For the summer I’m looking at my Brown Betty chapbook. All the pieces dealt with growing up in Cape Breton.


‘don’t bite your nails’ 


I never knew I was biting my nails 

till I was told to stop
it kept me from chewing my lower lip 

good thing I didn’t have long hair
or I’d have been chewing on that too 


I rubbed my eyes
tried to focus on the blackboard 

so much to learn 

all I could think was 

that I’d never learn it all 


‘stop biting your nails’ ‘sorry’


I didn’t feel my teeth 

try to find a bit of nail 

how did it happen 

that Mike Kennedy two rows over 

never did things like that
he never got a runny nose
and let it dribble on his tongue


Mike turned around to say something 

to Trevor Steeles behind him
they laughed looked at
Liz Sampson 

on the other side of me 

she stared out the window
as she chewed her hair 


the teacher droned on
‘take notes this will be on the exam’ 


our little pens itched
page after page of big words
all of which would be on the exam 

dazed I filled the margins
with small zigzag mazes
when I was trying not to bite my nails
or chew my lower lip bloody


little mazes
that never got me out of this puzzle
I could barely grasp
the writing on the blackboard
a scattering of thin snow on mud
I had to plod through this sludge
to rescue meaning
then I’d be safe

on the other side of the exams 


‘stop biting your nails 

you can’t take notes 

with your fingers in your mouth’
the class all looked at me laughing


‘it helps me think’ 


‘another reason to stop
at your age 

is a dangerous thing’


‘yes sir, I’ll never 

think in your class again’


funny what I could say
when my fingers stopped 

getting in the way 

All through school I had attention problems. I was easily distracted and was more interested in things around me than what the teacher was saying. I was one of those kids who filled in all the ‘o’ on a page. In high-school teachers would often dictate things for us to write down – no mimeographed hand-outs in those days – the theory being writing it out made more of an impression on the teen brain. Sometimes we had to hand in our note books for the teacher to approve of our note taking.

This is a Sydney Academy high-school memory. I think the class was Civics, in which we were learning about government from the top down – federal, provincial, city. It made running for alderman very unappetizing 🙂 My attention would always wander in this class and I would be abruptly brought to reality by the teacher. Was I biting my nail at this moment? Possibly. In this class we weren’t allowed to fidget either.

I wasn’t considered out of the bright boys in the class & didn’t get much attention from the teacher. I stop nothing too put my hand up as the keeners quickly got all his focus. I did doodle in my notebooks. zig-zags, spirals that sort of thing. When taking notes I was something writing teen-age angst poetry with lots of rhymes – because that was how one wrote real poetry. Influenced by Paul Simon mainly with a dash of Dylan.

I got caught doodle daydreaming more than once in this class & the teacher never hesitated to point out to me, in front of the class, that I wasting my brain by not paying attention to his insights. If wanted to get better than c’s I’d have to smarten up etc. I did innocently say ‘I was thinking’ & gave the ‘never think’ reply too. He had me stay after class to lecture me on being a smart mouth. I think it was the closet I ever came to a teaching calling me smart.


I didn’t dare tell him that what I was thinking of, sometimes, were the barely hidden boners of a couple of my classmates. Maybe that’s what I imagining myself biting when I was biting my nails 🙂 



previous Brown Betty posts:

Man With A Past 1

When I Was A Young Boy

Home (not of the brave)

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

Jacksoul to Jamiroquai

There was a time whenMuchMusic actually showed music videos!! One of the Canada bands that shone was Jacksoul lead by the talented Haydain Neale. I have their ABsolute, sleepless, Resurrected as stand alones. The sound is radio & music video friendly sweet soul with jazz touches. The songs are plaintive, romantic, & smooth to the ear. Neale has/had a very appealing voice. Very John Legend. Sadly he died some years ago.


Next on the shelf are a couple of Mp3 collections that feature Jamiroquai: a funk/acid jazz group lead by singer Jay Kay. On one cd is Emergency on Planet Earth; Travelling Without Moving; A Funk Odyssey; Synkronized; on the other is Rock Dust Light Star, Dynamite. Jay’s voice is very Stevie Wonder. There have been some radio hits, dance floor hits too. Music with an ecological message that you can dance to. The album sound changes over time as they flirt with then embrace old school disco: strings, congas. Sexy, enjoyable & never challenging.


