Bubbling Brook

Smalls Creek runs through the Williamson Ravine in east-end Toronto. It was bit low as there hadn’t been any major rainfall for several weeks.

brookside brush
burbling over debris
I’m sure it’s not safe to drink
hiker-made bridge
you can almost hear the babbling brook
mud flats from lack of water
light & shadow
mud flat brush

A brief video of the rippling waters

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


#Movies I’d Watch Again (& Again) Part 2

Last Year in Marienbad: (Alain Resnais) I was amused & entranced by Last Year the first time I saw it many years ago. It stuck with me, like those long halls & endless tracking shots, endless voice over about those long halls and the somber organ score by Francis Seyrig (available on iTunes). The VHS of the film was murky so when the crisp Criteron edition came out a few years ago I was thrilled. The artiness of it is laugh-out-loud at times but the I love every arch, contrived moment of it. I watched it again a few weeks ago in fact & was as delighted by it as the first time I saw it.

art03 street art

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman) I was working for Famous Players when this was released. It was divine on the big screen, the snow was hypnotic, the Cohen songs, all be it not period, were perfect and haunting. I’ve seen it many times & even watched it with commentary – fascinating. The ending still stuns me.

Metropolis (Fritz Lang) I’d seen murky prints of this at the Bloor Cinema & on TV, but when I got the most recent, restored version I was amazed. The night club scenes are opulent, the workers walking in mass to work is brilliant and the score by Gottfried Huppertz is a wonder (available on iTunes). I even have the novel by Thea von Harbou.

art02 trashed art

Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz) – a mother of a movie that I’ve seen countless times & each time its compelling, gorgeous to look at and a great study in martyrdom. Joan Crawford is a power of nature here, & rarely disappoints in anything. I have the novel by James M. Cain, as well as the screenplay. Don’t get me going or I’ll start quoting. The recent TV remake is fine work as well but lacks the glamour this version achieved in film noir black & white.

art01 mixed mediums

MacBeth (Rupert Goold) Patrick Stewart as the good laird is brilliant, as is Kate Fleetwood as the Lady. I’ve seen this countless times on stage & other film versions but this one is such a breathtaking rendering I don’t think I want to see another version. Watched twice so far. Strong, ominous & chilling this is highly recommended.

samples

canto 14

‘Come in! Come in!’

we were in another chamber

the floor covered with prickling grass

that wounded all who trod on it

‘Come in! Come in!

We have been waiting for you.’

The chamber was rows of cubicles

each with a blurred visage

looking eagerly to us

‘We will audit your lives

To give our final and absolute decision

We are right, you know

Regardless of what you think

We walk in the ways of the most sacred

We have the only correct approach

To gaining full and total absolution

To experience the final and infinite  justice

Each of us knows a better way than the next

And though we don’t agree

We all agree on one thing

You guys are fucked

You’ve had it

Everything you value is crap

Your art is shit

Total absolute shit

Who the fuck do you think you are

To call that painting

Where to do get off claiming

Your words are poetry

That they have any relevance

All writing is crap

All art is crap

Except the art we produce here

With your excrement.’

drops of hot shit came

from his finger tips and scorched

the open books on the desk

skidded over the paintings

darted at the statues

leaving a trail of soft disfigurement

‘Destruction is much more satisfying than creation

Don’t bother agreeing or disagreeing

We have made up our minds

Our decisions have been made

All is crap

Everything you believe in will die

So why love anything

Why bother with compassion

Compassion will not keep the rose living any longer

There is no grace

Not even we desire grace

There is no need for anything

We have reviewed the paltry days the life of the world

And it is wanting

It has been ceaselessly striving

After the impermanent

Your death is the only perfect art

The only perfect worship

you should devote yourselves to

Death and destruction.’

Verlaine lead me though

the twisting and burning grass

through the ever closing and grasping

smoke filled desks of the auditors

they howled

as we escaped their judgments

our ledgers were never open

for any of them to stain the pages

with coffee rings and donut crumbs

they were inconsolable

and hence experienced a greater

depth of despair than ever before

and were happy

lion

lion of the art world

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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

Suing Stephen King

I like long walks in the morning, usually heading around 9:30 – walk for about an hour at least. I have several directions I go in with some small variations day to day – some days north and west, others north & east, other south and either east or west. All the pictures I post are taken on these walks. Funny how, one day, for the first time in months, I’ll see a door against a telephone pole and then the following weeks I see cast off doors every where.

Taxi!!
Taxi!!

