Distant Music Coda

It has been fascinating to go back into my past by reading & writing about this chapbook. Memories of writing the pieces have been fragmentary, to say the least. Motivation, inspiration & locations are more nostalgic than revealing. 

Many old the first drafts were written by hand run little note books, many on my clunky typewriter in my basement room in the family home – that room is still there though I think it’s had new floor & walls since I left. The walls were covered with my paintings, shelves of books, lps, my stereo system & my little desk.

Some in my first apartment in Sydney. I shared a workroom with my roommate. He made pottery & I made poetry. I remember renting an electric typewriter to do the final drafts of Distant Music. That  second-story apartment had a huge front balcony where I would sit & write in notebooks & drink. This was the first time I had a room for sleeping & one for writing.

Some of the poems are solid, some reflect the pop music of the time, the striving to be deep, poetic rather than … I’m not sure what ‘than’ … I wanted to impress as much as I wanted to express something about myself. I was in the process of coming out, letting go of the pretence that I was bi so the sexuality that appears in the work is very suppressed.

The sequence of the pieces was mine & the flow, in general is pretty good. Today I would probably have not started with the Dance but with something less abstract such as Woodsman – which would invite readers to search for the chainsaw wielder. 

a piece that didn’t make it into the chapbook

Having Lost

having lost that moment

when we stood side by side

I wander down some well-worn path

looking neither way

without stumbling over unseen stones

I wonder of it’s possible that

I might have been wrong

if I should have given in this time

& said what you wanted to hear

I wonder off it’s possible that

I might have been wrong

having lost that moment

I wonder if I was wrong

<>

having lost that letter

she sent me the next day

I wonder where she is

perhaps I’ll see her tomorrow

perhaps she’s hiding in yesterday

maybe she too thinks she was wrong

maybe she’ll soon come along 

then again yesterday 

may hold her too well

I could never her again

not know where to look

having lost the letter

she sent the next day

<>

old men wearing

white hats pass me by 

nodding & asking why

I sit so young 

yet am so alone

<>

having lost all sense of time 

I find that question still unanswered

was I wrong? was i right?

either way i lost that fight

now I stand & watch her pass by

a memory of my yesterday

me a memory of her yesterday

our lives going on, apart

complete but not the same

having lost that moment

I wonder who was wrong

August 69

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet 

Distant Music

Distant Music

<>

1

<>

hush … can you hear the cat music

playing on flaying pigeon wings?

it brings out the hidden claws

of the once delicate lap warmer

now leaping wildly off the thinnest edge

to the beat of singing sounds

stirring safely behind glass

<>

2

<>

wittingly filling the room

with clicky busy city sounds

a thousand tiny tappers

rapping rhythms into the air

faster faster faster still

yet never flying to pieces

as I feel like doing

while lazily scrawling

symmetrical patterns

from my random pressures

wondering if the jazz flow

sounds as smooth to others

as it does to me

<>

3

<>

sometime I cannot make the energy

to go back over the old wrinkles

to make them smooth & clean

for the defining eyes of pryers;

I end up in some big armed chair

where I sit & stare so long

that I become a pile of creaking bones

yellowing skin & longing songs

<>

beside me now are empty chairs,

in front, beyond naked window.

crawls the night city sparkling

like a cluster of earth-bound stars

the wind whistles in dance

up & down the barren streets;

someone must be out there

to turn off & on all the stars;

but I cannot move

beyond these empty chairs

<>

while the dark & sullen moon

turns the stars aside to guide me

into letting the oars slip from my craft

so I can drift at last into my lover

<>

4

<>

changed are the ways of this Welsh lad

the days of longing are upon him now

with the first hint of cornfed comfort

making the long-by-gones seem so fine

here in the middle of my toss-up time

<>

I keep getting the feeling one gets

on dark, rain-spun, cloud-thick days

while looking out great bay windows

knees resting on velvet window seat

watching the mist nest in the elms

dawdling lazy-grey over the endless fields

of early morning English country side;

we discuss cricket or the government –

“frightfully so …

“rather, shall we say, common …

hey! hey!

