My Five Year (Dead Friends)

With my AA anniversary this week (43 years on July 6) I’ve done some reminiscing about my early years in recovery. My memory is helped by the journals I kept at that time – this was before keyboards & morning pages. Handwritten & for the most part more a listing of events than reflections on those events. In my poetry archive I have pieces that I wrote then which are more about discovering the gay world than exploring sobriety.

One artifact I have is a cassette recording of my 5 year anniversary from 1983! I’m not sure if I have heard it since it was first recorded. I also have a photo taken of the occasion, plus some of the cards I was given! The photo brings back some memories. I listened the the tape a few months ago though before passing it on to the Archives for preservation as mp3.

It is, I’ve been told by the head of that committee, a piece of gay recovery history that shouldn’t be lost. I had to hear it first before letting it go. It was a bit embarrassing to hear myself praised, to hear my actual ‘acceptance’ remarks. It was bittersweet to hear these voices of members who, for the most part, are no longer with us. Dead friends. So many dead friends.

Some murdered by HIV, some who died of life itself, some who moved away to Vancouver or Calgary to struggle with their sobriety in different surroundings but didn’t make it, deaths I heard of eventually. Voices I still recognized. Voices that I was happy to hear again. I even recognized laugher of people in the audience.

I do recall the tape being made but don’t remember who made it. Side A says ‘Duncan’s Fifth – Key unknown – 7 July 1983.’ Side B ‘‘Duncan’s Fifth in AA major – 7 July 1983.’ Printed by the hand of the taper. I love the Beethoven reference. It is the entire meeting from opening serenity prayer, passing the basket & the closing prayer. 

I was a little surprised that it played at all. Cassettes often dry out, loose their ‘dynamic tension,’ tape ends become disconnected from the spools. One of the reasons I was so happy to to move to from tapes to cds. There was nothing more dismaying than having the tape on your Walkman jam up & pulling it out with endless feet of tape dripping out of it. I may wait another 43 years before hearing it again though 🙂

This is a piece I wrote in Cape Breton back in 1977 when I was deep into my alcoholism.

Blackout

1

the fear

aware of the light

shapes the unseen

the fear

<>

is being awakened

at the wrong trembling moment

to your own pulse

2

I gave in today

without a fight 

without a second thought

gave in to nothing

being nothing

doing nothing

going nowhere

<>

I gave up

my dreams & hopes

plans of a great future

that’ll never come true

all that’s left for me

is to relax into resignation

without bitterness

to keep on giving in

without a struggle

<>

the plan now

is to sleep in

on all fours

to a snug shadow

of calm reserve

a smug disinterest 

about the things

I once had to become

3

I’m getting old 

the feel of fall

is colder in my bones

every year

<>

I find it easier to drink

to forget old unfinished fears

than to make new motions

toward an altered shape

I find it easier

every time I empty another bottle

the next seems more welcome

more of a proffered hope

than a fleeting solace

leading to remorse for old hurts

4

resignation

is a futile gesture

it is an admission 

to pretentions

I once had a vision 

a true sense of a special offering

a vision proved to be

am insecure self-indulgence 

a vision

that kept me so in awe

I could never confront

even my basic mortality 

<>

the vision of immortality 

before more than I could bear

no one is fooled but me

there is no dream revelation

just the dream

just the dream

to black out the image

of the self-pitying 

aging

drunken

unfulfilled visionary 

with no shape

no broken heart

just his fear

<>

the fear

last feeling of fall

has no vision

5

the unseen

is the futility of resignation

the inability to admit

that even as these words are

I intend to deny their meaning

<>

this is not defeat

I have nothing to lose

this is not resignation

I have nothing to concede

<>

the dream

will never change

that it may never come true

is the heart of the plan

<>

the fear

pulse of the plan

has no end

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Tiki Time Mug Shots

As the pandemic purge continues what remains takes on a little more ‘importance.’ Getting rid of curtains that have been stored for over 40 years in the basement was an easy decision though. When did we ever expect to reuse them? Even the fabric, whatever it may be, can’t be repurposed. 

This ear mug hasn’t been used ever in over 40 years either but I won’t be tossing it. It was a Christmas gift the second year we were in this house. A friend was so delighted with the inventiveness of the handle, with its ear stud, he knew I would delight in it too. I did & still do. It hasn’t been used because it is too small – maybe it would make decent espresso cup but for a real cup of tea I have better options.

