Nuit Blanche Danforth Style

For the first time my local stretch of the Danforth – from Greenwood to Coxwell – participated in Nuit Blanche. There was nothing between Greenwood & Linnsmore. In fact there was no Blanche on the southside of Danforth until one got to the Roberston Parkette where there was a long set of tables for an early scrabble game.

The bulk of the action was along the north side – with musicians, window displays & lots of people taking photographs.

Scrabble in the wild

Make Love Not War

Red Rocket window – I liked the way the actual cafe lighting became a part of the piece

Masks on the wall outside the Linnsmore Tavern

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Sunshine Corners 1971

In going through a box of papers I came a cross a pile of old old poems written in late 60’s, early 70’s. So having no shame I’m resurrecting them with minimal editing. I was using a cheaper, yellow copy for many of these – the paper hasn’t yellowed with age. Enjoy 🙂

Sunshine Corners 1971

summer day small & dangling

little blue suns from the bigger ray

falling adream in the middle of the day

with pieces of pie & cups of tea

long time cashed in by ups & me

cashed in for a boat ride

sold for a smile or a simile 

to sail away to

hidden treasure island innuendos

fastly teasing eyes & ears

 

hiding hiding

in sunshine corners

early days early days

late night mourners

streets of cars

eyes of ice

making the turn

signalling for a full stop

talking word after word

catching the bus

falling in a heap

like leaves on retreat

 

red night falling from behind

unaware of the feelings in the place

beneath the ground around all

I have to offer is a million marvels

a circus to some

an escape to others

a relief to be inside

the other side of the seesaw 

the scale that will never tip

 

in the air

in the air

in the air

the snow filled air

the thousand

never ending 

ever melting

fleeting flakes of snow

finding brief rest in sudden death

patterns in paper ribbons

or

sparkles

in dark hair

on moonlight August hills

in little corners of restaurants

where we ate the fun of it

drank the hell of it

finally left the rest of it

floating

in the air

in the air

in the air

 

it’s the moon in mystical mood

shining angular

on the fields of harvest stubble

on weather grey houses

on shadows as the crow

flies off for home 

or orchard 

or lingers to scream you awake too soon in the morning

you were saving for this moment

only to have it mocked by a black jester

who has never spoken to her sister

who shines for hours all day

while the moon bides her time

hidden in a cloud’s back pocket

 

there was a sun

bright & shining

now there is the blind man

feeling the sun on his face

feeling the water tugging his knees

deep in the other way of missing

building up

higher screaming hammering

all at once

empty

in silence each note unechoed

each temptation resisted

dry laughter

little sounds within

the big sound

daring 

repercussions of daring 

to be alone

doing this

for the first time

wondering if the 

telephone is too out of time

to use

 

falsely afraid

for the beams

cannot burn

cannot shatter

afraid that they might

security afraid

but hoping to be let down

 

somebody claims to have found him

in my writing

in my searching

but for 

some reason he

he does not seem to be

what I am searching for

he I have found but feel there is 

something besides all this besides

some velvet guillotine to stop the 

interloping tangents from regressing into

solenoid spheres & exaggerated 

laughing fits of yesteryears

falling 

jagged like music

in clumps of smooth & rough

harmony & discord 

 

breaking forth

after expending so 

many days of violent 

turbulent struggle

into a soft hello

or a tender glance

or even the merest thought of 

becoming unwithdrawn

to the point

where helloes & glances

take no energy at all

 

so tell the darkness

that this sound can be heard

even while the warmth comes

as waves & veils over & down

head to toe

reflected in a window

neglected in a cellar

full of madness

desperate afraid angry

lonely

yet aware of loving

every minute of it

 

there is only the flight of the gull

to cut across the face of the sunset

there are only my tears

to wash down my face at sunrise

 

still feeling the tingling

of the right notes up my back

as the engines shift into hyperdrive

while I wait for the

passengers to climb aboard this

rocket to the sun

Let’s get this influence up front: ’I dreamed I saw the silver space ships flying/ In the yellow haze of the sun.’ There’s no denying the influence on early me by the early lps of Neil Young. ‘Ghost Town’ is clearly a variation of ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.’ ‘After The Gold  Rush’ was the same with all that longing & fragility.

There are many reference to my daily life here as well. Drinking tea, eating pie with friends in my comfy basement room, drinking in restaurants, waking up hungover & feeling like harvest stubble. The emotional build up to finally say hello, or in my case, never saying it. I love & cringe at the same time, at some of the melodrama ‘there are only my tears/to wash down my face at sunrise.’

I have two versions of this piece. One handwritten with drawings & the other typewritten. I don’t know which came first but there are slight differences between the two. This one is the typed version – line breaks & all. 

 


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March 2019 Sneak Peek


A quick look back before the peek – my TOpoet.ca following has crept up to 307 maybe I’ll get to 330 by the end of the year. Also the jump in WordPress hits has remained consistent many days with over 40 hits. I hope that remains once Google+ closes. India now keeps the lead in the number of hits, with US, Canada, Argentina, UK (!) rounding out the top five. Twitter is up to 213 followers thanks to more self-publishing entrepreneurs following me :-). Tumblr up 222 – even with their community standards I’m still getting hetero porn sites (‘Wet pussy waiting to date you’) trying to follow me.

