Coal Dusters Chapter XLVII – Lillian Goes to Church

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet

Coal Dusters

Chapter XLVII

Lillian Goes to Church 

Lillian stood on the front walk of the the McFadden’s home. The O’Dowell’s had come over to New Waterford for the night on Saturday so they could attend the special service at Mount Carmel. The strike was nearing its fifth week with no sign of ending. The Monseigneur had called for a special service on Sunday to bring the Word of God to the parishioners of the area. Her uncle was one of the priest asked to speak to the men.

Clara had insisted on her and Lillian spending the night so they wouldn’t be rushed in the morning to get across the bay to New Waterer in time for the service. She plucked a stray thread off of her dark coat. She was pleased at the opportunity to wear some of her Boston clothes. Even more pleased to have her lace gloves to cover her hands. Her eyes kept going down to her pumps. How dainty her feet looked in the dark blue shoes. Probably two years out of style by now, she thought, but still looking better than anything she had seen anyone wearing here.

“Ah Lillian, there you are.” Clara came out of the house followed by the McFadden’s and their two daughters. “You are looking quite well turned out today.”

“Thank You Clara. I haven’t gotten much opportunity to dress my best.”

They walked the few blocks to the church.

As she with Clara, Lillian noticed a large number men in uniform along the street. They were smoking and laughing. Some appeared to have been drinking.

“Who are they going to protect.” Mr. McFadden said. “The choir?”

The extra militia had been brought in to New Waterford at the demand of the coal company. The management had pressured the local police to beef up security around the mines after many of the company stores had been ransacked. It was as if they had been hoping the miners would take that more militant action after the ambush hadn’t succeeded. Any action so the company could escalate things in their own way.

Lillian and Clara passed through the main part of of the town. Off to one side street were more men on horseback. There was also some artillery on a wheeled cart. Colonel Strickland stood there with his hands behind his back watching the men inspect the artillery. 

“What do they expect the miner’s to do?” Lillian asked Clara.

“They are sure there are agitators working to undermine the company’s influence.”

“Agitators?”

“Men whose only intent to disrupt lawful business under the guise of making things better for the workers. Communists.” Clara waved to her brother. “Steven, any word from BritCanada Coal?”

He crossed the street to join them. “Good morning.” He kissed his sister on the cheek and shook Lillian’s hand. They had decided to keep their engagement a secret for the time being. The assembly is in full agreement with Wolvin’s statement that the men can end all this simply by returning to work. They are willing to open the mines so the men can start earning their keep. As general manager he has no ability to negotiate. He’s only a messenger but the men feel he’s the one keeping the company from giving in.”

“Their keep!” Mr. McFadden said. “They were being paid barely enough to keep house and family together under the old contract and now they have to settle for less?”

“Mr. McFadden, in order for the company to remain competitive in the market they have to have the coal for less, that means paying the men less. The alternative is to close down more of the mines. Is that what you think the miners want?”

“You know as well as I do that the miners want an end to this starvation. BritCanada Coal is letting the miners’ children pay the price of their profits.”

“BritCanada Coal can’t be held accountable for the ….” Steven glanced apologetically to Lillian and the other ladies, “… the propagation habits of the miners. If you can’t afford children don’t bring more into the world.”

“Steven!” Clara snapped. “What a thing to say!”

They were at the church steps. In the foyer the Monseigneur was greeting parishioners as they arrived. Father Patrick was at his side. She hadn’t seen him since he had ‘cast her forth into the wilderness’ as it was reported to her by Aileen. She didn’t offer her hand to him but merely nodded as his glance went quickly to Mrs. McFadden beside her. 

Seeing him again made her bruises throb. She had kept Clara from seeing how severe they actually were. She had made Dr. Drummond swear not to mention the severity of them to anyone. The few long hot soaking baths which she had over the past week had eased the pain considerably. Aileen had insisted she try a poultice of comfrey and mustard which reduced the swelling and discolouration.

She followed Clara to the pew they were to use for the service. On the way she was stopped by Hanna Seldon.

“Miss Lillian, it’s good to see you looking well.”

“You too Hanna. How’s the baby.”

“Poorly miss. He has that flu so many of the children have had the past few months. Least we have been able feed him to keep his strength up. The doctor says there’s a good chance he’ll pull through.”

Lillian shook her head in dismay. As the strike progressed and food became scarce many families had less and less to eat. Gardens had helped stave of some of the hunger but many of the children were weak from lack of proper nutrition. This weakness made them more vulnerable to colds and recently a flu. There were funerals daily.

“I wish there was more I could do.” Lillian said.

“Knowing your prayers are with us is more than enough. At least we have a roof over our heads. There’s now many that doesn’t. When they closed the Lingan mine those families were forced out of the company houses. No mine no home. Where is a person to go?”

“There’ll be help I’m sure.” Lillian kissed Hanna on the cheek and joined Clara. She was more grateful that ever for having been given a haven when she needed one, but how long could even the O’Dowell’s  manage with things getting worse for everyone around her.

