Between The Lines

Between The Lines

so this is how it ends

no bang

no whimper

but with a snort

two lines of blow

careful spread 

on your cellphone screen

<>

that you did 

this sort of thing

didn’t bother me particularly

as long as you did it

without me as an audience

as long as you did it

outside of my residence

<>

when you aren’t here

it’s not a part of my life

not a part of our play

our play is best confined

to the two of us

<>

substances

are like a third party

one that quickly becomes the focus

it takes over

demands to be 

the only thing that counts

me being in the room

was a distraction

<>

you being in the room

was now a disappointment

and when you left

I was relieved to see you go

not wishing you could stay longer

those two lines

closed a door

that will never open to you again

This is a real life experience. I met this man on a site were younger men who prefer older men ‘meet.’ Most gay sites do have a range of ages but on many, older is horrifying, unseemly &, to be frank, discouraged. But agism is another post. I’m not an aggressive looker but if you want to win the lottery you at least have to buy a ticket 😉 Trust me online dating is a lottery.

He contacts me. Sends me a few sexy pics. Young, straight neither of which do that much for me but he was short, hairy, dark & eager. Number, texts get exchanged & eventually he shows up at my door &, gasp, is almost exactly as he presented himself to be. By almost I mean he looked younger than he claimed but he did show me his ID. By young I mean early 20’s, though emotionally he was just an over sexed 16 year old.

I saw him irregularly for a few years. My experience with guys in recovery kept me from taking him too seriously but I saw no reason to be parental with him either. He loved texting me on the sly when he was at clubs with his girlfriend. My lack of trust was justified. My availability decreased & we weren’t so attached I felt the need to tell him why.

He lost job. He got another one. He moved in with a girlfriend. He lost a girlfriend. He moved back in with his parents. He’s text at 6 in the morning wanting to see me asap – as if that could happen. I was more amused than anything else. This last time was after being ‘busy’ when he texted three or four times with a months between each text, I relented.

The occasion, two years ago now, went pretty much as the piece describes it. I may have heard from him since, I’m not sure, as I deleted his # from my phone, which I do often when I haven’t heard someone for a while or don’t care to hear from them. You know, some people will text expecting you to know who they without tell you who it is that is texting. This year I did get a few festive hellos from these unrecognized number strangers.

So guys keep this in mind – If I’m not the main attraction I’m not interested 🙂

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Nine

Nine

O when I was nine

I was still a child

there was no instant communication

news travelled slow

on the radio TV newspapers

that provided an innocence

I knew about war

because my Dad had fought in one

he was a man

my mother was a woman

I was a boy child

who only knew what the culture 

of the time

expected of my gender 

<>

O when I was nine

I did know I wasn’t like other boys

I played backlot baseball

I played with dolls

I  wasn’t the boy my dad expected

I didn’t like to fight

like other boys

I never understood 

why physical violence was required

to be accepted

<>

O when I was nine

I learned to swim

looking at the differences

between boys and girls

anatomy I didn’t understand

the boys where more interesting

I knew shame

when we were caught

I had fear

but no closet

sex was dirty regardless

of the gender of the object

<>

O when I was nine

I don’t that I was making waves

as I waded from nine to nineteen

by the time I left nineteen

I knew

these were dangerous waters

at nine there was only

the fear of getting caught

not the fear

of my culture drowning me

like an unwanted litter of kittens

I heard on a TV documentary about children that our sense of self was basically formed by the time we are ten years old. By then we have absorbed the ‘teachings’ of TV behaviours that inform our subconscious. So, back in the day, I was aware of what the culture of the time expected of my gender. I was also aware that it wasn’t the right fit but I hadn’t developed the language for that beyond feeling it was the wrong fit. Today thanks to instant communication children have a greater knowledge of gender variations. I doubt that at the age of five I would have understood what a faggot was, children today do know what it means. 

Where was I when I was nine? We had just settled in Sydney, Cape Breton after moving across Canada for a couple years. My mother & I had spent some time with her family in Wales during this time as well. I remember ‘living’ in Moncton, Stellerton or was it Truro for short periods of time & going to schools there, briefly. Finally in Sydney, were we lived in three different neighbourhoods before my dad bought a house in Ashby.

One result was that I spent those formative years as a displaced person – someone who was different. My Dad prodded me into things that could show me how to ‘fit in’: cub scouts, YMCA. I did the best I could but felt like an outsider &, as I recall, was fine with that. I did get these weird mixed messages ‘why can’t you be like other kids’ then when I wanted some fad item ‘why can’t you think for yourself.’

I survived partially by hiding in booze & partially by writing & painting as I gradually found language for what I was. Though then that language was loaded – an abomination unto the Lord – sort of stuff. Today I know the tragic flaw wasn’t my sexuality but the way culture regarded not only lgbtq but sexuality itself.


