Shell of a Man

Shell of a Man

a woman got up 

stood at the subway exit door

I got up

stood behind her

she glanced briefly 

over her shoulder

she exited

I followed

up the stairs

outside the station

we both turned to the left

both crossed in the same direction

turned down the same side street

then another

 

I walked faster

to pass her

she walked faster

to escape me

we crossed at the same point 

she was practically running

 

I slowed 

saddened by what had happened

saddened

by merely being a man

she felt threatened

because my house

was along her route

 

this gender

this skin

is a shell that shouldn’t crack

a bowl to carry me through life

that doesn’t get questioned

doesn’t get handled roughly

directly

thanks

to my entitlement

of not having to worry

to apologize

for what isn’t my direct doing

 

I didn’t create this cultural context

in which women

fear men

yet I feel guilt

should I have taken a different way home

when I saw us walk 

in the same direction 

is her fear 

her insecurity

now my fault

 

how different from her

am I

I get the same anxiety 

when my sense of security 

is confronted 

by my assumptions of strangers

do young men alarm me

simply because they are young

how did age become weaponized

how did skin colour become weaponized

 

the world is on alert

trust no one

justify that lack of trust

by falling back on distorted news

by a history 

that suppresses facts in favour of controllers

by not acknowledging any complicity

in making them look pure 

not driven by greed

by the need to control

 

I just wanted to walk home

take my shoes off and relax

not feel the fragility of this shell

This was prompted by an actual event, or rather events, because this isn’t the first time this has happened – me and a random lone female getting on then off the subway train at the same time, walking in the same direction, as the same time. I’m always paranoid that as we walk she’ll stop, unknowingly at the sidewalk to my house, and confront me, mace me, kick me in the balls. 

So far no such confrontation has occurred. I don’t know of a way of reassuring anyone, of making myself appear non-threatening when this happens. At times I have not crossed where I usually cross but the defiance to my house is less than 5 minutes so there’s no real way to not go in the same direction. This reaction to her paranoia – I say her, as I’ve never happens when such accidentally-in-the-direction occurs with men.

I have female friends who tell me they have felt unsafe when a man walks behind them at night on the street. It saddens me. It one of the memento when I confront the this cultural context of fear. I feel very safe on the street at night, alone, but that is because I’m a man – not because I am necessarily safe – there have been shootings & stabbings all along the Danforth.

I have to admit though that I am less inclined go out at night unless I have a destination I want to get to. Even less inclined in the winter – icy, snowy, sidewalks can be treacherous enough in daylight – if slip and fall I want someone to see me asap. But the war on pedestrians is another issue.

In the piece I also look at this culture of paranoia regarding race & age. I have a black friend who still, in 2019, gets watched when he goes into a corner store. There’s a couple of corner shops in this area with signs that say ‘one student at a time.’ We have a US president who wants to build a wall to further the demonization of Mexicans (rather than rebalance the profit driven economy) – now that blacks have become a less sensational target.

Yeah a lot of that actually through my head when I’m accidentally going in the same direction as a woman. Sometimes I rather stay home at night than confront all that.


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Have A Seat

Have A Seat

she struggled

snuggled

into the subway seat

next to me

gave me an irritated glance

 

my knees were tight together

my shoulder bag on my lap

my elbows pressed to my waist

my ebook open and balanced

on top of my shoulder bag

taking up as little space as I could

 

‘do you mind’ she muttered

I pulled my feet closer

‘I said do you mind!’ she was angry

I chose to ignore her

I couldn’t take up less space

she elbowed me sharply

knocking the ebook askew

 

it wasn’t my fault

the seats were so small

that there no way I could take up less space

 

‘what an asshole’ she said loudly

‘keep your hands off me’

 

someone looked down at us

I shrugged

my hands were clearly

clutching my ebook & my shoulder bag

in place

 

more people got on

the now over-crowded car

the a/c wasn’t working

it was hot stinky

I had ten more stops to go

and she was muttering

‘fucking asshole men

think they can get away

with pawing women

when ever they want’

 

I didn’t need this aggravation

put my ebook into my shoulder bag

pulled myself out of the seat

and indicated it as empty

to a woman much bigger than me

then watched the face

of the angry woman

as she was squeezed even tighter

and

for some strange reason

it felt good

when the large lady said

‘move a little. do you mind’

I prefer to walk an hour to get anywhere rather than take public transit. When I do take the subway I always have my earbuds in & my Kindle to protect me. If I could I’d wear gloves too. Usually, if there’s space, I’ll stand – sometimes I sit just to get out of the way. I never quite get it when other passengers feel it’s their right to blame you for crowding them when someone is crowding you too.

