‘the inner narrative of a vase’

The September 19 edition of the Art Bar hosted by Mike Lipsius went around the world in approximately 80 minutes. Barbara Pelman, visiting in Victoria BC – took us to Sweden, Italy & BC; Klara du Plessis, a South African expat, visiting from Montreal took us to her roots; while I visiting from who know where took the audience to Cape Breton, Japan & Queerville.


Barbara Pelman read a series of poems about bridges filled with evocative memory, colour & taste – Matisse rich with a tinge of Munch realism. ‘there is nothing you can take home in your melting hands’ ‘everything the same & not the same’ ‘blackberries summer in her mouth’ ‘unfolds the hours without lists’ ‘the blue doors still asleep’ ‘the morning opens slowly’ ‘reds browning blues blackening’ ‘if only you believed this was enough’ ‘or jump.’

Klara du Plessis started several short pieces with words locked like with stones & carefully placed for the right effect: Serrault precision with a hint of Monet. ‘to welcome the warm’ ‘like saying the skeleton is sexing the bone’ tangible but illegible’ ‘cling to acts of a future self’ ‘rain  redefining the meaning of rain’ ‘the guilt of imperfection weighs me down’ ‘a female five o’clock shadow’ ‘the inner narrative of a vase.’ Her long piece Waxing Lyrical was an unexpected foreshadowing of my set.

I started my Lichtenstein pop art set with Don’t Touch (My Hair), finished it with Arrg Godzilla. The ‘topical’ social commentary pieces didn’t go over as well as my nostalgic Waiting For The Boats (http://wp.me/p1RtxU-2rt) or the fun & funny Socks but I’m determined to be heard as more than just another funny gay guy with a great shirt. I sold a couple of chap books too, which is always nice.

It was also great to see several of the Renaissance Conspirators in the audience – fellow writers who have heard & seen me grow & change over the years.  The Free Times is a great spot for any series. Good sound quality, a cozy room & of course a great kitchen. I last appeared at the Art Bar in 2009 so get ready for my return there in 2025.


where did you get those socks

my mother had a pair of

argyle socks in her left hand

these aren’t yours

they certainly

don’t belong to your father


I didn’t want to tell her

I got them from a girl

in my class at school

we had swapped socks at recess

I had loved the way

these argyle socks looked

in her brightly polished penny loafers

she liked my ordinary red socks

that matched her tartan skirt

so we swapped


I saw them as socks

not as girls’ clothes

yet at that moment

I was afraid


to tell my mother

that I owned that pair of girls’ socks


I found them in your drawer

she said

looking for the mate to this one

she held up a crusty black sock

going through my drawers

was something she often did

to make sure I hadn’t

just stuck my dirty undies or socks

in there

not to have them

all over the floor


I found them

I finally blurted out

found them!

she exclaimed

you brought a dirty pair of socks

into my house

how did you know they didn’t have fleas

or something worse?


I washed them before I brought them home

I said


washed them where!


at school.


then you can take them back

to where you found them

and don’t let me ever catch you

bringing home dirty clothes

you find in the street



they’re nice socks I said


what do think

people will think

that we can’t afford to buy socks

I nodded

I guess you’re right


she was lucky

I didn’t bring the skirt home too

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Circles Within Circles

The past week I engaged in a couple of the social sides of Toronto’s poetry world. Monday I attended a TSP workshop lead by Ebony Stewart. Tuesday I was one of three features at the Art Bar show. Two very different groups of writers & performers. Although I felt quite comfortable in both it was also clear that I was an anomaly. I only have a place at these tables because I make myself take a place at these tables.

At one time I was the only out queer male in the poetry room – thankfully that has changed but the issues of gender, race & age haven’t really changed that much. One of the exercises at the workshop was circles within circles, with self in the middle circle, then each circle out one put names of people starting with the friend(s) one would go to for support in crisis, then working out.

This was challenging because thanks to AA I have many people I might easily go to for emotional support but they aren’t necessarily that close to me. Who do I talk to that listens to me? My partner of over 30 years? My friends in recovery? In the writing world? I’ve found most people, even those who are closest to me, aren’t such good listeners. So my inner circle was pretty empty.

