In The Company of Strangers 

In The Company of Strangers 

after two minutes

I knew this conversation

wasn’t going anywhere

it had started off so promising 

with an ‘I can’t wait to meet you

I’ve heard so much about you’

 

so we meet

we start to talk

and after a minute 

their eyes look around

at others

for others

for escape

 

we nod at the right times

chuckle at the right times

but aren’t looking at each other

eyes rove over one another’s shoulders

looking for some someone better

 

our attention intention

we showed in each other 

abruptly comprised

by the alluring promise

of others around us

of faces and smiles

of someone else to talk to

all of them is at least as interesting

all of who would only hold

our eager attention for a moment

because like the one 

who was so eager to meet them

our eyes would be darting

looking someone else

with bigger promise

bigger reputation

to be seen talking too

to be seen walking away from

to a better opportunity

 

because there is always a better opportunity

even when the one

in front of you is good enough

This ‘attention intention’ has happened to me so many times I’ve stopped bothering to make conversation at things like readings, workshops, book signings, people’s parties (even my own.) People want to be seen talking but rarely want to be seen listening 🙂 I have mastered the nod, frown, chuckle responses to the point where, much like them, I’m not fully listening as their eyes dart around the room for the person they were really waiting for.

Or if they aren’t placing around the room hey are glancing at their smart phone, or stopping in the middle of a chuckle to check their smart phone. The news feed from people not in the room being more commanding than the people foolish enough to be in the room. Or maybe they are texting or receiving  nods to someone else already in the room.

Occasionally someone does engage me in a ‘real’ conversation that starts with asking about me then quickly becomes them talking about themselves. I never discourage them. I know how to say things like ‘great’ or ‘that must be very stressful’ ‘tell me more.’ Which gives each of us a chance to glance over each other’s shoulder.

 

I no longer take such social interactions seriously or personally. At one time I did get miffed when eye contact couldn’t be maintained longer than it took to recognize each other. When someone say’s ‘it’s been great talking to you’ I know it really means the view over my shoulder was good. 


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Coal Dusters: Chapter XLVIII – Birk at thePower Plant

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 XLVIII

Birk 

at the

Power Plant

Birk’s father read aloud from the morning Post “miners instigate conflict with legally deputized constables.” He shook the paper. “From what I hear the legally deputized constables attacked the people leaving Mount Carmel Church with no cause at all. No cause.” He read further. “No wait! Here it is! They malicious scared the horses.”

There was knock at the back door and Jake Malone barged in.

“Blackie, we’ve had it. The union has had it.” He pulled a chair out and sat at the table. “The union met last night to discuss what had happened at Mount Carmel, we’re pullin’ everyone, including you.”

“But you ….”

“Yes, we know what that’ll mean. There’ll be no maintenance at any of the mines. Or at the power plant in New Waterford either. The BritCan goons can’t get away with this.”

“There’ll be a march this afternoon soon as the word gets out. We’re to meet at the arena. You with us?”

“Yes!” Birk’s father announced. “I’ve had it up to here. Scaring the horses! Next, they’ll be arresting us for being awake.”

While the men were meeting on the dock to take the ferry over to North Sydney word came that the company had already shut down the power plant, cut off electricity and water to the area. Those that had running water now had none.

“Who do those bastards think they are!” one of the men said.

“Time we show them that we’re not going to give in, no matter what.” Someone else said as they clambered aboard the ferry.

“I hear it was them getting even for that attack last week on them sneaking in scabs.” Jim McKlusky said.  

When they got to the other side they were met by Ivor Gillis head of the local police. He had over a dozen of the company security force with him.

“Lads, we’re going have to make sure you aren’t carrying any arms or such. We don’t want any further trouble here.”

“What about them buggers? They are the ones with cudgels and guns. Not us.”

“We have to protect our town.” Ivor went on.

“Yeah whose goin’ to protect us from them.” One of the miners shouted. “We’re not leaving a church looking to scare the horses after all.”

The miners laughed.

“Men, don’t make things worse than they are.” Ivor pleaded. “Get back on the Dingle and go to your homes.”

“We aren’t going anywhere Ivor Gillis. Not till the DuBois ferry sets out to New Waterford. So get out of our way.”

“What is to be problem?” Bill McLean, one of the union spokesmen came from behind Ivor Gillis. 

“Do you know …” Ivor started.

“Yeah we know BritCan’s got you in it’s back pocket.” Jim McKlusky stopped him. “But they don’t give a pinch of coal dust about you. Power’s off at your home same as everyone else’s. No water either. How long your sick’uns going to survive without water? Any of you think about that?” he turned to the constables. “That is those of you with family here.”

He stared at each of the men on horseback. “You might to take a look around you fellas.”

Miners from other parts of the area had gathered along the sidewalks across the road from the dock.

“You don’t mind if we join our friends.” Bill said. “Come on Blackie let’s a little talk while we wait for the DuBois.”

The constables reluctantly separated as the new group of miners pushed through them.

