Distant Healing

Trigonometry of Healing

1

started this morning;

no, maybe last night,

my memory fails easily

when it comes to this

growing of the seed;

its sprout stabbing me,

who, happily, being blind

didn’t begin to feel

the long planted germs;

never suspected

till the first bloom

of nightmare strangulation

the loss of a limb

a belief

can be a shattering time;

so while waiting

for the pieces

flying off the handle

to smash against the wall

I raged

as the needlessness of it all

I’ve been longing

for a knife across the face,

now, suddenly here it is.

my very wish come true

watch your wishes well

for any one might come true

2

a factory of timid death

sends tip-toeing whisperers 

to my heaving bed,

like me, that think

that I am aware

of how there is

an end of sorts

to the longness

of this road

blood & veins

muscle & organs

skin & bones;

cogs in a tired carriage 

hurtling over a cliff

I am aware

if the time it takes

to devise confusion,

to separate give from take –

give me

take me

one is for sale

the other is for free

3

how to take the poison out

without amputating the limb

has become more of a problem

than the vile poison itself

still, there is no use

in calling for a doctor,

for even if he came

the limb would be in hiding;

as it keeps in hiding from me

the reasoning of the poisoners

4

found straw in my pocket,

it’s been a long time 

since anyone’s been that close;

I get the feeling

that I’m catching up

with my primitive sacrifices,

revelling in my artifices

where pagan dancers

celebrate being outside

the ruins of my past,

as pipers play blue tunes

I rolled about

in flesh-cut wheat

stuffing my pockets

with broken glass;

till it was late night

when the gleaming bastard’s song

hung hateful in the air

steaming in the lamplight;

“make another mistake,”

his choking voice sang

“the time is ripe

your grass is green”

5

taking the potency of fear

from their talk of forward

I think of backward suicide;

scarfing attention for silence

feeling silent containment

makes deeper wounds 

in the palms of my hands

which is better

their small circles

or my brutal ending?

6

now that I’ve invented

a balance for the mastery

of give & take;

I wonder how much it takes

to sooth the pain it gives

to mop the butcher’s floor?

cut out my heart!

cut out my eyes!

package them in plastic;

make the product pure

make the crying laugh

make the sun moon;

I am for sale!

buy me

buy me

abuse me

use me

try me

please don’t turn your back,

for I’ll slip away,

which is the lasting I want

7

slashing once,

down my chest

then again

across my ribs;

leaving a bleeding crucifix

exasperated with

nervous expectations

of the next snail slow blow

what next?

neck?

genitals?

his halting

bumblings

scalpel dropping

make me want to grab the knife

and direct the blade more correctly,

smooth over these jagged ends,

fold the skin over the stumps

so healing leaves neat scars

in obtuse triangles & stars 

where my feet done dangled

where my hands once clapped

he doesn’t want my advice

for he cuts by proxy

working in another room

where I have no say or sight,

besides his eyes perceive

much better than mine can

8

the butcher boy

poisons the meat

with his very touch;

he loves to feel

his hands know

more correctness 

than any others

seeing me ready, as last,

for finally being sold

while in the same motion

being whisked

out of his reach

he fanatically makes the rounds

of all my prime cutters,

smearing them

with grimy hands

9

the damage done,

knowing he has had his share,

I still feel he’s after more;

but I am safe

until we meet

face to face;

so spread me thin

as fast as you can

for I am for sale

but so unsure

Aug 73

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney Academy 1



After graduating from Woodill the next step up the educational ladder was Sydney Academy – the big boys school. Senior High grades 10 – 11- 12. This was a was a relief mainly because although there were hills they weren’t as steep as the ones down Royal Ave. The walk was much shorter.

One building I remember is the dry cleaners, Snow White Laundry, which was directly across the street from the front entrance. It had a wall painting of, of all things, Disney’s Snow White & some of the dwarves. Looking out the windows facing Terrace St it was the one thing one always saw. The wall painting eventually went – maybe Disney copyright lawyers threatened to sur.

The main entrance doors were for teachers & visitors. We students entered around the side where the parking lot was. No lining up by classes. We had homerooms & moved from class to class, as opposed to the teachers moving from room to room. At Colby & Ashby we remained in one classroom the whole semester. Woodill may have been the same one room but I can’t recall. 

The building was larger than Woodill’s. Some students being bussed in. It was Sydney’s main public senior high – there was a Catholic equivalent – which was the school’s main sports rival. The school had a huge gym, a major phys-ed program that included basketball, volley ball, gymnastics. It did have a hockey team as well but that was a separate entity for boys who qualified for the team.

