The Arbours and other Obscurities

The Arbours and other Obscurities

On the anniversary box set of the film Valley Of The Dolls is a bonus documentary about Jacqueline Suzanne & her personal promotion for the book & film. One of things she did was commission a title song for the film, which never got used, much to her disappointment. It was performed by The Arbors. I tracked it down on The Very Best of The Arbors. Think The Association lite. Easy listening harmonies is their sound. Pleasant & not as melodic as the Previn song used for the film – which to me also missed the mark for such a soapy, seedy, druggy movie. Valley wasn’t safe but the music was.

Often when I check YouTube for a video to post of a piece of music I have, I’ll come across groups I have never heard of before. One of these was After All (1969) The album is organ-dominated progressive rock with a psychedelic taint and a clear classical influence. Think Procol Harum. Enjoyable. 

This is also how I found The Bards (1967) – Beatles/ Byrds folk rock fun. Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers (1968) A Canadian soul band on Motown! solid r’n’b out of Vancouver.  Captain Marryat (1974) a Scottish bar band who recorded a studio set of songs to sell at their gigs. Solid fun. Praying Mantis: Time Tells No Lies (1981) Deep Purple/Uriah Heap-ish heavy metal with progrock overtones.

Julian’s Treatment: A Time Before This short-lived progressive rock band was fronted by sci-fi author & keyboards player Julian Jay Savarin. A strange concept album about astral visitors. A dense progrock sound with operatic influences. One needs the liner notes to virtually figure out the story line but it fits in well wth countless other concept albums of the time. Give a listen on YouTube. Sam Samudio is Sam the Sham. Hard & Heavy (1971) is a solo lps he released after the Pharos rode off on their camels. This is solid bluesy rock, the voice is unmistakable but he never really developed a major career.

Procol Harum may not be obscure but Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra! (1971) Let’s face it Edmonton itself is obscure lol. I remember I bought this when it was first released & I found the sound quality crappy. I hoped the cd reissue would be better but it isn’t. This lp probably started the whole Symphonic Rock trend though. The symphony merely adds strings to their songs rather than elevates them. 

Finally, also not totally obscure, is ABC: Lexicon of Love Live at Hammersmith Odeon, November 1982. The studio album is one of my all time favourites – stunning use of strings & amazing production. This live concert is excellent. By 1982 remote recording techniques had advanced considerably from 1971. The strings are integral to the sound not a novelty add on. Well worth having. 

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Off Guard

Off Guard

the last thing I expected 

was for this to last

beyond the first blush brush of heat


when I found myself

looking for a way out

of a room I didn’t know I’d entered

I was caught off guard


you remained unaware 

as if this sort of thing

happened so often

it didn’t drawn any of your attention


after awhile

I wasn’t all that concerned

with finding a way out

but one to that would take me deeper

At first glance this is yet another poem about obsession hinting at unrequited love ‘you remain unaware.’ Almost a variation on ‘they don’t know I exist.’ I’ve seen this place out in thousands of movies, plays, TV shows & novels. Sometimes played in which they dislike each at first then realize that they are actually in love. Or they break up & then realize they want to ‘take it deeper.’

I’ve experienced some of this ebb & flow of the first blush turning into something more involved but am too pragmatic to mistake that blush, that off guard moment, for something worth a movie. Things last as long as they do & often that isn’t forever. Like a blush, the blood cools & my emotions become temperate.

The poem is also about the nature of … I’m not sure what to call it …. the nature of ‘deeper.’ My recent post about Valley of The Dolls is a clue to how I can become more that a little compulsive about certain things. When I read the Patty Duke had recorded the  songs I had to have that recording. I also have tracked down other versions of the song. I tried to find Tony Scotti lps but without luck. 

When I was watching the complete Peyton Place (514 episodes) I really liked Christopher Connelly & when I read somewhere he had released an lp at the time, I had to have it & ordered the original vinyl from some lp collectables in the States. It didn’t take me any ‘deeper into’ Peyton Place mind you, but what the hell. Ultimately Patty & Chris remain unaware (besides both being dead) but I think they’d be pleased someone is still enjoying them all the same.

