Burned At The Stake

Burned At The Stake

this is not 

what I started

not what I expected

I didn’t ask for it

I don’t know how to stop it

no one does

<>

yet I get blamed

from so many sides

that push me to be

responsible

for being born male

for being born white

for being gay queer nonconforming

<>

if I don’t use

what ever entitlement I have

to advance the agendas

of those who fault me

I remain an enemy

but that is fate

my lot in life

<>

it doesn’t matter

who burns me at the stake

they all have legitimate reasons

who am I to complain

I’m getting what I deserve

not what I asked for

I’m not sure at what age I realized I wasn’t good at fitting in. Perhaps it was when I was 8 or 9 when my Dad began his move from Manitoba east across Canada, finally settling in Cape Breton. We hopped, skipped & jumped from place to place, including a few months in Wales with my mother & her family, for a year or so – staying in some places long enough for me to go to school for awhile. I was a frequently dislocated child.

Even when we settled in Sydney there were moves from one neighbourhood to another, one school to another. It was an adventure at the time but I really had no choice, I couldn’t stop it. I meet kids with stable living conditions – some living in the houses one of their parents were born in. I arrived there with no history & only the family I had was in a house new to us.

I did try at times to fit in, finding playmates to hang out with, joining in laneway baseball games – I even had my own baseball glove, joined cubs, boy scouts, went to the YMCA – none of which turned me into a butch boy. I wasn’t a great joiner – which really hasn’t changed.

I was, without realizing it, resistant to the insistent heteronormative inculcating that was the agenda of these things. This is what boys do, this is what girls do. I was mocked by gym teachers, parents of the kids I hung out with, even my own Dad, for not fulfilling these agendas. Blamed for not cooperating – for not living up to my potential – for not eagerly participating in things that were for my own good, things I didn’t start but didn’t know how to stop. 

I survived nicely & happily – occasionally got burned at the stake of public opinion but that is the lot of us abominations unto the face of the Lord & those who turn that righteous face in the directions of their choosing. In the end I’m not sure what I was asking for then – some sort of emotional guidance which never came. What I did get is the self-acceptance I deserved, which is better than being burned at the stake.


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Nine

Nine

O when I was nine

I was still a child

there was no instant communication

news travelled slow

on the radio TV newspapers

that provided an innocence

I knew about war

because my Dad had fought in one

he was a man

my mother was a woman

I was a boy child

who only knew what the culture 

of the time

expected of my gender 

<>

O when I was nine

I did know I wasn’t like other boys

I played backlot baseball

I played with dolls

I  wasn’t the boy my dad expected

I didn’t like to fight

like other boys

I never understood 

why physical violence was required

to be accepted

<>

O when I was nine

I learned to swim

looking at the differences

between boys and girls

anatomy I didn’t understand

the boys where more interesting

I knew shame

when we were caught

I had fear

but no closet

sex was dirty regardless

of the gender of the object

<>

O when I was nine

I don’t that I was making waves

as I waded from nine to nineteen

by the time I left nineteen

I knew

these were dangerous waters

at nine there was only

the fear of getting caught

not the fear

of my culture drowning me

like an unwanted litter of kittens

I heard on a TV documentary about children that our sense of self was basically formed by the time we are ten years old. By then we have absorbed the ‘teachings’ of TV behaviours that inform our subconscious. So, back in the day, I was aware of what the culture of the time expected of my gender. I was also aware that it wasn’t the right fit but I hadn’t developed the language for that beyond feeling it was the wrong fit. Today thanks to instant communication children have a greater knowledge of gender variations. I doubt that at the age of five I would have understood what a faggot was, children today do know what it means. 

Where was I when I was nine? We had just settled in Sydney, Cape Breton after moving across Canada for a couple years. My mother & I had spent some time with her family in Wales during this time as well. I remember ‘living’ in Moncton, Stellerton or was it Truro for short periods of time & going to schools there, briefly. Finally in Sydney, were we lived in three different neighbourhoods before my dad bought a house in Ashby.

One result was that I spent those formative years as a displaced person – someone who was different. My Dad prodded me into things that could show me how to ‘fit in’: cub scouts, YMCA. I did the best I could but felt like an outsider &, as I recall, was fine with that. I did get these weird mixed messages ‘why can’t you be like other kids’ then when I wanted some fad item ‘why can’t you think for yourself.’

I survived partially by hiding in booze & partially by writing & painting as I gradually found language for what I was. Though then that language was loaded – an abomination unto the Lord – sort of stuff. Today I know the tragic flaw wasn’t my sexuality but the way culture regarded not only lgbtq but sexuality itself.