The service washed over her without her paying attention to it. She heard bits and pieces of the various rituals and the sermon. Other parishes were sending money. The Monseigneur had spoken to the Premier to no avail. The Bishop had spoken to the some cabinet misters but was told this was a provincial not a federal matter and so they would do nothing. The conclusion appeared to be that God helps those who help themselves, which in this case only the BritCanada Coal Company had pockets deep enough to help themsevels.

“What does helping themselves mean?” Lillian asked Mr McFadden as they made their way out after the mass.

“Pray and listen to the guidance one gets from the Lord.” 

“What if the Lord tells some helping themselves is to strike for better working conditions and tells others that accepting any working condition is better than not working at all?”

“Miss McTavish your words are dangerously similar to those of the Communists.”

“They … they are?” Her face flushed. “Perhaps I’ve been listening too much what Steven has to say about all this.”

“Miss McTavish you are in many ways still an outsider here. This isn’t Boston.”
“I comprehend that but …”

“The folks here don’t think logically. They have no idea of a future only of their stomachs in the now.”

They were in the foyer once again. The crowd was stopped at the doors.

Screams and shouts came from outside.

“Father,” one of the parishioners shouted. “They are charging with horses as we leave the church.”

The Monseigneur and her uncle pushed through the crowd.

The parishioners pushed back and she fell against the wall. An elderly women stumbled back into the church helping her husband. He was bleeding from a blow to the head.

“They rode up as we were walking down the street. Swinging their batons and hitting anyone they could reach.” The woman gasped. “Anyone! We’re not miners!”

Over the shouting she could hear the horses. Then gun shots. There was brief silence.

The miners who were still in the church rushed out. Some pulling up the picket fencing around the church lawn to give them something to use in self-defence.

Lillian cautiously went to one of the side exit doors to peer out. She saw a mass of men with wooden pickets flailing at the militia on horses wielding thick black clubs. Both sides were shouting accusations at each other.

“BritCan doesn’t even want us to go to church in peace. They have no respect for the God.”

“Commie rabble. Papist scum. Pray to your God now.”

“I knows you father Billy Davis.”

“Get off the streets now or …”

“These are our streets, ya goddamned company bastard.”

Another shot rang out. The fighting stopped a moment. The miners fell back to the church grounds. The militia pulled back a few yards to regroup.

A runner dashed up to one of the horsemen with a message.

“A man is dead because of you.” The lead horseman said. “How many more have to die before you learn your place.”

“Who?” several men shouted at once.

“Daniel Jenkis!” the horseman shouted back. “You ready to leave peacefully.”

“We was till you charged as us with no cause.” someone yelled back.

The horseman nodded and all the troops stepped forward. “If that’s how you want it we’ll trample the lot of you.”

“Kill a child. Is that what you want?”

“Not us. You behave and there’ll be no trouble.”

Lilian’s uncle pushed through the men and stood alone in front of them. “How can we disperse with you blocking the streets and sidewalk?” he asked quietly. He puts hands out palms up.

One of the horses reared and the front hooves hit her uncle. He fell forward under the horse. Lilian darted out to drag her uncle out of the horse’s way.

“Get out of the way you Catholic biddy.” One of the other horsemen laughed and Lilian glanced at him as he swung his baton at her.

“That’s it!” a male voice from the other side of that horseman shouted as the horseman was yanked backwards off the horse. She caught a glimpse of Steven O’Dowell wresting that rider to the ground.

The rider of the rearing horse had it under control and had pulled it away from the prone body of her uncle.

She knelt beside him. He was on his stomach and she wasn’t sure if she should turn him over.

“Uncle Pat can you hear me.” she said squeezing his hand.

“Yes child.” He turned his head toward her.

She saw that he was bleeding from a gash on his forehead. He pushed himself up painfully with his right arm. She struggled with his weight to help him stand. Two miners came over to take his weight from her.

“Thank you. I’m a bit winded. When I saw the beast rear before me it was the horsemen of the Apocalypse come to life to warn me. But this one was only an animal, not a messenger.”

“Lillian …” Steven came quickly to her brushing dust off his coat. “You haven’t been harmed in any way have you?”

“No, Steven I haven’t. Father Pat has been injured sorely. We must get him some medical attention.”

They helped her uncle back into the church. Inside on the benches were several others who had been assaulted by the militia. 

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

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Isis Of March

Next on the shelf is an mp3 collection of Isis. I’ve blogged about Isis before so check that out. I recently watched Some Like It Hot, which includes an all-female swing band. No matter how musically inventive or competent such bands were they were always considered novelty acts not serious swing bands. Such was the case of Isis. The market wasn’t open to an all-female version of Chicago. Women in rock were usually limited to vocals,  not playing instruments, other than piano or acoustic guitar, themselves:-)

Also in this compilation are two releases by Lowell Fulsom: Drifting Blues, In A Heavy Bag. This is solid r&b. There were a couple of tracks by him on the Rojak Story compilation. I liked his old school soul sound & his voice, so downloads a couple of his solo releases. His cover of ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road’ takes a road the Beatles would never have taken 🙂

Here as well is Otis Blackwell’s These Are My Songs. Never heard of him? You’ve probably heard some of his songs though, which include Great Balls of Fire, Don’t Be Cruel, All Shook Up & more. His take on his songs is refreshing. I always love to hear songwriters doing their work. I also never knew that these big hits where the work of the same writer.

