Coal Dusters – Chapter VIII

Chapter VIII

Birk and Clancy Get Acquainted

Knowing that Clancy wouldn’t be sharing his room till the end of the week didn’t make working with him any easier for Birk. Clancy had already paid for a week in advance at Mrs. Franklin’s boarding house and she wasn’t going to refund any part of that if he left before the week was over.

When their shift started Birk would grunt hello and that was it. He didn’t care to know anything more about Clancy. As long he wasn’t underfoot, didn’t gripe about things and worked hard in the pit that was enough, barely enough to make him tolerable. 

Clancy had an irritating habit of humming as they worked. Sometimes muttering something under his breath or scraps of songs that Birk had never heard before. 

“Shovel and pick … pick and shovel … ” 

Things that didn’t make much sense to Birk even when he could make out what the words were. But as long as Clancy kept to himself, did his share of the work, he didn’t care. 

Clancy approached him during their lunch break on the third day of their working together. “We can’t go on this way Birk.”

“Says who?” Birk picked up his lunch pail moved to another part of the stretch they were working on. 

“If I’d known it was your house … ” Clancy followed him a few steps.

“Once you did, you coulda changed yer damn mind.”

“I can’t afford to stay at Mrs. Franklin’s on what we earn down here. I need to send something back to my Ma in Stellarton.”

“Why didn’t you stay there and work the mines?”

“Same story there as here.”

“Not my worry to deal with. I gotta deal with you.”

“Can’t be as hard as me having to deal with you.” Clancy went back to where he had been crouched for his lunch.

At the end of shift the cage was jammed already only one of the could fit on and Clancy shrugged as the cage went up leaving Birk below. When Birk got to the surface he took off his work coveralls and dashed to the wash up room to his usual spot. Clancy had taken it.

“Gotta be faster than that Birk. Yer gettin’ slow b’y.” Clancy chuckled as he continue to wash his underarms.

Birk pushed him aside. “Make way ya tuilli. You knows this is my spot now.”

“Careful.” the miner washing up next to Clancy said as Clancy stumbled into him.

Birk reached for the basin to toss out the dirty water and get fresh. Clancy upended the bowl so it splashed Birk.

“You …” Birk swung at Clancy. His fist caught Clancy on the jaw.  Clancy staggered back but quickly regained his footing. His longer reach let him swing back before Birk could react. His punch knocked Birk into a group of miners coming into the washroom.

“That’s it.” Birk took his fighting stance with fists raised, feet firmly planted on the wet stone floor. Clancy did the same.

“Bad enough I get stuck with you here.” He jabbed Clancy in the stomach. “But I’m not puttin’ up with ya any damn longer. I’ll send you back to the mainland to lick yer wounds. That’ll give you plenty worth singin’ about.”

Clancy jabbed Birk in the ribs. Both protected their faces as best they could. The other miners made a circle around them and if one fighter got too close to them they pushed him back into the centre of their ring.

“Isn’t m’ fault Red Mac didn’t think you were good lookin’ enough work above ground.”

“I didn’t want that soft arse job.”

They clinched and fell to the ground, wrestling and jabbing as best as they could. Blood dripped from the noses of both of them when someone hauled them away from each other and back to their feet.

“Enough of this.” It was Red Mac. “If yer want to beat the piss out of each other don’t do in here. We got men who deserve to be clean enough to go home to families that want them home.”

The miners held Birk and Clancy back from each other.

“Oh, it’s you Birk.” Red Mac said.  “Can’t say as I’m surprised. You two want to keep workin’ here?”

They both nodded yes.

“Then don’t let me catch you brawling during my shift on company time or on company grounds agin. You understand.”

Clancy nodded yes. Birk glared at Red Mac.

“Birk Nelson yer a good worker but yer always a disagreeable orange cuss too.”

There was some grumbling from the other miners.

“Okay! I knows there are more’n one orange men here.”

“So does we,” one of them shouted back. “That’s why we’re still buried underground and you fat arse micks get all the breaks.”

“You call this getting the break.” Red Mac said. “A good Catholic such as me having to deal with a bunch of … heathens … I mean you lot of ground hogs. Can I help it if I had the …. brains to get where I am?”
 

“You sayin we do don’t have as much brains as you?” another of the miners called out.

“All I’m saying is get cleaned up and out of here if you expect another shift tomorrow.” He went back to his office.

“Look! The Red Pope says its okay for us to wash up.” One of the miners joked. “The sacred waters better do their job.”

Birk filled his basin and washed off the blood, the mud from the floor and the coal dust from below as best as he could. His left hand throbbed. He had hit Clancy harder than he intended. He hoped he hadn’t done himself an actual injury. If he had Clancy would regret being the cause of that, too. How was he going to share his home with that tuilli.

As usual Jake was waiting for him at the gate.

“I dunno how I’m goin’ ta do it. Have that blowhard living with me. I’d rather move m’self before I share more than work space with him.”

“Ah lad, you gotta let go of it. Hard enough for us to get by as ‘tis. He can’t be that bad.”

“He is.”

“Things ‘re getting worse. We may not even be here long enough anyhow.”

“What?”

“They may cut some of the nights shifts. That’s why there’s strike talk agin.” Jake coughed harshly and sent a thick black gob of spit onto the road.

“Careful there, some ‘un will trip over that.”