stop the wheels before we go out of control

I’ve never been this close to that home

till now, & I hope, maybe, somehow

the clouds will have lifted by the time

I step, spanking-new, over-night, into there

<>

5

<>

hush … can you feel the man sounds

sailing on wailing baby cries 

it tries out the reveal cause

of the never ready bed charmer

now pacing softly the thickest floors

to the hum of distant music

floating unsure from Welsh hill

<>

Oct73

1 – I was visiting a friend in Halifax when I wrote this first section. I went there to see him & also to buy music that didn’t exist in the Sydney record store. One of the albums was of electronic/experimental music by the likes of Pauline Oliveros – yes even then I was pretentious enough to like the real thing 🙂 The music pulsed like wings flapping. My friend’s cat jumped up to the window ledge to confront the pigeons in the balcony but there were none there.

‘the thinnest edge’ is how one can leap to the wrong conclusion & get caught trying to figure out how to get back to solid ground. I’ve always had a ‘fear’ of balconies.

2 – I always write to music. These were the days of manual typewriters, when working on a manuscript could be retyping a whole page to correct a single typo. I was an okay typist & loved the sound in my workroom of the click of keys, the tempo of the pounding. Then I could never type fast enough to capture what I was thinking. 

I think the music I was more fascinated by was Santana’s Abraxas – chasing a thousand tiny percussionists with my keyboard. I was also digging Weather Report, Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew. Writing as fast I could before I flew to pieces.

3 – The old wrinkles are typos, edits, rewriting, re-sequencing the verses in a poem. I was also writing a novel at the time so energy was flowing in several directions. ‘creaking bones’ echoes ‘skin & bones’ from an earlier poem. The final verse is a direct reference to Dylan Thomas’s “In my Craft or Sullen Art.” Though at this time I had no lover to drift into.

4 – The Welsh connection continues in this section. This sense of of my heritage doesn’t appear in the chapbook until now. There is a feeling of the east coast, of Cape Breton, that is present in some of the pieces but here I am relishing, or it is wallowing, in my own roots.

After traversing Egypt, Japan, Africa & am brought back to my ‘toss-up time’ & my own origins. The workshops at UNB were acknowledgements of me as a writer – the ‘toss-up’ was the decision of what to do with my expectations of being taken seriously. Was it to dream of this romantic ‘velvet window seat’ success or something more realistic?

5 – a reprise, with variations, of the first part of this poem. ‘cat music’ becomes ‘ man sounds.’ ‘bed charmer’ echoes ‘bed-ridden’ from The Last Waltz  to give the whole book as sense of completion. The first piece in the collection invites you to ‘set sail on my body’ – this last verse asks you to ‘hear the man sounds/ sailing off wailing baby cries.’ The book progresses from that boy to this man. I hope you enjoyed the journey.

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet 

Distant Valentine

A Valentine

forced to love, 

now that’s a tear-jerker,

having heard no man

is self-contained & complete

I am forced to love

made to search 

through warm & folding bodies

for isolated responses

for unsure coincidences of desire

sparked by demand

structured into relationships

for the perpetuation of the structure

desperation in every meeting

(will this be the one?)

the eternal lunging crush

prisoners of seduction

fixed positions

bayonets of loving thoughts

tender traps

looked for only the fall into

forced to love

to rationalize tenderness

politicized into affections

scandalized by survival

it’s all one to one

paired by demand

one alone becomes distrusted

forced to love

forced to love

Feb14/76

Of the pieces in the chapbook this is one of the ‘newest’ & reflects a definite stage in my growth philosophically & emotionally. I’m actually directly questioning cultural norms around romance, sexuality & indirectly probing the nature of gender. Clearly I am ‘questioning’ not yet coming out but opening that door 🙂

‘Paired by demand’ hasn’t changed all that much though. We live in a culture where being ‘single’ is seen as an an unhappy choice, a sign of emotional immaturity. Being trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship is for some reason healthier than being single. Getting out of one is merely making one ready for the right relationship to come along. If you wonder how we are ‘structured’ think of how impossible it is to afford to live alone. Most restaurants are at least two seats per table. Bars stools are about the only single seating offered. Drinking alone, yea.

