Coal Dusters – Chapter VIII

Chapter VIII

Birk and Clancy Get Acquainted

Knowing that Clancy wouldn’t be sharing his room till the end of the week didn’t make working with him any easier for Birk. Clancy had already paid for a week in advance at Mrs. Franklin’s boarding house and she wasn’t going to refund any part of that if he left before the week was over.

When their shift started Birk would grunt hello and that was it. He didn’t care to know anything more about Clancy. As long he wasn’t underfoot, didn’t gripe about things and worked hard in the pit that was enough, barely enough to make him tolerable. 

Clancy had an irritating habit of humming as they worked. Sometimes muttering something under his breath or scraps of songs that Birk had never heard before. 

“Shovel and pick … pick and shovel … ” 

Things that didn’t make much sense to Birk even when he could make out what the words were. But as long as Clancy kept to himself, did his share of the work, he didn’t care. 

Clancy approached him during their lunch break on the third day of their working together. “We can’t go on this way Birk.”

“Says who?” Birk picked up his lunch pail moved to another part of the stretch they were working on. 

“If I’d known it was your house … ” Clancy followed him a few steps.

“Once you did, you coulda changed yer damn mind.”

“I can’t afford to stay at Mrs. Franklin’s on what we earn down here. I need to send something back to my Ma in Stellarton.”

“Why didn’t you stay there and work the mines?”

“Same story there as here.”

“Not my worry to deal with. I gotta deal with you.”

“Can’t be as hard as me having to deal with you.” Clancy went back to where he had been crouched for his lunch.

At the end of shift the cage was jammed already only one of the could fit on and Clancy shrugged as the cage went up leaving Birk below. When Birk got to the surface he took off his work coveralls and dashed to the wash up room to his usual spot. Clancy had taken it.

“Gotta be faster than that Birk. Yer gettin’ slow b’y.” Clancy chuckled as he continue to wash his underarms.

Birk pushed him aside. “Make way ya tuilli. You knows this is my spot now.”

“Careful.” the miner washing up next to Clancy said as Clancy stumbled into him.

Birk reached for the basin to toss out the dirty water and get fresh. Clancy upended the bowl so it splashed Birk.

“You …” Birk swung at Clancy. His fist caught Clancy on the jaw.  Clancy staggered back but quickly regained his footing. His longer reach let him swing back before Birk could react. His punch knocked Birk into a group of miners coming into the washroom.

“That’s it.” Birk took his fighting stance with fists raised, feet firmly planted on the wet stone floor. Clancy did the same.

“Bad enough I get stuck with you here.” He jabbed Clancy in the stomach. “But I’m not puttin’ up with ya any damn longer. I’ll send you back to the mainland to lick yer wounds. That’ll give you plenty worth singin’ about.”

Clancy jabbed Birk in the ribs. Both protected their faces as best they could. The other miners made a circle around them and if one fighter got too close to them they pushed him back into the centre of their ring.

“Isn’t m’ fault Red Mac didn’t think you were good lookin’ enough work above ground.”

“I didn’t want that soft arse job.”

They clinched and fell to the ground, wrestling and jabbing as best as they could. Blood dripped from the noses of both of them when someone hauled them away from each other and back to their feet.

“Enough of this.” It was Red Mac. “If yer want to beat the piss out of each other don’t do in here. We got men who deserve to be clean enough to go home to families that want them home.”

The miners held Birk and Clancy back from each other.

“Oh, it’s you Birk.” Red Mac said.  “Can’t say as I’m surprised. You two want to keep workin’ here?”

They both nodded yes.

“Then don’t let me catch you brawling during my shift on company time or on company grounds agin. You understand.”

Clancy nodded yes. Birk glared at Red Mac.

“Birk Nelson yer a good worker but yer always a disagreeable orange cuss too.”

There was some grumbling from the other miners.

“Okay! I knows there are more’n one orange men here.”

“So does we,” one of them shouted back. “That’s why we’re still buried underground and you fat arse micks get all the breaks.”

“You call this getting the break.” Red Mac said. “A good Catholic such as me having to deal with a bunch of … heathens … I mean you lot of ground hogs. Can I help it if I had the …. brains to get where I am?”
 

“You sayin we do don’t have as much brains as you?” another of the miners called out.

“All I’m saying is get cleaned up and out of here if you expect another shift tomorrow.” He went back to his office.

“Look! The Red Pope says its okay for us to wash up.” One of the miners joked. “The sacred waters better do their job.”

Birk filled his basin and washed off the blood, the mud from the floor and the coal dust from below as best as he could. His left hand throbbed. He had hit Clancy harder than he intended. He hoped he hadn’t done himself an actual injury. If he had Clancy would regret being the cause of that, too. How was he going to share his home with that tuilli.

As usual Jake was waiting for him at the gate.

“I dunno how I’m goin’ ta do it. Have that blowhard living with me. I’d rather move m’self before I share more than work space with him.”

“Ah lad, you gotta let go of it. Hard enough for us to get by as ‘tis. He can’t be that bad.”

“He is.”

“Things ‘re getting worse. We may not even be here long enough anyhow.”

“What?”

“They may cut some of the nights shifts. That’s why there’s strike talk agin.” Jake coughed harshly and sent a thick black gob of spit onto the road.

“Careful there, some ‘un will trip over that.”

“Yah.” Jake laughed hoarsely. “Least they aren’t charging me for the dust I sneak out in m’lungs.”

“What’s that ‘bout a strike?”

“Gregory was talking with some of us while you was … washin’ up. Says to us that they want not only to do away with night shifts but aim to cut back on the tonnage rate.”

“They can’t.” Birk punched at the air with his sore hand.

“They can if we let ’em. We gotta send them a message that we won’t put up with all this hurting of us workers who put food on the table for them but don’t get enough pay to put food on the tables for themselves.”

“Damn rights.”

“There’ll me a meetin’ tomorrow night at St. Agatha’s Hall.”

“They ain’t gonna let us orange in there, you know.”

“Sure they will. We got our union cards.”

“Yeh, but some of us don’t have our foreskins.”

Jake began to laugh again and had to stop to catch his breath. “Lad you are gonna be the death of me before the mine’ll do me in.”

Birk went around to the back of his house. His mother and Maddy were on their knees in the garden. The same as many of the miners they had a garden patch that spilled into the field behind their house. Each year his mother would grow vegetables – carrots, potatoes, tomatoes – with seeds or eyes saved from previous crops.

“Goin’ get much out of the patch this year?”

