My Summer Hero

My Hero

around the corpse

heaped on the ground 

after a fifty floor drop

someone chalks a line 

<>

blanks of violence

fill them in

cart them away

<>

he’s my hero

the chalk man

when I grow up

I want to be the outliner

I can fill his shoes

testify to broken bones

record the positions

of twisted arms legs

<>

cataloguing 

the final dive

into reality

feb76

I don’t recall any real hero worship going up. I wasn’t a sports fan so there weren’t posters of hockey or baseball players on my walls. A few of pop stars but they weren’t really heroes, or even role models. I was quite fascinated by the astronauts though, I did repeatedly read a paperback I had that told their story. 

More than anything this piece reflects my fascination for the macabre & the pleasure I take in pushing narrative in unexpected directions. The title leads you to expect a poem about a celebrity or some low-key humdrum person who is a role model but instead starts with this image of a body – is this the body of my hero? The language is matter-of-fact almost newswire in lack of emotional content.

Second verse still downplays emotion but with a hint of the sardonic in making the violence mundane. Then comes the the hero – the chalk man. ‘When I grow up’ indicates our narrator is a child, maybe an adolescent but one who is unaffected by the body but who sees the practicality of dealing with it in a detached way – ‘record the positions.’ Perhaps someone who has watched too many police procedurals on TV. In some ways it is a comment on how indifferent we become to violence. 

More recently I’ve seen children’s chalk drawings all over the sidewalks since the pandemic lockdowns in Toronto, Multicoloured flowers, faces, words of encouragement, even a hopscotch with 100 squares! Recently one for the 215 bodies of children found at a Residence. Chalk plays a big role in children’s lives it allows for impermanent self-expression that can be immediate & freeing at the same time. 

The last verse veers into poetics with an ending as unexpected as the actual fall. The finality of death. It moves from the childlike voice of ‘he’s my hero’ into the one of that ‘final dive.’ Again impermanence – an outline that will wash away in the rain. A hero who will always have a job.

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PreAdolescent Burlesque

PreAdolescent Burlesque

<>

we weren’t caught

in the dusty garage

pulling our pants down

to show to tell to see

where all the fuss was about
<>

it started out so easy

somebody’s little brother

scampering naked

down a summer street


looking for a hose

a sprinkler

finding instead laughter

<>

what fun we all had

his small white behind

slipping at the end of angry long arms

back into the darkness

of the afternoon house

<>

we six all saw him

us bubbling under thirteens

scanning the fun

red-faced & giggling

eyeing each other

to see if the sparkle was shared

<>

then someone had the idea

maybe it was me

sometimes I pretend it was

but I’m sure it wasn’t

I was the second to say ‘yeh’

I was the one who knew

where there was a secret space

<>

we called it hide-and-see

with all of us hiding

in one little corner

with all of us seeking

one see-it-all glance

one of the girls said

let’s do it again

we all agreed

<>

it was to be after supper

while the folks smoked

put little brothers to bed

only four showed up

there was barely room for us

thanks to the now parked car

one budding young woman


with three earnest little men

silent in shame

willing to look

but afraid to touch

June 19/76

Capturing the innocence of early sexual awareness was a challenge. Making it too explicit would turn it into child porn. I know many whose early sexual experiences were abuse. Mine weren’t as sweet as this, being fraught with my queer awareness without having words for that awareness. 

I did do some of ‘the pants down in the garage’ play but not as depicted here. The naked behind down the street was not unusual either. In summer we played jumping around the garden sprinkler & squirting each other with the hose. Often some clothing would be discarded to the ‘shock’ of parents. 

I like the way it conveys sexuality without being either coy or frank but in a matter-of-fact way. I also feel my poet’s fear here, keeping it heterosex focused because in 76 I was certainly more interested in men but hadn’t found a way to write about it that felt safe. This poem is mildly daring but totally safe too. 

In my pants down show & tell play I was more interested in what the boys had to show. I don’t know if I felt shame but more the fear of being caught. It was fun being naughty but the fear lead to guilt. It wasn’t until decades later that I found out this sort of adolescent ‘sex’ play was normal. I’m grateful for not being caught which would have turned this into some sort of parental outrage trauma as opposed to a sweet recollection of an event that didn’t damage my sexual journey of discovery with lectures & shame for being a child.

