The Mummy

Kharis 

is this the last wrap

or the first

the first wrap was a tissue

of lies

‘oh i’m fine’

I used that wrap

over & over

until the tissue

was a layer after layer of

‘oh i’m fine’

‘i don’t mind’

‘how can i make you happy’

 

walking away

rather than add another layer

hoping no thread was snagged

on a expectation

an exception

on resurrecting love

 

I was protected

entombed by safety

by the fact

that all anyone wanted to hear

was ‘oh i’m fine’

‘this bandage solution will do’

‘you deserve to be fixed first’

 

bound tight

peering at life though the slits

surrendered to the weight of history

pushed along by an unquestioned past

by ritual expectations

controlled by the clasp of gauze

layer upon layer after layer

some turned to dust

some turned to scar

some turned to face the moon

reaching for release

 

decayed tissue 

dust motes settling in the moonlight

‘how can i make you happy?’

‘how can i unravel the book of life’

can i survive

without another layer

of this tissue

this scar tissue of lies

‘oh i’m fine’

This piece was inspired by both the phrase ‘tissue of lies’ and seeing Christopher Lee in ‘The Mummy’ 1959 – that was on TCM. The essence of the story is a man so in love he can’t stay dead. I saw it as an allegory for the notions we get wrapped up by our culture about what love means. How those wrappings confine rather than preserve and yet many persist in putting them on voluntarily.

There’s also reference to the ‘bandage solution’ in which the apology is supposed to be absolution that lets one off the hook. ‘I’m sorry for queer bashing you so please don’t send me to jail.’ Enough layers of ‘sorry’ and guilt gets buried.Here too I see the bandages as those things we say to placate others while we hide our real feelings – ‘I’m fine’ rather that ‘I’m fucking angry.’ 

In the Lee film there is The Scroll of Life that brings the Mummy to life – no moonlight tanna leaves in this version – one ritual has to be performed moonlight etc. The power of the word replaces the mystic of plants. The Mummy’s drive to protect and make happy the princess & goes about it blind to any damage left in his wake. 

Masculinity can be like layers of bandage, traditions & cultural expectation that men find themselves compelled to fulfill – a weight of history & unquestioned pasts that like the ending of The Mummy drowns men in a swamp of ‘oh i’m fine.’ Is masculinity a better option than admitting that entitlement can’t unravel the Scroll of Life. 

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Chapter XXX – Lillian to the Rescue

Chapter XXX

Lillian

to the Rescue

From the front parlour window Lillian watched the men gathering at St. Agatha Hall for the union meeting. She wondered why it was only men who went into the Hall. Why were their wives made to wait outside at such times? After all the decisions made here would effect their lives as much as the men’s. 

She hoped to see the hairy miner in the crowd but didn’t notice him. Her memory of him was vague at best. She had been unwilling to actually focus on him the few times they had met in passing. It wasn’t fitting for her to pay much heed to any of the Protestants in Castleton. His dark eyes and unshaved face made her shudder. What if he was too … animalistic for her purposes. Perhaps the Convent would be a better option. No! That decision could wait until she’d had a good look at the man himself.

Without changing out of her apron she left the rectory and went around the back of the Hall to a spot near one of the open windows of the Hall to hear what was being said. She couldn’t see over the heads of the man leaning on the inside sill. She recognized voices. Her uncle’s, that union man. If Birk spoke up she doubted if she’d recognize him. It was clear they wouldn’t be going back the mine that very night or in the near future. She hoped the rectory had enough fuel for the hot water heater. 

After confused, angry shouting the men began to move en masse. They went from being a disorderly but listening crowd to a mob. She joined some of the wives who had been stationed outside, to follow at a safe distance. A few men at the edge of the mob were drinking, shoving and fighting among themselves.

Father Patrick and Reverend Brown stood at the hall doors calling for the men to come back to finish the meeting. 

The men were chanting. “The Pluck Me. The Pluck Me.”

The mob gathered in front of the company store. She had been in the store several times before the strike began but only once since. Mrs. Seldon, wife of the store manager was also from off-island and had never gelt the local had accepted her. She had given Lillian a much needed listening ear when she first arrived in New Castleton. If there was some new patterned fabric she would send for Lillian in hopes of selling her some. Lillian loved to look at and handle the material but could only afford to dream.

They had spent evenings going through the Eaton’s catalogue looking at and longing for the various shoes, dinner wear and household items. They both were taken by the new washing machine that would reduce the amount of work needed to wash and wring out the clothes. With the birth of her son, Charles, Mrs. Seldon said she could use two of those machines to keep up with dirty nappies.

She felt a surge of powerless as she saw Mrs. Seldon shout from the second story window to discourage the men from taking any violent actions. When the men began to tear the boards protecting the plate glass windows she was faint. The men had gone from humans to animals as they attacked the front of the store.

