Fear Walks In

Fear Walks In

some people

bring fear into a room

ideologies that I am expected

to accomodate

without knowing

<>

they prejudge me

for prejudging them

merely because of who I am

of who I appear to be to them

<>

I am an enemy on first sight

without having to say a word

or take any action

other than being there

of being unlike them

they feel unsafe

because I am not invisible

and it is my fault

<>

all my fault

for not understanding

what they haven’t told me

At a recovery meeting, when we could meet face to face, after a step had been read aloud – going from person to person around the room – a member shared on their difficulty with the hetero male normative language. When they read their section they de-gendered the language & as did some of the others who read. They implied that those of us who did not, lacked sensitivity to important gender issues. 

I gave an inner shrug – I’ve been around recovery rooms long enough that I am not unsympathetic to this but at the same time I’m in recovery to recover not to deal with linguistics or how to do the gender appropriate reading aloud of the literature. 

Referring to God as a him is off putting to some people, referring God at all is off putting to some people – if I don’t take pains to make the proper substitutions I make them feel unsafe. What can one do. Stop reading aloud? Ask for a show of hands, before reading starts, of people who feel unsafe because there are cismales in the room who don’t mind being called he? Online some people are including their pronouns as part of their names. (By the way my pronouns are it or that.)

After reading at an lgbtqia open stage an audience member spoke to me about enjoying my pieces but wondered if such sexually explicit material was appropriate because many in the community were triggered by such material. I had introduced one of pieces as being explicit but I guess I hadn’t allowed people enough time to leave the room. I’ve spent enough energy in saying my ‘partner’ & avoiding gender specific pronouns so as not to offended delicate hetero sensibilities that I’m not going spare lgbtqia by suppressing myself. I’d rather not perform than get trapped by self-censorship.

The fact is I’m not all that sensitive.

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Nine

Nine

O when I was nine

I was still a child

there was no instant communication

news travelled slow

on the radio TV newspapers

that provided an innocence

I knew about war

because my Dad had fought in one

he was a man

my mother was a woman

I was a boy child

who only knew what the culture 

of the time

expected of my gender 

<>

O when I was nine

I did know I wasn’t like other boys

I played backlot baseball

I played with dolls

I  wasn’t the boy my dad expected

I didn’t like to fight

like other boys

I never understood 

why physical violence was required

to be accepted

<>

O when I was nine

I learned to swim

looking at the differences

between boys and girls

anatomy I didn’t understand

the boys where more interesting

I knew shame

when we were caught

I had fear

but no closet

sex was dirty regardless

of the gender of the object

<>

O when I was nine

I don’t that I was making waves

as I waded from nine to nineteen

by the time I left nineteen

I knew

these were dangerous waters

at nine there was only

the fear of getting caught

not the fear

of my culture drowning me

like an unwanted litter of kittens

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

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

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

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


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Genius

Genius 

if you won’t trust

someone who won’t drink

with you

then you’ll never trust me

<>

if all your close friends

smoke up with you

we’ll never be close friends

<>

if you only respect 

someone who’ll do a line with you

shoot up with you

share a bowl with you

then I have no role in your life 

we’ll never bond

over self-destruction

<>

if only self-destructive writers

are real writers

then I’ll always be a fake

a wanna be

who really doesn’t warrant

your attention

<>

I’m just one of those shallow dilettantes

a hanger-on

without the guts

the stamina

the creative genius

to deal with life through

a haze of booze 

drugs

<>

you are clearly better off with me

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

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

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

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

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A CanCon Christmas

I’ve been reading some great CanCon that is worth adding to your Christmas shopping or reading lists. 

 ‘The Dame Was Trouble’ is a collection of ‘the best female crime writers in Canada.’ This is a fun, culturally diverse collection, that spans genres: noir, supernatural, interplanetary & hard-core crime – edited for an excellent flow of styles & lengths.  Some read like perfect 30’s noir movies & some deserve to become star of their own novels; Kelly Armstrong’s Indispensable Ivy for one, & M.H. Callway’s hard-driving Grace is another.