In the first MP3 collection are several indie eps I picked up at local poetry shows. A couple by DanJahRus: 2019, Sunrise. Hip-Hop rap with Dan’s mixing skills equal to his writing. DRP: Clever Title – son of a friend of mine had a sort of metal bar band & recorded some tracks in a basement. Youthful fun.

BC’s CJ Leon: Booty Music for Zombie Swingers; Street Corner Gothic – folk punk sexual anarchy with zombies. good sound quality. Toronto’s: Examples. Rex is a folk punk queer Japanese protest singer. We need more of this. Archie & The Bunkers is an organ based trio full to the brim with sweet, cheese surf music fun. Three Beards: bearded men writing & singing about their feelings.

Also some non-indie powerhouse albums. I became obsessed with the song Lonely Street & found a decent version on Mick Hucknall’s American Soul. Mick was lead singer for Simply Red. This was a come-back attempt with covers. Easy listening pleasant. Bob Dylan’s Tempest. A recent release I picked up more for nostalgia. He still writes well & sings well in a Tom Waits way. The same with Paul Simon’s So Beautiful or So What. Paul Simon never wrote a bad song & his voice is still intact, as is his sense of political irony. Finally: Debbie Gravitte – Defying Gravity – this a great Lp of Broadway songs, some obscure, some well-known. I love her version of that title track, from Wicked.

Stroke of Genius

‘Mambo?’ Ted gave Jim a playful shove. ‘Where did you get that name from?’

‘Just came to me.’ Jim snapped his fingers. ‘A stroke of genius.’

‘Yeah along with ‘dat acc’nt mon’?’

‘Well, those guys had it coming. Snooping around here every night. Had to give them something they could enjoy.’ Jim began to wipe the green make up off his chin. ‘Did you see his face. Boy, looked like he was about to crap his pants.’

‘Yeah, but ‘Mambo.’ Good thing you didn’t give any of the others names.’

‘Good idea. You can be ChaCha. Phil can be Tango.’

‘I don’t feel right about it though. What if they … ’

‘What? Tell on us? I can see them now at the Militia Office. These boys with red and green faces told us they would protect us from evil. That’d go over big around here.’

‘You did pick the red and green. Afraid of the blue and white.’

‘Ted this is for fun. I know enough not to cross the line. That would have been begging for trouble.’

‘Since when did that bother you?’

‘It doesn’t. Fear is an emotion I choose not to fear. But that doesn’t mean I’m an idiot either. Bad enough we used the right markings.’ He continued to rub at the make up around his eyes. ‘Is it all off?’

‘Sort of but I think you rubbed too hard.’

‘You too.’ He gave another playful hip shove that sent Jim sprawling. ‘You think the other guys got home okay.’ Jim stood.

‘Don’t they always.’ 

‘I don’t think …’

‘Then stop thinking. Let me worry about that. We’d have more fun if  you’d stop all that thinking. It’s not as if we are robbing the tourists, just putting a little of local fear into them. Get their imaginations going.’

‘It’s not all imagination and you know it.’

‘Yeah! So. It’s no fun to play in safe places. So this had a little more edge than the rag doll and pins routine. Gives them more for their dollar.’

‘I know. I spooks me. That’s all. Mama Gre’loo says we have to be careful with the forest spirits. This is the Season of Change and all things that start a change now must follow where it leads.’

‘You gotta stop listening to that foolishness. You sound like one of those tourists. You know?’

‘I know. Come on, let’s get that stuff washed off so we can get home.’

every Tuesday 2019


Stratford Festival – Henry VIII


Stratford Festival – Nathan The Wise

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? 


Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C. 

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Paul Simon

Paul Simon – one of my non-literary inspirations recently released ‘In the Blue Light’ a new recording to celebrate his 77th birthday. He’s taken some of his older songs & reimagined them as pop jazz. I would have liked him to go even further back to his Simon & Garfunkle work. It is a fine set of songs all the same. Listening to it made it clear to me that some of my influences weren’t the dead poets I was forced to study in high school or even the literary poets that ‘real’ poets cite as inspirations so that can sound educated.