Most days I listen to podcasts – the three I’ve stuck to are: The Round Table, Disinfo, and Writing Excuses. All three have extensive archives on iTunes. The hosts are enthusiastic, informed and fun. Whether hunting for literary gold, figuring how to write yourself out of (or into) a corner or digging for truth in the USA these podcasts are ideal & inspiring.

ski don'ts
ski don’ts

I also think when walking – sometimes things like ‘I’d do him,’ or ‘Ditch the bitch, I’m the one you need.’ Often: ‘Why stop with your pram at the narrowest point, between the patio and planter, to have a conversation with your pram pushing pals?’ Or working out what to say about a spoken-word show or a poem or short story in my head. Current story idea that came to me on a walk is someone time travel technology to prove Shakespeare didn’t write his plays.

used, abused & cast off by Chucky
used, abused & cast off by Chucky

Someone asked me why I don’t feature that often and my reply was why don’t you ask the hosts why they don’t ask me more often.

writing sample
writing sample

this piece was fished out of my archive – from January 2009 –

do you think I have grounds to sue Stephen King

The Window

there was only the window

no room

only the view out

no view in

nothing to see in

nothing to see out

but the window

drew all eyes to the nothing outside

drew all eyes so none cared

that there was nothing inside to see

nothing to keep us there

only the need to look

to see

to be visually stimulated

all look

nothing to touch

nothing to see

but we kept looking

hoping something would appear

something would drift across

the endless expanse outside the window

what we needed

had to be out there

waiting   longing to be seen

to be discovered

by these eager greedy eyes

that no longer could look inward

that void was pitiless endless hopeless

while the window offered a change

a respite from that

soon it would appear

the alarming glass shattering sight

would appear

our senses would be gratified

the window felt like nothing

the glass was a surface we couldn’t penetrate

it didn’t give when pressed

didn’t smear when touched

steady unblinking window

open to the world outside us

open to potential

resistant to all attempts to smash it

nothing could break

its wavering openness

the surface wouldn’t ripple shudder quiver

bombs flames indifference

nothing had an effect on it

nothing made it more or less open than it was

even worship didn’t speed

the realization of hopes

it remained open even when

we closed our eyes

when we slept it remained

dreams couldn’t penetrate to the other side

there was no room

there was just this window

between us and the world

couldn’t tell if it was glass air solidified

it cast no reflection

had no taste texture sound

all that passed through it was

light

eyes strained painful red rimmed eyes

seeking sight seeking a sign

any sign

a heron flying in a dim morning light

anything but the expanse remained

unaltered

all these years

soon something would appear soon

and we would be there faces

pressed

ready at last for the first sight of something

outside of ourselves

Yukio Mishima

Mishima is one of the major influences on my prose writing – one that no one might suspect. I discovered him way back in the 70’s reading about the filming of The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea. I quickly became obsessed – think of doing that without the Internet – ordering books through a local book store or via mail from the publisher.

little blue chair
little blue chair

I don’t know when I found out he was gay. That certainly quickened my pulse. I read everything I could get and tracked things down as they became available in English. Plus some biographies.

‘His first major work, Confessions of a Mask (1949), dealt with his discovery of his own homosexuality. The narrator concludes, that he would have to wear a mask of ‘normality’ before other people to protect himself from social scorn.’

Mask and Forbidden Colors showed me gay life far removed from North America and even though he wrote about a difficult and repressed experiences it showed me that gay was everywhere, so to speak. That I wasn’t alone in it. He also showed me that one could write about it without porn.

very blue door
very blue door

Although I was already a fan of ‘serious’ writers like Fowler, Heller, Dickens – Mishima was my first real experience of another culture, another world. His epic The Sea of Fertility made it clear that even a queer could write monumental, complex and engaging literature.

another blue chair
another blue chair

I was let down by the film Mishima. As much as I enjoyed seeing scene from his books on the screen it did’t seem to capture his spirit – not that I know what it is but I wasn’t there.

writing sample
writing sample

this is an old piece – written under the influence of Mishima

WordPress removed – for some reason – all enjambments & spaces

Chrysanthemum

The sword

as sunrise

Highlights

the water

Flash cuts of red

A silver bird

A black curve

At the vision’s edge

Cautiously circling

Hedging

Toward another perfect landing

A black curve

A slowly forming oval

Figures into connections

Linear sensibility

Practicing the new motion

The cutting motion

Of ends realized

I cage

With sun and steel

The silver birds

Hoping

To dissect their eyes

To find what they see

Beyond my sight

I know they see more

They feed from other hands

I will not rest

Till I’ve emptied their hollow bones

Of soaring fluids

I must know more

Than the aching birth of flight

I must feel more

Than the caress of turbulence

I must have their sight

A feathered rhapsody

In a shimmering celebration

Another perfect landing

On an endless spiral

Of consecrated breath

Breath held

As long as possible

Released

To line a formed cloud

I release the silver birds

They soar and shimmer

Beyond all edges

Black round flickers

Their eyes intact

They see black curves

They fly spirals

The black curves are death

A vision I leave to them

Till my own bones

Are so hollow

All that remains is silver

From within the cloud

A silver bird

Wings on straw bones

A floating airfoil song

A crescendo of invention

A moment of escape

A curve of celebration

For this perfect landing

The vision

as heartbeat

Reflects

the edge

Fresh curves of black

gull uncaged
gull uncaged

‘quack quack, darlings.’