The school had science labs, woodworking & metal workshops & probably ones for domestic sciences as well. Lots of extra-curricular activities like Jr. Red Cross, Drama club etc. There was a cafeteria on the basement level, which is where the lockers rooms & showers for the gym were. Sock hops were held in this area too.

The social context was totally different from Woodill with the mix of students from across the city. It wasn’t particularly diverse though. Sydney did have a large black population but they were ‘confined’ to the Whitney Pier area – which, I think, had its own senior high. 

Coming next week: troubling locker room memories

Square Root

I wished him dead

every time I sat in his class

I wished he were dead   buried

not someone I had to face every day

 

I would only have to glance up at him

writing formulas on the black board

the drone of his voice 

and wish him dead

 

he would always call on me

to read out what he had written

I picture his brain exploding

bloody cosines gush from his nose

all over his spotless white shirt

 

I wanted a sharp steel edge 

on my protractor

to cut out his heart

save the class from algebra trig calculus

his stories of sailing

how he figured directions 

with his slide rule

 

die die die

so we can figure out the angle

to bury you so your rotting corpse

will slump into your penny loafers

bones a jumble of secants 

and underpants

 

the formula on the board

meant nothing to me

it could have been written in flame

blah blah squared 

equals something degrees

 

my feet burning by the time I sat down

he would pat me on the shoulder

say   you seem to be catching on

when I was really catching on fire

his abacus belt buckle at eye level

 

I’d stare at the rubble on my page

hope his hand would stay a bit longer

hope some of his knowledge could rub off

what was the angle of the dangle 

behind that zipper

 

if he were to die I wouldn’t have to wonder

about where to look 

when he stood so close

 

I leave the class

can’t remember a formula or anything

all I could see was that glint of belt buckle

and that wouldn’t be on the exam

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every Tuesday 2019

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

August 8: Highland Arts Theatre: https://www.highlandartstheatre.com 


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

September

Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

October

Stratford Festival – The Crucible

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Dangerous Potential

Dangerous Potential 

you’ll never amount to anything

you have so much potential

you better buckle down

work harder

you can do better

you can’t be that stupid

 

that was my past

I try not to live there too long

most days I don’t

but like that scar on my knee

from when I fell

that memory will always be there

 

the fall was more embarrassing 

than painful

lots of bleeding 

while the grit was washed out 

the sting of antiseptic

the sting

of how could you be so careless

why don’t you watch where you’re going

 

teachers that told me

I’d never amount to anything 

if I didn’t buckle down

try harder

stop wasting my potential

echoed my parents

a culture

that never did tell me 

why amounting to anything 

was so important

when I felt as a queer boy

I was already worthless anyway

they didn’t know how queer I was

I was just different

and that had to be coaxed out of me

 

that damage was done 

there are moments

days

when I find myself thinking

I am useless

stupid

not worth the air I breathe

I should just get out of the way

of entitled people 

who are moving forward

making a difference

 

I never did live up to my full potential

I never figured out what that was

other than to survive that era

when chemical castration

shock treatment

were considered the natural effective 

courses to take

if one was caught

with their pants down

fulling some unnatural potential

I’ll never amount to much

more than this 

and if it isn’t good enough

you have the potential to

get over it

Some days I have look at what I’ve accomplished to realize that I’ve accomplished something. If I’m not doing my nanowrimo speed, of 1500 to 2000 words a day, I feel lazy – not living up to my potential. I’m the only one who is measuring that potential. The lazy comes from those high-school/cultural messages of what success really is. 

 

Getting an A, for remembering data, is good, getting a C+, because the data doesn’t get through the thicket of fear, is lazy. I tried my best to memorize all those trig functions, even had them written on sheets of paper hung on my bedroom walls, forced myself to read them repeatedly. I can still see those sheets of paper but not what was written on them 🙂 I squeaked through, I think. The bigger the mark rewarded the more of one’s potential one is living up to.

 

Fulfilled potential meant cash rewarding future. Opting out meant poverty or that one was a commie. I remember the back-to-the-land hippy days of anti-consumerism: tie-dyed couples selling over-priced candles, made of all natural goat’s fat, at a farmer’s markets is totally anti-consumerism 🙂 But that’s another story.

I still get caught up in this messaging to buckle down so that I can amount to something. If had I really buckled down I’d have that GG award by now, right? So that something is apparently only defined by someone else. When I define it I am being self-indulgent, lazy & ultimately in the way. One of the reasons I stopped going to poetry shows, doing open stages, is that so many were performing to knock on doors, to get grants, to promote creative writing workshops. I was there to share poetry for the love of it. I was taking up stage time that others needed. They had career potential to fulfill. 

If this post helps you buckle down, or question why you have to, you can thank me by cosine-ing my potential by hitting the like button below 🙂


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