This piece is a composite of various personal or witnessed experiences of mine in transit, on the subway, bus or streetcar. I’ve heard people muttering things like ‘asshole men’ or ‘fucking bitch’ because there wasn’t room for them to look at their cellphones.

I’ve sat on empty three seat rows that quickly filled within stops & have been crushed into the corner while the chrusher acted as if I wasn’t there or as if it was my fault for not ceding the entire seat to them. In winter it’s impossible to make a parka take up less space.

Most people try to maintain some decorum in transit but others are quite eager to take advantage of the captive audience to call attention to their discomfort. I have seen men take quick advantage of the proximity & felt helpless to do anything or even know what to do. Stop everyone rushing to get up stairs?

I have been told to take up less space. I have, as in this piece moved to distance myself from a muttering seat mate. Engaging is never a solution – I don’t know who has a knife. I have done exactly what happens here. Given my spot to someone else to deal with the mutterer. I didn’t feel victimized just grateful.I have more important things to worry about than sitting in transit – like,  where’s my hand sanitizer 🙂

coming soon:

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Real Writing

Not as deep into the edit mine of Coal Dusters as I had hoped – odd how people you haven’t heard from in months want to get together the week I started serious editing work. They always pick the time I’ve set aside for editing as the only times they are free & never say ‘I hope that’s a good time for you.’ or they’ll say okay see when you can & we’ll talk about your novel.” Of course when, & if, we do meet, all they want to talk about is their novel, or rather how hard it is to promote their novel & how they wish they had as much ‘free’ time as I do to do some real writing. Clearly because I’m not going the traditional publisher route I’m not doing any real writing.

The edits are, so far, pretty easy. Cut here & there with expansions here & there too so its getting longer as opposed to shorter. I’m being aware of things like keeping the use language suitable to the period. There’ll be no one saying ‘as if’ or ‘get over it.’ I’m also aware of my characters education levels, of their class a sit relates to language & even sentence structure.

I did some research by reading some of the big novels of the time to see how those writers dealt with dialogue. The more educated the the more elevated. I‘m avoiding swearing too. When I saw the Gangs of New York I didn’t believe the constant use of ‘fuck.’ Not that it wasn’t used but … so my guys will be swearing in Gaelic. Gaelic was used more frequently then anyway but I’m not going to go full accuracy just enough to give the flavour.

It’s been comfortable & comforting to slip back into this world that I created. I’ve enjoyed adding descriptive details – smells, fabric, colour – to bring the story even more to life for the readers. I have to admit I love the names as well. Birk, Clancy, Lillian, Red Mac, Blackie – they all ring real even though Birk is a total fabrication on my part. Better go – my characters are calling me 🙂

Wild Desire

the subway is crowded for two stops

then clears    seats available  I sit

iPod playlist ends   time for a new one

making that all important decision

a man sits beside me

I only spare him a glance

intent on that playlist   then my book

my transit guardian angels

 

the man stops my hand

before I can push in

sound suppressing ear buds

he says – I love you

just what I need some religious freak

who thinks I need to be saved

I push the buds in

he pulls them out

I look around

does anyone see this assault

there something about your face

I want to get to know you

 

he wasn’t that bad looking

I like a man who needs a shave

he smelled good too

sorry I’m not ...

you think you are too good for me

it’s not that but …

you think I’m too young

maybe I don’t have a job

get to know me

you want me in your life

 

his gaze held mine

I was afraid he was going to kiss me

I glanced around again

people buried behind newspapers  sleeping

I love you

I love that searching look in your eyes

you won’t regret it – take a chance

don’t you find me appealing

how can I tell with you so close

but you want me close to you don’t you

you want me

 

the car crowded again

I stood for the next stop

even though it wasn’t mine

he got up with me

we were pushed out

to the platform

he went into the crowd

 

I stepped back into the car

the doors closed

 

I get off alone at my stop

saved

from wild desire

 

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

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Baycrest Brain Rental

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve participated an interesting brain/auditory/memory study at Baycrest, Rotman Research Institute. The official, & very catchy name of the project is: “Individual differences in working memory processing in young and older adults indicated by neuromagnetic oscillations” It was spread over three sessions and proved to be one of the more intriguing studies I’ve done.

It was one that called on more of my brain. Usually the ‘memory’ studies I do involve remembering lists of words, numbers, replicating images. This is one of few that also involved hearing. One portion involved recording my brain signals with a magnetoencephalograph (MEG) while I was doing the task. While doing the task I had ear buds that were playing a variety of tones, pitches & different loudness levels.

