the unpiecing of form

the distortion of winter

the glare of silk

<>

2

<>

in the dressing room

she flounces once

in the golding mirror

washes past shadows

for a new wrinkle

to offer her lurching toys

<>

each ruffle in place

nipples rouged ready

pasties perk sparkling 

before she climbs the stairs

mounts the stage

<>

runs quick hands 

over her waist down

soothe fingers on rhinestones

tests the outline of a dream

plunged into a startling spotlight

<>

3

<>

our lady

steps on stage

kaboom

the curtain opens

a lace dream vista

behind her

kaboom kaboom

golden ropes

brass chains

silver buckles 

shish kaboom

<>

gold gloves peeled

ta ta ta ta booma

pink panties drop

kaboom

the sagging grind

of hips breasts

ta kaboom boomba

held up  out

robbed

kaboom

by her own hands

shish kaboom

<>

4

<>

our lady

the form of a woman

she

holds warmth

constructs life

wishbone purity

snaps 

her fingers

eyes

linger

come hither

sleepy shoulder 

turns cold

at the wrong rush

of worried air

<>

clouded

thick with mystery 

the night’s chocolate 

in torn across beds

tumbled searched under

in the look for

the afternoon caress

of roses

brushing one another

as they follow

the sun

<>

our lady

undresses

alone at midnight 

slips

silent between unsweetened sheets

our lady

listen to me call

answer me

answer me

<>

5

<>

she

brushes her hair

<>

outside her window

my legs ache

from standing

tiptoe 

for so long

untangles her hair

used a black comb

powders her shoulders

her cold white back

arches her leg

scratches her belly

my legs ache

<>

she

dims another light

opens the curtain

a lace wider

dances

the bedroom tango

alone at midnight 

slides secretly

between unsearched sheets

<>

6

<>

she

disappears 

the idea of touch

loses contact

the secret caress

hovers

passes as a mist

atomized 

unsearched

aching legs

plow home

through the snow

through the clouds

an angel sings

answer me

answer me

<>

76

This version of Our Lady is from 1976. It went through several revisions before this one was considered done, the writing of it may go back to 1974. The one change I made in 2021, beside proof reading, was to move one section to improve flow. It did come to me as a whole piece starting with that title, which is a sardonic play on Catholic reverence – ‘Our Lady’ almost being the same as Saint. There’s also an echo of The Lady of the Lake. Here Striptease is elevated to a sacred art form.

Here, too, is my structural reliance on numbered sections, a lesson learned from T.S. Elliot. I thought it made my poetry look more serious on the page. Section 3 features my interest in sound poetry ‘kaboom kaboom’ as I give Our Lady a drummer for her number. In other pieces I explore this use of sound even further. I don’t think I’ve ever performed this one so I don’t know how the sounds sound 🙂

There is almost a story line as Our Lady prepares, then goes on stage, performs, then relaxes after & goes to bed. We are the audience for this show & the tip-toe observer literally turns the reader from audience into a secret voyeur. The point of view shifts subtly through out the poem from the ‘I’ to the omniscient poet’s eye that decides her toys are lurching. Finally to the figure spying.

Striptease is essentially a heterosexual male pleasure that invites lust with distance, without real investment in the object other than the surface. Writing about it was a way of establishing my masculinity as a poet. I wasn’t really out at the time, unless getting drunk & having sex with a drunk buddy counts. I was okay being bi but I kept my poetry focus on women.

It’s also about unrequited sex. Our Lady offers it to men who can’t have her, she goes home alone. Our peeper also goes home alone satisfied with his glimpse of the off stage Lady. Both of them caught in a culture in which the observed surface replaces real connection. 

