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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Out of Control

Out of Control

I am a man

in a man’s body

there was a brief time

when I doubted this

a time when gender was fixed

by cultural controls

<>

to explain

variations in object desire

people were reduced

to data

that data was used to explain

what didn’t fit

so that men

in men’s bodies

who desired other men’s bodies

were actual women in men’s bodies

genders misplaced

trapped and looking for release

that a man would desire another man

was explained

in terms of heterosexual norms

because only a woman

could would should

have sexual desire for a man

<>

when I realized I desired men

I almost accepted the theory

that I was a woman 

trapped in a man’s body

though it never made sense

but it was deemed more acceptable

than man to man attraction

the data proved that

yet my human experience

refused to conform to that data

<>

facts spun to conform

not inform

a pervasive compulsion to control

what 

at least in my pants

in out of control

One of the things that Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam encouraged me to do was examine, in even greater detail, how our sense of sexual self is ‘created.’ Much of it comes from pop culture. Rampant heterosexuality dominated & even as the lgbtqia community was coming into the mainstream it often remained caught in those heterosexual behaviour constraints such as marriage for acceptance, being a good homo by adopting children to create the typical family.

Even sexual interactions were caught up in this coding – top, bottom, fem, butch, masc, whatever. This piece looks at some of the theories I read about in exploring sexuality – the wrong body has recently morphed into trans body diaspora, which, to me, it logical. But back in the day it was considered a fringe rationalization to make non-het sexuality acceptable.

Similar is the theory that one is haunted/possessed by the spirit of the opposite sex- so its really not me that likes men but the ghost of the woman that has taken over my body. 

Both theories that I find amusing as opposed to informative or definitive. I still live in a culture that is sex-a-phobic period. As much as there appears to be an appreciation, say, for women owning their own sexuality it’s still seen through the male gaze of acceptance. It’s also a culture in which suffering is deemed authentic & while pleasure is deemed intellectually shallow.

So I’ve stopped wondering about the puzzle of my sexuality & have opted to ignore any data, any attempt to explain it & choose to enjoy because I am fine with being intellectually shallow.

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Kiss The Monster

The Monster 

whose lips are these

did they kiss 

before they were grafted to my face

this attitude to the kiss

where did it come from

what cultural imperative 

was infused into my brain

to tell me the power of the kiss

 

I look down at this body

ruminate about this brain

all the things woven into 

my sense of self

that I don’t know were they originated

though I know they are controlled

by attitudes I can’t alter

 

the history of dominant needs

sutured to my ideologies 

as seamlessly as these lips

as these hands

which send ripples of fear

through the global villagers

 

a monster created in their minds

moving in this world

asking them

are your lips yours

or have they too been grafted

seamlessly

as you groped with those hands

(your hands?)

into adulthood

 

Stepping away from the Rules for a break 🙂 Each October I’ve been writing poetry inspired by horror movies. I’ve been a fan from an early age – ghost stories, spooky stuff had a distinct appeal for me. I can’t pin-point an actual age or movie that sparked my interest. Maybe it was ghost stories at Y camp?

 

One approach is to see the world from the creature’s point of view. This is the most famous monster of all – Frankenstien’s creation. I’ve given him a more introspective sensibility that is even present in the novel. In the book he is quite chatty & thanks to his bad brains, rather vengeful. My creature is stitched together from similar parts from movies, books & shoe-gazer angst.

He questions the sociological construct of the kiss, of the sense of self. The sort of questioning that many non-conforming gender people often go though as they sort though the history of dominant needs. LGBTQ people often end up with a sense of sexual self that they have to put together for themselves. How do you adapt this self to a culture that says self-acceptance still doesn’t change the fact that you are fucking monster that can send women & children screaming when you go to the washroom.

Part of the fear of the monster is often how it makes us question our own sense of self. Are these my lips. Is this kiss, is this gender, me or is it a cultural costume I wear to fit in, fit in so well there’s no need to make any decision. Why not accept the pre-made identity that allows us to conform so that we don’t scare even ourselves when we look into the mirror.