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I’m So Cute

I’m So Cute

you’ve used up my trust

yes 

I know you don’t mean any harm

no 

it doesn’t hurt

but I asked you to stop

because it is meaningless

yet distracting

<>

it is like the tip of the ice-burg

that small act

is meant to be affectionate

but I can’t stand it

I don’t enjoy it

it represents your lack of respect

after I’ve asked you not to

<>

if it means 

to you

that I don’t have a sense of humour

such is life

it’s not a control issue

on my part

it is the same as

serving food I’m allergic to

then getting pissed off

when I refuse to eat it

or insisting on playing

music you know I can stand

just to be playful

to be annoying

because I’m so cute

when I’m annoyed

<>

enjoy that memory

One of the bunch I used to hang out with on the east coast was a table tapper. It was a habit he wasn’t conscious of & as we talked he would play rhythms to whatever music might be on. He didn’t find it distracting but I did & told him a few times. He tried to control it but after a few drinks tappy tap tap tap. It was harmless enough but eroded my willingness to spend time with the gang when he was around. This piece isn’t about him, directly, nor is it about my need to control, really 🙂

It’s more about the power shifts in relationships – how much is one party willing to put up with or sacrifice in a spirit of cooperation. For some people the meaning of love is putting up with anything & everything, you know, the codependency dance romanticized by movies.

There’s also a micro-aggression subtext here – if what is said or done isn’t all that bad or direct then get over it. In fact being told to ‘get over it’ or ‘it’s just a joke’ is micro-aggression. To question their ‘control issues’ gets turned around into you having ‘control issues.’ 

This goes beyond someone tapping a table, which is usually not done to irritate but a nervous habit, but to something like someone who – thinking sticking their tongue in your ear is fun & should be sexually arousing when you find it intolerable. When you say things like ‘stop it’ they try to turn into a game & it becomes you being a wet blanket for not playing along – they just want to be playful. When you tell them where to stick their tongue they aren’t playing anymore. 🙂


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Genius

Genius 

if you won’t trust

someone who won’t drink

with you

then you’ll never trust me

<>

if all your close friends

smoke up with you

we’ll never be close friends

<>

if you only respect 

someone who’ll do a line with you

shoot up with you

share a bowl with you

then I have no role in your life 

we’ll never bond

over self-destruction

<>

if only self-destructive writers

are real writers

then I’ll always be a fake

a wanna be

who really doesn’t warrant

your attention

<>

I’m just one of those shallow dilettantes

a hanger-on

without the guts

the stamina

the creative genius

to deal with life through

a haze of booze 

drugs

<>

you are clearly better off with me

I’ve heard variations of this more than once: ‘I’ll never trust someone who won’t drink’ or sometimes to the effect ‘someone who won’t take a drink with me.’ You can replace ‘drink’ with ‘toke’ ‘line’ or any other substance. There are men & women who will only party-and-play – if there’s no drug involved they aren’t interested.

The history of destructive addiction & creativity is deep. Considering Dostoyevsky’s alcoholism, gambling habits & writing by hand I’m amazed he got so much written 🙂 For many writer’s i.e Hemingway, Dylan Thomas their drinking is seen as an unfortunate flaw that somehow enhances their reputation. They didn’t have rehabs in those days.

I’ve been involved with workshops, readings etc where there has been a very clear division that occurs when I decline a drink of excellent triple malt scotch. It seems I say ‘no thanks’ without sufficient apology. Ditto for declining to slip out for a toke or do a line. 

Then again that division may come from the fact that I’m not super-social in most situations to being with – by super-social I mean I don’t share stories about my medical condition, children, recent escapades – I’m just there to write, maybe read on the one mike. Nothing to prove, nothing to lose. This piece is more an observation than a complaint though. I am more amused by this equating of a drink with trust. Though I’d rather be judged by my work than the quality of the scotch I decline. 

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iWitness

iWitness

I turned off the sound

mute evidence

is easier to ignore

if I could turn of the headlines

the bottom of the screen scroll

I would do that

<>

I don’t look at the images

as closely

when I can’t hear

the inane babbling of announcers

underlining what is flickering

<>

I don’t want to witness 

this camera-shaped reality

any more than I want to eyewitness 

these events

I can’t look away though

that would be denial

I have to admit these things happen 

are happening

regardless of the spin

that results in 

no one being accountable 

except the victims 

it is clearly their fault

for being where the camera is pointing

<>

I’m fine with that

as long as the camera

never points at me 

Talking with a friend recently about the effects of covid distancing & isolation it was clear we live in a culture addicted to distraction. It is almost irrelevant what that distraction is, we want entertainment not information. Take the US election situation, the ideal distraction from the covid pandemic. I’m surprised that the votes of those who have died of covid since the U.S. election have not been declared invalid.