These a few of my tea mugs. They hold approximately 20 oz each. teapots without spouts 🙂 I’ve been acquiring them over the years. Each gets used for a month then goes to the back of the line. The ones with NaNoWriMo stickers are actually from Starbucks. The Friends mug I picked up at Winners & it only comes out for December use. I heart Tea was a Christmas gift. The plain white I bought at Kitchen Plus on the Danforth. I’m always on the look out for this size.

The polka dot mug is another Starbucks but too small for regular use. I love the dots. It’s a ceramic sort of travel mug with a lid insert but more for not spilling in the office while you drink, not for carry around as it doesn’t fully close. Thanks to pandemic even real travel mugs aren’t being refilled by coffee shops in Toronto.

This tiki glass is a favorite that during the hot months gets a lot of use. I bought years ago at a Cargo Imports (or some such) which vanished. It holds about 20 ounces, it also weight almost that much 🙂 Thick glass, with smile on one side & frown on other – comedy & tragedy. It is my iced-coffee mug when Toronto hots up. The straw is stainless- steel – I picked some of them up at Kitchen Plus a few years ago.

I make my own iced-coffee with brewed coffee ice-cubes – yes coffee freezes! I discovered that a few years ago & since then have made my own. I started when after having a Starbucks iced I saw that it was half plain water ice cubes – wtf. At that price I want cold coffee not caffeinated water. I brew a pot, let it cool, make a tray of ice-cubes & keep the reminder cool in the fridge.

Here’s a rant from 2008

Omnipotent

if I had unlimited power

I don’t know 

what I would do with it

I’d be so stunned by the ramifications

of every little ripple

how one thing leads to another

perhaps we all have unlimited power

that butts heads constantly

warring factions

each with its own vision of what is best 

at least for them

looking for immediate satisfaction

comforts wants needs desires

takes us far from harmony

who wants to live in harmony

unlimited power

doesn’t mean having everything your own way

or does it

<>

if I had unlimited power

I don’t know what I would change first 

how to create the correct balance

end war strife disease

how to feed that burgeoning population

control reproduction

who can chose who is to be born

without endless wisdom

<>

unlimited power

isn’t solution

every solution has a cost 

that someone has to pay

usually those who can afford it the least 

end up paying the most

the homeless can’t afford good food

the rich can afford good health care

the balance hasn’t been struck yet

nor will it

<>

unlimited power brings 

unlimited headaches with it

headaches almost as bad

as having no power

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Paper Ghosts

Thanks to the pandemic I’ve been purging my past. Papers, first drafts, photographs & memories. A basement full of lumber, bricks, paint, nut & bolts saved, salvaged, kept for another day now gone, with out regret. Stage set pieces from Bushwack Theatre finally seeing the light of day in the back of a junk removal truck 🙂 

I have seeing my history in the paper I used for writing on. Scrap paper recycled from Famous Players old daily multi-coloured sales report forms – pads of which became redundant as they were updated. Colour coded for filing & mailing purposes. Flyers for movies, for theatrical productions. Lined or blank loose leaf, pages torn out of scribblers, note book of various sizes & even shapes. Notes, poems, fiction typed on various typewriters, hand written in various inks & pens, dot-matrix print outs that had never been separated. https://topoet.ca/2021/03/16/past-of-the-future/

The ‘See Europe’ was one of several road show productions that travelled around the maritimes with special presentations – this was Travel, another was Alpine Skiing – the most popular was the in person show by Raveen – a hypnotist, magician – I wish I had some of those flyers. The travel shows weren’t big draws mind you but they were rentals – in this case Tony Smith was in charge of his ticket sales. We got the rental fee plus sold lots of popcorn 🙂

The various papers help date when some of these pieces were written as many of them were undated. The Famous pages are before I moved to Toronto in 1978. Days Of Heaven is from my first year here. The Famous Players form bring back memories beyond what I had written on the blank sides. One of my jobs there was to type details onto them. There was carbon paper between the pages that were 4 form thick so one had to hit hard to make sure the bottom one was legible. A mistake meant whiteout on all copies before re-entering. A total pain. Life before computers & data entry. 

