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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Don’t Take My Time

My Time

I am a creature of routine

no matter how hot the guy

I am unavailable at certain times

often the only time they are free

which they take personally

even though all we know

about each other are profile pics

& what we claim are our likes

 

they act as if my time boundary

is playing hard to get

or just playing them

a sign I’m not really interested

that all I want is their desire

not their bodies

one guy said ‘if you’re going to be that way

good luck because you’ll need it’

as if my schedule 

was a character fault

 

one called me inflexible

though I had suggested other times

other days

his inflexibility was of no concern to him

whereas mine was arbitrary

whatever 

I have a life

I don’t set it aside for no dick

 

or perhaps they see it

as control

that I am making it clear

I am the dominant, the top,

not some submissive bottom bitch

gasping eager for their randy visit

 

even if I am eager

it’s still my time

I have an acquaintance in recovery who will phone & launch into their conversation. No hello, no is this a good time, no how are you. I will stop them asap if I’m busy but they’ve never learned to say – is this a good time. I have another friend in recovery who calls & really needs to meet facto face for a real talk. I suggest times – none of which fit his schedule – he assumes that for the sake off recovery I’ll change my schedule to suit his needs. I’ve done this a few times only to have him text to say he’d be late or etc.

What does this have to do with ‘My Time’ – recovery has taught me to respect my own needs, to respect my boundaries & not to let people-pleasing turning into martyrdom. Times I’ve been persuaded to make allowances for another’s time constraints have rarely worked well for either party.

Sticking to my guns often has people acting as if my not being inconvenienced by them is an inconvenience to them. That also might have to do with he fact that I don’t apologize, any more, or explain either, when I say ‘not free at that time.’ Odd how being firm can be seen as arrogant or indifferent.

I no longer take the bait of being guilted into being agreeable. I’d rather be seen as unreasonable than being seen as an ‘any time Chuck.’ Now in the age of covid distancing such inflexibility is even more necessary & a covid ‘no’ is acceptable to many. Even if I am eager, now, it’s still my life.


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Eat This Book

The Boy and the Book

the dad admonishes

do not eat the book

the little boy

old enough to talk

but clearly pre-school

is gnawing on the picture book

 

I wonder

is the paper digestible

is the ink toxic

what about the plastic

on the shiny cover

is it picture book of animals

does the boy expect

to find out what

a lion tastes like

can what nourishes his mind

also feed his body

will this taste haunt him

as he searches for it

in books  cookies  flesh

that bring back that memory

 

or will he realize

books are for reading

not for eating

that filling his head

will leave his stomach empty

that no matter

how many books he reads

his mind will never be satisfied

that it’s time to close books

and start to feed the world

The line of dialogue in this piece is verbatim. I was a coffee shop waiting for a friend to arrive. A dad dad said this to his child. No anger but forceful enough to the boy to stop for a few minutes. When Dad went to get their order the gnawing started again. The set up is real & I started writing this piece while waiting. 

It quickly become a list poem as wonder what I wonder about paper, poison & the like.  The book belongs to the cafe as they frequently have families drop by so I also wondered about how sanitary it was but I’m not in charge & am very cautious about infringing on people’s privacy. Watching brought back a memory of myself at about the same age wondering why a picture of a piece of cake didn’t taste like a piece of cake. My mother thought that was hilarious.

Then I wander off into speculation – turning the moment into a meditation on childhood’s imprinted memory. Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past starts with a smell from his childhood that triggers the endless book. I have a few smells like that, though I don’t have specific moments conjured by them – the smell of baby powder is one, the smell of Evening In Paris is another. 

The piece becomes a bit more philosophical about aging – books aren’t for eating though ironically we are encouraged to feed our minds with information  🙂 The hunger for learning may never leave us but, hopefully, one realizes that the search for information can turn into an avoidance of action. There comes a time when one has to leave the expansive yet closed world of books & take part in the world. 

The piece pretty much wrote itself once I got started. It didn’t need much editing either. I have performed it a few times & it reads well. I love the innocence of it – no angst to grind, no politic or sexuality – just a sweet moment.