At the time I wrote this I wasn’t as articulate about this squeeze of the cultural imperative to mate bond. Being queer & somewhat closeted at the time I was conflicted by trying to fit the heterocentric romance module I was presented with. The sacredness of fidelity, the sinful cost of pleasure. Folding bodies like folding chairs that only the right person could unfold. You’re nobody until somebody unfolds you.

Looking back I see how the exploration of the cultural mating imperative has become one of my running themes. Like masculinity, it is something that goes unquestioned. Marriage for love & not politic – i.e. merge alliances between nations, merging financial concerns – is a somewhat recent development – maybe 150 years old. The nature of ‘forced’ is one of convenience & control that is accepted & goes unrecognized. The deepest loves of my life have never been forced.

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet 

Distant Lady

Lady! Lady!

lady lady

put your parcels down;

forget the bus!

slip away with me;

live by my side

naked & nameless

for a day or two

your husband & the kids

may miss you a little

but will have to forgive

when they see the smile

reborn on your face

<>

you see me walking toward you,

the sidewalk is crowded,

a cloud hides the sun;

we can’t go on meeting this way,

I cannot bear missing this chance

every time our eyes meet

a moment long enough

for yours to scream

“yes! yes! OH YES!

take me! ravish me!

fair stranger so reckless

take me for a day or two

the shopping can wait;

my husband and the kids

can eat pizza, delivered,

just the way they like it;

they’ll be overjoyed at the chance;

despite the worry

they’ll forgive me

they always do”

<>

here comes your bus,

there’s still time;

it starts to rain;

throw your parcels away,

one is bursting already

crushed to your breast

the broken loaf of bread

slices falling at your feet;

I walk on one white crust

smiling directly at you;

you shrug, the weight of motion,

what can one do?

follow me! follow me!

I’ll take you for awhile

only a few naked seconds

your old cloth coat

crumpled on the floor

so its age won’t show

I’ll love your cologne

I’ll love you

<>

the doors kiss open

you hesitate

but get on

falling back a little

losing your balance

losing your grip on your routines;

I hand one back,

soft under crumpling paper;

a new sweater perhaps?

a blouse you’ve longed for

but never could afford?

(I’ll buy you thousands)

the husband & the kids

may miss the money

but when they see

how pretty you are in silk

they’ll forgive

<>

the bus pulls away,

my hands in overcoat pockets

stranded on the corner

waiting for the days to change;

I watch the grey shape pull away

I watch you fumble in your purse

as you fall into a seat

you look back

into the rain;

a smile flickers as I wave,

I’ll never forgive you

Fb 75

This piece has been one of the more enduring in the chap book – the one people still remember – the one that new readers will say – I really enjoyed the one about the bus. Several year ago an actress friend of mine included in her one woman poetry performance along with pieces by TS Eliot, James Joyce (yes yes yes). 

It is one of the story-telling pieces & became a poetry narrative structure I use frequently. You can read this piece & understand what is happening. It is almost like a film story board but with more subtext as text – a voice-over narration. It demonstrates one of the things poetry can do – with it one can select fragments to tell the story without having to fill in connecting details. 

One can use phrases like ‘the doors kiss open’ that gives a clear sonic sensation but also adds the sexual hint of ‘kiss’ – legs, like doors, can open to let in a kiss. As I recall it was piece that wrote itself. Edits were to add certain details ‘clutched’ became ‘crushed’ so that ‘crush’ would be echoed by crust.

The unspoken offer, mute opportunity, is the real story. The narrator is caught up in this fantasy, reading what he wants to see into every move of the lady. Does he even really make eye contact? How much of this actually happens: the bread, the falling back a little. Who hasn’t indulged in a sex fantasy on public transit while looking at a stranger, often looking away if the stranger looks back. Longing for contact it is easier to look away than acknowledge it.

Waiting for the days to change is a long wait. We have to forgive ourselves for opportunities not taken, for busses missed.