For some reason I added Jethro Tull’s A Passion Play: The Château d’Hérouville Sessions to this mp3 collection – a classic lp I wanted to replace with better quality sound. The original lp was two sides with no track breaks. Here it has seamless track breaks & no need to turn it over half way through. The Château d’Hérouville Sessions includes other takes of some of Passion Play songs plus earlier versions of songs such as Skating Away. The sound quality is excellent even if A Passion Play is a bit overwrought 🙂

To round out this cd I added: Arthur Brown & Vincent Crane: Faster Than The Speed of Light. Crazy World world is the best known work by these two – Crane was keyboards on that lp. Neither followed it with another big hit but they reunited in 1980 for this release. Fun & surprisingly prog-rock with an Emerson, Lake & Palmer vibe without being as self-serious. Brown’s vocals are playful & the production values & engineering is excellent. Too bad it vanished almost as soon as it was released. Worth seeking out.

Snake Skine

“Priestess and the Snake Skine” by Davina K’ltra – set in the rich fertile islands of the Caribbean the third novel of Davina K’ltra continues her fascination with things dark and lurking. 

One almost expects characters from the previous books to walk in the door at each turn of the plot. It is almost as if she had merely changed the names with the help of word search, the plots are so similar and yet one keeps reading with pleasure.

As in her previous two novels – “Snake Skine Sisters” and “Sinner in Snake Skine “- an innocent person, often of indeterminate gender, finds themselves drawn to the world and power of a vodou like cult.

In each the innocent victim is unaware till the final moment that there is no turning back now that the door has been opened. There is no one to turn to when the very people thought to be protectors turn out to be Sirens, lures. There is no safety anywhere.

Even, as in this novel, when the innocent makes an escape off the island and back to the shores of the good old USA there is no real escape. Everyone, it seems, is connected with this nefarious cult.

The major departure in “Priestess and the Snake Skine” is the gender of the innocent. In the previous two novels it has probably been female. This time it seems to be male. A young Police Academy graduate celebrates his graduation with a two week jaunt in the Caribbean Islands before he is to take up his post in Detroit. Kaleb Jones comes from a middle class black family and has proven himself to be an open minded young man. Boxing champion for his class and built to be a prime example of the best America has to offer.

We meet his family first and enjoy the last weeks of his police training. A deceptive start for K’ltra, who seems to be trying to expand the horizons of her novels by opening them to new locations. Too bad the action once it does get started is so cookie cutter.

Perhaps though it is the predictability of this fatal action that allows the reader comfort to follow it. The ritual scenes are fevered and fast, the blood flows and even when it becomes human we are ready, almost wanting to participate ourselves so we can slip into our own dangerous skine.

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every Tuesday 2019


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

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Don Messer’s Jubilee

 

It all started with someone posting a link to a video of Fred McKenna playing some songs. What he was playing was not that interesting but it opened up a memories of my Sydney childhood in Cape Breton. When my father relocated us in Sydney it was a one TV channel town (almost as bad as a one horse town) and that channel was CJCB – which is still on the air but is now part of CTV.

 

CJCB was essentially community TV with some shows imported from Halifax. One of which was Don Messer’s Jubilee out of Halifax. Jubilee  (click Jubilee for link to video). To be honest I hated this show. I wanted real music i.e. radio top ten stuff. I don’t even recall if my parents enjoy the show but the minute it came on I dismayed. I must have watched it though because I remember the names of the singers – Marg Osburne & Charlie Chamberlain – who looked like a pair geriatrics. She was in her mid-30’s, he was in his 60’s. Fred McKenna was a frequent guest.

I also remember the Bupta Dancer who, thanks to Wikipedia, I now know were the Buchta Dancers – they did square dance crap. It was decades before I could tolerate the sound of country fiddle. But hearing Fred McKenna made me consider how this music influenced me, if at all. I did find one collection iTunes & downloaded all 32 minutes of it. Sweet but with almost no emotional resonance. The show’s intro music “Goin’ to the Barndance Tonight” isn’t included 😦

Part of why Jubilee didn’t impress me was that none of the singers or dancers had a shred of sex appeal. Black & white TV didn’t help much. Bulky boxy conservative clothes made the square dancers & singers seem even more square. The show lacked glamour or sparkle. I have vague memories of watching Liberace with my mother & being impressed by his glittery style. Jubilee had no visual style.

The music is pleasant, folky, sometimes Celtic with strong fiddle playing by Don Messer. The songs are uncomplicated folk, sea shanty & religious. Only one of the ones I’ve downloaded has much of an emotional resonance for me ‘Farewell To Nova Scotia.’ A farewell I’ve never regretted.

