Star Trek Subtext (Feb 20.12)

Got out to Plasticine Poetry Sunday night. I haven’t been to a reading event for nearly two months. Not since I hosted Plasticine in December. I guess that’s part of the aging process – my unwillingness to bundle up warm and then drag myself out on cold wet nights to spots where there is barely room to sit at a table, let alone have a place to pile winter clothes. Paupers offers a bit of space for that in their booths so one doesn’t have to sit the entire night wearing the parka that you don’t want to throw on the floor.memole15

No mic cord for the first set of open stagers & feature. But the room was good for hearing without microphone – though first feature Lynn McClory did have to move to centre of the room. Her set was, for me, a bit dry. I’ve never been a fan of poetry about language – her works captures emotional distancing with abstractions, language play and broken phrases.  As much as I like phrases such as ‘deftly indifferent to the photographs’ I’m not sure how one is deftly indifferent. I did enjoy the irony of her closing piece about the Silent Majority.

During the break I connected with Adam Abbas – he did a great pean to Cathy Petch when he hit the open stage later. Also enjoyed running into and then sharing my booth with one of the Toronto Erotica guys. Thanks also to the organizers for cake to celebrate the recent launch of Cathy Petch’s book “Late Night Knife Fights” – which is already into it’s second printing.PC070014.JPG

Jim Nason started the second set – he read from his recent book “Narcissus Unfolding.” The pieces had a strong sense of place – the ocean, a back alley – that felt grounded and were emotionally inviting to me. Images like ‘the terrible flame of your father’s hand’ made sure I bought a copy of his book.

Final feature was Beatriz Hausner. When I featured with her at Plasticine a few years ago she read several surreal pieces about sewing the perfect man & that book  – “Sew Him Up” – is now in print, so I bought it. The pieces she read from it were infused with a warm Latino sensuality the reminded me of my favorites Lorca and Arenas. She read some pieces from ‘Raccoon’ that were rich with magic realism balanced with powerful emotional response to the life and death of Amy Winehouse – a book I can’t wait to get.

I managed to get into the first round of open stagers – read a couple of comfortable older pieces. As usual the open stagers run the gamut of pure Canadiana nature poetry to closing with a Serge Gainsbourgh song.


Here’s one of the pieces I read:

Star Trek Subtext

an all day Star Trek marathon

the original series on Blue Ray

weird space plants

funky 60’s retro-futurist sets

Kirk Spock Bones Sulu

(Sulu who knew you were

the real queen of outer space)

we had nachos   salsa

bags of sea salt-n-pepper chips

Hawaiian pizza   fried chicken

diet coke   real dr pepper

a 90 inch plasma TV

Trek in all its never to fade glory

as each episode started

we did a soprano unearthly dance

every time Scotty said

‘I’m giving it everything we got captain’

we’d eat chips as fast as we could

when Uhura said

‘we are experiencing interference’

we saw who could burp the loudest

every time Kirk took off or tore his shirt

we removed an article of clothing

(Strip Trek)

every time the fate of a culture

was decided by a kiss from Kirk

we made moony eyes at each other

until someone said ‘phasers on stun’

each time human emotions

were a puzzle

we asked deep personal questions like

‘who has the bigger dick

Chekov or that guy

with his face painted black and white?’

when any alien said

‘what is this thing you earth people call kissing’

we gave each other alien tongue baths

every time Spock said ‘illogical’

we did the Vulcan grind meld

by the time the marathon was over

it didn’t matter

that neither of us really liked Star Trek

we’ll never forget this Star Date One


When I got home there was Sulu – George Takei – on Celebrity Apprentice – though I don’t think I’d want of these contestants to make me a sandwich.


Better Mood

Another of the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green as a writing prompts. The plan is to post one of these Law prompted pieces a week on Thursdays.


Law 10: Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky

Better Mood

we’ll get together

when you are in a better mood

I’m bored of your problems

it’s as simple as that

it’s almost

as if your trying to see

if you can bring me down

but that’s not going to happen


misery loves an audience and I’m no longer

willing to be the audience for your misery

of course I still like

it’s not a matter of like

yes you deserve to be heard

to be listened to

but I’ve heard enough

I don’t need to hear any more


if you focused on the positive

perhaps things would improve for you

so call me back

when you are in a better mood

not the bitter one

you present to the world

most of the time


yes I know

this makes me just all all the others

the ones who had no time for you

who got fed up

with your never ending crisis

where the solution to one disaster

only made something else worse


no I don’t want you to kill yourself

but if you chose to

don’t blame me for that choice

in fact don’t even mention me in the note

as one of the few people

who were concerned for you

because I know that’ll

be just another way of saying

we failed you

that I failed you

that life failed you


if that’s true

I can live with it

even if you can’t


Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

too many tears not enough pillows

‘tie you to my bed posts’