This piece was typed on the blank side of a ‘Days Of Heaven’ flyer

My Left Hand

he gives me a call

a peace offering

an invitation

an offer

to nail my left hand

to the floor

but he has no camera

<>

he calls

on days

when his memory

is fading

the echo of the moon

in an old well

he speak

French threats

innuendos

of vague violence

I cannot resist

<>

I cannot confront

direct violence

I have a fear of pain

pain as in death

facts to face

I am afraid

I’ll enjoy the nail

relish each thud of the hammer

<>

I remember

the bite of his teeth

even when I cannot

recall the feel

of his lips

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Mug Shots

For a birthday, or maybe it was Christmas, my niece Betty Rocksteady sent me this framed piece of her art from a series she did of posters for an imaginary side show. A signed original that according to eBay is worth nearly $12,000. (just kidding). Flanking it as two travel mugs ordered from her online XX store. They are not all that functional 😦 Some sort of lined metal that doesn’t hold heat from long & the lid son both don’t form a tight enough seal to keep from leaking. But they look great. 

Betty is an accomplished & well-regarded horror writer. Check out her out at bettyrocksteady.com or better yet buy some of her books on Amazon. I would highly recommend her story in the Looming Low anthology.

Betty is a major fan of Ernest Bushmiller’s Nancy & envies me my Nancy mug. I bought this decades ago in Stratford Ontario. At one time there was a great gift shop at the corner of Erie & Ontario Street (Worthington’s?). It was full of collectables, tee-shirts etc. I spotted Nancy on a wall of mugs. Turned out it was not a mug but a music box! The fact that it played the Theme from the Godfather !! meant I had to have it. It is a treasure.

The Queen Mother thimble. Niagara-on-the Lake, I think.

I bought this sailboat mug at a dollar store decades ago because the boat reminded me of the Bluenose. Solid microwaveable crockery it is the perfect size for hot chocolate. At one time it was also my Loyalist workshop mug, it reminds of those good time. It has no maker’s markings. I love the Japanese quality of the boat design.

Another of my favorite objects is this KFC Colonel Sanders mug. I bought it at a yard sale decades ago. I may have paid a dollar for it. The high-gloss, very dark, surface makes it hard to photograph – I’m just point & click. It is a fired dark terra-cotta (I think) & is a finer, if that’s the right word, crockery than the sailboat mug. I’ve never used it for liquids – hot or cold. It is a treasure.

rough draft sample

Serious Business

I realize this is serious business

life is always matter of

life and death

at any minute it could be over

heart attack

stray bullet

a breath in a crowded room

<>

I know that you expect 

a certain degree of compassion

respect

yet part of me is unwilling to give it

not that I don’t feel it

but showing it 

is a different matter 

or perhaps I don’t show it

in the somber way you want

<>

I give little digs

snickers at the futility

rather than wail in desperate calm

about what we are powerless over

tears aren’t the solution

one gets dehydrated too quickly

lack of water can lead to 

more emotional & physical distress

a self-propelling conundrum

that can only be stopped

by measure of levity

<>

I didn’t mean to laugh 

at that car accident

or at the fate of the environment 

I’m not mocking the event

just our powerlessness over it

while we maintain this facade that

we do have power over it

<>

people die

I will die eventually

maybe soon

who knows

but I’m not one

who waits in solemn dignity

for the right exit moment

the right exit line

that wall paper is dreadful

<>

I’m not asking you to forgive

my lack of dignified respect

sometimes there is laugher 

in the mortuary

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Upper Reaches

Time to continue the tour of my house as we move upstairs to bed & bath. The bathroom has remained one of the least ‘decorated’ rooms the house – too, much moisture for one thing. There are shelves of towels, body wash, shaving stuff so the room is cluttered enough as it is. 

This stained-glass star is in the bathroom window. Handmade by my partner before we met it is one of the oldest object d’art that isn’t shop bought. He made couple of such pieces at a workshop he took one summer. We did have remains of this stained glass supplies for decades & I got rid of them in my covid cleaning frenzy.

I won this sunset (or is it sunrise) train track photo in a GenX Bears fund-raising raffle in the early 2000’s. I think they were raising money for their Pride Parade float. A friend was a member of the group. It was, as I recall, a ‘blind’ raffle, in which I knew the range of prizes but they were assigned randomly. I was happy to get this & it was perfect for over the toilet – I can gaze down the endless track of life as I pizza my life away 🙂

Across the hall is my bedroom which is relatively uncluttered – unless you count the dressers, racks of cds, book case, shelves of frequently used clothes as clutter 🙂 This wonderful Tarzan poster what a birthday gift from my fans at Cabaret Noir. I have seen the film – Acquanetta fulfills hetero teen boy exotica fantasy, while Weissmuller & Sheffield fuelled many a confused lad’s sexuality as, like me, we wondered how they kept their junk hidden under those loincloths while swinging through the jungle.