Birk didn’t understand the cold stares the constables gave them as they walked through. He knew some of them had grown up in Castleton. Some of the unformed men slapped their palms with their batons and smirked; others merely sneered.

“Move along. Move along.” Two of the constables pushed their horses at the men. “Can’t block the sidewalks.”

“The same law that says you can ride horses on these sidewalks?” Clancy asked.

The miners followed Blackie and Bill McLean down to board the DuBois that was ready to depart. Once on board of the men compared their crude weapons, short iron bars, wooden handles and even shovels. When disembarked at New Waterford there were men ready to direct them to through the town to the road that lead to the power plant.

“Someone has been busy.” Bill McLean remarked as they approached the plant. “That fence weren’t there yesterday.

There was a heavy, barbed-wire fence set up a few hundred yards from the plant, that encircled it. The there was another division of horsemen that followed them from the dock. They picked up their pace and rode though the men swinging their batons randomly.

“This is private property.” Colonel Strickland rode up to the inside of the gate. “Clear off BritCanada property now, or pay the consequences.”

“Clear off yerself, you fucking mainlander.” One of the miners shouted as he leapt up and grabbed a horseman off his horse. He wrested that man’s truncheon away from him and knocked him to the ground and began kicking him.

“Any one else want more the same?” The miner shouted.

“Yeah!” a horseman rode over and swung his truncheon at the miner. The sound of the truncheon as it crushed the miner’s head stopped them all for a moment. Blood oozed from the man’s mouth as he sank to the ground.

It was like a signal for the others on horses to take action. Forcing their horses to rear up and trample the miners. 

Clancy handed Birk an iron rod about a yard long. Birk looked at it not sure how to handle it but as a horse came charging at him he swung out at the horse. Slashing the horse across the forelegs. The legs buckled sending the rider sprawling to the ground.

Rapid gun fire was heard coming from behind the barbed wire.

“They’re using machine guns!” Jim McKlusky shouted.

Birk and Clancy kept pushing forward. Swinging their iron rods at the horses, at the constables who fell. As Birk swung all he could see was his sister Maddy weak with hunger while these uniformed fuckers were fat and well-fed.

His hands and arms were quickly spattered with blood. He never thought himself capable of such violence against anyone. What right did these bastards have to get paid to keep him from getting paid?

He glanced at Clancy as they helped some men dig a trench under the fencing. 

“Almost like being in the pit.” Clancy grinned wiping dirt off his face.

They crawled under the fence and over the gravel till they were behind one of the machine gun nests and jumped in to the surprise of the gunners. They tied the gunners up while Jim McKlusky and another miner made their way over the other machine gun nest. It quickly fell silent. Jim came out pushing two men tied up in front of him. None of them knew how to operate the guns but their intent had been to stop them not use them. Birk and Clancy rushed to the gate, beat the lock off with their iron bars and pushed it open.

The miners cheered and rushed on to the power plant. Within an hour they had restored running water and electricity.

When he and Clancy returned home that night they was elated. Everyone was encouraged by their successes of the day. Encouraged and saddened at the same as men had died.

“This has to be what war is like,” he told his father. “Crawling under barbed wire, on yer belly.”

“Birk this is closer to any war than you want to be.” His father rubbed his temples. “But worse. At war a bullet kills fast. BritCan’s ammunition is our hunger and they aim to make us kill ourselves so they don’t have to get their hands dirty.”

“You boys, no I guess you aren’t boys anymore,” Birk’s mother said. “You men better wash up and get some sleep. Never meet trouble with a dirty face.”

“Yes, ma.”

In the morning Jake Malone came over with the news that the company had taken the power plant back and shut it down once more. He had heard that they were now was sure to get the feds to send more troops because the miners were endangering industrial property.

“Nothing about the company endangering miner’s lives though.” his Dad said.

“According to the Post the union’s fallen prey to communist ideals. They claim there are outside agitators behind the whole strike business.”

“It weren’t no agitators who decided to cut wages. That was BritCan. They want profits for their share holders.” Blackie said.

“Right and the province wants those coal royalties, too. As long as we’re out they aren’t getting anything of that to feed themselves.” Clancy said.

“So what do think is next?” Birk asked.

“Hard to say,” Jake answered. “The men are right frustrated by this set back. Even the press that was with us isn’t so much now. Those guys in Montreal don’t give a crap about us down here, and they’ll make sure the feds stay out of it. King ain’t no friend to us. No more than Armstrong is.”

By the end of week two battalions of federal troops arrived to reinforce the company calvary. According to the Post they had been brought in to quell the violent miners under the influence of radicals. An uneasy peace settled in as the miner’s maintained their distance from any of the company properties.

“We can’t go on this way much longer.” Blackie sat at the kitchen table. “Winter coming on and we’re going to need to keep warm somehow.”

“I’m thinkin’ we might as well up and move to Alberta with Geo. Miners there gettin’ a decent wage.” Birk said. He knew desperate times call for more than grumbling.