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Decking The Covid Halls 2020

Over the years the decking of my house has become more elaborate. Every room  had its share of holiday decor – figurines, snow globes, even action figures. Of course there was also the tree, the lights, the porch ‘treatment’ & of course festive towels & linens. Friends would add ornaments to the magic. Much of it was done for our Christmas feast guests or friends who would drop by. Thanks to covid19 restrictions that isn’t going to happen to the same extent this year.

Perhaps that’s just as well so that I could give some of those things a rest. Let’s leave the snow globe collection in the box for change, what’s the point of that kitch crèche? As a result things remain in their bins & boxes. In fact as I sorted what to put out this year I tossed things. Thanks for the memories but bye bye.

Opting for simplicity meant less staple gun noise 🙂 The lights went up, the tree went up, the linens got washed & will be used but the bulk of the treasure remain in their bins & boxes. You know not having all that hanging tinsel is fine. Next year maybe they’ll get hung in the trees on the front lawn. 

The festive lights remained a must though because they aren’t just for me, they are for everyone & anyone who sees them. This year, in out neighbourhood, they seem to have gone up sooner & gotten fancier. I’ve going out some nights after supper to do a walk around different blocks to enjoy them. I stopped to talk to one woman about her lights & she said, what I figured most people are thinking, ‘we need lights in this dark covid climate.’

https://topoet.ca/2016/12/16/lights-delight-2016/

Yes, let there be less interior clutter & more external light.

Christmas 1983

The Word Is 

this was this word 

I knew a child

it was Welsh or Gaelic

it meant love

a kind of love 

I no longer experience

<>

I learned it from a neighbour 

of my grandmother’s

when I was visiting Wales 

one summer

she gave me toast 

with mayo and tomatoes

she baked the bread herself

I’ve never tasted bread like that again

sort of burned and peppery

<>

I didn’t really like it

but I liked her

she taught me all these words

how to say things

I don’t remember

about plants playing 

the in sunlight

about kittens saving puppies

she made me laugh

<>

then I came back to Canada

all I could remember was that one word

the word I’ve forgotten

for love

not just any kind of love

I used to feel for a boy in school

he wasn’t even in my class

I would feel it whenever I saw him

but when I didn’t see him

I didn’t even think of him

I never even knew his name

just the way his eyes would make me feel

even if he wasn’t looking at me

I’d spot him

and feel this yearning

not to know him

but just to look at him

to watch him

playing with the other boys

they would run shout tackle each other

<>

if you asked me what I was feeling

I couldn’t tell you

I might have said that word 

I no longer remember

for a feeling I no longer have

for someone 

I can’t in my mind

beyond his eyes

<>

all I see is this scramble of bodies

tussling in the school yard dirt

then us lining up to go back into the school

sitting in rows in the class room

trying to learn math 

spelling

that feeling gone in the terror

of being asked to answer the teacher

I didn’t want to be there’

wanted to be lost in the feeling

in that yearning

<>

what was 

that word

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Distant Music

Distant Music

<>

1

<>

hush … can you hear the cat music

playing on flaying pigeon wings?

it brings out the hidden claws

of the once delicate lap warmer

now leaping wildly off the thinnest edge

to the beat of singing sounds

stirring safely behind glass

<>

2

<>

wittingly filling the room

with clicky busy city sounds

a thousand tiny tappers

rapping rhythms into the air

faster faster faster still

yet never flying to pieces

as I feel like doing

while lazily scrawling

symmetrical patterns

from my random pressures

wondering if the jazz flow

sounds as smooth to others

as it does to me

<>

3

<>

sometime I cannot make the energy

to go back over the old wrinkles

to make them smooth & clean

for the defining eyes of pryers;

I end up in some big armed chair

where I sit & stare so long

that I become a pile of creaking bones

yellowing skin & longing songs

<>

beside me now are empty chairs,

in front, beyond naked window.

crawls the night city sparkling

like a cluster of earth-bound stars

the wind whistles in dance

up & down the barren streets;

someone must be out there

to turn off & on all the stars;

but I cannot move

beyond these empty chairs

<>

while the dark & sullen moon

turns the stars aside to guide me

into letting the oars slip from my craft

so I can drift at last into my lover

<>

4

<>

changed are the ways of this Welsh lad

the days of longing are upon him now

with the first hint of cornfed comfort

making the long-by-gones seem so fine

here in the middle of my toss-up time

<>

I keep getting the feeling one gets

on dark, rain-spun, cloud-thick days

while looking out great bay windows

knees resting on velvet window seat

watching the mist nest in the elms

dawdling lazy-grey over the endless fields

of early morning English country side;

we discuss cricket or the government –

“frightfully so …

“rather, shall we say, common …

hey! hey!