A hot sweltering night didn’t keep Noir fans from packing the house. I kept hoping the ice-cream truck would show up during the breaks in the show. There must be an app for that 🙂

they breed in the sewer
they breed in the sewer

First up was Trasharella who give an reading of Philip Cairns’ ‘Why I’m Not A Star’ to be featured at Gay Play Day this fall. An affectionate reflection on Philip’s acting experiences starting with being told, at age 11, he was too effeminate by a casting director, to getting cast as a gay duck in last years Fringe ‘quack quack, darlings.’ Comic, ironic, sometime bitter, biting & always honest he left us wanting more.

one brown shoe
one brown shoe

Music feature Marcus Walker was up next. Accompanied by Nelson Sobral & a fine sax player (whose name I didn’t get) he did a set of songs whose sensual rhythms rode the pulse of a hot summer night. The soaring sax slithered sweetly over the Marcus’s well-crafted songs of romance and taxi rides. This what adult contemporary should be.

hop along
hop along

Final feature was Greg “Ritallin” Frankson – whom I have heard a few times. He opened with ‘My Home Is Here’ his response to being asked, frequently, ‘where are you from?’ As if being black means you are from somewhere else even when one’s family is tenth generation Canadian.

In my coal mine research I found traces of a ‘lost’ history of the black community in Cape Breton – men brought up from the Caribbean in the mid-1800’s to work in the mines, families that have never moved, yet who, I’m sure, still get asked ‘where are you from?’

I ducked out in time to catch the 10 p.m. street car to Bathurst so didn’t stick it out to the hot & sticky end for a great night.

City of Valleys now removed for prepublication work.

……..

on stage Noir July 2013
on stage Noir July 2013

#Five Alarm Smolder

During the Loyalist workshop someone asked me how long it took to write the poem I had handed out as my business card – it was Critic – which took less than ten minutes to spew out – I had that ‘crayons’ line in my head for a couple of days and with the prompt ‘critic’ the rest of it flooded out. Add another thirty minutes for edits & it was done. I hated to tell him how easy it was to do, how quick it was to get out of me – but I am practiced. Writing everyday helps, a lot.

skating away on the gravel of the new day
skating away on the gravel of the new day

Now here’s an older & much longer piece – Five Alarm Smolder. The initial spew was once again ten minutes – I let word associations take the momentum along – variations on expected phrases, repeated images, a dash of the surreal – made it flow pretty quickly. In editing I did a fair bit of reworking that flow – sequences of images is important to me – theme & variation – the ending called for a bit more thinking.

tonight a snake in a box
snake in a box?

The last step was the title. Often I’ll use an image from the piece, but this time I opted for something that reflected the ‘smolder’ of emotions that underpinned the piece.

How long does it take to write something? Better question would be how long does it take to finish something. Who knows, sometimes I rewrite as I read a piece aloud in front of an audience. Even in pulling ‘Smolder’ up for posting here I did some tinkering with it – a poem is never finished.