Nicki Ward ( has ably stepped into the spotlight as the new hostess for Plasticine Poetry. Change is good & Plasticine, already a fine series, becomes better as a result. The addition of Poem From The Hat (PFhat) is a fun idea for the open stagers – instead of reading a piece of your own you pick one from the hat to for a cold read.

bluepuff bluejay? no way

After a fine round of open-stagers (including myself) Kimberley Wilson (FaceBook) gave us a fun set. She clearly enjoys being on stage, had great chemistry with the audience but that didn’t detract at all from the work she read. Her short pieces dealing with relationships, food & travel were filled with playful, easy to savour images & emotions: ‘our voices float up to meet the light,’ ‘blood on snow with gravy,’ ‘let you smell the ocean in my hair,’ ‘you bought your ticket months ago in reparation for your good-bye.’

icestormI said iced coffee not iced branch

After the break James Wood (more here), who stepped in at the last minute, presented an excellent, strong set of pieces from a soon to be published work. I enjoyed Tool Box, with its subtly resonant images : tools that dropped into a toolbox ‘echo like earth shovelled into a pit’ reflected later in the piece with ‘my father’s words echo’ as that father is buried. Too many great lines to write down – ‘a day clear enough to see all the way to salvation.’

silversofa silver (couch) surfer

Now that Lizzie Violet ( has taken a step back from the many events she was involved with she’s had time to actually write and it shows in the new material she offered, not that the old is shabby by any means. Even her ‘happy’ writing echoes with the creak of a cemetery gate recently oiled with the blood of a loved one. Horror, silent movies & romance ooze through her work. ‘tearing your last kiss from my lips,’ ‘bodies hitting the ground before the blood leaves their veins,’ ‘tracking the scent of the one who broke my heart,’ ‘popsicles dripping on to our grass-stained knees,’ ‘using your two-toned tie to tie you to my bed posts.’


I read Nuncle John on the open stage, click the link if you want to check it out. It might show up at Pinebow. I had this piece in reserve but opted not to read it – another piece from the Buddhist maya series I’m working on.


you call that

a line in the sand

sanctions wtf?

as long as the blood spilt is yours

it don’t make any difference

to us

to our side

you don’t stand a chance

resistance is futile

twitter is pointless

it is ignored

because we want what we want

and were going to take  it

what the cameras don’t see

is worse than what they see

you call that a line in the sand

it’s nothing

because all the sand is our

it’s our sandbox

it’s our world

and we intend to keep it that way

to keep it purified of the likes of you

there isn’t anything you can do

you aren’t in the wrong

you aren’t in the right

you’re merely in the way

but not for much longer

dust to dust

as they say

and you are about to become dust

gate gateway to heck

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

‘word leapt from the body’

Hosting boosts the immune system – at least that’s my theory – so when I was asked to host the march Plasticine Poetry I was happy to accept to fight off a cold. I ended up co-hosting with the poised Susie Berg – it takes two to sub for usual host Cathy Petch. We split the duties with me looking after the first set of open-stagers.

yellow spring is just around the corner

Susie introduced first feature Suzanne Alyssa Andrew. She opened with a lyric ‘ever felt something look over your shoulder,’ ‘your fear fuels his power.’ The she read a well-chosen excerpt from her soon to be published novel ‘Circle of Stones.’ A scene set in bed of two lovers teasing and playing. Tarot cards come out ‘the cards smell like the inside of her dance bag – feet, sweaty tights and rosin.’ A real sense of the people was drawn with precise images and realistic dialogue.

As I had taken a UofT Master Poetry class with Niki Koulouris, I was happy to introduce her. She read from her recently-launched book ‘The sea with no one in it.’ Her pieces dealt in one way or the other with the sea & with painters: Philip Guston, Jasper Johns, Anselm Kiefer. The poems flow with strong images ‘rosewater that smells or sardines,’ ‘watching the rain is like watching a foreign movie’ ‘as many stars as there are targets.’

glory morning glory tells a story

Susie conducted the next parade of open stagers to start the second set. Then I introduced Sheila Stewart, who, in green, brought more than the flavour of St. Patrick’s Day to the stage. Her engaging poetry took us directly to the twisty roads of Ireland and then to High Park. A strong sense of place kept us from being lost even when we ‘emerged on a road you thought was elsewhere.’ Many of her vivid turns of phrase ‘word leapt from the body and never returned,’ ‘alone for the weekend I forgot to put my skin on’ resonated with me.

purple how much longer

Michael took a rare step on stage to introduce Molly Peacock. She easily lived up to his effusive words with a simple set with a couple of sections for her forthcoming book Alpabetique (sp?) – in which each letter has it’s own life. In P we appreciate the ‘the smell before rain,’ in B with feel the struggle to be B in the fractious world of fonts. Her poem ‘The Flaw’ reminded us that ‘though the flaw I am alive.’


