Know Better?

ages  names

44 44 58 37 49 47 50 40

 

Selim Esen

Abdulbasir Faizi

Majeed Kayhan

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam  

Andrew Kinsman

Dean Lisowick

Soroush Mahmudi

Skandaraj Navaratnam

 

all men

old enough 

adults

not teen-age runaways

not ‘I’ll live forever’ twenty somethings

men

one commentator said

‘who should know better’

 

all men

all with beards

all found dead

two white

6 missed

2 not missed until found dead

1 unnamed even when found dead

7 found online

 

all looking for love

that isn’t clear

all looking for sex

that isn’t clear

some seeking asylum 

acceptance 

finding limits pushed

but not expecting 

to be pushed beyond limit

 

most so fearful

of discovery

they took what they could get

without … I want to say complaint

but no one knows

no one can know

what they were looking for

what they expected

we know what they got

death

 

a talking head on TV said

‘they learned their lesson’

what lesson

that homosexual men

are all sadistic murderous predators 

a cliche

once more proved valid

or

dating apps aren’t to be trusted

that searching for sex

deserves to be punished with death

that they got what they deserved

 

they deserve better

than some talking head on TV

shifting blame

from perpetrator

to the dead

I performed this piece as part of my Shanty Tramp set on Jan 26, 2020. I placed it in the middle of the set along with another of the Terra Cotta poems. All of them deal with the serial killer of gay men here in Toronto in 2017/18. Like some of pieces it deals more with the media coverage as the cases unfolded. It also echoes the naming of names that I have heard/read in relation to the massacre of trans people. This list isn’t as long. It also echoes the use of names & ages in the news. Ages are used when they aren’t relevant to the report – ‘an age gender died in a fire.’

 

Here I separated the ages from the names of the known victims. I have not memorized or perfected their pronunciation for performance – I never want them to come easily off my tongue the way they did with news announcers. I don’t even connect the names with the statistics around race etc. I don’t venture a statistic about their sexuality.

 

 

The commentator quotes are real. I found myself watching some of the coverage, even things on 2020 & ‘news’ shows of that ilk. I also read something into the subtext of remarks made by various talking heads – essentially these men got what they deserved for being gay – the same logic behind spousal abuse – if she had been more compliant etc. The shifting of guilt from the perpetrator to the victim.

Some of the subtext was that these weren’t good queers like the ones who got legally married & adopted children in heteronormative acceptability. The shaming of sexuality – no, it is broader than that – the shaming of enjoying a variety of sex partners (regardless of genders) played a bit part in the media coverage. Only married homos or celebrate homos are good – the rest get what they deserve & this serial killer gave them justification for this lesson.

My lesson: media will use any excuse to be condescending & self-righteous. 


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Completion

Unsubstantiated

each day of silence

creates impatience

people want to know

families loved ones

want to know

reporters want to know

completion impossible

until we know

yet even when we know

the details are shocking

 

speculation remains unsubstantiated 

though the layers of facts

builds up

for two to three to eight

fragments found buried deep

in planters

under the noses

of even the lookers

of even the ignorers

 

each day of silence

is remembered with longing

the silence of unknowing

offered a solace

that the noise of facts

can never provide

Another piece that was written when the alleged serial killer of gay men was finally making the news. ‘Alleged’ is one of those words that allows media to distance itself – it doesn’t make a commitment to concrete fact – much like the notion of the serial killer that was deemed circumstantial & unsubstantiated for a few years.

The dots connected the many missing men were not connected but considered merely coincidental – after all, homeless and/or immigrant men were disappearing all the time – in some cases this disappearances went unreported or weren’t seen as connected to the gay missing.

This piece is as much about the media’s use of language as it is about the search, which by this time had finally turned up remains in planters. No names were associated with those remains while forensics determined if they were even human.

The alleged killer was identified as ‘a person of interest’. I rarely write about ‘current events’ but this one resonated deeply with me or many reasons – the prime being that I casually met one of the victims some time before he went missing. Many of the victims were a physical type I find attractive, the ‘alleged’ killer was not.

