Distant Healing

Trigonometry of Healing

1

started this morning;

no, maybe last night,

my memory fails easily

when it comes to this

growing of the seed;

its sprout stabbing me,

who, happily, being blind

didn’t begin to feel

the long planted germs;

never suspected

till the first bloom

of nightmare strangulation

the loss of a limb

a belief

can be a shattering time;

so while waiting

for the pieces

flying off the handle

to smash against the wall

I raged

as the needlessness of it all

I’ve been longing

for a knife across the face,

now, suddenly here it is.

my very wish come true

watch your wishes well

for any one might come true

2

a factory of timid death

sends tip-toeing whisperers 

to my heaving bed,

like me, that think

that I am aware

of how there is

an end of sorts

to the longness

of this road

blood & veins

muscle & organs

skin & bones;

cogs in a tired carriage 

hurtling over a cliff

I am aware

if the time it takes

to devise confusion,

to separate give from take –

give me

take me

one is for sale

the other is for free

3

how to take the poison out

without amputating the limb

has become more of a problem

than the vile poison itself

still, there is no use

in calling for a doctor,

for even if he came

the limb would be in hiding;

as it keeps in hiding from me

the reasoning of the poisoners

4

found straw in my pocket,

it’s been a long time 

since anyone’s been that close;

I get the feeling

that I’m catching up

with my primitive sacrifices,

revelling in my artifices

where pagan dancers

celebrate being outside

the ruins of my past,

as pipers play blue tunes

I rolled about

in flesh-cut wheat

stuffing my pockets

with broken glass;

till it was late night

when the gleaming bastard’s song

hung hateful in the air

steaming in the lamplight;

“make another mistake,”

his choking voice sang

“the time is ripe

your grass is green”

5

taking the potency of fear

from their talk of forward

I think of backward suicide;

scarfing attention for silence

feeling silent containment

makes deeper wounds 

in the palms of my hands

which is better

their small circles

or my brutal ending?

6

now that I’ve invented

a balance for the mastery

of give & take;

I wonder how much it takes

to sooth the pain it gives

to mop the butcher’s floor?

cut out my heart!

cut out my eyes!

package them in plastic;

make the product pure

make the crying laugh

make the sun moon;

I am for sale!

buy me

buy me

abuse me

use me

try me

please don’t turn your back,

for I’ll slip away,

which is the lasting I want

7

slashing once,

down my chest

then again

across my ribs;

leaving a bleeding crucifix

exasperated with

nervous expectations

of the next snail slow blow

what next?

neck?

genitals?

his halting

bumblings

scalpel dropping

make me want to grab the knife

and direct the blade more correctly,

smooth over these jagged ends,

fold the skin over the stumps

so healing leaves neat scars

in obtuse triangles & stars 

where my feet done dangled

where my hands once clapped

he doesn’t want my advice

for he cuts by proxy

working in another room

where I have no say or sight,

besides his eyes perceive

much better than mine can

8

the butcher boy

poisons the meat

with his very touch;

he loves to feel

his hands know

more correctness 

than any others

seeing me ready, as last,

for finally being sold

while in the same motion

being whisked

out of his reach

he fanatically makes the rounds

of all my prime cutters,

smearing them

with grimy hands

9

the damage done,

knowing he has had his share,

I still feel he’s after more;

but I am safe

until we meet

face to face;

so spread me thin

as fast as you can

for I am for sale

but so unsure

Aug 73

You can credit T. S. Eliot for my love of long, meandering, numbered section poems. Here the section numbers included the degree sign after each  but WP editing suite finds that difficult to render & I’m too lazy to figure how to make it obey. Such is life. Such is the march of time too, so with some of these pieces, from nearly 50 years ago my memory is unclear.

I have a vague recollection of writing this as a single piece over the space of about a week. It, unlike some of my writing then, isn’t stitched together with various scraps. I can’t say if I wrote it in the order it appears here – though it does have definite progression. It deliberately references other poems in the book – for example ‘nightmare strangulation’ is a nod to the hangman; ‘straw in my pocket’ to Waltz.

I also play with cliché ‘flying of the handle’ ‘give & take’ ‘the damage done’ – recasting them in ironic contexts or leading them to unexpected conclusions. ‘pagan dancers’ is a reference to my paintings of the time (link) – also the dancer on the cover of the chapbook.