love a la crock
love a la crock

Five Alarm Smolder

it seemed the best way to rekindle

the fire in your heart

was to run over to the nearest bar & drink

till there was only a stumble of drunks to deal with

with no way out except to break the windows

you get the picture

yeah   I know drawing it in crayons

on the bedroom wall wasn’t a great idea

but you have to admit

I caught the fire using only the blues

like the blues you give anyone

lucky enough to catch you on our balcony

ready to jump

don’t do it

till I get a  coffee

I know I have to be careful

the contents may be hot

but wet will always put out the flame

it doesn’t makes much difference

what burns you out of my system

hot coffee or live flame

tossing your undies in the trash

was the only way

to keep your flesh ready and pliant

not that you kept them on long

yeah   not so funny

does it look like I’m laughing

all the way to the shadow of a home

where there once was a dart of hope

now just a tangle of empty coat hangers

in a clump I can’t pull apart

that once held everything you ever wore

dust doesn’t hang well

you know    I’m a total liar

I never picked up a drink because of you

wasn’t even tempted

sure you took something out of my life

I don’t need to breathe

I can’t get over the number of times

that I wanted to use your undies

to clean the coffee machine

so I would have a fresh cup

to dump in your laugh

I’m sure that behind closed eyes

you are smirking like a tried urinal

knowing you pissed me off one more time

but if you were here now

I’d probably take you back

but wouldn’t trust you

as far as you could throw my underwear

nice hat
nice hat

#GetIntoMyDrawers

nice drawers
nice drawers

Over the years I realized that Toronto really doesn’t have Spring. It’s damp and cold with flashes of sun then bam – hot and humid. I know summer is coming, and like nearly everyone I know, I can’t wait for these cold days to be over but I know putting away the long-johns isn’t going to hurry things at all.

dropped drawers
dropped drawers

So April is poetry month – something like cancer awareness month – only there ain’t no cure for poetry – no one is really fund raising to put an end to it – most people are just hoping it’ll die on of its own if they just stop paying attention to it –

snow drawers like your drawers
snow drawers like your drawers

I’m doing my bit to make things worse by posting a poem a day on my facebook site – each one will only be up till the next one gets posted – so get’em while you can. I’ve spent the last three months working on short story so getting back into the imagist space will be pleasant for me – and maybe for you too :-).

#NaNoWriMo – a-gram – POV tango

Not enough hours in the day during November. Just passed the 40,000 word mark in my NaNo project – I’m happy with the way things are flowing and that I’m getting words down without being overly concerned with getting the right words on the first draft. In some spots I knew what emotional content I wanted so stated it baldly. I had make it more subtle in rewrite.

not the little pink sock

The same with inserting my research material. I have lots of facts and info on coal mining in the mid 1920‘s but rather than going to it constantly as I spew word I can put in correct terminology later. I  remind myself I’m not writing a how-to-manual either or a historical thesis on social life of the time – this is fiction.

I haven’t been able to find a way to fit in all my research – some of it would, I think, take over or call for more attention that my story needs – there had been an influx of blacks from the Caribbean imported to work in the coal mines – there is a great story there and I think even alluding to it would be unfair to their story.

little pink sock?

I’m also enjoying how scenes write themselves. When the miners went on strike they, at one point, rioted and looted & burnt down the company stores. My male protagonist gets caught up in this and we see events for his pov. In a later scene my female pov becomes an observer of the fire – but I wanted her to become more active but how? – well why not a burning building with a baby inside.

oh little pink sock – where are you?

melodrama that fits the writing of that era – she rescues the baby but gets snagged on the stairs trying to get out – my male protagonist steps up and frees her – information I didn’t have when I started the looting of the store. Now I can go back to his pov to add that rescue.nasample

It was night when they came to the surface with the rest of their level’s day shift. Birk headed straight to the wash up room after he hung his work clothes on their hook and pulled them up to the ceiling.

This was when he moved as fast as he could. The first in got the cleanest water. At first he wasn’t sure where the blood in the bowl was from then he recalled the dust up with Clancy. Showed him this little guy can’t be dealt with that way.

He glanced up at Clancy who was opposite him splashing water onto himself. He was trying to wash the grime out of his red hair.

“Yer hair will be black fer’ver m’son.”

“Only those don’t know how to wash have that problem.” Clancy replied.

“Get a move on,” one of the waiting miners shouted. “Some of us got dust to wash outta our arse hair too, you know.”

The miners laughed.

Birk dried himself quickly and got back into into his overalls and shirt. He could smell the clean of the shirt. His body ached for that big bed. Ah yes that almost made the day bearable now that he had that all to himself. Something to look forward too. No snoring Geo to deal with ever again.

“Same time tomorrow, soft arse.” Birk gave Clancy one last shove. “Keep pissin’ on them hands too or ya won’t last the week.”

Jake was at the exit gate waiting for him. Birk couldn’t wait to to tell him about the new guy he was breaking in.

When he got home he tugged off his work boots and socks. Tossed the socks and his face rag into a bucket and poured water over them. He’d scrub them out in the backyard later.

Blackie was home sitting at the kitchen table.

“Gotta another new guy. Why do I always get’ em. Manny got that sweet job in the yard. When’s the union gonna do something for me beside taking dues. I shoudda had that spot, you know. That Red Mac never liked me much.”

“My fault b’y.” Blackie nodded his head. “Should a been a mick. Not yer fault he takes his direction from the priest. Manny was the priest’s pet. You know that. Probably told Red Mac the devil would get him if he didn’t do right by Manny.”

“What about right by me. I’s been there longer ‘n him, too. But I showed that new guy his place fast enough.”

His mother came in from the backyard with some carrots from their garden.