 

‘the silence of unknowing’ includes the not knowing the details of how these men were murdered. For some just knowing their loved one was involved in gay activities was already too much but the nature of the sexual activities involved was more than they needed to find out. I’m not sure what ‘sense of completion’ resulted for anyone.

 


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Cadaver Dogs

DNA Traces

did he live here

there

he tended gardens

the cadaver dogs

are nosing the rose bushes

the lilacs

he planted here

there

 

each was his place

refuge or hideaway

haven or grave

the men who know

will only talk

if their bones are found

traces of their dna

say

we were here

there

 

we now live in a digital world

symbols

of the discarded

the disappeared

never to be reported

not missed until

their remains were found

 

men with hidden sexuality

now with hidden bones

senses of self

some homeless 

before they were lifeless 

 

cadaver dogs are on the trail

some families still deny

their complicity

in a culture

denies its complicity

shaming sexuality into hiding 

long before those bones

were stripped of flesh

before being hidden 

perhaps

never to be found here

there

This is one of several pieces I wrote in response to the search & capture of the serial killer of gay men. Other pieces looked at the media response to the search, others to the denial that there was even a serial killer. Part of that inability/unwillingness was due the the social status of many of the victims. By social status I mean homelessness or immigrant. If you are homeless no notices you are gone.

As the piece says some weren’t missing until their remains were found. Some remains were of men reported missing but whose closeted culture didn’t include their sexuality. The murderer was found when he killed a white male who had people who missed him immediately. They were unafraid of immigration policies, weren’t so imitated by police, that they reported him missing.

Their insistence & persistence – putting up posters, searching themselves – lead to the eventual capture of the murderer. The murderer preyed not only on these’s men sexuality but also the shame that kept, for some of them, their sexuality a secret from families & friends. They were murdered a much by that culture of shame as they were by the actual hands of the killer.

The vicitms: Selim Esen, Abdulbasir Faizi, Majeed Kayhan, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam

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Bloody Footprints

Bloody Footprints

the movie opens

on a busy sidewalk

someone with a knife

stabs a stranger

keeps on going

while the victim collapses

remember the knife

the flash of it

the thrust

blood blood blood

 

people stepping in it

as they step over the body

on their important way

bloody footprints

quickly splotching the sidewalk

as the camera

pulls up up

the police arrive

the credits roll

over the expanding trail

of bloody footprints

 

steps lead to smart shops

to offices

into elevators

down marble corridors

over carpets in hotel hallways

cafe floors

washroom stalls

 

blood gets on hands

trying to clean shoes

the fingerprints on mirrors

coffee cups

documents

dried flakes fall between 

keyboard keys

smear smart phones

traces tracked undetected through 

airport screening machines

splotches on luggage

the blood travels around the world

 

the sidewalk

with the outline of the body

is a pool of blood

after crime scene photos have been taken

after cellphone photos have hit the net

city workers come to clean it up

 

the camera looks for the stabber

pushing through crowds

roving over heads shoulders

no faces

hands washing

blood pooling in sinks

almost dripping down the walls

of apartments

seeping out of TV screens

 

bloody footprints

lead up to a door

the bell rings

you reach to open the door

the closing credits roll

Much like Psycho Zombies in the Rain this piece is very cinematic – in fact it includes camera angles 🙂 The opening is one that I saw decades ago in a movie about a serial killer, I think. My memory of the plot is rather vague of what happens after the victim collapses other than people annoyed & reacting as if the victim was drunk not dead.

The rest is inspired by CSI, when I used to watch the show, by how they followed clues to unexpected locations. The poem is a list poem of various places this blood could have been tracked to. I realize it probably wouldn’t stay on shoes long enough to get where I take it, or that it would stay wet enough either but this is poetry not a text dealing with blood spatter theory.