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet 

Distant Bones

Skin & Bones

<>

1

<>

taken for granted

all things fall

in place or out

but they fall

all the same

stumbling slowly through thick sunshine air

sky blue like an Egyptian ceiling painting

of a smiling, dying bull-crocodile god

<>

trying to retain

some simplicity 

of lines

in words or out

I fall

all the same

into more intensely abrasive catacomb

descriptions of finely stretched skin

over the most delicately carved bones

<>

skin & bones

all one owns

to to the best

we can

<>

skin & bones

skin & bones

plain folk homes

<>

2

<>

beating & tearing

at sound-blistered ears

hunting & hiding

from forest fire fears;

confused by understanding

mother figures teaching fingers

how to phone home

every time that feeling

of being lost creeps in

to sooth these tired ears

that cannot bear to hear

of home or phones

rattling up & down

this old box of

<>

skin & bones

all one owns

to to the best

we can

<>

skin & bones

skin & bones

plain folk homes

<>

May 73

Another piece built on repetition, structure, & conflicting sensations  – ‘abrasive’ ‘finely’. Echoes with no source or resolution. Verses start simple then stumble into complex syllables, allusions & confusing images so that ‘simplicity’ becomes ‘complexity’ so rapidly one never fully grasps the simple – it gets yanked out of your hands.

I was, still am, fascinating by the Egypt of the Kush. I watch endless documentaries on royal tombs, mummies, lost cities. On the east coast I read books on the Egyptian pantheon of god & goddesses. The story of Osiris was as compelling as the Christian beliefs that over-turned them. Sobek is the crocodile god, while Apis is the bull god. Why I put them together is lost to my memory 🙂

The chorus is a return to the simple. ‘catacomb’ contrasts with ‘plain folks homes.’ Also the realization that mummies, regardless of who they were, how old they were, how desiccated they were, they are still skin & bones. The same skin & bones we have today. The human body hasn’t undone any major structural change in the recorded history of mankind.

The second section steps away from simple to embrace busy images that flow in a dream like logic – blistered ears, to forest fires. Music has always played a big part in my life – I can remember coming back from hearing a live band with sound-blistered ears. As a drunk I sometimes suffered from telephonites –  calling friends to maintain, create some contact, context – that I may have found but never really felt. In the end I was doing the best I could to feel at home in my own skin & bones.

royal burial chamber relics?

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet 

Distant Coda

Song With Coda

<>

Song

<>

our voices

heard as echoes

over the windless

barren planes of speech

hope

someday to find

the end of the sentence

before they die

of no one to listen

<>

our eyes

seen as mirrors

reflecting dust

images of past mistakes

hope

someday to find

the quiet surface

before they are blinded

by no one to see

<>

our hands

used as tools

to wander aimlessly

over face & thighs

hope

some day to find

some other warm body

before they wither

from no one to touch

<>

our emotions

felt as fears

repressing old guilts

in search of absolution

hope

someday to find

the final tenderness

before they smother

from no way to express

<>

Coda

<>

even 

as my voice cracks from calling

hands bleed from grabbing at straws

eyes are blinded in the search

emotions are blocked by futility

I will cry out

reach out

search out

forever

until I find a way of touching you

<>

Jan69

This is one of the earliest pieces in the collection & as such is the most revealing of young-man excess & emotional melodrama. Nicely over-written with more force than I possibly felt at the time. It’s difficult for me to see any specific influence beyond nameless prog-rock lyricists. It makes me think of the dance pose of reaching out to some imagined horizon for the unobtainable. Sound & fury signifying the need to impress readers with the use of language 🙂

I wanted to write a poem that would make someone fall in love with me. I wrote many variations with this subtext in mind, which knowing it was an impossibility. Language can lead to connection but isn’t a magic spell.

It is another of my imposed structure pieces ‘our noun verb noun etc’ that gives each verse a pattern of theme & variation. The theme being the search for something or someone & the inner obstacles that have to be dealt with to find it. Reading it now I cannot say what the object was then – other than sounding deep & philosophic about the plight of the love lorn. Another of the closet subtext pieces where gender is avoided.