April 21, Monday – featuring – Lizzie Violet’s Poetry Open Mic at The Amsterdam Bicycle Club – 7:30 – doors and open mic sign up, 8:00 – start – 54 The Esplanade, Toronto

amflyerjpg copy April 27, Sunday – attending – Julie Czerndea Workshop

June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words


June 23-27 – attending – Manuscript to Book – Loyalist Summer Arts – Belleville, Ont

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada



how did I turn out

the way I turned out

no one held a gun to my head


you do this

you become that

unless the force of peer pressure

can be called that gun

what force is it that makes

one of us heterosexual

and another homosexual

who would chose either


the drawbacks

better to be nonsexual

to avoid all the pressures

of meeting mating so-called morality

working out

raising children

avoid stds

doesn’t seem

that either side

of the life style equation

really gets such good press

the sexual grilling of congressmen

the boredom of those who

never seem to stray

the envy for those who do

the energy wasted on judgment

who would chose either

yet there is some force

beyond the ken

of the mind heart peer pressure

the dna string spinning around in our blood

a force that makes

all the variations flux and flow

those people caught up in it

are trying to find

some way to make sense of it

that allows

for a space for each

well, not all people

as some have this dna string

that doesn’t allow for any variation

where any variation

must be destroyed


that very fact

makes me wonder

what force brings anyone into

the fold of the shunned

something happens

that pushes against the tide

of the commercial world around us

breaks them free

of the rigid accepted standard

it happens

like sun spots

and like any invisible force

it becomes easier

to go with the tide

that to fight against it

the greater the resistance

the greater the pain

the hidden becomes less hidden

when the pain of hiding is too great

what was once such a scandal

doesn’t seem to have the weight

it once had

no force behind the fear

to sustain that pressure as it once did

it stopped being seen as revolution

and was accepted as a part of evolution

we can’t draw a line

that keeps the races apart

when hearts are involved

the sky is the same over all heads

the earth is the same beneath all feet

the feet of the judgmental strike with the same force

are held by the same gravity

as the feet of those who are judged

as the feet of those

who know nothing about anything

the messy melting pot

that gives all the opportunity

to be

none has the right to deny

that right to another

and even though some don’t

they find themselves

eventually drowned

in the ever rising tide of the past

of history

and the rest of us

make our way as best we can

not looking to disrupt anything

but merely to be

city02street without snow!! 

Rocket Scientist of Love

It’s like you are two different poets! someone said to me after my recent Racket at the Rocket (RR) show – someone who had seen my feature the previous week at Plasticine Poetry (PP) and was eager for more.

bunnythe rabbit’s vigil

Looking back over the two sets I can see what the differences, besides all different pieces & shirts, were. Both sets were themed, with the same number of pieces in each. Paced pretty much the same too. Started with something inviting – no dropping of the pants in the first piece. The built to more explicit things.

doorvigil outside the purple door

PP was focused on identity – a sort of abstract concept that I tried to make real with various personas that showed various ways we define outs elves: Hannibal Hoarder: how we keep what we keep defines us; Godzilla: how movies lead us to self definition. So the material was more clearly theatrical and pushed me to a more theatrical reading. boots

discorporation: the vigil’s reward

The RR set was romantic, emotional in a different way. The difference between the persona of each piece was much more subtle that the PP set and not as theatrical. I also opted not to perform any of many bitter break-up pieces, some of which were in the chap book, and stayed on the sweeter side of love, just to prove I could be mellow, that I could be sexy without overt queer sexuality. The other things about the set was that I read a piece I had written that week about a man I’m seeing, who happened to be in the audience for the show. Something I’ve never experienced before. Not that I have to work hard on authentic emotion when I read but this time I didn’t even have to work at all. soon02

October 19 – feature – Cabaret Noir – Pinebownewpine

samples one of newer pieces I read at RR a few weeks ago Rocket Scientist of Love I don’t claim to be a rocket scientist of love I’m more practiced at one-man missions where I can control the countdown to blast off but when I have to plot the course for more passengers than one I’m never sure where the booster rockets have to go when to push the buttons that will set them off how much fuel I’m going to need what sort of pay load is expected of me to bring them to the various stages of thrust sure I can get them buckled in well enough the fumbling can be sort of fun but after that I can get a bit lost when my solid mass converter gets ready to let loose its charge while theirs is still picking up speed I’m not a rocket scientist of love any more than I am the masters & johnsons of sex but I’m willing to learn if anyone’s willing to teach

gardening garden store aches for spring

Buckets of Love Betrayed

I was planning to blog about the Olympics and my love of the two-man lube, I mean, luge when I realized that this is Valentine’s Day.