Cold Dusters is moving along slowly but surely. Working though this second half I’m finding more spots where bridges have yet to be built, or where past events have to taken more into account i.e. Lillian dealing with her death notice. Some characters have been expanded. Not worrying about a paper publisher has let the story loosen up and expand in a much more natural way.

Speaking editing – for the Friday posts I’ve been including poems from way back in 2008. I have an endless back log of pieces that I haven’t looked at since I first spewed them out – so I can’t say they are new pieces but they are newly cleaned up of most typos – though I do aha etc some guessing as toy what I want when I, typing as fast as I could think, inout things like ‘f[erpqosjsdp[f gpdmf[ sdmf;’s’ 🙂 Actually not quite than radom but you get the picture.

 

The big event for March will be Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam with feature Inali Barger, at Buddies in Bad Times on Thursday, March 7. One more Toronto show in April will cap season 5 and send some Hot Damn! talent to Capturing Fire in Washington DC this June. Chances of my getting to Capturing Fire are slim this year, unless lotto max pays off. At least I don’t have to worry about travel health insurance in Canada.

The View From Here

I’ve looked at this from all sides

taken your view

my view

the outsiders’ view

the long short jaundiced

rear view

and it doesn’t matter which side

I’m the one in the wrong

even if it is your fault

that I’m in this position

it’s still my fault for looking twice

when the first glance 

told me all I needed to know

I shouldn’t have taken a closer look

and let you pass me by

 

but what’s a man supposed to do

opportunities like you

don’t come my way everyday

not that this was my last chance 

but it was as good a chance

as I’ve had in some time

a stroke of luck

and here I am

the guilty party once again

someone who said what he shouldn’t 

at just the wrong time 

for the greatest effect

 

those names we called each other

were only meant to hurt

I didn’t believe them for a minute 

but you did

I’m not sensitive

one of my faults I know

cold heartless me

I’m too quick to react 

when my buttons get pushed

I should never have showed you 

where those buttons were 

never let your tooth brush 

in my bathroom

never let your socks under my bed

never say never again

 

it’s all my fault for making peace

for being the placater 

I should have let go 

when I first thad a chance

rather prove that by holding on

I was really really serious about us

I had lots of opportunities 

to escape but I stayed

I should have defended myself 

the second time 

changed my view the third

but I didn’t

to make sure you realized I cared

that I could be forgiving

 

looking from all sides

inside outside top bottom head-to-toe

like I looked over you the first time

everything held the eye

I didn’t have enough eyes 

to take it all in 

no eye to the future

 

I knew it would come to no good

I would end up the heatless prick 

once more

I had to see if this time would be different

you wouldn’t be like all the others

and you weren’t 

trouble was I was like all the others

you told me that over and over

every man you meet treats you this way

I was no better than any of them

not as bad as some

but bad enough

and you know

for once

I’m glad you’re right

glad that over is over

trust me it’s over

 

I won’t take it lying down 

standing up behind over backwards

or any which way 

if that’s what it takes

to be true to you 

I’d rather be a liar

because it doesn’t matter which side

view is from

I’m the one in the wrong

 

things will be different next time

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every Tuesday 2019


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

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
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Chapter XLII – Birk Hides in the Bushes

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet

Coal Dusters – Chapter XLII

Birk

Hides

in the Bushes

Birk pushed the piss jar back under his bed. By the shadow of the moonlight he figured it was about midnight. With the colliery closed there was no hourly reminder of the time. He rolled back into the bed and found the comfortable rut that held his body like a grave. 

A grave! That was what his bother Geo would say when they rolled into each other in the bad. ‘Get back to your grave!’

The door to the bedroom squeaked open.

“Birk!” Clancy whispered. “Are you awake?”

“Yes.” His sleepiness disappeared. Had Clancy snuck  into the house to get into bed with him? “They kick you out at Franklin’s?”

“Get yer pants on. There’s trouble brewing down at the colliery.”

“What?” Birk pushed off the bed and groped for his trousers.

“I overheard that Strickland talk with Bowden, the mine manager and they are going to sneak in the scabs tonight. I’ve already told Gregory. He’s getting some of the men together to give them a proper welcome.”

“Those bastards.” Birk laced up his boots and started for the door.

“Might put a shirt on though.” Clancy laughed under his breath.

“This’un will do.” He grabbed the work shirt that had been singed in the fire.

Outside there was a dozen or so men milling around at the corner of Birk’s lane and the Pitt Road. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness. He recognized Jake Malone, Jim McKlusky, and the cigar-puffing, union rep Willam Gregory.

“I’ve been in touch with the men in North Sydney and the scabs is coming by bus along the number 6 road. They have troops with them too.” Gregory told them. “They left about an hour ago so they should be here pretty soon.”

“None coming by the ferry?” Jake asked.

“Not as far as we know. After that face-off t’other day the Dingle doesn’t want to take the risk of their boat being scuttled.”

“He’ll take us from side to side but he ain’t taking sides.” One of them said and the others laughed.

“Guess the navy has enough sense to stay out of this.” One of the miners said.

“Quiet now.” Birk said. “If they want to surprise us we better extra quiet so we can surprise them.”

“Right.” Gregory said. “Here’s what I’m thinking. Some of us can take the ridge trail over to the turn off from Number Six road.”

“There’s that maple outcrop along there. We can block the road with some trees.” one of them suggested.

“Not have enough time for that much chopping.” McKlusky said. “How about we scatter broken glass. Cut up the tires.”

“Good plan, if we can get enough broken glass. What did you have in mind Mr. Gregory?” someone asked.