“What!” his mother said. “Leave the life we know?”

“Ma this ain’t to life. Lots of the miners have already left. You know that. The Jones, the Babbington’s, even Joseph Franklin and they was here to help found Castleton. What’s holding us here.”

“We can’t let BritCan get away with this. Driving us out of our homes, out of …. of our right to live decent.”

“Starving isn’t living decent.” Birk said. “What can we do. They can wait us out. You see that, don’t you. Even with so many with us we aren’t getting anywhere with them.”

“Go then!” his father stood. “Pack yer things and head out west if that’s what you want to do. You and your pal Clancy. ”

“It’s not what I want to do, but what else is there. What is there for me here, even if they open the mines again?” Birk said.

“That’s that mick girl. She’s put notions in your head hasn’t she.” His mother accused him.

“Ma! She’s showed me some about reading and writing. Things I never had time to learn while I was in the pits.”

“Things you never needed either.”

“Even Pa can read the paper. He can write his name on a piece of paper. What’s wrong with me having learned to do those as well.”

Fuming Birk jumped up and rushed out of the backdoor. What was he to do? All he’d ever known was the coal dust of the mines, the mud of mudside. He’d been fairly content with it till the strike happened. About enough to eat most of the time. 

It was as if this nothing was what his life had been all along. Grubbing about for something to keep the family going. Griping about things that couldn’t be changed. Had he ever been happy? 

That day at Blue Lake when he first took Clancy fishing had been a good day. It seemed years ago. The first time he sank into one of those bathtubs at Mrs. Franklin. The first time he had actually felt clean and how they laughed at the dirty water he’d left behind. It took them an hour to clean the tub out again.

Sure he had worries then but there was something to enjoy to. Now there was nothing but no food tomorrow. Soldiers with guns ready to use them. 

What would there be for him if they settled the strike even at the company’s terms. There were fewer men now so perhaps he’d get more shifts.

That Lillian had asked him about having a family someday. That was the last thing he’d ever want. It broke his heart seeing his sisters growing thinner every day. The only days they showed any life was when she came to teach them. Lording her cleanliness over them most of the time. Acting as if she cared when all she did was show them up, show them how stupid they were. So now he could write his name. Signing his name wasn’t going to feed his sisters or feed himself either.

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

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Goldsmith Cats

It’s no secret that I love soundtracks. I have many in my collection, some of movies I have never seen :-). One of the first I bought was as a result of seeing the movie Papillon was by Jerry Goldsmith. I loved that lp & eventually replaced with a downloaded mp3 version. Goldsmith was a prolific soundtrack composer with an amazing grasp of many musical genres.

I also have his earlier work in the music for Our Man Flint and In Like Flint. These were spy parodies (forerunners of Austin Powers) starring James Coburn. The music captures 60s instrumental pop perfectly in that it embraces the sound rather than makes fun of it. Bouncy & sweet I love this type of movie work. Papillon on the other hand is lush, romantic, sweeping & at times meditative. It is one of my all-time favourites.

Another major film composer is Max Steiner – is this collection his King Kong score (rerecorded) & it is amazing, fun & evocative. Here too, is Elmer Bernstein’s score for The Man With The Golden Arm – brassy, jazzy & sometimes romantic. A film about a junkie trumpet player I have never seen. Listening to this I can sense where tension for the next fix is probably happening 🙂  

More modern & even more obscure is Bill Nelson’s music for the silent movie La Belle et la Bete. Nelson is best know as guitarist for BeBop Deluxe. The music here is a mix of sound effects, moody mellotron & percussion. It is excellent mood music & I’m sure works well with the movie – which I have seen but not with Nelson’s music. 

I’ve interspersed these soundtracks with various Scott Joplin rags. Many of which have shown up as  occasional moments in many movies. Finally a non-movie lp: Cats: London Cast highlights. I figured let’s go from film to stage for a break. I have seen a stage production of Cats & enjoyed it as much for the costumes as for the songs. There’s been talk of a film version for decades but I think it’s time as a film property has passed.

Last word: search out Papillon.

Eye Contact

‘Did you hear that?’

‘What?’ Janes was fed up with Frank’s constant questions. ‘What ?’

‘I though …shh…’

They stood in silence for a few moments, their breath visible in the icy air. 

‘I don’t hear anything.’

‘Shh.’ Frank was also impatient. Janes was too fast to move, to jump to conclusions while he was more methodical. Taking time made things more secure.

There was a faint crackle in the air. A small electronic sound, a discharge of static. At the same time both of them saw a thin blue aura at the periphery of their vision.

‘What as that?’ Janes reached to rub his eye. 

Frank stopped him. ‘Don’t.’

‘Don’t what?’ He pushed Frank’s hand away and began to rub his eyebrow. As he did the blue become brighter within his eye and he began to shake.

‘Shit shit shit. Why don’t you listen.’ Frank looked for something to move Janes’ hand away from his face. He knew that to make contact would pull him to the Connection. Once linked neither of them would be functional for the rest of the day.