Rosemary McCracken’s ‘Uncharted Waters’  continues the saga of Pat Tierney: Financial Planner. Much like Jessica Fletcher, murder & deceit follow Pat wherever she goes 🙂 This time she is opening her business in Toronto’s Annex & is confronted with … well, you’ll have to read the book to find out. Nicely plotted, it moves quickly with some humour & lots of Toronto. 

Peter Unwin’s ‘Written on Stone’ is also humorous, Parkdale is one of its Toronto location but the bulk of it happens in buses out of the city & in the wilds of Northern Ontario. One element of the plot is the nature of ‘authentic voice’ as perceptions are spun by various characters to support their view point. The language is richly imagistic, the characters tend to blend into each other & events flow in a non-linear way. Unlike ‘Unchartered Waters’ this is not a murder mystery and leaves the reader with unanswered questions.

I’d be remiss not to mention Heather Babcock’s “Dirty Sugar.’ Read all about it here:  Dames – Wiggles and Bates https://topoet.ca/2020/09/13/dames—wiggles-and-bates/ . All of these can be found on Amazon.

Finally a non-book recommendation. The song ‘Toronto’ by Bloodstone surfaced in my Tumblr feed. From the 60s it was well-produced with a semi- Chicago sound. I did a bit of a search & found it & the flip side on band camp. Apparently this was the only release by the band lead by Dee Long. The lp is a sweet collection of his song, some are polished, some are demo. If you treasure Canadian pop history you’ll love this set. https://deelong.bandcamp.com/album/1235

Do You Breathe

do you hear what I hear 

even when I’m not listening 

when I walk unawares 

through the streets

through the crowds

through the malls 

do you hear the infinite variations 

of footsteps clothing rustle whispers

cellphone chatter

do you hear something in that burble 

people being people

something that gives you reassurance 

life is worth while 

<>

or do you hear

dispirited distracted unfocused clatter

people looking for a way out of

something they don’t fully understand

yet feel they have no other option

than consuming depleting the bounty of the planet

<>

bounty of the planet

who do I think I am

drivelling out such a tired reflection

do I hear myself 

when I say such things

do I find it profound silly 

I’m not expecting to change any minds here

another shopping opportunity

another listening experience 

where I’m not fully attuned to anything

except the sounds of

cars slipping through slush dogs barking

glass breaking doors opening closing

coffee being poured

masks lifted for a smoke

<>

do you see what I see

when I look around 

dimly aware there are people around

the focus is on not bumping one another

but avoiding at the right distance

finding a safe place to look

that isn’t already an advertising nook

wrapped in earbuds mask

magazine on the subway

fearful someone might think

that casual glance at their shoes

is a violation of their person

stick to what is safe see nothing hear nothing

except what one can control

<>

if you hear what I hear

see what I see

you are too close

I don’t want to breathe

what you breathe

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Upper Reaches

Time to continue the tour of my house as we move upstairs to bed & bath. The bathroom has remained one of the least ‘decorated’ rooms the house – too, much moisture for one thing. There are shelves of towels, body wash, shaving stuff so the room is cluttered enough as it is. 

This stained-glass star is in the bathroom window. Handmade by my partner before we met it is one of the oldest object d’art that isn’t shop bought. He made couple of such pieces at a workshop he took one summer. We did have remains of this stained glass supplies for decades & I got rid of them in my covid cleaning frenzy.

I won this sunset (or is it sunrise) train track photo in a GenX Bears fund-raising raffle in the early 2000’s. I think they were raising money for their Pride Parade float. A friend was a member of the group. It was, as I recall, a ‘blind’ raffle, in which I knew the range of prizes but they were assigned randomly. I was happy to get this & it was perfect for over the toilet – I can gaze down the endless track of life as I pizza my life away 🙂

Across the hall is my bedroom which is relatively uncluttered – unless you count the dressers, racks of cds, book case, shelves of frequently used clothes as clutter 🙂 This wonderful Tarzan poster what a birthday gift from my fans at Cabaret Noir. I have seen the film – Acquanetta fulfills hetero teen boy exotica fantasy, while Weissmuller & Sheffield fuelled many a confused lad’s sexuality as, like me, we wondered how they kept their junk hidden under those loincloths while swinging through the jungle.