stop the wheels before we go out of control

I’ve never been this close to that home

till now, & I hope, maybe, somehow

the clouds will have lifted by the time

I step, spanking-new, over-night, into there

<>

5

<>

hush … can you feel the man sounds

sailing on wailing baby cries 

it tries out the reveal cause

of the never ready bed charmer

now pacing softly the thickest floors

to the hum of distant music

floating unsure from Welsh hill

<>

Oct73

1 – I was visiting a friend in Halifax when I wrote this first section. I went there to see him & also to buy music that didn’t exist in the Sydney record store. One of the albums was of electronic/experimental music by the likes of Pauline Oliveros – yes even then I was pretentious enough to like the real thing 🙂 The music pulsed like wings flapping. My friend’s cat jumped up to the window ledge to confront the pigeons in the balcony but there were none there.

‘the thinnest edge’ is how one can leap to the wrong conclusion & get caught trying to figure out how to get back to solid ground. I’ve always had a ‘fear’ of balconies.

2 – I always write to music. These were the days of manual typewriters, when working on a manuscript could be retyping a whole page to correct a single typo. I was an okay typist & loved the sound in my workroom of the click of keys, the tempo of the pounding. Then I could never type fast enough to capture what I was thinking. 

I think the music I was more fascinated by was Santana’s Abraxas – chasing a thousand tiny percussionists with my keyboard. I was also digging Weather Report, Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew. Writing as fast I could before I flew to pieces.

3 – The old wrinkles are typos, edits, rewriting, re-sequencing the verses in a poem. I was also writing a novel at the time so energy was flowing in several directions. ‘creaking bones’ echoes ‘skin & bones’ from an earlier poem. The final verse is a direct reference to Dylan Thomas’s “In my Craft or Sullen Art.” Though at this time I had no lover to drift into.

4 – The Welsh connection continues in this section. This sense of of my heritage doesn’t appear in the chapbook until now. There is a feeling of the east coast, of Cape Breton, that is present in some of the pieces but here I am relishing, or it is wallowing, in my own roots.

After traversing Egypt, Japan, Africa & am brought back to my ‘toss-up time’ & my own origins. The workshops at UNB were acknowledgements of me as a writer – the ‘toss-up’ was the decision of what to do with my expectations of being taken seriously. Was it to dream of this romantic ‘velvet window seat’ success or something more realistic?

5 – a reprise, with variations, of the first part of this poem. ‘cat music’ becomes ‘ man sounds.’ ‘bed charmer’ echoes ‘bed-ridden’ from The Last Waltz  to give the whole book as sense of completion. The first piece in the collection invites you to ‘set sail on my body’ – this last verse asks you to ‘hear the man sounds/ sailing off wailing baby cries.’ The book progresses from that boy to this man. I hope you enjoyed the journey.

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 

Love Sculpture Blues

 

What! Not another mp3 collection of obscurities covering several genres, decades & styles! 🙂 This one is filed under L for Love Sculpture. I have Blues Helping, Forms & Feelings. A Welsh blues band with unexpected progrock flash. Their take on Sabre Dance came up in my tumblr feed a few years ago. A fast metal version of the classical war horse that was great fun. So I did a quick search & downloaded their two lps. The Brits loved US blues & this is okay stuff – not John Mayall but okay.

Mayall wrote a couple of tributes to J.B. Lenoir, Here I have Lenoir’s Top 50 Classics. This is 50’s blues by a performer who died young but left a real legacy of music that influenced many. A deft guitar player his song cover all the bases: broken heart, political protest & voodoo boogie.

One Christmas I was given Legends of the Blues: A Robert Crumb illustrated book that included a great sampler cd of some of the artists (i.e. Bukka White, Big Joe Williams) discussed. The book is an excellent guide to the legends. A couple of which I sought out & so on this cd I have Blind Joe Reynolds: Outside Woman Blues – period recordings nicely preserved. & Henry Thomas: Texas Worried Blues. There is a fun frank sexual content to many of these tracks. Lines like ‘always going through somebody’s drawers.’ Coy smutty & direct at the same time.

