Annoying Children

Annoying Children

the children had no clean clothes

they had no clean drinking water

they had no direction

they walked walked and walked

around the particle accelerator

<>

it cost millions

needed clean water to keep cool

it had direction

it had a film crew

to make a documentary

about the important work

about the progress of science

<>

these annoying

children in dirty clothes

were in the way

these selfish children 

in the way of the cameras

wanted the water

the accelerator needed

<>

even worse 

they were in the way of progress

I can’t recall if there was an actual incident that sparked this piece or if it was a response to the oil-pipe line protests. Or perhaps it was the paradox between the cost of political party advertising what they do to help the less fortunate vs using the advertising money to end child poverty. If there was no child poverty what could they use to score compassion points?

When I see documentaries about space exploration & how it is furthering our understanding of the universe & hear the cost of the exploration I wish we recognized that cost in more human terms. Today in the midst of the pandemic it is the countries that cannot afford health care that are suffering the most. Often the same countries industry counts on for cheap labour.

One of the Olympic factoids I was dismayed at was the removal of the homeless, the destruction of shack towns solely to make the location more presentable to foreign press. More money spent on that process than actually spent to improve those lives. Who wants those dirty, shoeless, children in the background of their vacation selfies?

Progress is for those who will profit from it, not for those who are used for the labour to make progress for those who will profit from it. You want better wages? Better working conditions? Health plans? Stop standing in the way of progress.


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Measuring Up

Measuring Up

I concede 

I’m not that competitive

whether you are better

isn’t that important to me

I want to be judged

on my merits alone

not on how much 

better or worse I may be

compared with anyone

better is relative

who is the winner

the one who comes in first 

or the one who finishes the race

on their own terms

<>

I grew up

in a school system

where I learned 

I would never measure up

because I wasn’t smart enough

to memorize the times table

smart enough

to regurgitate passages of text books

when I wrote exams

even when I was right

I was given no credit

because my spelling was so wrong

<>

coming out

I was never young enough

buff enough

hung enough

to be desirable 

in the eyes of those

to whom I was supposed to measure up to

<>

it’s hard to give up

trying to measure up

in a culture were getting ahead

is the measure of value

if you aren’t competitive

you’re a loser

no amount of self-confidence

will change that judgement

<>

so I concede

now leave me alone

judge someone

who deserves to measure up

This piece (finished on Dec 27, 2021) is a variation on one of my themes – cultural expectations vs nonconformity. Regardless of which fragment of our splintered culture one may fit even that splinter has it own set of expectations to measure up to. To step out of heteronormativity isn’t enough – because one ends up in one way or the other duplicating that power dynamic. Good queers ape hetero – adopting children, looking askance at non-monogamy, drag queens are now commercially viable.

The imperative to measure up starts early – prizes for best marks, best attendance from kindergarten on. It’s not a big step from beating the shit out of that kid who bullied you to prove you are manly enough to fucking the shit out that guy you pick up at bar proving you are more manly than him.

It’s not enough to be a good writer or published, you have to be profitable or you aren’t a real writer. Home cooks are inadequate until they win competitive baking shows (usually to make their children proud). Recognition becomes the point of productivity. Getting that gold star becomes the point of school not learning; a gold star to make your parents proud of you, not learning much beyond the power of approval.

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The Haunted

The Haunted

there is this theory

that unfinished business

keeps spirits on earth

but we had no unfinished business

so I don’t know why

I’m haunting him

<>

it wasn’t my intention

to haunt anybody

when death fit me like a glove

I thought

this is it

I can take it easy

let myself relax

so this new dimension

can give me whatever shape I need

I don’t have to think

of who I am

what to do

I can be nothing

<>

I welcomed the loss of self

only to discover

him

he was holding 

onto more than a memory of me

we were merely familiar 

with each other

as far as I knew

affectionate 

not emotionally invested

to the point

where I would haunt him

<>

showing up hovering

behind him

in a shower steamed mirror

gone before he could turn around

<>

I didn’t want to be there

he’s not the one

I’d pick to haunt either

it would be you

I love this piece. I love a good ghost story too. The ‘rules’ of the ghost world tie them to places, tie them the particular people (or their relatives), tie them to some sort of emotional connection. I’ve written a couple of ghost pieces where I try to find a different angle on the trope.

I’ve read stories where objects are haunted – i.e. the dead man’s shoes that give the wearer visions of his murderer. One author has written a series about the spirit of a dead detective that solves cases for the living. I have one I wrote where a guy hooks up with another guy whose dick is haunted by a deceased boyfriend.