Each of the bloodied locations would get its own screen time while the audience sorts through the clues to figure out which ones are relevant because narrative logic dictates that some of these locations must pertain to the identity of the killer. This is one the frequent plot ploys on many detective shows – too many clues to sort through.

I like the overhead camera view of the corpse with all these foot prints leading away from it. Prints made by people oblivious or perhaps indifferent to the body, to the crime & later miffed by having to clean the blood off their shoes.

 

The ending is a riff on surprise endings where the narrator turns out to be the killer – it is a bit of a cliche mind you but I couldn’t resist. Here it is ambiguous – has the killer come to your door or have the bloody footsteps lead the police to your door? Either way you’ll get what you deserve 🙂



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The Killer Wants To Know

lamentfor some reason WordPress has imposed line breaks where none are in the original:-(

The Killer Wants To Know You

the killer wondered
how long it took for blood to dry
he never left a crimson spatter pattern
he didnʼt leave clues
there was so much about death
that he didnʼt understand

like how long it took for blood to dry
did it get absorbed
would it slather the surface
and clot cake dry
become flakey then powder
be blown away

in the morning breeze

could it be resurrected by rain

he knew what was released on death
the bowel bladder
abrupt shudderings
that were the price of what he did
to liberate this world
from all these unnecessary fucks
all these jerk offs
who didnʼt see how precious life was
until he would suddenly confront them
in the washroom of a noisy bar
music pounding so loudly
people thought the the thump

on the stall door

was someoneʼs fun drug reaction

but most of them didnʼt know
how long it took for blood to dry
not that he asked them
why worry them with more
than how good is the coke

he offered

then push them into a stall
squeeze
life gone
him gone out the door
his impression around the neck

satisfying and simple

but now he had something

new to learn

he had to find out

hello stranger

6steps01

Here I step even deeper in the mind of this killer. Allowing his thoughts to seem almost normal invites the reader to get closer to the abnormal. He wonders about the stuff we’ve also seen on so many crime shows – shows, I’m sure, that have become educational to whole new generations of serial killers.6steps02

I pushed this piece into an even more ‘hands on’ scenario – each piece had escalated the explicitness of his actions. That is part of the flow for me – to start easy – that childhood memory of Aunt Sally leads the reader into that washroom stall. Starting there would have been too much too soon.6steps03

All the forensic references here are from TV. I’ve never gone deeper into them or want to. One of things that rarely gets mentioned though in any crime scene show is what the body does on death – bowels often loosen, there can be vomiting. I guess that stuff is too graphic for movies & TV. So that happens here.6steps04

The washroom stall occurred to me as I was writing this section. I used it to reflect the degree of planning in the killer’s mind. He knows where to strike. How to make a get away. His desire for new knowledge shows he needs new stimulation, that he’s willing to learn to get ahead in his chosen career. Even serial killers need fresh motivation.

You, of course, are the stranger.

soon

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The Killer In The Morning

lament

The Killer In The Morning

with a shout

the killer awoke from a dream

someone smothering him

a pillow over his face

 

heʼd never use a pillow

or anything that hid the face

the best part of the kill

was in the eyes

that

I canʼt believe you are doing this

combined with the actual pain

as his hands crushed

the wind pipe

squeezing

hollow bones in his strong hands

he could crush an apple

the hardest granny smith

heʼd hold it up

so juice splashed his face

like a warm summer shower

cleaned and ready

 

the killer sat

at his kitchen table

looked out at the sunny day

at people on their way to death

death at his hands

maybe not right now

but soon sooner than they expect

at least one of them would die today

he knew that

the knowledge armed him

gave him power

gave him a reason to live

to be there amongst them

each of them ripe for his desires

 