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Chrysanthemum Summer

Chrysanthemum 

<>

1

<>

the sword

as sunrise

highlights

the water

flash cuts of red

<>

2

<>

a silver bird

a black curve

at vision’s edge

cautiously circles

hedges preflight bets

against a perfect landing

<>

a black curve

of the slowly formed oval

figures into connections

liniar sensibility

practices the new motion

the cutting motion

of ends realized

<>

3

<>

I’ve caged

with sun & steel

the silver birds 

I hope

to dissect their eyes

to find what they see

beyond my sight

<>

I know they see more

they feed from other hands

I will not rest

till I’ve emptied

their hollow bones

of soaring fluids

I must know more

than the aching birth of flight

I must feel more

than the caress of turbulence 

I must have their sight

<>

4

<>

a feathered rhapsody

in a shimmer celebration 

of a perfect landing 

on an endless spiral

of consecrated breath

breath held

as long as possible

the released 

to form a lined cloud

<>

5

<>

I’ve released

the silver birds

they soar & shimmer

beyond all edges

black round flickers

their eyes intact 

they see black curves

they fly spirals

the black curves are death

a vision I leave to them 

till my own bones

are so hollow

all that remains

is the silver

<>

6

<>

from behind the cloud

a silver bird

wings on straw bones

a floating airfoil song

a crescendo of invention

in a shuddered moment

a moment of escape

a curve of celebration 

for this perfect landing

<>

7

<>

the vision

as heartbeat

reflects

the edge

fresh curves of black

<>

June13/77

This poem reflects my adoration of Yukio Mishima. His life, writing & death were inspirations to me. Over the years I have read nearly everything of his translated into English, as well as biographies & critical studies of his work. Through the piece are mentions of his works – Sun & Steel is his book about samurai culture & ritual. He saw suicide as an artist expression. He was also queer.

The opening & closing are like Japanese water colours with a few simple brushstrokes creating a vivid image in blank space. The in-between verses are like chrysanthemum – multi-petaled with repeated words, images, analogies that reflect, then vary as they move like a kaleidoscope to form then reform new pictures.

Words were carefully picked for sonics & meaning & poetic vibrancy. ‘feathered rhapsody’  ‘crescendo of invention’ are Dylan Thomas candy. I had some brightly coloured Java Temple finches at one time so I’m sure they were inspiration for all the bird imagery. I must have seen a documentary on bird feathers & bones & that relates to their ability to fly but it is possible I made that stuff up too.

T

hey learn to fly by being pushed out of the nest – it’s either spread your wings or die trying, discover their perfect landing or become part of the black curves. Poems have to pushed out the nest to fly into the lives people that the poet often never meets. We writers never know where our words will land once we set them free.  The vision one has of oneself as a poet, as person, also has to leave a nest, though unlike birds we have more options to try as we learn to negotiate life & often never find that perfect landing.

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Summer Murderer

typed on Royal – around 1976

“… As a Young Murderer”

<>

1

<>

I

want to kill

rip apart

with my bare hands

I

want blood

to taste

to smear

across my face

over my chin

between the fingers

of my bare hands
<>

2

<>

I

want to kill

instead

I get on a plane 

reading

in the airfoil gamble

I want to rip my book apart

strangle someone

then

then

slowly pick up the pieces
of my half-finished book

then

then

wash my hands

after reading

I often wash my hands

<>

my hands 

are ordinary

not thin tapers

with long artistic fingers
but squarish

with solid grasping fingers 

that create

yes I paint 

you’d never tell from my fingers

that I do anything

except linger

<>

you’re never tell from my hands

that my fingers

savour the skin of knuckles

brick wall ground

grazed as they pound a head

your head

the head that would never think

that of these hands

my hands

passive now

as they touch

the corners of your mouth

<>

3

<>

down the back stairs 

playing on the pipes

‘nineteenth’

playing at them with spoons

‘here it comes’

tapping at the airfoil

pumping on the surface

‘nineteenth’

playing on the pipes

echoing up the stairs

‘here it comes’

<>

4

<>

then I dream

of regrets

sorry sorry sorry

I’m suddenly

all so sorry

I didn’t stop to think

I rarely do

I think of myself

I only prime the repercussion

percussion

playing on the pipes 

lead pipes

“pieces of flesh

and some hair 

were found …”