“Yah.” Jake laughed hoarsely. “Least they aren’t charging me for the dust I sneak out in m’lungs.”

“What’s that ‘bout a strike?”

“Gregory was talking with some of us while you was … washin’ up. Says to us that they want not only to do away with night shifts but aim to cut back on the tonnage rate.”

“They can’t.” Birk punched at the air with his sore hand.

“They can if we let ’em. We gotta send them a message that we won’t put up with all this hurting of us workers who put food on the table for them but don’t get enough pay to put food on the tables for themselves.”

“Damn rights.”

“There’ll me a meetin’ tomorrow night at St. Agatha’s Hall.”

“They ain’t gonna let us orange in there, you know.”

“Sure they will. We got our union cards.”

“Yeh, but some of us don’t have our foreskins.”

Jake began to laugh again and had to stop to catch his breath. “Lad you are gonna be the death of me before the mine’ll do me in.”

Birk went around to the back of his house. His mother and Maddy were on their knees in the garden. The same as many of the miners they had a garden patch that spilled into the field behind their house. Each year his mother would grow vegetables – carrots, potatoes, tomatoes – with seeds or eyes saved from previous crops.

“Goin’ get much out of the patch this year?”

“There’ll be some.” His mother glanced up.

He went over and kissed her on the forehead. He pulled Maddy up and held her in the air at eye level to himself.

She giggled and wriggled. “Puts me down.”

“You been to school today?”

“Of course.”

One of the things Birk wished he had been able to do was continue in school. But when he got to twelve all he wanted to do what his dad did, what his brother did, what grandfather did – be a man who worked in the mines. In the mine he didn’t have to use his thinking much, only pay attention to what was happening right then. No need spell or add numbers up. Not that he couldn’t read or do enough arithmetic to make sure his pay packet was right. He knew enough keep track of what went on in the mines.

He’d seen some of the men reading from books, or from newspapers. He tried, but all those letters and words confounded him. He could follow word by word given time. He only trusted what a man said. You can tell if he was lying by his voice. Words on the page had no voice to judge them by.

He went to the well and got water to clean his socks and face rag. 

“I’m goin’ to check m’ traps, Ma. Might have a little something to add to supper tonight.”

He took several deep breathes as he walked along the grassy field. The smell of the mine stayed with him. Somedays he couldn’t shake it. He plucked a long blade of grass and chewed on it then spat it out. 

The rabbit traps had been pretty much in the same bushy area, beyond the three apple threes, where his great granddad had first set them. The apple trees were in bloom. He pulled a branch down to smell the flowers but all he could smell was the mine.

He stretched his arms up as high as they could go. It was only out in these fields that he could stand up fully. Even in the house he was pressed down by the ceiling. He’d find himself ducking under the door frames even though they were well over the top of his head.

During the run of a week the traps would be good for two or three rabbits. There was two this day. One pretty pump too, he hoped it wasn’t about to have little ones. It wasn’t.

He skinned and cleaned them there and was happy to hand them to his mother when he came into the kitchen. 

“Good. Good.” she said. “What you do with the skins?” She took the rabbits and quickly chopped and deboned them.

“Usual place on the back fence.” 

She would salt the skins and store them. Once a year around Christmas she’d trade them in at one of the furriers in Sydney. The money wasn’t much but would add something special to the Christmas dinner.

He poured some hot water from the kettle into a basin, rolled up his sleeves and washed the rabbit blood off his hands. 

“You’d think Blackie’d built us a little boiler for hot water around here.” He said.

She dropped the meat into a pot of water already simmering on the stove.

“Why we always have rabbit.” Maddy leaned against him as he sat the the kitchen table. 

“That’s what fits the traps. That and skunks. You want a stink for supper some time.” he tickled her.

“You stink enough for me.” she laughed and pulled away.

“You bring that bedding down tomorrow so as I can get it washed up before Clancy comes to share the room wid yer.” his mother said. 

“Don’t go countin’ on that. Might be lays-offs or worse, a strike.”

“I’ve heard. We‘ll know better when you Da gets home.”
“He’s usually back before me.” The smell of the cooking food made Birk hungry.

“He went to see Jim Spot who lost a hand a few weeks past. Union’s going see if they can get him something somewhere. He can always push a broom, ya know.”

“Not as if we don’t have enough one-handed broom pushers now.”

“What the union can’t do the lodge often does. Lest the company don’t own the lodge, yet. There’s Blackie.” 

Maddy ran out to meet him at the back gate. He handed her his lunch pail and they came into the kitchen. He hung his cloth cap on a peg by the door.

“Hear ya had a donny brook at wash up.” 

“He had it comin.” Birk knew this tone of Blackie’s meant he wasn’t pleased or amused. “Why? Clancy come cryin’ to you?”

“No. Red Mac’s gettin fed up with your carrying on. You worse than school kids. You know how he feels about us orange. After all, it was him, when he got that job, who started to replace all the good orange men with his own mick pals. Getting so bad you’d think it was Father McTavish that was running things and not the union or even the company.”

“Sorry Blackie. I wasn’t think about any of that. You know how I act I get riled up.”

“That’s no excuse.” His mother said.

“I’m goin’ rest in the parlour for a spell Ma.” Blackie unhitched his suspenders and shambled away. “Stuff to consider.”