  Boards were quickly pulled loose, the windows broken and the men clambered into the store through the sills, heedless of the crunch of glass underfoot. They were ants swarming over an apple core in the garden. First one, then two, then what seemed like hundreds of them. Like the ants with crumbs, the men were departing with bags of flour, bolts of fabric, barrels of things; carried in their arms, on their backs. The women joined in the clearing tins of food off of the shelves of the store.

She could hear Mrs. Seldon weeping and pleading with them. A couple of the wives dragged her out of the store and shoved her into the lane between the buildings opposite the store. The Seldon’s new born was wailing from the upstairs room. A fire broke out in the back of the store. The men were heedless of danger as they continued to pull out goods and disappear into the night with them.

She could no longer see Mrs. Seldon. The wails of the baby got louder. 

“You have to do something!” she grabbed one of the miners. “There’s a child up there.”

“Not my look out.” The man pushed past her. “I didn’t leave it behind.”

Lillian scrambled up the outside stairway that led to the rooms above. The unlocked door opened into the living-room. Smoke had filled the room. It stung her eyes. She covered her mouth with her apron and made her way to the corner where the crib was. She grabbed at the writhing child, wrapped him in a swaddling blanket and got him into her arms. The baby kicked and cried even louder.

Flames were now spurting through the floor boards around the edges of the carpet. As she got to the door, the floor began to collapse under her feet and into the store beneath. She prayed at least one of the miners would be caught in the inferno. The thought made her shiver with guilt.

Her apron caught on the door frame and she couldn’t pull it loose. She couldn’t let go her hold of the child as she tried to protect it from the sparks that rained on them. The smoke and heat made it impossible for her to see where the apron was caught. Her heart raced. She feared this was her doom. The landing where she balanced on the outside stairs began to smoulder. Another section of the floor in the room behind her crashed into the store. 

Clutching the baby in one arm she fumbled at the apron to see where it was caught. Maybe if she could untie it she could get loose. Struggling she began to mutter, “Our Father who art …”

A man appeared beside her out of the smoke. She couldn’t see his face.

“Oh! Thank God. My apron …” 

He reached behind her, ripped the apron free and dragged her down the stairs while trying to shield her and the baby from a new barrage sparks that fell on them as the roof collapsed into the building.

She glimpsed flames darting through the very stairs and around their feet as they stumbled down. The hem of her skirt began to smoulder. Flame burned her ankles. As they leapt from the next to last step the stairway collapsed and was swallowed by flame.

Hands grabbed them the moment they were off the stairs. The man kept her close to him until they were in the crowd. There was a scattering of applause as the mob parted to let them make it to safety. They were steered to a bench in front of the iron foundry across from the company store.

“Thank you. Thank you.” Lillian said to the man as she sat down. “I was preparing to meet God.” She gasped for air and coughed as she breathed in the smoke around them.

She set the baby on the bench beside her and opened the covers to make sure it was alright. It starting kicking and giggling as the swaddling was loosened. She picked it up and began to rock it gently.
“As was I, miss, as I ran up those steps. The closest I ever wants to come to the mouth of Hell.”

She rubbed her eyes with the sleeve of her free arm. They were clear enough for her to look at the man who had rescued her. His soot streaked face was familiar to her. It was her hairy miner.

“Thank you again.” She paused trying to recall his name. “I … we’ve met before, I think?”

“Think nothing of it, Miss. If it weren’t me, one of the others would have done the same.”

“What is your name? Please, so …. my uncle will be anxious to thank you himself, I’m sure. Father Patrick.”

“We have met a few times afore Miss, but were never prop’ly introduced. M’name is Birk Nelson.” He shook cinders out of his hair onto the ground. 

“I’ll most probably need a hair cut after this.” He grinned foolishly. “Thought it was going to burn off my head for a bit there.”

The very man she had been thinking of earlier in the day had rescued her! Was this God’s answer to her prayers for a way out of her situation? What clearer sign could one ask for? Moses had his message written in flames for him, too. Here was her’s. A commandment to marry.

She saw her uncle at the edge of the crowd. She waved to him.

“You must let me …” 

“Miss, I must be going. I sees that you and the babby are safe. I’ll let your kin look after you now.”

“No. Where … ”

He was gone before she could find out where he lived. She knew it had to Mudside. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find him there.

“Lillian!” Her uncle put his arm around her shoulders and helped her stand. “Are you all right?”

“I had to … to save Charles, the baby.” She loosened her hold on the infant. The child began to cry. “It is the Seldon’s.”

The Seldon’s weren’t parishioners of her uncle’s so she had kept her friendship with them to herself till now.

“You mean you went into that inferno to save their child?”

“Yes, Uncle. I was caught myself on the door by my apron and was in need of rescue. One of the miners risked his life.”