“There’ll be some.” His mother glanced up.

He went over and kissed her on the forehead. He pulled Maddy up and held her in the air at eye level to himself.

She giggled and wriggled. “Puts me down.”

“You been to school today?”

“Of course.”

One of the things Birk wished he had been able to do was continue in school. But when he got to twelve all he wanted to do what his dad did, what his brother did, what grandfather did – be a man who worked in the mines. In the mine he didn’t have to use his thinking much, only pay attention to what was happening right then. No need spell or add numbers up. Not that he couldn’t read or do enough arithmetic to make sure his pay packet was right. He knew enough keep track of what went on in the mines.

He’d seen some of the men reading from books, or from newspapers. He tried, but all those letters and words confounded him. He could follow word by word given time. He only trusted what a man said. You can tell if he was lying by his voice. Words on the page had no voice to judge them by.

He went to the well and got water to clean his socks and face rag. 

“I’m goin’ to check m’ traps, Ma. Might have a little something to add to supper tonight.”

He took several deep breathes as he walked along the grassy field. The smell of the mine stayed with him. Somedays he couldn’t shake it. He plucked a long blade of grass and chewed on it then spat it out. 

The rabbit traps had been pretty much in the same bushy area, beyond the three apple threes, where his great granddad had first set them. The apple trees were in bloom. He pulled a branch down to smell the flowers but all he could smell was the mine.

He stretched his arms up as high as they could go. It was only out in these fields that he could stand up fully. Even in the house he was pressed down by the ceiling. He’d find himself ducking under the door frames even though they were well over the top of his head.

During the run of a week the traps would be good for two or three rabbits. There was two this day. One pretty pump too, he hoped it wasn’t about to have little ones. It wasn’t.

He skinned and cleaned them there and was happy to hand them to his mother when he came into the kitchen. 

“Good. Good.” she said. “What you do with the skins?” She took the rabbits and quickly chopped and deboned them.

“Usual place on the back fence.” 

She would salt the skins and store them. Once a year around Christmas she’d trade them in at one of the furriers in Sydney. The money wasn’t much but would add something special to the Christmas dinner.

He poured some hot water from the kettle into a basin, rolled up his sleeves and washed the rabbit blood off his hands. 

“You’d think Blackie’d built us a little boiler for hot water around here.” He said.

She dropped the meat into a pot of water already simmering on the stove.

“Why we always have rabbit.” Maddy leaned against him as he sat the the kitchen table. 

“That’s what fits the traps. That and skunks. You want a stink for supper some time.” he tickled her.

“You stink enough for me.” she laughed and pulled away.

“You bring that bedding down tomorrow so as I can get it washed up before Clancy comes to share the room wid yer.” his mother said. 

“Don’t go countin’ on that. Might be lays-offs or worse, a strike.”

“I’ve heard. We‘ll know better when you Da gets home.”
“He’s usually back before me.” The smell of the cooking food made Birk hungry.

“He went to see Jim Spot who lost a hand a few weeks past. Union’s going see if they can get him something somewhere. He can always push a broom, ya know.”

“Not as if we don’t have enough one-handed broom pushers now.”

“What the union can’t do the lodge often does. Lest the company don’t own the lodge, yet. There’s Blackie.” 

Maddy ran out to meet him at the back gate. He handed her his lunch pail and they came into the kitchen. He hung his cloth cap on a peg by the door.

“Hear ya had a donny brook at wash up.” 

“He had it comin.” Birk knew this tone of Blackie’s meant he wasn’t pleased or amused. “Why? Clancy come cryin’ to you?”

“No. Red Mac’s gettin fed up with your carrying on. You worse than school kids. You know how he feels about us orange. After all, it was him, when he got that job, who started to replace all the good orange men with his own mick pals. Getting so bad you’d think it was Father McTavish that was running things and not the union or even the company.”

“Sorry Blackie. I wasn’t think about any of that. You know how I act I get riled up.”

“That’s no excuse.” His mother said.

“I’m goin’ rest in the parlour for a spell Ma.” Blackie unhitched his suspenders and shambled away. “Stuff to consider.”

When supper was served Birk went in and woke him. 

“I’ll take something up for Sal.” Blackie said. He came down a little while later. “She’s gettin worse?”

“Yes.” his mother answered. “The reverend’s wife was by this afternoon to look in on her. She’ll be back tomorrow with a remedy she think will help.”

“We don’t need charity from anyone, you know.”

“It’s not charity to let Sal get worse.”

They ate in silence.

After supper Birk went to check his traps to make sure he had left them set properly. There was a dell where he could sit on a low branch of an oak tree. He’d been going to it since he was so small he needed help to get to the branch. Now he could pull himself up on it and let his feet dangle in the air. He let his heavy work boots fall off.

He rested his back on the tree trunk and stared up at the sky. He couldn’t smell the mine or the coal.  

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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DC Dreaming 2018

Three weeks today to June 8 when Capturing Fire ignites its 8th slam happy weekend with the launch of the landmark anthology Stoked Words. The anthology captures work by the many brilliant poets who have slammed, participated or wore fabulous shirts. Yes, I’m in the anthology. What pieces? You’ll have to wait to find out. Being a US publication it might end up in the Library of Congress!

The launch, workshops & slam are all taking place at The Woolly Mammoth Theatre on D St. NW. Getting there will take me through parts of Washington I have have never seen so there’ll be lots of new photo ops, new exotic Starbucks to discover (as if Starbucks is exotic). Schedule of workshops posted here: https://capfireslam.org/2018-schedule/.

I’m staying at the same hotel, which is steps away from DuPont Circle metro. Google maps tells me its a 45 min walk to the Wooly, which I think is doable, depending on the humidex. I’ve checked for coffee shops & restaurants near the theatre so I’m prepared. If I get lost I’ll have someplace to eat.

A couple of day excursions have been planed. One day will be the zoo. Trying to line up a local guide so I can get some photos of me that aren’t washroom selfies 🙂 The zoo looks to be fun & also within walking distance. Another day I’ll take in the Air & Space museum. Two tourist destinations are all I can enjoy before it feels like duty.