When supper was served Birk went in and woke him. 

“I’ll take something up for Sal.” Blackie said. He came down a little while later. “She’s gettin worse?”

“Yes.” his mother answered. “The reverend’s wife was by this afternoon to look in on her. She’ll be back tomorrow with a remedy she think will help.”

“We don’t need charity from anyone, you know.”

“It’s not charity to let Sal get worse.”

They ate in silence.

After supper Birk went to check his traps to make sure he had left them set properly. There was a dell where he could sit on a low branch of an oak tree. He’d been going to it since he was so small he needed help to get to the branch. Now he could pull himself up on it and let his feet dangle in the air. He let his heavy work boots fall off.

He rested his back on the tree trunk and stared up at the sky. He couldn’t smell the mine or the coal.  

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

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Not A Deadhead

To be honest I was never a Grateful Dead fan. I didn’t get their vibe but as I aged it began to appeal to me more. Maybe if I was more of a stoner it would have worked for me. I have their 1st tucked away in an mp3 collection. It’s hard to categorize their sound but it was not pop the way Jefferson Airplane was, or blues like Canned Heat. The 1st holds no nostalgia for me but I’m happy to have it too. 

As a stand alone I have Anthem of the Sun – the cover is classic psychedelic. The music is fun & shows their jam band experimental sound. A mix of live & studio that slips into delicious acid trippy – in fact I have a great memory of listening to this on LSD back in the day & being amazed. This cd release includes bonus tracks that are great.

On another mp3 collection I have Workingman’s Dead; American Rose. Recent additions, though I did have Rose as lp at one time. These are sweet but depressing recordings. Sort of lifeless with a kind of country/pop flavour to them. Not music that makes me long to hear it or that even holds any memory of my past.

As with many of my mp3 collections I like to mix genres & time eras so there is a some Iggy Pop here which spans his career for 1977 to 2016. An amazing live set: Iggy & Ziggy Cleveland ’77, Post Pop Depression – his most recent release. I watched Velvet Goldmine & checked to see if Iggy & Ziggy had performed together & found this set on iTune. Good sound quality, mostly Iggy’s material. Was he dedicating I Wanna Be Your Dog to Bowie? Post Pop is solid fun.

Next a couple of Tumblr finds. Tomorrow – is a mid60’s British psychedelic band – the music is chockfull of wha-wha, phased echoed passages – very Saucerful of Secrets. Completely different is Sir Stan: The Nitty Gritty’s In Town – r’n’b blues bar music of the first order in the Paul Butterfield style. 

Even more different is Earth, Wind & Fire: Greatest Hits; – some of these bring back disco memories of when I moved to Toronto. Funky, dancing, romantic but rarely adventurous or even raunchy. And to end this particular cd is a collection of even more coming out disco memories: Twelve Inch Classics: Classics from the 70’s which includes Peter Brown’s Crank It Up. Songs which I vaguely recalled & some that never hit the dj’s in Toronto. Some of which were done by ‘groups’ that only existed in the studio for a song or two. 

From the Grateful Dead Keep on Truckin’ to disco down Crank It Up this is a fun mp3 collection.

Scam

What could she do with the girl? It just wasn’t easy being a mother. At least she wasn’t like her brother Sal. Sal took after his Dad. Quick to anger and always on the look out to pull a scam. Judy was more like her. Quiet and pretty. Yes, very pretty. That would get her into trouble one of these days.

‘You seem a little down honey.’

‘Oh it’s nothing mom.’

‘You’re doing okay in your classes aren’t?’

She sat on the edge of the bed. Judy was at her desk with a book opened in front of her.

‘As good as I can.’

‘What’s this? That old skip rope of yours?’

‘Oh yeah. I found it my closet the other day.’

‘I remember how excited you were to get this and then you hardly ever used it.’

Kids were like that. New one second and old the next. No keeping up with them.

‘You sure there isn’t something? Some boy?’

‘Ma no … well, there are these girls … ’

‘You have to try harder to make friends. I know it isn’t easy but if you only made an effort you could do it. You know what I mean.’

‘I guess so Ma. Thanks. I’ll try harder.’ She turned back to her book.

‘You miss Sal don’t you?’

‘A little. Sure is quiet without him around here.’

‘Not that he was around here all that much.’

‘Right.’

‘He may not be back for awhile. You know that don’t you Judy? What he did is serious.’

‘I know Ma. He’s not a kid anymore, right.’

‘Right you are, but you are still a kid. Why don’t to finish that homework later and have some ice cream with me. I got some on the way home. On special at the Market. Strawberry Ripple. Your favourite.’

‘Okay Ma. I’ll be there in a minute.’

‘Don’t be long then. That show you like is coming soon too.’

She stood, reluctant to leave the room. She could tell there was something Judy wasn’t telling her but she could figure out what. Wasn’t drugs or boys. That she could tell easily enough. She could remember what it had been like when she was fourteen. Drunken dad and crying mother. She had made sure her home wasn’t like that. Peace and quiet.

Though Sal hadn’t turned out like she’d hoped she felt sure Judy would. Judy was a good kid. Sweet and patient but just kept too much to herself. What was a mother to do? If only we were mind readers. Yikes, now that is a scary thought.