“I think if we make a show of force there to delay them, we can get ready for them here at the gate. Or maybe they’ll turn back once they see there’s no surprise.” He said.

“They’ll have troops with them.” Clancy said. “Least ways that’s what I heard.”

“Let’s burn em up.” McKlusky suggested. “We can make some kerosine bombs and toss them.”

“We just want to stop them,” Birk said. “Not kill them.”

“Speak for yourself little man.” McKlusky said. “We gotta show them we really mean business.”

“Okay. Okay.” Gregory said. “Six of you head over that turn off and do what you can to delay them. The rest of us will go to the colliery gate to reinforce our guys there.”

“Alright.” McKlusky said. “I’m for the turn off. Who’s coming with me. Tommy Driscoll?”

“Yep. We can handle ‘em.” Tommy raised his fists.

“Fists and flat iron.” Another miner shook an ax over his head. 

“Good man Davy.” Tommy Driscoll shook Davy’s hand.

Birk and Clancy stepped forward. 

“I know the Ridge Trail.” Birk said. “Stick close to me and we can get there without using lights at all.”

“Good lads. We’ll show them Cape Breton miners are as tough as they come.” Tommy Driscoll said. 

They set off up Pitt St. with Tommy Driscoll in the lead.

“Wait here men.” McKlusky said. “Tommy and I have to pick up something from m’place.”

They returned shortly. Each with an ax and carrying wooden crate between them.

“That’s kerosene.” Birk said.

“Yes it is. We made these bottle bombs a while back in case we had a use for them.” Tommy said pulling out a bottle half filled with kerosene with a rag stuffed into it.

“Okay Birk lets get a move on.” McKlusky said.

Birk lead them toward the trail to Blue Lake but took a different path that ran at a right angle off it. The smell of the kerosene made him nauseous. 

“Careful here.” He slowed them down. “We’re almost at the culvert by the road. The earth is loose along here.”

“You couldn’t find a better way.” McKlusky said. “Shit.” He lost his footing, let go of his side of the crate and slid down the embankment.

“Good thing there hasn’t been much rain.” Birk said helping Tommy hold the crate. “We all might as well take the McKlusky short cut.”

They slid down and Birk made his way up to the road. He reached out to help Clancy up.

“There’s a spot on the other side where we can watch who’s coming up or down the road.”

They dashed across the road to a hillock of bramble bushes. 

“You think we’ll have long to wait?” Tommy asked. “Must be near three bloody o’clock in the morning.”

“Ye missing getting your piece of fun?” Davy said.

They all started to laugh.

“Shh.” Birk said. “I think I hear something.”

The men stilled and held their breath.

“Sounds like motors.” Clancy whispered.

“More than one.” McKlusky said.

The noise got louder. Lights appeared on the road as the vehicles approached.

“That has to be them.” McKlusky stood to look over the bramble.

Birk crept carefully around to get a clear view. He saw at least two set of headlights, then a third.

“What was the plan?” He asked McKlusky. “We jump out and say …”

“This.” McKlusky lit the rag in one of the bottles and tossed into the road in front of the first truck. It arched up and landed at the side of the road, shattered & burst into flame. The three trucks stopped as the flames burned lower and lower.

The tarp cover on the first truck flipped open and troops climbed out.

Another bottle flamed over from the opposite of the road and smashed on the roof of bus in the middle of the cortège. As the kerosene flames spread there was shouting inside the bus. Men shoved each other out the doors. some climbing out the windows.

Birk looked beside him and saw that Tommy wasn’t there. He must have run dashed to the other side while the troops were debarking.

Another bottle flew into the air and landed on the tarp covering the first transport. Two of the soldiers shot in the direction the bottle had come from.

“I said not to shoot.” One of the militia said. He stepped into the headlights of the transport. “This is Corporal Stevens. We are armed and have orders to do what we have to get these men to the colliery.”

“Turn back if you value your lives.” McKlusky shouted back.

“You have been given fair warning.” Stevens signalled his men. “In the air.”

The men discharged their guns into the air. Another bottle arched down on to them. A spotlight on the roof of the first transport’s cab went on and began to play across the trees on either side of the road. A similar light shone from the roof of the third transport.

“Get back in the bus.” Stevens ordered the men. “Nothing more is going to happen.”

Birk kneeled and felt on the ground beneath him and found a stone. He stepped briefly into the light and threw it at the spotlight. It hit the bulb and it flickered out.

“Lower aim.” Stevens ordered.

The troops fired into the bushes on both sides of the road. 

Birk heard a ragged cry from the woods near him. 

“They must have hit Davy Rudenko.” McKlusky said. “You two get to the colliery and tell Gregory what’s happened here.”

“What about Tommy?” Clancy asked.

“He’s already hightailed it back the way we came. I’ll check on Davy.”

There was another round of shots. Bullets hit the dirt at Birk’s feet.

“Let’s get.” Clancy grabbed Birk by the shoulder and started to the wood behind them.

“This way.” Birk nudged him into a different direction to a well-used path that took them directly to Chestnut Street. 

When they got to the colliery Birk quickly explained what had happened. 

“You and Clancy best get back to your place Birk.” Gregory said. “You both stink of kerosine. Wash up as best you can when you get home.”

 

Birk woke to voices at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the second floor. At first he thought it was his mother talking with Sal then he remembered Sal was no longer with them. He rolled to get out of the bed and Clancy was there beside him. When they had gotten to the house it was too late for Clancy to go back to the boarding house without drawing attention to himself.