See Me?

people think they know me

they see me in my writing

they don’t see fiction

the fact that each confessed event

is reality 

my reality

one that they can identify with 

as my actually experience

in fact the closer I capture 

something of their emotional life 

the more they are sure

I have to have experienced it

they don’t want to believe

that each piece is a mask

not a piece of me

they see my photos 

read bits of life that I process for display

and add it up into picture of me

they approach me with that 

ah-ha

I see by your web page 

that you are …

 

they don’t realize I am 

as big a liar as they are

I may not talk in internet inches

but I don’t reveal anything out of turn either

that would be too painful 

so like so many other’s 

I adopt a mask of playful indifference

ironic poses to amuse

what they don’t see 

I’m not going to hint it

 

trust me

no one has the entire picture

many don’t even have a glimpse

not that have hidden depth

there may be surprises

tucked away in many closets

I don’t see that something to confess

shoes shirts all get displayed

and even those things 

that I explain aren’t me

the endless lists of almost lovers

sweet boyhood sexual discoveries

the bitter relationship breakups

all those fictions 

I can make so real 

are things that happen to people

but not always to me

I’m too shallow for most of that 

safe in that distance

the pose that many writers seems to strike

knowing full well

that no one questions it

the fiction

is seen as a valid side of the writer

even if I deny the experience

it must be a part of who I am

of who you perceive me to be

the need to wear this disguise

reveals who I am

 

the mask one selects 

is a reflection of the person

Romeo Harlequin Godzilla

one after the other put on 

taken off

my face the mirror of yours

so what you see as me

isn’t me at all

but the you I squeeze into 

when I sit down at the keyboard

to see though what I think is your mask

losing sense of self to that image

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every Tuesday 2019


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Nine Lives

Nine Lives

O when I was nine

I was still a child

there was no instant communication

news travelled slow

on the radio   TV news   newspapers

delay that provided an innocence

I knew about war

because my Dad had fought in one

he was a man

my mother was a woman

I was a boy child

who only knew what the culture 

of the time

reported of my gender 

 

O when I was nine

I wasn’t aware of so much

I did know I wasn’t like other boys

I played backlot-baseball

I played with dolls

I  wasn’t the son my dad expected

I didn’t like to fight

like other boys

I never understood 

why physical violence was required

to be accepted

 

O when I was nine

I had indulged in sex play

with boys and girls

looking at the differences

anatomy I didn’t understand

the boys where more interesting

I didn’t come out

but I knew shame

when we were caught

I had fear

but no closet

sex was dirty regardless

of gender

 

O when I was nine

I don’t know I was swimming

that I was making waves

as I dog-paddled from nine to nineteen

by that time I knew

these were dangerous waters

 

O at nine there was only

the fear of getting caught

not the fear

of my culture drowning me

like an unwanted litter of kittens

that were denied their nine lives


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Nice Undies

Nice Undies

please keep it

I don’t really need it

I have too many already

it’s not quite the right fit for me

the colour is so you

I don’t know

when I’ll ever use it

I want you to have 

you’ll get more use out of it than I would

I can’t begrudge you anything

of course you can have it

I never wore it

I only wore it once

let me see it on you

it really suits you

those undies look better on you

than they ever did on me

no I don’t hate it

it’s just not right for me

they were on sale

you’d be doing me a favour

I never want to see it again

too many memories

time to move the energy out of my life

if you don’t want it

I’ll have to throw it away

don’t let it to go to waste

it’s too good

to drop in a donation box

I want someone I know to have it

you won’t regret it

don’t thank me

thank whomever 

gave it to me

never wear it my presence

Nice Undies is a list poem of different thoughts or actual things said in giving something away. As much as I appreciate a gift I am sometimes given things that I either have, don’t want, or have no real need for. Because I enjoy bold colours I’ve been give shirts, or t-shirts that are great colours but with prints or cartoony images I’d never be seen in public wearing. Some become sleep wear, some end up in donation bins, some become regifted.

One Christmas I was given more socks than I needed, so some of them ended up in Christmas gift bags for friends. I’ve donated blank books, pens, even t-shirts to Hot Damn! as prizes. I move energy out of the house quickly so make room for new energy. It’s gotten to the point where I sometimes get a gift & I immediately think – this would be perfect for so-&-so.

Part of my personal ‘stuff’ policy is ‘if something new comes in, something old should go out.’ As a result if I keep the t-shirt someone gives me I have to cull one out of my collection to donate or give away. This can be difficult with things like shirts as my collection now if all favourites 🙂 So to make room for new I have to let go of my attachments of the old. In these cases I am more selective of where it goes but it does go.

Twice a year I cull various things from my processions: books, cds, shirts, socks, tee’s, even undies to pass on, to keep my sense of attachment in balance. I do this around New Year’s & around my birthday at the end of June. I’ve never been so invested in a memory that I can’t see someone wearing the tee I gave them. Nothing, to me, is hotter than one of my fwb arriving & finding that he’s wearing the undies I gave him. What can be more fun than some man literally getting into my pants? 🙂


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Coal Dusters – Chapter XLVI – Lillian Gets A Proposal

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet

Coal Dusters

Chapter XLVI

Lillian Gets A Proposal

After an afternoon of giving lessons to the miner’s children Lillian let herself in though the back of the O’Dowell’s house. The house was very different from the parish manse. Two-and-half stories it was always warm and well-lit, not the dark and damp cool she found her uncle’s place. She hung her coat in the back porch and went directly to the kitchen.

“Anything need doing, Aileen?” she asked.

“Not a thing Miss McTavish.” She sniffed at Lillian. “But you better change out of them clothes before we sit to supper.”