purplefeed the birds

I have this reminder – “Find something to do that puts a smile on your face and enjoy it. Make this a day to remember what is truly important to you.” I read it every morning to keep me mindful of the moment of doing as opposed to the long term results.

pillowsthrown cushions

There are times when I long for the financial freedom to travel, to visit San Francisco again, or Caracas for the first time and doing the ordinary things takes effort. Who wants to spend ten minutes getting dressed warmly enough to go anywhere, let alone some cafe or bar that doesn’t have anywhere to hang your coat? A coat trailing in a puddle on the floor doesn’t put a smile on my face.

mugsMalibu mugged

The number of things let me smile are endless though and the more simple I allow them to stay the more there are. Sun on the snow of the roof of my garage, finding the right tumblr pic to send someone, the opening of Beethoven’s 7th symphony, the chorus of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream, the first chocolate in the box.

One of the things I enjoyed in the Salinger documentary was that he loved to write but not to publish. He stove to be free from the need to shape his thinking to suit public demand and I respect that decision. It’s one of the reasons I lost all real desire to publish – not that I won’t but thanks to e.publishing I won’t have to deal with some marketing plan from anyone but myself.

Everyday I do something I enjoy. I sacrifice things in order to have the time to do things, I make the time, I share the time and sleep well as a result.



amflyerjpg copy

June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words

June 23-27 – attending – Manuscript to Book – Loyalist Summer Arts – Belleville

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada



he sings

I’ve been so betrayed 

by the people I love

I wonder

if the story isn’t

that he has been betrayed

by what he expected of the people he loved

by what he expected of love

that the betrayal

was imposed

predestined by our culture

by the media machine’s

pumped out  pumped up inflated

fragile ability of love

to be anything more than love

we become convinced

true love has to save

has to cure the addicted

has to transform dowdy into beauty

real love has to allow

us to transcend our human limitations

to become

angles of constant mercy

so when that doesn’t happen

he sings

I’ve been so betrayed

I’ve been caught in that net

presented so attractively

by those songs of life

being meaningless without you

you’re nobody till somebody loves you

songs that send us out

as love seeking missiles

looking for any target

ready to implode upon ourselves

as being the ones at fault

never given the opportunity

to question the validity & authenticity

of those lyrics  those scripts

where the right things

get said at the right time

wedding plans are changed

lives are set upon their right course

not the mistaken course

a course taken

in the fanatic search for pure love

for eternal everlasting

cancer curing love

real love is

the endless availability of instant


if it isn’t that instant gratification

then it can’t be true love

if it isn’t driving past your house

at midnight

just to see if you are home

how can it call itself love

if it isn’t ready to murder to keep you

if it hasn’t locked  you in a room

so you can’t escape then it isn’t love

if it isn’t phoning you at work every hour

wanting to know how you are

what are you wearing

can I see you again

when will you be home

did you like the flowers

chocolates   sexy underwear

did you get the gifts

weren’t the gifts enough

why do you talk to other people

why do you want to be alone

why can’t I watch you on the can

why don’t you love me

as much as I love you

why don’t you want to be with me every second

isn’t that what love is all about

isn’t it

you betrayed me

even as I remind myself

of all these things that love isn’t

I have half a heart

that wishes they were love

those thing would make it so much simpler

that the stalking display

of the fearful and over-possessive

was the true marker of love

because it is so easy to recognize

whereas the real lasting love

isn’t as melodramatic suffocating

maybe at first

but for it to grow

it needs a soil deeper

than the lyrics of some song

than the images of some movie

it needs to grow past illusions

into the heart of the matter


too many give up when the film is over

when the music fades

SAM_1050you keep me hanging on

You Aren’t You

Unexpectedly I got asked to do a feature at Plasticine Poetry. I was working on my Racket set and getting the flow of it into shape. Two features in less than a week can be demanding for me, because unlike many poets I aim to do relatively different sets for each feature. Sure I could easily repeat the Plasticine set at Racket but that would bore even me. If I expect my ‘following’ to come out twice in one week I better offer up than a few stale retreads.

scibblerI needed a concept to build the Plasticine set on – Racket will romantic/relationship, bitter or otherwise, poems. I looked back at a few of my recent shows and decided to expand the Winter Snow Ball feature into a set on identity. What and who defines us and why do we need to feel defined anyway. Just like plasticine who we project is very malleable by others.