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every Tuesday

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

September 25, Tuesday – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

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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DC Dreaming 2018

Three weeks today to June 8 when Capturing Fire ignites its 8th slam happy weekend with the launch of the landmark anthology Stoked Words. The anthology captures work by the many brilliant poets who have slammed, participated or wore fabulous shirts. Yes, I’m in the anthology. What pieces? You’ll have to wait to find out. Being a US publication it might end up in the Library of Congress!

The launch, workshops & slam are all taking place at The Woolly Mammoth Theatre on D St. NW. Getting there will take me through parts of Washington I have have never seen so there’ll be lots of new photo ops, new exotic Starbucks to discover (as if Starbucks is exotic). Schedule of workshops posted here: https://capfireslam.org/2018-schedule/.

I’m staying at the same hotel, which is steps away from DuPont Circle metro. Google maps tells me its a 45 min walk to the Wooly, which I think is doable, depending on the humidex. I’ve checked for coffee shops & restaurants near the theatre so I’m prepared. If I get lost I’ll have someplace to eat.

A couple of day excursions have been planed. One day will be the zoo. Trying to line up a local guide so I can get some photos of me that aren’t washroom selfies 🙂 The zoo looks to be fun & also within walking distance. Another day I’ll take in the Air & Space museum. Two tourist destinations are all I can enjoy before it feels like duty.

Six Feet Under

a moment of silence

to respect

those who have been silenced

to offer a dignity

a solemnity

all that’s missing

is the hashtag

a #moment of #silence

showing support

without doing #anything

 

by silenced

I don’t mean marginalized

I don’t mean neutralized

I mean murdered

by others

by their own hand

by neglect

by #silent shame

 

where is the moment of retaliation

oh no we can’t do that

that sinks us down to their level

getting even isn’t justice 

it doesn’t get good press

#victimization

gets all the good press

a moment of violence 

of striking back is tut tut not adult

 

we must have silence 

so the healing can begin

why not a moment of vanity

in which we all pull out a mirror

to contemplate our own faces

to see where we fit in

while the screaming is still going on

to figure out why

forgiveness is more fulfilling

that taking the victimizers to task

where was their forgiveness

 

so I don’t forgive

that’s my flaw

I’m called out for being bitter

not understanding enough

unwilling to make a social context

that rationalizes actions

that spring from a troubled childhood

from a drug addled brain

from books of words holy pages

that approves

making victims of others

in the name of righteousness

 

a moment of silence

to prove that I am emotionally more mature

I can take it

I can rise above

the blood soaked streets

an angel of mercy

fuck that

fuck fuck fuck that

 

I don’t care about

perpetrators’ apologies 

how they feel remorse

I don’t want revenge 

I want an eon of silence

not a moment of silence

 

I want it to stop

before we’re all six feet under

 

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http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

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

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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Full Frontal

On a recent Disability After Dark Andrew Gurza talks about The Sessions – a movie that made a big splash some years ago dealing with a disabled man & his female sex surrogate. I thoroughly enjoyed Andrew’s scene-by-scene look at The Sessions. A movie which I have not seen – too emotional manipulative for me. I don’t like being forced to feel good.

It was important to hear about a movie from an ‘expert’ – someone who knows about the reality of disability as opposed to some reviewer, critic who is caught up in the drama & not aware of facts. Andrew pretty much likes the emotional content of the movie which resonated with his lived experience. He calls out a few anachronisms (modern wheelchair instead of period one) & also how little the hero’s privacy is respected. 

The other thing which he notes is nudity. He questions why Helen Hunt, the lead actress, get full frontal while John Hawkes, the male lead, gets minimal exposure, even in the sex scenes. This is not unique to this movie though. Showing breast & vagina is not longer so shocking but the male body remains pretty much hidden. Lots of fast ass shots, never the well-lit, lingering shots that female nudity gets.

Female nudity is rarely seen as gratuitous if it fits the story. In Sessions if nudity makes sense for Helen Hunt then nudity makes equal sense John Hawkes should as well, right? This is one of those double-standards. Male performers have to worry about ‘performance anxiety’ or are shy about displaying their cock at all – what if it doesn’t measure up to their fans fantasies. Isn’t that cgi is for? If they can double the cost a film by digitally enhancing the hair of the lead for every scene he’s in, surely a few minutes of cock shouldn’t be an issue.

Or perhaps they wanted to respect the dignity of the disabled man – after all his disability was enough without exploiting his dick, too. When one catches a glimpse of a stars’ cock it is a flash – even when that dick is the supposedly the star: i.e Boogie Nights – where there is ample bared female but a split-second moment of Dirk Diggler’s supposed large cock & even that was a bad fake – they couldn’t afford a stunt cock.