While I’m going about exotica fantasy – these jungle ‘epics’ were where many saw an abundance of hairless male flesh in our formative years. In particular, when I’ve seen some of these recently, as well some set in the jungle serials – I am delighted by the abundance of bare chested native guides, bearers & tribal kings. I wonder if any historian of black performers in movies has looked at this pool of performers.

This Japanese noren was a gift from a Japanese friend. It is a door hanging, about half-a-door in length, split down the middle. The samurai protects my room from negative energy 🙂 While the celebrants usher in good vibes. The leaf leads to my Peace Lily. 

On the wall, by the door, is this marvellous piece of religious kitch. A print I bought framed at an antique store, not longer there, near Queen & Broadview. It was love at first sight. Early 1900’s. This was a very popular subject – there are dozens of variations of the trouble soul clinging to the rugged cross in the storms of life. I love the face of Christ at the top of the cross – almost like seeing him in a piece of toast.

You Never Know Where He’ll Pop Up Next

<>

you saw the face of Christ

in a piece of toast

yet you don’t own a toaster

you can’t even boil water

you have enough trouble

opening a granola bar

<>

why was it only the face

was the slice of bread

too small 

to hold His entire body

was the holy toaster

limited to specific body parts 

<>

was it the result of

ancient aliens

who after they built the pyramids 

designed a toaster

specifically to replicated

the face of Christ in toast

a face that seems rather caucasian

for an ancient alien

<>

beside you aren’t the first 

to have seen the face of Christ

where it doesn’t belong

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Upstairs with Satan and Archie

Moving to the upstairs in my house we come to these on the walls of the upper hall. First this wonderful paint-by-number that I bought, framed, at a Goodwill on Queen E decades ago. Luckily it was light enough to carry home. I knew this painting from my childhood, though not this specific one, as part of a set that my mother had painted. She did several of such sets & finding it brought back sweet memories.

On the opposite wall is this portrait of me as rendered by Dan Parent who was, at that time, one of the illustrators & writers for Archie comics. I had it done at Fan Expo. I went that year specifically to commission it. He took my photo, I roamed the ‘market’ buying dvd’s, tee shirts, searching for old school horror [Karloff vs Kruger] & come back an hour later & it was ready.

The same holds true for the other portrait that I had done the following year. for an extra five dollars I had  more torso 🙂 As you can tell I haven’t aged since these were done but neither of these are my Dorian Gray – that is in a secret spot away from prying thighs.

The ‘demonic force’ was a Christmas gift from a friend at the end of the 1990’s. He enlarged a panel from a Chick Publication & hand-tinted it for me. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chick_tract#Chick_Publications) I still see this little tracts around, sometimes left on a bus, or rumple dup on the street. Cute propaganda.

Not propaganda is this self-portrait a friend did & gave me as a birthday gift. He was experimenting with colour for that Warhol effect. The last was a gift from David Bateman he gave me during the run of the poetry cabaret The Beautiful & Damned. It is a fun amalgam of Keith Harding & Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime images. It goes up in value every year 🙂

Modern Safety

Kevlar sweats

modern day chainmail

designer duds armour plated

for style lightness and protection

don’t want to look bad 

when someone shoots at me

or tries to stab me in the mall

because I looked at them the wrong way

because I was the wrong color

wearing the wrong colors

in the wrong neighbourhood

<>

how to be safe enough

and still look good

don’t want private guards

they’re not the accessories 

I had in mind to complete this outfit

to be safe enough 

to go to Starbucks for a latte

<>

the fast walk and the scowl

now becomes a challenge

they’ll take me down a notch or two

kick the crap out me to liberate 

my limited edition nike’s and iPhone

which they don’t realize

now features global positioning hardware 

<>

I hesitate to answer

because I only listen 

through an ear piece

that picks up everything you say

funnels it though lie detection software

that tells me I can trust what you say

I stick to the simplest of responses

double double

no don’t super size that

<>

unless those fries 

are a bullet resistant shield

I can hold in front of me

as I struggle to get home

without a scratch

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Dining in Wrestling Style

One of the best features of our house is the dining-room with its beams & plate rail. As you can see this side is fulfilling its display potential. At one time it was even fuller with endless mugs from recovery conferences I’d attended but day I thought ‘enough is enough’ & got rid of nearly all of them. They had no emotional resonance for me so I didn’t even take photos of them. I did keep a couple – in the corner by the Bunnykins.