There’ll be some ‘persona’ pieces – character masks the poet puts on that often listeners can’t get past. I’m always aware of Rimbaud’s “Je est un autre. I is another.” Because there is a strong trend to believe all poetry is confessional, people often assume what I write is my experience, as opposed to my world-view. Trust me if I had as much sex as my poetry indicated I’d be an even happier guy.


I have to confess I do like to play with people’s perceptions of me – that’s one way of evading definition. A step I’m taking this year to distance ‘image’ from ‘self’ is to perform as Branding my performance self lets Duncan become more anonymous in a way and I like that freedom.



you aren’t you

she shouted pointing at me

I don’t know who you are 

you aren’t you

he’s you

she went on

pointing to a heavy set black man

who smiled and waved at me


great, I thought,

I’ll finally know what it feels

like to have a thick black cock


how long did you think 

you could get away with it

she stepped closer

pretending to be yourself

some one you clearly are not


thanks, I finally got a word in edge wise,

now that I can stop being me

I can be who I really am


that’s not how it works

she glared at me

you can’t just become anyone else

because you aren’t you


what about me

the black guy came over

to shake my hand

pleased to meet me


he’s not you

she pushed us apart

neither of you are each other either

you are both not

who you are

can’t you get it through your heads

she was nearly screaming


but I’ve always wanted to be a white dude

the black guy said

if I’m him

I’m not this big black guy anymore


no no no the woman was scornful

it’s not that simple

stop thinking you are who you think you are

because you aren’t you

he’s you

identity is in the eye of the beholder

don’t you get it 

she was exasperated

as if we were children

how can I make it any simpler

you can’t change what you are


well, I tried to reason

I’m not you, for starters

are you you


of course I am she snapped

but trust me I know you aren’t you

he is you

and don’t you forget it


okay okay I get the picture

it felt good not to be me

to let go of all that identity crap

I was finally free


I said to the self

I was just introduced to

let’s get out of here

it’s time we learned how to 

play with myself

ddeadJe est un autre

Hot February Noir Night

Cabaret Noir with another packed-to-the-rafters show managed to melt all the ice and snow for an area of two hundred meters around the Central with a super-charged show Sunday (Feb09). Lizzie draws from a vast pool of sexy sensations who are also exceptionally talented (is it pc to say sexy sensations?).

christinegoodbye to Christine

Regina Dentata (aka Regie) brought a sweet flirtatiousness to her well-honed, playful burlesque routines. Her first few were, for me, closer to modern dance but she did incorporate scarves and fans to bring in some traditional elements. Her final piece was a glittery gown traditional pieces – glove peel to black lace undies and pasties. Her choice of music was non-traditional – no show tunes or sax vamps but choice cuts by Skrillex and even I Hate Todd’s Zombie Love. Eye and ear delight.


I’ve heard Heather Babcock several times & each time am pulled into her emotionally complex writing. I like the way she combines direct sexuality with real situations and her use of dream logic transitions. A line like: ‘large hands slightly dirty as if fixing cars all day’ quickly gives us not only smell but a sense of who this person is. Read more by her on tumblr.

spud?sweet street potato

I’ve also heard blueVenus more times than I can count & each time I am captivated by their stage presence, song writing & energetic performance. Andrea & accomplice Jessica Stewart did a fun and fierce set of great pop originals. Why aren’t these performers getting Juno nominations? Blue Venus is off to Australia next for a month long tour. check out their blog for some free downloads:

I did hit the open stage, but only to promote my up coming features at Plasticine this Sunday and Racket the following Friday. I’ll be doing two completely different sets – but more about that in my next blog post. 


Focus Pocus

In one corner Helen placed her left hand on top of the television. She raised her right arm toward the ceiling, not straight up but at a slight angle towards the north-east corner. In her hand she held the hollow copper rod with the amethyst crystal at one end and the hercimer diamond at the other.

‘I call on the forces of magnetism … I call on the grace of the permafrost … ’

The three others, James, Karl & David stood in the other corners. They joined her to intone the final line of the spell.

‘We call on the righteous spirit of fair weather and foul to bring us all the known channels of the universe, now.’

The lights in the room dimmed. There was darting flicker of blue in a thin static-like thread that flashed around to all of them from the tip of the copper rod.

Karl collapsed. Helen took her hand from the TV. The screen came back to life. It was an Italian game show. People dressed in sponges were trying to climb a waterfall. The sponges filled with water & slowed their progress. James was transfixed.

‘Thanks Helen.’ David shook Helen’s hand. ‘How much do we owe you for this one?’

‘Let’s see,’ Helen put her copper rod back into her tool box. She added up the changes on her fingers. ‘First the calling – that’s $125.00. The focus of elemental energies is another $50.’

