Into the Van

Continuing to listen to the heartbeat of Van Morrison I have Wavelength 78, Into The Music 80, Beautiful Vision 82, Inarticulate Speech of the Heart 83, A Brand New Sense of Wonder 85, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher 86, Poetic Champions Compose 87, Irish Heartbeat 88, Avalon Sunset 89, Enlightenment 90, Hymns To The Silence 91, Too Long in Exile 93, Days Like These 95, Duets: Re-working the Catalogue 2015. 

So you could say I’m a fan 🙂 Some these I had as lps, some as cassettes & now some are stand-clones & others mp3. Wavelength was Van going out his period of transition & into what I consider his prime with a series of spiritually complex &  musically compelling albums with often astonishing lyrics. He accomplished the sort of mystic poetics that band like Moody Blues failed at.

The albums from 78 up to 91 follow an increasing Zen sense of being with assessable lyrics & sweet music. There are some tracks full of memories of his Irish childhood that become universal – who doesn’t remember listening to the radio late at night, who doesn’t remember poets who raved on to open them to new thoughts. Van plays his sax in some deceptively simple instrumentals on some of these lps. He fully embraces his Celtic roots on Irish Heartbeat. 

The later albums are more reflective of his musical career & he is clearly aware of his legacy, which he continues to add to. He always followed his own muse, there is never a sense that he is out to create hit songs. This is adult pop – like Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne – to name a couple – who make music they want to make not what the market demands. 

This is a piece I wrote in the early 80’s.

Down The Drain

1

“It’s time we talked.”

“About what?”

“What do you think. About us. About what is going on & what’s to come of it.”

“About life & the superficial way so many people deal with it?”

“Don’t make fun. For once let’s be serious. Or does that make an unbearable demand on you?”

“I’m listening.”

We’d had this conversation once before. Then I’d only known Jim for almost four months, for me a remarkably long time. More than amazing was that nearly a year had passed since then & for the past few months I’d been expecting him to start another ‘serious’ talk.

Sitting on the sofa I pulled him close to me. 

“I’m listening.” I brush this moustache with mine, quickly darting my tongue along his lips. “Sex is all I can seriously think about when I’m with you.”

“I’m not complaining about that.” He pushed me away from him.

A vague tiredness came over me then, a sort of dismaying boredom, this time I knew he would corner me. I was used to slipping away. It wasn’t going be easy on either of us.

“Neither am I. Shoot.”

Jim seemed a bit surprised to find me receptive. He knew I preferred to avoid, or at least to cloud, emotional issues between us.

“Do you know where to begin?” I asked.

He shook his head. 

“Well, what it is? Does it something to do with me flip fucking you last night?”

“No.” He took a deep breath. “Weekends aren’t enough. You know I’d move in, we could …”

I silenced him with a finger on his lips. “Impossible. I couldn’t do anything with you around all day.”

“Fuck impossible! Do you know what it’s like for me when you aren’t around. You & your privacy. Selfish fucker you are.” He went to the window. “Sometimes I feel that what I want & what I feel aren’t really important to you, that this is all you want from me.” He gestured to his crotch.

“Okay, I’m selfish. I admit it. I want my own way, my own time & space. I can’t …”

“Jesus, Donald.” He punched the window frame.”You know how difficult it is for anyone of us to … You should understand …” Futility fused with a trace of tears challenged his usually placid composure. “I …I’m not blind. It’s not as if …”

He moved quickly, suddenly. My eyes blinked for the moment the back of his hand cracked against my cheek. I thudded heavily into the couch, my shoulders twisting as my head rebounded from his blow. I bounced a little into the next, slammed into the full force of his fist. I could taste blood.

The inside of my mouth was bleeding.

Silence.

I heard my breath.

Lungs bursting I inhaled blood & anger. Jim was crying, staring at his hands.

I wanted to talk, to say I understood his anguish, to explain how I invited this fury but I couldn’t. Words disappeared even before they could be conceived. I wanted to make a joke of this but I couldn’t.