Reading this now I see it as another poem about coming out, about the confines of cultural butcher-boy definitions of gender, creativity, productivity. At the time I wrote this I wasn’t aware that ‘the seed’ was those various elements. Many lgbtq people create themselves from parts of the world around them – our sense of self is the result of our inner Dr. Frankenstein creating from fresh. Not that heterosexuals don’t have to do some of this but they have clearer role-models to work with. It was like being give ten model kits of various planes cars boats that had been opened up & dumped into one pile without instructions.

What parts of me have to be cut out to get to the core? I also sense this use of violence, of bloody butchery as a way to appear more masculine. Being a teenage poet is not as butch as being a teenage football star. 

It also alludes to the fact that I was a cutter. Wounds that no one could see but myself. A self who also had an awareness of his suicidal thinking, which was buried in this piece. I don’t recall anyone, who read this piece or who heard me perform it, ever asking me if I was serious. I guess they thought it was a part of the poet’s pose. Artifice as opposed to a serious mental issue. 

The last lines echo a favorite song if mine – ‘How can I be sure, in a world that constantly changes?’ Today I’m not afraid of being unsure – that’s one of the things that makes me human. 

I do have a limited number of the original Distant Music chapbook for sale for $25.00 each (includes surface mail postage). Send via the paypal above along with where to send it. paypal.me/TOpoet 

“art is life – not an imitation”

 

Breaking In Grief 

he wore

his dead son’s sneakers

bought a month before

the son’s step off into oblivion

new shoes a sign of hope

of a future planned for

not of a life too soon to be ended

 

they found the sneakers

still in their box

in the cupboard

worn once to try them on

designer expensive

too nice to toss or donate

so he’s wearing them now

it gives me the creeps

practicality in the face of catastrophe

 

I visited home

the summer after my father died

his death was sudden

it was the body that gave out

he didn’t go out of his way

to find that oblivion

I went through his clothes

to help my sister winnow out

throw out donate

to share some memories

I end up keeping a a couple of jackets

that actually fit me

with enough style to suit me

 

the shirt and pants

were easy to part with

most of the shoes too

my Dad was all business

when it came to shoes

his idea of comfort were

hard onyx red oxfords

there was box with a new pair

only worn to try them on

they sort of fit me

very stuff and inflexible

never being broken in

expensive

I take them

 

I wear them a few times

then drop them in a clothing box

they don’t fit

right size but wrong shape

maybe that’s why my Dad never

wore them either

the life my Dad hoped I would fit into

was also the right size

but the wrong shape

I was unwilling to do the work

that would break me in

so it would be a comfortable fit

 

I meet my friend one day

he’s sporting his son’s

wildly neon runners

it’s been a year after the death

he finally feels okay to to walk in grief

a grief he’ll never leave

but ready

to walk forward with it

This is a piece that wrote itself. A close friend of mine in recovery had recently had his son step off a balcony to his death. Helping his daughter-in-law in going through the son’s possession they found the running shoes. He did opt to keep them. These details are facts. The neon is my poetic liberty. It was the this reversal of the cliche that struck me – usually its the son filling his father’s shoes.

Which lead me to me filling my Dad’s shoes. Once again the facts are true – me helping my sister – this was back in 2002 (I think). I still havre those jackets & ear one of them frequently enough. The other is saved for special occasions. The only oxfords are real too though my father preferred more comfortable shoes for ordinary wear.

I did try them a couple of times before donating them. To fill tour father’s shoes also means to take on the life he lead, to fulfill those expectations of fitting into the normative culture – something I never did. I’m not even sure how hard I tried because it was clear I’d never do it – it would never fit.

My friend dealt with, is still dealing with, his tragedy. He spoke about his pain & struggle openly. I’ve performed this piece frequently & it has undergone a fair bit of tweaking to get the tenses right, the flow of information smooth. It is the last piece in my recent chapbook – though this edit is different yet again.

When I performed it at the chapbook launch earlier this year, I wore one of my Dad’s jackets. My friend came to hear me & he was wearing his son’s sneakers. Sometimes art is life – not an imitation.

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Suicide 2

The past month I’ve heard of the suicides of various people I almost know – friend of a friend; brother of a friend; a man who had come in & out of recovery. Each hearing involved being asked about the why – talking about the despair & sense of guilt felt by them. There is no easy answer to such questions. Why is like a finger print – everyone is different.

When I was active with ACT I attended a couple of intense workshops on suicide prevention – I’ve even called Health Services when a friend of mine ranted about killing himself then abruptly hung up – he lived to make the same threats another day.