This is what remains of my Royal Dalton Bunnykins collection that was broken in transit. If you are familiar Bunnykins is a collectable children’s china & figurines that set the stage for Hello Kitty & Sailor Moon. Innocent & kitch – the detail work is fascinating with lots to catch & keep anyone’s eye. I do love the artist with his palette.

Beside the B’Kins is this charming ‘grace’ plate – made in USA, decorated in Collingwood, Ont. Mid-50’s, I’d say. Picked it up at some 2nd hand shop in the 80’s. What isn’t there to love about this plate. The inculcating of children with Christian moral values & guilt- those poor hungry children. I love the ‘see Dick run’ graphics that reminds me of school book readers. The color palette & the attention to details around the bowls is great.

Now we jump to something much less innocent – my Jimmy Buckle memorabilia. As some of you may know, & as many of you will now discover, I find short guys very sexy. It goes back to a midget wrestling circuit that used to tour the Maritimes. The Shriners sponsored the show in Sydney. My Dad being a Shriner took me to see some matches. Was Little Beaver one of the wrestlers? I was enthralled.

The story is that when I first moved to Toronto I went to some of these touring matches & met Jimmy Buckle, had a very brief tumble with him & because he was on tour it didn’t develop into anything. He was married, to a woman, anyway etc etc. You like that story? Sadly it isn’t true. The mug was a one-off mock-up a friend did for me as a Christmas gift. But I can dream can’t I of undoing Jimmy Buckle’s buckle 🙂

On The Road Again

I took the road less traveled

to prove I was a real man

broken glass be damned

I can live without toes

<>

hot coals – nothing to it

burn my soul away – who needs it

brick-walled bloodied brows build character

yeah – sure

<>

I was ugly enough to start with

now I’m permanently scarred

hunchbacked from ducking punches

eyes blinded by bright ideals

heart broken by casual glances

balls busted by noisy scorn

<>

to weak to walk I crawl on and on

though I realize why this is

the road less traveled 

because it isn’t a fucking road

but better to die a real man

than admit there might be another way

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Sydney Academy 1



After graduating from Woodill the next step up the educational ladder was Sydney Academy – the big boys school. Senior High grades 10 – 11- 12. This was a was a relief mainly because although there were hills they weren’t as steep as the ones down Royal Ave. The walk was much shorter.

One building I remember is the dry cleaners, Snow White Laundry, which was directly across the street from the front entrance. It had a wall painting of, of all things, Disney’s Snow White & some of the dwarves. Looking out the windows facing Terrace St it was the one thing one always saw. The wall painting eventually went – maybe Disney copyright lawyers threatened to sur.

The main entrance doors were for teachers & visitors. We students entered around the side where the parking lot was. No lining up by classes. We had homerooms & moved from class to class, as opposed to the teachers moving from room to room. At Colby & Ashby we remained in one classroom the whole semester. Woodill may have been the same one room but I can’t recall. 

The building was larger than Woodill’s. Some students being bussed in. It was Sydney’s main public senior high – there was a Catholic equivalent – which was the school’s main sports rival. The school had a huge gym, a major phys-ed program that included basketball, volley ball, gymnastics. It did have a hockey team as well but that was a separate entity for boys who qualified for the team.

The school had science labs, woodworking & metal workshops & probably ones for domestic sciences as well. Lots of extra-curricular activities like Jr. Red Cross, Drama club etc. There was a cafeteria on the basement level, which is where the lockers rooms & showers for the gym were. Sock hops were held in this area too.

The social context was totally different from Woodill with the mix of students from across the city. It wasn’t particularly diverse though. Sydney did have a large black population but they were ‘confined’ to the Whitney Pier area – which, I think, had its own senior high. 