It reflects my fears of ‘no one’ because at that time there was no person who was the focus of my affections. I had lusts, longings for some but the urge was physical not emotional. Then I still believed a relationship was the way to fulfillment. Today I know relationships can be fulfilling but real fulfillment is a spiritual journey 🙂

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet 

Distant Harp

Wind Harp

<>

Night, gripping the stars,

tightly clutching the moon,

could only hold my glance briefly;

I knew it too well

one look brought back everything

too many jumbles of clustered sky

<>

so I was thinking of you,

my eyes closed,

blinking open for safety,

fast snatches of night, feeling the wind on my face,

hearing the tumbling leaves

prepare of the shock of rain

<>

I almost called your name;

funny,

me alone there in the night

calling to unhearing ears

instead of being home safe

out of the impending storm

<>

funnier still,

it never rained;

I waited, longing for it,

but, well, it never rain;

which was why

at five-thirty in the wind

I found myself asleep

with your name in my dreams

flashing in a torrent downstream

with a mile or so ahead

to leave your name behind

humming as blue

as the red morning air

Ah the pain of the dream of unrequited love. I had crushes but no real emotional involvements on the East Coast so perhaps the ‘you’ I was thinking of in this piece was not a person but the opportunity to be fully out. An opportunity like the impending storm that never materialized.

I enjoy the deliberate play of words that reflects struggle: gripping, clutching, tumbling, torrent. Clutching also implying ‘clutching at straws’ – the striving for unsubstantial, unattainable goals. The moon is always out of reach 🙂 

A wind harp (an Aeolian harp) is a real instrument. Often on top of a hill where it can be played by the wind. Sometimes a natural phenomenon created by trees growing in the right spot. Often man-made out of metal of different thickness, set at different angles to carve notes out of the wind. Ethereal. Great fun in cemeteries 🙂 I have a recording of Jan Garabek using a wind harp as part of a sonic texture. 

I like the ambiguity near the end – ‘found myself asleep’ – is the poem a dream of that windy hill or did I fall asleep on that windy hill waiting for rain that never came? I’ve also learned to ‘nail the landing’ by this point as that ending is perfect – unexpected & satisfying. The hum of the wind harp bounces the colours into a strange harmony.

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet 

The Trance Horn World

Next on the jazz shelf are a pair of cd mp3 collections built around the work of flautist Paul Horn. He became a pioneer of world and new age music with his 1969 album Inside. But the ‘roots’ of that go back to a couple of earlier lps: Jazz Suite on The Mass Texts, Here’s That Rainy Day. On Texts he works with orchestra & choir & on Rainy Day he works with rain effects.

I remember when Inside The Taj Mahal was released & all my pot-head buddies where into the echo soothing meditativeness of it. Inside 2 is more of the same. Both are timeless & meditative. 

George Winston is new age, meditative piano player I was introduced to when I facilitated a meditation healing circle for ACT. I have Winter, Winter Into Spring – instrumental music that lulls, ripples with touches of classical & very subtle jazz. I was also introduced to (& have) Suzanne Ciani: Seven Waves, Neverland, History of My Heart; Kitaro: Silk Road I, II; G.E.N.E. Grooving Electronic Natural Environments: Fluting Paradise. Ciani’s electronic work has an element of deliberate design using various sound frequencies to create mood. GENE weaving rippling brooks & sound frequencies.  

For a time I was a weekend- warrior learning about medicine wheels & Native spiritual beliefs. Here I heard  R. Carlos Nakai a Navajo/Ute who plays Native American cedar. On Earth Spirit there are original compositions for the flute inspired by traditional Native American melodies.

In this collection is also Hamza El Din’s Escalay: The Water Wheel which recognized as one of the first world music recordings to gain wide release in the West. He is Egyptian and plays the oud. A friend had me transfer his lp version to cd & I kept a copy, which I later upgraded, via iTunes, for better sound quality. Worth seeking out.

Also from that neck of the woods (or is that sands?) comes Bustan Abraham: Fanar – a sweet concoction of Arab music, Turkish music, jazz, flamenco, western classical music, and blues from an Israeli band. Finally a selection of Hussain Khan from Radio India, shared with me by a friend – this is harmonium, sitar, tabla & chanting that transports one to another world.