Even more coy but not bluesy is Ivor Novello. I have the The Ultimate Collection. Nice period recordings of British music hall songs – some sentimental, some suggestive & all charming. Novello was the Elton John of his day (one of the most popular British entertainers of the first half of the 20th century) – smartly dressed, campy & talented.  To complete the circle started with Love Sculpture he was also Welsh.

It as another day to drag my ass to school. Drag Drag Drag would echo in my head as I forced myself out of bed. I had done my homework. I always did but didn’t remember a word of it. I could recite the lyrics to every Dylan song mind you but couldn’t recall the periodic table or even what it was I was supposed to be memorizing. Maybe it trig formulas  or the dates of historic moments. When was the Treaty of Utrecht signed. That has always plagued me. Lost so many jobs and ruined so many relationships when I didn’t have the answer to that one simple question. when was the Treaty of Utrecht signed. A question that I knew was bound to come up sooner or later and ruin everything as I drag drag drag my ass though life.

 


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Remembering Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sister found a cache of old photos during her isolation house cleaning & sent a jpeg of this one of me as a very wee lad in Wales. I have very vague memories of the several months I spent there but it was pre-kindergarten years. I was an only child, we were living in Winnipeg – where I was born. We were visiting my mother’s huge family in Merthyr Tydfil. By huge I mean at least 10 bothers & sisters. I had lots of aunts, uncles & even some cousins.

How did we get there? I vaguely remember spending time on a liner – The Franconia II (?). We did have a photo of the boat for many years & my sister may yet find that 🙂 as she digs though decades of papers.

It must have been a cool day in Cardiff as I’m wearing top coat & well wrapped in a scarf. Anyway the most telling thing about the photo is the rather wide belt. I was a hyper child & the only way my mother could keep me from climbing light poles was to keep me tethered. I’ve marked the actual tether & its shadow in one of the pictures. I remember the tethering but have no memory of the cause 🙂

 

The other pictures are of a more mature me – all unearth by my sister several years ago. On the beach at Broad Cove along the Cabot Trail. I loved that hat & stuck feathers in it. The shirt had blue stripes. I also love what we called ‘pit socks’ thick wooled, not exactly summer wear. The child I’m dragging might be one of my sisters but looking closely at it I doubt think so.

Next is me in a nice white shirt, possibly one of my Dad’s. The car was Prefect that my dad bought me to teach me how to drive. We’re at Memorial Gardens so I could drive around the road there. Despite the nerd look I never did learn to drive 🙂

 

The final ‘remember me’ is early 70’s in my almost hippy days 🙂 US draft dodgers had bought & started a farm in vape Breton. We became friends & I visited them a few times. I had a crush on a couple of the guys but didn’t know how to go from thought to action. Other than hair (& weight) I haven’t really changed much, have I?

Odds 

these days if I don’t know 

I’m willing to step up and say so

I no longer waste time 

with bluffing and postulating

on what I thought it might be

wasting time 

on half right information

that gets no one anywhere 

except back to blame

blame an easy place to get trapped

it means not going forward 

but is the ideal excuse

to look for what went wrong

that might have been avoided 

if i had been willing at one point

to say 

I don’t really know

my guess 

isn’t going to be close enough 

let’s get the right info 

then see where that leads us

because sometimes 

even knowing isn’t the solution

I have the right fact for the wrong situation

I may have no idea 

what the fuck is going on

so it is better 

to make that clear from the start

let someone else 

with half right information 

take the lead

so we have someone to blame

though sometimes 

there is no right or wrong way to go

it’s just important to go

to not stay stuck 

waiting for a clear sign

for verifiable facts 

to present themselves

but waiting can be 

such comforting thing to do

a great place to be

in which nothing gets done

and no one is to blame

we may not get ahead of the game

but at least were still in it aren’t we

I don’t know

there see I’ve admitted it

I don’t know 

if we’re in the game or not

I don’t know 

how to find out either

does it matter

is it all really a game 

or is that an allegorical handle

used to make things 

seem more manageable

one that does really work

because rules shift so fast

it’s impossible to keep up with them

impossible to repeat 

them make them work

we have to keep plugging 

away on available information

be prepared for change

take another step 

in some direction

think we get the clear sign

step up 

and get flatten 

by an on coming car

I hear that can happen

that’s why I’m afraid 

of winning the lottery

42 million dollars at last 

& a piano falls on me

as I go to the bank to cash the cheque

no I’m not a fatalist

a pigeon could shit me 

on the way to the bank

but that’s the worse 

regardless of how big the cheque is

or is it a cheque 

an automatic bank transfer

a few click of keys 

it’s in my account

I don’t know

I’d love to find out 

I’m willing to learn

I am open to suggestion

to new information

but this is postulating

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NaNoWriMo.04 2018

Let me tell you, balancing this year’s NaNo with editing Coal Dusters had been a challenge – the result is that I have good notes on Blludstun but have made little head way is getting the story really going. But I am happy with the progress on the new NaNo & even happier with the new Dusters work.