Six Feet Under

a moment of silence

to respect

those who have been silenced

to offer a dignity

a solemnity

all that’s missing

is the hashtag

a #moment of #silence

showing support

without doing #anything

 

by silenced

I don’t mean marginalized

I don’t mean neutralized

I mean murdered

by others

by their own hand

by neglect

by #silent shame

 

where is the moment of retaliation

oh no we can’t do that

that sinks us down to their level

getting even isn’t justice 

it doesn’t get good press

#victimization

gets all the good press

a moment of violence 

of striking back is tut tut not adult

 

we must have silence 

so the healing can begin

why not a moment of vanity

in which we all pull out a mirror

to contemplate our own faces

to see where we fit in

while the screaming is still going on

to figure out why

forgiveness is more fulfilling

that taking the victimizers to task

where was their forgiveness

 

so I don’t forgive

that’s my flaw

I’m called out for being bitter

not understanding enough

unwilling to make a social context

that rationalizes actions

that spring from a troubled childhood

from a drug addled brain

from books of words holy pages

that approves

making victims of others

in the name of righteousness

 

a moment of silence

to prove that I am emotionally more mature

I can take it

I can rise above

the blood soaked streets

an angel of mercy

fuck that

fuck fuck fuck that

 

I don’t care about

perpetrators’ apologies 

how they feel remorse

I don’t want revenge 

I want an eon of silence

not a moment of silence

 

I want it to stop

before we’re all six feet under

 

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http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked)
 capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice cream in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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Full Frontal

On a recent Disability After Dark Andrew Gurza talks about The Sessions – a movie that made a big splash some years ago dealing with a disabled man & his female sex surrogate. I thoroughly enjoyed Andrew’s scene-by-scene look at The Sessions. A movie which I have not seen – too emotional manipulative for me. I don’t like being forced to feel good.

It was important to hear about a movie from an ‘expert’ – someone who knows about the reality of disability as opposed to some reviewer, critic who is caught up in the drama & not aware of facts. Andrew pretty much likes the emotional content of the movie which resonated with his lived experience. He calls out a few anachronisms (modern wheelchair instead of period one) & also how little the hero’s privacy is respected. 

The other thing which he notes is nudity. He questions why Helen Hunt, the lead actress, get full frontal while John Hawkes, the male lead, gets minimal exposure, even in the sex scenes. This is not unique to this movie though. Showing breast & vagina is not longer so shocking but the male body remains pretty much hidden. Lots of fast ass shots, never the well-lit, lingering shots that female nudity gets.

Female nudity is rarely seen as gratuitous if it fits the story. In Sessions if nudity makes sense for Helen Hunt then nudity makes equal sense John Hawkes should as well, right? This is one of those double-standards. Male performers have to worry about ‘performance anxiety’ or are shy about displaying their cock at all – what if it doesn’t measure up to their fans fantasies. Isn’t that cgi is for? If they can double the cost a film by digitally enhancing the hair of the lead for every scene he’s in, surely a few minutes of cock shouldn’t be an issue.

Or perhaps they wanted to respect the dignity of the disabled man – after all his disability was enough without exploiting his dick, too. When one catches a glimpse of a stars’ cock it is a flash – even when that dick is the supposedly the star: i.e Boogie Nights – where there is ample bared female but a split-second moment of Dirk Diggler’s supposed large cock & even that was a bad fake – they couldn’t afford a stunt cock.

I’ll end this with my favorite big star full-frontal from Fight Club. Brad Pitt appears at least 4 times in a single frame at various points in the film. My vision was so good it caught the first one & thanks to our dvd player I was able to frame-by-frame at the points were Pitt flashed me. That was no stunt cock 🙂

How Deep Is My Love

my love is deeper than Nietzsche

deeper than the gap between 

spiritual fantasy and sexual reality 

deeper than what we all thought the 60’s meant

my love for you is longer than 

the time between knowing 

it isn’t working and ending it

longer than the time between 

ending it and getting over it

I love you more than this shirt look great on me

my love is harder than 

peanut brittle in Arctic moonlight

my love is more hopeful than 

an overflowing recycling bin

my love for you is longer than 

the arm of the law 

holding a restraining order 

my love for you is purer 

than the water in the bottle of 

rapidly disappearing ice shelf 

melted just so you 

could have a sip 

and throw it away

my love for you is purer than a dream

my love for you is purer than 

how you felt 

before you even know the difference

between a care bear and a pubic hair

my love for you is stronger 

than the tang of expresso 

with a flavour shot of almond

to cover that weird burned taste

my love is truer than 

all those Facebook friends 

who rsvp’d they’d be here

my love for you is stronger than 

your need to be loved

my love for you is 

no longer the crime it once was

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http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked)
 capfireslam.org 

September 25, Tuesday – Horror feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice cream in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Chapter VII Lillian Sews In The Sun

 

Chapter VII

Lillian Sews In The Sun

The men bowed and complemented her once more on the meal. She went back to the kitchen and poured hot water from the kettle into the sink and put the remainder of the dishes in carefully. She was very cautious with the good china.

“Lillian.” her uncle came into the kitchen “That was …”

She could tell by the tone of his voice he was upset by something.

“What is it uncle … I mean Father Patrick?” she faced him.

“I observed that each of these so-called gentleman connived to spend a few moments alone with you. Did you notice that?”

“I was too occupied with my serving duties to notice anything other than that Father Pat.”

“Considering your past I find your innocence difficult to accept. Yes, watching your conduct this day I see you may have done nothing deliberate to lure these men. You must find a way to … ”

“Me? Find a way to what.”

“Not appear as you do for one thing.”

“With no mirrors I do not know how I appear.” She looked at what she was wearing. The shapeless blue, or was it green, pinafore, her stained, and now wet, flour sack apron. She held her raw, red hands out to her uncle. “How am I to appear?”

“Woman has always been the downfall of man. It is in her nature. It is in the air she breathes out. If men are helpless to resist it is the fault of the female.”

“Am I to be a mute. Not speak even when spoken to in your home?”
“I will contact Sister Claire.”

“Sister Claire?”
“The Mother Superior of St. Margaret’s Covent in Sydney. It would be best for all if you were to be removed from contact with men. Your wickedness has to be curbed somehow.”

“I will not go into a convent Father.” She grabbed one of the Royal Worcester plates and dropped it. It shattered into four uneven pieces. “Do you understand? Yes, I was lead astray by a so-called gentleman and this is my penance for my inability to withstand the affection, the attentions of that man but I will not be punished for the rest of my life for the callow actions of man whom my own father encouraged me to see.”

“My child this is not punishment nor is it penance. It is salvation.”
“You should offer those presumed gentlemen the path to salvation. All I served them was the food you provided. That they wished to partake of more is not my fault.”

“Perhaps not deliberately but your gender is the cause of original sin. You allure without awareness.”