Parenting

Kayla found the bones in the backyard. We had been getting ready for planting a garden for the kids. She and her bother Dall weren’t all that eager to watch things grow but I figured it would be a good experience for them. Being a step-dad wasn’t a dream come true mind you but I was willing to do what it would take to make it work.

I figured digging and planting things together would be a good bonding experience for us. 

Kayla called to me. “Jake … Jake ….”

The fear in her voice gabbed me by the heart. I rushed over. 

She pointed her trowel at the shattered bone. 

I hunched down to get a closer look.

Dall came over to join me. He pushed at the bone with a finger.

“Don’t touch it.” I pulled his hand away.

“What is it?” Kayla began to tear up.

“Probably a cat or a squirrel. Too small to be anything else.”

I gently pushed the dirt from around the bones to see how many there were. I could tell it was some small animal.

“What’s going on.” John had come out of the house.

I stood a bit to quickly & was dizzy for a moment. He steadied me.

“Kayla found a dead body.” Dall pointed at the bones. “Looks like a dead baby.”

He looked at Kayla hoping for a reaction.

“Looks like you.” She retorted.

“I’m not dead.”

“That’s what you think.”

“Probably just a cat that the last owner buried here when it died. See …” I hunched down again. “There’s fur in the ground around it.”

John took the kids into the house while I dug out the bones. I wasn’t sure what to do next. Bag them for recycling? Put them in composter? Bury them somewhere else in the yard? 

I had a lot to learn about being a parent.




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Distant Tartan

Tartan Africa

<>

1 – Africa

<>

Africa genesis

so far from the Louvre

Africa Baroque

in thick damp brown earth

Sahara sands

drums rain jungle

lion black man

<>

mother mother

I’ve wandered so far from home

this time & every time

the gate was left open

building destroying
enjoying

finding myself so far

from so many old home weeks

<>

I would make Africa my home

take her

lover her forever

in torrential river beds

waterfalls
endless grassy antelope zebra plains

waterholes

birthplaces

leopard spots tiger stripes

so far from snow

so close to my pillow

<>

2 – Never Never Land

<>

it would be too hot

it would rain too much

I’d never understand their customs

never ride a camel

never drink the water

never touch their women

never sleep in their huts;

I could never do much

except this sitting,

smiling, laughing, drinking

reaching to touch

with pocketed hands

never never never never

<>

even in the darkest sky

there is al least one star

I wonder where you are

I wonder who you are

Tribale twinkle

in the Paris night

by there tower;

could I reach out

could I touch you?

the Tower is too high

I am too weary

cheery

lilting

song birds in a thousand cages

on a dusty side street

in an Arab bazaar,

singing to be bought

but not set free;

never could survive

for being trapped so long

they have no instincts left

death would be their survival

if I bought them all

to set them free

so I won’t

besides I don’t have enough money

it would take too long

to open every cage

it would never work

never never never never

<>

3 – Tartan

<>

tartan country

Gaelic

coal mines

crying masladh

dieing dean bacach

sifting sandily

the rust dust air

struggle bosdail

while clinging to the seachad

the good old days

clans

Royalists

fortresses

Metrople la France

too bad it can’t be ended

too good to be believed

so much calmer than the mainland pace

creaking down hill it seems

if you read it in their papers

if you believe in their bad dreams

<>

time is slowly changing

in the land of endless hills

twisting Cabot Trails

sunset autumn trees

that even when you go

it has you coming back

for final peace

on its unpaved roads

shady Sugar Loaf’s

falling away now

to the unhaltable

eating up of everything

by prosperity 

with its more more more

high-rise hotels & all

but kill ‘er gently b’ys

‘cause ‘er kids are tough 

<>

4 – Africa Too

<>

Africa mother

I know you are so close

I sense your warmth

yet cannot touch you

the stars are hidden

by cotton candy-clouds

drifting too slowly

monkeys screaming

elephants trumpeting

rhinos charging

through the dusky morning mists

<>

none of its is really there now;

in Africa, I mean.