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Valley of the Bras

After reading Stephen Rebello’s Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! I was keen to see the movie, again, & had planned watch it on my own on a rainy day but after seeing the excellent ‘Hitch’ which was based on Rebello’s ‘Alfred Hitchcock & the Making of Psycho’ my partner read ‘Dolls! Dolls! Dolls!’ also wanted to see it again. So we dug out the 2 disc ‘Special Edition’ – loaded with great extras. I had reread the novel earlier this year so I was eager to rewatch the film.

Where to start? The movie pales in comparison to the novel & I understand why fans were disappointed in the adaptation that removed 3/4 of the book. The characters are reduced to stick figures – gone is the fact they women live together for a time – in the film there isn’t one scene of the three of them together. Gone is Anne’s friendship with Helen Lawson – in fact Helen is almost excised from the script – Hayward’s performance jump starts the movie whenever she appears.

Don’t get me started the those songs – we get a glimpse of the Lawson’s Broadway show number ‘I’ll Plant My Own Tree’ & it is clear that no one involved in the film every saw, or was involved with a Broadway show. The song is clunky & staged with all the Broadway stage reality of a Busby Berkeley number but absolutely no sparkle. Hayward lip syncs it well enough. No Broadway set designer would ever ever use a mobile that covered the star’s face constantly.

Patty was not pleased to be dubbed & as result released the lp Patty Duke ‘Sings Songs from the Valley of the Dolls.. Yes, I have it thanks to iTunes & it fits perfectly with the music misfire of the movie. It did nothing to enhance her reputation as a singer 🙂 Nor did the film do much to enhance her reputation as an actress. In fact none of the cast’s career potential was increased by the film. Such is the harsh reality of life in the valley of the dolls.

I felt for Barbra Parkins when I saw those beige ‘office’ costumes when they matched the beige every wall she stood in front of. I laughed at the fab cosmetics commercial montage – a product supposed for any woman while she looks like an alien. But as she climbs the ladder to success her costumes do improve even as they remain impractical. 

Patty Duke bravely & brazenly barrels though Neely without taking a breath. Her few scenes with Hayward are rich – Duke noisily claws the scenery, Hayward demolishes it by simply putting on a scarf. Yes, this movie needed more Lawson. Sharon Tate is nearly invisible as her story line is gutted by the screenplay. 

How these actresses where treated by the industry is worse than how the characters they play are treated by the industry. I really think the guys who made Feud should consider this Making of Valleys as their next project. Oh yes my title ‘Valleys of the Bras.’ There is nothing lurid in the film but Parkins, Duke & Tate, at different points in the film, spend an inordinate amount of time emoting in bra & half-slip. 


it turns into a trade

this is what I want

this is what it’ll cost

is that the price I’m willing to pay

is the sacrifice worth the result


why can’t I have it my way

is that too much to ask

I’m willing to compromise some

but when is enough enough

can I say no 

to losing more of myself 

to gain something I expect to get

by saying yes to

what I want to say no to


can I say yes and no 

at the same time

how will you do

when I say yes I want what you offer

but not with the conditions you offer it with

do I want to give up

the comfort of abstractions

for the sake of superficiality of the concrete

if I’m ready for my close up

do I want to stand in front of the camera

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Marilyn, Jayne and Other Dolls

I like Marilyn Monroe’s voice. Could she sing? Yes but I doubt if she could have carried a Broadway show. On the mp3 collection I have the Some Like It Hot soundtrack & Very Best of Marilyn. Best includes her sweet River of No Return & her sexy Heat Wave – I’ve always wanted to say ‘Pablo! Chico!’ & have those hot men come to me 🙂 She did her own singing in films – no Marni Nixon for her. She could have had a chanteuse life a la Blossom Dearie but, I suspect, liked confidence in her vocal ability. 

Another blond bomb shell who did her own singing is Jayne Mansfield. Here I have ‘Too HOT to Handle!’ Can she sing? Does say, Katy Perry sound okay without studio production? Jayne recorded a few lps & did sing in some of her films & had the confidence to keep singing. Her songs are sexy, suggestive & fun. She’s more rock-a-billy than rock & good campy fun.

