A Nod To The Numb

A Nod To The Numb

in the club

the music was so loud

it nodded your head for you

it was like walking into

a room of parrots

each head bobbing

<>

men moved

from perch to perch

eyes dart for eyes to lock on to

conversation was nearly impossible

to shout

made what was said

sound either angry

or desperate

<>

with every nod of the head

it was hard to tell

what the response was 

meant to signal

yeah let’s go

or get lost

<>

I left the cage

unsatisfied

by any of these

nodding acquaintances

Yes this is based on real experience. One that I repeated more times than I care to recall. I know many gay men went though, & still go through, this conundrum though the venue has pretty much changed from the club to the internet. I know of men who get trapped in the endless scroll & hunt through apps in search for the elusive.

Businesses built on hope will fail if they fulfill that hope. As long as customers hope to get lucky they stick around & drink. The sooner they get lucky the sooner they leave. I can remember going out to my favourite – no not favourite but – well I’m not sure what to call the gay dance club I frequented the most often – getting dressed, picking the right jeans, t-shirt. Juggling the right time to arrive & leaving sweaty from dance & reeking of smoke in the morning. On line one does have some control over the music & how loud it is.

At least on line there is no last call rush to connect 🙂 Usually no icky slippery bathroom floors either. Pictures on line often represent the profile one clicks on, but just as often they are photoshop fantasy or ten years old or etc. Even in person one may not being getting what one sees. Bar lighting is designed to hide not accentuate. There is also the distortion of booze goggles. lol.

Starting next Wednesday & for the next several weeks I’ll be giving the Monks a rest. I’ll be doing a series of Summer Reflections in which I ponder some of the shallower mysteries of life.


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All Due Respect

All Due Respect

when listening

one must not move the head

particularly 

to show agreement or disagreement

to do is 

infringing on the speaker’s right

to be heard without judgement

to acknowledge in any way

is condescending

either seeking or offering

approval from the speaker

<>

they need no approval

they do not speak

for your approval

merely to be heard

it is important

to keep one’s head as still as possible

so as not to distract

the speaker 

or the other listeners

<>

do not violate

invalidate

their emotional space

by any expression at all

give them the dignity 

of privacy

<>

if you understand this

stop breathing

In many recovery meetings ‘crosstalk’ is discouraged to give people the opportunity to share without interruption of direct commentary or advice. For the most part it is a good practice as some people clam up if interrupted before they finish a sentence. In workshop setting this rule is often stated too. It makes, I hope, listeners listen rather than thinking of responses to what they are hearing.

I’ve ended a couple of friendships because the person was so eager to jump in that I didn’t get to finish what I was saying. I don’t repeat back what I’ve just heard either to prove to the other person I have been hanging on their every word. I remember once being asked ‘Are you listening to me?’ To which I replied ‘No more than you are listening to yourself.’

But it is impossible to get our faces to shut up. Investigators are trained to read our unconscious facial expressions. They are almost as good as gay men who can tell at a glance if you are interested in them or can convey their interest, or lack of it, with a simple lift of an eyebrow. Non-verbal communication becomes second nature & takes a real effort to control. Poker face anyone?

I also remember an Asian martial art action film star being interviewed & the interviewer saying how much they loved the actor’s voice. The actor laughed saying ‘That’s not my voice! You love the voice actor who dubbed me.” 

When I tune into zoom meetings I adjust the feed so my camera is off & I’m getting audio only so that I’m not distracted by faces, pets, background activity. The others don’t get to invade my personal space. I only need to hear what is said, something I often wish I could do in ‘real’ life. 


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Anti-Social Workshop

Anti-Social Workshop

around the workshop table

the seats were so crowded

it was impossible to sit

without physical contact 

with the person on either side

not to sit at the table

would be seen as

anti-social 

not wanting to be part of the group

one would fail to be

a full participant

outsiders weren’t wanted

at this table of outsiders

outsiders

who stiffened

when their person space was

infringed upon

forced into unwanted close company 

with one another

more time was spent

apologizing for being squeezed

than was spent on the workshop

all that was produced 

was frustration

at the lack of respect

for personal boundaries

& a disregard one another’s opinions

As you might guess this piece was written well before the pandemic. It was also the writing workshop that made me decide never to go to a workshop held in a bar, restaurant or even someone’s home. This one was in a private room with a curved booth banquette around a large round table. A table that could sit ten people – as long as they didn’t have coats, shoulder-bags/knapsacks, iPads, writing pads, or elbows. There were twelve of us including the facilitator.