Touching my nose I was relieved to find it wasn’t broken, merely bleeding. My left eye was numb, vision fuzzy, my bottom lip felt inches thick. Blood was dripping onto my t-shirt.

I tried to talk but gagged, spewing a self-swallowed mouthful of blood. Dazed I stood slowly. Jim backed away shocked & frightened.

(part 2 next week)

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The Toothbrush Isn’t Talking

The Toothbrush Isn’t Talking

all I am hiding

are my emotions

really

no I don’t have anything

in my hands

up my sleeve 

I didn’t put anything

where you couldn’t find it

everything is out in the open

<>

what good would it do

to hide your underwear

so you can’t get dressed

to hide your shoes so you can’t leave

hide the towels so

you have to 

dry off between the sheets

with me

me

who has nothing to hide

except my feelings

or rather my lack of them

<>

though you claim

my claim of lack of feelings

is actually hiding something

because my door is so open to you

I have made place

for you my life

you even have 

your own toothbrush here

it is out in the open too

<>

see nothing is hidden

really

except how I feel

which I can’t reveal

until you open up

to tell me what you have hidden

in your heart

The need for ‘transparency’ is getting to the point where if you don’t reveal you once looked at a naked person you could be taken to task for sexual harassment. I have a friend who refuses to appear & speak on any internet video feed lest what they say changes context as contexts change. What was harmless one decade becomes damning in the next. 

This piece isn’t directly about that 🙂 but looks at how & what we reveal of ourselves in our personal relationships. When does one reveal one’s sexual history, health issues? A buddy of mine started dating a guy & after a few dates realized they had potential he revealed a health issue & the other guy went ballistic. My buddy was devastated a she wasn’t hiding anything but waiting till there was some trust & a reason to reveal.

There are enough songs, books, movies about things that never get said. We, as humans, hope that our actions will convey our emotions, not merely our words. To say I love you & treat someone like shit as opposed to treating someone with kindness without saying saying I love you.

The underwear verse contains actual experiences of mine, slightly exaggerated. I didn’t really hide things just made them harder to find to delay departure. I’m more inclined to lack of expectation than I am to lack of feelings though. That is one of those things that goes unsaid. Things last as long as they do & I don’t build that much on expectations. But when I give one of my bed buddies undies as a birthday or Christmas gift I always say – I can’t wait to see them on you. So I guess that’s an expectation after all 🙂

I convey affection easily with words, but anything deeper not so readily – why is easier to say ‘I love those undies on you’ than it is to say ‘I love you’ ?

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Have A Not

Not

Not visit houses just before noon

Not to slam the door when you leave

Not to wear out your welcome

Not to reveal how you really feel

Not to be the one to leave

Not to a give a damn

Not to bear false witness

Not to let the truth stand in the way

Not to be the guilty party

Not to wear you heart on your sleeve

Not to eat fish only any day but Friday

Not to take your name as witness

Not to give a fuck you too 

Not to wear the same underwear two days in a row

Not to wear clothes when you slam the door behind you

Not to let on how you really feel just leave

Not to came back apologetic

Not to fish for more than there is to catch

Not to ignore that there is always a catch

Not to damn the bare body

Not to be the last one to know

Not skip lunch

Not to be afraid of knowing 

Not Not Not Not

The rule that prompted this one is the actual first line – it was intended to avoid having whomever the monk visited offer them lunch. Word association kicked it off – over staying your welcome came to mind quickly. Without a second thought it became a list poem of variations on what not to do.

Some of the nots combine nots that have come before. Some are almost aphorisms ‘not to fish for more than there is to catch’ which is also a play on ‘fishing for a compliment’ also springs from ‘eating fish on Friday’ which is a Catholic commandment – the miracle of the bread & fish takes some of this into a very biblical subtext.

Canadians have a reputation for politeness – I will not say what’s on my mind lest I offend someone. Though I suspects more a case of – I will not say what’s on my mind lest I get too much attention 🙂 As a result some of this not list are admonitions to placate – they struggle to find the balance between being firm and being aggressive. If you are like me there comes a point when you don’t care. If you think I’m a prick, such is life.