Sticking to the movies I added the soundtrack to Singing’ in the Rain – which has great songs, not all of which were written for the film by the way. Ooh its Gene Kelly splashing in the rain 🙂 His voice is appealing in the same way Marylin’s was. A bonus is the Broadway Melody ballet complete.

Now we go deep into the Valley of the Dolls. I have the soundtrack which was fine though the title song here is sung by Dory Previn. None of the actresses in the movie did their own singing though. But Patty Duke did realize an lp of her own singing  Songs from Valley of the Dolls – it is clear why she was dubbed in the film 🙂 A workable voice & in those days they didn’t have producers who could have autotuned her into Madonna. Finally I do have Dionne Warwick’s lp  Valley of the Dolls which includes the actual version of the title song. It was a huge hit for her & is the stand out track on this lp.

Haven’t seen the film? Watch it asap & then search out Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls for more delicious music & overwrought emotional soap. Both perfect pandemic escapism.

Cooler Part 3

“What the fuck is this?” It was Jack. Just after twelve Jack liked to do a cash pick up. He didn’t think it wise to have too much cash floating around. He was holding Will’s can. “Check your bright ideas out with me first, asshole.”

“You said …”

“Never mind what I said. You knew I was just trying to get rid of that drunk jerk. Jesus!” Jack shoved the can on top of the cooler.

“You on the rag, or what?” Carl said.

“What’s it to you. You … oh shit.” He dropped the bills he was trying to count. He bent down to pick them up.

Carl was handing a customer a beer when Jack stood & knocked the beers with his head. One spilled on him. Carl laughed. Jack was enraged.

“That does it, to dum faggot cocksucker.” He swung his fist fast Carl, the cooler door popped open & Jack’s hand slammed into it, skinning his knuckles. “Oh fuck.”

The door shut on its own. Carl grabbed for some paper towels, but Jack shoved him away.

“Leave me the fuck alone.” He started go. “Keep that hospice shit out of sight. All this talk about AIDS AIDS, fucking AIDS, is making me sick. The guys come here to get away from all that. Jesus, Carl, this a place for escapades, escape, not fucking reality.”

“Hey man, this beer tastes weird.” Frank banged his bottle on the counter. “The first swallow was fine but then …”

Instantly Carl knew. “More piss.”

“You fuckers are up to something.” Jack looked from Carl to Frank.

“Hey!” another guy Carl had just sold a beer to exclaimed. “This bottle is hot!”

Jack grabbed the bottle & dropped it. “Jesus. It burned my hand.”

The cooler began to hum loudly with a high-pitched squeal. Electric sparks flew from the sides into the crowd.

“Christ, my cock ring is freezing my nuts off.” One guy unzipped his pants.

“Oh God!” Another shouted. “Something is pulling my tit clamps off. My …” 

What he was saying was lost in a louder groan from a man whose leather harness was shrinking & biting into his skin.

“Unplug the fucking cooler.” Jack snapped.

Carl was reaching to do so when an electric flash lifted him & sent him flying over the bar. He blacked out.

He came too with Jeff pressing a damp cloth to his head. He glance at his watch: 12:33. He figured he had been out for about five minutes. The music was louder, faster & slightly distorted. He could hear Jack cursing & sputtering on the other side of his station. With Jeff’s help he got up.

“What the fuck is going on?” Carl mumbled, pushing men away to see over the counter of his bar.

Jack was on his back. The cooler door was wide open, with Jack’s feet jammed into the bottles on the bottom shelf.

“Get me up.” Jack thrashed about.

“Weird witch vibes.” Frank crossed himself.

Jack’s button-fly buttons popped off one by one.

“It’s a floor show.” Someone yelled. “Take it off, Jack baby. Let’s see that meat.”

“This is no fucking floor show, you assholes. Get me out of here.”

Carl tired to get under then over the counter but was pushed back.

“Get it up yourself, honey.” Someone called.

Jack’s jeans tore along the inseams & up to the crotch. His shirt was yanked open. His face went white as teeth marks appeared around his nipples. Blood oozed from fresh bites on his chest that were working their way down.

“What the fuck do you want?” Jack screamed, as the bites got closer to his cock.

The cooler vibrated & Will’s can fell, landing on Jack’s chest.

“Is that it?” Jack gasped. “Is that all? We’ll fill the bar with them.” He sobbed. “I’ll do it.”