I stopped reading the newspaper many years ago & trust me I became less stressed. I have another friend who suffers from insomnia & ends up watching the news to pass the time. When I suggested turning off the news they reacted ‘this is important, I can’t hide my head in the sand.’ They get NO sympathy from me when they complain about not sleeping well. Stress is more appealing to them than sleep.

All news is ‘camera-shaped reality.’ The lens has no consciousness but the the user of the picture can change its meaning without altering a pixel. History is seen through the eyes of the historian, not the context of the actual time, but by the time of the historian. There is so much history lost because it was considered irrelevant, or unsavoury by the historian. All those female impressionist painters considered dilettantes in favour of male real painters. Don’t get me going on the erasure of lgbt facts of famous lives.

The piece reiterates another of my hobby-horses – the blaming of victims. Not to forgive is often perceived as being even more serious than the actual ‘crime.’ Pressing charges becomes seeking revenge as opposed to having some one face the consequences of their act. ‘I’m sorry’ isn’t enough but for some it should be – if they go that far. 

Are you ready for your close-up?

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I Sleep Around

I Sleep Around

when I say

I sleep around

I really mean

I have regular sex

with the same different men

<>

I don’t actually sleep

I’m quite awake when I’m with them

they on the other hand

sometimes fall asleep

in my arms

not out of boredom

or even exhaustion

but out of comfort

<>

men who have had an opportunity

to step away from the stressors

of their lives

for a few hours

escaping 

lovers wives kids jobs 

empty apartments

where they can leave behind definitions 

to be naked

to be nothing but enfolded

safe

I still check in at certain gay dating sites & am amazed that they are still as active. I decline all approaches & let those interested know no play until covid is ‘controlled.’ Not going down until the numbers go down – actually until the vaccine is provided. Not that I’ve been totally celibate but I have severely limited my contact to one buddy I’ve seen for years, who works from home etc. Even that is sporadic thanks to the pandemic.

BC (before covid19) I could predict when who would be looking for their ‘step away.’ If it’s Tuesday is must be …. Some wanted a quick shower alone as they were dropping by after work, another liked to shower with me. One drops by earlier to watch a movie, have supper & play after 🙂 I’ve never been a hump & dump sort of guy. 

As I write this I’m sure some of you might think my moral compass is broken, that I’m reckless, that I have no shame – a man my age should be beyond such base interactions. Obviously I am not an example of a good homosexual who is eager to be assimilated into acceptance by the heteronormative culture I’m stuck in. Or perhaps I’m a compulsive liar whose sex life is confined to looking at dick pics on gay causing site & this all a fantasy.

Maybe all that is true but, you know, I’m not to lose any sleep over that.


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Patriotism

Patriotism 

it wasn’t a war

of ideology 

or for our defence 

it was a battle

for the sake of the economy

manufacturing jobs for profit

selecting the undesirable 

sending them off to die

to thin the population

to spare those who could

afford not to go to war


so they could stay at home

reap the financial rewards

of others’ sacrifice

<>

it wasn’t a war

to prove what a patriot you were

but to keep fat wallets

from thinning

On one of my trips to Washington DC I made a point of visiting Arlington National Cemetery. It was a standard hot & humid day so I was spared the ambiance of those overcast or just after the rain photos. I was moved all the same by the rippling shifting patterns of the endless rows of crosses as I walked through. Some had roses tucked to the tops, or wreaths, even one with photos left at the base. I experienced a sense of a loss that spans centuries. 

https://topoet.ca/2016/06/02/arlington/

I also knew a bit about the racial nature of demographics the draft in the USA. War is big business – military production pulled Canada & USA out of the depression. Wars have been declared solely to bolster the reputations of national leaders & divert attention from domestic issues (which in the USA haven’t been successfully addressed since the Civil War).

I find it dismaying when a head of state praises the patriotism of the services from the comfortable security of his million dollar office while those in the services struggle with the physical & psychological damage of war. If they choose not to be exploited they are unpatriotic.

The fact of war, being a soldier is something I can imagine but most of my imagination has been fed by films, by the rhetoric of brave men & women fighting for my freedom. I had considered, at the end of high school, enlisting but being a little queer boy knew it was ultimately not the place for me. I had no examples of lgbt serving in the forces to encourage me either. I’ve read enough about the history of lgbt in both the US & Canadian services to know we did exist there, but just like all minorities, we were okay as long we served a purpose then we could be drummed out for our sexuality without pensions etc.

What wallets did that pension money end up in?


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Elevator

Elevator  

the elevator door opened

there was a woman

alone

she stepped back

to let me enter

I didn’t get on

I let the door shut

so she could continue

her ride alone

I live a relatively insular life – social distancing was fairly easy for me even before covid19 made is culturally appropriate. My social interactions are limited to clerks & fellow travellers on the recovery road. That being said I am aware of the complexity of gender relationships, of the cultural context of masculinity, femininity, race.

