MISSING: 2020

I miss the smell of the restaurant – of food cooking, of someone serving the meal & taking away my dirty dishes, of being able to ask for suggestions. Taking your chicken souvlaki out of a paper bag and finding out it is pork isn’t the same as seeing it on the plate & sending it back right away. I miss plating – the art of someone else arranging food on your plate.

I missing being able to give your order at a coffee shop without having to shout through your mask & over-enunciate words like ‘sweet & low’ & having to repeat yourself as they still don’t hear clearly over the music. I miss paying for things with cash. What do people without plastic do?

I miss wearing shirts to public events, because there are no public events to wear them to. I have a wardrobe based on public appearances, even if the appearance is meeting someone for lunch or doing a feature in front an eager audience of poetry fans. The face mask has replaced the shirt, the t-shirt for now.

Shopping has changed here in Ontario. Not that I spent a lot of time in stores but I miss the sense of destination, of discovery as I browsed the aisles looking. When I do shop I am focused on what I want but there are times when going through the tables of remaindered books at Book City, or even Indigo, results is amazing discoveries. 

Not that I mind online shopping for most things & I sure do love packages showing up at my door but I miss the hunt. No more impulse shopping. No more checking every aisle in the grocery store for specials, now it’s all about following the right arrows to maintain social distance. 

I missing not knowing what day of the week it is because I’m no longer doing what I used to do every Wednesday that took me out of the house. My cell phone now tells me what day of the week it is. I think this is Monday.

Old Feet New Shoes

it’s never a fresh start

there is no clean page

no expanse of innocent white

to start in on

there is always a past 

something to remember to avoid 

lessons learned

something to escape from

to forget

to write over scribble out 

<>

new shoes always go on old feet

we stand on what we are familiar with 

bring the same skill set 

to each fresh opportunity

to do the same thing in a different place

yet how different is the place 

a chair is always a chair

lights are always lights

<>

different shades fabrics 

but new jeans are still jeans

same hair changed style

anxious for the new

as if the old 

was worthless inferior

<>

why should things last at all

the longer cars last 

the fewer cars get sold

the fewer cars get sold

the economy grinds to a halt

people are out of work

it’s all your fault

you fucking pedestrians

we’ll make narrower sidewalks 

to discourage all that walking

<>

nothing new in this same old rant 

about the same pointless crap

words won’t fuel the economy

who reads 

who listens 

who cares

nobody wants a fresh start

just new shoes

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Chapter LV: Lillian Tries on a Wedding Dress

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet

Coal Dusters – Chapter LV

Lillian

Tries on a

Wedding Dress

“Lillian, it won’t matter what trousers I’m wearing down into the mine. The miner’s overalls will cover all I’m wearing.” Steven tried to joke. “This is the last day I’m joining them. It has been an education.”

“Yes, so you’ve told me every night.” She handed him a pair of brown serge pants.

“I’ve grown up here and yet never knew much about how they lived and worked.”

“Yes, yes. You’ll be able to represent them even better in Ottawa when you run for the Federal seat.”

“When I win!” He snapped his suspenders.

“When you are premier.”

“No! When I’m Prime Minster.”

“Oh, ho! Your dream get bigger every day.”

“With you at my side I have every reason to dream big.”

“Not now!” Lillian avoided his kiss. “They will be taking your picture before you get into the mining gear. You have to keep in mind that people’s eyes will now be on you, more than ever before.”

“I want them to see that I am one of them not some … shop display manikin of …”

“You want to look how the workers want to look themselves someday.” She interrupted him. “These clothes are dressy but simple enough at the same time. Now that things are getting back to normal, the miners will be ready to improve themselves.”

“I do wish you would be coming with me.”

“A woman in the mines!” Lillian laughed. “Worse than a woman on board a ship. No!”

“At least come with me. Be there when I go down with them. The other wives will be there everyday so far to celebrate their men returning to work. There’ll be those cameramen, too.”