Coming next week: troubling locker room memories

Square Root

I wished him dead

every time I sat in his class

I wished he were dead   buried

not someone I had to face every day

 

I would only have to glance up at him

writing formulas on the black board

the drone of his voice 

and wish him dead

 

he would always call on me

to read out what he had written

I picture his brain exploding

bloody cosines gush from his nose

all over his spotless white shirt

 

I wanted a sharp steel edge 

on my protractor

to cut out his heart

save the class from algebra trig calculus

his stories of sailing

how he figured directions 

with his slide rule

 

die die die

so we can figure out the angle

to bury you so your rotting corpse

will slump into your penny loafers

bones a jumble of secants 

and underpants

 

the formula on the board

meant nothing to me

it could have been written in flame

blah blah squared 

equals something degrees

 

my feet burning by the time I sat down

he would pat me on the shoulder

say   you seem to be catching on

when I was really catching on fire

his abacus belt buckle at eye level

 

I’d stare at the rubble on my page

hope his hand would stay a bit longer

hope some of his knowledge could rub off

what was the angle of the dangle 

behind that zipper

 

if he were to die I wouldn’t have to wonder

about where to look 

when he stood so close

 

I leave the class

can’t remember a formula or anything

all I could see was that glint of belt buckle

and that wouldn’t be on the exam

http://wp.me/p1RtxU-1yO

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

every Tuesday 2019

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

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


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September

Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

October

Stratford Festival – The Crucible

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

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

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Caught Hard 1971 /76

In going through a box of papers I came a cross a pile of old old poems written in late 60’s, early 70’s. So having no shame I’m resurrecting them with minimal editing. I was using a cheaper, yellow copy for many of these – the paper hasn’t yellowed with age. Enjoy 🙂 This is the last resurrected poem for this Easter.

Caught Hard 1971 

1

dull dark day dawns

disparately clinging to the night clouds

little mists of mares

floating up from the budding honeysuckle

 

I am fighting so hard

for an empty room

for this trophy of glass

it can’t last

it mustn’t last

this fighting alone

on the dew wet grass

so close to home

by the freshly born

morning in some other

question box corner standing

sunrise boxing ring

 

so you’ve come to see the fight

by being here

you are the fight

another shadow boxing affair

reflecting from my bottles

reflecting on my walls

fighting for every word you speak

 

I am dying softly

the everyday death we each die

wandering from payday to payday

paying enough for the right

to live when I die

 

paying to keep fighting

in only the perfect surroundings

soundings & singers

paying & dying & fighting

fighting off the laughter

that I feel exploding

each inner pondering like a sledge hammer

smashing each unhappy stone

 

restoring sensation of pleasure

white in the night

feeling close & coming to an end

 

caught hard up in the air

without a handful go much

just loose strings of stings

& other nasty things

to keep me from giving in

to consuming everything in one last bite

2

I’ve heard the hangman many times today

if I’m not a icicle

why do I feel so cold

swinging in the summer sun

swinging to the hangman’s hot jest

 

he’s trying hard to melt me down

so I can be sold in bits & pieces

3

many times

screaming inside my skull

he cannot bear to see me moving

to any other taunt but his

up the stairs

up the stairs

no one cares

just the hangman

filling his pockets with meltings

 

I am free to fall

I am free to get up

I am free

but feel so lost

 

if I am not a fossil

why do I feel so old

if I am not a fetus

why do I feel so unborn

 

tiny & afraid

waiting in the summer sun

for someone to touch

 

if I am not wise

why do I feel so foolish

in these words

I am found by so few

yet still lost to so many

I am the end of time

drizzled with smiling sunlight

in some early morning suddenness

 

if I am not dynamite

why do I feel like exploding

every time I think of you

 

the sun can’t seem to melt into the middle

yet I feel myself slipping away

up the stairs

up the stairs

away from the sun

that needs me melted

before we can start winter again

4

the hangman has seen me crying

the hangman has been free dying

to reach out to cut my rope and end

this dangling all day in the sun

 

no confession

no confessor for me

I cannot make sense of either

though both are bursting to

functions all around

me like falling rain

as I near the end of the rope

 

postitive negative postitive negative

polarized into neither

loving nor hating 

wanting nor having

afraid of saying

so many confessional hidden sins

that everyone realizes about me

but care too much to punish me for

This is one of few pieces that went from the above rough draft to a more ‘polished’ version that was included in my book Distant Music. All those ‘d’s at the start are a bit much 🙂 I do love the overt masculinity of the piece as I box to prove my maleness as a poet. Poetry being considered un-masculine despite the fact that the poetry we studied in high school was 99% written by men.

I was buttoning it up to somehow contain my sexuality as well. Queers don’t talk about boxing but movie stars. ‘reflecting from my bottles’ a clear reference to my growing alcoholism – another of the way I was dealing with sexuality – drown it.