Simon’s lyrics weren’t necessarily that complex. I Am A Rock spoke to my teenage sense of isolation. Little did I realize ‘I am an island’ was a John Donne reference, nor did I need to know in order to be drawn into the words. It had alliteration, evocative imagery – things that became a part of my own early writing style. It was so simple & direct that it made poetry accessible & seemly easy to write.

So I wrote endless poems in imitation of Sounds of Silence, Old Friends, For Emily. I actually still have some of those high school explorations somewhere. His longing for love was never dark – like, say, Jim Morrison; nor was his search as wordy or complex as Bob Dylan. His music itself was sunny. Even my sexually explicit poetry maintains, I hope, the sense of innocence than runs through his lyrics.

Later Simon became more personal to him yet never felt forced, overly bitter or oblique. He used humour to express some of the difficulties he was going through as he got older, as his fame became less rewarding or as his reputation stood in the way of his just being a guy who wrote and sang. It’s only looking back now as I think about my inspirations do I see how much I owe him.

Why I Want To Be A Clown

the clowns enjoy 

making babies cry 

the highlight of their day 

is when they get a good scream 

out of a baby 

elated when they scare a child

say around 9 or 10 years old

into crapping his pants


oh they can’t get enough 

of the shame on a kid’s face

as bowels let loose

because of their crazy 

smeary greasy faces

they would plunge surge

surround an innocent kid

huge mouths agape

with broken teeth 

speared with reds and greens

from the make up they ate 

to get them geared up 

to charge into the ring


stumbling bumbling drunk

pretending to vomit in a bucket

throw confetti at one child

then real puke on the next

to the hilarious roar of the audience 


when they found the one 

preferably a boy 

because girls were no challenge

the older that boy the better in fact 

one who acted uninterested 

invite him into the centre ring

mock him with garish faces 

bray till he ran out crying

made that little fucker 

shit shit shit his pants

they slap each other on the back 

as they exit the ring



at the the lion tamer

who relied on whips

not on wigs

every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C. 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

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Outside The Gates of Eden

Poetry influences for us 60’s survivors have to include Bob Dylan, for some he was the only influence. This was the voice of a generation fro sure with his early folk music, protest songs that still resonate & recently that controversial Nobel prize. Along with Paul Simon Dylan was one of my prime high school poetry influences.

In my collection I have as stand-alones: Highway 61 Revisited; Bringing It All Back Home; Blond On Blond; Greatest Hits; John Wesley Harding; New Morning. On mp3 collections: 1 Another Side/Nashville Skyline/ Gospel/ Pat Garrett (with Pete Seeger/ Phil Ochs/ & Leonard Cohen in the mix) 2 Planet Waves/Blood On The Tracks (with: Masked Marauders/ Bob Seger/Maria Muldaur in the mix)

I was more a fan of his lyrics than his music itself or even his vocal ability. It was a voice that grew on me even at it changed over the years. Like A Rolling Stone and Outside the Gates of Eden  are the two songs I recall most from high school. His Blowin’ in The Wind was a must for every east coast folkie to sing so I heard it plenty – I was shocked to discover this protest song made him a millionaire – how counter culture is that? In one of the biographies I read he set out to write protest to establish himself & then moved on to what he really wanted to write.

There are too many great songs to name check. The albums where he went ‘electric’ still sound good, his earlier ‘folk’ stuff is good but never really invited me in & even then felt a little too deliberate. He was one of the first re-inventers as well. The changes from rock Blond on Blond to country John Wesley Hardy to jazzy New Morning flowed naturally.

I included Pete Seeger as an influence on Dylan’s folk style; Phil Ochs, Leonard Cohen who followed in his footsteps; The Masked Marauders is a wildly weird pastiche with a fake Dylan, or is it the real one. The Maria Muldaur is her cover album of his songs. Bob Seger’s Best of for fun.

He was the perfect bridge between beatnik and pop – he brought Ginsburg’s joy of imagery, politic & line into the lives of his fans. He also challenged & changed the way the music industry works with his non-teen-idol looks & his resistance to the star making machine.