“Dressed this way!” Lillian pointed out her housecoat and slippers. “By the time I’m prepared to go anywhere, they’d have hauled up the first ton of coal.”

A car horn tooted outside the house.

“There’s Gus now to take you along. Be sure to send him back with the motor directly, so me and Clara can go to Sydney.”

“Sydney?”

“That’s right. To your store there. They have some new wedding dresses for …”

“Wedding dresses.” Steven broke into a wider smile. “You mean …”

“That’s right you can confirm that the date is two weeks from today.”

The car horn tooted again.

Lillian went to the porch with him. As he got into the car she leaned in to remind Gus to bring the motor back.

She took Steven’s breakfast plate to use herself and was eating toast when Clara come down to breakfast.

“You’ve seen Steven off?”

“Yes. He’s looking forward to the official reopening of the mines more than the miner’s are.”

“No doubt. He only has to go down once more. They have to go down everyday.”

“He wanted to know enough to answer any questions the reports might have.”

Lillian dabbed a piece of her toast in the egg yolk on the plate.

“I see you’ve eaten.”

“Only some toast.” She glanced down. “Oh goodness! I’ve used Steven’s plate! Uncle Pat lived so simply he only had one plate, one cup for his breakfast. I’d wait till he was finished before having my own. It did mean less washing up. Strange how a habit starts and sticks with you.” 

She put the plate on the sideboard.

“I’ll get dressed for the drive while you have something to eat.” Lillian said.

Once she had changed her clothes she made sure her two war bonds where in her purse. She hadn’t told anyone about finding them and planned to deposit them in a bank in Sydney. Knowing she had a something to fall back on when she needed it made her fell more secure. Ready cash could come in handy.

The road to Sydney was fairly smooth though Lillian did have to hold to her hat a few times. Sydney wasn’t nearly as large as Boston but after spending so much time in Castleton it appeared to be  huge a metropolis. There were more cars than she’s seen anywhere else on the island. 

She had Gus drop her off at a corner a couple blocks away from O’Dowell’s.

“I’ll take a little walk to see more the shops.” She explained to Clara. “I’ll meet you at the store.”

She watched until the car was out of sight and went onto the Bank of Montreal which she knew was not the one the O’Dowell’s used. 

It took her longer than she expected to open an account of her own. Luckily the manager recognized her from Steven’s campaign so establishing her identity wasn’t an issue. It would take two weeks at least for the funds for the bonds would be in her account.

O’Dowell’s Sydney store was a three-floor building on Charlotte Street corner. Even though it was several years old it still had the feeling of newness to it. The name was in gold letters in arcs on all of the front windows. Over the main entrance there was stained glass with the name illuminated so the sun appeared to shining through it always. 

On the first floor was housewares. Lillian admired the gleaming stove and refrigerators.

“Eyeing possible wedding presents?” Clara asked.

“I was thinking this was the type of gift my family would never give. Too practical. They’d be more inclined to send something of this sort.” Lillian walked over to the fine china department. “A large, fancy, floral set of chinaware that could only be used once or twice a year, if that often.”

At the back of the first floor was a Toys and Children’s Furnishings department.

Lillian looking longingly at the line of dolls standing on a shelf on one wall. 

“Planning children?” Clara asked.

“Yes. But I was wondering what had become of my doll collection.” She’d left so much behind when she came to Cape Breton. Being in O’Dowell’s reminded her painfully of the many things she’d lost.

They took the lift up to the second floor. It was Men’s and Women’s Wear. When she stepped off the lift the first thing she saw was a mannequin in a short, pale green, one-piece dress. The skirt was pleated and the top had a loose beaded fringe around the neck.

“Oh.” Lillian sighed. “That is so pretty.”

“Pretty yes.” Clara touched the hem. “Too short to be practical.”

“It’s not meant to be practical Clara. It is meant to be pretty.”

Clara lead her to the back of the store to the bridal area.