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & visit Cape Breton
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Welcome To The F Files

https://topoet.ca/2021/06/27/welcome-to-the-f-files/

Summer Resolution

Resolution

<>

today

the grey is a force

outside of me

it is cold clouds

brooding  complete

<>

I am a part of this day

a piece of this air

thick sleepy

with a slight breeze

to move me

from room to room

from talk to thought

<>

the breeze

a fussy flute

complicates 

each motion

with a contra-melody 

is in me

as I move formless

to fill the rooms

with a frosted rush

of talk  threats

<>

the threats

aren’t serious yet

but as the wind picks up

even these subtle hints 

can’t resolve its shape

<>

a haunted flute

in a cold hall

played by a winter breeze

waits for resolution

<>

Nv75

Although music has always played a big part in my life – at time when an lp, cassette, cd, mp3 would start up within minutes after I woke up – I rarely wrote without it, but seldom actually wrote about it. This piece is partially inspired by two pieces for solo flute: Syrinx by Claude Debussy & Density 21.5 by Edgar Varese. I had  an lp with both of these by Severino Gazzelloni. Both pieces were merely over as opposed to having a definite conclusion, they ended without resolution.

The poem also uses images, variations on those images – like melodies repeated with slight harmonic changes. The breeze moving me, the shades of cold, frost echoes grey. Haunted resonated with the emptiness of the room, the hollowness of the flute. I move formless, like frosted breath, like clouds that seem to have shape until you get close, they become fog around out, you breath them in.

This was written in 1975 – what was waiting for resolution in my life? I was living in a grey area of sexual anxiety knowing I was gay & being careful about how out I could be. Gay panic was an acceptable for murder, for assault. I had an English Lit prof tell me that writing about queer sexuality would not serve my writing well (or something to that effect). Sex was drunken fumbling with other drunk guys. Sex was a fussy furtive opportunity.

My writing ‘career’ was also unresolved. I had no real mentors. I was stumbling through the writing of fiction as best I could. I have a couple of novels that I wrote between 1970 – 77. Some short stories too, even a play. All full of emotional pretence & the striving to find a voice. A striving haunted by cultural shaming. I was waiting for resolution.

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & visit Cape Breton
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Welcome To The F Files

https://topoet.ca/2021/06/26/welcome-to-the-f-files/

My Summer Conceit

My Conceit

<>

he said

‘you treat me like shit’

I just laughed

not worried at all

barely caring  surprised 

he felt

I treated him like anything at all

<>

later

when he was really drunk

he called me buddy

confessed

he was afraid of death

that things were slipping

out of his hands

out of his head

he started to break things

to shatter my distance

so I pushed him

a little too hard

with a snicker

a left hook

neither did much good

<>

he said

‘you’re still the same old prick’

I laughed

not worried at all

barely caring 

dismayed

he felt

I had to change because he couldn’t

<>

Oct18/76

Another of the stumble-drunk poems. This one about those drinking pals I look forward to so much simply so I didn’t have to drink alone. I recall one booze buddy who said I was the best pal he ever had – sound familiar – years later I heard that line in a song about drinking. Years later, I don’t remember which booze hound said that about me. I’m sure it was after buying a round drinks.

‘you treat me like shit’ is an actual line said to me, more than once. As a drunk I was emotionally overwrought while being detached at the same time. I was sardonic, even cruel, when not feeling much sympathy for the travails of others. Partially because I thought that a nasty streak made me appear more intelligent, witty, intellectual. It was also a way to keep people from getting to close. I’d rather they thought I was nasty than gay.

Things did get broken 🙂 The drunken confessions weren’t mine, though I may have felt some of those things. I wasn’t afraid of death – after all being a drunk is a slow death. I had suicidal thoughts & imagined drinking myself to death like my hero Dylan Thomas or doing some theatrical gesture like another of my heroes, Yukio Mishima.

My conceit wasn’t in thinking I was not as bad as my drinking buddy but thinking only I recognized that I was probably worse than him & he was humouring me so he could get another drink. Neither us were looking for change unless it was to try a different mix for our drinks.

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & visit Cape Breton
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Welcome To The F Files

https://topoet.ca/2021/06/26/welcome-to-the-f-files/