At the Art Bar there was many familiar faces from my Renaissance Conspiracy days. Yet I had more conversation with one of the co-features than I did with the familiar faces. In the break after each feature to performer had several people eager to chat with them. After my set it was as if people were more interested in avoiding me – really. I guess my set was pretty bad & lacked the poetic gravitas of the real poets who went before me. 🙂

This is more observation than complaint. You know I really don’t give a shit. I write because it is what I do. Over the years I’ve become more politic & less in your face sexual. I’m not looking for approval or gushy flattery. I may not have a place in this milieu but, honey, I’m taking one anyway.

‘By the Moose of Moses’ http://wp.me/p1RtxU-1gg

‘by the enflamed dick of the moose of Moses’

my Dad was shouting

we knew he was really really angry

the more words he used

when he stared to swear

the angrier he was

none of wanted to know why he was angry


my mother would bundle the clothes

and head down to the river

my sisters would go to their rooms

to start preparing for their shifts at the strip bars

my brothers

if they were around

would be suddenly very very busy

with the gutting of moose

helping one another bloody their hair


I was often the only one left

for him to vent his wrath upon

that wrath was always words

never directed at me

but someone had to bare witness to his anger

or it got worse and worse

till one of the neighbours would come over

eyes darting around fearfully

to see what the commotion was


‘by the scraped udders of mother moose’

my Dad kicked at the bench in his workshop

I peeped around the corner

‘come in here now you little smelt fornicator’

‘yes Dad.’

I would inch into the room

‘have you been in here?’

‘no Dad’


I hunched my shoulders to hide my guilt

because I had been there

enjoying the play of sunlight on his tools

that hung in neat rows on the wall

or playing with boys

in the bone dust on the floor



‘just take a look around’

I couldn’t see anything amiss

the skidoo he was rebuilding stood

where it had for years

except on the two days

when it was working properly

the outboard motor he had salvaged swung overhead


‘i … i don’t see anything’

‘then open your eyes boy’


night had fallen

it was now so dark

I could barely make out his eyes


‘when I find out who did

this there’ll be hell to pay’


he struck match

in that brief flare of light I was aghast

he had dared to break the prohibition

even a glimpse of light

after nightfall was punishable

I knew whatever this was it was serious


‘you sure you weren’t in here’


‘no dad. i swear it wasn’t me’

taking my first step

to becoming

a guilt ridden adult

chapbooks for sale http://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6


HotDamn! It’s A Queer Slam


November 1-30

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice cream in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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there was music playing

a couple of tents down from ours

teenagers acting out adult roles

laughing   shoving each other off the path

tossing dishwater

shrieking    giggling

two boys two girls

through at times it seemed like more

too many frisky colts to count

that’s what some old guy called them

damn frisky colts he said

thought we’d have a few quiet days

I wasn’t a teen yet

and couldn’t wait to be what they were

couldn’t wait to get a little

what ever than was

watching them move long the beach arm-in-arm

lounging on the sun-hot rocks

I would tag along

but was quick to rush off if noticed

shy and dying to stay up late

to sit by their campfire as they sang

banging on cans  rattling forks on cups

entwined and snuggled together

I couldn’t wait to be frisky

to run with these easy-limbed colts

I thought they were so old

not as old as my folks

but not kids like me

their bodies nearly adult

girls developing giggling breasts

the guys joking in the change room

about having to shave

slapping at each other with towels

I glanced in afraid to look

wanting to see more than I could

catching glimpses of wet cocks

mushrooms in thickets of dark hair

what the girls they horsed around with had

didn’t interest me as much

I would never grow hooters

but would possess one of those hoses

even the slang they used teased me on

to want to see more

to know more

to handle and fondle

as I drifted to sleep in our smelly tent

I wondered

when would I ever be old enough


This month I’m looking back to the pieces of mine that were published in the first Renaissance Conspiracy anthology in 2004. Camping is one many memory pieces. I set out to write things about growing up queer that were full of longing, innocence and tenderness. Too often those memories are undercut with a sense of fear, bullying, sexual abuse and anger. Not that I didn’t experience some of those as well but enough had been written about them and I eventually addressed this issues in my own way in later poems.


shattered door

There is a lot of truth in this piece – summers my Dad would take us to Ingonish for a week or two to camp out in the provincial camp grounds. There were several of them along the Cabot Trail. The camp grounds had communal showers/washrooms and cook houses.