‘$50!!’ David said. ‘It was only $25 the last time.’

‘Takes more energy each time it has to be done. This could be the last time though. Thanks to your, uh, sacrifice.’ She nudged Karl’s lifeless hand with her toe. ‘This should secure your cable for at least another five to six years.’

‘That long? Well, then it was worth it.’

‘You gotta see this.’ James had changed the channel to a Philippine soap opera. Two naked men were in a punch out beside a bed. On the bed was a weeping woman with a huge mane of black hair. ‘This is something else. Only Earth channels I suppose?’

‘Dunno about that,’ Helen snapped the locks on her tool box. ‘I did call on all the channels of the universe.’

bookseBooks in the flesh

#NaNoWriMo and the ‘blackened stains of thieves’

Travel was on the menu at the November Plasticine Poetry. Features took us  from PEI, to Brazil, then Cuba, and back to Toronto with Cathy Petch, our attentive stewardess and Michael Fraser, the navigator who plotted our course.


First up was Rod Weatherbie who opened his set with Invitation to ‘let the dog shit on this poem’ from his new book Chain of Islands (launch: Hot-Sauced, Thursday, 7 pm, Nov 21, the Black Swan on the Danforth). His pieces have a strong sense of place, family and unforced humour. Full of strong images: ‘this northern waste at the edge of everything,’ ‘tar like warm bread dough,’ ‘blacken stains of thieves on the wall.’


Next up was Susie Berg with a set of sharply funny pieces – speed-daters who move from chair to chair ‘with even lower exceptions of what love is.’ Her pieces about family where emotionally accessible, and her cancer poem touched many of us, ‘the word relapse is like collapse,’ ‘you can’t beg too many blessings.’

After the break Heather Birrell hit the stage with two well chosen scenes from a novel in progress. Both, set in a poetry workshop, had a fine sense of the individual participants, their motives and their separate voices, even thought it was not told from their pov. She captured the syntax of creative writing teachers and the feel of that sort of class. I enjoyed the ex-pat Cuban protagonist on the TTC, feeling his aloneness ‘the blank rocking is like love.’


Last up was Priscila Uppal who took us from Brazil in her search for her mother and to London for sports poems. ‘my poetry comes form my father’s chest’ led me to think of my own father & how his life view effected my writing. I loved the observation about men ‘all they need is something to carry to feel they have a place in this universe.’ Who can resist a pentathlon pantoum.

Brazilian water polo team

Brazilian water polo team



Birk climbs up the blocked mine shaft.

The miners pulled back from the sudden fall of dust and scree. Moments later Red and Sandy Smit stumbled out of the shaft and onto the floor.

“Cage is jammed between two floors.” Red said. “Can’t squeeze past it.”

“What about the trap in the floor?” one of the miners asked.

“Twisted and we I couldn’t get a good enough grip on it with m’hands. We need some sort of way to pry at it and hold our grip to the wall at the same time. Someone light enough so as I can give hold to him in place long enough.”

“He’s talking about you Birk!” Clancy whispered.

Birk nodded but wasn’t sure he’d have the strength to do what was expected.

“Who’s the smallest here.” Sandy asked.

“That’ll be me.” Birk stepped forward.

“So y’are Birk MacDonnell, so you are. You’re dad’ll ner forgive me if anything happens to you.”

“He’ll never forgive me if I don’t do what I can now either. So what’s the plan.”

“Anyone got a pick or a better yet a crow bar. Small enough to carry up a few hundred of feet.”

A couple of the miner’s dropped to their knees to feel through the rubble.

“All’s we have is these couple of shovels Red.” Sandy said handing him one of them.

Birk took the shovel and struck it hard against the floor. The blade bent. “We’ll need something stronger than that. But if it’s best we got it’ll have to do.”

“Give me your belts boys.” Red said. “We can use them to strap on to the cage floor for safety.”

Birk strapped a couple of belts around his chest and the shovel with the head at his back so his hands would be free for the climb up. He hadn’t clambered up the cage shaft since he was a kid. Once he Geo had snuck in to the pit and without thinking began to climb down the side of what they thought was the empty shaft. When they heard the creak of the car being hauled up they panicked and didn’t know what to do. Didn’t know if they could get up before it reached them.

He found a shallow recess barely big enough for him yet he and Geo were able to press themselves into while the cage rattled past.

He took a deep breath and reached up for the first of the hand holds in the framework and pulled himself up. He could hear the drip of water from below. Once he had pulled himself up far enough for his feet to find the holds he moved faster. Red was right behind him.

Some of the holds were loose in the rock, others were tight to the frame. His eyes peered for the next one. Once he reached for one and that wasn’t there and lost his footing. “Oh God!” he gasped as he pulled himself hard to the wall with the hand that was clutching the scaffolding.