<>

my hair

is always clean

I like the feel

of fingers

gripping at my hair

pulling it out

roots & all

looking for a hold

to keep me looking 

as they slip away 

as my eyes disbelieve

my act of turning a corner

without looking back

to see if I did

or if I glimpsed the doing

reflected by alley darkness

blind alley

that’s how they found me

dancing

‘here it comes’

my knuckles raw

the spoon of blood

in my mouth 

singing

‘nineteenth’

<>

5

<>

suddenly

my perception clears

a book on my lap

spoons tapping on the pipes

something in the air

a taste of spring lamb

I want to kill

but

am too tired to clean

<>

I

want to kill

instead 

I come back to my vision

a dream revelation

of the endless tease 

of energy

within my grasp

without my control

<>

This poem equates violence with masculinity in a very direct, in your face way propelled by a barely contained anger. I was compelled to write something that was aggressive, unflinching to get away from the emotional delicacy of the poetry I was force fed in high-school. There was lack of real physical interaction beyond the tenderness of a lover’s kiss. I wanted to write things that weren’t safe because my real life was confined by culturally imposed rules of gender behaviour.

I performed this piece a few times while I was still living in Sydney. ‘ taste of spring lamb’ was the name of a poetry reading I gave & I loved the dark energy of this piece. It was also a lesson to me that people see what you’ve written as you – that this was confessional as opposed to a character I was exploring. More than anything it revealed my desire to shock not to kill.

The language departs from my Dylan Thomas influence – no pretty pictures here but definitely some very clear & visceral descriptions.  The narrative voice moves from that rage, to an almost tender self-awareness of both the speaker & he reader – the reach out to ‘touch the corners of your mouth.’ There is the dream logic word association that goes from ‘pipes’ to ‘some hair’ to ‘my hair.’

The title is a reference to both James Joyce’s & Dylan Thomas’ ‘Portrait of the Artist as a .…’ ‘nineteenth’ comes from The Rolling Stones’ 19th Nervous Breakdown. Writing poems like this is probably what spared me from actually killing some (or myself) & from having a nervous breakdown. 

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Summer Blackout

typed on Royal typewriter – around 1977

Blackout 77

1

the fear

aware of the light

shapes the unseen

<>

the fear

is being awakened

at the wrong trembling moment

to your own pulse

2

I gave in today

without a fight 

without a second thought

gave in to nothing

being nothing

doing nothing

going nowhere

<>

I gave up

my dreams & hopes

plans of a great future

that’ll never come true

all that’s left for me

is to relax into resignation

without bitterness

to keep on giving in

without a struggle

<>

the plan now

is to sleep in

on all fours

to a snug shadow

of calm reserve

a smug disinterest 

about the things

I once had to become

3

I’m getting old 

the feel of fall

is colder in my bones

every year

I find it easier to drink

to forget old unfinished fears

than to make new motions

toward an altered shape

<>

I find it easier

every time I empty another bottle

the next seems more welcome

not a proffered hope

but fleeting buffer

to remorse for old hurts

4

resignation

is a futile gesture

it is an admission 

to pretentions

I once had a vision 

a true sense of a special offering

a vision that proved to be

insecure self-indulgence 

a vision

that kept me so in awe

I could never confront

even my basic mortality 

<>

no one is fooled but me

there is no dream revelation

just the dream

just the dream

to black out the image

of the self-pitying 

aging

drunken

unfulfilled visionary 

with no shape

no broken heart

just his fear

<>

the fear

last feeling of fall

has no vision

5

the unseen

is the futility of resignation

the inability to admit

that even as these words are

I intend to deny their meaning

<>

this is not defeat

I have nothing to lose

this is not resignation

I have nothing to concede

<>

the dream

will never change

that it may never come true

is the heart of the plan

<>

the fear

pulse of the plan

has no end

………

Blackout 77

The title pretty much tells the reader what this piece is about – drinking, though it doesn’t get to the first sip right away. The first section is the opening of the bottle not of whiskey, but of the fear the propels the opening of the bottle in the first place. It also presents the idea of pulse as a protagonist.

At the time I didn’t connect my sense of resignation with alcohol. I didn’t realize it was a depressant – I saw it as a creative stimulant, as my escape from fears – particularly the fear of sexuality – getting drunk & acting out with other drunk men happened more than once. Opening a bottle with them was unzipping the pants. 

There’s also some wordplay – ‘sleep in on all fours’ sleep instead of creep – ‘giving in without a struggle.’ This repurposing of cliches is a way to let readers be comfortable with seems familiar while letting them see it in a different way at the same time. 