Many evenings there would be bunches of strangers sharing the cook houses, some with guitars and sing-a-longs were frequent. Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore, The Unicorn, Foxy Lady (just joking about that last one). I did get a little smitten by some of the older teens. But as the poem says they may have been older.


door down

These memories span several summers. The summer of the ‘damn frisky colts’ was one of them; ‘get a little’ was another year. The glimpses of wet bodies was yet another year. I’m not even sure if ‘hooters’ was a word I heard in that summer context but it was more likely ‘boobs’ or ‘tits’ but I wanted word that had youthful braggado as opposed to salacious experience behind it.

It took a couple of versions before I added ‘cocks’ – at first it read ‘wet mushrooms’ – as much as I liked the sprout-iness of that image it was also me pulling back from being more direct – because even then I was thinking ‘cock’ not mushroom. As an out performing poet I was gaining in confidence & caring less if being direct might offend people.


broken dreams

Talking about this piece today I realize that I still fall asleep wanting to handle and fondle more but now before I am too old to enjoy it 🙂


June 21-26 – attending – Rosemary Aubert’s Workshop: The Novelist’s Selfie – Loyalist – Belleville https://www.facebook.com/events/965611026782246/

( I’ve registered already 🙂 & giving two presentations)


register now while there is room at the table

page 23 for details next page down for registration info


June 26, Friday, 10:00 pm – feature – Pride 2015 Erotic Cabaret – Glad Day Bookstore, 598a Yonge St., Toronto


June 27, Saturday – 7:00-  Feature: Hot Summer Nights at Hirut, Hirut Restaurant, 2050 Danforth Ave., Toronto


September 3-6 – attending – Fan Expo


( I’ve registered already 🙂 )


October 18, Sunday – feature: Cabaret Noir: Inner Child Sacrifice


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red bulge

The Witch

sampleThe Witch

the witch that is my name

cartwheels over the city

clowns around when there is nothing

here to laugh at

when there are only tears to spill

to dampen the grave dust grace

of lost stars and missed chances

you aren’t the only one

needing to be charmed back to wetness

not the only one who had lost his day

in the night of frustrations and distrust

not the only one who thinks

the witch that is my name

can do more that any one name

can possibly do


you don’t believe in fairy tale stuff

there are no happy blending

no shuffled coils

that can ever lead you back

to the safety of the tomb

the witch that is my name

cannot remove the pain

that creeps into your bones

that leaves you feeling

like a ghost without a skin

cannot move you along this path

any farther than you are now

but will not sit around with you either

there are floors to be swept

things to be undone

the witch that is my name

flies around blind alleys

with the same discomfort as any other

lost hankering figment

the blood in my veins hurts for you

takes me where I least expect to be

and leaves me the word

the unutterable word

that cannot help anyone

that cannot bring comfort to anyone

but me

cannot replace your skin

cannot take your place

the witch that is my name

has been divested of all power

except the power you give yourself


This month I’m looking back to the pieces of mine that were published in the first Renaissance Conspiracy anthology in 2004. All of them under went the Conspiracy workshopping then a group selection process to pick out the ‘best’ for the several poems each of us submitted. Peer review that was a fun experience.


cage in the rain

This piece was inspired by a line in a poem I had read – the line went something like ‘the wind that is my memory’ I sprung from the structure to the witch etc. I straddle this balance between abstract and concrete, surreal with emotionally grounded.

I let the language riff on cliches: ‘happy blending,’ ‘safety of the tomb.’ Allusions to witchy stuff abound – ‘grave dust’ ‘charmed’ ‘ghost.’ The group loved the line ‘ghost without a skin.’


cage in the rain

The true in this poem is that I have had people tell me that sometimes when they get caught up in distress or difficult decisions they think ‘What would Duncan say?’ Hence the witch that is my name does a calming magic in their lives for a few moments.


cage in the rain

I pushed the emotion into a meditation on how I feel about being that witch – as flattering as it might be know the thought of me helps people it also creates a sense of responsibility I don’t seek. It’s not as if I don’t need that sort of energy in my life too. In the end I know I am merely a symbol for them and that the power is one they invest in my name is one that they can invest in themselves as well.