While I’m going about exotica fantasy – these jungle ‘epics’ were where many saw an abundance of hairless male flesh in our formative years. In particular, when I’ve seen some of these recently, as well some set in the jungle serials – I am delighted by the abundance of bare chested native guides, bearers & tribal kings. I wonder if any historian of black performers in movies has looked at this pool of performers.

This Japanese noren was a gift from a Japanese friend. It is a door hanging, about half-a-door in length, split down the middle. The samurai protects my room from negative energy 🙂 While the celebrants usher in good vibes. The leaf leads to my Peace Lily. 

On the wall, by the door, is this marvellous piece of religious kitch. A print I bought framed at an antique store, not longer there, near Queen & Broadview. It was love at first sight. Early 1900’s. This was a very popular subject – there are dozens of variations of the trouble soul clinging to the rugged cross in the storms of life. I love the face of Christ at the top of the cross – almost like seeing him in a piece of toast.

You Never Know Where He’ll Pop Up Next

<>

you saw the face of Christ

in a piece of toast

yet you don’t own a toaster

you can’t even boil water

you have enough trouble

opening a granola bar

<>

why was it only the face

was the slice of bread

too small 

to hold His entire body

was the holy toaster

limited to specific body parts 

<>

was it the result of

ancient aliens

who after they built the pyramids 

designed a toaster

specifically to replicated

the face of Christ in toast

a face that seems rather caucasian

for an ancient alien

<>

beside you aren’t the first 

to have seen the face of Christ

where it doesn’t belong

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Blood Stained

On last seasonal piece:

Blood Stained

<>

you bleed I smile

I bleed you smile

we slither around in pools of blood

smeared white flesh 

glimpsed

in gradually clotted red browns

incarnadine couple

the blood stream carries us away

to the sea of candy apple red

smooth then rippled

we sink slowly into the sludge

seeking pudding for breakfast

tottering along scabbed shores

of idealized tissues

patterned lace across a windshield

when the car hit the pole 

the head hits the window

flecks of blood dance in the air

to settle in cunning trails

along a grassy lawn

on someone’s open-mouthed 

shocked face

into that open mouth

found new home in a new body

<>

the dainty dangling red dew

dripping off the overhead street light

the morning rain 

will pull blood to the earth

make for better roses next year

you just wait and see

it happens all the time

the undignified deal of war

bargains for blood

sacred weeping virgins

in dusty obscure orthodox churches

is that her blood 

his blood 

blood of the lamb

immaculate and sloppy

caked and flowing

we are in the the presence 

of the great bleeder

confessing the inability of science 

to stop the flow

of medicine to suture the wound

the inability of philosophy to cauterize

the challenge of where to flow

taking us along 

not for a ride

for we are the ride 

the tide

the blurred fingerprint 

on a rear view mirror

touched in the act

the tactile moment of it 

between our fingers

brought to a tongue

can these hands be licked clean

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Spirit Photography

Spirit Photography

a shadow

in the shape of a hand

a slow drip

the colour of blood

the stain on a wall

mottled into a face

stairs that squeaked

with no one climbing them

the tv that turned on

with no one in the room

the phone that rang

with no one there

the picture 

you were once in

the bush 

whispering your name

the toast burned

with a number

the door

that wouldn’t open

the window that

closed itself

the bed sheets on the line

reaching for a child

a clock that chimes five 

no matter what the time

the cemetery

dark at noon

the book

that never opens

to the right page

the letter

from a relative

you’ve never heard of

the breathing

behind you

in an empty closet

the shaft of light

that falls on a claw

the ending

that remains unresolved

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Recorporated

 

Recorporated 

I was on the subway. Standing & avoiding those crowding close me. Breathing slowly into my mask, head down to keep as from contact as possible. The new reality.