I wrote some of this while drunk in fact. Parts were in notebooks, some typed & the pieces assembled back in 1977. Some images were in the ‘original’ scribble – ‘sleep in on all fours, the feel of fall is colder in my bones’ – the sense of resignation, which I now see as melodrama, as opposed to real emotion, was more self-indulgence that anything else. Sections were made by sober reflections on what I had written. 

The last verse was handwritten several times as I tried, at the time, to make my drunken handwriting legible. Looking back I think ‘the fear’ was not only of coming out but of the ‘sense of a special offering’ & how it would be fulfilled. Sadly I discarded all those original scribbles way back in 1977.  

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Spider Serenade

Spider Serenade

<>

spider

black

tree branched

against a winter moon

spins her fine web

fragile  almost nothing

floating wisps

to grab faces in the dark

infectious whips

to lash insects lost without light

<>

a spider’s web

diamond visible against the moon

intangible interlocking of lives

fragile

almost nothing

web of affections

splashed with moments

of pleasure

confused by the space beyond

only a light touch on the face

sound heard as echo

<>

many movements of moments in time

leave me

brittle fragile

against a moon of confusions

lighted

caught

revealed

so slight  nearly invisible

when I catch on your face

when we find each other in motion

caught in each other’s tangle

of sun

diamonds

and awkward blindness 

<>

Mr72/Jl76

This poem from 1972 is one of the oldest in the folder. The influence of Dylan Thomas is the first thing I saw as I was inputting this piece. His use of adjectives to enrich an image with more than colour – ‘infectious whips’ ‘diamond visible’ are a great examples of his influence. I can still feel that off-putting moment of walking into a spiderweb in the dark. Mildly alarming & icky. 

The transition from the actual spiderweb to the ‘web of affections’ is fairly smooth & the analogy is effectively sustained through the piece. The verses have an image structure rather than a strict rhythm or even line count like a sonnet. The moon appears in each of them – slightly different each time – theme & variation.

The last verse weaves images & words from the first two moon, web, diamonds etc into a tangle that catches us. By the time we get to this point we are familiar with the concepts & are lured into the moment.

This use of language was very deliberate & somewhat successful if one forgives the youthful romantic ardour of the piece. It talks of an idealized, very non-sexual, type of love as well. I wasn’t out but was aware that I was queer. I suspect the ‘awkward’ of the last line comes from my fears of reaching out, of wanting to present myself as a poet & not as a horned up teenager 🙂 The blindness comes from the fact that there were no guides to coming out or picking up guys at that time. No role models, no support systems. Me groping in the dark for context.

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Welcome to The F Files

For the summer Wednesdays will be devoted to the F Files – all poems written in the 70’s that I had been filed away in an accordion file folder = F Files. In the 2021 pandemic purge of my file cabinet I came across the folder & over the next couple of month input all of the pieces – just over 7800 words. Many I had forgotten, some I vaguely remembered writing. Some were drafts, some carbon copies. 

They were on various types paper – some repurposed flyers, Famous Players daily box-office report forms. Yellow draft paper, good white paper. Some where handwritten on note pads, scribblers etc. Also various typewriters – my Dad’s office Remington, the theatre’s (the make of which I have forgotten), my old Royal, some with a rented electric typewriter.

I’ve picked ten of them to reflect on start end of  June through July & August, ending in September. I’ve resisted major edits, but did some fixes for punctuation, spelling & typos. I did removed capital letters at the start of every line – one of those grammar rules that I eventually let go of. Same with the use of &. One thing that is ‘difficult’ with both Pages & WP is enjambments. With a typewriter I could just turn the rolled once & type right there.

I also have two ‘novels’ I wrote between 1969 & 1976 that may eventually get serialized here. Unlike the poetry’s which I find fairly good, the novels are clumsy & even more closeted. The first one reflects the influence of the writers I was most familiar with – Dixon & Appleton – not familiar with them? One wrote the Hardy Boys & the other was the brains behind Tom Swift 🙂

early 70’s – I was a fan of Gabor Szabo – one of my drinking buddies was a guitar playing guy whose last name was O’Neill