The instrument panel flexed and shimmered as J’hhon attempted to change the flight settings. The in put buttons became little grey flowers that dazzled his eye nodes as they spun sound around his head.

‘So pretty. So pretty.’

‘Take the second ship mother. We will await you on the distant moon.’ P’rak conversed with apparitions. ‘I have missed you all so much. I didn’t realize that till now.’

J’hhon shook his head and shoulders. He had to focus. He had to do what captains did. He had to find a place to hang these darling darting shapes so he could study them longer. Would they fit in his quarters? He reached for the nearest of them and his hands passed through them.

‘Damn you! I won’t let your lack of corporal reality keep me from making love to you. You want me.’

‘Mother, has father returned with the new shield generators. I promised I’d help him put them up. He’s not used to that frequency is he? Poor old thing. Good thing I got the brains in this, family isn’t it?’

The nav cab shook violently. J’hhon and P’rak were tumbled against each other. The instrument panels dimmed and the ship darkened for a split second.

J’hhon pushed himself up painfully. ‘P’rak how are you?’

‘Nothing damaged, sir.’

‘Looks like we’ve flown right through the cos swirll.’

‘Good things my calculations  couldn’t be effected.’

‘That should prove to be an interesting tape to replay once …. ’

The ship shook again. More violently than before. J’hhon could hear the strain on the bulkwards. The outer pressure signal flashed from yellow to blue.

‘My, my. What have you flown us into P’rak?’

He flipped on the hull camera but saw nothing. The signal continued to flash.

‘There’s nothing there.’

‘The grav meter is registering something sir.’

‘The grav meter? You mean we’re near a planet with gravity?’

‘Yes sir. Some magnetic stress is being applied to us.’


‘Can’t tell, sir. But we’re being pulled down into its field.’

‘Field? Can the ship take it? It’s never experienced gravity.’

‘Neither have we, sir. Neither have we.’


Chapbooks available:


kiss314257567_1162384753819933_3271661288579707843_oon going 🙂 when new podcast are posted:  Disability after Dark  iTunes

June 9-10: attending: Capturing Fire 2017 – flight & hotel booked already

check out these poets from  Capturing Fire 2015 & 2016

August 31-Sept.3 – I have my ticket already


November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo



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The Silent Treatment


The Silent Treatment

silence and I

are no longer on speaking terms

not sure if was something I said

or something I held back

so as not mislead or hurt

not that I mind

not hearing from silence

but somedays the brooding is tiresome

not even as much as good morning

nice to see you   have a nice day


I have learned to live with silence

not having to have the right response

is a blessing    a relief

not having to pretend to be listening

with little smiles and nods

to let silence know it’s understood

because frankly I don’t get silence

it doesn’t give me a clue to go on

beyond the brooding

never recriminates for my lack of insight

into my world of endless noise where

without silence there is nothing

with silence there is nothing


it’s not that silence isn’t sweet   fulfilling

but it isn’t attractive to me

I’m addicted to joyful noise

the gentle pasture of rippling silence

doesn’t hold any appeal for me

I am comforted by chatter

when there is none  worry slips in

what’s going on

why is so damn quiet around here

why have the birds stopped

ah yes – that’s death about to pounce


silence and I

are no longer on speaking terms

it doesn’t care to break its vow

it makes no demands

doesn’t expect me to explain rationalize

merely waits placid tranquil

because it knows

I will eventually enter its whisper

I will shuffle off the coil

of my mortal ear buds

to be taken into its patient embrace

chair01 the quiet back chair

I remember learning about ‘personification’ in high-school English. But here I push it beyond that by giving it the physical form with a personal emotional resonance of a lover.

The first line came to me out of the blue – I like a good first line – it’s a bit clever and nearly humorous as the piece takes the premise through various permutations of what one can’t get from silence, and also the things that silence can intimate.

chair02 as quiet as a chair

There’s also a comment on how we as a culture suffer from sound pollution – there is no such thing as silence – like light pollution means it is never dark. Even in a sound proof room you hear your own breathing and heart-beat. But in the real world this is no true quiet.