The cooler shuddered & a deep moan came from it, “Swear!” There was a puff of frosty steam. It repeated. “Swear.”

“I swear. Fuck. I swear. I’ll give condoms with every beer. Anything.” I line of ice raced up each his legs hitting him in the balls.


Jack writhed.”I swear, as long as I live I won’t forget this.”

His feet dropped out of the cooler. The door shut.

There was a smattering of applause.

“David Copperfield, he ain’t.”

“Interesting, but needs work on the ending.”

Jeff helped Carl pull Jack to his feet. The music got louder as Jack unsteadily crawled out from behind the bar.

A leather guy was banging on the counter. “Who does a guy gotta whip to get a beer around here.”

Carl ducked back under. Opened the cooler door and pulled out an Export. “Here you go Dutch.”

“Have we met?” Dutch asked.

“I don’t think so.” As Carl answered he saw that Will’s can was back in place. The sign on it now read:

Will’s Hospice Fund

As long as there’s a willy

There’ll always be a way

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Valley of the May Dolls

Over the month my following blog shrank to 350! I went through my followers list & cleared some who had never liked a post or who really didn’t have any real connection such as ‘dog training tips.’ Only one has re-followed me.  The May WP map show my hits have come from around the world. Latvia! Indonesia! 

My Tumblr following  is at 272. Twitter at 225. I know these are all low numbers – some people have thousands of followers but on both I delete or block followers who are harvesting rather than actually following. Picture Perfect is up to 32000 words. 

May has been another month of adjusting to the new reality of masks, sanitizer & social distancing. I’ve reluctantly cut back on my morning walks & have replaced some of them with domestic chores: gardening, cleaning, purging but that will come to an end – the house will be clean enough & I can go back to daily walks. I have been doing social distant walks with some recovery friends so the isolation hasn’t been total. Also seeing a couple of my fwb (who are maintain social isolation themselves) for movies & chit-chat. 

Working through The Artist’s Way slowly but surely. It clearly wasn’t written with a pandemic lockdown in mind 🙂 Some of the issues it addresses take on a different sense of importance (or lack of) as the death toll mounts. But it has encouraged me to reexamine my past.

By reexamine I mean that literally literally – I’ve been reading Old Trout Funnies – a book about a comic book, an acquaintance of mine created while I was living in Sydney. We were drinking buddies. I left before Issue 3. The book puts Trout into a context & explains many of the very localized references. Plus I get name checked a couple of times & I know many of the people who show up as characters in the wild stories. Fascinating & highly recommended.

Also literal has been the inputing of my first novel ‘Allan Time’ which I wrote in the late 60’s, early 70’s. Resisting the temptation to edit has been a challenge, though I have made the paragraphs breaks tidier & improved the spelling. It is an interesting process as my memory of writing it is very limited. One thing is clear though is how closeted I was. 

I’m currently re-reading Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls. I have read this book several times over the years. It served as the template for City of Valleys. I love this book. Sure it is soap but it captures real psychology with humour & over-the-top emotionalism. I’ll have to watch the movie again when I’m finished.