I’ll end this with my favorite big star full-frontal from Fight Club. Brad Pitt appears at least 4 times in a single frame at various points in the film. My vision was so good it caught the first one & thanks to our dvd player I was able to frame-by-frame at the points were Pitt flashed me. That was no stunt cock 🙂

How Deep Is My Love

my love is deeper than Nietzsche

deeper than the gap between 

spiritual fantasy and sexual reality 

deeper than what we all thought the 60’s meant

my love for you is longer than 

the time between knowing 

it isn’t working and ending it

longer than the time between 

ending it and getting over it

I love you more than this shirt look great on me

my love is harder than 

peanut brittle in Arctic moonlight

my love is more hopeful than 

an overflowing recycling bin

my love for you is longer than 

the arm of the law 

holding a restraining order 

my love for you is purer 

than the water in the bottle of 

rapidly disappearing ice shelf 

melted just so you 

could have a sip 

and throw it away

my love for you is purer than a dream

my love for you is purer than 

how you felt 

before you even know the difference

between a care bear and a pubic hair

my love for you is stronger 

than the tang of expresso 

with a flavour shot of almond

to cover that weird burned taste

my love is truer than 

all those Facebook friends 

who rsvp’d they’d be here

my love for you is stronger than 

your need to be loved

my love for you is 

no longer the crime it once was

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http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

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

September 25, Tuesday – Horror feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

 

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

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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Terra Cotta

samprules2

Working through the  227 Rules For Monks. Who knew the simple life could be so complex. This another of the 92 pācittiyas.

Terra Cotta

he insisted

on terra cotta flower pots

not pots

planters

you know the kind big enough

for a

oh you’ve heard this story

you know where it’s going

unlike the men

meeting him

they didn’t know where they were going

just that he promised

to take them somewhere 

offered –

well I’m not sure what he offered

it’s hard to call that something sex

I guess I’m old fashioned that way

 

terra cotta is better for the plants

for the roots

it breathes properly

allows water to filter through

plastic containers trap the water

traps insects

plastic absorbs heat

the soil doesn’t breathe

 

neither do the men

Selim Esen, 44

Abdulbasir Faizi, 44 

Majeed Kayhan, 58 

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37  

Andrew Kinsman, 49

Dean Lisowick, 47

Soroush Mahmudi, 50

Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40

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Shelf Life

Shelf Life

moldy tub 

back of the fridge shelf

saved to save money

now lost to decay

so much food

we can’t eat it fast enough

bought in bulk

to save money

money is lost

when we can’t eat fast enough

when we eat fast enough

the time we save

is spent shopping for more

 

nothing that lasts

and when it does last

it can’t be used anyway

dispose don’t save

all those empty containers

take up more space

than we have to store what we need

they’ll come in handy

 

well if it hasn’t come in handy in a year

it’ll never come in handy

the surplus is comforting

but not profitable

share don’t save

the money you save

only pays off someone else’s bills

 

we reduce reuse

never have enough in the long run

while those that produce

what we have to reduce reuse

get fat bonuses 

and the prices keep going up

to cost us more than we save

 

when we run out

the planet gives its last gasp

don’t blame me

save your breath

even if there’s no profit 

in saving it

that is

if anyone can still breathe

on the back shelf

A neighbour recently cleaned out his garage and offered me two large boxes for jars & lids. All types of jars, glass, plastic. jars that had held jams, peanut butter, mayo and the like. He had kept them expecting to use them one day. When he ran out space in his basement he moved them to the garage. One box had 1995 written on the side, the other said 2010. He just hated to see them go to waste. I hated to think of what else he was still keeping for that someday when it would come in handy.

I identified with him though. I do have a drawer full of elastic bands mixed with bread bag clips – stopped buy bread in 1999. So this piece is about packaging and the hold ‘stuff’ can have on us.It also touches on  the fear of not having enough in a consumer culture in which having too much is seen as prosperity, while have enough is a compromise.

In Toronto we sort our garbage for recycling but I just don’t how much gets recycled – I’ve never seen a program that shows what happens to all those newspapers, tin cans, jars that we put in the right bins. Though I did see a news item a few years ago about how the cost of warehousing the city’s pick up of recycling is greater than is recouped by selling it so they were giving it away to some company and paying the shipping costs. I’m sure some executive got a nice bonus for facilitating that solution.

Toronto Hydro has a push for us wasteful consumers to reduce our power usage. More efficient lightbulbs, refrigerators and best times to lower the strain on the network. What about the strain die to sleep loss doing my laundry at midnight to save money? I wonder how energy efficient the Hydro offices are? solar powered computers? 


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Chapter VII Lillian Sews In The Sun

 

Chapter VII

Lillian Sews In The Sun

The men bowed and complemented her once more on the meal. She went back to the kitchen and poured hot water from the kettle into the sink and put the remainder of the dishes in carefully. She was very cautious with the good china.

“Lillian.” her uncle came into the kitchen “That was …”

She could tell by the tone of his voice he was upset by something.

“What is it uncle … I mean Father Patrick?” she faced him.

“I observed that each of these so-called gentleman connived to spend a few moments alone with you. Did you notice that?”

“I was too occupied with my serving duties to notice anything other than that Father Pat.”

“Considering your past I find your innocence difficult to accept. Yes, watching your conduct this day I see you may have done nothing deliberate to lure these men. You must find a way to … ”

“Me? Find a way to what.”

“Not appear as you do for one thing.”

“With no mirrors I do not know how I appear.” She looked at what she was wearing. The shapeless blue, or was it green, pinafore, her stained, and now wet, flour sack apron. She held her raw, red hands out to her uncle. “How am I to appear?”

“Woman has always been the downfall of man. It is in her nature. It is in the air she breathes out. If men are helpless to resist it is the fault of the female.”

“Am I to be a mute. Not speak even when spoken to in your home?”
“I will contact Sister Claire.”

“Sister Claire?”
“The Mother Superior of St. Margaret’s Covent in Sydney. It would be best for all if you were to be removed from contact with men. Your wickedness has to be curbed somehow.”