The best list poems, to me, start to hint at a story. This one is about lovers not getting along, or are they playing out a familiar structure of push-pull, argue-make up, control-resistance. It almost reads like a magazine list of ‘do’s & don’t’s’ to make a relationship work. I don’t think I’ve ever slammed a door, that wasn’t asking for it 🙂


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Taking the Fourth at 40

Someone asked me recently “What keeps you in these rooms after forty years?” They asked because this month (July 6) I hit the forty year point in my recovery. I get asked various forms of this question often enough & I try not to give an overly glib answer like ‘where else can i wear this shirt.’ But there is no simple answer.

Part of the why is that each year my understanding of the power of the steps deepens. Even if I ever feel bored, judgemental of members who wallow in their misery, or who quote the literature rather than share on a person level I know that those thoughts are better than being dead drunk somewhere. Actually it’s better than being dead period.

 

In Step 4 we are encouraged to make a moral inventory of ourselves (not of others). I’ve done this step a few times as a part of the process. One thing that I recently realized is that I have no morals merely a set culturally encoded behaviours that lead to acceptable behaviour – things I have conformed to without questioning. My notion of ‘moral’ was coloured, or is it discoloured, by heteronormative concepts of relationships, privilege, race, gender and consumerism. Not to overlook being labelled (or rather libelled) by a bad, but universally accepted Bible translation, as being an abomination unto the Lord.

 

So a part of recovery has been, for me, looking at how I’ve absorbed these cultural imperatives – some of which are so subtle they are absorbed without awareness – sort of like getting a tan but not seeing it until one sees the line been tanned & untanned skin. 

When I did my early inventory work things such as privilege or entitlement were certainly not on the list. That list was stuff like procrastination, lying, theft – things clearly disapproved (at the time). These days a politician can lie outright & when confronted with it become the victim of being held accountable – which is the essence of entitlement. Or expect their apology to get them off the hook for any consequences.

Sermon On A Mount of Plastic Bags

the plastic bag shall inherit the earth

it already owns the wind

the sea the shore claimed

by our need to carry crap

these bags choke India’s sacred cows

fill their intestines

but cows spew so much methane

they cause global warming

so it’s a fair trade off

fuck the ecology

I’m tired of trying to save our planet 

 

why bother reduce reuse reclaim

as much as I reduce my electric usage

my bill keeps going up

while energy honchos

make bigger and bigger profits

as they drive in fuel-efficient SUVs 

I’m told to take public transit

that if really care about our planet

I’ll only use plastic bags made in nations

that have paid carbon displacement fees

environmentalists make me sick

if they really wanted to save the planet

they’d stop shitting, breathing, breeding

 

I love the plastic bag

what would life be without it

Christ only knows

and he’s looking for one

that’ll hold lumber without breaking

won’t tear at the first rough patch

one that can handle any sharp edge

then reuse a shroud later

 

the next time that granola book store guy 

with the corporate logo on his hemp shirt

asks me do you want a bag for that

printed-on-reclaimed-non-chemically-treated-paper-with-soy-based-ink

book

I’ll say – sure buster, double bag it

fuck the ecology

I’m tired of trying to save our planet

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every Tuesday

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

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

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Gunning For Fidelity

Gunning For Fidelity

what are you looking for

fidelity or ownership

fidelity as long as you are interested

but if the other party

should be unfaithful

then you can gleefully

slip off the chains of fidelity

blaming them for betraying you

for being the first one

because you have the power

only you

the other party must surrender all

for unity to be real

 

what are you looking for

commitment that serves your pleasures

as long as you permit it

as long as they satisfy

as long as they never look beyond

the scope of your pleasures

until you get bored

because they would never get bored

because if they did

then they really didn’t love you

they really weren’t as committed as you

life is so unfair

because you never met someone

who can live up

to the true fidelity you want

no one is as capable of it as you are

so you keep seeking

keep being disappointed

in each new opportunity

that disappoints

 

it’s always their fault

for lacking the deep spiritual values

you hold like a gun to their heads

waiting for the first flinch

as an excuse to escape

This is the 5th of the saṃghādisesas. Keep in mind these pieces are prompted by the saṃghādisesas, they are not explanations or expansions of them. This is a theme I have blogged about before in The Fragility of Fidelity. Stepping out of the lock-step of what relationships are often lets them last longer and become deeper and more satisfying.