“Considering this was all their doing, it was the least one of them could do. I can’t imagine they wanted to add your death to their ill-considered actions.”

“Lillian!” Mrs. Seldon pushed Father Patrick aside. “Charles! You have saved Charles. I was so afraid he had been trapped in the fire.” She began to weep. “I tried to get back in but they held me back.” She took her child and began to rock it. 

Most of the mob had dispersed, satiated by their stolen goods. Some remained to bask in the glow of their handiwork. Lillian found it hard to breathe in the smoke and heat.

Mr. Seldon arrived with several other men. Lillian recognized one as Mr. Bowden, one of the mine managers.

Another group of men appeared pushing a large cart with a some sort of pump apparatus. A hose ran from it to the harbour. They began to pump and water trickled out in spurts to put out the flames.

“The best pumper is on company property.” Her uncle explained. “The miners won’t cross their picket lines to get.”

More men appeared with pails of water that they were throwing on the walls of the buildings on either side of the company store. Mr. Bowden motioned two of the miners over and they ran to the colliery with him.

“With the strike no one has been able to get to it.”

“Too late. Too late.” Mrs. Seldon sobbed. “We lost everything, for what! No one can make a profit from destruction.”

“It’ll be all they can do to keep the fire from spreading.” Mr. Seldon said. 

“How could men do something of this nature?” Lillian asked. “To make things worse solves nothing.”

“Often human passion can even drown out the voice of our Creator.” Father Patrick said.

“Some of these were men I’ve seen at Mass. I would never have imagined them capable of this kind of action.”

“Hunger, Miss McTavish.” Mr. Seldon said shaking his head sadly. “Can’t say as I can blame them but this isn’t going to help there cause.”

She watched in dismay as the back wall of the store wavered then crumbled in on the fire. 

The air hung heavy with the smells of burning mixed with the odd sweetness of things that had been incinerated in the store as it burned. 

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

Stan Getz is an old school jazz master who has not be unequalled & widely imitated. His sax sound is similar to Paul Desmond in its dry quality but his style is much more playful than Desmond.

Probably best know for his collaborations with Joao Gilberto he has recorded with many of the geniuses of the time: Charlie Byrd, Luiz Bonfa, Chick Corea, Bill Evans & even Canada’s Oscar Peterson. Perhaps this list indicates that his strong suite is latin jazz – which is true but his work spans many styles from lounge to ‘modern.’

 

As stand-alone I have Getz with Al Haig: Prezervation; with the Oscar Peterson Trio; with Bill Evans; with himself on Award Winner. His interaction with the jazz piano masters are different – he plays well with others, Most of the pieces are jazz standards with a few original compositions.

 

Tucked away in various mp3 collections are Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto; Jazz Samba with Charlie Byrd; Anniversary!; Jazz Samba Encore! with Luiz Bonfa; Captain Marvel with Chick Corea. His latin work is exemplary, playful, mellow but never dull. All his work is sweetly sexy as well.

Getz is someone I would recommend for anyone starting in on jazz – accessible but not simple. He also provides a solid introduction to the likes of Oscar Peterson & Bill Evans.

Riot

‘Here.’ Steve reached out, grabbed my arm roughly and yanked me behind a small car. 

Part of a chair sailed over my head followed by something metal. I wanted to look but Steve propelled me farther along the row of cars.

‘Just keep your head down.’

Something landed on the car we just passed. The car shook a moment and then erupted. Thick black smoke poured around us.

‘We can head that way.’ Smoke stinging my eyes I pointed through the park behind us. ‘The smoke should give us some cover.’

A handful of others had the same idea. They got about 20 feet into the park when gun fire rattled. Two of them dropped.

‘Someone’s up there.’ Steve nodded to the building at the far end of the park. ‘Snipers.’

‘Shit.’

The crowd on the other side of the cars began to disperse in different directions.

‘Should we follow any them?’

‘No,’ Steve took a deep breath.

We head more gun fire, screams, sirens. 

‘We can’t just sit here though, can we.’ I knew we had to keep moving  ‘The Militia will arrest us.’

‘No. If that was the case I’d turn myself in now but no one’s getting out of here alive. These guys aren’t out to suppress, they are out to destroy.’

‘Look!’ I pointed to a manhole cover.

‘Sewers in this city? Please. No we need a plan.’

‘I thought we had a plan.’

‘Well, sorry, but this riot wasn’t a part of the plan.’

‘You wanted an exciting get away and you got it.’

‘This isn’t the time or …’

The car we were hunched behind began to rock and turn over toward us. We jumped up and fell back to the shop behind us. An armoured tank was rolling over the car. It’s cannon turret rotated toward us.

‘Oh hell.’

We backed against the window of the shop and inched along to the door way. The door was locked. A narrow red light came from the top of the cockpit.