When I realized & accepted that I can’t give anyone the will to live I felt less responsible when faced with such threats. I’m just a guy, not a trained professional & if I have to become a trained mental-health professional to maintain a relationship then that relationship isn’t for me. I have compassion, empathy but can’t say why I chose to live in such a way as to keep someone else alive. I’m not God (if one believes in God that is) – I’m not a force of nature just a guy witnesses, sometimes, the pain in other people’s lives.

I’ve shared with these friends that this is tough stuff because it is tough stuff – not that its tough because they or we are emotionally weak, spiritual shallow or lack the intelligence to feel otherwise. Sometimes we can rescue one another, sometimes we can’t. But we do survive together no matter how alienated we feel. Survival is good.

Giddy Up http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Q6

a mainland business consortium

wanted our village

to invest in a moose riding academy

where young ladies of a certain pedigree

would learn to ride the hounds on moose

these men had elaborate blue prints

detailed architectural models

all they needed were investors

it would take a lot of our money

to make money

so we wouldn’t be so dependent

on the fission plant or the strip bars

to put food on the table

when the villagers were reluctant

to part with their hard-earned cash

these men became derisive

of our close-minded small-town mentality

of our inability to see this great opportunity

the mayor offered to invest if they could

show us how to ride a moose

my Dad

took them to the moose breeding ground

we followed to witness this spectacle

much to everyone’s surprise these city men

were able to get a saddle on a smaller one

when one of them climbed on it

the moose wouldn’t move

it barely looked up at him

as the man dug his heels into its sides

saying “giddy up – get a move on”

the moose’s dung-slick tail

smacked the back of the man’s head

when Brandi Toffee

their buxom spokesmodel

arrived to sit on the one saddled moose

it went berserk

sexually aroused by the female legs

clamped to its back

the sight of the moose’s erection

caused the city men to fall into a swoon

which gave us no end of mirth

the spokesmodel lost her hair extensions

as they got snagged on maple branches

while she fled though the Whistling Woods

the aroused moose bellowed pitifully

when it trapped her in her SUV

the moose riding academy never opened

and we villagers kept

our hard-earned money for another day

 

chapbooks for sale http://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

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Thursday – September 7 at 7:30 PM – 11 PM – HotDamn! It’s A Queer Slam

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Tuesday – September 19 – feature – Art Bar Poetry series – 8 p.m., Free Times Cafe, #20 College At., Toronto – $5.00http://It’s No Accident

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Suicide 1

Suicide has been in the news with a couple of celebrity deaths. Pop stars whose music I know vaguely – now regarded as troubled geniuses – as if their actions were the final proof of their genius.   I guess I’ll never classified as a genius because I choose to live & to live relatively sanely. It seems that in our culture the more one teeters on self-destructive instability, or survives a tragic past more authentic their creativity is regarded.

Before starting drinking suicide was already a part of my thinking – it seems a viable option to the other possibilities the culture I grew up in offered queers. Homosexuals were considered doomed to lives of unfilled emotions, relationships that went nowhere, incarceration or mental ward commitment. At one time prison also seemed a viable option: behind bars with men.

My creative heroes were self-destructive suiciders: Dylan Thomas, Yukio Mishima, Hemingway, Gauguin. Mishima did it is the grandest way too. This would be my romantic ending. So when I started drinking I was following in their footsteps too. My attempts at suicide were all fuelled with booze & done while drunk – as you can tell I failed.

The last one was on a New Year’s eve, my last on the East Coast. My attempts as relationships wither either sex were stonewalled – unlike most drunks I never met a rescuer. I staggered out of party early & back to my apartment, started to fill the bathtub with hot hot water & my favorite bubble bath. Razor blade ready for when the tub was full. While it was filling my roommate arrived home with his girlfriend. I didn’t want an audience so turned the tap off, went bed & passed out. In morning I decided to get out of Cape Breton.