“Missus O’Dowell.” A small woman with a strange accent scurried out from a side room. “What a great pleasure it is to see you.
“Thank you Karina.”

“Ah, and this must be Miss McTavish. Let me look at you.” She stepped back to gaze at Lillian. “Such a waist. In old country girls would be fattened up before being married. Here, ach, they want them skinny as boys.”

“You have something to show us.” Clara asked.

“Yah. Yah. You wait here. I get.” She went into the side room and came back out with two boxes. “Now the lace isn’t as good as we’d make back in Koniakow but I haven’t forgotten how. This first one is very traditional.” Karina took out a full bodied, white dress with a neck high top, long lacy white sleeves and full wide bottom. “Some crinolines will make you appear to be a queen. The veiling is quite simple though.”

She held it up against Lillian. Lillian pressed the dress’s shoulders to hers and stepped back. It was  similar to ball gowns of her mother’s she had envied. The bodice had seed pearls in an arc across the breast bone. She kicked out the bottom so it bounced lightly in the sun. She did a twirl so that it wrapped around her legs before falling away as she stood in front of the mirror.

“Lovely.” Clara said wiping a tear away from her eye. “The sort of dress I would have loved to have been married in.”

“Oh, yes. The young lady looks radiant even holding such a dress. It’s been so long since anyone has wanted such a gown. Things being as they have been.” Karina shook her head. “But perhaps that will change now.”

“It is more than words can say.” Lillian stared at herself in the mirror. Could this be the same girl who was cowering in fear as her uncle struck out at her?

“This other is much … plainer. Miss McTavish insisted we order it as it is more … modern.”

“You make modern sound more of a disappointment than an improvement.” Lillian replied, reluctantly handing the gown back to Karina.

The other dress was a simple sheath with a similar high neck but shorter sleeves. The white satin had a green and gold sheen to it as it caught the light. It had a small hat of the same fabric with a simple veil attached to it.

“It is lovely.” Lillian knew this was the one for her. She held it up to herself and stood in front of the mirror. The color complimented the red of her hair while the length would allowed some of her calves to show. “I’ll try this on, if you don’t mind.”

She saw Clara’s look of disappointment.

“How long would alterations take, of either?” Lillian asked.

“This one a few days. The beautiful lace one a week or more.”

Lillian stood in front of the mirror in the sheath dress. 

“This one won’t need alterations at all.” She said with a smile. “I do think it conveys the right message as well. After the hardships of the summer the other one is too …”

“Opulent.” Clara said. “You only get married once.”

“Yes.” Lillian teared up as she looked at her reflection.

“Perhaps one for the wedding and the other for the reception?” Clara suggested. “Do try it on. For me?”

  “Of course.” She took the larger dress. It weighed much more than the simpler one. The hem fell below her feet so she had to lift it up as she walked from the dressing room.

“It is …” Clara walked around her. “It is stunning.”

Lillian didn’t recognize herself in the mirror. The wedding dress was all she could see. 

“I do prefer the other dress.” Lillian said. “It is something I could wear again, but this …. No, it is too stunning for me.”

Lillian came out of the dressing room and handed the elaborate dress back to Karina. “The simple one is perfect. Perhaps a more elaborate veil with it would be in order.”

“Yes.” Karina’s face lit up. “I can have something. How soon.”

“Two … ?” Lillian said.

She was interrupted by alarm bells.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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Wrap

sample

WRAP

I wandered the mall

without parental guidance

to get something festive for my mother

she liked anything we ever gave her

things that remained in their gift boxes

tucked in a safe place for a special day

I was tempted to take one of those old gifts

rewrap it to see if she would remember it

I was too young understand treasured memories

 

did she need atomizers bath oils perfume

I touched sweaters blouses earrings

clerks would glance at me glance away

I was stumped

I knew all about my mother

she liked to drink tea smoke watch TV

make clothes for my sisters

that was an idea  – bags of yarn

no that would turn into gifts for my sisters not her

she rarely wore the jewellery she had

would read reread the same mystery books

maybe something for the kitchen

something to remind her of her childhood

I wanted one thing that would be hers

she didn’t need another tea mug tea pot

more imported teas

to store behind the one she really likes

 

I floated from one store the next

noticed some woman tagging along

not looking at me when I look at her

as I head for the exit she stops me

you find what your looking for?