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The Name Game

The Name Game

this is not my real name

in fact

I use my given name so infrequently

no one is sure what it is

I’m not sure of what it is

 

I won’t tell you what you want to know

not that it’s a secret

there is no deep shame

that I am hiding

 

names that I use

change from time to time

location to location

in fact

we may have met before

when I was someone else

that’s why I sometimes

seem so familiar

 

I don’t go out of the way

to disguise myself

to cover my trail

only who I might be

so that when you say

you understand me

I know 

you don’t even know who are talking to

 

everything you know

is about another person

someone with a name you know

that’s not my name

it wasn’t then

and it never will be again

I’ve met guys on line who. for privacy, I guess, have more than one name. In fact nearly all people on line do – a handle, a nickname, an email address that doesn’t reveal who they are. On dating sites guys have names like Toppugood43 or flexlexy – that may hint on what they want to do. Some have given one name in chat, then another one shows up as part of their email response & when they text another name & when we meet maybe their real name.

 

Some never give a name at all, really. ‘Hi it’s Toppu.’ Or not even that much, as if their phone number will tell me who it is. Names are one of the way we define people, so I can accept people needing to self-define by choosing their own name & using it as a sort of mask. Would John Wayne have made it big with his birth name Marion Morrison?

One of the reasons for ‘branding’ myself as TOpoet, was to remove immediate information about myself. All I want you to know is there – where I am located & what I do. No gender, sexuality, race or even age is alluded to. The only preconceived notion one may have is about poets, not about me as a person – unless it is to conclude that anyone labeling themselves as a poet is a pretentious fop. Guilty.

So this piece is about the ambiguity of names, of what we think we know about people & how insubstantial image is. It is easy to be someone else on line. I’m never sure if who I may be chatting with for the first time is actually the person in the picture (if they have a picture). I don’t know until I meet them face to face & it is the face in their photos. I don’t even fully believe what they’ve said in our chats, or in their profile. It is easy to flirt, overstate interests in text. Meeting moves things to the next level of negotiation. Which may require proof of identity 🙂 


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Never The Man

Never The Man

if you don’t ask

you won’t get –

no one says no

if you don’t ask –

often what you get

you didn’t ask for

 

I felt

I was never the man

my father expected me to be

I was never the man

I saw on TV

in movies

I would never be up to scratch

I would always be less than

all those guys who were real men

 

I would never be a real man

with sweaty rough-and-tumble garb

of that sort of pride

would never be mine

even if I wore that garb

it would a costume

a disguise

to hide my heart

 

the man I was 

was someone 

who strove not to be defined

contained by definition

so I lost

the comfort of the acceptable

an acceptability

I never asked for

 

I felt was was never the man

my father wanted me to be

not that he wanted me to be like him

but to be the man he wanted to be

 

I was never asked

if his expectation a good fit for you

I wasn’t aware

that I could say no

or that once I started to choose

the definitions 

that I hoped would suit me

that I’d have to constantly be adjusting

to make the shoulders fit

to make the pants crease properly

but by losing the comfort of the acceptable

I found the ease of being me

 

This starts with with a variation on the internet meme – if you don’t ask the answer is always no – an exhortation to less fearful in making our hopes clearer. What troubles me about this is that it is too easy to ask for what we think our culture wants us to ask for – things that supposedly make it comfortable for everyone – or at least more comfortable for the majority.

 

I grew up with the cultural narrative of what boys are & what they want to be is men – not ‘want,’ because ‘want’ has a sense of freedom of choice. The dominating narrative is too narrow to allow for choice. Even as laws changes, morals change, the majority is so uncomfortable with changes they feel attacked not enlightened.

The man my father expected me to be was not his fault – he fought a war that defined his masculinity in a culture that equated masculinity with physical prowess. You faced violence with violence – bullies were bested & defeated. As a kid I never questioned that equation but never could face violence with violence, hence I would never be a real man. I probably hated myself more for being a ‘coward’ than for any other reason.

So growing up has been a process of recognizing, questioning and putting those heteronormative notions of masculinity in perspective – the constant adjusting of shoulders. Not something I asked for but something I couldn’t refuse to deal with either. Today I have the ease of being me, most of the time. But I know enough ‘real’ men to know even they don’t have as much ease as I do.

 

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