“The next time you hold conference with men in your home you should have someone else do the serving.”

“You may be right Lillian. I …” he plucked at the cross around his neck. “I have things to attend to at the church. But before I go you must pray with me.”

He got to his knees and gestured for her to do so. She knelt beside him. They took out their rosaries.

Father Patrick recited The Hail Mary and she followed suit. When he was done he added: “Mary Mother of God please intercede into the hearts of men to spare my niece temptations she may not have the fortitude to withstand.”

He helped her back to her feet. “I won’t be back until later in the evening. Do not prepare a supper for me.”

“Yes Father Pat.” Once he left she picked up the pieces of the broken plate. She began to weep that another piece of her connection to Boston had been broken by her own rash anger. She would try harder to be less obdurate, more infused with the grace of God. She prayed fervently as she washed the rest of the dinnerware.

She had placed the last dinner plate back in the sideboard when there was a knock at the front door. Annie Clark and Mary Francis always came through the back. Anyone who wished to see her uncle would go to his office at the church.

She peeked out of the dining-room window as the knocking continued. She couldn’t see clearly who it was till the man stepped back to survey the upper windows of the house. It was Mr. O’Dowell.

What was she to do? She could see that his knocking had caught the attention of the McIssac’s on the opposite side of them. Regardless of what she did her uncle was sure to hear of it.

She went to the door and opened slightly.

“Mr. O’Dowell my uncle …  Father Patrick has gone to the church office. You may speak with him further there.” She attempted to shut the door but O’Dowell placed his hand against it to prevent from closing further.

“It is you I wish to speak to Miss McTavish.”

“That is not possible. It wouldn’t be proper without my uncle here.” Even in Boston the men she had met had first asked her father’s permission to approach her. Her father had informed her first.

“We aren’t as proper about such things here in Castleton Mines.”

“That might be so, but Father Patrick said nothing to me about allowing a gentleman caller. Please speak to him first.”

She sorely wanted to let him in but with Mrs. McIssac already watching the house she was sure that the Danvers, next door to them, were now also peering from behind their windows.

“I don’t …” Mr. O’Dowell said.

“Mr. O’Dowell! I have my uncle’s position in the community to think of. I am his niece. It wouldn’t be fitting for me to see you under these circumstances. You must understand that.”

“My apologies Miss McTavish. I surely meant no offence to your honour.”

“Mr. O’Dowell this conversation is over.” She leaned heavily against the door and shut it, threw the bolt. What would she do if he came to the back? No, she prayed he was still too much of a gentleman to such a thing. She went to the back door to make sure it was also secure.

What had she done that deserved this sort of attention? Did Mr. O’Dowell sense something about her, about her past and feel that that was permission to treat her in such a way. Or was her uncle correct about the innate sinfulness of women. 

She stepped into the parlour to clear away the remaining cutlery. She knelt and swept the crust crumbs into the palm of her hand. It seemed wherever men were, something damaged, sullied remained behind.

She tidied the dining room and the kitchen. With no dinner to prepare she had no pressing household duties to perform. The sun was shining in the small back garden. She recognized that she hadn’t left the confines of the house for more than a few moments the last two days. She got the sewing basket from the pantry and went into the yard and sat on bench there that caught the sun.

The skills she had in embroidery were easy to adapt to repairing her uncle’s clothing. A button here or there, darning well-worn socks and even maintaining the lace on his surplice. 

She wondered what would become of her. She didn’t see herself banished in Cape Breton forever, confined to either this house or the uncle’s church or some convent. She wasn’t a pet that need to be confined in such a way. Surely her womanhood wasn’t such a threat to humanity. Yet her Uncle was correct in the way these men had reacted to her, as unaware as she had been when it happened.

She wasn’t the only woman in the world. Surely all women didn’t have such an alarming effect. Did it stop once they were married. Was that the purpose of marriage? To protect the wife from unwanted male advances. How did her mother cope with such events.

Her mother had been very adamant about men’s unwholesome desires. Did they end with marriage as well or did men expect some sort of debasing satisfaction from the women they professed to love and cherish. 

Was what transpired between her and James Dunham a mortal sin or merely venal. She had never encouraged his actions with her but had never discouraged him either. The act he performed on her was neither pleasant or unpleasant to either of them, for he seemed as shamed by his desire as she was. Yet neither of them could resist when those opportunities presented themselves. In fact she rather enjoyed the secretiveness of it all. She enjoyed having something of her own that was a secret from her family. 

The sun started to go down and the garden cooled quickly. She could hear the men in the street passing on their way to night shift at the mine. The men whose worries and concerns were being discussed in this very house. Her uncle held their fate in his hands, or so it seemed to her. The same way he held hers.

“Hallo.” A woman’s head appeared over the fence. “Is that you Miss McTavish.”
It was Vera McIssac. She was dressed similarly to Lillian. Lillian envied the floral print of Vera’s smock. It was almost feminine even with the dusty, dirty apron that was over it.

“Yes, Mrs. McIssac. The Father has been delayed at the church. It gave me the opportunity to do some sewing and enjoy the fresh air.”

“Not much fresh air round here.” Vera pushed open the back gate and came into the garden. A small child clung behind her. “Now don’t be shy Marie. You’ve met Miss McTavish before. Remember? Now say hello.”

“Hello.” The freckled face darted from behind her mother’s skirts and hid again.

“I seen that the union man was here this afternoon?”
“Yes he was. As well as Steven O’Dowell and James Bowden.”
“So there is a strike on, is there?”

“I don’t know.” She understood that the men’s conversation was private and chose her words carefully. “They did talk about the miner’s being unhappy with their wages and that coal is no longer selling as well as it once did.” It was safe to repeat what she had previously heard the parishioners discussing.

“Could be. Could be. But they aren’t the ones getting thinner, are they. It’s us here. The Father hasn’t agreed to anything drastic has he?”
“I don’t know that he is in a position to agree to anything.”

“Ah, Miss, they know they need him on their side to keep the men in check. He’s same as havin’ the eyes of God on them. Keep’s the sorts of O’Dowell in line. He was a rough ‘un. Got them medals in the war and come back thinkin’ he was a gift to the women.”
“Medals?” Lillian couldn’t imagine the over-primped man fighting anything more threatening than a cold.

“Oh yes. That was before Father Patrick came to us. Mr. O’Dowell rescued his unit during some battle. Can’t say as I know which one now.”

“I hope there isn’t a strike Vera.”