Oh yes – we all expected to order drinks of some sort to allow free use of the space. Fortunately the beverages could be floated in the air over the table so there no risk of spilling them on our hand-outs, iPads or writing pads. 

There was jostling for positions at the table as late-comers arrived. Thus a six hour workshop was reduced to five – no make that four with time lost to the delivery of libations & the need of the facilitator to repeat things said while various people missed what was said due to turning of cellphones that rang while things were being said.

It was also at this workshop that one participant said to another, who had said the piece lacked clarity – ‘you aren’t the target audience.’ Sigh. At the first ‘let’s stretch our legs’ I went to a nearby coffee shop & opted not to return. I’m guess I’m an overly sensitive faux-poet not willing to suffer for art.


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Walk Like A Gearbox

Walk Like A Gearbox 

guys in high school 

knew things about me

that I didn’t know

or rather didn’t fully understand

<>

I was a small blond boy

with very fine hair

that I let grow long

like pop stars of the time

<>

that got me teased

or was that bullied

with name calling

fruit  fairy   gearbox

<>

in the days before

faggot or queer were used

I knew those names meant

I wasn’t manly enough

not that I was fem

but I was not masculine like them

<>

I never knew

what tipped them off

until a guy I knew

suggest I should fix my walk

<>

I had no awareness

of how I walked

or of how 

men were supposed to walk

<>

I had little real body awareness

beyond my awareness 

of the bodies of the boys

changing in the locker room

<>

this guy

gave me some lessons

in how to walk like a man

lessons I didn’t understand

<>

it wasn’t as if I was deliberately

walking any one way

it was something I couldn’t

consciously change

<>

the right walk wasn’t going to cure me 

any more than dating girls

having sex with them

cured me of being a fairy

I once directed a play in which one of the actors for one scene was supposed to walk like a runway model – to sashay. He found it almost impossible to change his usual gait; any attempt to change it, he said, made him feel too self-conscious on stage. Turns out one of the ‘classes’ trans people now take is in how to change their walk to more suit the gender they’re changing to. Whoa – what hasn’t been genderized!

his piece is a true story. In high-school one of straight guys did what happens here. The name-calling started in junior high & followed me until I moved to Toronto. I can’t recall a teacher ever stepping in to stop it. At the time I thought I was being picked on because back un the day name calling wasn’t considered bullying but part of what one needed to become a real boy. I know know it was  verbal abuse.

I didn’t really understand the sexual connotations of those names & I’m sure the kids didn’t either. I was a nonconformist & such was my lot in life. By the time I hit high school I knew my sexuality was behind the name calling – not that I was sexually active with anyone except myself but my eyes told me what I wanted.

I tried the usually things to disprove their taunts – I had a couple of girls I would go to sock-hops with, I was active in some sports & even won a few trophies but that didn’t change the way I walked. Ultimately it was the hair that established me a fairy – too long & being a natural blond very fem. But like my sexuality, my hair was the way I was born & there was no cure for that either.


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Ankles Crossing The Line 

Ankles Crossing The Line

boys don’t cross ankles

when they sit

only girls cross their ankles

boys can put a foot

on the opposite knee

that is how men sit

you are a man aren’t you

you better start to act like one

how is your belt buckled

only girl have the buckle on the left side

or is it the right side

shirts for boys have buttons on the right side

shirts for girls on the left

or is it the other way

for buckles and buttons

<>

someone always looks

enforces gender appropriate

mannerisms

a code that if broken

meant derision

only girls sit to pee

only girls cross their ankles

when seated 

only girls

can part their hair in the middle

or on the left side

or was it right

I don’t remember now

but in high-school that was vital

<>

I never got any of that straight

because I wasn’t straight

I wonder if there’s a history of gender that explains how things became categorized as being gender specific. I mean things like colours (pink vs blue), actions (standing when a woman enters the room), professions: well okay I do get that one, as many depend on brute strength, but male nurses are suspect, objects (jewelry), scents (Old Spice vs Chanel No. 5). Men wore aftershave, women wore  perfume. I sometimes wear Chanel No. 5.