‘Duck.’ Steve shoved me to the sidewalk.

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October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday

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every Tuesday


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A Little Bent for Bentley Little

When I am asked who my favourite horror writer is I always say ‘Bentley Little’ & they go ‘Huh?’ For a writer who has produced nearly a novel year since his first published book in 1990, plus short story collections, his profile hasn’t skyrocketed. I first discovered him thanks to Stephen King who in some interview I read years ago said that Little was one of his favourite horror authors.

Like King Little’s writing style is conversational, rarely high-flown, or peppered with pseudo-scientific jargon. He plays on myth, legends & even reaches into American history – a ghost train constructed of & by the bones of the Chinese who built the railway – but always starts in the common place & makes the eerier & foreboding.

I have read dozens of Little’s books. I became, as I ma wont to do, a bit obsessed with hunting them all down, scouring 2nd hand bookstores for old ones & watching for new releases. The books are high on suspense, thrills & horror. He finds horror in ordinary things – that new box box store has sales that are to die for – literally.

I’ve kept two, so far, of them on my shelf: The Policy and His Father’s Son. In Son our hero discovers a society of letter-to-the-editor writers whose letters lead to change. It is one of the few novels about writers writing that catches the power of the word, what it means to the writer & then sends that concept into an amazing direction.

 

All the novels are highly cinematic but so far none aha been made into films. I suspect Little has resisted that thanks to what has happened to King film adaptations that have watered down the story to make it more commercial appealing. Bentley can be gory, funny & always scary. He catches human fears & paranoia & makes them into realities; what if the gates to your gated community are the gates to hell?  If you aren’t a fan, yet, I’d recommend The Policy as an excellent starter for this addictive writer.

Dead or Alive

one is already dead

one we don’t know

who knows this child

does anyone recognize 

his running shoes his hands his face

 

is he dead is he alive

we warned you 

not to go near the lake

late at night

first Brad now Jeff

each off on an adventure

 

is he dead

is he alive

what would have possessed him

we told him about the Denizen

we made sure

none of the boys

would go near the smoke shed

they never listen

they never listen

if only they were

content with the pancakes

flap jacks

waffles

maple syrup

we can’t seem to keep them 

sated in food stupors

they have to slip off

looking for adventure

don’t say boys will be boys

 

is he dead is he alive

Jeff Jeff speak to us

wake up 

the grey cold damp

isn’t holding you that strong

spit the cold grey lake water

out of your lungs

tell us did you find Brad

have you seen Olaf

which of you

went to the smoke shed

who stole the sausages

who wasn’t heeding 

the warning we posted

the tales we told

to keep you alive

 

is he dead is he alive

is he Jeff

feel for a pulse

feel for breath

is there a sign

anything

no this isn’t Jeff

it’s some other boy 

another lured to Pinebow Lake

another taken from us

 

if this isn’t Jeff

where is Jeff

where is Brad

where is little Olaf

all the good boys

the brightest and best

have taken their leave

or are they just hiding

peaking around the trees

to giggle and smirk

in some game of hide and seek

where the finders

stay with the hiders

till there is only one looker left

and that will be me

because I won’t go near the lake

late at night

I won’t slip out of my bunk

to look for sausages

I’d rather be hungry and found

 

we must continue our search

beat the bushes

leave no stone unturned

we must look till we find

we must discover

why boys will be boys

we must see if there are foot prints

we have to follow the scent

the deep decay 

of blackened tree stumps

 

something floats 

to the surface of the lake

a glistening slick

like oil red blood

it is moving to follow the moon

it is time for us to light the fires

to gather around

to be told again the warning signs

the things to do

to make sure we all remain here

 

who has seen Tim

he was here a moment ago

he had the matches for the fire

who has seen Garth

he had the marshmallows

come out come out

this game has gone to far

 

is he the next warning sign

the fourth sign

of what is to come

the gradual shift

that takes us each from the camp

to home

 

yes that must be it

the others have gone home

run back to their mommies

scared of the lake

scared of the dark

and never go to get their fill

of the good cook’s works

we can end the search

except to find out

who this boy is 

spewed upon the shore

who

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October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday

November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto
http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

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The Villagers

The Villagers

 

Anton was restless 

it had been a boring week

it seemed like ages

since they had stormed the castle

to stop the brain surgeon

who had transplanted 

criminal brains into spiders

which wasn’t as much fun

as the time the villagers 

had tracked down

the radioactive slime centipedes

 

let loose by the deranged 

unmarried woman scientist

she had hoped the slime

would restore her youth

but instead turned flesh

into hair then eyeball eating centipedes

Anton longed for the days

when there was castle

worth storming 

when fools who would play God

with forces of nature

would be forced to face the wrath

of uneducated villagers

 

the last time they had lit their torches

was to storm

the local coffee shop to force it to add

pumpkin spice latte to the menu

but that wasn’t as satisfying  

as chasing the giant 

bone-marrow-sucking mutant leach

into the power lines

to electrocute it 

that smell lasted for weeks

Dragos stopped him

‘Anton did you know

that the abandoned meat factory

that was once the asylum mortuary

has been leased to a Doctor Mortise’