The Moose in the Moon  http://wp.me/p1RtxU-P5

for untold millennium

the moose were happy on the moon

they were free to roam without predators

living on moon moss and small cheesy rocks

they had nothing to fear

except in mating season

when the males had to prove

who had the biggest antlers

after untold millennium

of basking in earth shine

they began to wonder

if there was more to life

the moon began to bore them

it was so small

they had roamed and combed its surface

there was no longer an abundance

of moon moss and cheesy rocks

the battles during breeding

had become limpid half-hearted events

soon there were only four moose left

on the whole of the moon

where once there had been millions

the forlorn moose looked to the earth

when the solar winds blew

the smell of water and pine

wafted to their nostrils

two of them longed for escape

while the other two

felt it was fated they should remain there

these two pairs argued endlessly

plotted revenge to teach the others

the error of its beliefs

they spent hours grunting at each other

glaring over moon rills

stomped so much dust

the sun was clouded over

the sun didn’t like to get moon dust in her eyes

she decided it was time to step in

so with a flare

she carried two of the moose to father earth

he could now take care of these creatures

on earth the two moose were overjoyed

they had new fields to run in

they began to multiply once more

they were safe till distrust came amongst them

when they were attacked by a cunning creature

that appeared as a robin to some

and a smelt to others

in fear they would bellow

to the moose in the moon

to return to where they were safe

chapbooks for sale http://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

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Thursday – September 7 at 7:30 PM – 11 PM – HotDamn! It’s A Queer Slam

https://www.facebook.com/events/110567226312109/

Tuesday – September 19 – feature – Art Bar Poetry series – 8 p.m., Free Times Cafe, #20 College At., Toronto – $5.00http://It’s No Accident

http://www.artbar.org

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Chalk Outline

In a recent Disability After Dark Andrew Gurza talks about his teen years, which brought me back to my own fear-filled teens. We’re from different generations, and vastly different social contexts but the awkwardness of being a gay teen is remarkably similar. I’ve also been saddened, to put it mildly, by the suicide of Tyron Unsworth – a 13 year old gay boy who opted for death rather than face the bullying he constantly experienced.school

His school said they had no idea this was going on & that if they had been told they would have intervined. The fact that when his older bother did complain about his particular bullying he was told to act more like other kids & to toughen up. Thus blaming the victim. Why would Tyron expect anything different in his case?

bluechalk02I experienced frequent verbal & physical bullying until I left Sydney – Cape Breton. I was also told to act more like other kids & to toughen up. Never was there a sense that those bullying kids were in the wrong – that if I opted to be ‘other’ then I had to pay this price for my disgusting depraved sexuality.

You know, at thirteen I had no idea of what to do, no role models to call on. One friend offered to teach me how to walk more like a man. Ironically the people who said I should be more like others became critical because I wasn’t thinking for myself.

I did entertain thoughts of suicide. I opted for the longer, more painful method of alcoholism that started in my late-teens. That & being as invisible as I could, which clearly didn’t work. I can remember one day at my job, which involved dealing with the public, some guy said ‘lets ask the faggot.’ Defend myself? Against the truth.

desk02The few times in school when I got into physical altercations the aggressor had four or five buddies cheering him on. So not only was I a faggot but I was also a coward. The downward spiral.

Andrew has had people tell him they are amazed that he’s alive – meaning ‘why didn’t you off yourself.’ As if the normal solution to his limitations was death. He dug in his heels with a stubborn fuck you (hand me the lube) stance. I survived because living well is the best revenge.books

Tyron Unsworth didn’t survive. How much emotional fortitude is a 13 year old expected to have? Why did he have to learn to defend himself in the first place? Gay marriage hasn’t caused gay teen suicide to decline but has given some the opportunity blame a victim – after look what we’ve permitted for you. I never wanted marriage when I was a teen – I wanted respect.

27stairs06

 

The poem 12 griefs in Venus Selenite’s book Trigger starts on ‘the first day of Christmas my oppressor gave to me a chalkline on my sidewalk’  the subtext being-  this chalkline could have been her’s & she’s glad it isn’t. Tyron’s suicide is a chalkline that could have been mine and my grief will not remove it from around him.

 

school

Home (not of the brave)

 

he lived across the street from us

mornings I’d peek from the front door

till he had left for school

then I’d sneak along the maple trees

make my way down the hill to class

most days I’d avoid him   his gang

sometimes I couldn’t and would come home

with a bloodied nose   bruises

that disappointed my dad

who didn’t understand

why I couldn’t stand up for myself

after school when I was in sight of home

I’d run like hell to the front door

where I’d be safe but not secure

 

Breaking In Grief

samp

Another of the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green as a writing prompt.20-chain-01

Law 41: Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes

he was wearing

his dead son’s sneakers

bought a month before

the son’s step off into oblivion

new shoes a sign of hope

of a future planned for

not of a life too soon to be ended

they found the sneakers

still in their box

in the cupboard

worn once to try them on

designer expensive

too nice to toss or donate

so he’s wearing them now

it gives me the creeps

practicality in the face of catastrophe

 