“They were clean this morning.” Lillian hated this sly disparagement of the mudders. It was one of the ways in which Aileen showed her disapproval of Lillian’s working with the miner’s children.

“Whatever you say, Miss.”

Lillian went up the backstairs to her small room at the rear of the second floor. This stairway let her avoid passing the living room where Clara spent most of the day when she wasn’t out with, or in entertaining, one of her various ladies societies. Lillian had joined ‘Ladies Sewing For Orphans Guild’ and ‘The Young Women For Temperance.’

Her room overlooked the garden. Once she removed her blouse, she sat on the chair at the foot of her bed that looked out over the yard. She could smell the lilacs. Since leaving her uncle’s house she had kept as busy as possible so as not to dwell on what had happened. 

The bruises on her back and legs were fading but were still visible. Dr. Drummond has assured her there would be no scarring. He had checked with the Regional Registry and had found no record of her death. He felt certain that Steven’s government connections could help her but she wanted to wait until she had a cleared plan of action.

She poured some cool water from the ewer into its bowl. It was a luxury to do something so simple. She wiped her face with a cloth dampened with the water and a dash of rosewater. Her hands were still rough and she didn’t foresee them improving quckly.

To be less of burden to the O’Dowell’s she had made herself useful around their house, helping with the wash, in the kitchen and particularly in the garden which had been neglected for many years. Much to her, and Clara’s surprise, there were hardy patches of sage and lavender. It had been too late in the season to plant vegetables but she had found an area where tomatoes had been reseeding themselves over the years.

The bell for dinner tinkled. She wiped the dust off her shoes with her damp cloth and put on a fresh blouse. As long at Steven was still on the mainland they would have a sedate supper.

Walking softly down the main stairway she strained to hear who, if anyone, was at the dinner table. The only sound was of cutlery, as food was being served. She sat at her place at the table.

“Good evening Clara.”

“You’ll say grace, my dear, and we can begin.”

“God, for food and health and the end of the strike, please receive our gratitude and praise.” Lillian looked up to make sure Clara had found this suitable to the occasion. She had been called upon to say grace a few times and was always at loss for words.

“Quite right Lillian. Quite right.”

They ate in silence till desserts was brought out.

“These are your pies, are they not?” Clara asked.

“Yes Clara. The rhubarb and strawberries are from your own garden.”

“Lillian, it’s time we discussed your situation.”

Lillian put her fork down as gently as she could. “Of course.”

“As much as we’re happy to offer you our hospitality it can’t go on indefinitely.”

“I understand that.”

“We have no need of addition domestic help in the house and you are too refined to be contented with that type of position.”

“Under the circumstance I find myself in I’m content to be occupied in useful ways. Teaching the children is more rewarding than I expected.”

“I’m glad to hear you are aware of these things. I have spoken with Sister Claire from St. Margaret’s Covent.”

“Ahh.” Lillian’s heart sank.

“She agrees with me that you would be a fine teacher. She’s heard about you tutoring the miners and the children. She also admires your tenacity in being useful without … being resentful toward them.”

“They aren’t responsible for the position I’ve found myself in, that’s …”

“We’ll say nothing of the good Father. Having you out of his house is a wise thing regardless. We knew who you were, of course, but still it was troublesome to many have a young woman under the same roof as him, even a close relative. Unseemly in fact, especially when the particulars of your being here were revealed to us.”

“You know about …. ” Lillian wondered how many others of the village knew of her past.

“Yes. I knew that before I invited you to reside with us. I understand how these things can happen in a city as large as Boston. But understanding doesn’t mean I approve.”

She stopped talking when Aileen came in to clear the table.

“Aileen, we’ll take tea on the front veranda. Might as well use it while the weather allows.”

Lillian went into the kitchen with Aileen and brought the tea tray out to the front veranda. Miss O’Dowell was leaning against the rail and looking out over the street.

“Father wanted a house with lovely views everywhere.”

“He certainly managed to do that.” Lillian set the tea service on a table between two wicker chairs.

“He was always pushing us to do what was right even if it didn’t feel the most convenient thing to do at the time. I always resented that as a child.” she sat and poured herself a cup of tea. “I thought he meant sacrificing what I wanted to do for something I didn’t want to do at the time.” She motioned for Lillian to sit.

“Clara events have been moving too fast for me to stop long enough to tell what is right or what is best. All I want is to get my life under my own control. Not someone else’s. I want to be able to make my own decisions. A decision not based on what would be best for the reputation of my family.”

“I realize that Lillian. But here, as with your uncle there is still the question of propriety. An unmarried young women living under the roof of an unmarried man.”

“You are suggesting I get married?” Lillian put her teacup down. “To …”

“Dr. Drummond.”

“Dr. Drummond!” Lillian had been hoping the suggestion would be Steven. “But … he’s Presbyterian.” 

She had visited the Doctor’s home where what he called what was his clinic, was in the front parlour of the house. The miner’s homes were cramped and untidy enough but to live in one that also smell of medicines was more that knew she could bare.

“I have seen the way he looks at you Lillian.” Clara said.”You could be of great help in his life. Sometimes we all to have make sacrifices for to better servers those around us.”