SzabO’Neill

from fret to fret

the hum of wires

the hopes of fires

not set just yet

to the tune of chances

missed but hoped for again

to give song to fliers

or new steps to dances

break forms into flight

one less note to regret

as your hand flies

from fret to fret

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No Room

No Room 

I’ve lived with the same man

for over forty years

I don’t use poppers or party and play

so I’m not gay enough for the room

<>

I did hiv home care 

buried friends 

stepped away from the front lines

so I’m not queer enough for the room

<>

I sleep around

sometime have unprotected sex

so I’m not a good example

for anyone in the room

<>

I don’t like Celine Dion or Babs

which is enough to get my

gay card denied

so I don’t have the credentials for the room

<>

I’m over several hills

hills only survivors 

know how daunting they can be

such as shame for not being young enough

to be in the room 

<>

the web sells us

face lifts work out routines 

websites for grandpa devotees

to keep them away from the room

<>

being acceptable in heteronormative 

assimilationist terms

was too conditional

I was amused 

abused

by the need

for the conformity

to be gay enough to be in the room

<>

I’m not sure 

if I ever was in that room

if I was

I wasn’t long for the room

I was tempted to call this No Room At The Inn but the religious connotations were inappropriate. The piece is clearly about assimilationist attitudes that try to rule the queer community. Attitudes that said it was fine for trans men & woman to fight for our rights but then tried to hide them so as not to cast a bad light on all those good, unassuming queers who didn’t want to scare the horses.

I’m not that I am preoccupied with the ways I may or may not fit into various categories I can’t ignore the ways my ‘not fit’ is made clear to me by others, directly or indirectly. PRIDE is clearly focused on a very specific ‘market’ defined by age, appearance, substance of choice, & body type. The one marked improvement in PRIDE over the years has been its greater awareness of race/nationality inclusivity – but honey if you don’t look good in heels, or leather chaps, or jeans you really aren’t that welcome regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

Many years ago I was invited to be part of a PRIDE reading by those of us over a certain age. Cool, I thought, we’re given some recognition. The event was unpaid, we were to be so grateful to be included we would perform for free (a standard PRIDE stance for many performers), the location was as far from the Church street core as possible – I was surprised they didn’t stick us down in Fort York. Only us performers & our friends could find the room.

One of the fallacies of inclusivity is that everyone has equal  footing – there is nearly always someone deciding who is the best example of what is to be included. The decision gauge is often unpredictable even when that someone deigns to use it on you. You could be let into the room but please stay in that corner there. 

Time to clean my room 🙂


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Pride Slugfest

One of the sure signs of summer has become the appearance of rainbow flags in corporate settings. How long before McD’s markets the Inclusive Burger to compete with the Gay Uncle Burger? Ooh look multicoloured sprinkles on the unicorn donut! I feel so seen. Where are the transvegan breakfast wraps? So many new markets to cater to.

So many rainbows to choose from – the classic, the trans flag, the combo, the maple leaf between rainbows, the blm, the (fill in your niche) flag. Clearly if you don’t have them all in your store window you aren’t an ally. If you don’t recognize the latest variation you are phobic. If you stick to the classic you are hiding your head in the glitter. With so many splinter groups clamouring for recognition if you support the wrong ones you are suspect. 

I was recently invited to contribute some pro-Pride remarks to a company as part of their lgbtqia+ inclusively week. If I am queer positive I’ll help them show their support as they sell more garments to increase their market share. If I don’t do it, for free, I’m clearly homophobic, if I expect $ I’m just an entitled slug. I declined. I’ve had enough exposure thank you. I’m not interested in another slugfest 🙂

Here in Ontario people are lamenting the pandemic restrictions that, like last year, have curtailed Pride public celebrations. Personally I’m indifferent. The parade has become a march of commercial sponsors interspersed grass-root splinter groups staking claim to their few minutes is the spotlight. 

(photos of an east end Toronto sidewalk)

The Days of the Week

control 

out of control

so hard to choose

which will give the better result

too hard to let go of

those expectations 

drives 

dreams 

goals

result of out of control

such a freedom

can someone with control issues

get out of control

with the need to control

hold on too tight

or drop everything too suddenly

relax into a puddle

even a puddle is controlled by gravity

free fall isn’t free

free form still has form

is the goal to be shapeless 

is uncontainable anarchy

aimless directionless

still has points of reference

that pull to the norm

can the norm be out of control

who can impose that structure

who gets to be the responsible one

while the rest

are wild and free 

is there actual energy in being out of control

doing nothing takes no energy

relax float down stream

the stream has control

the surrender is to another’s control

ven when out of control

someone is deciding

what out is

what control is

who the object is of these definitions

light need dark to exist

no one controls the days

just gives them names

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