The best ghosts are the ones the reader/viewer doesn’t realize are ghosts until the very end as in The Sixth Sense. Also enjoy ones where you are never sure if their is a ghost as in The Haunting. Was it a ghost or was it a trick of an unbalanced mind?

Ghosts always seem to want something – to warn you, revenge, completion so they can move on, your energy so they can remain on this plane. Rarely have I come across ghosts who don’t want express some sense of purpose. So this piece is about a ghost looking for a purpose.

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Protection

Protection

I didn’t feel pain

or rather

I didn’t know 

it was supposed to hurt 

I thought this is how

it’s supposed to feel

not that I enjoyed it

it wasn’t pain

it wasn’t pleasure 

it was merely

this is how I felt 

it always would be

that everyone lived in fear

this was my fear

<>

what 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 with out it

it was like growing up

in a dark room

not knowing there was light

then one day

a window opens

<>

I see the layers of dust

protection

I’ve been cloaked in

choked in

one fear replaces another

<>

how much can I shed

and still feel safe

One of my theories is that we are taught pain – both physical & emotional – sometimes by the fuss made over us a children when we fall down. Things hurt because we get told they are supposed to hurt – like our fear of emotional pain – of making mistakes – of not being great successes. I grew up in a culture in which being uncomfortable in any way was to be avoided. So to avoid emotional pain – don’t get into relationships, to reduce the pain of failure – don’t try in the first place.

Not that I think being stoic is an ideal but taking the bumps of life personally is not helpful either. No pain no gain – which leads to staying in pain to prove how tough you are – to suffer is noble. Not to suffer is shallow. Tolerating emotional abuse becomes a badge of honour that can be flashed in the face of those who where so ‘self-consumed’ they recognized red flags they didn’t wade in. 

We seem to be in a culture in which being inconvenienced is seen as an affront to personal freedom & identity. ‘Wear mask’ – ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ ‘I don’t want the government controlling my life’. Sound familiar? Being inconvenienced vs dying in intensive care? Dying is another of those context in which we are told how to feel so that if one doesn’t feel the depths of grief they end up guilting themselves for not living up to that expectation.

I was talking with friend recently about a sense of … what is the opposite of inclusion? … exclusion? from the commercialized picture of seasonal bliss – a picture primely aimed & including only family units of one sort or another. Single persons are almost faulted & always pitied for that choice. It’s as if choosing once’s own company & avoiding the noise & clamour of the season is not authentic option but an emotional wound that needs to be healed.

Festive greetings in keeping with whatever belief system you follow with others or by yourself – lol.

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Disappointment No. 9

Disappointment No. 9

it went exactly as planned

the only one disappointed

was me

I wanted things to be better

<>

the story of my life

the right size is never right enough

a good fit isn’t adequate

<>

the praise 

adulation 

are mere stop gaps

diversions

from going beyond expectations

<>

good enough

feels like settling for less

it isn’t satisfying to measure up

it has to be unforgettable

<>

sure your good enough is fine by me

but my good enough

isn’t worth bothering with

even when I am the only disappointed

I’ve sometimes joked that I don’t want to be adored I want to be worshipped. That comes from a culture that still sees stalking as real love & that those who complain of being stalked are spoil sports who can’t accept loving attention.

We also live in a culture in which in which publicly acknowledging one is good at something is egotism – this leads creatives to be hyper-critical of their own work. We can end up being incapable of being satisfied with what we produce – not that we don’t want to be better but the striving for perfectionism turned into stagnation or worse an excuse not to do anything. If you don’t do it it’s always perfect 🙂

I’ve read of, & know, painters who have gone back to galleries to ‘fix’ a painting from twenty years ago, poets who revise old pieces before they go into a collection of selected pieces; or who preface new editions of old works with apologies for what they now see as shortcomings. One writer of my acquaintance started to revise a novel from some 30 years ago to make it gender neutral & gave up & now considers the book worthless.

I went through some of this when I unearthed poetry, short stories & even a couple of novels from the late 60’s, early 70’s. The novels, in particular, weren’t structurally sound but what the hell I was writing, that was enough. I resisted revising them beyond fixing typos & will blog them, as is, eventually. I am tempting to try rewrites to see how I would write those same stories today – & I don’t mean adding explicit sex lol.