“We all do Miss McTavish. Last time was a sore hardship for so many. By the way, Mrs. Seldon tells me there’s a new Eaton’s catalogue if you can to drop by the store.”

The mine whistle sounded for the coming shift change.

“I best get going. Red Mac‘ll be home for his dinner.”

Lillian went back into the house. Did she want to pour over another catalogue at the company store? Mrs. Seldon was the store manager’s wife. Going there to shop for various food stuff was Lillian’s only excursion, if one could call a twenty minute walk with her uncle at her side, being away from the rectory. He would leave her alone there while he talked with men across the street at Calder’s Iron Foundry.

Mrs. Seldon was from Portland, Maine and understood in some ways Lillian’s sense of displacement. The company store was also the catalogue order office.

The catalogue could wait until the Friday when her uncle brought her down to the store.

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Sal Mineo & The Grass Roots

The Grass Roots: All Time Greatest Hits starts off a mp3 collection of wide ranging bands mostly from the mid to late 60’s. Grass Roots was corporate packaged to produce hits, slick, well produced, solid pop that is nearly interchangeable with top ten hits from The Archies or The Monkees or Three Dog Night. The hits bring back eat coast memories. The band itself wasn’t that well through of though thanks to their popularity. But musically better than say 1910 Fruitgum Company.

Another corporate package was Sal Mineo! I have The Complete Epic Recordings. I say packaged because there was an attempt to make teen movie or TV stars into pop stars (& vice-versa). George Maharis, Chris Connelly also experienced this same corporate attempt to capitalize on their stardom. I love Sal. His life is tragic, his on screen presence is magnetic & he was hot. His singing is ordinary, perhaps even mediocre. His material belies his open homosexuality with absurd songs of teenage boy girl love. Hearing his sing songs like “My Bride” is more sad thn campy. 

Another TV star was Don Grady (My Three Sons) his band The Yellow Balloon – released one lp of sunshine pop – think Beach Boys, in fact Beach Boys make an appearance. This is a something I came across rather than searched out. An artifact as opposed to a neglected treasure. Diverting but no compelling.

Also here are some one-hit wonders: first up is Rare Earth with: One World, Willie Remembers, Ma – three solid lps full of cover versions of things like What’d I Say & original songs. The hit was I Just Want to Celebrate. All solid music. Sugarloaf had one hit Green-Eyed Lady which is not on their  Spaceship Earth: album. The music is competent but it could be Grass Roots for it’s lack of identity. Both bands successfully try their hand at long form: i.e. pieces that run over ten minutes.

Ides of March had one big hit: Vehicle & a couple of lps including Common Bond. When Vehicle hit the charts many though: oh a new single from Blood, Sweat & Tears. lead vocalist is a ringer for David Clayton Thomas & the horns have the same smooth jazz brass sound. It seemed only natural to include Ten Wheel Drive’s Brief Replies to finish off this collection. Another big brassy jazzy-pop band but edgier than BS&T but no one would mistake dynamic lead singer Genya Ravan for Thomas. I have more Ten Wheel tucked away on other compilations.

Interest

‘You coming Judy?’

‘Not right away.’

Safti had usually walked with her from the bus to the school. Fifteen, he had failed a year and was in same the grade her, but not the same class.

‘Don’t want to be late, do you?’

‘It’s okay. First period is an easy one for me. You get going though. I’ll see you at lunch.’

‘Okay. Thanks for helping me with the History stuff. You are such a brain.’

‘Thanks. Too bad Sal was more like me, right?’

‘Whatever. See you.’

He ran across the parking lot and into the side door. Only the boys could use that door. She peeped around the front to see if those girls where there. They weren’t. She hurried up the steps. They were just inside the front door.

‘Oh! Look who’s trying to sneak past,’ Jen grabbed Judy by the hair and yanked her back hard.

Judy began to cry. ‘Leave me alone.’

‘Yeah in a minute.’ Jane unzipped Judy’s backpack and twisted it so books began to fall out. ‘Oh you are such a clumsy girl.’

The three of them laughed at her. Jane shoved a note into the backpack. ‘This is your death sentence.’

A boy who saw what they were doing looked the other way and rushed by.

‘You are going to get what’s coming to you soon. Very soon. Sooner if you tell anyone about this. You understand.’ Jen backed her hard against the wall. ‘You understand?’

‘Yes.’

‘That’s a good girl.’ Laurie kicked Judy’s pens across the hall floor. ‘Be glad we take an interest in you.’

The three laughed again. The bell rang.

‘Shit we better get a move on.’

‘If we’re late because of you, shit face, it’ll be even sooner than you think.’

Judy stooped to pick up her scattered books & pens.

‘Having some trouble are we?’

Judy looked up. It was Mrs. Glasgow, the Math teacher.

‘Oh no, nothing I just dropped my backpack trying to get my … to get a …’ she could see the three girls at the end of the hall glaring at her. ‘Get my favourite pen.’

She stood up. Telling wouldn’t do her any good. Not now. Not ever. She’d be a snitch, a rat and no one would ever like her. Not that they did like her much now, but to rat on those girls would only make things worse for her. Much worse.

‘Get a move on then Judy.’

‘Yes Mrs G. I mean, Mrs. Glasgow.’

She scurried up the stairs, stopped to read the note. ‘Want to die faster? Do us a favour & save us the trouble.’ 

She got into her class just as the door closed.

‘Cutting it close again Judy? I don’t know what’s gotten into you.’

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The Camera Never Lies

Smile

the camera will stay on

it’s for your protection

people will talk

they will question your motivation

they will question my lack of interest

I never meet alone with anyone

no, it’s not being broadcast live

on YouTube Facebook Instagram

 

the camera will stay on

you’ll get used to it quickly

you don’t even see it do you

we’ve learned how to be discreet

we have nothing to hide

do we

 

this is to maintain transparency 

so our being together

can’t be misunderstood 

even by one another

I don’t want to face a charge

of sexual harassment

of guilt by association

 

 

the camera will remain on

it is always on

there is one where ever I go

I have no faith in the people

everyone is eager to misunderstand

any innocent cue

have a nice day

becomes an insult 

to someone’s sense of propriety 

so this is being documented

to assure each of us of legal protection 

there will be no grounds 

for doubt for equivocation

the camera will remain on

 

this is the state we have come to

privacy is only for those

who have something to hide

and we have nothing to hide

not even from each other 

are you ready for your mug shot

This piece is an almost ‘ripped from the headlines’ response to the atmosphere of paranoia that has developed around language, how looks can be interpreted, how a smile can be misrepresented as a sexual threat. Police wearing body cams to establish what is happening – when they work – then spinning what is recorded into not being what happened but merely what your eyes are misinterpreting. 