The wooded area was barren. Tall trees whose nearest branch was several feet towered above them. There was no fallen twigs or even leaves. The broken shale of the ground held no other plant life. He’d need something though. The bark of the trees was thin like onion skin and peeled haphazardly but perhaps he could cut a piece of that if he moved quickly when he pulled.

‘Gr.. gl…’ Janes began to sputter.

‘Save your breath. I know you can hear me. You’ll be fine. In a day or so. Why don’t you listen.’

‘Gl… gr…’ 

‘Yeah I know … radio the captain. When we have a chance. But for now …’ The noon sun sent sparks of light through the leaves of the trees overhead.  ‘We have to keep moving. Follow me and I’ll see what can bed done.’

Frank had an idea. If he could get Janes to the trees and brush him against one, perhaps his hand would come loose. If they broke the Connection now there would be little damage to worry about. Just a fierce headache and the loss of an eyebrow. 

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every Tuesday 2019

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

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

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Hungry Sneak Peek – April 2019

First a recap of March 🙂 March was cold then cool, dark then sunny. Started the rewatch of Taboo. The series is as intense as I recalled, also as illogical. The image clarity of the DVD is clearer than the original broadcast so some things are more noticeable – no this plot holes but the make-up on the King& other characters doesn’t hold up at all. But Tom Hardy is a magnificent beast & the tattoo work is exceptional. His great coat pulls focus everything he walks down the street.

Also rewatching Castle Rock. Knowing what is going on from having seen the series already doesn’t detract from the mystery but does let me ignore the endless red herrings, and frequent incidents that only exist for atmosphere or for the writers to show us how clever they are. Re-listening the the Fan Critical commentaries as well.

Speaking of Fan Critical I have also been listening to their reviews of ‘event’ movies I’ll never get to see until they turn up on TV. This is a very funny, intelligent group of commentators. Their newest addition is the ‘Worst of Netflix.’ Hilarious.

As I expected with the end of google+, my WordPress hits have dropped from frequent 60+ a day – to an average of 20 a day. My followers have increased: WordPress – 312, (following 36) Tumblr: 223 (following 54). TW: 215 (following 99). The Tumblr purge hasn’t ended the site & the nudes keep coming. I’m still deleting follows from hetero porn sites.

Coal Dusters is moving along well. I’ve blogged just over 90,000 words with at least 40,000 more words to go. This is clearly a second draft & not the final draft. I realize that I have to iron out wrinkles in time. I have to makes sure I have a time line that all these events can fit into. I suspect I have to get some of my geography settled as well. I am using some imaginary places i.e. Castleton  – but also real places i.e. North Sydney, New Waterford.

Now for the sneak peek part of this post. First up is Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam Season 5 finale at Buddies in Badtimes Friday April 5, 7 p.m. 5 Cities! 8 Poets! But only 1 Champion. I can’t wait to see who wins the grand prize of a trip to Capturing Fire Slam, the International Queer Summit & Slam in Washington DC. I love everything about this expect the part where I can’t afford to go to Washington DC this year 😦 

The Hot Damn! feature is a dream come true! The out of this universe fantastic Nasra Adem NASRA is a queer, Muslim, Oromo creator/curator living in Amiskwaciwȃskahikan (Edmonton) on Treaty 6 territory. They were the Youth Poet Laureate of Edmonton from 2016 to 2017.

So far tickets have been booked to see Henry VIII, Nathan The Wise, & Little Shop Of Horrors at Stratford. Considering Private Lives, Othello if good seats go on sale. Tickets booked to see Sex at the Shaw Festival. Yet to book there is The Ladykillers. Oddly I’ve never wanted to any of their actual Bernard Shaw plays.

Not so distant future coming event is why I can’t afford to go to Washington DC this year: my visit to Cape Breton in August. I haven’t visited since June 2012. Plans include a visit to Fortress of Louisbourg, day trips to North Sydney, New Waterford for Duster’s & Picture Perfect research. Sydney has an unexpectedly lively lgbtq+ community now. Judging by the large number of Squirt profiles there are lots of men on the prowl too.  I guess I got the seven year itch?

Hungry Plants

more or less

all or nothing

how much is little enough

what constitutes over load

enough is a feast 

but we all want more

give em an inch

they‘ll want sex

quantity or quality

a little of the good stuff

or all you can eat

in for a pound

staggering from the corner 

for another go

another kick at the can

another bite at the hands 

that don’t feed enough

 

when things are overflowing

too much is left behind 

not every bit gets eaten

all those tiny crumbs

don’t miss one

good to the last drop to the canvas

slug fest of who gets

the bigger piece of pie

who gets left high without a dish to dry 

without a mouth to feed

getting is better that giving

don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

become the gracious receiver of gifts

so that others 

can indulge their need for generosity 

superiority

while you relax into gluttony

thank you thank you

don’t be shy or ashamed

anything you offer is fine by me

don’t stop giving

I want it all 

both my hands helping you 

by rifling through your wallet 

while you look the other way 

I know you’d be dismayed if I didn’t

you don’t want all that stuff

as much as I do

 