 

things were looking up

it would soon be time

to open the torch shop again

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Zombie Dance

 

Psycho Zombies in the Rain

it was raining ballerinas

you know

rain so heavy

each drop created a splash tutu

as it landed

on its one toe

to join the corps du puddle

a literal rain dance

 

wet ragged gene mutated zombie

staggering down the street

skin stinking in the rain

crumbling for the lure of brains

grabs a light pole

flings aimless decaying arm

drops into the gutter

eyes washed but not cleaned

lightening strikes

the unlucky char

washed down the sewer drain

 

the rain not a sheet but a curtain

a shower curtain

lightening cuts through it

an electrified knife

stab stab after stab

screams drowned out by the rain

rain so heavy

we can’t see across the street

can’t see 

through the car window

wiper blades not cutting it

smearing rain like blood

on a steamy bathroom tile

Can you name all the movies referenced in this piece? This piece is a word-association dream-logic poem that pays tribute to at least two of my favorite movies in a mash-up of those genres – Psycho and Singing In The Rain. The logic flow of ballerinas to Gene Kelly dancing in the rain seemed quite natural, to me. Thanks to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies it isn’t such a leap to zombies in the rain, is it?

‘rain dance’ leads directly to the most famous rain dance: the classic scene of Gene Kelly dancing and splashing and singing and swinging on a lamp post. I give it the full decay treatment – I love this so much I want to see this movie. Michael Jackson’s Thriller didn’t go far enough. Real rotting corpses would fall apart dancing like they do in his video. But then again Triller isn’t a documentary.

Char down the sewer drain took me directly to swirls of blood down shower drain in Psycho – a move that features Janet Lee driving through the most amazing rain to end up at that charming motel where she cleans up real good. Hitchcock doesn’t go as obvious as I do  with lighting cutting the air while the knife slashes his heroine but sometimes poetry isn’t about subtlety.

I love so many things about this piece – it has no political subtext 🙂 It is full of crisp, cinematic images that flow effortless from one to other. Images that have become cliches in horror films & yet have been repurposed to create a whole new movie genre and a fun poem too.

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Chapter XXIX – Birk to the Rescue

Coal Dusters

Chapter XXIX

Birk to the Rescue

When Birk and Clancy got to St Agatha’s that night the meeting hall was jammed. Men were standing squeezed in all around the room. The windows had been opened to allow for some air. But the breeze barely moved the cigarette smoke that hung over their heads. There wasn’t room for the tea trolly even if the men had wanted tea in the heat. Some were drinking and sharing from their own bottles of refreshments. 

Alf Landen, the MLA was there once again, so every one knew this was to be more important than the last few meetings. He was talking quietly with William Gregory, Father Patrick and Reverend Brown in the front row. There were no company representatives there. 

Gregory stepped to the small stage. “Men I think you all know Alf Landon.”

“Yeah,” came a shout from the back “Some of us were made drunk enough to vote fer him!”

There was laughter and cat calls.

“Save it.” Gregory motioned for them to be silent. “He has some news for us from the cabinet.”

Alf stepped up to the stage. He hooked his thumbs under his suspenders and cleared his throat. “Thank you Will. First I want to reassure you that I am on your side, men. I think the way the coal corporation is treating you is shameful. But I am only one voice in the house. Not everyone agrees with me. Also, let me say how pleased I am that the strike has remained peaceful.”

“Not fer much longer.” someone shouted.

“I wish I had better news for you but we, at the provincial level, are at an impasse with both the union and the mine management. In cabinet we discussed the issues and after heated augments I can assure you we can see no way to force a change in company policy. We’ve taken it to the federal level as well.”

“We know how the feds deal with unions.” someone shouted.

“How?” someone else called out.

“They send in the troops to trample the miners and their children.”

There were more cat calls from the audience.

“Men!” Father Patrick got to the stage. “This isn’t going to help your cause in any way. If both sides remain … unmoved … ”

“Yeah! What will help?” someone shouted over him. “Praying to the Lord Jesus only hurts m’ knees worsen workin’ in the mine for twelve hours.” One of the miners walked up to face Father Patrick. “At least I sees some coal for that.”

“Men. Men.” Alf stood on a chair. 

They silenced.

“There is something you can do. You can go back to work on the company’s terms. That has to be better than letting your families suffer. ”

“That isn’t goin’ to happen.” Someone shouted. “They was suffering on what we were making before, anyhow.” Another of the men said.