There are gendered versions of watches, running shoes, shirts, cosmetics etc. Man-sized meals. Real Men don’t eat quiche. Shirley Temple for the ladies, Virgin Caesar for the gents. All of which starts young – toy kitchens aimed at girls, toy tools for boys. Imprinting that never gets questioned. I don’t recall ever asking my mother why all my clothes were blues, blacks & browns – by the time I got to high school I broke free & went for multi-colour & was frequently picked on because of it. 

The desire to look ‘fashionable’ was not masculine. The male uniform was bulky jeans, scruffy shoes, blocky dark plaid shirts & shapeless jacket. If one was on a team a team jacket was permissible. If you weren’t on a team you didn’t count anyway. Boys didn’t dance well at sock hops. Masculinity was always established by violence – or rebel stuff like smoking.

Girls who smoked were sluts, boys who moved were toughs – but that’s another poem. I was a rebel who never smoked 🙂 I was a rebel who wore white shoes, who let his hair grow into a Beatles cut. I once was asked are you a boy or a girl so I guess my even my walk wasn’t masculine enough. Conformity was masculine, nonconformity was suspect.

I’d like to think things have changed but a man wearing a gown to the Oscars created a sensation. The increased notice of trans has made many uncomfortable with the changing clarity we once had thanks to defined, unalterable notions of gender.

My pronouns: it, that. 


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Whispered Vespers

Whispered Vespers

every word

was a secret

no matter how attentive I was

I could not hear

<>

I saw lips move

mouth close to my ear

I feel the warm breath

the urgency

<>

something I was never to repeat

a secret I could keep

because I never heard it

it was safe with me

<>

final words

never to be repeated 

for me to hear

I had my chance

<>

I failed to understand 

but knew I had been spoken to

which was enough

to sustain me

This piece was partially prompted by those scenes in a movie where a dying character last words aren’t heard clearly – the words were to reveal something important – because dying last words always reveal something important – a clue to the killer, directions to the buried treasure. They never utter things like ‘Fuck you’ or ‘More light.’

It’s also about our inability to hear unless it’s delivered in a way we understand easily, in a way we find acceptable. I prefer subtitled movies to ones that are dubbed – I like to hear the actual tone of voice which contains as much information as the words used. I have watched Asian movies, spoke in one laughs with subtitles in another & rather enjoyed creating my own sense of story from the visuals & tone of voice.

It also has become a reflection on what we don’t understand the past, how the physical evidence refuses to be translated into something we can comprehend. I’ve seen a documentary on the Phaistos Disc (from between 1850 B.C. and 1600 B.C & one on the Voynich Manuscript (carbon dated to early 15th century) – both are clear whispers that have, so far, remained, impenetrable to our understanding of language. But, maybe, like the Aztec pictograms they can be unravelled.

These whispered last words are like illusive dream memories that can’t be pieced together. There maybe an image I can recalled but it doesn’t unlock the whole dream but at least I know I’ve been asleep & that I had a dream. 

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The Silent Treatment

The Silent Treatment

no I have nothing to add

others have said enough

their need to be heard

is much more urgent to them

for them to hear anything

out of me or anyone else

<>

there’s no need for me to 

express myself

I’m quite content to listen 

to sort though the layers 

of this conversation

people talking over each other 

the louder the voice

the more important the message

<>

I have nothing to say

so let me remain silent

I’m not one to contradict

even when I don’t agree

nothing will be gained

by outshouting anyone

to share my truth

<>

it is clear the loudest voice

also conveys the most valid opinion

one that will echo forever

so don’t ask me to say anything 

don’t push the microphone at me

at least

not until

everyone else

shuts the fuck up

Recently I had a friend ‘B’ ask me for some advice about a situation & I said that had none. They asked why & I replied because they don’t listen. B was a little taken aback & as I explained B kept interrupting & I stopped & asked B why they don’t listen & B said because they were a rebel. Doing what people tell you makes you sheep. I said – then why ask me anything?