feed me Seymour feed me now

we’re all hungry plants

duking it out for the purse

raging shrill hogs

barely able to stand on two legs

in the lunge for greased joys

gimme gimme gimme 

more than my share is all I want

don’t get parsimonious on me now

after all it’s for the good of your soul

for the good of the world

more for me

means less for the people 

you really want to punish

 

you know I’ll always be thankful

even when I go behind your back

to the people you deprive

for more

I’ll take it from all givers

I’ll never let pride get in the way 

of getting more than I deserve

of getting more than you can spare

everything not nothing

biggest piece is always mine

so give now

be generous

or

live with your selfish regrets 

because that’s all you get 

to take to the grave

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http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday 2019


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

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

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No Blow

No Blow

so this is how it ends

no bang

no whimper

but with a snort

two lines of blow

careful spread 

on your cell phone screen

 

that you did 

this sort of thing

didn’t bother me particularly

as long as you did it

without me as an audience

as long as you did it

outside of my residence

 

when you aren’t here

it’s not a part of my life

not a part of our play

our play is best confined

to the two of us

substances

are a third party

that quickly becomes the focus

it takes over

demands that whatever else might happen

it is the only thing that counts

 

me being in the room

was a distraction

you being in the room

was now a disappointment

and when you left

I was relieved to see you go

not wishing you could stay longer

 

those two lines

closed a door

never open to you again


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Memory Squeeze

Memory Squeeze

a light sting

skin broken

some blood

a minor hurt

it will heal fast

a couple of showers

there’ll be no sign

no scab

not even a scar

 

a minor memory

that conjures a bigger memory

of the years

years ago

in another century

another country

where I was a cutter

 

a time when I made myself bleed

more than this

there was no need to squeeze

the blood flowed easily

I’m over that now

or so I thought 

buried the memory

deep enough 

yet when I pop a pimple

it comes back

 

then I had a fearful despair 

of needing the proof of being ordinary

I no longer feel that need

but

when I squeeze

I’m forcing that memory out again

into my day today

 

I stop 

wash my hands

wondering 

why am I plucking 

at that thread again

Part of my self-abuse history involves being a cutter – that is someone who deliberately cuts themselves in one way or the other. Burners are people who, you guessed it, deliberately burn themselves – sometimes with cigarettes. I didn’t recognize or label my behaviour as such at the time, so I didn’t seek any sort of help for it either. Good things I didn’t, as I’ve said before, if I got the help need then the help available would have killed me.

LGBTQ teens at that time could be legally institutionalized by their parents – once there they were chemically castrated or given shock-treatment  or lobotomized. Sometimes I forget what I survived without really knowing the danger I was in – danger I only found out when I was well out of that danger. There wasn’t even conversion ‘therapy’ unless one counts the constant fear of been beaten up for smiling at the wrong time as conversion therapy.

The cutting started before I became a drunk and continued for awhile when I sobered up. It wasn’t a regular thing but it was often enough to be considered a thing.

 

I sometimes share about it in recovery but rarely talk about it otherwise. I’ve written another piece about it long ago. The memory of that behaviour can resurface now if I find myself worrying the occasional pimple on my arm or if I scratch an itch too much. As the poems ends I check my action to make sure its just an itch & not some stress I’m acting out on. Usually it’s a thoughtless nervous action that alerts me to the fact that I am nervous. 


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Coal Dusters Chapter XLVII – Lillian Goes to Church

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 XLVII

Lillian Goes to Church 

Lillian stood on the front walk of the the McFadden’s home. The O’Dowell’s had come over to New Waterford for the night on Saturday so they could attend the special service at Mount Carmel. The strike was nearing its fifth week with no sign of ending. The Monseigneur had called for a special service on Sunday to bring the Word of God to the parishioners of the area. Her uncle was one of the priest asked to speak to the men.

Clara had insisted on her and Lillian spending the night so they wouldn’t be rushed in the morning to get across the bay to New Waterer in time for the service. She plucked a stray thread off of her dark coat. She was pleased at the opportunity to wear some of her Boston clothes. Even more pleased to have her lace gloves to cover her hands. Her eyes kept going down to her pumps. How dainty her feet looked in the dark blue shoes. Probably two years out of style by now, she thought, but still looking better than anything she had seen anyone wearing here.

“Ah Lillian, there you are.” Clara came out of the house followed by the McFadden’s and their two daughters. “You are looking quite well turned out today.”

“Thank You Clara. I haven’t gotten much opportunity to dress my best.”

They walked the few blocks to the church.

As she with Clara, Lillian noticed a large number men in uniform along the street. They were smoking and laughing. Some appeared to have been drinking.

“Who are they going to protect.” Mr. McFadden said. “The choir?”