“You okay, Birk.”

“Yeh Red. Hope I didn’t piss in yer face.” He was cold and sweating at the same time. His undershirt was sticking to him and he longed to scratch his balls. “Got an itch that I can’t scratch.” he laughed and the laughing calmed him down.

“That’s the story of every man who gets married.” Red laughed a little.

They came to where the cage was jammed. The trap was on the bottom of the cage on the side furthest from them. Little light filtered from above. Birk could see where the slide catch was but could also see that there was rubble on top of it as well.

Red looped a couple of the belts and rope he had brought around the openings in the cage floor.

“Hold on to these as best you can.” He helped Birk slip his arms through them. “If I lose grip of ya these’ll hold you.”

“Like that guy in the circus.” Birk was trembling.

“It’s alright to be scared, lad.” He kept an arm around Birk’s waist as Birk leaned as far forward as he could and tried to pry at the catch.

Birk locked his gaze on the underside of the cage. Even though it was pitch dark beneath him he also knew it was a far drop with nothing between him the the four levels beneath.

He tested his weight on the belts that Red had wound around his shoulder and slotted through the bottom of the cage. They held firm enough but didn’t leave Birk much head room either. He angled himself as best he could and pushed at the catch with the blade of the shovel. It didn’t give.

“How’s it lookin’ lad?” Red asked.

“Doesn’t feel’s if it’s been opened in some time. Maybe if I can reach with m’fingers I can grasp it.” He leaned a bit further. One of the belts slid and his heart raced as he abruptly lurched out of Red’s hold.

“My God!” Red shouted. Red pitched forward off his perch on the scaffolding.

Birk felt Red’s hands grab at his coveralls but not hold on. Birk twisted to see if he could see what what happened. Red was gone. A few moments later he heard a dull thud as Red’s body hit the bottom of the shaft.

Birk was dangling, held by the belts, to the bottom cage. His whole weight thrown on it. The cage groaned and shuddered but held where it was.

Birk tried to get a foot hold on either wall but he couldn’t reach. The seam in his coveralls cut into the flesh between his legs. He looked again to the trap. Each motion caused him to sway a little in the dark. He smelled his sweat. His fear. He swung the blade of the shovel at the metal grid of the trap and the sound echoed in the shaft.

He wiped the sweat from his face and peered at the underside of the floor. There were some holds in the grid work, drains to keep the cage clear of water. He worked his fingers of his left hand into the furthest ones he could reach and pulled himself forward toward the catch. The belts held him so that he couldn’t quite reach. His neck was twisted as he was pulled tighter to the cage.

red in white

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#NaNoWriMo I Am Not An Animal! (I’m a Pantser)

Day 15 – the midway point for this year’s NaNoWriMo. My winner tee has already arrived! Not that I’m so cocksure of myself but it is the sort of carrot that helps spur me on. I folded it up and put it away, for now, to debut it at the Damned on November 28.


I am essentially a pantser – I have an idea, a loose set of events I think I’ll need to propel my story arc and then I start in – characters and other events present themselves as needed and develop as the story progresses. As I go along I make notes about their backstory, appearance that I sometimes refer to.

One of the good things about NaNo is that there is less time to make a decision – should I kill so-and-so – what if – then just go with it to see where it goes. I get less invested in scenes & often have a false start or merely a start that I’ll develop later. Sometimes an element I introduced gets repurposed to a better purpose in a later scene.


I also ignore the time sequences of the plot arc. So I’ve also written new scenes for the first half of the book even though I’m in the last half. I found that to account for what I wanted I needed some reference for it much sooner. For example my hero needs to be very agile to do some rather dangerous arial work suspended from the bottom of an elevator cage. So I tossed off a couple of scenes to go earlier in the book for him to show off his innate tumbler talent.


So far lots of things I hadn’t planned have happened – death of a child, marriage proposal, death of a major/minor player, political campaign. All of which are adding up rapidly – 30700 words so far 🙂


[a continuation of the scene I posted Wednesday]

“You must reap what you sew my child.” he said gently. “Her father said she was a willful, spiteful, conniving child and she had grown up to be even more so. Do you think I would let you ruin yet another family just to satisfy your need for depraved comfort. Why when I drove this … this …. harlot from my home months ago I was stunned to see her be taken into your bosom Miss McD. I feared she would be an asp. A snake in the grass.”

Lillian stood slowly. “Have you had your say uncle? Have you done your worse?”

“Lillian I mean no harm. Forgive me.”

“Forgiveness is not mine to give.” She looked him in the eyes. “If this is the consequence of my not bending to your depraved carnal desires then I am willing to suffer this consequence for keeping my honour intact.”