“I will not go into a convent Father.” She grabbed one of the Royal Worcester plates and dropped it. It shattered into four uneven pieces. “Do you understand? Yes, I was lead astray by a so-called gentleman and this is my penance for my inability to withstand the affection, the attentions of that man but I will not be punished for the rest of my life for the callow actions of man whom my own father encouraged me to see.”

“My child this is not punishment nor is it penance. It is salvation.”
“You should offer those presumed gentlemen the path to salvation. All I served them was the food you provided. That they wished to partake of more is not my fault.”

“Perhaps not deliberately but your gender is the cause of original sin. You allure without awareness.”

“The next time you hold conference with men in your home you should have someone else do the serving.”

“You may be right Lillian. I …” he plucked at the cross around his neck. “I have things to attend to at the church. But before I go you must pray with me.”

He got to his knees and gestured for her to do so. She knelt beside him. They took out their rosaries.

Father Patrick recited The Hail Mary and she followed suit. When he was done he added: “Mary Mother of God please intercede into the hearts of men to spare my niece temptations she may not have the fortitude to withstand.”

He helped her back to her feet. “I won’t be back until later in the evening. Do not prepare a supper for me.”

“Yes Father Pat.” Once he left she picked up the pieces of the broken plate. She began to weep that another piece of her connection to Boston had been broken by her own rash anger. She would try harder to be less obdurate, more infused with the grace of God. She prayed fervently as she washed the rest of the dinnerware.

She had placed the last dinner plate back in the sideboard when there was a knock at the front door. Annie Clark and Mary Francis always came through the back. Anyone who wished to see her uncle would go to his office at the church.

She peeked out of the dining-room window as the knocking continued. She couldn’t see clearly who it was till the man stepped back to survey the upper windows of the house. It was Mr. O’Dowell.

What was she to do? She could see that his knocking had caught the attention of the McIssac’s on the opposite side of them. Regardless of what she did her uncle was sure to hear of it.

She went to the door and opened slightly.

“Mr. O’Dowell my uncle …  Father Patrick has gone to the church office. You may speak with him further there.” She attempted to shut the door but O’Dowell placed his hand against it to prevent from closing further.

“It is you I wish to speak to Miss McTavish.”

“That is not possible. It wouldn’t be proper without my uncle here.” Even in Boston the men she had met had first asked her father’s permission to approach her. Her father had informed her first.

“We aren’t as proper about such things here in Castleton Mines.”

“That might be so, but Father Patrick said nothing to me about allowing a gentleman caller. Please speak to him first.”

She sorely wanted to let him in but with Mrs. McIssac already watching the house she was sure that the Danvers, next door to them, were now also peering from behind their windows.

“I don’t …” Mr. O’Dowell said.

“Mr. O’Dowell! I have my uncle’s position in the community to think of. I am his niece. It wouldn’t be fitting for me to see you under these circumstances. You must understand that.”

“My apologies Miss McTavish. I surely meant no offence to your honour.”

“Mr. O’Dowell this conversation is over.” She leaned heavily against the door and shut it, threw the bolt. What would she do if he came to the back? No, she prayed he was still too much of a gentleman to such a thing. She went to the back door to make sure it was also secure.

What had she done that deserved this sort of attention? Did Mr. O’Dowell sense something about her, about her past and feel that that was permission to treat her in such a way. Or was her uncle correct about the innate sinfulness of women. 

She stepped into the parlour to clear away the remaining cutlery. She knelt and swept the crust crumbs into the palm of her hand. It seemed wherever men were, something damaged, sullied remained behind.

She tidied the dining room and the kitchen. With no dinner to prepare she had no pressing household duties to perform. The sun was shining in the small back garden. She recognized that she hadn’t left the confines of the house for more than a few moments the last two days. She got the sewing basket from the pantry and went into the yard and sat on bench there that caught the sun.

The skills she had in embroidery were easy to adapt to repairing her uncle’s clothing. A button here or there, darning well-worn socks and even maintaining the lace on his surplice. 

She wondered what would become of her. She didn’t see herself banished in Cape Breton forever, confined to either this house or the uncle’s church or some convent. She wasn’t a pet that need to be confined in such a way. Surely her womanhood wasn’t such a threat to humanity. Yet her Uncle was correct in the way these men had reacted to her, as unaware as she had been when it happened.

She wasn’t the only woman in the world. Surely all women didn’t have such an alarming effect. Did it stop once they were married. Was that the purpose of marriage? To protect the wife from unwanted male advances. How did her mother cope with such events.

Her mother had been very adamant about men’s unwholesome desires. Did they end with marriage as well or did men expect some sort of debasing satisfaction from the women they professed to love and cherish. 

Was what transpired between her and James Dunham a mortal sin or merely venal. She had never encouraged his actions with her but had never discouraged him either. The act he performed on her was neither pleasant or unpleasant to either of them, for he seemed as shamed by his desire as she was. Yet neither of them could resist when those opportunities presented themselves. In fact she rather enjoyed the secretiveness of it all. She enjoyed having something of her own that was a secret from her family. 

The sun started to go down and the garden cooled quickly. She could hear the men in the street passing on their way to night shift at the mine. The men whose worries and concerns were being discussed in this very house. Her uncle held their fate in his hands, or so it seemed to her. The same way he held hers.