The other portion involved hearing tests and testing understanding of speech in noise. I was to repeat a phrase (a different one each time) said against background of people talking. Sometime I get to practice at poetry readings where people not interested in the performance see fit to talk as loud as they can to drown out the performer (this happens more often than you’d expect.)

Doing this studies is a way for me give something back via research. Even when I was doing the pharmaceutical research I was aware that my tiny participation could save lives. I also felt it was important that, even though this information isn’t germane to the study, there be gay males included in the pool. And sometimes the money was decent. I’ve had more MRI’s cat scans, eegs, & MEGs than the average person too.

The most challenging part of the study was getting to Baycrest in the morning 🙂 I general transit to Lawrence Station & walk the rest of the way. I know where the Starbucks are. For this study I opted to go one stop further to York Mills & walk from there along Wilson. Turns out this route is faster. I like the opportunity to see other parts of the city & sample Starbucks. Plus I’m always eager for photo ops. If you’re interesting be a part of such research gave Baycrest a call. http://www.baycrest.org/participate/participate-in-research/

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I Am Not A #Camera

Napa ’04

I was gifted my first digital camera several years when I won a trip for four to Napa Valley – one of the people I took with me gave me the camera. It became a constant companion for a few years, always in my shoulder bag, just in case. Plus a must have for what travel I did. But it had limitations – hard to turn off flash, couldn’t get closer than 3 feet & stay in focus, and useless for night shots. Video had 10 second limit & no sound. So I pretty much stopped using it expect for special occasions.

golden gate ’04

Then I signed on to WordPress to raise my online profile. One of the hints for increasing an audience was to have pictures on your blog, so I dug the camera out and starting taking pictures again. But the focus limits bugged me. Once I got my income tax return this year I splurged on a new camera. More bells and whistles, sound for video etc. Plus a 12X lens, a memory card that’ll hold thousands of pictures.

At first I was taking pictures of anything – flowers, architectural details, amusing signs, sleeping cats and the sky. But I have friends who do similar things, and much better too, so I did some thinking. For travels some of those things are fine but even then my picture of a field of flowers in Cape Breton could be by anyone. Memories for me and a bit of color for my blog about the east coast.

(g)love in the shadow

I wanted to limit my range a bit as well or I’d be spending all my time taking pictures of people’s gardens, broken windows and abandoned furniture. Something that has always spoke to me is random shoes, pieces of clothing – there’s a story in how and why that one shoe is there on the street. What pleased me is that when I started in on my ‘cast-offs’ gallery, more often than not, there would be another and another and hence a focus was born.

going to the hop

I may not have a great eye, technique or bother with composition but I do have fun. I’m more an observer – reportage as opposed to an explorer or revealer. It’s up to the viewer to slip beneath the surface if a picture speaks to them. What I see and what you see looking at the same moment are often very different things.

sample

an older piece – sort of seasonal –

The Fright

here’s comes the fright

that belongs to lovers

that covers the sight front

we put on to keep others

from getting too close to the truth

if they know my deepest secret fears

they’ll use them

dismiss me dismay me measure me

who is this they

what is this hidden treasure

under cover of might maybe not now

under the radar

not even a blip beat

heart sneaks down and around

wanting to be caught taught a lesson

wanting to be fearless

creeping away instead

why is it we choose to reveal ourselves

only to the one we fear to lose the most

as if this revelation will become a glue

that can keep the fright

from pulling us apart

feeling no gain

wishing there was another way

to say what doesn’t make sense

except in the beat of the moment of suspense

between trust and fear of truth

push me closer to the think again buster

I’m not the one you want

I’m merely the one you need

and the bedroom isn’t a threat

but a motion of grace

a station of the come across

does that make sense build fences

or are you like me

another of the dearly parted

ready to depart from chances to changes

from dinnerware to underwear

losing sight of the fright

devising ways to make me sorry

don’t make me put down my ideals

just to reach something in you

so you feel safe enough

to put down your questionable attitude

your heart isn’t a noose isn’t bad news

someone might see me naked

catch sight of the short coming

the longing clinging shame

this fright is the same the world round

staggering subjected to the next opportunity

the expectation that  some sort of salvation

can only come through

the transcendent shattering of self

by shooting the biggest load

into the warmest trusting affectionate

accepting person

who will look you in the eyes in the morning

tell you everything is all right

they forgive you

for wanting more than enough

for not getting everything in a single gulp

knowing that they measured your treasure

and found it haunting

transitselfie