In fact there is a resistance to silence with music piped in everywhere. In subways to control crowd moods & scare away the pigeons. One apartment  lobby I sometimes call for a friend at has the classical music so loud I can’t hear him when he answers to buzz me in.

chair03 as heard on (yo)utub(e)

Finally it’s also a bit of a nod to Paul Simon’s ‘The Sounds of Silence’ ‘Hello darkness, my old friend’ – which owes a lot to Dylan Thomas. Both of whom were early inspirations when I was a noisy young man.


November 1-30 – participating – NaNoWriMo 2014 – nanoWinner-2014

December 14 – special guest spot – Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noirnoirmas


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Full Function Fashion

Things get stale real fast – like the ice storm that nearly wrecked Christmas for Toronto – sadly, for the news machine, it lost it’s entertainment value even faster than it took to get the power back on – though we may get another whisper from it in some year end review – if only Mother Nature had held off another couple of days or it would have a much more memorable storm that did ruin Christmas. As more power is restored the reporters seem more disappointed in the dwindling number of people in the dark.

ixe02ice on mirror in my backyard

Paul Simon sang ‘I get all the news I need from the weather report.’ I don’t even bother with that anymore. I’ve had all the news I need & now rarely bother. Weather I can get by stepping out side. Depressing updates on shootings, wars, drunken politicians, I can get by picking a newspaper from 1970. Same old same old shots ran out, city walloped by rain/snow. I know these things go on – they aren’t news to me anymore. Deja shoot.

ixe03ice on the clothes line

Like many who lost power, I added layers to keep warm in the slowly cooling house, tugged fallen tree branches off my front walk, salted the slippery path. No internet, TV for 36 hours & nothing much changed. Luckily Red Rocket Cafe had extra power bars for people who needed to re-charge so I was able to keep my cell-phone powered up.

ixe01Christmas lights reflected in iced mirror

Power out 10:30 Saturday night, back around 3:30 Monday morning. Ford is now taking full credit for getting the power back on in full function fashion – I wonder how many power lines he climbed to make sure it happened?

Merry Christmas to all.


Dec 26 – Thursday – hosting – The Beautiful & The Damned

June 6-8, 2014 – attending – Bloody Words


Revised Manual of Assembly 1.05 page 54

 Now that you have attached the three legs to the main torso of the console you are ready to bring the remain two legs. First be confident that the previous three appendages have been securely and firm riveted to the correct dowelling supports.

Before proceeding any further you must next stabilize the unit so that it will not move while you are doing these important steps in this process.

Notice that at the 3.6 mill mark and the 6.9 slot of B flange there are proper placement apertures for the stabilizing instruments. Please take the time now to do this simple operation, for the success of the remaining instruction depends on how well and firmly you stabilize the torso.

At this time you should also check that all the electric circuits are in full function fashion. The read outs will flicker, not to be alarmed, but wait till that has ceased. Once it has ,it is safe to proceed.

The two sound modules are also primed for an initial check so place a sound disc in carriage portal CVX5. If there is no sound it is not wise to proceed. Please go back to the standard model manual to see what you have to adjust. If the sound is not sufficiently proper at this point you will not be able to go back to repair later if you proceed with the final appendages.

The two video monitors, which are mounted at flange 6Y.8 and slot B are operational and will assist in an internal diagnostic of the hard drives of unit C. Units A and B are ready also for their initial tasks.

Once you have done a review of the present working functions you will proceed to the capture step at flange UBX. See there where the positioning of three small markings. This is the point at which the first of the remaining appendages is to be inserted.

Minimum use of the slick Star lubricant is suggested to assist at this point. Be extra cautious as not to allow the slick Star lubricant to touch anything other than this as it it is extremely worrisome. Keep out of the reach of children, fish and laminated objects.

Now that the slick Star lubricant has formed the shell, you may proceed. If you have any difficulties with the slick Star lubricant please refer to page 67 of the basic module manual.

Allow this appendage sufficient time to form a bond. Once that bond has been formed take the 512 silver slotted rivets and attach them along the periphery of the template to give the appendage proper protection from sunlight and insects. These are the two great foes of your enjoyment of this product.

SAM_1116snow shoes