The extra militia had been brought in to New Waterford at the demand of the coal company. The management had pressured the local police to beef up security around the mines after many of the company stores had been ransacked. It was as if they had been hoping the miners would take that more militant action after the ambush hadn’t succeeded. Any action so the company could escalate things in their own way.

Lillian and Clara passed through the main part of of the town. Off to one side street were more men on horseback. There was also some artillery on a wheeled cart. Colonel Strickland stood there with his hands behind his back watching the men inspect the artillery. 

“What do they expect the miner’s to do?” Lillian asked Clara.

“They are sure there are agitators working to undermine the company’s influence.”

“Agitators?”

“Men whose only intent to disrupt lawful business under the guise of making things better for the workers. Communists.” Clara waved to her brother. “Steven, any word from BritCanada Coal?”

He crossed the street to join them. “Good morning.” He kissed his sister on the cheek and shook Lillian’s hand. They had decided to keep their engagement a secret for the time being. The assembly is in full agreement with Wolvin’s statement that the men can end all this simply by returning to work. They are willing to open the mines so the men can start earning their keep. As general manager he has no ability to negotiate. He’s only a messenger but the men feel he’s the one keeping the company from giving in.”

“Their keep!” Mr. McFadden said. “They were being paid barely enough to keep house and family together under the old contract and now they have to settle for less?”

“Mr. McFadden, in order for the company to remain competitive in the market they have to have the coal for less, that means paying the men less. The alternative is to close down more of the mines. Is that what you think the miners want?”

“You know as well as I do that the miners want an end to this starvation. BritCanada Coal is letting the miners’ children pay the price of their profits.”

“BritCanada Coal can’t be held accountable for the ….” Steven glanced apologetically to Lillian and the other ladies, “… the propagation habits of the miners. If you can’t afford children don’t bring more into the world.”

“Steven!” Clara snapped. “What a thing to say!”

They were at the church steps. In the foyer the Monseigneur was greeting parishioners as they arrived. Father Patrick was at his side. She hadn’t seen him since he had ‘cast her forth into the wilderness’ as it was reported to her by Aileen. She didn’t offer her hand to him but merely nodded as his glance went quickly to Mrs. McFadden beside her. 

Seeing him again made her bruises throb. She had kept Clara from seeing how severe they actually were. She had made Dr. Drummond swear not to mention the severity of them to anyone. The few long hot soaking baths which she had over the past week had eased the pain considerably. Aileen had insisted she try a poultice of comfrey and mustard which reduced the swelling and discolouration.

She followed Clara to the pew they were to use for the service. On the way she was stopped by Hanna Seldon.

“Miss Lillian, it’s good to see you looking well.”

“You too Hanna. How’s the baby.”

“Poorly miss. He has that flu so many of the children have had the past few months. Least we have been able feed him to keep his strength up. The doctor says there’s a good chance he’ll pull through.”

Lillian shook her head in dismay. As the strike progressed and food became scarce many families had less and less to eat. Gardens had helped stave of some of the hunger but many of the children were weak from lack of proper nutrition. This weakness made them more vulnerable to colds and recently a flu. There were funerals daily.

“I wish there was more I could do.” Lillian said.

“Knowing your prayers are with us is more than enough. At least we have a roof over our heads. There’s now many that doesn’t. When they closed the Lingan mine those families were forced out of the company houses. No mine no home. Where is a person to go?”

“There’ll be help I’m sure.” Lillian kissed Hanna on the cheek and joined Clara. She was more grateful that ever for having been given a haven when she needed one, but how long could even the O’Dowell’s  manage with things getting worse for everyone around her.

The service washed over her without her paying attention to it. She heard bits and pieces of the various rituals and the sermon. Other parishes were sending money. The Monseigneur had spoken to the Premier to no avail. The Bishop had spoken to the some cabinet misters but was told this was a provincial not a federal matter and so they would do nothing. The conclusion appeared to be that God helps those who help themselves, which in this case only the BritCanada Coal Company had pockets deep enough to help themsevels.

“What does helping themselves mean?” Lillian asked Mr McFadden as they made their way out after the mass.

“Pray and listen to the guidance one gets from the Lord.” 

“What if the Lord tells some helping themselves is to strike for better working conditions and tells others that accepting any working condition is better than not working at all?”

“Miss McTavish your words are dangerously similar to those of the Communists.”

“They … they are?” Her face flushed. “Perhaps I’ve been listening too much what Steven has to say about all this.”

“Miss McTavish you are in many ways still an outsider here. This isn’t Boston.”
“I comprehend that but …”

“The folks here don’t think logically. They have no idea of a future only of their stomachs in the now.”

They were in the foyer once again. The crowd was stopped at the doors.

Screams and shouts came from outside.

“Father,” one of the parishioners shouted. “They are charging with horses as we leave the church.”

The Monseigneur and her uncle pushed through the crowd.

The parishioners pushed back and she fell against the wall. An elderly women stumbled back into the church helping her husband. He was bleeding from a blow to the head.

“They rode up as we were walking down the street. Swinging their batons and hitting anyone they could reach.” The woman gasped. “Anyone! We’re not miners!”