She opened the door to leave the study. “If you’ll excuse me Clara I will pack my things and see about moserviceving to a new abode.”

“No one will have you.” her uncle said. “No one.”

“Father Patrick.” Clara stopped Lillian. “You have said more than enough. You have perhaps revealed more about yourself than you have about Lillian.”

“How can you remain so … indifferent to this hussy’s actions.”

“Whatever her actions may have been, and I assure you, I realize she is no innocent babe, she has not displayed such a evil devious mind as you have. To revenge yourself is this way leaves me speechless.”

Lillian breathed a sigh of relief. To lie so boldly about her uncle had came to her without compunction. If he was going to go to such lengths to prevent her happiness with his deceptions why shouldn’t she resort to hers.

“This marriage will happen.” Clara said sternly. “Her family will be informed of your callous actions.”

“You think they banished her here on a whim?”

“They banished em because their reputation was more important to them than their child. Oh! Tt was alright for my brothers to get caught up in gambling, drunken galavanting behaviour.” Lillian found herself shouting. “But let their precious daughter show a bit of spirit and out she goes. When they thought I had lost any value as a marriage pawn to enhance their precious social standing they disposed of me like … like … a tea service that had gone out of fashion.” She turned to Clara. “If I am a calculating harlot looking for the best possible marriage then I learned it from them. It runs in the family apparently. Doesn’t uncle?” she wanted to slap the stunned look on his face. “Falsifying my death to suit your ends is no better. Runs in the family.”

She pushed Clara aside nearly knocking over Aileen who had been hovering near the door listening. She stood in the foyer resisting the temptation to run up to her room, slam the door and throw herself on her bed to cry. That’s what the woman in books did. Cry till some man came up the stairs to make things better for them.

“Aileen.” she said.

“Yes Miss?”

“If anyone wants me, I’ll be out in the garden. Those climbing roses need to be cut back.”

On her way through the kitchen she grabbed the gardening sheers and headed directly to the climbing roses. She’d been intending to remove the dead branches for weeks now and she attacked them with a vengeance.

She lost track of time as her anger dissipated. Why was every path she took caught in these unforeseen and unforeseeable brambles. Mr First Beau turning out to be unsuitable because of a Jewish great-grandmother, Mr Bad egg a trifler, Birk Mc being a protestant and so fearful of displeasing his mother and now this. If only she could cut these brambles as cleanly away from her path as the ones from the climbing bush.

With each clip she thought to herself ‘what can I do.’ ‘what can I do next.’


She felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Clara.

“Lillian I have been calling you for a few minutes.”

Lillian stood and wiped the sweat off her brow. “I couldn’t hear you over these.” She snipped at the air in front of her with the sheers.

“Then perhaps we’ll get them oiled properly so they won’t be so nosey in the future.” Clara smiled. “You uncle is certainly a man of actions and opinions.”

“Another of the McT bad traits.”

“Do you love my brother?”

“Love? I don’t know. If you mean that flood of blinding adoration, then, no, I don’t.” If that put the final touch on the end of this path she was ready to face it.

“That’s what I was hoping to hear. I’ve seen how you’ve dealt with him this past month. You know I wasn’t happy of this match but Steve would brook no argument with me. I didn’t want to distract him from his ambitions anyway and I figured you would fall by the wayside.”

“Sorry to disappoint you.”

“Oh I wasn’t disappointed. He was willing to listen to you on matters of appearance and even of how to present himself to the public that he would never had heeded from me.If anyone won the seat it was you just being by his side making sure he said the right things at the right time. Someone who was flooded with adoration couldn’t have been so … objective.”

“Thank you, Clara. This is the last thing I expected to hear you say.”

“Perhaps you’ve wondered why I never married?”

“Yes, but you did have your father to look after.”

“We had money and could have afforded to hire help but my father, much like yours I suspect, wanted to keep a protective eye on me. I never had the opportunity to meet a Mr Bad egg. Oh, a few men courted me but none ever found the approval of my father. Those that did were deemed suitable because of their social status, their financial potential and for no other reason.”

“I had never thought we might have that in common.”

‘But you have more determination that I ever had.”

“So does Father Pat.”

“It’s not you he’s striking out but your family. He told me about your father’s reaction to the death certificate. He may not have realized it but you’re father’s grief brought the good Father great …  I want to say pleasure but that’s not it at all. It gave him an opportunity to castigate your father for being such a Godless parent. For being indulgent and permissive.”


“Oh yes, allowing you opportunities to enjoy life that he himself had not had. Your family’s wealth and social position become more important to them than their faith and as a result you were their downfall and punishment.”

ice crystals