Joy To Compost

Joy To Compost

on the thirteenth day of Christmas

streets are lined with death

discarded red wrapping paper

crushed into snowbanks

silver garlands mashed into ice

green ribbons wind-tossed into trees

gold bows under snow tires

unopened gifts jammed

into recycle bins

broken ornaments in gutters

eager excitement drained

 

on the thirteenth day of Christmas

dead pine trees

sacrificed for someone’s joy

threads of stubborn scarlet tinsel

remainders reminders

that pleasure

like life

is temporary

that death is permanent

 

on the thirteenth day of Christmas

my true love sent to me

the message of

dust to dust

joy to compost

You are correct to think this was written early one January. Someone described some of my poetry as being reportage. This one is literally what I saw on various mornings on my walk-abouts. Some years I’ve seen trees out on December 26. The ribbons & bows often start their glittery littering early in December. I don’t know what is worse the early start to store decorations or the early start of decoration discarding.

 

The repeated “thirteenth day” is an echo of both the Christmas carol & the unlucky reputation of 13. It is truly a season in which our ‘joy’ comes at the cost of sacrifice yet there is little reverence for the sacrificed after the glamour of the moment. Everything becomes disposable & ruthlessly cast aside. Very little of it is biodegradable – mostly philosophically degrading 🙂

 

I have a fake tree that we’ve used for decades. I’m sure Xmas tree farms are more humane that chicken ranches but killing a tree for the birth of JC doesn’t have scriptural support. In Toronto the cast-off live trees are collected for composting of some sort – get tossed into a tree shredder & are used on hiking trails. I’d love to see them used instead of salt on sidewalks. That fresh pine smell would making slipping a little more pleasant.

 



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Chapter LXIX – Birk Leaves Castleton

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 LXIX

Birk

Leaves

Castleton

Once Reverend Browne left, Birk and Clancy went out to the back porch.

“Been a long couple of days.” Clancy said.

“Things changed so fast at times I don’t know what’s going on. Was what we were doing such an evil thing?”

“I don’t know, Birk. There are some who think so. Maybe t’was all my fault for coming back.”

“How’s that?” 

“I wanted to be with you.” Clancy said softly. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too Clancy. It was the same as when Barky died.”

“Barky?”

“Yeah. A mutt I’d found out back of here when I was a kid. Sure was a friendly dog. He’d wait for me at the colliery gate to go home with me. When he died I was so … heart sick.”

“You loved that dog.” Clancy said and gave a playful bark.

“I sure did. I’m not calling you a dog!”

“No more than I was calling you a monkey.”

“Yeah.”

“Though monkey’s is less hairy.” Clancy laughed, got up and walked to the end of the garden.

Birk followed him.

“What’s all this mean Clancy. We’re pals, right? Isn’t this how pals is supposed to feel. In the mines looking out for each other. That don’t end down there.”

“No, it doesn’t. But I don’t know any more than you about … could be we take to each other too much. A man takes a wife not another man.”

“I know that! I will one day cause that’s what Ma wants.”

“Is that what you want?”

“Not, if gals are like Miss McTavish. All proper and acting they know better.”

“There are some that is and plenty that are like your Ma and mine, too. You never know what you’re going to get with women.”

“Why are they such devious things?”

“That’s the way they are made. You’re asking the wrong man anyway.”

“You not looking to married?” Birk asked.

“Yes, but I agrees with you. I’m no hurry for that, I need a reliable job to plan for sort of future.”

“You don’t have family to worry about the way I do.”

“Yeah, but same as you I don’t see the need for it, yet. I want be settled as something. What would I have to offer besides the clothes on my back. Don’t even have a place to call my own.” Clancy sighed.

“You always got a home with us, you knows that.”

“Yeah but that’s not the same as having a place of my own. Takes more scratch that I’ve earned to get that.” He kicked at the ground.

They headed back to the house.

“What’s buggery, Clancy?”

“Why you asking that?” Clancy give a little laugh. “What do you think it is?”

“I hear it around the mines often enough, about the union being run by useless buggers. I thought it had something to do with the rats as we always call’em useless buggers too.”

“You got that right.” Clancy laughed again. “Let see how I can tell you.”

“It’s what that Father Patrick called us at the police station, remember?”

“Yeah I recollect that. You know how a baby gets set don’t you?”

“Pa explained that. You put yer little guy into the woman’s little slipper, between her legs.” Birk said. “Only the gals don’t encourage that sort of thing but they do as a duty. Husbands enjoy it though but a gentleman don’t bother no lady with that business less she makes it known she wants to make babies.”

“Mac told you pretty good all you need to know on that account.”

“What’s that got to with mine rats?”

“I’m getting to it. It’s when a man puts his little feller up the arse of another man.”

“What!” Birk stepped back, his stomach churning. “In the shitter?” The image made him sick to his stomach.

“‘Fraid so.”

“You ever …”

“No.” Clancy said loudly. “When we was called abominations that was what they was talking about, though.”

“I …” Birk was looking for the words. “Where they get that notion from in the first place.”

“Something in the Catholic good book. I don’t know it well enough to tell you were they get it from. All I know is the ten commandments and that sure isn’t one of them.”

“What about what we was doing? Lettin’ our little fellas rub. That was pleasuring each other, wasn’t it?”

“So what if it was. It weren’t no one business if we were.”

“But it became their business when Miss McTavish caught us at it.”

“She done didn’t catch us at anything except being naked.”

 

The next morning Birk left Clancy helping the family pack up their possession for the move to Sydney. He caught the ferry to New Waterford and walked the mile or so to the millworks. 

His mind kept returning to the conversation he’d had with Clancy the night before. He wondered if anyone thought of him and Clancy the way Father Patrick did. Calling them unnatural. All he wanted to do was … what? That first time on the rocks with Clancy, naked together was so natural. Something he couldn’t have done if Clancy had been a girl. Was that good feeling what the priest was going on about. Was it a sin to feel that good feeling? 

His first day at the mill was simple hard work. Stripping branches off trees, keeping an eye out for boles that might trip up the saws, keeping the saw blades oiled proper.

The boilers were similar to the ones at the colliery. He showed them what he knew and they were impressed. Dan’l made it clear he’d have to get his proper papers before he could do more than check the dials with T Jean.

At the end of that day he was covered with sawdust and wood shavings.

“Nice change from the coal dust.” He said to T’Jean as he shook the dust off his overalls.

 

When he got back to Castleton Mines the second cart load of their possessions was packed and ready to go Sydney. His mother was leaning against the sink in the empty kitchen and crying.

“Never thought I’d leave this house alive.” she said wiping tears from her eyes. 

“It’s BritCan’s problem now.” His father said.

“No more winter winds to warm us in the night Ma.” Birk said.

“No more garden for us in the summer either.” She replied. “No apples in the back orchard.”

“We can always come back for ‘em when we wants.” His dad said. “No one’s going to be buying this property up in a hurry. These half fallin’ down shacks’ll be full fallen by the time the snow flies.”

“The house’ll be so cold without us.” Maddy said.

“I’ll come back to light a fire.” Birk consoled her.

“How did things go at the mill?” His father asked.

“About as hard as the mine only more daylight. They had me hauling trees around, digging some for the new water main that’s coming through. Least I still know how to use a pick.”

“Hands okay?” His mother asked.

“No trouble.” he showed his palms and waggled fingers. “Healed up pretty well.”

“Guess all the holy moaning over where you put’em did them some good.” She gave a little laugh.

“Put’em?” he asked.

“She means all that foolishness by the good Father.” His father said lashing down the last of the furniture.

“At’s a man who needs to keep his own flock in order, if you ask me,” His mother said. “At least two unweds on Carter Street. Those nuns can’t keep their own legs closed. Then bringing his dirty minded ideas over here to plague us.”

“T’wasn’t m’fault though Ma.” Birk shrugged. 

He clambered onto the back of the cart with Maddy. His mother sat in the front next to his Dad. 

“Look Birk any full-grown woman who is so shocked at the site of a naked man isn’t in her right mind. It may not be something we see often but when we do it’s something we have to abide and keep our … distaste in check.”

“You see Clancy at all?” He asked.

“He’s in Sydney at the new place. Getting some things sorted out for us and then going to see about work for himself.” His father said. “May not be much for him though. The steel plant’s been cut back since the war.”

Birk lay back on the sofa cushions as comfortable as he could and watched the clouds and sky go by over head as the cart bumped onto the ferry. On the other side they reloaded their possession on the millworks truck to drive it to Sydney. His Dad took the cart and horse back to Castleton for the last of their furniture.

“A lot of changes for us, eh Ma?” Birk said.

“Good for you at your age Birk. More opportunity for you outside of Mudside. Might be time for you to meet someone. More gals in Sydney.”

“Yeah Ma.” Birk answered. “Thought you was saving me for your old age?”

“At this rate I’m probably not going to make it.” She laughed bitterly. “There will be a decent school for Maddy. More kids her age.”

“If’n I stay on at the millworks I may want to live nearer to them.” Birk said. “I have to get my boiler man papers soon.”

“You think you can handle all the reading and writing?” He dad asked.

“I can try. When I spoke with Magistrate Doucet at the courthouse he said closing the mines might be a good thing as it’ll force us out of the ground and into the world. No more hiding down there where all I have to do is figure if I got enough dug out for one day.”

They pulled up to the new house.

“A paved street!” He hopped out of cab and lifted his mother out. “No more sinking to our knees in the mud.”

He helped unload the rest of furniture into the house. It didn’t feel as large as their old place but it was cleaner and the walls had corners that met, with level floors and electricity. Maddy had to be stopped from pressing the lights on and off.

By the time Brik was ready to go to bed Clancy hadn’t returned.

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On My Kindle 01

Last week I wrote about childhood sets of books. This week I’m looking complete sets on my Kindle. One of the cool things about Amazon for Kindle are the number of collections complete works by authors whose works can be impossible find in bookstores or even libraries. Different ebook companies have brought together set of mostly out of public domaine books at ridiculously low prices.

For example the set  “Slavery: Not Forgiven, Never Forgotten” – which for about $2 US includes:

Narrative of Frederick Douglass

12 Years a Slave

The Underground Railroad

Up From Slavery

Willie Lynch Letter

Confessions of Nat Turner

Narrative of Sojourner Truth

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

History of Mary Prince

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom

Thirty Years a Slave

Narrative of the Life of J. D. Green

The Life of Olaudah Equiano

Behind The Scenes

Harriet: The Moses of Her People

Father Henson’s Story of His Own Life

50 Years in Chains

Twenty-Two Years a Slave and Forty Years a Freeman

Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb

Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave

Story of Mattie J. Jackson

A Slave Girl’s Story

From the Darkness Cometh the Light

Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy

Narrative of Joanna

Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Who Escaped in a 3×2 Feet Box

Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley

Buried Alive (Behind Prison Walls) For a Quarter of a Century

Sketches of the Life of Joseph Mountain 

Oroonoko

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Heroic Slave

Slavery’s Pleasant Homes

Our Nig

Clotelle

Marrow of Tradition

Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

A Fool’s Errand

Bricks Without Straw

Imperium in Imperio

The Hindered Hand

The History of Abolition of African Slave-Trade

History of American Abolitionism

Pictures of Slavery in Church and State

Life, Last Words and Dying Speech of Stephen Smith Who Was Executed for Burglary

Report on Charge of Aiding and Abetting in the Rescue of a Fugitive Slave

Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases

Duty of Disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act

Emancipation Proclamation (1863)

Gettysburg Address

XIII Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1865)

Civil Rights Act of 1866

XIV Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1868)

Reconstruction Acts (1867-1868)

Whew! This is a university syllabus that probably no university book store or even research library could supply. 

Many of these sets are to broaden my knowledge of some writers who are known for their big hits; others are by authors of queer interest whose works I knew vaguely or of whom I have never heard of before until reading about them in my endless readings. One set is the Works of John Addington Symonds. I knew of him through mentions of his interactions with Walt Whitman. His books on Ancient Greek culture are sometimes citied in histories of queer writing. So I figure when I first got my Kindle to read some of those works. Interesting essays about travel in & history of Italy, but thank God writing style has changed. 

The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (+ 130 Poe short stories); Mary Shelly: The Ultimate Collection; The Complete Works of Bram Stoker. Who read what Mary Shelly wrote other than Frankenstein? Stoker wrote more than Dracula? Reading their other works one sees the why those works have faded. Mary was more or less an accidental writer & reading he rather work it’s easy to see why some suspect her husband played a role in her big hit for the plotting & characterizations. She was not really a fabulist. Bram became an almost tradition writer of his time & none of his other plots were as ‘startling’ as Dracula. 

Lovecraft is a boyhood favorite of mine. His plots are rich, his writing style now strikes me as overly florid & it is creamy influenced by the Shelly & Stoker – but he does avoid, the most part, the need for some sort of romantic subplot. My bedroom on the east coast had slated ceilings so his story about the room with odd angles in the ceiling & walls always appealed to me. Those angles lead to another dimension. I have the bio ‘I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft’ on my e.bookshelf short list.

It’s not all gloom doom or educational on the Kindle thanks to Stephen Leacock: Humour Books collection; Mark Twain: 51 Classic Works. Both of these are authors I loved in my teens. Leacock still makes me laugh out loud. Twain can go on but he had a grasp of the foibles of human nature I love. His short pieces are fun & the longer books reflect their times. Both a writers of the local experience – Americana, Canadiana full of innocence that still speaks of today. Who isn’t intimidated if not anxious dealing with banks; has the plight of blacks in the USA progressed from the fears of the runway slaves in Twain?

Book Bound

in one of those boys’ books

tom swift hardy brothers

can’t remember which one 

there were mysterious lights 

on the cliff

or were they from a strange shape 

in the ocean

hovering by the moon 

something distant and indistinct

but threatening

 

tough guys

were skulking around town 

something held in coat pockets

that might be a gun

a magnetic pulsator

that would incapacitate  

one or all of our heroes

who would come to

tied up somewhere

worry about their girlfriend

they always had girlfriends 

who were peripheral 

to the story 

but clearly in place

so we young readers

would not get a whiff 

of anything more unsavoury

that those unshaved goons

with foreign accents

who slouched around the ranch

the railway yards

to do no good

 

the boys always had girlfriends

so no one would get the idea

that they weren’t the ideal role model

ripe with normal heterosexual 

pubescent tension

that let them figure out 

how to cut those ropes

how to make the star capacitor

turn the hydrogen to oxygen 

so they could breathe again

float to the surface

drive off

fly off

with the adoring faces of their girlfriends

soft and worshipful

 

red-haired teens 

with freckle faces

none of them shaving yet

jumping into their roadsters

worrying about their kidnapped fathers

deciphering cryptograms

punching each other joyfully 

in the arm

as each hurdle was accomplished

as each bruise cleared up

always ready to face 

the next opportunity

never doubting what they could do

never questioning 

how they really were

what did this all mean

why couldn’t they go

a few weeks without smugglers

Martian terrorists lurking around

to make make it difficult for everyone

 

they never had to face peer pressure

other than the football team

a team that never got drunk after a big game

boys who where boys

becoming real men

growing up slowly

always gaining parental 

acceptance and approval

amazing their pals

yet not letting it go to their heads

square jawed 

rugged 

individualist who only disobeyed 

to make things better

grew up with out self doubt

normal heterosexual 

pubescent tension

that let them figure out 

how to cut those ropes

but how not to escape

what was written for them

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

September

17 – Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

22 – Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

Tuesday 24 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

https://www.facebook.com/events/504067323723768/

October

15 – Stratford Festival – The Crucible

November

7 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

January

23 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

March

March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April

April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies andBbad Times Theatre

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

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https://wp.me/p1RtxU-uJ

The Rules

The Rules

the rules don’t apply to him

though one isn’t sure

if he understands the rules

he nods

smile

when anyone explained them

then never follows them

he acts as if his lack of respect

is your problem

that it is no big deal

when he does what he wants

regardless of how disruptive

it might be

he says

politically correct is bullshit

he speaks his mind

without apology

he talks wherever and whenever 

he wants to 

your need to hear what others say

isn’t his problem

shushing him at a lecture

is pointless

he takes phone calls 

at the movies

turning his cell phone down

isn’t going to happen

your thought control isn’t for him

you can take

your control issues

and fuck right off

he is a free man

and will never let you

hung-up tight-ass bastards

forget his

unspoken rule

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Nothing Here

Dig Deep

there is nothing here

nor is there

anything beneath the surface 

at least 

not worth searching for

what you will find

is that time has been wasted

looking for nothing

let the surface

be sufficient

looking for more

will result in disappointment 

dissatisfaction

when you find

that what is hidden from you

is hidden from everyone

hidden as the surface

not as something beneath 

it has no depth of perception

there is no need to strive to understand 

because understanding

changes nothing

the surface remains unchanged

no matter what you hope

to find underneath it

Is there more to me than meets the eye? It depends on whose eye is doing the looking. My Dentist sees a very different me than the barista at my favorite coffee shop or someone hearing me on stage. Which of these in my authentic self? Or does it matter? 

This cultural need to understand often gets in the way of experience. If we understand the why of a random mass murderer will that change what has happened. Does understanding make our grief & anger unfair to the killer. After all he/she/they came from a dysfunctional home & deserve our sympathy not an irrational need for revenge. 

This piece is a variation on my own reaction to this sort of emotional logic. Often understanding leads back to the same ‘secret’. It’s a wonder people continue to have children with childhood trauma the cause of so much destruction. 

 

I heard an interview with a painter who was asked about a certain ocean view painting. The interviewer wanted to know what it meant. The painter said he liked the view. The interviewer went on to ask what did it symbolize to the painter. He said it symbolized a nice view. The interviewer was disappointed with such a simple answer. 

It also come from people’s need to understand poetry, to understand art. It’s hard to grasp that often all there is the sound – the play of colours, the bounce of words, the image the words create. I recall a conversation about Walt Whitman with some English Lit MBA who felt only someone with a degree would understand Whitman. Perhaps they were right but you know, without understanding Whitman I love some of his writing & how its influence still resonates in slam poets today who have never heard of him. The MBA understood so deeply they couldn’t enjoy slam poetry. Besides it’s not as if Whitman had a university degree in anything 🙂

The piece says “understanding/changes nothing.” In recovery if one waits to understand why they were a drunk/addict until the stop they’ll probably be dead before they even understand. I don’t fully understand electricity but I do know how to change a lights bulb. That’s deep enough for me 🙂

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Chapter LXIII – Lillian’s Frustrations Increase

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 LXIII

Lillian’s

Frustrations

Increase

After her meeting with the magistrate Lillian went to St. Teresa’s to collect her thoughts and pray. While she was there it began to rain heavily. She regretted not bringing her umbrella with her as she walked briskly back to the courthouse for two o’clock. She paced back and forth in the lobby checking the time on the clock there each time she passed it. At 3:15 a clerk came out.

“Miss McTavish. Magistrate Doucet will see you now.”

She went into his office and sat in one of the arm chairs in front of his desk. 

He made notes for a few moments before looking. “Thank you or coming back Miss McTavish.”

“Is no one present to record what I have to say?” she asked.

“Not at this point Miss McTavish. The case, as it were, is almost settled. We may not have to waste any valuable court time on it. I’m merely getting the details to see if there is enough to warrant taking it trial. I’ve spoke with the two lads in question.”

“They denied everything I suppose?”

“On the contrary they confirmed much of what you suspected. But I do want to hear what it was exactly you saw.”

“They were naked and touching each other’s private parts. Smiling while they enjoyed …” she shuddered at what she had seen. “Unnatural expressions in their eyes.”

“Where were you when you saw this.”

“Blue Lake on the south shore side.”

“Yes, I know the area. Good fishing at times. Sun was in your eyes at all?”

“There was a slight glare from the water but my vision was clear.”

“About how far from them where you?”

“I … I don’t know.” Was he doubting what she saw? “I know what I saw. It was a clear as …” she glanced out the window and peered across to the other side of the street, “the lace on the curtains in that window across the street.”

“I see,” he answered without looking where she was looking. “Miss McTavish as an outsider you have been quick to adapt our Island life. But you know that in some matters of decorum we are quite different. We tend to be less formal, less concerned with appearance. For example swimming in the nude amongst men in what is usually a private setting, is not at all unusually. I even did it myself often in my youth.”

“They were not swimming when I saw them” Lillian said firmly.

“You did observe them in the water didn’t you?”

“Yes.” Lillian blushed at the momentary pleasure she had taken in watching them in the water.

“Have you seen many men in the nude?” He asked gently.

“Never!” she exploded. “But this was more …”

“I can easily see how a young, delicate, lady such as yourself would be flustered by such a sight. It would have offended your refined sensibilities. Quite rightly so.” He chuckled. “But to impute more to what you saw than that is a gross overstatement. An over-reaction to the situation. But given recent events in your life. After the death of Mr. O’Dowell, I can see where your mien could be unsettled by such an unexpected and unwelcome sight.”

“It was not their nudity …” Lillian stood to make her point.

“Mrs. O’Dowell, I am dismayed that a female of your breeding would even countenance such thoughts as you have hinted at. An awareness of such unspeakable acts does not reflect well upon you or your family. Now sit down.”

She sat glaring at him

“Now, even if what you say is true, let me tell you now, nothing more will be done about this matter. Any attempts by you to besmirch these men will only sully the memory of the late Steve O’Dowell and the other men who died in that tragic accident.”

“Sully?” Lillian said. “Sully?”

“Yes, sully. This sort of sordid stain will taint memory forever. Birk Nelson was instrumental in that rescue. Leave it be.” He said forcefully

“I refuse.” She stood again. “You may not have the moral fortitude to take action …”

“Mrs. O’Dowell!”

“These people cannot be allowed to live such a way!”

“I see no evidence of that in this case. It is more case of a silly, grief stricken, woman being alarmed by a naked man.”

“It was more than that. Much more.” She slammed the palms of her hands on the desk. “Don’t these people care at all?”

“Mrs. O’Dowell.” He said quietly. “After working twelve hours in a dark, dank, wet, lightless hole they have little time or energy to care for much more than getting food, sleep and back to work another day. How they might seek even a small bit of pleasure is of no great importance. To other men, or to God. Good day Miss McTavish.” He went to the door and opened it for her.

“I will speak to the Bishop about this matter.” she said as she passed him.

“Consult with whom you wish.”

“They cannot be let off scot-free.”

“They haven’t been. Public nudity is an offence, as is creating a public mischief. They have both been charged and pled guilty to those charges.”

Lillian wanted to slap the tight smirk off the magistrate’s face. Treating her as if she were merely a hysterical female was bad enough but to indulge these men in their behaviour was too much.

She fumed all the way across the bay and back to the O’Dowell house. The windows in her room rattled as she slammed the door behind her. She sat heavily on the chair in front of her vanity table. Her face was drawn and pale. Her forehead and eyebrow muscles ached, her jaw was sore from being clenched. She tanked off her hat, took the pins out of her hair and began to brush it relishing the sharp pain on her scalp as she tugged at the snarls.

She heard the front door open and close.

“Are you in Lillian?” Clara called from the bottom of the stairs.

“Yes, Clara.” She shook her hair out and wrapped it in a quick braid as she went down the stairs.

“That scowl tells me things didn’t go as you expected.” 

“No Clara, they did not. Not that I’m surprised. The spiritual laxness of these people is a bottomless pit.”

“It is a struggle we all deal with in one way or the other.” Clara agreed. “Some sins are more visible than others. It’s those unseen ones we must be particularly vigilant about. Pride leads the list.”

“Pride! These people have no pride!” Lillian exploded. “If they had any pride they would not live as they do.”

“It’s not their pride or lack of it that I’m speaking of, but yours, my dear.”

“Mine!” Lillian was shaken.

“Yes, yours. When I first met you at Father Patrick’s I saw that in you. You felt you were better than the circumstance into which you had fallen. In some ways that was justified and I admired your stubbornness in refusing to let yourself be humbled by it.”

“I was humbled.” Lillian said.

“No! Humiliated but not humbled. Then when you came to us even your gratitude had an element of ‘look how I’m lowering myself to be of help to you. I may be refined but I’m willing to be a garden drudge.’ You demanded to have your sacrifice  recognized, acknowledged.”

“I did not!” Lillian said.

“Never in words. Even with Steven you sometimes acted as if you were doing him a great favour when you appeared with him. Never did it appear that you were there because you loved him but because it was duty.” Clara stopped to sip her tea.

“I married him for …”

“Don’t say for love. How could you deny a dying man his final wish?” Clara said.

“I … didn’t know he was about to die.” Lillian wiped a tear from her face. “Are you quite finished?”

“I might ask you the same question. Are you quite finished?”

“If by that you do I know what I’m going to do. The answer is no. I have limited resources and clearly no options, but I’m not finished.” Lillian sighed then cried bitterly. “I don’t what to do next.”

“Look to your heart Lillian not to your head or your pride. What do you truly want?”

Lillian stood. “More than anything I’d want to feel that  I have a future. To be free.”

 

She went out the garden. The rain had stopped and the plants were eager to turn to face the setting sun. Some of what Clara had said was true but she was wrong about one thing. Lillian had never felt she was a drudge in the garden. There she was in control. She had made it possible for some plants to thrive, to come back to life after years of neglect. She had seen the results of her efforts in the fresh herbs they had for salads, the ripening tomatoes, the new shoots that had formed on the climbing rose. 

With her own hands she had shaped and encouraged and had be rewarded amply. 

She pulled off some sage leaves and crushed them. The aroma was of the earth, of life and she had to find a way to be free to be a part of it. Here all she could do was crush it between her fingers or be crushed by it.

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Golden Bible

One of my recent Cape Breton posts mentions the the Oxford Dictionary  my family bought when I was but a child 🙂 It was grocery story lure – buy a section each week or spend so much & get the next section free. In the days before points cards this was popular along with green stamps. You’d get so many stamps with each purchase, paste them into books just for that purpose & when you had enough redeem them for stuff like dolls, kitchen gadgets.

On my books shelves I have two sets of books collected as supermarket promotions. One is ‘The Bible Story Library – Four volumes – 1956 -Educational Book Guild – New York.’ Lavishly illustrated with original vibrant color pictures, plus endless etching from the likes of Dore, plus murky photos of other religious art. I can remembering during over the etching that provided a pre-teen me with glimpses of nude men & women struggling in the Flood, or sprawled out in various battle scenes. Looking at it today I’m amazed the great six-packs so many of these guys had.

The set I have isn’t my original. I don’t remember what became of it. It didn’t turn up the boxes of my books that my Dad had stored away when I moved out. (Those boxes contained lots of Tom Swift Jr, & Hardy Brothers) I remember my second summer here in Toronto – 1979 – I had been wondering what happened to those books. Shortly after that I went in a huge sale an action house was having. endless boxes of books all over the parking lot and & found Volume 2 in one of the boxes. After about an hour of searching I found all four volumes.

The other set is ‘The Golden Book Encyclopedia – sixteen volumes – 3rd printing – 1960 – some (c)1940 – Golden Press – New York.’ Another lavishly illustrated set of books. I loved the hyper-real covers on each volume. The content was written for children & so hasn’t aged well 🙂 The illustrations are wonderful though, some in a campy way, but all well executed. I loved reading these when I was on the can.

My originals became quite tattered from use & abuse. I can’t recall very using them to research anything for school. The set I have now is not my original set but one which I ‘inherited’ from a friend who was moving & asked if I might be interested. When I was asked I had no idea what encyclopedia set it was but I said yes & I was delighted it was this particular one from my childhood.

These all come from Sobeys in Sydney. They also offered cooking sets, dishes, the same way – buy a different piece each week. There was once a set Classical Masterpieces lps, a set of geography books, but I don’t think my folks bought these.

Unswearing In Ceremony

how can I unswear allegiance

to my heart  mind

to my body  hormones

each time I think this is it

there’s another time

 

you hold your hand to my heart

you swear you’ll change 

that reform is possible

my head tells me 

you will never hold true to this vow

I smile & keep that to myself

 

knowing better and doing better 

are such different things

as much as I know better 

doing you is better than not doing you

 

there is the paradox of an oath 

I never took 

never signed 

never swore to you

unconsciously I have taken it

to be accepting  forgiving

not to make plans

when I know you will never fulfill 

even the simplest promise

of texting when you say you’d text

 

your dedication to the job

takes priority over your personal life

in fact it is your escape from it

that job is your bottle

you can’t help yourself

it blots out everything outside of it

even when you are told not to be there

you are there to tie up loose ends

that tie you up for days on end

 

I’m trying to swear off you

no more of this bullshit

while a part of me rather likes

getting caught up

in this hurt slightly martyred feeling

which has a certain sweet reward all of its own

I can pine at a window

hoping the car driving down the street is yours

when I know very well it’ll never be yours

 

having texts 

to long for

has a tang of romance 

of humanness

lets me feel less self contained & distant

wishing there was something I could do

but all I can alter is myself

 

you are an addict 

the grace that’ll reach you 

could work through me

but I’m not holding my breath

soon 

I may not even be holding my hand 

out to you

except to wave good bye

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

September

17 – Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

22 – Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

Tuesday 24 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

October

15 – Stratford Festival – The Crucible

November

7 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

January

23 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

March

March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April

April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies andBbad Times Theatre

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

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

Polar Bears and Rinoceroses

 

I love love love Jules & the Polar Bears’ two lps Got No Breeding & fəˈnet̬·ɪks. We’re talking early 80s – this is power pop-rock with a Talking Heads influence, rapid fire lyrics that are amazing. I am still amazing that this band didn’t become a smash hit – maybe the lyrics were too literate? Jules Shear is a sort of industry legend who never broke big, like Linda Perry.

 

The songs are are dense, light-hearted, bouncy, thoughtful & are full of great harmonies, complex arrangements. Romance, memory (The Smell of Home) all with a wry turn of phrase. I had these as lps, now as mp3 & always love love hearing them again & again.

To the mp3 CD I added a couple of lps by Rinôçérôse: Schizophonia; Futurino. Their use of accents made them a natural fit with ‘fəˈnet̬·ɪks’ 🙂 I have several recordings of this French duo that started out with a guitar based French House electronica sound which became more rock than electronica. Slightly experimental, absurdist lyrically, inventive and fun. These are later recordings & are show the progression of this band well. If you are unfamiliar check out their first release ‘installation sonore.’

 

 

Also, for no particular reasons I rounded out this mp3 collection Led Zeppelin’s BBC Sessions. Live takes on songs from their first albums & some songs that only appear here. The band was tight, they don’t try to replicate the studio versions. The Dazed & Confused in this set is amazing & makes it clear that, at this point in time, the band was fearless, extravagant & focused.

Intimacy

The sheets were white. The blanket, a pale pink that might have held more color at one time but was slowly becoming white. My Dad lay on the bed, on top of the blanket.

‘Not ready to get between those sheets yet.’ he smiled up at me.

‘Doesn’t feel too bad.’ I ran my hand under the blanket to feel the sheets. Cool but soft. I expected them to be hard, crisp.

‘Just one step closer to the grave.’ My Dad looked away from me.

‘Dad, this is a check-up, not a check-out.’

‘Same thing. Same thing.’

He was nearly eighty but still had full color in his hair, a firm solid, body from constant walking everywhere and anywhere. More walking since he retired. It was to keep his bone mass up. The better the bone mass the safer his hips and knees would be if he fell.

‘Dad this is just a regular check up, unless there’s something you haven’t told me?’

He looked back at me. I could tell that there was.

‘Jen … I …’

‘What?’ My heart skipped a beat. ‘What?’

‘You remember … No, I can’t tell you … never could …’ he sank into the bad and covered his eyes with his hand.

‘Tell me what? Are you in worse shape than you let on?’

‘I’m … I mean … your mother never knew … I want you to know that she never knew …’

‘Never knew what? What? Dad, tell me?’ I pulled his hand away from his face.

‘There was someone …. I mean …’

‘What? Do I have a half-brother or sister somewhere? Is that it?’ I knew my Dad was a randy guy. Always flirted with women at parties. I could see him at our bbq’s in the back yard laughing and hugging the wives of his friends. That he might have had an affair wouldn’t have surprised me.

‘No. That’s why this is so hard … I want you to know .. so you won’t find out when you … when I die … You remember Chuck and Grace.’

‘Grace? That mousy little thing? But Grace?’

‘No. Chuck.’

‘Chuck? What about Chuck.’

‘He was my lover.’

The room spun around me for a moment. Was I hearing right?

‘You and Chuck. What?’

‘It was an intimacy I never felt with your mother … with any woman …’

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

September

17 – Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

22 – Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

Tuesday 24 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

October

15 – Stratford Festival – The Crucible

November

7 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

January

23 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

March

March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April

April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies andBbad Times Theatre

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

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

The Company You Keep

The Company You Keep

the owner of the cafe

had called someone

an inappropriate name

it was a twitter thing

a video 

posted of the 

owner saying 

those offensive things

now no one can go

to the cafe

without being considered guilty

of saying those things themselves

 

now

to be honest

I haven’t heard

what the owner said

I haven’t watched the video

this is all the context I know

and now

I can’t even mention the name

of the cafe

I can’t even admit 

that I’ve been there

in the past

or let it be known

that I regret

that I can’t go to that cafe

ever again


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Chapter LXII – Birk Faces Father Patrick

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 LXII

Birk

Faces

Father Patrick

It was raining as Birk walked away from the court house. He peered around for Clancy but didn’t see him. He’s been to Sydney many times but never on his own. It was clear walking was the only way he would be getting home. He had no money for bus fare. He hoped he was walking in the right direction.

When he got to the corner of Charlotte St. and Pitt St. he was reassured. He could smell the harbour front from there and kept going in that direction. One of the ferries often stopped here and if he could find one to take him to New Waterford getting the rest of the way was simple enough. That is if he didn’t catch cold from getting drenched in the rain.

By the time he walked the length of the docks he was colder, wetter and disappointed. He hadn’t spotted any boat that might be headed where he needed to go. 

The hustle of men around him unloading, loading made him miss the noise and activity of the mines. Men working. He watched them and saw that he could easily do what they were doing. Work that took muscle and not thinking.

“Birk!” a voice called from behind him. “Birk Nelson?”

He turned around to where it came from. A tall thin man, about fifty, in long tight fitting black coat strode toward him, hand stretched to shake his.

“Dan’l Patterson.” The man said as he shook Birk’s hand.

“Of the Inverness Patterson’s?” These were the only Patterson’s he knew.

“Quite right. Pity them closing another of the mines.”

“They’d rather save money than pay money to make money.” Brik said.

“I’m here with another load of lumber from the mill.”

“Wet day for wood.” Birk finally placed Dan’l. He and his brother ran a lumber millworks outside of New Waterford.

“You here looking for work?”

Birk quickly recounted the incidents of the past few days. Dan’l chuckled and shook his head a few times.

“That’ll be story to pass on to yer kids when you’av ‘em. Some women take great joy is making the misery of men worse ‘an it is already.”

“So I’m learning. Not as if I set out for this lesson though. I’m fixing to find a way back to Castleton Mines.”

“Give us a hand unloading and you can come back with us after we collect for the wood.” He reached out to shake Birk’s hand again. “Deal.”

“Thanks.”

Their wood barge was the far end of the wharf where local boats with small loads would tie up to unload. The planks were lifted off with rope-and-pulley hoist and Birk guided them to the back of a truck.

“You can wait here below while we take these to the lumber yard. Or you can come along for the ride.”

“I’ll wait.”

“There’s a bite to eat on board. Help yourself but leave something for us, eh?” Dan’l said getting into the front cab of the truck.

Birk grabbed the hoist and swung over to the deck of the boat and dropped down on deck. The deck smelled of pine. Clean and different from the smell of the mines, or the pine they used in the mines. That pine always had a tar tang to it from the creosote. This pine had a clean sea salt bite to it. The smell comforted him.

He flexed his fingers to see if handling the boards had done any damage to them. They were a bit red but otherwise fine. No bleeding, meant they were healing up properly.

He sat at the enclosed end of the barge and ate one of the sandwiches he found in the lunch box. It looked a good life to work in lumber. Perhaps if the needed another couple of pairs of hands he and Clancy might be in luck. It would it be a change to work in daylight, in fresh air.

The lumber yard truck pulled and Dan’l hopped out.

“Another days’ work done.” He said walking down the pier to the dock. “You ready to cast off?”

“Sure.” Birk relied.

Dan’l unwound the ropes that held the scow to the pier then clambered down the ladder to get on board. 

“Over here.” He nodded to pier side hoarding. “We give a good shove and she’ll float away on her own.”

Birk braced himself against the rail of the boat and pushed hard away from the wet piling of the dock. The boat moved so quickly he nearly fell over board.

“Haha.” Dan’l laughed. “Don’t know yer own strength eh b’y. Then ’tis hard to know what someone is cap’ble of by lookn’ at them. Who’d think small you could cause such a ruckus.”

“Ruckus?” Birk asked.

“Talk of the town for too many. You and that Boston gal.”

“People taking about that?” Birk’s face was hot.

“Not as any one’d blame for taking a poke at her.”

“T’weren’t that way at all?” Birk balled his fists. “Not a bit.”

“Rest easy Birk Nelson I know how stories become something they never was. There’s always some truth to’em though.”

“I dunno know what to tell you. I’m sorry I ever met her for one thing.”

“Story of many men and women. People’ll forget it whatever it was in a few weeks. We all got enough to deal with.”

“I sure hope so.”

New Waterford came into sight.

“Might as well run you over Castleton Mines while I’m out.”

“Thanks.”

“I hear your Da’s going to the steel plant.”

“Yeh. They always need good boiler men there. He figures he can find something for me too.”

“We could always use some eager at the millworks. Mac show you much about boilers?”

“I know my way around them but I don’t have my papers.”

“Good enough. Come by tomorrow. Lonnie could use a hand as he’s gettin’ on and we could use you around the yard too. Not much by way of pay but better than nothing.” He stuck his hand out. “Deal?”

“Deal.”

They edged up to the Castleton Mines dock and Birk got off. Even though the rain had turned the Mudside streets to mud he had more hope than he had since the strike had started. 

Night had fallen by the time he was back at his house.

“Where you been?” His mother met him at the door. “Clancy’s been here for hours.”

“He has?” He squeezed past his mother to find Clancy at the kitchen table.

“Yeah the coppers drove me back in their wagon when Doucet was finished with me.”

“No such luck for me. I got brought over by Dan’l Patterson.”

“What did Doucet say to you?” His mother asked. “We thought for sure you had been shipped off to Dorchester.”

“What! He gave me what for letting my bare self be seen but that was it. I sure expected worse from the way Miss McTavish had been going on. Everyone was taking her side and so serious they were too.”

“There’s always those who are quick to believe the worse of the Mudsiders.” his Dad said.

“I went down to the Sydney docks to find a way back and met up with Dan’l Patterson of the mill. He brought me back across. “Says they’re lookin’ for help with the boilers at the mill yard.”

“The Lord at work.” His mother said. “Out of every time of hardship He brings good.”

“Might be …”

Birk was interrupted by a pounding at their front door. Before it could be answered someone shouted.

“Birk Nelson come out here and face your Maker.”

“Me Maker?” Birk said.

His father opened the door. Father Patrick pushed his way in with three men behind him. The hem of his cassock was spatted with mud.

“Take him.” he commanded the men with him.

Before he could react the men lifted him up and carried him out of the house into the street. They dropped him face first in the mud and stepped away.

“You Protestant abomination.” Father Patrick shouted at the top of his voice.

Birk felt a sharp blow across his back. The mud held his arms so he couldn’t turn over quickly. There was some scuffling behind him. When he got turned around, sitting in the mud, he saw his dad grappling with Father Patrick.

“No man whips my son in public.” ise Dad wrenched the whip out of the priest’s  hand. “What gives you the right!”

“See!” Father Patrick turned the men who had come with him. “This is how the Godless protect one another. How they chose to rut the way animals do, no better than pigs in the mud.

“You foul beasts.” He pointed at Birk, then Clancy. “Who flaunted their unnatural proclivities in daylight … in front of my niece. ” He gasped for air.

Most of the neighbouring families had come out to see what the commotion was.

“Go back to your church Father.” Someone shouted. “Tell the Pope wipe your arse.”

“I will not allow your kind to get away with treating our women in this way.” The priest said.

“Yeah, only you have that right.” Someone answered him back.

A clod of mud flew through the air and hit Father Patrick on the back.

“Take him.” The priest ordered the men with him.

“You’ll take no one.” Reverend Brown stepped out of the crowd and helped Birk back to his feet. “You Catholic hypocrite. You help your own in bad times, ignore those who don’t deem pure enough then dare to come here to punish the very one who didn’t think twice to save the lives of your precious parishioners. I’m sure that when Birk struggled up that shaft he wasn’t saying to God ‘Now God make sure only the orange get rescued.’ Did you Birk!”

“No Reverend Brown I wasn’t.”

“You were there when Miss McTavish told them that we hadn’t touched her.” Clancy said.

“It was her spirit you stained by the vision of what you two were engaged in.”
“And what might that be Father Patrick? Something you learned about behind those sanctified monastery walls from your brothers.”

Father Patrick’s face paled as he glared at Reverend Browne.

“How dare you impugn the purity of those righteous men.”

“How dare you think you can come here with your high-handed righteousness and think we would grovel, that we would let you get away with it.”

“We can’t allow these … beasts to get away with their depravity.”

“A depravity that exists only in your mind Father Patrick. And you men with him. That’s you isn’t David McInnis?”

“Yes Reverend Browne.”

“You were one of them working with Birk when the collapse happened?”

“Yes Reverend. We’ve been working together for years.”

“You have any reason to question his moral fitness as a man? Anyone here have any reason? I know this boy’s family. You all do. They’ve been good faith church goers as long as I can remember.”

All that could be heard was the squish of people’s feet in the mud.

“I suggest you all go home and have a good night’s sleep.” Reverend Brown said.

“You haven’t heard the last of this.” Father Patrick said evenly. “My niece …”

“You niece needs to mind her own business.” Brown said. “She’s an outsider. You too, I might add, Father Patrick. I’ve been here in Castleton Mines for over twenty years. You’ve only been here for three. I’m sure the Africans will appreciate you more than we have.”

“You haven’t heard the last of this.” The Priest looked to the men who can come with him but they had disappeared into the crowd.

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

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