a piece I performed at Cryptic Chatter June 2007

Try to Remember

there is a moment when 

what I remember 

what I dream

become fused

is this my childhood moment

falling down gashing my knee

the scar is there

but is the picture of me doing it

how it happened

was it a fall off a swing

was I ever on that swing

on the playground 

or was it some other moment

tipping my bike over the curb

was it an accident on purpose

was I seeking attention

or was I careless

not looking where I was going

did I get pushed or just drop

did I cry

the scar tells me it happened

the mind doesn’t tell me anything

was my mother upset or disappointed

I had come home crying once again

did I cry

was I brave little soldier

was I 10 11 15

did I limp around the house

wanly acting as if 

I was and wasn’t in pain

was the trip stumble and scrape

another of my attempts

to be like other boys

playing ball

acting out tough kid stuff

or was I running away from someone

who wanted to beat me up

was I at the play ground

because there was some boy nearby

who sometimes hung out there

did I like boys then

I seem to think I did

memory doesn’t fill in those gaps

doesn’t give me the connections 

I need to make a net 

that’ll explain today

I see the scar

not a pretty one

not an ugly one either

not like my appendix incision

that looks like 

it was made with a can opener

I sort of recollect that

the pain in school

then the hospital for a week or so

in a ward with four others

they were all men

I was a kid in junior high

I liked boys then

I tried to catch glimpses of cock

as the men walked around in pjs

dressing gowns untied

girl friends dropping in 

 rubbing their backs

I would have done that 

how long was it 

before I went back to school

did have my homework brought to me

all that is gone

all that remains is a dim image

untied bathrobes hairy chests

laughing nurses

the scars aren’t talking

only tells me that it happened

don’t even remember going home from there

like the scar on my knee

doesn’t tell me any more

when will my body forgive

what I’ve forgotten

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. 

Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot pop star! Way back in the early 90’s I watched a bio on Bardot & discovered that she had a reasonable pop career in France. Not a great singer by any means but fun. I like this sort of obscure pop stuff (imagine my pleasure on finding Patty Duke’s Valley of the Dolls recordings).

dishes picnic

I did a record store search & bought a cassette called Golden Hits at Sam’s – released many years later as The Bardot Show which I have on an mp3 collection along with Brigitte. These two are sweet – some calypso & light pop. Show has her ‘hits’ & work with Serge Gainsbourg. He never pushes her voice beyond what it can do, a bit of echo seems to be the only manipulation. There is also great wonky sitar work – so 60’s.

construction2 what’s that lurking behind the bushes

I also have a stand alone (bought in Montreal July1993) : La mandrague – with more of sweet stuff. An overview of musical career, including the original Je T’aime with its breathy gasps over a disco beat.

shelf shelf restraint

The French are a great lover of singing actresses & also of this breathy tone that Bardot has. Most recently Asia Argento has release a cd of very Bardot type material – Feist is similar as well, light bouncy songs with a delicate voice.


Press Of Flesh

‘I have to talk to you. Can you  come over right away?’

‘Yes. I have to change my clothes first so it’ll be about twenty minutes before I can get out of here.’

‘Fine. Hurry.’

‘Can’t you give me a clue as to what this is all about?’

‘No. I mean yes but the less time I spend talking to you now, the sooner you will be here.’

‘Okay. Okay. Bye. I love you.’

‘I love you too. Now get over here.’

A quick splash of water, change of socks and I was out the door. Normally I would have changed out of the sweat pants I wore around the house but the urgency in Brad’s voice told me I had best hurry.

The subway platform was crowded with kids from the uniform school near by. Teenagers budding into adults with sturdy bodies. Girls with the second blush of breasts straining white starched shirts and boys with their first spout of hair over their upper lips. Sweet smiles and ugly words to each other.

I never felt safe under these circumstances. As if they paid me any heed at all but memories of my own high school days would creep in. Days when I was taunted and bullied by boys just like these boys.

The train pulled in and all the cars were jammed with people. More high school kids now mixed with adults on lunch hour. I found a pillar to lean against. As the train pulled it out it jolted to a stop and then started gain pushing people into and over each other.

I was jabbed in the back by a knapsack and was in turn pushed into the girl in front of me.

‘Sorry.’ I muttered and I righted myself. She didn’t even turn around. I glanced behind me. A Chinese boy gave me a weak apologetic smile. Not that I expected any thing under the circumstances. If we all apologized for casual bumps there’d be no stop to it.

As I approached my stop I had to push through to get off. People were unwilling to part but I was given extra impetus by someone pushing behind me, also to get off.

I was glad to be free of the press of flesh around me. Not that I mind it because I know it is part and parcel of travel in a big city but I’m always happy to get away from it at the same time.

I stopped to catch my breath when the Chinese boy who had bumped me passed by me and then turned around.

‘You are alright?’

‘Yes.’ I was surprised that he had no accent. I also saw that he wasn’t as young as I had supposed when I first noticed him. ‘Thank you.’

‘Very crowded.’

‘That’s the way of this world at this time of day.’

‘Quite right.’ he smiled broadly.