“Such as you have made?” Lillian stood. “I’m sorry Clara, I didn’t mean to sound so … ungrateful. I will give this some consideration.”

 

Lillian was awoken in the morning by shouting from the living room. She recognized Steven O’Dowell’s voice. He must have arrived home sometime during the night. She couldn’t make out what was being said but there was anger in his voice.

She sat up in the bed straining to pick out the words but she couldn’t. She put on her silk house coat and tip-toed to the bedroom door, opened it a crack and put her ear to it.

“I will run for the office if I so choose.” It was Steven.

“Not if I don’t sign those cheques you won’t. You know what papa said about politicians. That they look after their interests first.”

“He’s been dead too long now to have a valid opinion Clara and you will let me have the trust fund money or …”

“Or what!”

Over the few weeks Lillian had been at the O’Dowell home she had been told directly or over-heard things that filled in some of the family situation. When their father had died he left the estate in trust with Clara as the sole authority to disburse funds for her or Steven’s use. As much as she found Steven difficult she understood his chafing under the control of his family. 

She sat at her vanity and shook her hair loose from the cloths she used to hold in during the night. After brushing it she began to plait into a braided bun to pin it up out of her way for the day. 

She wondered how she could free herself from her family. They had severed all ties as far as he could tell. As Clara had pointed out she was stranded here with nothing to fall back on. She had little money of her own. Few possession outside of what was her trunk. There was no way to make much use of them.

She went over to the trunk and opened it up. She shook her head at the girl who had packed these things a few short months ago. Where did she think she was going wear any of these dresses? How could her mother have let her pack these useless items. Not even a useful pair of shoes. Her uncle was right when he dismissed her clothing as pointless finery.

Still wrapped careful in tissue was the beaded bag she had been given for her last birthday. She’d had a birthday since but by then her life had been torn away from her by a family that was determined that her dreams weren’t going to come true. It was a life she had lost. 

Yes that birthday had been magical. To make up for coming between her and David Henderson it had been extra lavish. A new dress with a sparkly beaded belt that matched her dainty shoes and this little bag. Its thin silver chain allowed to dangle so delicately on her wrist. Not designed to hold much more than a handkerchief she was so proud and pleased with it she couldn’t keep her eyes off it as she was whisked around the dance floor as it dangling and reflected in the light. 

She had been so eager and excited for that party. Now here she was with no future and a past that was no longer hers at all. She slipped the bag over her wrist. It didn’t look as if it could belong to someone with such rough hands. Anguished she pulled it off hoping to break the chain.

Squeezing it in her hand she felt something paper crumple inside it. Had she slipped some little love note in it, a list of of the men who filled her dance card. She opened it. It was money!

She pulled out what had been folded to fit in the bag. She opened it up and it two war bonds valued at $200.00 each dawn on the Exchange Bank of Boston.  How had they gotten there? What could she do with them here and now? Would any bank be able to cash them for her? Or were they only of value in Boston?

She pulled photo album from the bottom of the trunk to put the bonds into until she could decide what to do with them. As she opened the album newspaper clippings of her birthday gala fell out. Several of them included the portrait her father had done by Fairway Photographers. In the photo her hair had been pulled back to show off her forehead. There was her name under each ‘Miss Lillian McTavish celebrates her birthday and her beauty at the Fairmount Hotel.’ If she needed proof of who she was they certainly would do the trick.

A knock at her door broke her revere.

“Lillian are you awake?”

“Yes Aileen. I’ll be down in a moment.”

She folded the bonds put them in the back of the album. Perhaps the bonds had been gift from her Godfather Jackson Burns who was on the board of directors at the Exchange Bank.

She took the back stairs down to the kitchen. She didn’t want to be drawn too quickly into whatever discussion Clara and Steven were having. She needed time to think. This changed so many things. Why hadn’t she found that money sooner! She wouldn’t have wasted so much time with those miners or her misguided plan to teach her uncle a lesson by marrying any of those unwashed coal blackened men.

She went into the dining no longer feeling that she had to behave subservient to anyone. She regretted putting her beautiful hair up in such a tight bun. How she would love to toss her head, her hair in distain at these people. 

“Good morning, Clara.” She sat at table before Steven could offer to pull a chair out for her. “Steven how are things in Halifax? I hear there maybe a by-election soon.”

“Yes. Alf Landon is stepping down. After dealing with those communist miners he was disheartened and disillusioned by their total lack of gratitude.”

“He thought they could be happy if they were to be forced back to work?” Lillian laughed lightly.

“They should be grateful they might get their jobs back at all.”

“Enough.” Clara tapped her tea cup with her spoon to get their attention. “There will be no further discussion of politics at this table. Not at breakfast.”

“Yes Clara.” Steven reached for the teapot and gave Lillian a sheepish glance. His hand missed the handle of the teapot and tipped it over.

“See!” Clara glared at him, “too hungover to pour a cup of tea, let alone run for office. Aileen!”

“Yes, Miss Clara,” Aileen came into the dining room wiping her hands on her apron.

“There’s been a little accident. We’ll be wanting a fresh pot of tea.”