People got on & off at each stop. Each negotiating space around them & between others. Some apologizing for brushing up against someone when it was impossible to avoid brushing up against someone. The old reality.

In the window reflection I saw someone stand close beside me but when I glanced to them there was no one there. The reflection was unchanged though. There was clearly a person – I say a person because though the shape was clearly there, the face was distorted by the glass. I couldn’t tell if it was male or female. I couldn’t even see any race. I could feel them press against me as the subway stopped. When I looked to apologize there was no one there. No one.

They were only there in reflection. Wearing a mask much like mine.

The train stopped at my station. I moved to get off but stopped for a moment to glance at the figure by me. I saw it moving past me in reflection. I followed. It turned. I saw it full face. It was me. He exited. Stunned, I couldn’t follow.

The door closed. I had no reflection. I merge back into the crowd. Stood behind someone, willing them to look up. When they did I saw my refection.

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Distant Music Coda

It has been fascinating to go back into my past by reading & writing about this chapbook. Memories of writing the pieces have been fragmentary, to say the least. Motivation, inspiration & locations are more nostalgic than revealing. 

Many old the first drafts were written by hand run little note books, many on my clunky typewriter in my basement room in the family home – that room is still there though I think it’s had new floor & walls since I left. The walls were covered with my paintings, shelves of books, lps, my stereo system & my little desk.

Some in my first apartment in Sydney. I shared a workroom with my roommate. He made pottery & I made poetry. I remember renting an electric typewriter to do the final drafts of Distant Music. That  second-story apartment had a huge front balcony where I would sit & write in notebooks & drink. This was the first time I had a room for sleeping & one for writing.

Some of the poems are solid, some reflect the pop music of the time, the striving to be deep, poetic rather than … I’m not sure what ‘than’ … I wanted to impress as much as I wanted to express something about myself. I was in the process of coming out, letting go of the pretence that I was bi so the sexuality that appears in the work is very suppressed.

The sequence of the pieces was mine & the flow, in general is pretty good. Today I would probably have not started with the Dance but with something less abstract such as Woodsman – which would invite readers to search for the chainsaw wielder. 

a piece that didn’t make it into the chapbook

Having Lost

having lost that moment

when we stood side by side

I wander down some well-worn path

looking neither way

without stumbling over unseen stones

I wonder of it’s possible that

I might have been wrong

if I should have given in this time

& said what you wanted to hear

I wonder off it’s possible that

I might have been wrong

having lost that moment

I wonder if I was wrong

<>

having lost that letter

she sent me the next day

I wonder where she is

perhaps I’ll see her tomorrow

perhaps she’s hiding in yesterday

maybe she too thinks she was wrong

maybe she’ll soon come along 

then again yesterday 

may hold her too well

I could never her again

not know where to look

having lost the letter

she sent the next day

<>

old men wearing

white hats pass me by 

nodding & asking why

I sit so young 

yet am so alone

<>

having lost all sense of time 

I find that question still unanswered

was I wrong? was i right?

either way i lost that fight

now I stand & watch her pass by

a memory of my yesterday

me a memory of her yesterday

our lives going on, apart

complete but not the same

having lost that moment

I wonder who was wrong

August 69

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I Did It

I Did It

because 

I wasn’t a star pupil 

I lost to a cheater

I was mocked for being fat

I wasn’t good enough

I saw what I shouldn’t

I was put in a closet under the stairs

I was always picked last

I was misunderstood

I was shamed

I was bored

I was the wrong colour

I wanted to see if I could get away with it

they were vulnerable

they deserved it

it was their fault

they were sinful

I had to punish them

the Bible told me to

voices in my head said it was right

I had the opportunity so took it

I was forced to

I just felt like it

I was entitled 

they disagreed with me

I did it to get even

to get famous

to teach them a lesson

to make a statement

to find out what it felt like

to be President

I did it

to have something confess

so I could say

I did something

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