He got out of the other side of the bed and tip-toed to the door to listen. He recognized Mrs. Franklin’s voice.

“It’s best that you tell anyone who asks that Clancy Sinclair has been boarding with you since he returned.” she was saying. “If they find out it was him who alerted the miners there’ll be hell to pay.”

“Yes. I understand Mrs. Franklin.” he heard his mother say.

Birk got dressed silently and went down stairs.

“She gone?” He asked his mother.

“Yes. She brought Clancy’s kit bag over. That Colonel Strickland is convinced Clancy was spying on him. Davy Rudenko is dead, you know.”

“Yes’m I was there when it happened.” He quickly told her about trying to delay the cortege. 

“That’s why your clothes are hanging on line.” she said. “Yours and his.”

“Yeh. We must have got splashed with those kerosine bombs Jim McKlusky was tossing. We never handled them, Ma.”

“It’s all made a mess more trouble that it avoided.” she poured him a cup of tea. 

“I better take this up to Clancy.” Birk hefted the kitbag, “Or he’ll be coming down the stairs naked.”

“You mean you boys snuck in the house like that!”

“Yep. We were too tired to think beyond making sure our clothes was airing.”

He took the steps to his room two at a time. Clancy was still asleep.

“Getting near 10 m’boy.” Birk shook Clancy by the shoulder. 

“Like old times.” Clancy sat up.

“Here’s your gear. Mrs. Franklin brought over. Colonel Strickland is on your trail. So as of now,  you’ve been here since you got back from the mainland, right?”

“Sure. Any other news from last night.”

“Only what we know already. Davy Rudenko is dead.”

“You decent?” Blackie came into the room

“Yes Da.” Birk stood the closet door way to make room for his father.

“Thanks to the militia those scabs got into the colliery. There was a face off though. Father McTavish come down to try and get the strikers to see sense but he got bashed good on the head. That shut him up.”

“Bashed? That all.” Clancy said. “By one of his own parishioners.” 

“No one know for sure.” Blackie said. “There’s talk of murder though.”

“You mean Davy Rudenko?” Birk said.

“No. One of the new miners was shot out on the road.”

“What!” Clancy pulled a pair of pants out of his kit bag. “None of us had guns. Must have been one of the soldiers that shot him.”

“Don’t matter to BritCan, now does it? They’ll blame the union for everything.”

“Shit.” Clancy said.

“Except the fact that the miners they brought in don’t know what they’re doing. Most of them have never been near a mine in their lives. Most of them were recruited off the street in Halifax and Montreal.”

“Figures.” Birk shook his head.

“They’re sweeping up the yard until the company can get someone in who can teach’em how to wield a pick and rake underground.” 

“And set a blast.” Birk said.

 

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Chapter XXXII Birk Changes Shirts

Coal Dusters

Chapter XXXII

Birk Changes Shirts

The acrid smell of smoke hung in the humid morning air when Birk woke up. He lay on top of the bed to enjoy the gentle breeze that came through the window. Even in just his undershirt and underdraws it had been another night where it was too warm to sleep with covers on. He had woken a couple of times feeling the floor give way beneath his feet. Clancy, with just a pillow case over his behind, was still sleeping on the other side of the bed with his back to Birk.  

Birk could hear his mother in the kitchen downstairs singing, “Bringing in the sheaves. Sowing in the sunshine.” Her voice getting louder each time she sang ‘sheaves’ and ‘sunshine.’ His sisters would join in on ‘sunshine.’

Through the open window he heard people talking on the street. He caught small bits of conversation as they passed. 

“Terrible about that fire.” 

“What ya think the company will do?”

“She run up them stairs faster than a cat on fire.”

He sat up, swung around and reached for his shirt. Even though he had rinsed it before he went to bed it still smelled strongly of the fire. He’d have to leave it on the clothes line for a day or two to let the wind blow the smouldered stench away. The shirt was spotted with little holes where the scattered embers of the fire had showered on him when he ran up and down the stairs to rescue Miss McTavish. Most of the burns were along the shoulders. A few of the holes were large enough for his little finger to poke through.

“Ruin’t” he whispered. He took a clean shirt from the ones hanging on hooks along one wall. He had three other shirts, an old white, dressy one with thin black pinstripes, that Blackie out-grew, which Birk wore for only special occasions; the final one was his usual canvas mine work shirt. It was also hand-me-down from George. The once dark blue canvas was soft and faded pale from all the washings it had had and the patches on the elbows would soon have to be replaced. What was left of the cuffs was beyond repair. At least it didn’t smell so strong of the fire. He put it on and started to do up the mismatched buttons. 

“Come on lazy arse.” He gave Clancy a playful push. 

Unlike Birk, Clancy was happy to sleep in the nude. He was also not shy about being seen completely nude. Clancy rolled to his back. 

“Another day and no dollars.” Clancy stretched his arms to the ceiling.

“Don’t we know it.” Birk pulled on his pants.

“Fishin’s today?” Clancy reached up and pulled Birk on top of him.

“At’s right.” he half-heartedly pushed himself up.

“Feels as if your little feller’s ready to catch something.”

“Yers too.” Birk grinned sheepishly as he rubbed against Clancy. “But we … “ he didn’t want his sisters coming in to find them this way. Bad enough that Clancy was naked. “… better get crackin.”

