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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Terra

Terra Cotta

he insisted

on terra cotta flower pots

not pots

planters

you know the kind big enough

for a …

oh you’ve heard this story

you know where it’s going

unlike the men

meeting him

they didn’t know where they were going

just that he promised

to take them somewhere 

offered –

well I’m not sure what he offered

it’s hard to call that something sex

I guess I’m old fashioned that way

 

terra cotta is better for the plants

for the roots

it breathes properly

allows water to filter through

plastic containers trap the water

traps insects

plastic absorbs heat

the soil doesn’t breathe

 

neither do the men

 

Selim Esen, 44

Abdulbasir Faizi, 44 

Majeed Kayhan, 58 

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37  

Andrew Kinsman, 49

Dean Lisowick, 47

Soroush Mahmudi, 50

Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40

Often current events get instilled to the prompts I’m using – the prompt becomes a direction for me to deal with real life events in a poetic, almost fictionalized way. The prompt allows for symbolism. In this case the serial killer of gay men was in the news – I was very careful of where I place ‘gay’ in that description as I’m not sure if the killer is self-identified but merely picked gay men as being vulnerable enough for him to victimize.

One of break-throughs was finding human remains in the giant terra cotta planters he was using in his gardening business. I’m a gardener & know a few things about terra cotta – it is preferable to plastic containers – plastic doesn’t ‘breath’ or cool properly so plants don’t grow as well in them. It was a simple association between roots buried in pots, to men buried in pots.

As more was revealed about the hunt for the killer some details were repeated over & over, the pots being one of them. All one had to do, in some situations, is say terra cotta & everyone knew the association. How long did it take for o.j. to get back to meaning orange juice?

 

I ‘enjoy’ performing this piece – the shifting use of language, the ironic parallel of plants & men plays well without being comic. I don’t enjoy the fact that I had to write this piece. I don’t mention the killer’s name, I won’t ever, but the names of his victims deserve to be heard so that these men, for a moment, get to breathe again as you read them. Try saying them out loud.

 

Sunday –  January 26, 2020 – 1:30 – feature: The Secret Handshake Gallery, 170A Baldwin (Kensington Market) – 1:30https://www.facebook.com/events/498405247456842/


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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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ages names

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks.

Who knew the simple life could be so complex.

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

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Saying Too Many Names

At the end of 2017 there was no proof of a Toronto serial killer – the lgbtq community was merely being theatrical – it was just a bunch of swishy, disgruntled attention seekers who didn’t feel getting the right to marriage was enough to keep their fucking mouths shut. They weren’t professionals whose duty it was to protect the public. 

Four months later we have an alleged serial killer with, so far, eight murder charges against him. Apparently these guys start young so the case has been extended back to the 70’s! The disgruntled, attention seeking police are now even more disgruntled at being denied the opportunity to march in the Pride Parade. So this is how we show our gratitude for all they do for the community. I just hope evidence doesn’t end up ‘compromised’ as the case advances. That sort of mishandling never happens

As I see the photos and information about these men, who are all dead (& that is incontestable) I am sadden to see that some of them had never been reported missing in the first place. Such as Kanagaratnam who was probably murdered in 2015. Did families figure ‘oh he’s gone to work in Calgary & will get in touch when he is successful enough?’ Were the families so fearful of the police thanks to their experiences in their troubled home countries? Or where they like Dean Lisowick, men no one really cared what happened to? 

 

These are the identified victims (so far) Selim Esen, 44,; Abdulbasir Faizi, 44; Majeed Kayhan, 58; Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37;  Andrew Kinsman, 49; Dean Lisowick, 47; Soroush Mahmudi, 50; Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40. I’ll repeat their names. His will probably never be forgotten so there’s no need for me to mention it.

La Mer

What I miss most about the sea

is the sound of waves

                              Not

The waves themselves

With their deeply melodic cold

Or their careless foam caps

But their thunder

as they blast the kelpy rocks

   Lightning in a hail of night

 

What I miss most about the night

is the black of waves

                             Not

The dark itself

With its ungiving distance

Or its depth of stars

But its moon

As it unfurls unwilling waves

   Flags in triumphant passage

 

What I miss most about the passage

Is the motion of waves

                                Not

The heave itself

With its unbreathing breath

Or its reflections of the moon

But its tongue

As it rolls pebbles into sand

   Raindrops calming the sea with kisses

 

What I miss most about kisses

Is the waves of sleep

                             Not

The sleep itself

With its endless silver bed

Or its too soon morning yawn

But its caress

As it nudges my fathomless ache

Sirenes tugging me to the sea of you

What I miss most about the sea

Is you

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http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

June 8-9 – Capturing Fire 2018 – Washington D.C. (flight & hotel already booked) capfireslam.org 

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