I shake my head no

I’m not so sure about that – come with me

kids think you can get away with anything

we go to the security office

empty your pockets

 

she searches my coat pats the lining

tells me what’ll happen for shop lifting

go to jail – parents will be ashamed 

we kids are all the same

look so innocent and can’t be trusted

she finds my wallet my money

my dad’s list of  things for my mother

looks like I was wrong honey

she pats my shoulder

now you run along home

 

I went outside

mom’s little boy no more

how did I wrap that

grarl01

the knot of memory

Wrap is a sweet memory poem with some real memories and events mixed together. The shopping for Christmas gifts was always challenge for my Mother. One year I had found a great collection of teas – a dozen little sample boxes of tea in bags from around the world that I did find a few year later never opened.

In fact when she passed away my sister discovered gift boxed handkerchiefs, gloves that we’d given her in past years still in those boxes. The perfume started to vary over the years once we progressed Evening in Paris (http://wp.me/p1RtxU-VE). But there were bath salts and such she had never opened, stashed in a closet.

grnal02 childhood roots

I don’t think my Dad ever gave me a list though, I was clever enough to find interesting enough things. She liked mystery novels which were easy enough to find but I realize now she preferred cozies as opposed to police procedurals. Music was fun to find for her as well.

Wandering department stores was something I did from time to time at different ages & stages on the east coast and more than once was followed – once I about 12 was stopped too but only talked to briefly at the door as my panic was so clear the floorwalker knew I had merely looked.

1964 Xmas_01 a real christmas pic from 1964 – what my mother got

The other time I was in later teen’s and knew I was being tailed, as it were, and so faked lifting something and when they checked me out in a little private office and found nothing in my backpack they let me go after a stern warning about consequences.

My loss of innocence was quite different than the one here – it came when I realized I was queer and had no way of wrapping that as a gift so kept it on a shelf in my own little safe place and didn’t share it with family until I had moved to Toronto. But that’s another story.

soon1

January 3 – attending – HOT DAMN! It’s a Queer Slam featuring Johnny Trinh

Hot Damn

https://www.facebook.com/events/1521088544810933/

January 18 – hosting – Out of the Fire – a fundraiser for Kyle Andrews

KyleD

https://www.facebook.com/events/575346262566333/

 

 

xmashedge

Christmas constrictor

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

 

Bazaar of the Bizarre

Started my Christmas shopping early by getting over to the Bazaar of the Bizarre Saturday at 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture etc. First off this is a great location, for me, so much easier to get to than the Convention Centre or the Gladstone.

the castle has fallen
the castle has fallen

I got there around noon with my buddy Kyle – he loves to take pictures more than I do, so I let him click away. Noon is a great time to arrive – before things get too busy. It was a great warm up for FanExpo at the end of August.

There was fun range of mainly handmade things: tee-shirts, jewelry, note books with old lps for covers, soaps, teas & more. All with a somewhat darker skew – instead of chocolate bunnies we got chocolate skulls. Instead of clown or cat face painting there was day of the dead skull face painting.

leave your shoes t the door
leave your shoes at the door

DJ music wasn’t over powering. The retailers, & crowd, was a mix of hippies & hipsters with a bit of cosplay thrown in. Some serious fashion was offered & even ChiZine had books for sale.

a game of shoes
a game of shoes

I made a few purchases – a super tee (what else) from Cachimbo, I got myself the yellow on red sun god,  & some fun things from BitchCraft & Pixiefashions. I’ll be back for the fall Bazaar & maybe line up the day of the dead face painter for the Damned’s October show.

Lunched at Hey Lucy! after but not impressed.