Aileen picked up the pot and patted at the spilled tea with a dishcloth. “Sure hope it doesn’t stain that good table cloth. I put it on fresh this morning.”

Lillian found it difficult to refrain her laugher. “Here, Aileen, let me help you with that.” She took the teapot and went quickly into the kitchen. How was she going to get out of this house? How?

Aileen came into the kitchen with the rest of the breakfast china on a tray, “They won’t be wanting a fresh pot after all Miss Lillian.”

“Right. I’ll get that table cloth and see if we can keep it from staining too much. Get me the baking soda.”

“Oh miss you are a good’un. I’d never have thought of that.”

Lillian peeked into the dining room to make sure it was empty. No one was there. She rolled up the table cloth and brought to the wash tub at the back of the kitchen. She wet the damp area and sprinkled some of the baking soda on it and left it to set without rinsing it. She turned around and Steven was standing at the door.

“Oh! Mr. O’Dowell!”

“I didn’t mean to startle you Lillian. There’ something I’ve been meaning to ask you. I’ve enjoyed our brief walks and seeing how well you manage to be helpful round and how you handle yourself and also how my sister is disposed towards you I was …”

“Yes, Mr. O’Dowell?” Lillian took her kerchief off and loosened hair.

He took both her hands to pull her toward him.

“Steven!” she pulled away form him.

“I … Will you marry me?”

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

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My Belongs Dada Heart to

Another major influence on me was Dada which lead to another major influence: Surrealism. In particular the art, which was at time more gimmick & concept than painterly technique. I loved Marcel Duchamp – ‘The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even’ visually & conceptually infused me with a strong sense of the possible, while Salvador Dali infused me with a strong sense of the absurd.

The collages used ironic, sometimes non sequitur, images to create an emotional & intellectual resonance in the viewer. One writer Tristan Tzara would take random lines from random books to create poem. This was also the movement that invented the  to disorientate readers. I have several books of their writings, painting and recordings of their music (Satie). Dada was the start of surrealism & cubism.

I also see the movement’s influence on T.S Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Ginsberg, ee cummings, Warhol. Both the art and the writing demonstrated to me that linear narrative isn’t necessary. Imagery didn’t have to make sense to make sense. Sometime the power in a word or words was in how they sounded, in how they resonated in the reader, rather than in what story they might be telling.

The photos in my blog here reflect my Dada influence, rarely do they have anything to do with the text. When I’m taking pictures it’s sometimes the odd juxtaposition of objects that attracts my eye. My poems can include what to me is surrealist images: ‘balls like emu eggs in my hand’ ‘my fridge made a pass at me the other day.’

 

Dada & surrealism respected the power of the dream, of automatic writing as a creative process. Of course if I could become famous by signing urinals I’d give it a try.

Lʼamour domestique

my fridge made a pass at me

the other day

I was in my usual hurry

to get the milk

when

the door caressed my cheek

pushed me into its cool

welcoming heart

 

now Iʼm not into sex

with inanimate objects if I was

I would probably pick

my coffee maker

something small and easy to satisfy

 

the fridge is never filled

always has demands that

make me feel inadequate

while the coffee machine

fills to brim so quickly

 

yes give me hot and perky

to big and cold – any day

but it was one of those days

the kitchen chairs were

plucking at my pant legs

like over excited little dogs

humping a foot

it made eating almost impossible

 

I wasnʼt sure

what to do with the left overs

the fridge was glaring me

petulant

at being snubbed

in favour of the coffee maker

 

in the bathroom

the face cloth competed

with the tooth brush

to get in my mouth

until the towels

pulled them aside

to push me into the shower

they needed all my body wet

for the satisfaction they craved

 

I didnʼt have the moral strength

to deny them anything

they rubbed and dried

every square inch

 

the sofa was anxious for me to

snuggle in front of the TV

I had to watch

home decorating shows

about getting cute little throws

hints from the sofa

of what would make

our family complete

 

in bed the pillows

tenderly cradled my head

as the sheets twined around me

hungry for dreams

about coffee makers

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http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday 2019


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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The Ick Factor

The Ick Factor

you’ve used up my trust

yes I know you don’t mean any harm

no it doesn’t hurt

but I asked you to stop

because it is meaningless

yet distracting

it is like the tip of the iceberg

that small act

meant to be affectionate

that I can’t stand it

that I don’t enjoy it

represents your lack of respect

it means to you

that I don’t have a sense of humour

such is life

 

it’s not a control issue

on my part

it is the same as serving food 

you know I’m allergic to

then getting pissed off

when I refuse to eat it

or insisting on playing

music you know I can’t stand

just to be playful

to be annoying

because I’m so cute

when I’m annoyed

 

enjoy that memory

because if you can’t respect

my silly boundary

memory is all you’ll have


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Beat The Clock

Beat The Clock

1

moonlight so blue

it left no trace

on my skin

as his fingers

followed the flow

of the edge

where the blue

became pale flesh

the flow

where finger tips

were replaced 

with

teeth biting

 