I’ve brought pieces I felt needed work into workshop only be told ‘this is perfect as it is’ – once even being told I should bring in rough drafts not polish pieces – when I was bringing in rough drafts. I’ve performed pieces I felt weren’t fully realized only to have people single them out as the best of a good bunch. Just because I’m good doesn’t mean I don’t want to get better 🙂

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Full of It

Full of It

he tells me

I’m full of it

does than mean

full of shit

full of bullshit

full of blessings

full to the brim

spilling over

dripping down the sides

with a puddle of self

all around me

a puddle that keeps getting bigger

<>

if I’m so full of it

that I feel nothing else

why do I feel empty 

unfulfilled

is there no room

for anything else

am I so full of it

I can’t change

learn

share

<>

I get that

this accusation of being full of it

is an attempt to shame me

but I’m so full of it

there’s no room 

for your judgements

I’m not adding your shame

to the ‘it’

I already carry

at least I carry it well

no thanks to you

who aren’t full of anything

is all I hear is the hollow echo

of your empty envy

This is a variation on a list poem – a compilation of some of things one might full of besides shit. The two usual ‘full of’ are shit or yourself. Though it can also refer to a sense of unquestioned entitlement. Usually the ‘full of’ person is unaware of it & someone feels resentful enough to point that out, for the ‘full of’s betterment. I’m not sure which is worse though to be full of self or to be full of judgement? Then again we are all full of judgement.

In the recovery community, & probably outside of it too, there’s a saying ‘what you think of me is none of my business.’ It’s a reminder to not take other people’s opinions of oneself too seriously. This isn’r as easy as it sounds though – we live in a confusing culture in which self-confidence can be seen as arrogance – where saying someone is arrogant becomes you being overly sensitive & a hater. We’ve become very adept at turning critical remarks on to the other person. Critics of politicians are accused of being unpatriotic, not to like a female singer is sexist. You can get unfriended by someone who doesn’t like your friend’s opinions.

It seems no one wants to be contradicted or made uncomfortable. We’re in the midst of a language change in which gendered words are to be removed (very 1984). Some of the zoom meetings I go to have people who, when reading aloud, assiduously replace all pronouns with they or them – if you don’t do that when it is your turn you can get called out for being insensitive. I chose not read out loud rather than spend so much time fixing pronouns I miss the gist of what is being read. 

When I wrote this a few years ago I wasn’t thinking of things like gender neutrality – but over those years our culture has changed as we come to acknowledge the need for diversity, the need to included in more than a nodding way. I recently watched Fame (1980)  with its amazingly diverse cast that actually included a sympathetic gay male character. When the movie became a TV show he was cured & heterosexual. Often what we’re full of is fear & the need to compromise to worship the all mighty needs of commerce. That’s a list for Santa Clause.


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The Kafka Hotel

The Kafka Hotel

Nothing was the right size. G stood in the centre of the hotel room. The windows were too high to look out of & were too large for the room. On tip-toe G could barely get a brief glimpse of the high-rise across the street.

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

The wall-to-wall carpet wasn’t quite wall-to-wall. In one corner there was an bare angle of raw concrete floor that hadn’t been covered. The sink in the bathroom was so low G had to stoop to get hands under the taps to splash lukewarm water on the face. There was no cold or hot just lukewarm. The shower stall door didn’t close properly so water rained all over the floor when the shower was on.

Nothing was the right size except for the price.

I’ve never stayed in a hotel room this bad but some have come close. I remember one where the ‘closet’ was just big enough to hang a shirt. More than one had desks with minimal leg room underneath. I did have one with a shower door that didn’t close properly. I suspect every hotel, no matter how good, has crappy ‘discount rooms’ that they give when people book with points or though some online agency.

The first draft of the piece had only ‘G’ as a name so I kept that. I pruned away gender designations to make G as anonymous as the room itself. I was tempted to not mention body parts – hands, face to further dehumanize G but then it felt too much like a parody of Metamorphosis. 

I’ve read Kafka’s novels & short stories a few times. I enjoy his sense of things happening for no discernible reason. Characters who hit that blank wall that refuses to explain, apologize or help. In fact they are made to feel at fault or shamed for even asking for ‘clean towels.’ Life is out of our control – which isn’t fiction as we’ve learned in these covid19 days.

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I Got You Covered

I Got You Covered

I wanted to throw

the book across the room

the brown paper didn’t cooperate

as I folded it over the cover

one side was too big to fold

the other too small to cover

I tried to slide the book

so everything was even

so when I had it covered properly

it would be neat tidy

the real cover protected

I wanted it to look as perfect

as the book my mother

had done in minutes

<>

I lacked her eye-hand coordination

perfected by years of knitting

of dress making

I couldn’t even colour between the lines

now here I was

with a pair of scissors

a roll of heavy kraft paper

brown

attempting to make covers

for my school books

as demanded by the school

if they weren’t kept tidy enough

we would have to pay

I wasn’t even supposed to write on the books

not even to underline

couldn’t dog-ear the pages

<>

the book wouldn’t fit perfectly

I managed to get it wrapped

taped the corner to keep it in place

it was bunched up

that there was a crease 

on the back of it

I hid it at the bottom of the pile

went to bed

<>

in the morning 

it was covered perfectly

The brown paper covering of school books is a real memory of growing up on the east coast. Grocery stores were still using good quality brown paper bags in those days. Life before the plastic bag! My mother would save them for garbage & also for wrapping packages to mail to Wales at Xmas time plus for the all-important covering of school books. 