“Okay. Okay.” Gregory got the men’s attention. “Alf you know that is unacceptable.” He pulled Alf off the chair and got up on it himself. “There will be a march in Glace Bay on Saturday next. That’s eight days from now. We have union members coming from the mainland to show their support. The steel plant will be closed down for the day when our brother members there put down their tools and join us. We have to show them we mean business.”

“What we been doing these past weeks?” Birk asked. 

“You should talk,” one of the them men said. “Yer pa Blackie still goin’ in there, isn’t he. Shutting down them boilers will show them we mean business, too. Won’t it?”

“Men!” Alf said. “Damaging the pits themselves won’t do you any good. You won’t have anything to to go back to if the mine closes down because you did something foolish to the boilers and let the mines flood.”

“Easy for you say,” someone shouted. “You don’t have a wife and three kids at home with nothing to eat.”

“I knows one place where we can something to feed our families.” Jim McKlusky said. “We all do! The Pluck Me.”

“The Pluck Me.” The men took up the phrase and started to leave the hall.

“Wait! There’s decisions to be made.” Alf shouted.

“We made em. Answer is no.” one of the men said. “No! No! No! To same work for less pay.”

“The Pluck Me. The Pluck Me.” The men chanted as they left the hall en masse. They marched in a ragged mob along Chestnut Avenue to the company store.

Clancy and Birk followed at the back of the shouting men. McKlusky was pounding on the front door of the company store. Two other men had gone around to the back to make sure the manager, Daniel Seldon, didn’t slip away, down the outside side stairs. The front windows had been boarded over the week before. The only light came from a window on the second floor.

“He ain’ going anywhere.” Birk muttered. “Too much stuff inside. He’d never step away from a profit.”

“Open up, Seldon. Man, we know you’re in there.” McKlusky shouted. “We don’t want to harm you. We know it ain’ your fault wha’s goin’ on but we have families to feed too you know.”

The window on the second floor opened. It was to the left of the front door. A woman’s head stuck out. “Dan’l t’ain’ here.”

It was his wife.

“He’s gone up to the big office. He was sent fer at supper time. He ain here.”

“Then let us in mussus.” McKlusky stepped back to call up to her. “We means no harm to you and yours.”

“I canna let you in. It’d be the end of me. He dinna want this to happen. But he’s got no choice He’s sorry he ever let his brother talk him inta runnin’ the cump store. Swore it was easy money. But it isn’t. It isn’t. We has to pay for everything same as you do. Even if it don’ get bought and goes bad we still has to pay for it.”

Birk had never heard Mrs. Seldon talk for so long.

“In that case we’ll have to ….” McKlusky reached along the edge of a piece of the wood that boarded up the windows and gave it a strong heave. It creaked and started to come loose.

The other men joined him and the boards were quickly all torn off. The windows behind were then shattered. Three men kicked in the door and they streamed into the shop.

Birk glanced at Clancy to see if they were going to join in the pillaging. Clancy grinned and muttered, “Well, guess we might as see what tea they got stashed there, eh? Or you enjoying that lilac leaf tea?”

“I don’t know. Don’t feel right to me.”

He looked up and saw Manny O’Dowell struggle out of store clutching packages of cigarettes.

“If the mick’s are doin’ it I guess we might as well too.” Birk said.

“Stop! Stop!” Mrs. Seldon was screaming as she rushed down the stairs into the store. She was pulling at the shoulders of the men to get them to stop. “Please stop.”

Some of the wives had joined the men in going through the shelves. One of them went to Mrs. Seldon and smacked her and shoved her to the front door.

“You had that comin’ for a long time.” she said to Mrs. Seldon. “Be quiet or we’ll tie you up and leave you.” 

“There’s more in the root cellar.” The woman turned to the crowd. “That door is over here.” Two of the women yanked the door open and one of them went down and began handing up sacks of potatoes.

Birk and Clancy pushed their way to the section of dry goods, beans, flour. Things Birk knew his mother could make use of. With their arms full they shouldered their way back outside. There was a flicker of flame near the rear of the store. The flicker quickly got larger.

Men where pushing and shoving each other out of the store.

“Watch my beans.” Clancy put his arm load of cans down and dashed back into the building. 

Flames spurted out of the roof. A baby was crying loudly. Dogs were barking. 

Clancy came stumbling out in a billow of smoke. He was clutching two jars of penny candy under one arm and a can of tobacco under the other.

“Something for yer sisters. Something for us.”

“You …” Birk had been fearful that Clancy wouldn’t get out of the fire. “You got a nerve Clancy Sinclair. True nerve.”

He saw a woman dash up the side stairs of the store that lead to the second floor and into the building. She appeared moment later holding something and trying to shelter it from the flames. Her skirt got caught on the door jam and she couldn’t get it loose.