Eye-witnesses, even camera eye-witnesses- end up doubting what they saw or aren’t at fault for what they saw because their vision is clouded by cultural assumptions – ‘it’s not my fault skin-color has been weaponized.’ Yes the camera is becoming de rigueur – security cameras everywhere for our protection, at least when it suits someone’s purpose.

If it shows those in control in a bad light we are invading their privacy; if it shows us in a bad light we have no right to privacy. Their is no such thing as privacy anymore anyway. If someone succeeds in being so off grid there is not electronic trace of them anywhere good luck on getting health insurance, a car license, an airplane ticket, out of jail ever.

As the piece says ‘privacy is only for those who have something to hide.’ Just as the current president of the usa about his past and it’s an invasion of his privacy but he has nothing to hide, at least nothing that can’t be denied regardless of the new reel footage of him being there etc. That wasn’t him. Transparency – even when we can see through him there’s no culpability.

Cameras are everywhere. I’ve known some people who cover their built-in computer cameras with duct tape. How do they their turned off cell phones are relaying their conversations to the authorities? Why turn your phone off if you have nothing to hide?

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Coal Dusters – Chapter VI

Chapter VI 

Lillian Washes The Lunch Dishes

“No, best stay where you are. I don’t want them to see you a servant. You are a McTavish after all.”

“Come in gentlemen. Come in. Please excuse the state of my home but my niece is still learning how to keep cleanliness next to Godliness.”

Lillian hid her hands under her apron and nodded to the men.

“I don’t think any of you gentleman has had the pleasure of meeting my niece. Lillian McTavish.” As he introduced them to her, each man took off his overcoat and handed it to Father Patrick.

“We have seen you at Mass, m’dear and was wondering when the good Father would allow us to meet you.” A short, thick set man with an uneven moustache reached out for her hand. He reeked of cigar smoke. His large red hands had uneven cracked fingernails. “The rectory can always benefit from a woman’s presence.”

“Enough William. This is William Gregory the local union representative.” 

She extended her hand briefly.

He quickly introduced her to the other two men. 

James Bowden, one of the mine managers, bowed to her. His brown tweed coat fit him much better than Mr. Gregory’s dusty black sports coat fit him. His short black hair was peppered with grey.

Finally, Steven O’Dowell, an assistant to the county’s provincial government representative. He didn’t hesitate to bring her hand to his lips. His hands were smooth with a heavy gold ring on his left pinky finger. His dark blue sports coat was well-fitted with a rather florid green and blue tartan waistcoat underneath.

She recognized him as the type of no-longer-so-young man she’d met frequently at social gatherings in Boston. Unmarried and dressing a little younger than they should in hopes of appearing a little younger than they were. He smelled strongly of Bay Rum. It reminded her of James Dunham. James had began his courtship by kissing her hand.

Lillian started to back out of the room. In Boston she would have been at ease making small talk with such men but here she was still unsure of her role. Was she house drudge or valued relative, all be it female.

“Perhaps your charming niece will pour a glass of wine for each of us before she’s leaves.” O’Dowell handed his Bowler hat to the Father and gestured to the tray of glasses.

“Please, do Lillian. As you can see my hands are full.”

“You know, the Father has more than spiritual power.” Steven leaned toward her. “He was able to get my nephew Manny transferred out the depths of the mines to a job more suited to his temperament above ground.”
She handed a glass of wine to each of the men.

“There was nothing to it,” Father Patrick said. “Red Mac is a good member of my congregation and was only too happy to stay in God’s graces. After all he knows what I hear in confession and he was eager to do penance.”

The men all laughed.

“A nice wine, Father Patrick,” O’Dowell said. “Mrs. Donati makes a wine almost as full bodied as she is.”

“Mr. O’Dowell I will not have such talk when there is a lady present.” Father Patrick said.

“Yes, uh … the good Father wields power even we in management can only dream of having.” James poured himself another glass of the wine.

“I am sorry.” O’Dowell bowed in Lillian’s direction. The twinkle in his eye told her he had no regrets.

“Thank you. Now Lillian, please take the gentlemen’s overcoats.” Father Patrick laid the coats across her extended arms.

She was relieved to have an excuse to exit the room. Where was she going to put them? These were the first visitors they had had since she arrived and there was no coat rack, only a couple of hooks by the back door for her coat and for his.

She leaned to the Father to whisper. “Where might I put these.”

“Excuse me gentlemen while I check on the progress of lunch.” He stepped into the dining room. Lillian followed him. “Lillian I understand you are still getting used to our ways but I didn’t think you were … stupid. Do I have to explain to you how everything is done? You are nearly an adult woman. You’ve certainly demonstrated the ability to think for yourself in the past. Or is all your knowledge from the artifice of theatre productions. Now I must returns to my guests.”

Lillian gasped. This was the first time he had mentioned why she had been banished to his care. She turned her back on him and marched into the kitchen kicking the door shut behind her. She glanced around for a surface large enough for the coats. There was none. She elbowed open the back door and dumped them on top of the hutch that protected the wood pile. As long as it didn’t rain they would be fine.

She stirred the soup. She had made enough for several more than arrived so they would be having it for the next week. She ladled enough into the tureen to fill each bowl once and an extra ladleful for spillage. Her uncle had been very clear on the importance of measurements, of never offering more than enough. 

She brought the tureen to the table. She stood in the parlour doorway listening to the men talk for a few moments. It brought her back to memories of evenings at home with her family in Boston. The men were jovial but wary with one another as they discussed political issues.

“I’m sorry,” Bowden jabbed at the air between him and Gregory. “But since the war ended the demand for coal as declined drastically every year. We can’t afford to keep paying what once did. Even Premiere Baldwin … ”

“Don’t talk about Premiere Baldwin,” Gregory said. “He might as well be on the BritCan board of directors. That  the miners have to make a working wage, means nothing to him. The families are already suffering for want of the basic necessities.”

“Surely there has to be an alternative to cutting their wages.” O’Dowell played with gold watch chain in his waistcoat absently.

“Whatever we do, they are the one’s to suffer. Either we cut …” Bowden said as he glanced up from the papers he was referring to. “Ah Miss McTavish.”

“Lunch is served gentlemen.” She stepped aside to allow them to enter the dining room. “Father Patrick, would you care to serve the soup while I get the sandwiches.”