“Didn’t we bring home enough last night?” Clancy got out of the bed and got dressed.

“Needs something to go with it.”

When Birk came down to the kitchen with his damaged shirt his two sisters sat wide-eyed and silent, staring at him.

“What is it?” he asked them. “I grow anudder head?”

“Mrs. Malone was here.” Maddy said.

“She says you saved a babby from burning up the fire.” Sal said rocking her doll in her arms. “No fire going to burn you up my little one.”

“You said nothing about that last night.” His mother pushed the loaf of bread toward him. 

“Didn’t think much of it.” Birk cut off a slice of the bread and sat at the table. “I ruin’t my shirt in the fire though.”

He handed it to his mother. “You think it can be fixed.”

She took the shirt and held it up the sunlight coming through the window. “I guess I could put a patch on these two big holes but not on all them little ones. Might just as well make a new shirt. Pity as it was good shirt.”

Blackie took the shirt. “Good thing you didn’t catch fire yourself.”

“You think I wants to hear things about my son from folks next door?” His mother twisted his ear.

“Ow! Ma I didn’t think much of it. I had enough of m’mind getting myself in and out of the company store with stuff you. Wasn’t that flour and such enough for you?”

His sisters grabbed at the shirt and each of held a sleeve to her nose to smell it.

“You wore this when you saved that babby?” Sal asked as her eyes grew big.

“Of course he did.” Maddy said looking though the burn holes. “I can see the flames now as they come down on me. Ow! Ow! Ow!” She ducked under the table.

“Ow! Ow! Ow!” Sal echoed as she ducked under the table.

“Let me check your back.” Blackie said. “Time’s I’ve been caught in a flare from the boilers and not seen how burned I was till I laid on m’back.” He began to help Birk unbutton his shirt.

“Not in my kitchen.” His mother pushed them to the back door. “Take him out back. There’ll be sun enough to see better, anyway.”

Before they could go out Clancy came into the kitchen.

“I suppose you know’d all about it, too?” his mother said to Clancy.

“Bout what. Mrs. N?”

“Birk saved a babby.” the two girls said almost in unison. Then began to dance around the kitchen singing. Each holding one the the sleeves of the shirt. “Saved a babby. Saved a babby.”

“Maddy! Sal! Quiet down.” Birk’s mother took the shirt from them. “If’un you tear this up there’ll be no way to fix it.”

“That’s not all he did.” Clancy helped himself to some of the bread. “He saved a gal too. You know, that one from away. Boston.”

“One that lives with the priest, that Father Patrick?” Birk’s mother asked. “That sort always looks to be the centre of things.” She sniffed derisively. 

“Same one.” 

  “Din’ matter to me who she was.” Birk pushed the backdoor open. “Caught her apron skirt on th’door tryin’ to get that babby out of the fire. That’s all. She done the saving. I only got her away from the fire. Let’s go out, Pa I do feel something on m’ shoulders.” 

“Birk, sometimes I feel you have a whole life outside these walls I know nothing about.” His mother said as Birk and Blackie went into the back garden. “Here take this salve out with you. It’ll help with the burns.” She took a glass jar out of the cupboard. She handed it to Clancy. “I uses this when I get a little burn tending the stove.”

Out in the sun Birk fidgeted while his father examined his arms and back in the light. 

“See much?” he asked.

“Lot’s a hair.” Chancy gave a little laugh.

“Yer not too bad.” His Dad said. “A few blisters though …”

“Where the embers didn’t bounce off your hair.” Clancy opened the jar and took a gob of the lotion out. He rubbed it along Birk’s neck. “Worse along here.”

“I’ve had worse sun burns.” Birk flinched as Clancy rubbed the lotion into him. The lotion was a thick petroleum grease that had a slight camphor smell to it. He could feel it cooling his skin here it was rubbed in. 

“Some along here too.” Blackie said, rubbing some of goo into Birk’s forearms. “Sometimes I get so used to the heat I don’t even feel it burn me.”

“I didn’t feel anything at all.” Birk said. “There a spot along here?” He gestured to his lower back.

“Felt nothing? Not even her kiss?” Clancy asked as he rubbed lotion where Birk had indicated. 

“Kiss?” Blackie said.

“That priest’s niece was sure happy to be rescued.” Clancy said. “She threw her arms around Birk and kissed him right on his mouth.” He put the lid back on the jar of salve.

“And crushed the baby?” Birk’s mother was standing on the porch with the two girls.

Sal had wrapped her doll in Birk’s shirt.

“Kissed a girl.” They broke into a song. “Birk kissed a girl.”

“Nothing of the sort happened.” Birk pulled his shirt back on. “She was grateful but the baby’s mother was right there and that Father McTavish. There was no kissin’. Her uncle shook my hand.”

His sisters kept up their chant. “Birk kissed a girl.”

“You stop that.” Birk swung his open hand playfully at them. “Or next time there’s a fire you won’t be getting no candy.”

“Don’t be scared.” Sal said to her doll. “He’s trying to save you.”

“They’re having you on b’y.” His father said.

“Now, here’s something t’eat while you are up there fishin’” His mother plunked his lunch tin on the porch rail. “There tea in the jar. Made fresh with what you saved from the company store.”

Birk flipped the lunch tin open and there was more of the bread, some cheese and a couple of cookies, still warm.

“You ever sleep. Ma?” He bit into one of the cookies.