Don’t get me wrong it’s not as if I am free this behaviour but I have learned not to blame the rain for being wet. So I don’t complain that most people are not listeners. The American political scene is built on denying what others hear – the facts have become irrelevant. Shouting that that someone else is wrong has taken the place of being responsible for one’s own actions. Not taking responsibility is called being a rebel.

There’s a saying ‘would you rather be right or happy.’ Not that one can’t be both but often the energy of proving you are right isn’t worth the aggravation. Some time ago, thanks to those recovery defect steps, I realized that I was more interested in clever, cynical remarks than I was in having actual thought out opinions. As I curbed the need to be clever I actually began to hear people rather than listen till I had the right response.

One of best features of most 12 step recovery discussion groups it that we are encouraged to listen, commenting directly on what another member says is discouraged. members get to share without interruptions. On line once can go a step further by minimizing to audio only – you don’t even have to see who is sharing – all visual clues are removed & letting tone of voice resonate.


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That’s Not Funny

That’s Not Funny

no one is laughing at you

sure

we all laughed 

when you started to speak

but that was a coincidence

not something intended 

to humiliate you

to mock you

to drown you out

we weren’t laughing

became of anything you said

<>

besides

we were laughing so much

we didn’t hear you anyway

it’s okay

there’s no need to repeat yourself

you aren’t that funny

really

no one is

<>

expect when they take it personally

when they are egotistical enough

to think they are the object of derision

merely because 

everyone is laughing

for no apparent reason

<>

no one saw you come into the room

we were already laughing

all so consumed

by our own smug sense of superiority 

of being in on a joke

that you would never get

we didn’t notice you 

<>

when you started to speak

we saw no need to stop

no need to listen

we only stopped laughing

when you didn’t laugh too

and now

the joke’s on you

There is a classic Mary Tyler Moore Show where giggles start at funeral – I think it was Chuckles the Clown. They attempt to suppress themselves but can’t. When someone asks what are they laughing at, the reply is more laughter & that someone is offended at being laughed at. Walking in the middle of a joke can be awkward but taking it personally or feeling stupid because you don’t get the joke is pointless.

TV has trained us to laugh only when others are laughing – almost all sitcoms rely on a laugh track to let us know this is funny, this is the punch line & it’s time to laugh. There is youtube site that shows shows without the canned laughter & you know some of those jokes are flatter than your TV screen or come across as mean, not as funny.

One of thing stand-up comics learn is timing – you don’t want the laugher at one joke to drown out the punch line for the next one &, one thing I’ve learned, people will laugh when you least expect them to so be prepared to slow down a little if you want the real punch line to get heard. Unfortunately movies can’t slow down so I’ve missed five minutes of dialogue after a joke because the of audience reaction. 

If you think your life has been a joke, you’re probably right lol?


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LOL

LOL

I was told

more than once

that my laughing out loud 

ruined a movie

for someone

so I try to keep it down

to a snicker of derision

which to me

isn’t as satisfying

as that laugh out loud
so I stopped going to movies

saves money

allows me to enjoy them

in the privacy of my own home

<>

I’m one of those people

who laugh at camera angles

who laugh at clunky dialogue

ill-conceived costumes

bad wigs

crappy make up

historically incorrect language

<>

I don’t laugh at comedies

they aren’t funny enough

I see a punch line

before it gets delivered

I keep my knowledge of plot structure

to myself

because its clear

to me

that the long lost bother 

who turns up

is not the long lost brother

<>

sometimes I like to talk back 

to say things like

‘kill her now’

‘not in those shoes’

‘I saw that plot twist

coming down the street

on an elephant’

Decades ago, in the early 80’s, I think, a friendship ended because I found something in a movie absurd, laughed at it, & even when my friend shushed me I couldn’t stop myself. He & I had been seeing films, live theatre for a few years by then so when he opted to sit in another aisle I was puzzled. I never heard from him again. It was a’plot twist’ I saw coming though mainly because I knew things last as long as they do, not as long as we want them to.