She knew that asking him to ladle the soup would let him see how much each man got, and how she had been attentive to his household management stipulations.

She placed the tray of sandwiches beside the tureen where he could continue to keep his watchful eye on what was consumed.

“Thank you Lillian. I’ll let you know when we are ready for dessert.”

She returned to the kitchen and sat at the table. Her tea from breakfast was still on the table. She glanced up fearful that her uncle might have caught her neglect. It was no longer hot but the sweetness soothed her. She never knew how good it would feel to sit and sip a cup of tea, hot or cold.

She could hear bits of the men’s conversation in the dining room. She gathered than the miner’s were unhappy with the tonnage pay they were getting, that they were unhappy about safety conditions in the mine, unhappy about nearly everything – the company houses were too cold, the school teachers weren’t teaching their children, they needed better medical attention. The list went on and on. 

To each complaint Bowden’s response was always the same – the coal itself wasn’t generating enough profit to pay for all these services. 

She found herself getting sleepy sitting close to the warmth of the stove. How nice it would be to go up to her room in Boston and rest on her big bed there. Cool, soft clean sheets. Or to go the bathroom by her room and sink into a the tub, to rub scented ointment into her hands.

A shaking awoke her.

“I’m most sorry to disturb your slumber Miss McTavish.” It was William Gregory. “But we have finished and are retiring back to the parlour. I brought these in for you.” He hand placed the soup bowls on counter by the sink.

“Thank you Mr. Gregory. That was most kind of you.”

“Father Patrick would have you serve the pie and tea once you have cleared the rest of the table.”

“I’ll do that directly. Thank you again.” What must he think of her sleeping at the table … she was not a scullery maid.

Once he left she filled the kettle and put in on the stove. Stoked the fire a little. She sliced the pies. The kettle came to a boil. Which should she steep. Ceylon or English? The English was cheaper so she brewed that.

She went the the parlour to retrieve the tray with the wine and glasses to use it for the tea service. She had been tempted to use her cutting board but knew her uncle would never have permitted that.

“Allow me to assist you,” Bowden followed her into the kitchen “My wife always tells me a woman needs more arms than an octopus at times.”

He took the two pies and she brought in the plates and forks.

“Thank you my dear.” Her Uncle said.

“Will there be anything else?” She wanted to get back to her kitchen. Having the eyes of the men on her made her comfortable.

Back in the kitchen she prepared to wash the dishes and wiped down the counter for them to dry.

“Bring the gentlemen their coats now Lillian.”

“Yes Father Pat.”

Bowden follower her. “Let me help you with those, Miss McTavish.”

“That’s quite alright Mr. Bowden. I can manage.”
He waited in the kitchen while she got the coats from where she had placed them.

“Ah! That is mine on the top. At least let me take that one.” He pulled the coat on. “Your uncle is a fine man. We count on his influence with his parishioners when we have less that good news to give them. Not only is he the mediator between them and God but also between them and the mine owners.”

“I see.” she continued into the parlour with the other coats.

“Thank you for your hospitality Father, and for the fine cooking of your lovely niece.” Mr. O’Dowell caught her eye as he put on his coat. His look was quite flirtatious, she hoped her uncle didn’t see it.

“You must tell me what you do with the bread. I can’t remember when I had delicious bread.” Mr. Gregory asked as he put his coat on. “If you’ll allow me the recipe I’m sure my wife would be most appreciative. Not that her bread isn’t equally as fine.”

“I …” Lillian blushed. “It was given to me by Annie Clark’s mother.” She didn’t want to admit that her secret was an accident. While preparing the flour she had accidentally knocked pepper into the batter. That was the first loaf that her uncle had called perfection.

“Surely not. I’ve had her bread many times and it never tasted that good.”

“Then …” relieved of the coats she thrust her hands under her apron and thought a moment, “It must be prayer! You see before I arrived here in Castleton Mines I had never baked a loaf of bread, or anything else for that matter. Each time I put the bread in the oven I pray.”

“I see,” Mr. Gregory laughed. “Every housewife keeps a little secret to herself.”

“Prayer is no secret to those who avail themselves of it.” Lillian longed for the quiet of the kitchen. “If you’ll excuse me gentlemen I have dishes to wash.”

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Escoude and The Boys

I have, as a stand-alone CD, bought on sale at HMV, Christian Escoude with strings: Plays Django. That is Django Reinhardt one of the jazz guitar masters who pioneered guitar in jazz & remains one of the most amazing players. Escoude captures the sound & flavour of Django but not the ‘energy.’ This is a great recording for anyone starting on their jazz journey.

His sound is similar to Wes Montgomery – inventive without being aggressive. Tasteful & sweet. The strings provide a sonic pillow for the guitar but, to me, don’t add anything to the music. This is often my issue with string quartets in jazz they rarely interact with, in this case, the guitar. I suppose they are meant to add a level of sophistication but who cares. They become another sound as opposed to a participant. Almost lounge music but excellent.

Speaking of lounge music next on the shelf is the soundtrack to The Fabulous Baker Boys – a fine movie about brothers, played by the Bridges brothers Beau & Jeff, who are dual piano playing nightclub performers. Think Ferrante & Teicher. Dave Grusin music is spot on but it is Michelle Pfeiffer who steals the movie & makes the soundtrack a must have. She does her own singing & sets the piano top on fire with Makin’ Whoopie & My Funny Valentine. Bought this a yard sale for a buck as a real stand-alone – it didn’t even a jewel case.

Next the perfect antidote to the the previous is The Essential John Fahey – folk/blues experimental guitarist. Inventive, warm & an amazing guitarist. His layered use of sounds mark him as a precursor for hip-hop & sampling. The sound quality of his acoustic guitar is fresh & some of this could be new yesterday it hasn’t dated at all. This is an lp to cd dupe. I picked up the lp at Cheapies, back in the day 🙂

Deal With It

Judy peered up the the sixth floor. Were there lights on in her place? Was someone home? She had her key but she just didn’t like to get home when there was no one else there. 

A bunch of boys played kick ball in the courtyard behind the building.

‘Hey Judy want to kick this around?’

‘Oh yeah Safti. Call me when its fully grown.’

The boys laughed and let her pass.

‘What’s up with that brother of yours?’

She didn’t answer. Nothing to tell. They knew the cops had picked him up a few weeks ago. Why a boy would want to keep getting in trouble for these guys was beyond her? If he was here though she could get him to look after those bitches as school. Threaten to kill her would they? She’d get someone to show them a thing or two.

‘Hi Judy.’