Where was I going?

icons hor icon-o-graphy Cape Breton

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

#Movies I’d Watch Again (& Again) Part 1

Barbarella: Roger Vadim: a bit of a critical & box office flop  at the time – even Fonda ‘reviles’ it but it is a prime time-capsule of 60’s futurism, color values and ‘free love’ thinking. A sweet soundtrack, which I have, & some great comic performances – it sticks to the comic book sensibility of it origins. I watch it at least every other year and it delights me each time.

snowart snow art

Valley of the Dolls/ Beyond The Valley of the Dolls: Mark Robson/Russ Meyers – I love these equally & for pretty much the same reasons: over-the-top production values: those sets, costumes & performances. Neely in the alley screaming of attention; Z-Man – ‘It’s my party and it freaks me out’ ‘drink the black sperm of my revenge.’ The music in Dolls is slick & suitable; the music in Return is amazing. Writing about them makes me want to see them now, both at the same time – one for each eye.

tablelegs legs in the air

Dark City: Alex Proyas – dark, brooding, visually stunning – the changing city is amazing – Rufus Sewell is a delight, the plot about memory, generated pasts (or are they). I expected a sort of half-baked Matrix – but this has a tighter script, cooler fx & Richard O’Brian (from the Rocky Horror Picture Show) floating around.

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Kill!/The Astro-Zombies: Russ Meyers/Ted V. Mikels – two sublime Tura Satana movies – Faster being a classic, now almost raised to iconic status – great soundtrack too. You want kick-ass female? this film defines it. Astro is a less than C movie but such a delight at the same time. ‘Who are you?’ I can quote lines from this I’ve seen it so many times. I first recorded Astro on VHS from late-night TV so the picture quality was shit but at a FanExpo a few years ago I found a superb DVD & was in heaven. The Astro sequel is only for fans of Tura, it’s not even hilarious bad (like Plan 9 From Outer Space)

blueblanket a pop of color

La Dolce Vita/Amarcord: Felinni – Vita: Christ dangling from a helicopter, Ekberg in the fountain, Mastroianni dripping cool sexuality & sublime b/w photography. Amarcord: a childhood memory that gives me images even more vivid than those of my own childhood – the snow fight, the man up a tree (I want a woman) and Fellini’s love of a woman’s butt in a tight skirt & over-flowing busts in pale blue cashmere. Nino Rota’s music in both is nigh on perfect.

November 1-30 – participating – NaNoWriMo 2015 –



from a series of my riffs on Dante’s Inferno

canto 13

we came to an eerie forest

antennas  jutting in wild whirly shapes

sang a high pitched whine

we pushed them aside  gently

the thickets of clanging metal

the sound they made

was painful to hear

fluttering from some

were small rags

bodiless sprites leapt

from one antenna to the next

looking for sustenance and direction

getting nothing

but the promise of broadcast

on the constant relay of futility and emptiness

‘These are the lives surrendered

To public amusement’

Verlaine told me

‘People who have become signals of life

Rather than a life itself

Sacrificed because they felt real life

Wasn’t good enough

They let themselves die

For fractions of adulation and ridicule’

at that moment

two large shapeless masses came stomping

through the scintillating brush

bending and snapping

the aimless rows of antenna

they were pursued by smaller

shapeless forms squealing

‘Stop! Stop!

Tell us what you have to tell us

The world is waiting to know

You must tell us’

the pursuing forms stopped

panting  gleaming dripping brown oil

their electronic lens

slid in and out

as they rotated up and down

checking us out

‘Who do we have here!’

the forms they pursued stopped a few steps away

‘Do not bother with them

What they have to offer is life

And life is of no value to anyone

If they valued life

They would not be here amongst

Those who have given it up willingly

Come we are the ones

You want to interview

Follow or lose this story forever

It is a story to end all stories’

with that they darted deeper into the

brittle shafts around us

the pursuers gave us one last scan

and continued on their way

not as keen now

for the prey that had in sight a few moments before

‘Time is wasted

Precious time

Worthless time

Worthless life

Life is wasted on these’

they transmitted amongst themselves

the antennae around us shimmered

with the messages

they began to vibrate against us

like whips to cut our flesh

to rob of our blood

to wet their bloodless roots

with some bitter moment

of retribution and frustration

sensing our mercy

as an acid on the

the mindless self loathing

they wanted reflected

mirror ball