The movie was part of subscription series of foreign films at Harbourfront & at the next showing he avoided my glance & I thought – such is life. Movie life with me hasn’t changed much, expect I see most things in the privacy of my own home. My partner is used to my laughs, my ‘wise’ cracks. I do try not to talk over the film so he doesn’t miss important points I saw coming down the street on an elephant. 

There is a structural predictability of movies that I find both amusing & tiresome. There are almost no Biblical epics without a romance threatened by adultery or the hunger for power. How many heroes, or villains, were traumatized in childhood, & when will we be subjected to the painfully predictable back story of those events.

Love movie soundtracks, so much so, I even have soundtracks for movies I’ve never seen, or want to see. Trucker Turner anyone? The Japanese film industry is great for curious soundtrack choices that are a mix of hard be-bop & rock-a-billy to give films a seemingly American edge. I am pained to see movies in which the filmmakers rely entirely on songs/music to convey emotions that aren’t in the performance of the dialogue.

I remember a moment in a movie, a movie whose name I have forgotten, as well as the cast, the plot or where I saw it – but a moment in which the character sit around a table & the camera angle changed to be at hand level in the middle of the table – I laughed out loud – then got my elephant for the ride home.

For my rant about costumes see: Let My People a-go-go https://topoet.ca/2022/04/14/let-my-people-a-go-go/.


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Malfunction

Malfunction

it was a costume malfunction

not that I was wearing a costume

but the phrase

has become a catch-all

for any apparel slip-up

a top with

too much cleavage

for the airline

shorts that allow 

the balls to dangle

when sitting down

a mini that prevents

the wearer from bending over

without revealing

more than panties

<>

the source of the phrase

costume malfunction

resulted in a corporate shaming

of a black female entertainer

she was shunned

her records her videos banned

who often revealed even more

than that malfunction made public

took the opportunity

to retire from the public light

she was sick tired bored

of no longer being a person

but a product

whose packaging

had replaced the contents

<>

not that my malfunction

revealed anything in public

it was reserved for private

to invite my carefully chosen view

to put his ‘fun’

into my malfunction

When I was younger, slimmer, more adventurous I had a oversized, mechanic’s one piece work coverall , that buttoned up the front. I would hit my favorite gay bar dance floor wearing that with just a jockstrap underneath. I found wearing it made me feel incredibly sexy. It was fashion look that didn’t catch on though – gay guys were more into little satin shorts & tank tops. 

There some who sported black leather, buttless chaps. But even in these somewhat private spots that naked ass was as bare as men would get. I never saw anyone wandering around with dick out for all to see. Even in my few visits to the baths – towels on outside of one’s room, or the showers, or the actual steam room, was enforced. Men could be on their beds in those little rooms, door propped open enough for passers-by to get a good look at what was offered. 

The showbiz manipulation of body image has a long history for exploiting the assets of its female ‘stars’ but when it came to males it was slightly different. Shirtless was fine but some male stars were discourage from bathing suit shots unless they wore loose trunks. Costume designers were tasked with making sure pants, shorts would never betray what lay beneath. Male actors were tucking their tackle long before drag made it mandatory. 

Body shame runs rampant though North American culture with celebs being praised for looking astonishingly good at 62 in their bathing suits or getting lavished with praise for losing weight & finally looking astonishingly good in their bathing suits. Lists of what not wear over a certain age, in public, unless you looking astonishingly good in a bathing suit.

One of my disappointments in Tarzan, or Beach Party movies was the lack of male bulge. Today’s male superheroes have dynamic abs but Ken doll groins.We can’t frighten teen-age fan boys & girls with such offensive sights. Her superhero bodysuit reveals camel toe while his reveals how well he can tuck.

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