‘Hi Mr. Ramos.’

The super of the building creeped her out. He was just so nice and always had a smile. Didn’t seem right. All men are pigs and want something. Her mother told her that over and over. Just like your dad. Don’t give’m a chance.

‘You look a bit down about something.’

‘Nothing Mr Ramos. History test tomorrow. I want to well so Ma’ll be proud of me.’

‘History. Taking that in school sure helps me with my work here. You know what I mean.’

She squeezed by him in the corridor. 

The apartment was empty. Since Sal was gone even emptier. She checked for phone messages. Her Ma sometimes left messages when she wasn’t going to get home from the store. There were two. One from Ma that she’s be late; and the other:

‘Listen Judy goody two shoes you better watch your step or we will cut you. This is just between us so don’t get any ideas or they’ll be last ideas you get.”

Someone the background said, ‘Good one Jen.’

‘Have a good night bitch or deal with it.’

Judy sank into the couch. What could she do? How did they get her phone number? Her heart beat. These girls were after her and had been since school started. She had never seen them before and now they were out to kill her. Who could she tell. No one because if she told they’d kill her for sure.

Her Ma would say ‘Don’t be such a pussy.’ or ‘I’ll come down there and set them straight.’

God what could be worse – death or your mom coming to stick up for you in front of everyone as school?

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Polite

On a recent Disability After Dark Andrew Gurza talks about the times he’s been a douche bag with his sexual interactions. Some of them struck me as being part of a learning curve. Some of them come out of how our cultural awareness & sensitivity has changed but it’s easy to judge how we behaved 10 years ago with how we behave today.

Listening to his experiences, as always, makes me look at how I’ve behaved in the past. I have used excuses not to meet with someone rather than come right out & say I’m not interested, or not interested anymore. The polite Canadian doesn’t say ‘you’re too fat’ – they say ‘I don’t think we’re a good match’ when size is the issue.

I decline opportunities by reading what a man has listed in his profile. It’s easier, to me, to say I’m not into party’n’play, which is true, than say you don’t appeal to me at all. One man I met, who was quite taken with me (no surprise there) when we first met, whose English comprehension was nil, wanted FWB – the main benefit being his English tutor. Sticking to my primary purpose lead me to decline after out first ‘date.’

I think the worse thing I do is ‘ghost’ – if after the initial communication & text conversation I’m not that interested I merely stop responding rather saying ‘I’m not interested ‘in being your ass pussy’ or ‘in making you my ass pussy.’ Nor am I interested being anyone’s esl tutor or explaining the political context of my decisions when all I want is fun sex.

Damned Hands

‘keep your canned hams on the shelf’

or was that

‘keep your damned hands to yourself’

often I don’t quite hear what people say

like the time 

I heard someone shouting 

‘jesus loves your shoes’

as they gave out flyers 

 

‘wow’ I thought ‘there’s a personal saviour 

I can believe in’

but when I got one of the flyers it said 

‘jesus loves your soul’

or maybe it was payless for shoes

claiming it could save your soles

 

then there was the woman

ranting on a street corner 

‘one day you’re wearing sunglasses

the next day your not

how can I really know you’

I think that’s what she said

I never went to back to find out

I never stopped to say

‘mom it’s just me’ 

 

I wasn’t wearing sunglasses

she probably wasn’t my mother

I didn’t think she was talking to me

I got over that a long time ago

I don’t think I’m the centre of anyone’s attention

when they shout ‘hey fuck head faggot’ 

they mean some other jackass

 

there is so much out there

trying to take my focus

I don’t focus on anything

often forgetting people I have run into 

unless I make a note in my soul

the one that jesus loves

 

if they put their damned hands on me

it would be a question 

of where those hands were last

how much would they be willing to pay

are they ready to shut up and take it 

like a canned ham

are they ready to love my shoes

are they ready to be so in to me 

that they won’t hear 

their own mother in the street

 

or are they unfocused stumblers

like myself

not paying attention to much

happy to sit for a little while

watch the scream of life whizz by

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every Tuesday

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked)
 capfireslam.org 

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Confirmation

Confirmation

kissing her

was unexpected

she had told me

my bed had appeared in her dreams

 

I was pretending

to be interest in women

claiming a bisexuality

to allow for a safe passage through life

at a time

when that was necessary

 

there were enough suspicions

about my sexuality already

launched in grade school

carried into high school

suppressed by fear

then by the bottle

 

intercourse with a woman

was bandied about like a flag

a boy scout badge

to announce

hey I’m a normal guy

I bang chicks

 

but that sex was a remote possibility

until she had that dream

she made it come true

for herself

 

no one knew

no one suspected a thing

except for me

who finally knew

intercourse with a woman

was possible

but not a place I wanted

to return to

This was prompted by the first of the two aniyātas. Both deal with the shame of sex that in implied by being with a woman under questionable circumstances. None of these prompted pieces are meant to illustrate the rule so they frequently are tangental from a word or two in the rule.

Confirmation is, as you might suspect, totally autobiographic. It reflects much of my teenage and early twenties as I tried to get some sort of balance between what I knew about myself & what was culturally acceptable, in Cape Breton, at that time. The pretending that, even in my thinking, went through a process of ignoring the fear, experimenting, eventually admitting to myself that I was gay. Stages of acceptance. Some male pop stars were rumoured to be bi – David Bowie for one – so it was sort of okay to say one preferred girls but would bag the right guy. 

In high-school I was bullied for being a gearbox even though I had dated some girls, that wasn’t enough. I didn’t do the ‘smell my finger brag’ (that is I’ve just fingers the vagina of some girl & here’s the scent of proof) that would have cemented my heteronormativity.

The ‘she’ was the younger sister of one of the guys I frequently drank with – one a a group of guys who would show up en masse with guitars or new lps and booze in hand. Girlfriends, sisters in tow often. One day the sister dropped by on her own, told me about her dream & over the next few weeks we messed around a little then one night did the deed. 

I have another piece about that – Perfect Match. (https://wp.me/p1RtxU-2GB) Her bothers found out & were pissed at me. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was not the first in. She & I didn’t continue. Though we enjoyed the sex it was clear to both of us that I wasn’t really into it. It was also obvious it was something I initiated or would ever have initiated either.

I grew in a very Catholic neighbourhood & regularly saw children dressed up for Confirmation. A ritual to bind them to the church, or something like that. The Lutherans have an equally ritualistic declaration of faith. My experience with ‘she’ was a heterosexual baptism that confirmed my homosexuality 🙂

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