“Hallo.” A woman’s head appeared over the fence. “Is that you Miss McTavish.”
It was Vera McIssac. She was dressed similarly to Lillian. Lillian envied the floral print of Vera’s smock. It was almost feminine even with the dusty, dirty apron that was over it.

“Yes, Mrs. McIssac. The Father has been delayed at the church. It gave me the opportunity to do some sewing and enjoy the fresh air.”

“Not much fresh air round here.” Vera pushed open the back gate and came into the garden. A small child clung behind her. “Now don’t be shy Marie. You’ve met Miss McTavish before. Remember? Now say hello.”

“Hello.” The freckled face darted from behind her mother’s skirts and hid again.

“I seen that the union man was here this afternoon?”
“Yes he was. As well as Steven O’Dowell and James Bowden.”
“So there is a strike on, is there?”

“I don’t know.” She understood that the men’s conversation was private and chose her words carefully. “They did talk about the miner’s being unhappy with their wages and that coal is no longer selling as well as it once did.” It was safe to repeat what she had previously heard the parishioners discussing.

“Could be. Could be. But they aren’t the ones getting thinner, are they. It’s us here. The Father hasn’t agreed to anything drastic has he?”
“I don’t know that he is in a position to agree to anything.”

“Ah, Miss, they know they need him on their side to keep the men in check. He’s same as havin’ the eyes of God on them. Keep’s the sorts of O’Dowell in line. He was a rough ‘un. Got them medals in the war and come back thinkin’ he was a gift to the women.”
“Medals?” Lillian couldn’t imagine the over-primped man fighting anything more threatening than a cold.

“Oh yes. That was before Father Patrick came to us. Mr. O’Dowell rescued his unit during some battle. Can’t say as I know which one now.”

“I hope there isn’t a strike Vera.”

“We all do Miss McTavish. Last time was a sore hardship for so many. By the way, Mrs. Seldon tells me there’s a new Eaton’s catalogue if you can to drop by the store.”

The mine whistle sounded for the coming shift change.

“I best get going. Red Mac‘ll be home for his dinner.”

Lillian went back into the house. Did she want to pour over another catalogue at the company store? Mrs. Seldon was the store manager’s wife. Going there to shop for various food stuff was Lillian’s only excursion, if one could call a twenty minute walk with her uncle at her side, being away from the rectory. He would leave her alone there while he talked with men across the street at Calder’s Iron Foundry.

Mrs. Seldon was from Portland, Maine and understood in some ways Lillian’s sense of displacement. The company store was also the catalogue order office.

The catalogue could wait until the Friday when her uncle brought her down to the store.

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Sal Mineo & The Grass Roots

The Grass Roots: All Time Greatest Hits starts off a mp3 collection of wide ranging bands mostly from the mid to late 60’s. Grass Roots was corporate packaged to produce hits, slick, well produced, solid pop that is nearly interchangeable with top ten hits from The Archies or The Monkees or Three Dog Night. The hits bring back eat coast memories. The band itself wasn’t that well through of though thanks to their popularity. But musically better than say 1910 Fruitgum Company.

Another corporate package was Sal Mineo! I have The Complete Epic Recordings. I say packaged because there was an attempt to make teen movie or TV stars into pop stars (& vice-versa). George Maharis, Chris Connelly also experienced this same corporate attempt to capitalize on their stardom. I love Sal. His life is tragic, his on screen presence is magnetic & he was hot. His singing is ordinary, perhaps even mediocre. His material belies his open homosexuality with absurd songs of teenage boy girl love. Hearing his sing songs like “My Bride” is more sad thn campy. 

Another TV star was Don Grady (My Three Sons) his band The Yellow Balloon – released one lp of sunshine pop – think Beach Boys, in fact Beach Boys make an appearance. This is a something I came across rather than searched out. An artifact as opposed to a neglected treasure. Diverting but no compelling.

Also here are some one-hit wonders: first up is Rare Earth with: One World, Willie Remembers, Ma – three solid lps full of cover versions of things like What’d I Say & original songs. The hit was I Just Want to Celebrate. All solid music. Sugarloaf had one hit Green-Eyed Lady which is not on their  Spaceship Earth: album. The music is competent but it could be Grass Roots for it’s lack of identity. Both bands successfully try their hand at long form: i.e. pieces that run over ten minutes.

Ides of March had one big hit: Vehicle & a couple of lps including Common Bond. When Vehicle hit the charts many though: oh a new single from Blood, Sweat & Tears. lead vocalist is a ringer for David Clayton Thomas & the horns have the same smooth jazz brass sound. It seemed only natural to include Ten Wheel Drive’s Brief Replies to finish off this collection. Another big brassy jazzy-pop band but edgier than BS&T but no one would mistake dynamic lead singer Genya Ravan for Thomas. I have more Ten Wheel tucked away on other compilations.

Interest

‘You coming Judy?’

‘Not right away.’

Safti had usually walked with her from the bus to the school. Fifteen, he had failed a year and was in same the grade her, but not the same class.

‘Don’t want to be late, do you?’

‘It’s okay. First period is an easy one for me. You get going though. I’ll see you at lunch.’

‘Okay. Thanks for helping me with the History stuff. You are such a brain.’