“This hot, only time to cook is at night. Here’s for you Clancy.”

“Yeh, but you don’t ever sleep Ma.” Birk said. “I can never remember seeing you on the bed.”

“That’s enough of that talk.” she pulled her wooden spoon out of her apron pocket and shook it at him. “I gets rest enough in m’chair in the parlour.”

His mother had an over stuffed armchair in the parlour with a foot stool where she would sit when she had done her chores or when she was waiting for something to finish cooking. The flowered print had worn off from her hands smoothing the sides and the pillows before she sat in it.

His sisters sat on the back porch bench giggling and whispering to Sal’s doll about Birk kissing a girl.

“We best be off.” Clancy said.

“Sky’s clouding over so keep an eye for it.” Blackie warned.

“Yeh. We’ll try to be back before the streets are mud.” Birk said. “Then we can fish for mud suckers.”

“Bring us back a babby if you catch another one.” Maddy said.

“Bet those burns are where her kisses burned you.” Sal said and the two girls burst into laugher.

Birk’s face flushed. “There was no kissin’” He shouted at them and glared at his mother and father.

“Means nothing if there were.” His mother said gently. “Birk they mean nothing by it.”

“Yeah.” Maddy piped up. “Who’d want to kiss a hairy monkey like you anyway.” She grabbed Sal by the hand and the two of them darted into the house. The tail of the shirt caught in the door as it swung closed. His mother frowned as it tore as it was yanked divot the house.

“I know that Ma but still … it was bad enough with George makin’ fun of me. I was doing the right thing, wasn’t I.”

“Of course you were,” Blackie said. “Don’t think we are aren’t proud of you for doin’ it, while others stood around watching.”

“It happened so fast I can scare remember what I did. I saw her up there strolling. I can’t even say if she screamed for help. Did I run up them stairs?” he asked Clancy.

“I don’t know. I wasn’t paying that much attention to you, until I saw you up there with her. Could be you jumped up there from the ground for all I know.”

“Maybe m’ sisters are right that I did let that gal kiss me.”

“She did get your name though. I remember that. Asked who you were after she smothered you with kisses for recusing her.”

“Sounds like your sore because she did ask who m’friend with the bags of flour was?”

“Candy. I had those jars of candy.”

“Doesn’t matter now.” Blackie said. “Today’s another day. We have to figure out what to do now that there’s no store in Castleton to deny us credit.”

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

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Ginsberg


Is Allen Ginsberg taught on any Canadian high-school English course? The most daring poet I remember readings at that time was T.S. Eliot, some Dylan Thomas (more about them later.) Then the rock bomb went off with Bob Dylan, Paul Simon & the like. My first exposure to Ginsburg was via pop music. Only at the time I didn’t know it.

 

It wasn’t until years later when I picked up the City Lights edition of Howl that I realized where Bob Dylan had sprung from. Reviewers mentioned the Kerouac influence but not the Ginsburg. Was it to avoid tainting the new rock God with Ginsburg’s deviant sexuality? No that couldn’t be there was no homophobia is that scene.

I have the massive Collected Poems, Barry Miles’s biography, “Howl” Fifty Years Later, edited by Jason Shinder, plus cds of Ginsberg performing his work. I have read Ginsberg’s direct influence as well: Walt Whitman (more about him later). I am a fan.

I was lead to him via the beatnik connection & reading a Kerouac biography. I knew the famous opening ‘I have seen the best minds’ but was unfamiliar with anything else of his poetry. The Collected Works is a challenging read solely for the quantity but it is worth working through. Not that everything he wrote is a work of genius but it is compelling, emotionally real & his imagery is frequently stunning.

What inspires me about him is that he was only queer though the hippie era at a time when ‘free love’ merely meant men getting as much sex from women as they could. Where there any gay people at Woodstock? At the love-ins? Much of his work is of the moment & about himself in a gentle yet revealing way, frequently very conversational. Some of it is also timeless & reflects things in today’s world that remain true – I have seen the best minds of our times lost to drugs, street violence & cultural genocide. 

end song 

the float of cups and spoons
moons and leaves
wet midnights broken by laugher
left to reflect on the puddles
red sticky slicks that caress the stage
invite the applause of over-hanging gaspers
soon to be disgraced with apologies
wondering not aloud 

what if this isn’t the moment 

to leap up once and for all 

get it over with

no beginnings only ends
only a bar counter to wipe ready
for weary prisoners to stop   rest   gripe
about the fairness of their sentence
how they deserve what they want

and they want it now 

piping hot
heaped dishes of freshly chopped
branches of moon strung stings
to replace the end of things

we all know that end is looming
bigger than 

a pole-dancer’s ass 

that hovers over 

your out-stretched glass

another drop pretty pretty please
please squeeze harder 

we know you can do it
before the song changes
it has to be on that note
the universal choir
chasing clouds of chords around
looking for the car keys put down in a hurry

your car running in the garage
who is in the back seat drifting
as the red slick sends
reflection of spoons to the moon

each prisoner barely turning
in their stools asking
are we up to guessing what comes next 

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every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

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September or October but to be confirmed – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

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

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The Camera Never Lies

Smile

the camera will stay on

it’s for your protection

people will talk

they will question your motivation

they will question my lack of interest

I never meet alone with anyone

no, it’s not being broadcast live

on YouTube Facebook Instagram

 

the camera will stay on

you’ll get used to it quickly

you don’t even see it do you

we’ve learned how to be discreet

we have nothing to hide

do we

 

this is to maintain transparency 

so our being together

can’t be misunderstood 

even by one another

I don’t want to face a charge

of sexual harassment

of guilt by association

 