 

So this piece is a variation on a theme for me, not breaking new territory. I’ve done reading on the history of romance, sexuality and marriage. What is currently assumed as the ‘norm’ comes more from idealized fiction, drama and poetry than it does less than ideal reality. We judge relationships according to a laugh track, good lighting or the right background music.

There is also a tendency to judge things by what we decided when we were twelve or thirteen and as we get older don’t even questions those formative decisions. At that age not only do we feel vulnerable but that first love is a permanent love. Our first falling out of love becomes a warning never to be that open again or a reason to seek revenge on everyone who shows an interest.

Is it love or is it obsession? If you think about me all the time, can’t get me out of your mind, not somebody until the right someone loves you – I may be flattered but I prefer men with lives of their own not one defined by my emotional responses to them. To last it has to be more than hormones. Lust can be a useful starter but it can run out of energy if that’s all there is to the relationship. There has to be chocolate too 🙂


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put the flame to it

samplesSingle Again

 

I’m amazed

the thin paper

holds the weight of our history

the moment of us together

smiles so wide they burst out of the frame

smiling and holding

so long ago

and there we are

embraced

by the harsh light of the flash

embraced

by the room behind us

what ever happened

to that lamp

to that t-shirt of yours

I still have mine

you gave it to me that day

I remember

the photo remembers

do you even remember me

 

the paper

that holds the ink

has no memory

of the times we looked at it

the people we showed it too

it holds no memory

yet it holds the weight of that history

our history

up to that moment

up to that single opportunity

for the photo

 

I am amazed

the anger you held

remained hidden

from the camera

but not from me

I could feel it

there under my hand

the one around you arm

my fingers over your heart

or near it

or something like that

the paper holds it all

holds us forever

forever

forever unchanging

 

does a little of the past

seep out of the image

each time it gets looked at

does it fade

so imperceptibly that I can’t notice

though I was able to notice

when you

seeped out of my life

when you slipped through my fingers

when we found each other at

opposite ends

of dream fulfilled

to dream empty  vacant

till we found each other

or rather

stopped finding each other

you shouting in fury

at the very sky

at the price of electricity

at the frustration

of things changing

at the way

everything put together

sooner or later

gets put together again

different pieces

different furniture

new lamps

new lumps

new moments

and new photos

 

here’s one of me with someone else

I know it isn’t you

and you know

you want to be here

but the frozen anger

melted

so quickly that

our hearts couldn’t contain it

couldn’t hold the fragments

when they had a chance to express

to shatter

scatter shot

around at all available targets

the lamp that flew into the wall

the curtains that wound up

shredded in a ball

the camera sold in a yard sale

the t-shirt folded neat in the pile

and when it comes up

I remember the photo

where we smile together

arms around each other

looking slightly at each other

and slightly to the future

at the same time

a future

we felt was within the frame

that was on the same page

that was going to outlast

the paper

and turned out

not to be worth the paper

it was developed on

 

I long for that day

for that golden little fraction

when someone caught us

our living room

hugging  grinning

younger  easier

prepared but not for what happened

in reality totally unprepared

not willing to give in an inch

not willing to accept the constant

stream of zig zag truths

 

all that

is here in the palm of my hand

here on this stiff piece of paper

how can it hold so much

why doesn’t it crumple

under the weight of the image

 

the memory

so fragile

that it will burn

quick

if I put the flame to it

if

park that cold day in the park

This a piece from the archives – as early as 2000. I wrote it for the Queer Writers workshop. My fascination for photos goes back even further. I have some pieces about pics I wrote in high school in another cave of of archives.