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Salt

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Salt

don’t hover

please don’t hover

in fact

please go to another room

the need for appreciation

that is so apparent on your face

drains the moment of all pleasure

I can’t enjoy

what you want me to enjoy

while you are glaring at me

daring me not to enjoy it

 

just go away

let me eat in peace

let me find my satisfaction

on my own

because as long as you are so eager

I’ll keep my pleasure

to myself

I won’t let on if I like it or not

I know the power of the poker face

in the face of your anticipation 

 

before you leave the room

please pass the salt

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Don’t Go

Please Don’t Go

why are we here

there’s not a house in sight

not a car

not even a convenience store

not even a star in the sky

when I said

I think we should be alone now

this isn’t what I had in mind

nothing to sit on

no wall to lean against

no trees

nothing

 

everyone knows

this is nowhere

when I said

I would be nowhere without you

I didn’t expect to be here

I expected to be alone with you

not nowhere without you

don’t go

how do I get out of here

how

which way is up

don’t go

 

please

don’t go

This piece starts as dream like movie moment – the narrator is lost, looking around & asking their lover where they are. No explanation of how they got there except that the lover is responsible. Tension is created as the narrator begins to set conditions – a place to ie sit. One starts to realize this guy probably on the demanding side, needy & expectant of the lover to fulfill without being so literal.

A Neil Young quote is always welcome & give the piece more of an actual context. This flips that ‘this is nowhere’ a bit ‘nowhere without you’ – one of those romantic cliches like I would be lost without your love (which is implied by the piece). I like to literalize those cliches – i.e. nowhere without you – let’s put the speaker in a place that is nowhere & see how they feel about it. Like the Monkey’s Paw in which the wish is granted literally, as opposed to the way the wisher fantasizes it will be fulfilled.

I enjoy the shift as my narrator becomes more ‘needy’ as a result of this wish fulfillment. I’ve resisted the temptation to expand the piece to make motivations clearer or cause clearer. Who granted this wish? Why? Even genders are removed. It’s like one of Beckett’s short plays only here we don’t even get actual voices to tell us anything about the character. The reader is left in the same physical void as the narrator.

In the end it isn’t even clear who the narrator is speaking to – is the reader ‘you?’


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Dusty

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

Dusty

I didn’t feel anything

was it supposed to hurt 

I thought this is how

it’s supposed to feel

not that I enjoyed the feeling

it wasn’t pain

it wasn’t pleasure 

merely

this is how I felt it always would be

that everyone lived in fear

 

this was the fear

that I was supposed to hide

or be hidden from

after enough time

I became unaware 

callose

I learned to live with it

didn’t conceive of being without it

 

it was like growing up

in a dark room

not knowing there was light

then one day

a window opens

to reveal the layers of dust

protection

I’ve been cloaked in

choked in

 

one fear replaces another

how much light can I shed

& still be safe

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No No No

No

no thank you

I’m not that hungry

 

I’ve learned 

it’s okay to say no

to what I don’t want

it has nothing to do with you

it’s not something I would

ordinarily eat anyway

I’m not watching my weight

just my intake

 

so no thank you

I’m really not hungry

I had a snack earlier

yes it looks good

but no thank you

 

why can’t you take no for an answer

no I won’t want it later

I realize all the work you put into it

the time it took

that you planned this specially for me

I am pleased by the efforts you took

but that’s not enough

to make me want to eat

what I don’t want to eat

 

I know where that compliance leads to

so I’m saying no now

I won’t be pressured

no doesn’t mean 

open for negotiation

if I let you talk me into this

you’ll think

you can talk me into anything

that you can coax me

into doing things I don’t want to do

even those harmless things

 

this no is relevant

no thank you

Based on a true story! Or rather on true stories. Some people take a ‘no’ to food, or a drink, or the drugs they love & want to share with you, as a rejection of them. The ‘no’ becomes your personal judgement on them as cooks, hosts or possible sex partners. One host who persistently offered me a drink thought I thought his wine wasn’t to my snooty standards. 