‘Thanks. Too bad Sal was more like me, right?’

‘Whatever. See you.’

He ran across the parking lot and into the side door. Only the boys could use that door. She peeped around the front to see if those girls where there. They weren’t. She hurried up the steps. They were just inside the front door.

‘Oh! Look who’s trying to sneak past,’ Jen grabbed Judy by the hair and yanked her back hard.

Judy began to cry. ‘Leave me alone.’

‘Yeah in a minute.’ Jane unzipped Judy’s backpack and twisted it so books began to fall out. ‘Oh you are such a clumsy girl.’

The three of them laughed at her. Jane shoved a note into the backpack. ‘This is your death sentence.’

A boy who saw what they were doing looked the other way and rushed by.

‘You are going to get what’s coming to you soon. Very soon. Sooner if you tell anyone about this. You understand.’ Jen backed her hard against the wall. ‘You understand?’

‘Yes.’

‘That’s a good girl.’ Laurie kicked Judy’s pens across the hall floor. ‘Be glad we take an interest in you.’

The three laughed again. The bell rang.

‘Shit we better get a move on.’

‘If we’re late because of you, shit face, it’ll be even sooner than you think.’

Judy stooped to pick up her scattered books & pens.

‘Having some trouble are we?’

Judy looked up. It was Mrs. Glasgow, the Math teacher.

‘Oh no, nothing I just dropped my backpack trying to get my … to get a …’ she could see the three girls at the end of the hall glaring at her. ‘Get my favourite pen.’

She stood up. Telling wouldn’t do her any good. Not now. Not ever. She’d be a snitch, a rat and no one would ever like her. Not that they did like her much now, but to rat on those girls would only make things worse for her. Much worse.

‘Get a move on then Judy.’

‘Yes Mrs G. I mean, Mrs. Glasgow.’

She scurried up the stairs, stopped to read the note. ‘Want to die faster? Do us a favour & save us the trouble.’ 

She got into her class just as the door closed.

‘Cutting it close again Judy? I don’t know what’s gotten into you.’

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The Eye of The Old Beholder

On a recent Disability After Dark Andrew Gurza talks about getting old! He’s just turned 34 & wonders if he’s now officially a Daddy 🙂 As far as I know that isn’t official until either you have fathered a child or turned 45. Finding a few grey hairs in one’s pubes doesn’t count. For those out-of-the-know ‘Daddy’ is one of the many gale male age divisions. Twink is another. Too many to list. Once one passes Daddy they are ‘Older’ & for many no longer sexually viable, even by other’s who live long enough to be ‘Older.’

Speaking of grey hairs I had a friend who several years ago discovered some grey in his pubes. This distressed him to the point that he tried to colour those pubes! He tired various dyes, Grecian formula, hair dye & others to restore his pubes to jet black. It was partially successful but … the combination of sweat, of body parts trapped in undies all day, resulted in an unfortunate aroma. To make matters worse he started to ‘shed.’ Lesson learned. This a friend & not me – I’m a natural ginger-pube man – for photographic proof send $10 to my paypal link below & say ‘proof please, sir.’

I’ve mentioned before being ‘rejected’ by some men when they realize I’m older than they prefer. Age limits on some sites are quite specific – men between x & x years; or no one over x; some are more general: with Daddies being at top end of the age list. Some profiles are more explicit. It’s no longer pc to say ‘no fats, fems, etc’ but it’s fine to say ‘no one over 50’ & not get called out for ageism. Sadly often those who say ‘no one over 50’ are themselves over 50.

I don’t think queer culture is markedly different from its larger cultural context though – youth is the ideal. Old is tolerated but not the hot ticket. I’m sure the cosmetics market would be lost without all those creams (some of which I do use on my face) to keep one looking youthful & therefore sexually viable. One’s value & self-worth in a jar of goo that is usually hidden from the eye of the old beholder.

A Walk in the Park

I was walking though the park

eyes open for dog shit on the pathway

I turn a corner and there is this couple 

female splayed on a bench 

a man on his knees between her legs

she moaning pushing his head deeper 

his hairy ass bare in the sun

 

her eyes catch mine

I can’t tell if the expression

is pleasure invitation dare

or what the fuck are you looking at

he stands and half turns to me

hard cock flashing in crisp light

she licks her lips 

 

I keep going   that image in my mind

his jeans crumpled below his knees

her panties around one ankle

their faces gleaming beaming

what brought them to that place and time

were they walking along 

so aroused they had to have each other 

was she a working girl 

and didn’t care where she made a buck

did they need an audience

to take them to another level of orgasm

 

when I doubled back

all that remained 

was a pair of panties

             pink

damp

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

samprules2

Unsubstantiated

each day of silence

creates impatience

people want to know

families loved ones

want to know

reporters want to know

completion impossible

until we know

yet even when we know

the details are shocking

 

speculation remains unsubstantiated 

though the layers of facts

builds up

for two to three to eight

fragments found buried deep

in planters

under the noses

of even the lookers

of even the ignorers

 

each day of silence

is remembered with longing

the silence of unknowing

offered a solace

that the noise of facts

can never provide

Selim Esen, 44

Abdulbasir Faizi, 44 

Majeed Kayhan, 58 

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37  

Andrew Kinsman, 49

Dean Lisowick, 47

Soroush Mahmudi, 50

Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40

 

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