I can recall doing this until I left high-school. School issued books had to be returned at the end of the term & checked for condition. The same books, in each grade, would be used year after year until they wore out. Apparently keeping up on the latest development in science wasn’t a priority.  Grammar & spelling books didn’t need updating.

Some years my folks would pay a damage deposit on the books & get it back if they were return din good enough shape. Though I don’t recall ever having to pay for a damaged book. If a book had been in circulation for a couple years I would end up with one that was a little tattered & once I lucked out with one that had important passages underlined & even a few answers on the margins.

Some years we were given already cut covers that had been donated by various business which had their advertising on both sides of the paper. Of course ads appropriate for our ages. I can see the layout of these ads with a space left for writing the name of the book etc but I don’t remember what any of them were for – clearly a successful campaign. Maybe for local dairy, clothing stores. 


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Early Worm

Early Worm

am I too early

is this the right time

is this where I’m supposed to be

did I wake you

I’m usually early

is this seat taken

I’m not the first to arrive

I’ll walk slower

I’ll get off one stop sooner

walk around the block to kill time

<>

I don’t really want to be here

I’m not as eager as it seems

transit was faster than expected

there were no delays for a change

someone has to arrive first

maybe I shouldn’t be the first one they see

I won’t come back later

I’ll be one of the first to leave

I’ll only stick around awhile

<>

only the late have a place in this room

the ones who struggled to get here

who had trials & tribulations

they arrive breathless agitated apologetic

eager to be there 

all I sacrificed was time

I am usually early when I go to things like poetry readings, plays, coffee dates – I like having a few minutes to orient myself – to find a decent spot to sit so I have my preferred view of the stage. At spoken word shows I prefer to face the stage directly when positive. The worst thing about one spot was the narrow room which meant no one could face the stage with twisting their necks constantly. I was pleased when they closed.

With the spokenword shows I frequented or became involved with being early also gave me chance to help, if needed. Hosts were always glad for someone just to see someone there. The wait for the first arrivals can be nerve wracking.

When seeing shows with reserved seating: i.e Stratford or Shaw, we’d get seated asap to void clambering over people in those tightropes – often not even wide enough to sit without your knees rubbing on the seat ion front of you. Architects who do that seating layout often forget people have legs -thanks for the great sight lines but curses for crushing my kneecaps so badly I can’t walk for the rest of the day. 

At least with reserved seating one does get asked to vacate their seat for someone arrived just in time for the show to start & feel they deserve your ideal spot more than them. I’ve done door for shows & come back to find my coat & bag removed from my seat but people who presume they have the right to turf me without asking. 

If you’re late, you’re late – it’s not my fault you have to struggle in. I’m not going to move down one for your convenience. I’m not that nice a guy. 


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Tenderness

Tenderness

must remain here

only for the two of us

to enjoy to cherish

for the sight of it

the tenderness here

in the open air

in a public space

would sully it

turn it into performance

it would cease to be sacred

it would be an assault

on common decency

for two men to hold hands in public

for them to kiss

in front of innocent children

On a recent walk near High Park, I noticed two men holding hands & laughing affectionately with each other, one leaned & was about kiss the other when he noticed me & they stepped apart. I wasn’t staring, my glance was, if anything, of pleasure at seeing them so free. I was a bit saddened that they broke their moment with a sense of shame. I doubt if a straight couple would give a shit who saw them giggling & kissing.

I kept walking rather than stop & say ‘go ahead guys, enjoy.’ High Park is miles from the Toronto gay  hub Church-Wellesley where this expression of public affection gets no attention at all. This piece, written a few years ago now, still tells of the state of things today. 

‘innocent children’ has long been the go-to rationalization for many censorious reactions – an easy way to say ‘as an adult I don’t care but I’m protecting children’ to hide their own fears & judgements. They can’t say ‘I’m so immature I’d rather react your sexuality than look at my own.’

A straight couple kissing in public, at a restaurant, making to on public transit is no big thing but same sex displays of affection, regardless of how banal, are treated as bad taste, as being too in your face even when in front of not-so-innocent adults.

Considering the amount of violence innocent children see on TV I doubt if two men or two women holding hands, or even exchanging a ‘see you later kiss’ on parting is going to spin those children deep inot the sordid cauldron of same-sex ‘abnormality.’

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