the headlines no longer cowed

them they had little fear

a killing a day

the papers screamed

who will be next

the tv clatter box went on and on

flashed from his latest victim

to breakfast cereals

that would help you lose weight

ha he laughed to himself

I have a program

thatʼll give you a permanent weight loss

donʼt bother calling

Iʼll find you today

it is a good day to diebed01It was challenging to step into this character’s mind without seeing to judge or enjoy him. Because so many people think what you write is a part of who you are, when I’ve performed these I have to assure people they are totally fiction. I have a strong sense of the macabre but I am not a homicidal homo:-)bed02I worked on a tone of rationality as opposed to one of  blind rage. The ‘in the eyes’ ties this to the previous piece. The thought process follows a logical sequence in a way that I hope the reader, listener understands & feels bit squeamish for that understanding. I also play with paradox – being clean & ready as the result of crushing the apple, the rushing of the throat.bed03One of the theories of writing good villains is to give them a sense they feel they are doing the right thing as opposed to feeling they are evil. I add just enough narrative detail to move the story forward – the headlines about him show he’s killed before.

It also reflects how we as consumers of crime entertainment become numbed by the fast  frequency of it. Oh another mass murder in the USA, what else is on, CSI? Midsummer Murders. We don’t even care if there are real deaths anymore. It’s all entertainment.bedo4It ends with the killer’s sense of purpose & his wry sense of humour. The weight loss stuff is so blackly funny I love reading it – it both humanizes & demonizes the killer’s p.o.v in a way that I hope makes him chillingly real.soon

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Your Eyes

lament

Your Eyes

what color are your eyes

really

you know thatʼs my favorite color

honestly

 

well not really

I guess my favorite color is

a sort of cerise

you know the red of sherry

when you spill it on

an eagle white rug

just as it soaks in a little

I love that red

canʼt get enough of it

though I do really like the impact

of a sudden spurt of blood

on newly fallen snow

blood warm enough to melt sink

clotted crimson

in a thin gleam of ice

that is a sweet color too

or the tinge of a bruise

after the third day

when the blue black is ebbing out

to that green blush along the edges

until finally it becomes as faint

as a finger print on a knife point

or a the kiss of a rose

trodden underfoot in a muddy field

after the police have searched

for days looking for clues

the dark deep brown

of fresh dug earth

or ground recently patted down

to a sort of smooth quality

like skin untouched for a year or so

dried in the corner of a basement

who knew Aunt Sally was down there

we thought she had gone

back to Florida

I love the color of her eyes

what was left of them anyway

a beige blackened

with whites jellied dried

pink rose petals

 

so I love the color of your eyes

yes that has to be nearly

my favorite color

in the whole wide world

redsky

Your Eyes starts a a series of four chilling poems about a serial killer. I aimed for a rather innocent, youthful tone of a chatty teen unaware of the macabre nature of his or her remarks. I love the innocuous way this starts with the simple question about eye colour which gets odd with the wine on the rug analogy.

It quickly escalates to blood on snow. These are things I have actually seen so it was easy enough to capture the images. I enjoyed making the blood the snow so vivid with how it melts as it sinks before it cools & clots.bluebrick

The unease for the listener grows, I hope, as the examples of colour continue to be related to injury as opposed to the sky. They speaker is clearly alert to bruises to be so accurate with the timing. One wonder sit this because the speaker has been bruised, abused in some way.blue

I always enjoy performing this piece with the shift in darker & darker while maintaining this naive quality of the speaker. The listener gets taken along for the ride which takes another sharp turn with Aunt Sally in the basement. The narrative moves from the sort of abstract descriptions of colour to a real event.

What does the speaker know about Aunt Sally? The compressed story of Sally being found and our speaker seeing this eyes could be an episode of CSI. I aways enjoy saying the line ‘who knew Aunt Sally was down there’  because it throws the narrative into a whole new direction. Where the police searching for her in that muddy field? redtruck

Finally I come back to your eyes. How safe do you feel now with this speaker. How often has your feeling about a person changed as the result of what they though was an innocent conversation? soon

 

June 3-5: attending: Capturing Fire 2016 – The DC Centre – 2000 14th St NW, Suite 105 – Washington, DC

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July 4-8: attending: Chasing  your Tale – Loyalist – Belleville

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