 

the camera will remain on

it is always on

there is one where ever I go

I have no faith in the people

everyone is eager to misunderstand

any innocent cue

have a nice day

becomes an insult 

to someone’s sense of propriety 

so this is being documented

to assure each of us of legal protection 

there will be no grounds 

for doubt for equivocation

the camera will remain on

 

this is the state we have come to

privacy is only for those

who have something to hide

and we have nothing to hide

not even from each other 

are you ready for your mug shot

This piece is an almost ‘ripped from the headlines’ response to the atmosphere of paranoia that has developed around language, how looks can be interpreted, how a smile can be misrepresented as a sexual threat. Police wearing body cams to establish what is happening – when they work – then spinning what is recorded into not being what happened but merely what your eyes are misinterpreting. 

Eye-witnesses, even camera eye-witnesses- end up doubting what they saw or aren’t at fault for what they saw because their vision is clouded by cultural assumptions – ‘it’s not my fault skin-color has been weaponized.’ Yes the camera is becoming de rigueur – security cameras everywhere for our protection, at least when it suits someone’s purpose.

If it shows those in control in a bad light we are invading their privacy; if it shows us in a bad light we have no right to privacy. Their is no such thing as privacy anymore anyway. If someone succeeds in being so off grid there is not electronic trace of them anywhere good luck on getting health insurance, a car license, an airplane ticket, out of jail ever.

As the piece says ‘privacy is only for those who have something to hide.’ Just as the current president of the usa about his past and it’s an invasion of his privacy but he has nothing to hide, at least nothing that can’t be denied regardless of the new reel footage of him being there etc. That wasn’t him. Transparency – even when we can see through him there’s no culpability.

Cameras are everywhere. I’ve known some people who cover their built-in computer cameras with duct tape. How do they their turned off cell phones are relaying their conversations to the authorities? Why turn your phone off if you have nothing to hide?

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On Line = Life?

For a few days this past winter, thanks to local power outages & some Rogers down issue I had no Internet access. One local coffee shop was Bell, whew, so I squeezed in 20 minutes there but …. what I realized was how life has become so immeshed in the web. I was addicted. I can’t imagine my daily life without it, really.26brownbox01It’s the grid for my daily routines, I eat breakfast while checking email & posting my various blogs. Check for what I refer to as ‘nibbles’ on carefully selected gay cruising sites, check the weather one last time before I go out for my morning walk. I do not have a smart phone so there’s no distractions from my taking photos to post on my blog. Check for email to cool down when I get home. You get the picture. Nearly all the music I buy is downloaded, same for ebooks, same for guys I meet, same for tee-shirts, underwear – one click & it/he’s here eventually.26brownbox02August has been an unusually good month, so far, for my TOpoet.ca blog. There was an unexpected spike in interest for a couple of weeks where I was getting up to 50 hits a day. Many for home page/archives which is pretty general – then the bulk of them for old posts: the most for There Was The Word, plus some for Racism or Slut Shaming; Creature From The Porn Lagoon. It was as if someone had put a link up somewhere to lead people here.26whitebox03These are all actually clicks to that post. No likes or comments – but you have to be a WP member to do either of those things, I think. It’s gratifying to see those old posts looked at, they are ones that certainly represent me perfectly as a queer writer. Sadly this hasn’t resulted in any new followers though 😦 After some time on WordPress I’ve finally passed the 150 subscribers point. Some that I follow have accumulated thousands of followers in less time. But I haven’t done any real promotion (i.e. tweets that say please please follow me & I’ll follow you) & figure those people who follow me do so because they want to follow me in specific.26glassnbox04Things that I once thought might bump hits have in fact produced next to nothing – I get more likes on twitter for the link to my WordPress than I get hits on my WordPress. Same holds true for having a twitter retweet of that link, or getting included in someone ‘curated’ online newspaper. I guess a low-profile is better than no profile 🙂

sample

Crush

the crops were good

in the years after the war

the fields were rich

with the fallen

buried deep

very deep

that was the secret

to avoid pestilence

disease

the fallen were buried deep

so deep

no one knows their names

no one remembers the war

or how many years it took

before the decay

enriched the soil

recreated the world we live in

the earth we walk on

they will be remembered and forgotten

at the same time

the way it should be

to all challengers of decency

they become our history

dust

our world

is built on this dust

this decay

of what has fallen

crushed under the weight of time

forgotten

by the piling up of more

by the importance of now

all those wasted products of the past

slowly dissolved

first to be discarded

then names to be erased

with so much recorded

there is no one with the time to recall

to read about

to dig for these bones

not while

so much more needs to be planted

needs to be grown

reinventing is easier

than resurrection

the enemy changes

but it is never us

we’re too busy buryingsoon02

cover170x170-1on going 🙂 when new podcast are posted:  Deliciously iTunes

October  6 – Thursday Toronto, 8 pm, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.

et

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November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo

nanobullseye

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December – Thursday Dec 1st – Toronto, 8 pm, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.divine

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6DC0301

Early 2017:

my first local feature in over a year: location date TBA

it came in

April season 3 FINALS – Friday April 15th Buddies in Bad Times – early show – 7pm startgames