“Jus look at these.” She held up a some stunted roots. “Soil here’s so bad nothing grows. I tires every year and its the same.”

Maddy followed her in with some daisies.

“Thank you little miss.” Birk reached for them.

“They’s for Geo.” she hid them behind her back.

“I should a guessed. How long for we eat?”
“When they get here. Sheila bringing a fish stew she made to thank me for the cake I baked.” His mother wiped at the table.

“I’ll be above.” Birk went to the stairs. “How’s Sal?”
“Still the same. Sat up for a spell though to look out the window. Weather’ll be fine soon to take her outside for awhile. Sunshine’ll fix her up fast.”

Birk went up to his room. Before he went in he looked in on Sal. She was propped up with a couple of pillows stroking the hair of a rag doll his mother had made for her.

“How’s my sweet sister today.” He said gently as he sat on the end of the bed.

“Don’t” Sal flushed in alarm. “Don’t get that dirt on dolly.”

“I …” Birk stood and walked out of the room.

He splayed on his bed and stared at the ceiling. At least his room didn’t want to be rid of him like his sisters did, like his new workmate did.

He drifted off to sleep to be wakened by loud laugher from below. His brother had arrived with his new wife. Same old Sheila but new all the same. He went down to the kitchen.

Someone with his back to Birk was talking to Blackie. The someone turned around. It was Clancy.

“Good, great news come rejoicing.” His mother said happily. “Yer brother has found someone to board here. Say hello to Clancy Sinclair.”

“We’ve met.” Birk said. “Board here? Where?”
“My room,” Goe said. “Thas a big bed. Yer used to sharing it.”

“Yeah with me brother not some soft arse who thinks I’m no better than a rat.”

little pink sock happiness

The Beautiful and The Scary

paper backspace writer

The October BuDa was a chilling event. With horror poems from wicked host Lizzie Violet, vampire fiction from Monica S Kuebler, to my chainsaw patricide all the bases were cover plus a hot set from L’rock to take some of that eerie chill off before sending people out in the cool of the evening.

After fine open stagers I was up first with my Go Bump set. I find that when I don’t stick to what people have come to expect of me – out-there-queer, sexual, funny they aren’t sure how to react. So my darkish set met with a luke-warm response – without punchlines or tender endings, audiences aren’t satisfied. I did sell some chapette books & made enough to cover my basic costs. The set was recorded by Myke Mazzei for a future cd.

christmas shopping before halloween

Second set feature was Monica S Kuebler who read a choice section from her online serial novel Bleeder. A seasoned spoken-word performer she picked the right scene from Chapter 6, one the right length to hold our interest. ‘blood crusted tank-top and bird’s nest hair’ quickly sketched in the heroine – ‘gristly clean-up in aisle twelve’ offered a bit humour in what was a very tense as the heroine realizes ‘this was a blood farm and she was the prey.’

gutter (g)love

Music feature was Laura L’Rock who did a great set of radio friendly rock – a nice change from the Mitchellesque folkies who often hit non-electric stages. The catchy songs were built on strong melodies, lyrics and sweet, yet rocking, acoustic backing supplied by Nik Beat & well, to be honest, I didn’t catch the other guitarist’s name. “I feel you choke me through the telephone line.”

writing sample
writing sample

a piece that almost made it into Go Bump

Give Me A Little Sign

a bluejay feather dances over snow

the first full moon of the new year

a silent wrap of smoke

forms the letters of a name

whose name   mine   yours

our hopes for the future

a dangling curtain moving at dawn

a pale   handless shape

peers out into the fog

before the fire burns pure ashes

to scatter sooty on the snow

for the next fitful omen

a bus pulling up at the right moment

an old friend alive

where you least expected to see them

the number nine keeps popping up

how many times before it has meaning

like that bluejay feather

it has to have a meaning

a good moment to do something

but I don’t know where to begin

play the lottery  submit that manuscript

make that phone call I’ve been putting off

should I act blindly

or bide my time for a better opportunity

a voice in an empty room

a phone call that goes unanswered

was that wrong number the right one

where are my lucky shoes

what do the stars have to say

entrails of run over squirrel tell me

it isn’t wise to dash across a busy street

grounds in the bottom of my Tim’s cup

tell me it’s time they cleaned that damn machine

that look in your eyes tells me

it’s time to drop my guard

will our clothes piled on the floor

the fold of pants legs and t-shirts

twined accidentally in the dark

be a sign of more than pleasure to be had

is there a message in the goosebumps on your back

in the fevered breath on my thigh

can I let a kiss be a kiss

not the next fitful omen

bunny

@TorPoet
@TorPoet