Without thinking Birk bolted up the stairs, tore her skirts free and rushed her down the stairs. Sparks showered on them as the roof began to collapse into the building. He could smell his hair burning as it was singed in the heat. There was some applause as he got her safely into the crowd.

She thanked him repeatedly staring into his face. Even darkened by soot he knew it was the priest niece. She insisted on getting his name. He told her. When she was waving her uncle over he slipped away.

“Didn’t think you had that in you Birk.” Clancy brushed ashes off Birk’s face.

“Think I’d stand here and watch someone burn up?” 

They gathered the stuff they had taken.

The crowd stood silently and watched the flames destroy the company store. Mrs. Seldon stood to one side sobbing as she rocked her baby.

The fire was still going when they went back to Birk’s house. 

“Say nothing of what happened.” Birk said.

“You mean you playing the hero? It was a good thing.”

“I don’t care. There’ll be no end of it once Ma knows.”

In the kitchen they laid out what they had grabbed in their haste. Mrs. Nelson sorted through the various cans and stuff they had.

“I don’t know Birk Nelson. I didn’t bring you up to be … a… hooligan who’d take advantage of people in this manner.”
“But Mrs. N. what good would it have been to let this food go up in flames. Ashes don’t do anyone any good.”

“Wise words Clancy. Rest assured those ashes aren’t going to do any one any good when word gets back to the coal company what was done.”

“Yes Ma’am.” 

“Best wash off that soot before you go to bed. Yer almost as black as ya are after coming from the pits.” She smiled and rubbed Birk’s forehead.

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


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Holiday Hole Love

Side-by-side on the shelf are Hole and Holiday – style contrasts but women abused by the star industry, drugs &by  just what a woman was allowed to do. Both with distinctive voices that perhaps they never got to fully own thanks to others who wanted to control & exploit & profit from them.

Courtney Love is the voice of Hole – she has great power without sounding forced. Her private life constantly overshadowed her talent. Marriage to Kurt Cobain became & remains her identity. The songs on Live Through This & Celebrity Skin deal with some of that frustration with raw directness. But the industry only wanted to deal with her on its terms not hers & she has never been given an opportunity to be what she could be. She remains a non-conformist.

Billie Holiday, on the other hand, survived by being a conformist. I have various compilations: stand-alone The Billie Holiday Story; lp to cd transfers of God Bless The Child; & Time-Life’s Giant of Jazz box set. All the hits are there. I’ve considered the mp3 collections but do I really want alternative takes etc. What I have is sufficient. I enjoy her work but hearing it every couple of years is satisfying. Having the complete works doesn’t call to me, at least not at the prices they list at.

Her voice has a vulnerability that is hard to resist on songs like Stormy Monday, Strange Fruit. Her sexiness comes through of tracks like Pig Foot & a Bottle of Beer, I Cover the Waterfront. Like Courtney Love, her private life & addictions often over-shadowed her career. She survived and struggled & produced amazing music at the same time. Though I think she was held back by producers who wanted to stick to her strengths rather than challenge her as a vocalist. 

That plaintive vulnerability often turns her songs into one longing note. Her voice became a little more weathered & to me more interesting toward the end of her career. Like Judy Garland her battle with addictions side-tracked her. God Bless The Child who can get free of the mire of fame & reputation.

Eyes

        ‘What do you see?’

        I looked around the backyard. A path had been tracked  through the snow to the gate. The snow lay dirty and uneven from fence to fence, higher along the sides of the path  and melted unevenly in some areas.

        ‘Dirty snow.’ I shrugged. ‘Birds have found a few convenient spots for their business.’

        ‘Good. Not everyone would see that. Anything else.’

        

        I wasn’t sure just what it was my Dad wanted me to see.

        ‘Nope. Wait. The grass is brown like its been burned by the ice?’

        ‘Nice try. But you’re going to have to better than that. I’ll just leave you here. Say five minutes? Use your senses, not just your eyes.’ He went back into the warm house.

        Oh great! I’m going to have smell the rotting winter soil for him. I made my eyes go from corner to corner of the yard. I pretended they were mowing the snow like a lawn mower mowing the grass when it came back to life. Back and forth my eyes moved from fence to fence to either side of the yard, around the edges of the garage and closer to the house till I was staring at my feet.

        What did I see? Our yard. Nothing much changed in it. Snow now, then grass would wake, bulbs would pop up, later the annuals & perennials my mom would plant, then leaves would fall for me to rake.

        It was by the maple tree that I had stepped on the rake tines and cut my foot. The handle of the rake jumped up to hit me on the nose at the same time. I don’t know what bothered me then – the embarrassment, the sudden fear of it lunging at me, or my sister seeing it happen & going into convulsive laughter when it happened. I could have killed her that day and then myself.