Similarly saying ‘no’ to the offer of some tokes in a bar became playing hard to get – I was merely refusing not to smoke up not refusing to socialize with them. But for many people booze, drugs = socializing. At one time I would do a little explaining about being in recovery etc but you know, in the long run, it wasn’t worth the effort.

If they can’t understand a simple ‘no’ it isn’t up to me to justify that. Explaining can quickly become negotiation. If you won’t do this maybe you’ll do that instead. It create a conversation of persuasion that I’m not interested in. As the menu of options increases my interest decreases.

At a restaurant with an extensive wine list the waiter offered several he felt would compliment my meal perfectly. I told him clearly that I don’t drink & that I wasn’t interested in his suggestions. In fact every entree on the menu had a suggested wine listed with it. I wanted to say – if I need wine to make the food taste good then I really don’t want anything.

Of course ‘food’ here is symbolic for the many things people present hoping we’ll take – emotional demand, time demands, sexual trade-offs. Taking ‘no’ for answer is defeat. But if they aren’t listening to me & see my ‘no’ as a challenge I’m not interested.


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Water

Swim

 

it’s not that I can’t swim

I don’t trust the water

what lies underneath it

in the silt 

until my foot feels it

even in a swimming pool

I cringe at the thought 

of all those other bodies

of those pieces of broken glass

invisible in the reflected light

 

the water is safe

the lake is pure

the seaweed is harmless

the chlorine protects me

none of which adds to my comfort

the bathtub is deep enough for me

but people drown in tubs

 

I minimize my risks

yes I can swim

I don’t go the the beach

I don’t sit by the side of the pool

I won’t expose my skin

to the sun

for longer than necessary

and never for pleasure

I won’t even wade

with bottoms of my trousers rolled

 

it’s not that I can’t swim

I’m not in love

The key to this fun piece is “I minimize my risks.” I’ve buried that line in the middle so that what this starts out as – a sort of display of paranoia – becomes about well, actually, it is pretty much about paranoia. It’s also a list poem – running through variations of what the ‘dangers’ might be – some quite real, others on the silly side.

Some come from my own past – I hated silt in lakes, wouldn’t go in the ocean if there was too much sea weed. I did see someone cut their foot on broken glass on the beach. Lake Ontario water is often deemed unsanitary for swimming. Even if they say is is ‘safe’ today I wouldn’t risk it on any day.

This is also about the paranoias in general – I have a friend who won’t take the subway alone, just in case it stall between stations. Thanks to the corona virus I am being smothered on line by ads for face masks. Costco runs out of toilet paper & bottled water as people prepare for the end of time. I’m pricing disposable plastic gloves for wearing in transit.

‘my trousers rolled’ is a reference to T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ in which his narrator is walking along the beach, musing on the risks he has taken or avoided in his life. The nature of the risks we take today are often as banal as this. Skin cancer didn’t seem to excising when I was a boy frolicking in the sun – now I use a 110 sunscreen. 

The piece takes an even more sudden turn with that last line – drowning in a sea love.



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The Right Price

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

The Right Price

Nothing was the right size. He stood in the centre of the hotel room. The windows were too high to look out of and were too large for the room. Standing on tip-toe he could get a brief glimpse of the high-rise across the street.

It strained his neck to keep looking outside. His suitcase took up half the bed. The bed would clearly be too small for him to stretch out on. The desk was more like ledge. There wasn’t enough room under it for his legs. Not enough room for the top for his laptop to open properly. The chair back came half-way up his spine and offered no support when he leaned back.

The wall-to-wall carpet wasn’t quite wall-to-wall. One one side there was a bare angle of concrete floor that hadn’t been covered. The sink in the bathroom was so low he had to stoop to get his hands under the taps to splash tepid water on his face. There was no cold or hot just lukewarm. The shower stall door didn’t close properly so water splashed out on the floor when he took a shower.

Nothing was the right size except for the price.


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