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June 2-4: attending: Capturing Fire 2017 –

newcap

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check out these poets from Capturing Fire 2015: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx5KD1eDccdjdTdQ28kZRNg

money

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All My #Followers

After just over four years my WordPress ‘followers’ has finally hit 100 – when I see some whom I follow with upwards of 10,000 followers I wonder what I’m doing wrong – not enough nudes, vulgarity, positivity, negativity? Or perhaps what I’m doing right – by, usually, not worrying about #’s.redbird01

The low number means people have chosen to follow the blog because they want to not excuse they follow everyone who follows them then never looks at the posts – like friending & hiding people on FB or muting them on Twitter. redbird02

As much as I’d love to have 5,000 followers I’m not willing to the the work to attract them beyond what I do now. Writing, performing & registering at events as TOpost.ca is enough of a push for me to maintain. It’s been hard enough to get show hosts to actually refer to me as TOpoet.ca or just plain TOpoet. When they do they act as if it’s some sort of joke & want to know my real name. I tell them follow my blog for the real name. They never do.redbird03

It’s like people who want to know the real poet or the true person to demonstrate their own depth of sensitivity & perception. These are the ones who confuse the ‘I’ of a poem with the person who wrote it. TOpoet is not a confessional poet even hen he writes about himself. It’s as if I’m less authentic as a writer & person because I’ve ‘branded’ myself. I guess only trans people have the privilege of changing their names & remaining authentic and the same time 🙂memirror

Thanks for following this shallow inauthentic writer and sometimes hitting the like button & even going so far as to re-post me. The real ‘I’ appreciates it.wp2016

samp03

Bird

I didn’t think one bird

could make so much noise

protecting a nest somewhere

in one of the mall lighting poles

a cowling stuffed

with plastic bags coffee cups lost gloves

a home for eggs chicks

 

this bird wasn’t chirping

it wasn’t a caw or a quack

a raw short harsh bark

the feathers were dusty black

glints of green as it darted

at car windows   side mirrors

wings fluttering

its beak struck at reflections

chasing people to their car

then flapping to sit

on the handle of a shopping cart

victorious preening ruffled feathers

eyes agleam

 

as I parked it was on a car roof

gobbling up bits of a donut

predigesting them for that nest I supposed

are trans fats healthy for birds

maybe that was why it was so aggressive

too much sugar not enough roughage

just what the world needs

another constipated enraged fiend

eager to peck your eyes out

for looking at it the wrong way

 

I opened car door a crack

its black pearl eyes were on me

one raspy shriek talons stretched

it landed on my windshield

shitting a white smear

as the nails scrabbled to take hold

it pulled itself upright

with a shake and glared at me

another car pulled in

the beast flew to it

I got out and rushed to the mall

 

when I returned the bird was gone

a few feathers stuck to my car hood

I got a rag out of the trunk

alert to make sure

I wasn’t about to be attacked

I could hear cars engines   doors slamming

 

I drove to the exit I saw it

crushed

I pulled over

the bird was dead

my tears too late for protection

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birds

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The Witch

sampleThe Witch

the witch that is my name

cartwheels over the city

clowns around when there is nothing

here to laugh at

when there are only tears to spill

to dampen the grave dust grace

of lost stars and missed chances

you aren’t the only one

needing to be charmed back to wetness

not the only one who had lost his day

in the night of frustrations and distrust

not the only one who thinks

the witch that is my name

can do more that any one name

can possibly do

besides

you don’t believe in fairy tale stuff

there are no happy blending

no shuffled coils

that can ever lead you back

to the safety of the tomb

the witch that is my name

cannot remove the pain

that creeps into your bones

that leaves you feeling

like a ghost without a skin

cannot move you along this path

any farther than you are now

but will not sit around with you either

there are floors to be swept

things to be undone

the witch that is my name

flies around blind alleys

with the same discomfort as any other

lost hankering figment

the blood in my veins hurts for you

takes me where I least expect to be

and leaves me the word

the unutterable word

that cannot help anyone

that cannot bring comfort to anyone

but me

cannot replace your skin

cannot take your place

the witch that is my name

has been divested of all power

except the power you give yourself

rencon01

This month I’m looking back to the pieces of mine that were published in the first Renaissance Conspiracy anthology in 2004. All of them under went the Conspiracy workshopping then a group selection process to pick out the ‘best’ for the several poems each of us submitted. Peer review that was a fun experience.

cage01

cage in the rain

This piece was inspired by a line in a poem I had read – the line went something like ‘the wind that is my memory’ I sprung from the structure to the witch etc. I straddle this balance between abstract and concrete, surreal with emotionally grounded.

I let the language riff on cliches: ‘happy blending,’ ‘safety of the tomb.’ Allusions to witchy stuff abound – ‘grave dust’ ‘charmed’ ‘ghost.’ The group loved the line ‘ghost without a skin.’

cage02

cage in the rain

The true in this poem is that I have had people tell me that sometimes when they get caught up in distress or difficult decisions they think ‘What would Duncan say?’ Hence the witch that is my name does a calming magic in their lives for a few moments.

cage03

cage in the rain

I pushed the emotion into a meditation on how I feel about being that witch – as flattering as it might be know the thought of me helps people it also creates a sense of responsibility I don’t seek. It’s not as if I don’t need that sort of energy in my life too. In the end I know I am merely a symbol for them and that the power is one they invest in my name is one that they can invest in themselves as well.

cage