Over the shouting she could hear the horses. Then gun shots. There was brief silence.

The miners who were still in the church rushed out. Some pulling up the picket fencing around the church lawn to give them something to use in self-defence.

Lillian cautiously went to one of the side exit doors to peer out. She saw a mass of men with wooden pickets flailing at the militia on horses wielding thick black clubs. Both sides were shouting accusations at each other.

“BritCan doesn’t even want us to go to church in peace. They have no respect for the God.”

“Commie rabble. Papist scum. Pray to your God now.”

“I knows you father Billy Davis.”

“Get off the streets now or …”

“These are our streets, ya goddamned company bastard.”

Another shot rang out. The fighting stopped a moment. The miners fell back to the church grounds. The militia pulled back a few yards to regroup.

A runner dashed up to one of the horsemen with a message.

“A man is dead because of you.” The lead horseman said. “How many more have to die before you learn your place.”

“Who?” several men shouted at once.

“Daniel Jenkis!” the horseman shouted back. “You ready to leave peacefully.”

“We was till you charged as us with no cause.” someone yelled back.

The horseman nodded and all the troops stepped forward. “If that’s how you want it we’ll trample the lot of you.”

“Kill a child. Is that what you want?”

“Not us. You behave and there’ll be no trouble.”

Lilian’s uncle pushed through the men and stood alone in front of them. “How can we disperse with you blocking the streets and sidewalk?” he asked quietly. He puts hands out palms up.

One of the horses reared and the front hooves hit her uncle. He fell forward under the horse. Lilian darted out to drag her uncle out of the horse’s way.

“Get out of the way you Catholic biddy.” One of the other horsemen laughed and Lilian glanced at him as he swung his baton at her.

“That’s it!” a male voice from the other side of that horseman shouted as the horseman was yanked backwards off the horse. She caught a glimpse of Steven O’Dowell wresting that rider to the ground.

The rider of the rearing horse had it under control and had pulled it away from the prone body of her uncle.

She knelt beside him. He was on his stomach and she wasn’t sure if she should turn him over.

“Uncle Pat can you hear me.” she said squeezing his hand.

“Yes child.” He turned his head toward her.

She saw that he was bleeding from a gash on his forehead. He pushed himself up painfully with his right arm. She struggled with his weight to help him stand. Two miners came over to take his weight from her.

“Thank you. I’m a bit winded. When I saw the beast rear before me it was the horsemen of the Apocalypse come to life to warn me. But this one was only an animal, not a messenger.”

“Lillian …” Steven came quickly to her brushing dust off his coat. “You haven’t been harmed in any way have you?”

“No, Steven I haven’t. Father Pat has been injured sorely. We must get him some medical attention.”

They helped her uncle back into the church. Inside on the benches were several others who had been assaulted by the militia. 

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

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Isis Of March

Next on the shelf is an mp3 collection of Isis. I’ve blogged about Isis before so check that out. I recently watched Some Like It Hot, which includes an all-female swing band. No matter how musically inventive or competent such bands were they were always considered novelty acts not serious swing bands. Such was the case of Isis. The market wasn’t open to an all-female version of Chicago. Women in rock were usually limited to vocals,  not playing instruments, other than piano or acoustic guitar, themselves:-)

Also in this compilation are two releases by Lowell Fulsom: Drifting Blues, In A Heavy Bag. This is solid r&b. There were a couple of tracks by him on the Rojak Story compilation. I liked his old school soul sound & his voice, so downloads a couple of his solo releases. His cover of ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road’ takes a road the Beatles would never have taken 🙂

Here as well is Otis Blackwell’s These Are My Songs. Never heard of him? You’ve probably heard some of his songs though, which include Great Balls of Fire, Don’t Be Cruel, All Shook Up & more. His take on his songs is refreshing. I always love to hear songwriters doing their work. I also never knew that these big hits where the work of the same writer.

For some reason I added Jethro Tull’s A Passion Play: The Château d’Hérouville Sessions to this mp3 collection – a classic lp I wanted to replace with better quality sound. The original lp was two sides with no track breaks. Here it has seamless track breaks & no need to turn it over half way through. The Château d’Hérouville Sessions includes other takes of some of Passion Play songs plus earlier versions of songs such as Skating Away. The sound quality is excellent even if A Passion Play is a bit overwrought 🙂

To round out this cd I added: Arthur Brown & Vincent Crane: Faster Than The Speed of Light. Crazy World world is the best known work by these two – Crane was keyboards on that lp. Neither followed it with another big hit but they reunited in 1980 for this release. Fun & surprisingly prog-rock with an Emerson, Lake & Palmer vibe without being as self-serious. Brown’s vocals are playful & the production values & engineering is excellent. Too bad it vanished almost as soon as it was released. Worth seeking out.

Snake Skine

“Priestess and the Snake Skine” by Davina K’ltra – set in the rich fertile islands of the Caribbean the third novel of Davina K’ltra continues her fascination with things dark and lurking. 