I visited home

the summer after my father died

his death was sudden

it was the body that gave out

he didn’t go out of his way

to find that oblivion

I go through his clothes

to help my sister winnow out

throw out donate

to share some memories

I end up keeping a a couple of jackets

that actually fit me

with enough style to suit me

 

the shirt and pants

were easy to part with

most of the shoes too

my Dad was all business

when it came to shoes

his idea of comfort wear was

a semi cowboy boot

or hard onyx red oxfords

there was box with a new onyx pair

only worn to try them on

they sort of fit me

very stuff and inflexible

never being broken in

expensive

I take them

 

I wear them a few times

then drop them in a clothing box

they don’t fit

right size but wrong shape

maybe that’s why my Dad never

wore them either

the life my Dad hoped I would fit into

was also the right size

but the wrong shape

I was unwilling to do the work

that would break me in

so it would be a comfortable fit

 

I meet my friend one day

he’s sporting wildly neon runners

these were his son’s

it’s been a year after the death

and his finally feels okay to wear them

to walk in grief

knowing he’ll never leave that grief behind

but ready

to walk forward with it

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blackshoe

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#Shame

There ought to be a reality show ‘Shame on You’ in which contestants compete to out shame each other to see who can be the most publicly racist, sexist, hypocritical, or entitled. We already have enough people doing this for the news, so why not capitalize on it. Americas Top Asshole or something like that.

blackcouch

couch of shame

Everyone has things in their lives they aren’t proud of – the secret shames that I suspect we hold on to mainly because we’ve convinced they are to be hidden from everyone. You don’t talk about things like that unless, of course, there are cameras present. Being caught creates reputations not ruins them.

stump

ring of shame

Shame springs from ‘what others think’ & its prime purpose is to control, as opposed to stop, behaviour that might be disapproved of – I don’t mean things like murder – but stuff like lust, sex, greed. The recent adultery ruckus is about shame &, possibly, people who are addicted to shame & not sex at all. They like the sneaking around more than the getting – that taste of shame.

On the east coast I had a friends who shamed my music tastes – they were ‘hard’core’ blues head John Mayall was king, Blues Magoos were below contempt. Rather than be mocked I caved & went with that flow. Today I like Mayall & enjoy listening to him but its the innocuous Magoos that give me the greater pleasure. I replaced those lost lps -which I suspect are probably worth more on eBay than Mayall – with mp3s. Hearing them a few years ago for the first time in decades I was swept away & pleased.

pryor

shameless pair

It wasn’t until I was into my 50’s that I began to shake off sexual shame – all those messages from an anti-pleasure culture that I had never questioned, began to get looked at & nullified. Being queer is difficult enough without accepting cultural baggage without questioning it. As a teen it made suicide tempting (as it still does for gay/trans teens today – suicide seems an approved solution in fact – better suicide than support or education). I put the bottle to my mouth instead of the gun to my head – numbing worked as it kept me alive.

But I did pick up the razor blade – something I don’t talk about often. I was a cutter. I didn’t cut where it could be seen by anyone except myself. It persisted into my recovery for a few years. A habit that become so well ingrained I didn’t even question doing it. One day it dawned on me – I was ashamed of what I was doing to myself – why was I holding on to this? It was for the shame I felt, not for the blood I was drawing.

selfie

shameless selfie

The scars remain – physical evidence that only I can recognize. Even if I showed you where to look & let you look you wouldn’t see what I know is there. Hidden, but not by shame.

samp01

Confirmation

blood

sticky on my fingers

quick to cool

my blood

iron on my tongue

red black thin

not enough to feel warmth

enough to know I have cut

myself

 

not where anyone can see it

I don’t cut for attention

no marks along my arms or wrists

no mesh of scars to explain

to haunt me years later

 

I don’t remember how it started

was it to see some blood

or a need to make me hurt

a grounding in shame

take that you stupid idiot

teach my body a lesson

teach my heart a song

let that small drip refrain

 

I wash my hands when I’m done

watch the healing

then forget the ceremony

for hours

for days

even for years

before I am compelled once more

to feel my blood

sticky ripe between pale fingers

it smells the same

tastes the same

still comes as eagerly when called

by the blade

as I evoke

a few confirming drops of my self

money

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November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo 2016
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redplane

Bell Museum in Baddeck in shameless Cape Breton

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