A gay acquaintance at the time hung himself which may have lead to the hangman imagery. Working to pay the rent was like a noose too, the strangle hold of fear.

The version that made it into print is equally as meandering but is also more focused. The alliteration remains 🙂 The revised version does have a sense of ending though. Today there is no rope, or bottle, needed to to keep me standing.

Caught Hard 1976 

1

dull dark day 

disparately dawns

clinging coldly

to the night clouds

little mists of mares

floating doggedly

over murky dreams

 

I am fighting hard

fighting so hard

for an empty room

a glass trophy

it can’t last

it mustn’t last

this fighting alone

on the dew-wet grass

so close to home

with the freshly born

morning sunrise

 

just by being here

to see the fight

you become the fight

another shadow-boxing affair

reflected from bottles

reflecting cross walls

fighting for every word you speak

 

I am dying

that everyday death 

we each die

 

fighting in only 

the best of surroundings

soundings & singers

all dying in fighting

fighting off the laughter

I feel exploding

each inner pondering 

like a sledge hammer

smashing each happy stone

 

returning sensations 

of pleasure

white in the night

feeling close 

while coming to an end

 

caught hard 

up in the air

without a sandful of much

just loose strings of stings

of other satisfied things

to keep me from giving in

to consuming everything 

in one final bite

2

I’ve heard the hangman 

many times today

if I’m not a icicle

why do I feel so cold

a-sway in the summer sun

swinging peacefully

to the hangman’s hot breath

 

he’s trying to melt me down

so I can be sold in 

bits & pieces

3

many times

screaming inside

he cannot bear 

to have me sway

to any breath

but his

up the stairs

up the stairs

no one cares

except for the hangman

filling pockets 

with meltings

 

I am free to fall

I am free to get up

I am free

but feel so lost

 

if I am not a fossil

why do I feel so old

if I am not reincarnated

why do I feel so unborn

 

tiny & afraid

waiting in the summer sun

for someone to touch

 

if I am not wise

why do I feel so foolish

out of these words

am I the end of time

drizzled with smiling sun

in your early morning suddenness

 

if I am not dynamite

why do I feel like fighting

every time I think of you

 

the sun cannot melt 

through to the middle

yet I feel myself slipping away

up the stairs

up the stairs

away from the sun

that needs me melted

so we can start winter

4

the hangman has seen me crying

the hangman has been free dying

to reach out & cut the rope 

to end my all-day dangling

 

if I am not a hanged man

why do my feet

never seem to touch the ground

 

if there is no rope

around my neck

what holds me in place

keeping me from falling down


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Kent State – The View From Here 1970

In going through a box of papers I came a cross a pile of old old poems written in late 60’s, early 70’s. So having no shame I’m resurrecting them with minimal editing. I was using a cheaper, yellow copy for many of these – the paper hasn’t yellowed with age. Enjoy 🙂

Kent State – The View From Here 1970

I never knew them

but still I cried

I never will know them

now that they have died

 

but even if I could have

I doubt if I would have

for with apathy it’s easier to sigh

than get up & try

which is what they did

no longer content to be hid

by things yet to be said

now they are four dead

 

they never knew me

but still I cried

they never will know

now that they’ve died

hopeless dwarf desperation

overcomes giant hesitation

as I feel it’s my time

to move to the front line

to replace those that fall

or can’t relate to the call

then I wonder if I’ll see the end

alone or with a friend

 

I never knew them

but still I cried

I never will know them

now that they have died

now that they have died

‘Four dead in Ohio’ another Neil Young inspiration while he was part of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The shooting in May 1970 stunned me & my friends. Many were musicians & angry protest songs were part of their repertoire. I was more flower-child than rabble-rouser. The found the hippy movement too heterocentric & unwashed for my sensibility. 

This is one of the few, perhaps the only, pieces I wrote then that reflected life outside my own muddling through life. There were student protests everywhere it seemed while I was started in my Cape Breton Ghost Town reading about it in Rolling Stone or seeing it on TV. What music filtered to the east coast was about as counterculture I got. Let’s face it even the  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were millionaires.

At the time I felt a sense of loss though. Loss & futility because the shooting made it clear the entrenched would always be with us & always in control. I see it today around the world. People calling kids who survived a mass school shooting ‘cry babies’ for wanting gun control. 


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