One almost expects characters from the previous books to walk in the door at each turn of the plot. It is almost as if she had merely changed the names with the help of word search, the plots are so similar and yet one keeps reading with pleasure.

As in her previous two novels – “Snake Skine Sisters” and “Sinner in Snake Skine “- an innocent person, often of indeterminate gender, finds themselves drawn to the world and power of a vodou like cult.

In each the innocent victim is unaware till the final moment that there is no turning back now that the door has been opened. There is no one to turn to when the very people thought to be protectors turn out to be Sirens, lures. There is no safety anywhere.

Even, as in this novel, when the innocent makes an escape off the island and back to the shores of the good old USA there is no real escape. Everyone, it seems, is connected with this nefarious cult.

The major departure in “Priestess and the Snake Skine” is the gender of the innocent. In the previous two novels it has probably been female. This time it seems to be male. A young Police Academy graduate celebrates his graduation with a two week jaunt in the Caribbean Islands before he is to take up his post in Detroit. Kaleb Jones comes from a middle class black family and has proven himself to be an open minded young man. Boxing champion for his class and built to be a prime example of the best America has to offer.

We meet his family first and enjoy the last weeks of his police training. A deceptive start for K’ltra, who seems to be trying to expand the horizons of her novels by opening them to new locations. Too bad the action once it does get started is so cookie cutter.

Perhaps though it is the predictability of this fatal action that allows the reader comfort to follow it. The ritual scenes are fevered and fast, the blood flows and even when it becomes human we are ready, almost wanting to participate ourselves so we can slip into our own dangerous skine.

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every Tuesday 2019


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

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
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Nine Lives

Nine Lives

O when I was nine

I was still a child

there was no instant communication

news travelled slow

on the radio   TV news   newspapers

delay that provided an innocence

I knew about war

because my Dad had fought in one

he was a man

my mother was a woman

I was a boy child

who only knew what the culture 

of the time

reported of my gender 

 

O when I was nine

I wasn’t aware of so much

I did know I wasn’t like other boys

I played backlot-baseball

I played with dolls

I  wasn’t the son my dad expected

I didn’t like to fight

like other boys

I never understood 

why physical violence was required

to be accepted

 

O when I was nine

I had indulged in sex play

with boys and girls

looking at the differences

anatomy I didn’t understand

the boys where more interesting

I didn’t come out

but I knew shame

when we were caught

I had fear

but no closet

sex was dirty regardless

of gender

 

O when I was nine

I don’t know I was swimming

that I was making waves

as I dog-paddled from nine to nineteen

by that time I knew

these were dangerous waters

 

O at nine there was only

the fear of getting caught

not the fear

of my culture drowning me

like an unwanted litter of kittens

that were denied their nine lives


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Nice Undies

Nice Undies

please keep it

I don’t really need it

I have too many already

it’s not quite the right fit for me

the colour is so you

I don’t know

when I’ll ever use it

I want you to have 

you’ll get more use out of it than I would

I can’t begrudge you anything

of course you can have it

I never wore it

I only wore it once

let me see it on you

it really suits you

those undies look better on you

than they ever did on me

no I don’t hate it

it’s just not right for me

they were on sale

you’d be doing me a favour

I never want to see it again

too many memories

time to move the energy out of my life

if you don’t want it

I’ll have to throw it away

don’t let it to go to waste

it’s too good

to drop in a donation box

I want someone I know to have it

you won’t regret it

don’t thank me

thank whomever 

gave it to me

never wear it my presence

Nice Undies is a list poem of different thoughts or actual things said in giving something away. As much as I appreciate a gift I am sometimes given things that I either have, don’t want, or have no real need for. Because I enjoy bold colours I’ve been give shirts, or t-shirts that are great colours but with prints or cartoony images I’d never be seen in public wearing. Some become sleep wear, some end up in donation bins, some become regifted.

One Christmas I was given more socks than I needed, so some of them ended up in Christmas gift bags for friends. I’ve donated blank books, pens, even t-shirts to Hot Damn! as prizes. I move energy out of the house quickly so make room for new energy. It’s gotten to the point where I sometimes get a gift & I immediately think – this would be perfect for so-&-so.

Part of my personal ‘stuff’ policy is ‘if something new comes in, something old should go out.’ As a result if I keep the t-shirt someone gives me I have to cull one out of my collection to donate or give away. This can be difficult with things like shirts as my collection now if all favourites 🙂 So to make room for new I have to let go of my attachments of the old. In these cases I am more selective of where it goes but it does go.

Twice a year I cull various things from my processions: books, cds, shirts, socks, tee’s, even undies to pass on, to keep my sense of attachment in balance. I do this around New Year’s & around my birthday at the end of June. I’ve never been so invested in a memory that I can’t see someone wearing the tee I gave them. Nothing, to me, is hotter than one of my fwb arriving & finding that he’s wearing the undies I gave him. What can be more fun than some man literally getting into my pants? 🙂


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