I try to clear my life of distractions, create more writing time by getting up earlier, shortening my walk & even reading less & succeed to a degree but there is still this blog, & posting a daily set of pictures on Tumblr to keep up. I also had a Hot Damn! to distract & inspire me at the same time. Working on my pieces to perform, even riding some new pieces. 

When I hit my 50,000 target earlier this week I started to take it easy. I’ve keep writing but keeping track of the words is not going to bother me any more. There’ll be a final tally at the start of next week & then I may put Blludstun to rest for a few months as I jump on the Christmas luge  to the new year.

I’ve allowed the narrative to take its own shape so far, some things have worked very well other proved to be blind alleys, but all count toward my word tally. Everything can be fixed in editing & the more I written the more I have to work with when I edit. Much like Coal Dusters I’ll fill in descriptive details not the rewrite. By then I’ll have clear idea of the characters so I can info to expand their characters – things like clothes, room details, and what they actually are eating. When on first draft I write they had supper, in a little draft I can say what they had for supper.

(Ystradgynlais in an actual place in Wales)

When I went back to letter [from Thomasina] I could smell that peppery rose scent. It was even stronger now. My hands smelled of it. I skimmed what I had read already. 

“What I missed most about William were the endless arguments we had over the undying purpose and aim of our research. He felt we had an obligation to change the human race for the better, that we were to shape it more clearly for the future. I was more inclined to believe our purpose was to improve circumstance as they are not set out to dramatically change them. 

He was convinced that his skin research would unlock the mistery of life, that man would be able to take the creation of life into his own hands. When be came this enthralled with his mission I reminded him that he had an artificial hand, not the one he was born with. This he countered with the fact this his man-made hand was superior in every way to the one he was born with.

He also reminded me that with science he had had his gender changed. Science shaped him for the future not some God, or even some quirk of biology. Of course we spoke on with greater technological understanding of our specialized fields. I am telling you this in general terms. Details of our research is never divulged – not even to others in the field.

But the real reason I am writing you, a complete stranger, is to confess that I’ve felt responsible for the death of William all these years. The night of his accident we had our first real disagreement. Sure we had argued as married couples do and had our professional differences but that night we had a screaming match. I am ashamed to say things were broken. We struck each other in our blind rage.

There were things. even after all our years together, that William refused to divulge to me about his life. There were areas of our home that I was denied access to where he claimed he needed total privacy to do certain of his experiments.

I wanted to know what sort of research he was doing that needed to be done in secret. I held nothing back from him that I discovered and didn’t he trust me enough to be as open with him. After all these years of literally working side by side he still hadn’t confided in me the final stage of creating the artificial skin. What did I have to do to finally earn his trust? 

He sniffed and said that he wasn’t ready to let me make the sacrifices he had made.

Sacrifices I said. It’s not as if he’s sold his soul to the devil or some such nonsense. 

It was at that point he struck me. He shouted ‘woman don’t talk about things you know nothing about. Things that I wish deep in my heart that I never knew. Things no one else on this planet should never know or even suspect.’

I was stunned, shaken and also angry that he would resort to such a tired cliche to avoid being honest. I told him in no uncertain terms that there was no such thing as the devil and if he expected me to believe that he was mistaken.

He laughed in my face. That’s when I struck out at him. That didn’t stop his laughter while he told me there were much worse things in this world with greater power than any devil dreamed of having. 

I accused him of being irrational and delusional. I hadn’t realized how close to madness he had become over the last few years. I suppose being so close to him I didn’t notice it until that moment.

He pushed past me and run out of the house. He got into his car and left me there. About half-an-hour later the local constabulary came to the door to tell that there had been an accident and William had been rushed to xx Hospital. 

I later found out that he had lost control of the car and it had rammed into a petrol truck. He had been incinerated in the fire. Turned to ashes, all except his hand. Our most recent advance in Pellotics made the skin impervious to heat. One would have to drop it into an erupting volcano for it to dissolve.

As I said I had looked forward to meeting my only living relative but that is not to be. What is to be is that you will, I hope, enjoy Blludstun Towers as much as we have. Ystradgynlais is quaint and not as rustic as you may expect.”

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6
November 1 -30

http://nanowrimo.org
http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday


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

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