the wild is in parks;

houses is rows

schools

doctors

I Love Lucy

in the Heart of the Darkest Continent

<>

it would do no good

to shut the gate

I would only climb the fence

or push it down;

running scared, down the street,

away from revenge

crawling back at night for safety

<>

Ahhh Africa,

the oldness of Egypt

growing up 

into snotty street punks

makes me want to cry

to die to

keep the rich raw earth

feelings in my mouth

<>

5 – Tartan Fading

<>

when I try to speak

of this Smokey Island

I cannot find

the right combination

of tartan cobwebs

to spin into a picture

of coal-dust steel-plant flower beds,

growing the heather of tarns;

the ice winter of dreams

the laughter of the people

moving & flowing alive

in the salt smell of coal sea air

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Jan.Feb/Mar73

Over time I’ve come to see this as one of the ‘better’ pieces in the chapbook. It reveals more about growing up Cape Breton than any of the others. Even with the abstract moments it is a good snap shot of my sense of displacement as I search for a sense of safe haven.

It opens with any array of African clichés – a distant place I knew very little about & much of that thanks to Tarzan & similar safari movies populated with fully dressed white dudes & a panoply of half-naked black men. It is a dream retreat in this first section.

It is not so dreamy in the second part with my list of realistic drawbacks. I’m also caught by the distance of that Paris escape, another place far from me, from my artistic longings. Like birds caged so long the freedom of Africa would kill me? The closest I ever got to that wild was already in cages.

The third section drops us into Cape Breton with another list of cliches with a decent dash of Gaelic. The economy there was becoming unstable with long-time major industries struggling in the world market. Tourism was always strong there & was to become even more important so the twisting Cabot Trail was no longer for the locals 🙂 There was an exodus of generations who had family ties & nostalgic roots that kept pulling them back.

Four takes me back to Africa where like Cape Breton tourist dollars, exploiters needs were controlling the continent. The ancient history seemed to be confined to Egypt as seeing though colonist exploiter’s eyes. Even today I see documentaries where talking heads are astonished that such primitive tribe could produce such fine artifacts -ahem – maybe they weren’t so primitive.

I had seen on TV around that time, early 70’s, that I Love Lucy reruns were the most popular TV show in the world, that she was watched in every country. They showed glimpses of her being watch by natives in huts in Africa. I was watching Lucy in Cape Breton – she represented an American culture that was not mine or theirs. So where does our cultural sense of self come from, when what is under our feet gets co-opted by a materialistic monolith without us even being aware of it.

In the end I am left with a wistful nostalgia for Cape Breton – which isn’t where I was born, but Manitoba where I was born has no resonance. I was a man searching for more than a sense of heritage, more than the concept of home but for a sense of safe haven.

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet 

Distant Black Flies

Black Flies

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expectations

reduced

to chance encounters

stories to share

suffering to compare

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mysteries 

unfold

careful scarfs

spare realizations

fleshy destinations

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darting black flies

looking for blood

Jun 76

I remember writing this piece during one of the summer workshops at the University of New Brunswick. It was after the first night there & having met the other writers for drinks, chit-chat & introductions outside of the classroom setting. I think it was around a bonfire or perhaps in the common room of the residence.

Once the usual get-to-know-you information was exchanged – hometown, writing experience etc we moved to more personal stuff mainly bad experiences. Surgeries that went wrong, partners who betrayed etc. I didn’t really have much to contribute about tribulations & as the tribulations escalated it became a contest of who suffered & survived the worst. You had a ovarian cyst , well I had cancer of the brain – top that!

It’s like The Dance of the Seven Veils where we are selective about what gets revealed & never reveal how many veils there actually are. People bonded over shared, similar, unpleasant experiences. At that time I had had no major surgeries, no criminal assaults, no car accidents, no relationships, no children – I was not all that interesting until the workshop really got going & my insightful, no-holds-barred self was revealed.

This shared-disaster pattern is one I’ve seen repeated often over the years I’ve taken workshops, participated in consumer panels, participated in pharmaceutical drug research studies. Strangers quickly bond over shared experiences & if you don’t share you are left on your own, most of the time. Which allows me to focus on why I am there in the first – which isn’t to be liked but to learn. 

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet