When I Was A Young Boy

For the summer I’m looking at my Brown Betty chapbook. All the pieces dealt with growing up in Cape Breton. As usual WordPress imposes its own line breaks 😦

When I Was A Young Boy

when I was a young boy 

I kissed a girl 

when I was a young boy

about 11 

I kissed a girl 

she was about 11
it was at a birthday party
not hers 

she was wore a frilly rose-yellow dress 

I wore a white shirt and tie 

so maybe it wasn’t a birthday party 

maybe a wedding

 

there were about a dozen of us
kids from various families 

kids that sort of knew each other 

made to dress like little adults 

 

we watched adults kissing greeting 

and like little adults we kissed 

I don’t remember her name 

but I kissed her
she didn’t seem to mind 

then we chased each other 

sneaking kisses 

till we were caught 

someone’s mother
gave a little shocked shriek 

‘oh you naughty kids’ 

 

the other kids picked that up
and ran around 

calling me ‘naughty boy’

‘naughty boy’
while the little girl I kissed 

blushed then joined in with them 

as if it was all my fault
all my idea

 

the adults got in on it after awhile 

‘oh look there’s the naughty boy 

watch out or he’ll kiss you’ 

 

when I was a young boy
I kissed a girl
I learned my lesson
I never a kissed another girl

This piece starts as a traditional English ballad. There are many variations on this beginning – when I was a young …. is the start of many a story, almost like ‘once upon a time.’ Even the ‘I kissed’ come out of the old school tradition. Though there is also a nod some recent pop songs. The party setting is also very tradition – the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner starts with the mariner talking to a wedding guest.

The piece plays on the nature of memory, of place, circumstances. Growing up I ended up at similar events, wearing a shirt & tie with kids I didn’t know, some of whom I never saw again either. The story unfolds in a sweet logically way, much as the traditional ballad would tell the story, adding layer so detail as it progressed. In ballad the hero always faced some sort of ‘conflict.’

I’ve always found it puzzling when young children are asked if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend while the idea of children’s sexuality is so fought with fear & shame at once. Their lack of sexual knowledge is praised, almost encouraged & shamed all at the same time.

This piece was written for a class I took Make-A-Scene on performative story telling. https://wp.me/p1RtxU-7V, https://wp.me/p1RtxU-83,  When I performed it I wore shorts, a white shirt & a playful tie. The girl was played by a helium balloon with a string that put it at about about shoulder height to me. I found one with a girl’s face on it. My class mates did the ‘naughty boy’ shaming. At the end of the piece I cut the string and it floated away. 


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Chapter LIV: Lillian Tends Steven’s Wounds

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 LIV

Lillian

Tends

Steven’s Wounds

Lillian lost track of time while the recuse workers brought the men from the lower faces up. Other than some cuts, scrapes and broken arms none of the injures were that serious. 

Clancy Sinclair from Level 8 had a couple of broken ribs. She assisted Dr. Drummond as he wrapped a bandage around Clancy’s rib cage.

“Nothing we can do to set your ribs Mr. Sinclair.” The doctor explained. “This is just to hold them in place while they knit properly. At your age they’ll be fine quickly.”

“No sweet hugging for me.” Clancy winked at Lillian.

“I should hope not.” Birk said from behind them.

“I thought you went home?” Lillian said.

“I did, but there was nothing for me there with all the worry. I couldn’t rest wondering. I can’t do anything to help.” He held up his bandaged hands. “But I had to be here. How is he Dr Drummond.”

“He’ll be fine in a week or so.”

“I … when you went up that shaft I was afraid that was the last I’d see of you or anyone.” Clancy tried to sit up.

Lillian teared up thinking of Steven trapped under tons of coal.

“I promised I’d get you out of there.” Birk went over to off a shoulder to help Clancy stand. 

“We’re even now.” Clancy said.

“How so?”

“You saved my life this time. I saved your life before.”

“When?”

“That gas build up.” Clancy said.

  “Is it okay if he walks.” Birk asked.

“Yes. His legs are fine. Best thing for him to move around.” Dr. Drummond said.

Lillian came over to help as well. She remembered seeing Steven looking so brave in his Draeger suit as part of the rescue team at the gas build up. Was the the first time she realized he was more than bravado?

While Clancy was standing Dr. Drummond pressed along his back and spine.

“How does that feel.” He asked. “You can feel my touch?”

“Yes.” Clancy was unsteady as he took a few steps.

“There doesn’t appear to be any nerve damage.”

“I can take him home?” Birk asked.

“I’ve only checked him for visible injures.” Dr. Drummond said. “He could have internal damage. Promise that if there’s blood in your spit or such you get over to the hospital in Sydney as fast as you can.”

“If’n the roads don’t kill me.” Clancy winced as he tried to laugh. Oh! My ribs are some sore.”

“To bad they aren’t half as hard as your head.” Birk said.

“Don’t make me laugh.” Clancy bent over in pain holding his ribs at the same time.

“Ma’ll keep an eye out on both us.” Birk said. “You look after the ones as is really hurt. Thank you Miss McTavish.”

“Lead on McDuff.” Clancy put his arm over Birk’s shoulder.

Lillian watched them disappear into the dark. Dear God, let Steven’s injures be as gentle as these, she prayed, so he can continue to play a role in the men’s lives. Thank you. 

Lillian was dozing on one of the infirmary cots when a shout woke her.

“They are bringing up the men from level nine now.”

The rescuers had spent the past few hours clearing the debris away so they had access to the final level. The first body they brought up was completely shrouded which meant it was dead. 

“Is it?” she asked Dr, Drummond as he lifted the cover off the face of corpse.

“Nope. It’s Red Mac.”

“There’s another coming up.” One of the rescuers said. “In bad shape.”

The next was Steven strapped to the stretcher hoist. His face was uncovered so Lillian knew he was alive. She took his hand and squeezed it. His eyes flickered briefly as they looked at her. She wiped the dirt off his face as best she could.

Dr. Drummond gently undid the straps that held Steven to the gurney.

“He’s lost a lot blood.” Drummond said as he did his preliminary check. He lifted back the blankets that covered Steven’s torso and quickly dropped them.

“Lillian, perhaps you should wait outside while I check him completely.”

He nodded to one of the orderlies to accompany her.

Steven grip on her hand tightened.

“No. Lillian stay.” Steven said hoarsely. “I ….”

“I’ll stay Dr Drummond. You know, I saw worse after the power plant attack.”

“Yes.” Dr. Drummond nodded. “Please look away, if you can.”

Lillian kept her eyes on Steven’s while the doctor lifted the blankets away from Steven’s torso. She could smell the blood, the muck of the coal mine. Steven’s grip on her hand loosened and tightened.

“Okay.” Dr. Drummond said once he’d finished his examination

“How does it look?” Steven asked. “Hope it isn’t as bad as it feels.”

“Steven, both your legs have been crushed. I doubt if I could save them even if I had the best of equipment. We’ll do what we can to staunch the bleeding but you have lost a lot of blood already.”

“I see.” Steven sighed. “Lillian will have to be brave for both of us. That is if she’ll still have me.” He smiled faintly.

“Of course I do Steven.” Lillian said. 

“We’ll have to work fast.” Dr. Drummond said. “Bring him into the operating area.”

Steven released Lillian’s hand and he was taken into the infirmary.

“Lillian, I’d rather you wait here while I do what I can. I have to tell you there is little hope he’ll survive even if I can stop the bleeding. His legs will have to be amputated.”

“My God!” Lillian leaned heavily against the wall. 

“I’ve given him something for the pain.”

“He’s asking for Miss McTavish.” One of the orderlies came out the room. 

She followed him into the room.

“Lillian,” Steven tapped his jacket over his heart. “In here. Take … out.”

Dr. Drummond nodded his approval.

Lillian slid her hand into his inside pocket as gently as she could. The cool of Steven’s body chilled her. She pulled out a thin packed wrapped in canvas.

“My good luck.” Steven said. “Open.”

She unfold the canvas and inside was their wedding licence. There was also a manila envelope.

“Read later. Please.” He struggled to sit up.

“Yes. You must rest.” She put hand on his forehead to keep him in place.

“Not yet. No rest for the wicked.” He laughed. “Is Father McTavish here?”

“No, but Father Dunlop is. Yes.” Lillian said. “But you won’t need him for unction, yet. Will he, Dr Drummond? He’ll pull through. Won’t he?”

“There’s a good chance.”

“Bring Dunlop here.” Steven said. “Is Clara here?”

“She was but she went to Mrs. Franklin’s to rest.” Lillian tried not to cry. 

The orderly returned shortly with the priest.

“Father Dunlop I have a service for you to perform.” Steven said.

The priest opened his kit and took out the oil for final unction.

“No! No!” Steven whispered. “Give him the license. We are to be married.”

“Married!” Father Dunlop took the license from Lillian. 

“Dr. Drummond and his orderly can be witnesses.” Steven said.

“I …. I’m not prepared to … the ceremony …”

“It doesn’t have to be the whole service Father. Do the legal part. You can do that can’t you?”

“Yes, I suppose I can.” The priest flipped though his handbook of rituals. “Here we are.”

“Steve McTavish and Lillian McTavish, have you come here to enter into marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?” He read from the book.

“Yes.” They replied in unison.                   

“Are you prepared, as you follow the path of marriage, to love and honour each other for as long as you both shall live?                        

“Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”

“Yes.” they both replied 

“Steven, do you take Lillian to be your wife? Do you promise to be faithful to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love her and to honour her all the days of your life?”

“I do.”

“Lillian, do you take Steven to be your husband? Do you promise to be faithful to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love him and to honour him all the days of your life?

“I do.”

“The rings?” Dunlop asked.

“Here.” Steven tugged at a piece of ribbon around his neck. 

Lillian pulled it out and their wedding rings were suspended on it. 

“It pays to be prepared.” Steven smiled.

The priest said a blessing over the wedding rings. They placed the rings on each other’s fingers.

“I now pronounce you man and wife.”

There was brief silence. 

“You may kiss the bride.” The priest said.

There was some applause as Lillian bent to kiss Steven. As their lips met his body shuddered and his head fell limply to one side.

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

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Joy of Jobim

Antonio Carlos Jobim is considered an elder statesman of Brazilian jazz – though in Brazil, samba, bossa nova were considered street music they became jazz in the USA & hence in the rest of the world. Best know for his his breakthrough recording with Stan Getz, Jobim is more than a fine guitarist. As stand alone’s in my pop collection I have his Echoes of Rio, Rio Revisited (with Gal Costa), Jazz Masters. Sure it is easy listening but well worth it & perfect for quiet nights of quiet stars.

Not quite next on the shelf is an mp3 collection of Joy of Cooking. Here is their First & Closer To The Ground. Folk-jazz with sweet harmonies and congas – nearly very song is propelled by the pitter-pat of congas. The songs are romantic, feminist & easy on the ear. The First was a moderate ‘hit.’ Joy of Cooking was an unusual example of a late 60’s rock band fronted by women.

When Joy broke up the women worked together on Toni Brown & Terry Garthwaite: Cross Country. This is more country blues folk. Solo Terry Garthwaite released Terry – an amazing jazzy rock album that I consider a hidden treasure & it is well worth hunting down.

Also in this mp3 collection I added Cass Elliot: Dream A Little Dream; Bubble Gum, Lemonade. Cass never regained the momentum of her Mama & Papas days. The production on these lps is merely adequate & the songs lack energy & focus. There are few good tracks mind you, but over all she needed a stronger musical guide as she has one of the great rock voices.

Also in here is Kathi McDonald’s Insane Asylum. Why didn’t she become a huge star? This is one of the best Canadian albums ever with great songs i.e. Bogart to Bowie is amazing. Kathi can sing the pants off nearly any female vocalist out there & probably teach the guys a few things too. A hidden treasure worth seeking out.

Wait there’s more. To balance all these female voices I added The Association: And Then … Along Comes the Association – an immensely popular mid-60’s group that was never taken serious because of their success. Complex harmonies, some stunning production & songs that will live on forever. And finally Candymen: The Candymen – power driven 60’s garage rock of the best kind.

Brother

‘What do you mean, your brother? You never mentioned a brother before.’

‘Well I’m mentioning him now.’

‘And he’ll be here for supper? Tonight!’

‘That’s right. We can order pizza. He loves pizza. Save you cooking.’

‘That’s not the problem.’

‘There’s a problem?’

‘Damn rights there is. I’ve known you how long now?’

‘Five years.’

‘Right, and we’ve been living together for the last three and now you tell me you have  a brother?’

‘Didn’t seem like a thing to tell. There’s lots of things we don’t know about each other.’

‘Yes, but not something this big. How could you not mention a brother to me? How?’

‘I guess it never came up. You never asked if I had siblings.’

‘It’s not the sort of thing one asks about. It’s the sort of thing that comes up, in conversation.’

‘That conversation never came up then. Christ. I’m sorry I never told you I had a brother. Is that what you wanted, an apology?’

‘I just want to know why you’ve never told me. Didn’t you trust me?’

‘Oh, now it’s a trust thing. I told you, I never thought him important enough to talk about. Lots of things are like that. He didn’t seem relevant to our relationship.’

‘Till now.’

‘Yeah, till now. He’s in town for the week-end and wants to meet you.’

‘So, he knows about me?’

‘Of course. Everybody knows about us.’

‘You’ve talked to this brother about me. How many times?’

‘A couple.’

‘How often do you speak to him?’

‘Once or twice a year since I met you.’

‘Once or twice! What aren’t you telling me? He’s just been let out of prison or something. Is that it?’

‘No. Why? Do you think my family is the criminal type.’

‘Now that I know you’ve got a family it wouldn’t surprise me.’

‘My mom was right you are …’

‘Mom!’

‘What? Didn’t you think I had a mother?’

‘You never mentioned a mother. Or didn’t she ever come up in conversation either?’

‘Christ you are on a tear today. Yes I have a mother. And a father too.’

‘A father! This is going too far. Why have you kept all these secrets from me?’

‘Secrets? How do you think I got here – you didn’t find me under a cabbage leaf. Of course I have parents. Everyone has parents. Don’t they?’

‘I suppose you’re right, but it’s still a shock to find out. You know. A shock that you’ve kept these things from me all this time. First a brother. Then parents. What else have you neglected to tell me. What other dirty dark secrets do you have.’

‘These are not secrets. Just things I didn’t think important enough to bother you with.’

‘So, now I have to face this opportunity to meet your brother, whom I didn’t even know you had. How am I going to do that, how can I admit I never heard of him before. How?’

Echoes of Rio, Rio Revisited, Joy of Cooking, Toni Brown, Terry Garthwaite, Cass Elliot, Kathi McDonald, Insane Asylum, Bogart to Bowie, The Association, The Candymen

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

every Tuesday 2019

July

Stratford Festival – Nathan The Wise

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton

August 8: Highland Arts Theatre: https://www.highlandartstheatre.com 


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

September

Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

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

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School’s Out 1

My house in Toronto’s east end is surrounded by schools. There are at least 5 within 5 minutes walking distance, plus another 5 within 15 minutes. A couple of the buildings remind me of the schools I went to in Sydney. 1920’s functional with a bit of actual design work around entrances & windows.

The end of the school year always being back memories of anticipating summer. Sitting in class rooms fidgeting with nothing to do – final exams were over, no more lessons to be taught, waiting for reports cards to be filled in the given out. I don’t even know if report cards exist anymore. Back int he day we had to take them home for parents sign during the year. I may have one of my old ones hidden somewhere in my archives.

I was always an average student. Fairly obedient, rarely got into trouble, so deportment was good. But I had attention problems. Also I had spelling issues, which in looking back was a mild dyslexia. One summer I had to spend an hour or so every day writing out words – spelling them each ten times – so I could take that spelling exams once more to see if I could pass into the next grade. 

 

I went to four schools – Colby Elementary, Ashby Middle School, Woodhill Junior High, Sydney Academy High-School. Only the Academy is still standing. Colby was replaced with a big tin box, Ashby burned down mysteriously & was replaced by a big tin box; Woodhill became a community centre for decades & was finally torn down for a housing complex.

 

As much as I was eager for summer I dreaded that final report card – would my marks be good enough to get my reward: a new bicycle, cash. One year they weren’t & I was so demoralized I was afraid to go home & not get my reward. One year I did get that bicycle but not the one I wanted 🙂

Out of Control 

in control or out of control

which gives the better result

which can lead to where 

control is too hard to relinquish

expectations drive dreams goals

 

can someone with control issues

get out of control

with the need to control

hold on too tight

or drop everything too suddenly

relax into a puddle

even a puddle is controlled 

by gravity

free fall isn’t free

free form still has form

 

is the goal to be shapeless 

uncontainable

is that destruction 

anarchy

aimless directionlessness

still has points of reference

that pull to the norm

can the norm be out of control

 

who imposes that structure

who gets to be responsible 

while the rest

are wild and free 

is there actual energy 

in being out of control

doing nothing takes no energy 

realize float down stream

the stream has the control

the surrender is to another’s control

even when out of control

someone does the doing 

 

what is ‘out’

what is ‘control’

who is the object of these definitions

of these structures

even light need dark to exist

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

every Tuesday 2019

July

Stratford Festival – Nathan The Wise

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton

August 8: Highland Arts Theatre: https://www.highlandartstheatre.com 


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

September

Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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

 

Out In The Open

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Out In The Open

I was hiding

my feelings from him

not hiding exactly

but not declaring them

not putting them into words

what was communicated in my touch

 

was that enough

did he

could he

read between the kisses

between my legs

 

was there enough

emotional import

in my smile

my eagerness

to convey 

what I was afraid 

to put into words

 

as I waited

for him to put into words

what I felt in his touch

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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Chapter LVIII – Lillian Tends Birk’s Wounds

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 LVIII

Lillian

Tends

Birk’s Wounds

The distant ring echoed closer and was joined by an even nearer series of deeper toned whistles.

“What can that mean?” Lillian asked.

“Four blasts means something had happened at one of the mines.” Karina said. “The steel plant is using its whistle to spread the alarm.”

“So that’s how can we hear it here.”

“They relay a distress signal.” Clara explained.

“Can you really tell where it’s from?” Her heart was racing. She knew were it was from without being told.

“Not always.” Clara hesitated. “When it gets relayed here it means they need volunteers for the rescue crew.’

“It’s from Castleton Mines direction, isn’t it?” She pulled off the veil, grabbed her purse and headed to the stairs. 

“We have a phone here.” Clara headed to the mangers office on the main floor. “I’ll call to see if I can find out more. It has to be serious to get these signals. There’s been an an accident.” 

Clara raced down the stairs, Lillian following close after.

Several of the clerks were gathered at the door of the manager’s office. One was crying into a handkerchief.

The manager hung up his phone and came to the door.

“What is it?” Clara asked.

“There’s been a major cave-in at the Castleton colliery.” He said.

“Is anyone hurt?” One the clerks asked.

“They’re all dead. All dead.” The crying clerk said as she sank to the floor. 

“We don’t know that.” Clara helped the clerk to her feet.

“There’s nothing more I can tell you.” The manager said. “I called as soon as I heard the first alarm bells. No one knew how serious it is.”

“We have to go.” Lillian grabbed Clara’s hand. “Steven is …” she could speak.

“Have you heard anything?” Clara asked their driver as they got into the car.

“Not too much ma’am.” he replied. “It was sudden like. Everything was inspected afore they went down. Twas lower level though. Some on first faces are already up.”

“God!” Lillian was afraid to breathe. “Let Steven be alright.”

 

Once the car arrived in North Sydney Lillian had it stop at the church.

“We all must light candles.” She said.

Clara and the driver followed her into the church. There were already several people in there doing the same thing. Votive candles flickered in the rack.

The priest came over to them.

“Miss McTavish.” He whispered.

“Father Dunlop.” She nodded to him. “Have you any news?”

“Nothing definite.” He said.

Lillian lit her candle, put into a spot on the votive rack and genuflected to the cross over the altar.

She stepped outside with Father Dunlop while Clara and their driver lit their candles.

“You must be very concerned about Steven.” The priest said to her. “He is a Godly man.”

“Thank you Father. If all turns out well we’ll continue our pre-marriage talks with you.”

“Certainly. If you don’t mind I would like to accompany you. With Father Patrick away I am the nearest priest. I have to get my last rights kit.”

When they got to the dock they were informed that only emergency vehicles and personnel were being allowed to cross to Castleton.

“We can take Father Dunlop only I’m afraid.” The deckhand in charge said.

“Dr. Drummond will be expecting me.” Lillian declared. “Us.” She added, nodding too Clara. “We have assisted him before.”

“Very well.” The deckhand reluctantly let them aboard.

The small boat was crowded with two ambulance vans and various rescue volunteers. 

Lillian paced to the far end of the boat.

“Lillian that was very bold of you.” Clara stood beside her.“But I’m sure Steven will be okay. Lillian it is nothing. It has to be nothing.” Clara tired to calm her.

“No. It isn’t nothing.” Lillian exploded. “I can feel it. Don’t ask me how, but I can feel it.”

 

When they arrived at the colliery gate Lillian asked. “Where is Mr. O’Dowell? Has he been found yet?”

The General Manager came over to her and Clara.

“No he hasn’t. We don’t know when either Miss McTavish. Rest assured we’re doing everything we can to find him and the others.”

“I don’t care about the others.” Lillian saw all her hopes and dreams turning to dust before her eyes. “This can’t be happening. It can’t.”

“There. There.” Clara tried to calm her. “You must be strong.”

“I’m tired of being strong.” Lillian sank to a bench outside the infirmary.

“We’re doing everything we can. The first five levels have been cleared and all the men are safe.” The manager explained.

“What about the others?” she said.

“The cage has been jammed in the shaft. We can’t go lower till we are sure it’s safe to go down.”

“Cage?” Lillian didn’t understand.

“A sort of elevator that brings the men and coal up and down.” Clara said.

“Why don’t they pull it up.” Lillian said.

“The cable broke.” The manager said. “It had been tampered with.”

“What! Who would do such a thing.”

“Radicals, miss.” The manger dropped his voice. “There’s labour elements amongst the men who’d stop at nothing to …”

“To what! Kill each other in pursuit of some ideal even they don’t understand!” 

“We are working at removing the cable now. We don’t want to send men down in case the cage can’t hold their weight.”

“Then I’ll go down.” she pushed him aside. “I’m not that heavy.”

“Now, Miss McTavish.” The manager restrained her.

“We have to let them look after this.” Clara said. “Everything will be okay.” 

“Lillian!” Dr. Drummond came over to her. “I so glad you’ve come.”

“I had no choice. Steven is down there. somewhere. I have to be here when they bring him up.”

“Of course. The rescue is being hampered by the cage. They’ll have men cutting away the floor of the cage once they get the shaft clear. Much of it collapsed down with the cave in.”

“So there’s been no word from the lower levels?” Clara asked.

“Nothing.”

“There’s someone coming up.” a miner rushed over to tell the manager.

“I have to go ladies. Trust me we are doing everything we can.”

Lillian watched him run over the the mine entrance. A miner staggered out into the sunlight. His face was smeared with coal dust and blood. His shoulders were scraped raw and his hands were bloody pulps.

“It’s Birk Nelson!” someone shouted.

“Level seven.” someone else shouted. “He was down at level seven.”

Lillian held herself back as the rescue workers went to Birk. She stepped into his line of sight but his eyes were blinking as they adjusted to the sunlight. Someone handed him a cup of tea. She teared up as his bloody hand clung to the mug. He couldn’t seem to hold it tight enough, As he drank from it tea spilled over this chin and onto his shirt. Lillian followed as Dr. Drummond guided Birk to the dim wash house. 

He had her fill a basin with hot water to soak Birk’s bleeding hands. The water quickly blackened. Birk shuddered and try to pull his hands out. One of the workers held his shoulder still while the doctor rinsed Birk’s fingers gently.

“More clean water Lillian.” The doctor said.

She brought another basin of hot water over. She had dipped a clean rag into the water and while the doctor worked on Birk’s hands she wiped off some of the dirt and blood from Birk’s face.

“Ah, Miss Lillian, it is you.” Birk blinked his eyes as he focused on her face. “I thought I was dreaming. I haven’t been practicing my handwriting as much as you wanted, I have to confess. Sal keeps reminding me. I have been studying them boiler books though. Sal is proud of her beans. They are growing higher than the house now. You must come over to see’m. Sal will be so happy if you do.”

“Yes, yes.” Lillian was confused, she knew that Sal had died a few months ago.

“He’s in shock.” Dr Drummond said quietly to her. “Let’s take him to the infirmary. Now that his hands are clean I can check how serious the damage it. Not enough light in here for that.”

He started to lead Birk out of the wash house when Birk began to sag to the ground. With the help of a couple of miners they laid him on a stretcher and brought him to the infirmary.

“There’s more down there. You have to get the, Red dropped like a shoe out of my hands. I couldn’t help him though.” Birk hands reached up trying to grab something out of the air.

“We’ll get them.” one of the stretcher bearers said as he gently helped Birk onto one of the tables in the infirmary.

“How many were with you?” Lillian asked Birk.

“Many?” Birk shook his head. “Can’t say as I recollect now. It was so fast. Me and me mate Clancy were talking when …” He shuddered. “Clancy took a real liking to you Miss. He was always going on about your … Clancy! He’ll be down there now. The staving collapsed right on him. I … I did what I could then I had to climb out of there.”

“Be still Birk.” Dr. Drummond ordered. “They are working at getting the rest of the men out of there.”

“Red just fell. I couldn’t do a thing. He was holding to me than he was gone. So fast. So fast. I heard his fall stop at the bottom of the shaft.”

“Was … was Mr. O’Dowell with you?”

“Oh, no, Miss he was keen on being where the the blast was. Below us. He’s a brave’un you know. You will be married soon. He told us all. Right proud he was of it too. Better for you than …. ouch …”

Birk shuddered as Dr. Drummond was pulling splinters out the palms of his hand.

“Keep talking with him Lillian. The distraction will help him with the pain.” Dr. Drummond nodded to her.

“Did you hear anything from below you?” Lillian asked.

“Can’t recall. Sal sure enjoyed you visiting us. Mag too but Sal especially. She wanted to grow up to be a proper lady like you, you know. She won’t now …” Birk teared up. “Her beans done so well. It was if she was still with us as they grew and grew.”

“I look forward to seeing them soon Birk.” She said.

“I think that’s the worse of it Birk.” Dr. Drummond said. He coated Birk’s hands with a milky ointment. “Wrap his hands with this gauze. I’ll check the other injured miners. His mother is waiting at the front gate. Once you’ve done that you can let her take him home.”

As night fell Lillian sat exhausted one of the benches. 

“Ah here you are.” Clara handed her a mug of tea and sat next to her.

“Where have you been?” Lillian asked sipping the tea.

“Getting some of injured to their homes. Talking with wives. Talking with management too. The engineers are working on the cage itself. They’re afraid that removing it will cause the shaft below it to collapse.”

“How long can those men survive down there?” Lillian asked.

“That depends on how seriously they are injured.”

“We’ve managed to stabilize the cage.” The general manager came to explain to them. “It can’t be pulled up or down the way it is caught in the shaft but we have secured cables to it so that if it should come loose it won’t fall any further.”

“Thank God. So the rest of the miners can be brought up?” Clara asked.

“Yes. The top and the floor of the cage have been cut open wide enough so we drop a hoist down to the remaining levels to bring the rest of the men. It’ll be a slow process mind you as we can only bring them up a few at a time.”

“See, Lillian,” Clara said. “There’s hope. Let’s go to the …”

“I’m not going anywhere. I want to be here when they bring Steven up.”

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Mussorgsky

My introduction to Mussorgsky was Fantasia’s Night on Bald Mountain as a child. I was unaware of him as composer mind you. Later it was Emerson Lake & Palmer’s take on Pictures as at Exhibition – rock bombast. Then Tomita’s electronic interpretations of Pictures came along. I love the stereo work on it – the birds chirping from speaker to speaker.

I also had an lp with orchestral suites from Boris Godunov on one side & Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances on the other. I can still hear the bell in Boris suite.From MHS I had an lp of his solo piano music. Emotive romantic nostalgic. One piece was called “Nurse Locks Me In A Closet.” Who could resist that title 🙂 

What I have on the shelf are cds of Songs; Pictures; Boris Godunov: 3 cds; Khovanshchina 3 cds; Piano Music/Pictures; Boris Suite, Pictures, Bald Mountain. I also have Live From the Met cassettes of Khovanshchina that I’ve kept sit is quite different from the cd version. As you see I have various versions of Pictures at an Exhibition: orchestral, solo piano, two pianos, organ & somewhere a jazz take. The Gates of Kiev shows up often for grand military moments in movies, TV.

 

His music is impressionistic, romantic, patriotic & lyric. He’s not as emotional as Tchaikovsky, not as austere as Shostakovich, or as calculated as Stravinsky. His operas have Wagnerian epic sweep. Like many Slovak composers he makes great use of folk melodies. If you are unfamiliar start with an orchestral Pictures at an Exhibition.

 


Real Trouble

‘What would make you do a thing like that?’ 

I knew from the tone of my Dad’s voice I was in real trouble.

‘Sometimes I don’t know what gets into your head. I really don’t. Your mom and I do our best to make a good home for you. We lead a good life. Give you a good example and then you go and do something like this.’

I knew there wasn’t much I could say. At least not until I knew just what the thing I had done that he was talking about.

‘Don’t you have anything to say for yourself? No, wait before you attempt to apologize or explain let, me explain one thing. Your mother is up in our room crying her eyes out. You understand. This is going too far. Much too far.’

My mom cried at the drop of a cake, so I wasn’t too distressed to hear that whatever it was I had done had started her off on another jag. It wasn’t my fault that she needed professional help. Help my Dad figured wasn’t really right, morally right, that is. What would the neighbours think if my mom went to a shrink. They’d think we were a family like all the others. 

‘Now, I’m listening.’

My Dad sat on the arm of the sofa. His perch from which he was ready to pounce.

‘Dad I’m … What exactly did I do?’

‘Oh! Now it’s the innocent act. What did I do? God, why was I cursed with such sons.’

‘Dad you are being melodramatic.’ I wanted to add ‘again’ but bit my tongue. No need to antagonize him any further. 

‘You mean you really don’t know what you’ve done.’

‘No.’

‘Then I really don’t know what to tell you.’

‘You could start by telling me what it is that set you off like this. It’s been a pretty ordinary week, so far. Haven’t missed any classes. Did okay on that last quiz. Haven’t stayed out late. Haven’t played my stereo too loud. Haven’t hogged the Internet for hours on end. I even took out the trash last night. Didn’t I?’

‘You better have. How old are you?’

Oh I knew what it was. My social life. My lack of ‘action.’

‘Old enough, Dad. Why does it always come down to this? Always. I will date when I’m ready to.’

‘That’s not it. I know what you did. You mother knows. We just don’t know why. Maybe it has something to do with your age. Peer pressure. Someone that would entice you into that sort of behaviour.’

‘Dad what are you talking about? Does it start with a ‘b’?’

‘Don’t make fun, son. Please, that won’t make it any easier on us. Mocking us all the time. I know you kids enjoy that sort of thing but we parents just see it as …’

He was speechless. His eyes glazed as he gaped over my shoulder. I turned around.

‘Mom! How long have you been there?’

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

every Tuesday 2019

July

Stratford Festival – Nathan The Wise

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
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September

Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

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

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Bored

Bored

he was bored

& looking for sex

as if sex was a solution

so far

nothing had lived up

to his expectations

 

his profile listed

his interests

it was like the index

to a gay sex manual

at nineteen

he wanted to try them all

while he was still young enough

to enjoy them all

before he was bored

by them all

 

what I hadn’t tried

of his endless index

had never appealed to me 

at any age

some I had tried a few times

decided no thanks

to exploring them again

 

we chatted a awhile

he liked my dick pic

he wanted an older guide

one who was opened minded

as it became clear

I had boundaries

he became bitter

judgemental

 

not wanting to do

what he wanted to do

made me an ‘uptight old queen’

I wished him well

hoped he’d enjoy his explorations

added there were lots of men

ready to teach a nineteen year old

the ropes

but I wasn’t one of them

I signed off

 

his age wasn’t a big factor to me

but the index was

he’d have to learn

that just because 

there was some common ground

that didn’t mean all ground

was was common

 

he texted me a day later

he felt

because I wasn’t so eager

that I was someone he could trust

wouldn’t take advantage of him

I mentioned a few of the

items in his index

that would never happen with me

and he once again

tried to bargain

 

he asked why didn’t I trust him

after all he trusted me

I said it had nothing to do with trust

but lack of interest

the more insistent he became

the the more bored I became

 

so I texted

‘okay okay

let’s meet 

when and where’

he signed off

 

I haven’t from him since


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The Name Game

The Name Game

this is not my real name

in fact

I use my given name so infrequently

no one is sure what it is

I’m not sure of what it is

 

I won’t tell you what you want to know

not that it’s a secret

there is no deep shame

that I am hiding

 

names that I use

change from time to time

location to location

in fact

we may have met before

when I was someone else

that’s why I sometimes

seem so familiar

 

I don’t go out of the way

to disguise myself

to cover my trail

only who I might be

so that when you say

you understand me

I know 

you don’t even know who are talking to

 

everything you know

is about another person

someone with a name you know

that’s not my name

it wasn’t then

and it never will be again

I’ve met guys on line who. for privacy, I guess, have more than one name. In fact nearly all people on line do – a handle, a nickname, an email address that doesn’t reveal who they are. On dating sites guys have names like Toppugood43 or flexlexy – that may hint on what they want to do. Some have given one name in chat, then another one shows up as part of their email response & when they text another name & when we meet maybe their real name.

 

Some never give a name at all, really. ‘Hi it’s Toppu.’ Or not even that much, as if their phone number will tell me who it is. Names are one of the way we define people, so I can accept people needing to self-define by choosing their own name & using it as a sort of mask. Would John Wayne have made it big with his birth name Marion Morrison?

One of the reasons for ‘branding’ myself as TOpoet, was to remove immediate information about myself. All I want you to know is there – where I am located & what I do. No gender, sexuality, race or even age is alluded to. The only preconceived notion one may have is about poets, not about me as a person – unless it is to conclude that anyone labeling themselves as a poet is a pretentious fop. Guilty.

So this piece is about the ambiguity of names, of what we think we know about people & how insubstantial image is. It is easy to be someone else on line. I’m never sure if who I may be chatting with for the first time is actually the person in the picture (if they have a picture). I don’t know until I meet them face to face & it is the face in their photos. I don’t even fully believe what they’ve said in our chats, or in their profile. It is easy to flirt, overstate interests in text. Meeting moves things to the next level of negotiation. Which may require proof of identity 🙂 


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Coal Dusters – Chapter pending

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 pending

No chapter this week. As I work through this draft I’ve come across sections that were not fully developed in the first Nanowrimo on rush. The aftermath of the mine cave-in is one of those sections. I merely sketched in a few things for Lillian as she deals with the disaster & the possible death of Steven.

I left her in chapter LV trying on wedding veils when the alarm for the cave-in was heard in Sydney. The following chapters are about Birk climbing to the surface & they essentially wrote themselves & the rest of his story arc was clear in my mind & needs no bridging. Lillian’s narrative was clear to me as well but I hadn’t developed enough of a bridge for her after the disaster,

I love this part of revision but this is a major addition that I don’t want to rush through. The 800 words I originally wrote about her immediate response to the disaster are good but she’ll need maybe another 2200 to carry her to what happens next in her story arc.

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