I’m not sure what sparked this particular moment. The pācittiya spoke to not being alone with a woman & this is where it lead me. For the monks I suppose it was to keep them pure, untainted by temptation – because, clearly men cannot control their sexual urges & avoidance is the only solution. The same sort of reasoning was behind sexually segregated schools.

Rather than men having to exercise restraint just keep the bait out of sight. If they should get at it, it’s not their fault, it’s biology etc. For me some of this comes from our the dichotomy of our sex-o-phobic culture. Look but don’t lust – lust but don’t touch. If you don’t touch what’s your problem?

I’ve heard female friends talk about not feeling safe just walking cross the street after dark, feeling paranoid getting in an elevator with a male they don’t know. I’m glad I don’t have to live in that persistent undercurrent. I can’t remember the last time I was in an elevator.

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This Isn’t A Compliment

 Discernment

it’s not that it isn’t satisfying

in no way is this a judgement 

of the quality

the quantity

there may be deeper flavours

those aren’t the issues

really

it’s not that there’s a alternative

or some way

of not accepting what is offered

in favour of something else

enough is enough

even if it is only available now 

there is no need to apologize

explain

or delay

what is here

will have to do

this isn’t a complaint 

merely compliance 

taking it in

making the most of it

while admitting

this desire not to have more

at least not more of the same

We live in a paradoxical culture in which we are either polite to the point of codependency or enraged when our desire to control is thwarted. We say or do things we’d rather not do just to spare someone feelings then get pissed if they aren’t grateful enough. 

Often we’re dealing with people who see our disinterest as a person attack. Not to noisily agree with them is seen as arrogant, judgemental closed mindedness. 

Discernment becomes pretentiousness. As the current USA President demonstrates, to be even mildly critical is to be dismissed as an unpatriotic hater – if you aren’t blindly with us you are against us.

This piece is a list poem not one with with a direct plot line, no narrative other than the one the reader imposes on it. So if you didn’t find it had a beginning middle or logical ending – it doesn’t. It respects the readers’ ability to make connections, to find their way without every moment being sign-posted with neon arrows.

Some of the lines are things I’ve overheard, hear on TV/movies, read where people are talking about identity, sexuality, or food. Words have been given a spin but changing a letter, adding a letter etc. Pulling them out of one context & dropping them into another. Like the piece, this chat about the piece feels there is no need to apologize or explain. I’ve discovered that what I say & what you hear can be two different things anyway. 


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Nothing Doing

Get Off The Pot

there is a time & place

for everything

except this

because this a time for nothing

a time to do nothing

to save nothing

this isn’t that rainy day

this isn’t when

the cows come home

when the crows roost

so stop waiting

for those eggs to hatch

no matter what you have on your hands

this is not the time or place

to save stitches

to waste your breath

or make yet more excuses 

no more chances

there is no grace period 

it’s not now nor never

neither suits me fine

there is no better time

for doing nothing

Doing nothing is a difficult concept in a culture geared to productivity. Being idle is seen as a waste of time, or as being lazy. Time off time doesn’t really exist when one has laundry to do, a house to clean, a yard to rake, children to look after, pets to tend to, boxsets of hit TV shows to binge watch. When we are deprived of distractions we panic.

What do you do in your ‘spare time?’ Plan a vacation check flights & hotels so you can get away from your routine & do nothing? When you get there is a rush from museum to restaurant – hiking trails – or finding a quiet spot in a park & sitting there breathing 🙂 Doing nothing is hard work/

I have been trying to break some of my busy habits. One step was to stop carting my iPod around with me whenever I left the house. My life had a sound track that never seemed to stop. A sound track that became a buffer between me & what was actually around me. If I ran into friends while on my walk I would be miffed that I’d have to turn off my iPod to listen to them. Or think – don’t they see I’m busy listening.

I recently stopped reading when I take a pee – I didn’t want to piss away those previous moments when I could be reading a few pages of some vitally important book. Why not do one thing at time, right. Enjoy the flow of the moment 🙂

I am not yet at the point where I can do nothing though. The closest I get is on my walks but even those have extra layers: eyes opened for photos, mulling over blog posts, wondering what to cook for dinner on the weekend. I think one of the reasons for my routines is so I can think less. I essential know what I’m going to serve every day for dinner – variations on the same things. i.e. Monday is always rice with veggies, steamed cabbage & steamed salmon. Herbs & spices for the rice will change from week to week.

One of the Artist’s Way tasks was to listen to a side of an lp. To just listen to it without doing anything else. Sit there & do nothing but listen. Let the music be music not background, not inspiration, memory cue or even meditation. It was a challenge. Are you up to it?
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