In pulling this one out I’ve done some revision, changing lines lengths, cutting where it goes off course, adding some. It’s hard not to look at this old piece & not have it informed by the present & some of the recent pieces I’ve written about the power of the photo.

blue 62 Blue Street

Some of it plays on the fear a photo can steal your spirit and also the horror trope of pictures changing – people appearing or disappearing in them – ghost images – here the it’s the ghost of memory.

escape no escape

In a way it also echoes an Alden Nowlan poem about a recording of symphony orchestra in which instruments disappear as the musician dies in real life until all that remains is a single violin. Probably playing “ Hearts and Flowers ” as the photo in my piece burns.

sunny-sideart sunny-side up

What Did That Man Want?

I continued that conversation with the guy who asked me what I wanted. My reply was that I was looking for opportunity, communication to see where things might lead – that I wasn’t looking for the ‘one’ but if that what was present I’d be interest.  I asked him what he was looking. He replied that we weren’t looking for the same thing.

wldlfparkette wild life

What that ‘thing’ was he didn’t say. It was clear that, like many guys, he didn’t really read my profile. Unlike many, I’m clear about what I want – the fact that he even asked was pretty much admitting he hadn’t read it. What I don’t say is that my ‘wants’ apply to first dates, as it were, more is possible if we get past that.

hassockhassock in the wild

One of the first things in my profile is my nearest intersection – so guys know where I’m at. If they ask what area I live in that usually ends my interest. If they ask if I’m into any number of things not on my profile I figure that haven’t read it and there goes my interest too.

wildlifeeast end wild life

Some find it hard to believe I don’t do drugs, other than coffee, or drink. If things get to the point where I send them my youtube links I often never hear back from them. Poet in theory is interesting but in actuality scares ’em off.

I think this man wanted a reason to move out of Buttstink, Newfoundland – as if being stuck there wasn’t reason enough.

samples

Personality profile test 534

Where you you rather go:

1. to the store

2. to the mall

3. to New York to see the Producers

4. to Easter Island

Would you rather:

1. roller skate

2. roller blade

3. ski

4. sky dive

Would you rather wear:

1. Donna Karen

2. Hugo Boss

3. Coco Chanel

4. Christian Dior

Would you rather eat at:

1. McDonald’s

2. Harvey’s

3. Wendy’s

4. Denny’s

Would you rather drink:

1. Scotch

2. Draft beer

3. Red wine

4. Soda water

Would you rather have sex with:

1. A woman

2. A man

3. A man and a woman

4. Yourself

Would you rather have a threesome with:

1. A stranger

2. Your partner

3. Your next-door neighbour

4. the co-host of the Sex Wars

Do you have a craving for:

1. Chocolate

2. Attention

3. Affection

4. A roof over your head

Would you rather:

1. Listen

2. Tell others what to do

3. Follow the lead of others

4. Drop dead

Which shoe would you prefer:

1. Converse runners

2. Six inch stilettos

3. Mary Janes

4. Doc Martins

Would you rather dance:

1. The tango

2. In a ballet

3. On a lap

4. Alone in the moonlight

Have you ever cast a spell for:

1. Love

2. Money

3. Revenge

4. Power

How do you get to work:

1. Public transit

2. Bicycle

3. Car

4. Helicopter

Are you more like:

1. James Bond

2. Don Rickles

3. Eva Gabor

4. Mother Teresa

Where would you hide the body:

1. Under the bed

2. In a closet

3. In the attic

4. on a deserted island

Which would you save first

1. Money

2. A sick puppy

3. A drowning baby

4. Your relationship

What do you look forward to the most:

1. reading a good book

2. working in the garden

3. impressing people

4. helping the homeless

Do you have in your home:

1. A washer drier

2. A fully stocked bar

3. A work-out station

4. A four car garage

Which do you see life as being:

1. Hopeless

2. Worthless

3. Pointless

4. Endless

Do people see you as:

1. Full of it

2. Cruel

3. Miserly

4. Pushy

Which do you see yourself as:

1. Bossy

2. Cold

3. Indifferent

4. Smug

What color would you paint a room:

1. Midnight black

2. Blank white

3. Tedious blue

4. Timid beige

When you hear the word love do you think:

1. Trapped

2. Opportunity

3. Dead end

4. Sacrifice

Which would you rather cook:

1. Cornish game hens with fresh mushroom stuffing

2. Sole almondine

3. Stuffed red and green peppers

4. Rodents

Where would you hide:

1. Under the bed

2. In a closet

3. In the attic

4. on a deserted island

lostwild life on my roof 

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Without Your Love

A good friend of mine gets his heart broken nearly every time he falls in love. He wonders if its his fault for the kind of man he falls for. I don’t know exactly what to tell him. I don’t think the fault lies in him or the men but in a culture that measures relationship success by some skewed (to me) standard of cinematic logic.

tableget your legs in the air said the bushes to the table

The logic that says love is a form of emotional ownership that cures all, makes one another’s shortcomings acceptable, and so on. Held together by the notion of forged emotional bonds that never get tested or that will fall apart if they fail that test. Forged of course by sexual fidelity and endless available sex. Anything held together by come falls apart in the wash.

babylove on the go

I suspect many people fall into relationships simply so they won’t have to keep looking. The dating meat market is so brutal on self-confidence the opportunity to get out of it is welcomed. When we can’t we be friends and lovers forever blame and guilt take the place of connection and communication.

wardrobehiding love in a dark place

I’ve found it much easier on my heart to see relationships as opportunities not as solutions. Sure I have some expectations but having them fulfilled isn’t the basis of a friendship. Though the ways my expectations are met do shape the relationship. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t work – I can continue or walk away without making the person responsible.

In other words as much as I love to love and to be love I can live without your expectations of love being fulfilled.

samples

Holiday Cruise

“Play ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’.” Spoon called out.

“Later, man,” Cat took his bow away from his violin. “I’ve played it twice now already.”

“Yeah, I know, but me and the missus are here for a holiday cruise.” Spoon gave Dish a light tap. “And she wants to hear our song one for time.”

“That’s cool, Spoon. I know the story but I have other people here with requests of their own. Haven’t I? Jack Sprat and his wife won’t be happy if they get none.”

“Look, Cat.” Spoon stood. “I worked hard to get here and I expect to get what I came here for.”

“Money can’t buy everything, you know.” Cat arched his back.

“Don’t antagonize the darn cat, Spoony,” Dish tried to pull Spoon away from Cat before things got worse. “Can’t you tell he’s in a bad frame of mind. Must have a thorn in his boots.”

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever you say Babe. Let’s go up to the pool. We’ll be back later Cat so be prepared. You’ll get a licking you won’t forget.”

“Of course, sir,’”Cat wet his lips and picked up his bow and fiddle again. “Now that we have gotten rid of those clods, are there any more requests.”

“There’s A Hole In The Bucket.” Shouted jack.

“Fly me to the Moon.” Cow threw a ten dollar bill at Cat’s feet.

“Avec Plaisire.” Cat watched till Dish & Spoon had left the lounge before starting.

“How can you act like that?” Dish rasped. “I just wanted to get away for a few days to relax, and here you go trying to stir things up with anyone and everyone.”

“I’m sorry, my sweet, but I want to make sure you have a good time. After your nasty fall, you needed to be treated with extra care and protection.”

“I will not break that easily.” Dish shuddered at the recollection of her recent fall from the counter. No new breaks & her crack didn’t get any wider.

“I realized that long ago my love, but you are still the most delicate of tableware to me and it’s hard for me not to worry about you.”

They found room on the rack to lay in the sun. Below them others played and frolicked in the soapy water of the pool.

“Oh, no,” Dish mumbled.

‘What is it my dear.’

“That hussy, Tea Pot, has come out of her cabin. Let me tell you, she’s not that little anymore.”

Spoon was fascinating by the bulging figure of Tea Pot. Her handle, her spout. But he knew there was was no way in for the likes of him.

“Tea Pot how are you this morning.” Spoon asked

“Just longing for you to tip me over and pour me out, Spoony.”

snow01you’re snow romanic