        Now there was just that uneven snow. What was under that clump of snow? Ah yes the yarrow that I used to call Queen Anne’s Scab for some reason. A clump of it that had been there when we first moved into the house. We had added some pinks to contrast with the yellow and white.  It was three or four years before I realized it wasn’t a weed after all.

        ‘See something.’ My Dad was behind me suddenly.

        ‘Dirty snow. Isn’t that where the yarrow is?” I pointed over to the clump by the maple tree.

        ‘So it is.’

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday

November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto
http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.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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Shelly Stoker

Two ‘horror’ novels that have inspired me are Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus’ and Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula.’ Though I did not read them until after I had seen various movies based on them both. In fact I didn’t realize they were adaptations of novels until my late-teens. 

I presently have collections of Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker on my Kindle. Getting compete works appeals to me as both of these writers have been reduced to their single hit – so reduced that often people don’t think they wrote anything else. Needless to say they did but nothing else captured the public eye the way their big hits did.

I have read the big hits a few times now, both recently, and also read some of their other fiction. I have to say I was both elated and disappointed. Brilliant plots, interesting characters but writing styles have changed so much I find myself slogging through the prose.

I found it hard to divest myself of the movies as well. The Frankenstein novel is structured as memory, as opposed to a action, we get telling. The language is often highflown romantic intellectually purple prose. There is no real Igor in the novel 😦 Plus the creature is rather articulate. It is the plot that holds together, where as the writing is annoying. Her other fiction, that I’ve read, continues this intellectually purple prose of the finest feelings of truest love.

Some of the same holds true for Stoker – Dracula is told as letters & journal entries – very much the style of the time. But every letter writer sounds like the same person. The grand chase scene is endless with a series of delays, snow storms etc to the final confrontation. Much of the vampire mythos is set out: garlic, wooden stakes, sleeping in coffins, & bats. Again too much telling. 

Movie versions have done well by both these basic plots and getting back to the original source material  to see where it all came from has been fun. Seeing how these big successes affected the lives of the writers has also been informative. Today we have the same high concept writing/ movie making where often the concept is frittered away by the telling. 

What inspires me is that the fantastic can be made real with the right world-building & consistency of concept. The authors were invested the reality of their creatures even if they failed to fully develop the character. If you haven’t read either of these it is time you did 🙂

Fiends

when we were fiends

there was nothing that didn’t excite us

the sacred hunger for the better blast

the color unseen

the uncommon lunge from fire to fire 

clumsily lurching from profane to evil

ugly became true beauty 

the more confrontational the surface

the deeper the meaning had to be

 

we would laugh giggle sneer

at those lunching on luncheon meats

not realizing we were the fiends

who made mockery of striving

up some corporate ladder

we would sweep past that boundary

we were going to create substance

that would last longer than the Beatles

have more cruelty than war

drink more blood than Dracula

we were the righteous vanguard

to take fiends into the next level 

 

we would stay up all night 

smoking toking stroking 

our eyes marbles in sand 

rolling our way through 

begrudging sunrise light 

to diners thick with fusty cozy fish smell

for crack of morning eggs 

swimming in blessed grease 

swearing we were bound 

heart to heart in our struggle 

against this culture that wanted 

to deny fiends proper place at any table

 

we tripped off to university

jumping courses in midterm

anthropology to comparative religions

seeking a way to alter 

the substrata of this messed up 

over commercialized culture

 

fiends forced to deal with

the mundane march of shoes to job

we wore the sheen of clock time

kept our fiendishness to ourselves

letting it out in mosh pits 

letters to the editor rages open stages

to keep the brain dancing

while we saw others melt into safety

 

we sit just out of the afternoon sun

don’t want skin cancer

no one wants aging fiends with lesions

waiting for our green tea to steep

looking with longing at sweets

at sweet young things

everyone is younger than yesterday

striving to be fiend of the moment

pierced bleached mohawked

wearing the sneer we invented

looking at us with the disdain

we copyrighted so long ago

even if they don’t recognize it

in their sacred lunge for the new

we are still fiends

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday

November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto
http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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

 

Damsel Not In Distress

 

Damsel Not In Distress

there was danger

sure I could have died

but what away to go

at the hands of the creature

yes I value my life

but it is my life

who asked you to butt in

what compelled you

to rescue me

if I had been another man

then what would you have done

would you let the creature 

destroy him

rather than appear to be gay

because only a man who loves men

would go to all the trouble

or rescuing another man

 

so you rescued me 

from the jaws of excitement 

it’s not that I’m not grateful

but if you expect 

some sexual gratification

for your efforts then toss me back 

I didn’t ask to be rescued

 

all I really had to lose

are those cultural bonds

of weak women   strong men

no one can be released from

the tentacles of that monster

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