2

this is not the time

no one will tell you

when the time is right

but when it’s wrong

you are told not what to do

but never what to do 

you’ll never be assured

because

everything you do is wrong

of course

over time

the right way becomes the wrong way

 

there is a right way

it’s for you to figure out

no one will tell you how

only punish you

for each and every mistake 

love will be withheld

opportunity will be denied

without explanation

no explanations will be forthcoming

until you do it right

perfectly

 

giving up is not an option

this is not the time

to give up

even if you don’t 

have the time

even if you don’t

give a fuck about what time it is

even if 

you don’t have anything 

to give up

you can beat the clock

but time always wins

and that bites

This piece is a little disjointed, so don’t worry about trying to make the two parts fit 🙂 They do but I don’t have the time to explain how. Both were prompted by the same rule. I wasn’t that happy with the first take so left it. The next day I took another run at. Part 1 is a sort of romantic, sensual moment that verges on gay greeting card. Pretty. In editing it I’ve made it a little less generic with the last last line. It could stand on its own.

Part 2 is a partially a play on words and partially a comment on assumptions. I have met an endless number of people in recovery who felt that when they were younger they missed the class where one was taught how to live & be happy. I often felt I lacked some key piece in the puzzle of emotionally relationships – apparently the same piece millions of people think they lack. A piece that no one can give them because everyone is looking for it 🙂 

 

Many on that search find fault with others on that search. Everyone is wrong when no one is right. We live in a culture where the ideal of the right ONE rules advertising, sitcoms, romcom – the search for the key to a last relationship. To opt out of that ‘search’ is nearly impossible. If one does they are seen as arrogant, misanthropic, and destined to be incomplete humans, failures at life. So giving up is not an option.

In editing I rearranged lines, added some, cut some and came up with an ending that is logical (to me) if a bit too clever. I like echo as a way of resolving a poem so the end of part two echoes the end of part one.


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Mompou and Revueltas

I find music in unexpected places. A few years ago I watched the excellent Spanish movie Cría Cuervos (Ana Torrent and Geraldine Chaplin). In it Chaplin is a pianist & she plays an etude over and over. The credits listed Frederico Mompou as the composer. I did a search & easily found the etude in a collection of his complete piano works, played by the composer himself. I also found the pop song by Jeanette that is featured in the film.

Mompou’s piano music is charming, playful, at times a little sentimental. Some reminds me of Gershwin’s etudes, a touch of Satie. There is, as one would expect, a distinct Spanish flavour to much of it with pieces that are variations on folksongs, dances, Chopin. I was happy to discover classical world music.

To this mp3 collection I added some work by Mexican modern composer Silvestre Revueltas – Music de Feria: a set of his string quartets & Troka: various orchestra compositions. I came across ‘Feria’ as 2nd hand cd at a store that was once around the corner from me on the Danforth. I enjoy string quartets & this intrigued me. Troka is a download when I wanted more of his work.

 

Both collections reflect rather than replicate his Mexican heritage. Energetic in some pieces, mellow in others. Clearly modern but not atonal. Rich harmonies, sweet melodies, & appealing. It is refreshing to find, in both cases, Latino composers who aren’t mariachi homages. There is an amazing range of excellent classical music outside of standard repertoire – these are two great composers to widen your horizons.

Plotless Outline

When I was turning twenty-three life was a lost treasure that I no map for, futility seemed a nice, kind way of looking at it – why bother – but I was driven at the same time to bother. A Doors song was my theme ‘music is your only friend’ and I believed that – I was a little town queer who felt isolated and threatened.

Lucky I wrote a lot – driven to expresses something. Though I never knew exactly what is was I wanted to say – I kept trying to say it. I had some booze buddies, musicians and poets. Smoked a few joints with them and hung out in my family’s basement. I had a room there decorated with Beatles posters, my paintings – art getting the inner out some how.

Drunken, near blackout fits of sex. Oops, what did we do last night, sort of stuff. Seeking and not connecting with anything other than the shame of being what I was with no one to share that with.

I became more eccentric as years went on but the patterns were really set then. The things that I held closest to me: music, books, paintings all around me. My writing and some friends who were more extensions of my fears & wants than companions.

Got a job at Famous Players thanks to the mother of my best friend Howard. Flo was box-office there & that was to be my position, it quickly became assistant manager & candy boy. Made lots of pop corn.

Gave me a steady income and some sense of being functional. Added at the same time to my sense of not fitting in. I think that was a big thing for me then, wanting to be like the others yet not wanting to be like the others. Wanting acceptance without wanting to conform to some pattern.

The year before I got the job hadn’t been that bad or good, aimless and pretending I was looking for some job to steady my Dad’s need to see me working and out of the house.

The folks were never that approving of my writing or painting – like many, they figured that stuff was only good if it made one lots and lots of money. Sex wasn’t discussed at all and I didn’t know how to go about telling them I was queer. It wasn’t till I was ready to leave the Cape many years later that I told them. Not that it was such a shock mind you.

Looking back I really didn’t know how to establish myself as a man, as an adult. Booze was one of those adult things but I felt I had to hide how much I drank & how often. Sad, but true. All those secret nooks and crannies.

Most of which had no real outlet then and there. Little was I to know what the journey of my future was to hold. But I survived wanting to wake up dead, wanting to end the confusion and pain and made it past 23 and even past 24 and finally here I am.

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http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday 2019


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2019’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet