We enjoyed a highly romantic Valentine’s Day. Snowed in, my beloved kindly brought dinner; homemade butter chicken, aloo ghobi and rice. It’s a blessing, spending time with a fellow foodie/sensualist.
I’m reading Eavan Boland’s inspirational Journey With Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet, thinking about my relationship to my father. Or, fathers.
“And he, the supremely important and attended-to presence.” Despite all their conflicts my mother treated my father that way, always providing the lion’s share. In return he belittled her. And largely ignored his daughters, until angered. “Standing over their statements, their promises. Looking up at them every morning, I felt like what I was, what I would always be: a daughter.”
That resonates. I still feel that way, all these years later. Hence the following poems. Dear old Dad’s been on my mind lately. Haunting me. Father hunger? So many of us are afflicted. I’ve worked hard to accept that I will never win his approval. C’est la vie.
Our ruthlessly peculiar family
reached its zenith
by conquering ten years
of inertia, indecision and delays
to leave the sun struck flatlands
with ninety-three bucks
and several shreds of dignity.
A mountaineer cannot be confined
to the wide-open prairie,
he must ascend
those fabled Goliaths,
made to see over
but dammit his daughters
must see them,
nay, live in them,
for them, as he did.
A day later the Rockies
emerged from the horizon
shrouded in their immortal grandeur.
Hours later, in a squall
and far from our coastal destination,
the loaded down station wagon
broke down at the top of Rogers Pass.
Dad steadily made his way
through a maw
of flying snow and frozen scree
to the nearest settlement.
We, snivelling, huddled
our skinny girl bodies together
in a nest of blankets and parkas,
blissfully unaware of the lives
mountains take via avalanches,
fern concealed crevasses, hypothermia.
His landing in a bantam mining town
provided a foothold of two years,
working to pay off the motel bill,
squirrel away savings for the final lag
of our journey to Vancouver,
its peaks and a new chapter of peril.
MY FATHER’S CHURCH
The four of us hiked together
nearly every Sunday
regardless of season
though we didn’t call it hiking,
we called it going for a drive.
A drive could involve fishing,
prospecting, duck hunting,
huckleberry or hazelnut picking,
a frozen pond. Lungs shivering,
ice-skates anchored my flighty mind,
my sisters’ willowy limbs.
A drive could involve cutting
down a hemlock for firewood,
near misses with black bears and logging trucks.
To our delight, Dad would carve whistles
out of mountain ash then wince at the racket,
much the way he cringed
whenever I pointed to shiny pebbles
and shouted, “Gold!”
“Fool’s gold.” “They’re still pretty.”
Once I found porcupine quills on the forest floor,
foolishly jabbing them into my thigh
instead of placing them in my pocket.
As determined as I was to pull them out
by myself I could not, astonished to discover
that those buggers truly are barbed!
Embarrassed and dreading his contempt
I said nothing the entire ride home
where I was forced to announce
the unbearable pain with a yelp,
promptly removed with pliers.
I don’t recall anger.
My father was at peace
in the woods.
“Honesty is not synonymous with truth.”-Vera Parmiga, The Departed
This book took a long time to write and the road to publication, arduous. I can’t recall exactly when I started but my son was around 6 or 7 and he is now 20. If I hadn’t been homeschooling a child with special needs, no doubt it would have taken less time but I often got discouraged and shelved it for years at a time. Finally in 2010 I went to Sage Hill Writing Experience to be mentored by award winning playwright and novelist Terry Jordan. I completed the manuscript. Then spent a couple of years, or wasted a couple of years, dealing with an agent who seemed to think the story was YA, and a publishing company in utter tumult until finally I got fed up and in punk fashion, went DIY. In feminist fashion, I will not be denied, set up Howe Sound Publishing and released The Town Slut’s Daughter on Amazon.
Seems to be a dirty word these days but this dialogue is an example of some of the book’s feminist ideals:
Fiona threw down three tickets to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre emblazoned with Hit Someone You Love.
“Great!” said Rita. “What’s with all the misogyny? I thought the scene was supposed to be so egalitarian.” She grabbed the kettle. “Well, I suppose it is if you happen to be young, white and male.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t go.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t. Who is Transformer Productions, anyway?”
“I don’t know. Never heard of them. But it’s a great bill. Rabid, Pointed Sticks, SubHumans, K-Tels.” Angus was a hero for digging up a new venue, O’Hara’s, a derelict nightclub on the pier at the foot of Main. Fiona’s dad remembered it from when he was a young buck roaming the streets. “I wanna go. We gotta see the K-Tels.”
“Okay. Okay. We’re doing our bit to fight sexism, right? We play electric guitars.”
Rock-including punk rock- is a boys club.
A lot of the discussion around my book concerns whether it’s autobiographical or not, which I find irritating. Isn’t that inferring that I’m not capable of using my imagination? To invent? Well, writing is vexing on many levels but I don’t understand all this post modern fuss over genre. As hot as memoir is, I didn’t write a memoir because honestly, my life is not that exciting. And I maintain there is more truth in fiction. It grants one freedom. Maybe I’m a coward, for I do hide behind fiction, wear it like a veil, but it is also liberating. Though the The Town Slut’s Daughter is based on my life experiences-which grants it authenticity-the majority of the story is feigned. I can say unequivocally that I am not Fiona and Fiona is not I. (I fear she is smarter than I am. ) If you want reality, read my blog, One Life, at heatherhaley.com wherein I stated, “Our hunger for realism, hence the reality show phenomenon, and rise of the documentary fuel such expectations, pressure, to write a memoir. I never doubted my instincts, knew I was framing narrative within a novel. Works for me. Autobiographical novel also seems a contradiction in terms. Truth is relative and “honesty is not synonymous with truth.” Let the critics and pundits postulate ad nauseum, I need to focus on process.
I’ve taken an approach similar to EL Doctorow in Ragtime by blending real people and events with characters and things I’ve made up. As I told writer friend Justine Brown the other day, I chose to keep many of the band names because it would be difficult to conjure up better ones. DOA, Dead Kennedys, Dishrags, Subhumans, Devices, Rabid, Pointed Sticks, Young Canadians, and the Zellots, which was my first and all-female group-are portrayed along with various real life events. This scene is based upon the first time the Clash played Vancouver, at the Commodore. I idolized them and so did most of my punk rock comrades. We were thrilled to say the least. By the way, though the novel is in third person, we often we hear directly from Fiona, eves dropping in on her thoughts and feelings in first person. From part one-Girls With Guitars-it could have been titled Punk Rockers in Love. Not!
Does he do this she wondered? Conjure up last night, the things we did, feel an after-shudder? Waiting to see Emmett Hayes, was . . . agony! Fiona couldn’t eat. Think straight. Gawd I hate this! Half an hour late. Again. She diddled her guitar, scanned a book, traipsed back and forth to the fridge, swinging wildly between anger and anxiety. Why doesn’t he call? That dink! She could have gone with Rita and Shannon. She could have spent her hard earned cash on something besides a new silk bra and panties. That bastard. Then, still cursing, Fiona heard his obnoxious Porsche engine out front and relief coursed through her limbs. She barely resisted the urge to run to the car.
“Sorry I’m late,” he mouthed, the Clash’s I Fought the Law blasting from his Blaupaunkts. “Did you hear? The Clash came out and played soccer with us!”
“Yeah! Who won?”
“They did, of course. My shins are covered in bruises.”
Emmett yarded on the gears pinball wizard style. Soon they were pelted with fat raindrops. He pulled over immediately to put the top up. They cruised the block repeatedly in search of the safest parking spot for his precious steed of steel. At last they entered the fading art deco grandeur of the Commodore Ballroom, Emmett waving tickets at the doorman, breezing by security like a diplomat. Christ. He must have been left under a cabbage by mistake.Emmett surveyed the room, refusing Fiona’s hand.
“Fuck! Look at all the poseurs.”
Fiona spied Dennis across the room, stomach tilting at the reproach in his face. A young woman in a booth flanking the stage sat sneering.
“Emmett, who’s that girl glaring at us?”
He ignored the question, wandered off, Fiona following.
The Clash had an excellent DJ spinning a killer mix of ska, punk, reggae and dub. Fiona waved to Shannon and friends. The place was jammed with every die-hard in the city, slam dancing on its famous ballroom floor, originally designed to make any clodhopper hoof it like Fred Astaire. The Commodore had character all right and it was the perfect size. Fiona hated arena shows. The Dishrags opened. It was inspiring to watch fellow females wailing on guitar. They finished with a blazing rendition of London’s Burning. Next up, Bo Diddley. Emmett said the Clash brought the old guy along as a way to pay homage to one of rock and roll’s originators. Fiona shrugged.
“I’m too young for nostalgia.”
Unfortunately, the Powder Blues were his pickup band, old fart-guitar god wannabes and though playing with a legend, forced everyone to sit through a long, boring wank session.
“Fuck this. I wanna see the Clash!” Fiona was not alone in her sentiments.
Shannon walked over and pulled her aside. “See that girl? That’s Electra. One of Emmett’s girlfriends. He told her he was bringing her tonight.”
“Electra! Sounds like an Italian scooter.”
“She’s weird. Really mad, says she’s gonna beat the crap out of you.”
Laughing, they walked over to Emmett. He lowered his drink, deigned to look at them, insisting he hadn’t invited anyone but Fiona. Clouds of tension were gathering on the dance floor as well, burly security guards manning the barriers. Finally, the Clash emerged, a tidal wave of bodies surging forward, the band opening with I’m So Bored With the U.S.A, Emmett off the hook. For now.
Beer. You only rent it. Fiona ran to the bathroom between songs, in and out of a stall quickly. Electra appeared, strutted over and squinted up into Fiona’s face like a Pekinese.
“Hey bitch! Keep your paws off Emmett or I will kill you.”
Looking around, Fiona laughed. “Where’s the hidden camera? Hey, Eeeelectraaaa. I think you’d better stay away from Emmett.”
“Wanna fight about it?”
“Hah! I could squish you like a bug. Fuck off! This ain’t junior high, you know.”
What Electra lacked in size, she made up for in attitude, fueled by four-inch stilettos, garters, fishnets, black leather mini skirt, all of which had nothing to do with punk and everything to do with Emmett.
Electra spit at her. Missing her target—Fiona’s face—the gob splatted onto her clavicle. Fiona looked down. Nearly blind with fury, she handily hoisted Electra up by the lapels. Shannon barged in. Fiona slammed Electra into the wall, back of her head banging the paper towel dispenser. Electra yelped.
“You bitch. You fucking whore!”
Shannon grabbed Fiona by the arm. They walked out dogged by the undaunted Lilliputian. Fiona barreled over to Emmett.
“What were you thinking?”
“I told you! I didn’t ask her. She just assumed.”
Wee Electra was at the bar again, glowering.
“Get lost, you skanky broad!” Emmett hollered at her.
Snotty pose pierced like a balloon, Electra flumped away, people laughing in her wake.
“God Emmett you’re an asshole!”
“Hey, I brought you. What do you care?”
“I care because it’s the same way you treat me. Like shit!”
“Fuck this!” He walked away in a huff.
Fuck this all right! Fighting tears, determined to revel in this night to remember, Fiona formed two fists and shoved her way through the crowd, jabbing, elbowing, bashing. She glanced back. Emmett gone. Naturally. Though the faces on the floor were familiar, the horde formed one huge alien, reeking of stewed leather and body heat, Clash so loud they cloaked the clamor of thumping heart, roaring blood. Fiona was rammed. Hard. She heard the wind go out of her lungs, body boxed about as if by bulls. She slipped, nearly going down, floored by the vision of her fractured skull ground into the boards by dozens of tightly laced combat boots.I am too black in the heart to fall! She carved a line out of the crush to the foot of the stage, stared up at Simonon. He was perfect—angled cheekbones, mouth gaping open like a Lego-focused kid, long, lean muscles. An art student apparently, before hitching up with the Clash, couldn’t play a note till Mick Jones taught him. Like John Lennon. Must be a British thing, that link between art school and rock. So why did I let Trent talk me out of art school? Oh my God. Simonon! He’s looking right at me! Got a girlfriend, according to Shannon, some tart who writes for NME. Strummer strained against his Telly, snaking the mike stand with his body. Tossing his guitar onto his back, he leaned over the crowd, ranting, railing.Loose-kneed Mick Jones was running, leaping, boinging all over the stage, carving out notes with an axe, his golden Gibson Les Paul. Goofy booster Dennis vaulted onto the stage during Career Opportunities, ricocheting off amps and various Clash members, security goons giving Keystone Cops chase. Strummer even let Dennis commandeer the mike and bray out the chorus with him, Fiona feeling a twinge of envy.
Crashed and burned? 2012’s Year of the Water Dragon’s attending happiness and success? Where did it go? I was really hoping to turn things around. 2011 sucked. It’s my bad fortune to report that my hard drive crashed. Yep, that’s the state of the union and all I’ve been dealing with for nearly two weeks; fallout. Here’s what happened. My 90 pound Staffy SamIAm walked into my laptop, knocking it off the ottoman in my office. Turns out I didn’t have any proper backups, only thought I did! So now, though financially strapped, have to figure out a way to pay for data retrieval, if it’s retrievable.
*sigh* It seems everybody has to go through this at least once. I’ve been entering data, computing, since ’89, owned a personal computer since ’90 and on the Internet since ’93, web authoring, as it was referred to. This has never happened to me. I’ve been lucky. It feels like I’ve lost a limb. All my files, photos, drivers, tabs, documents, bookmarks, email addresses, correspondence, poetry, songs, videopoems, art, gone! It’s devastating. What else is there to say about it? Oh yeah, learn from my mistake and make sure your hard drive is backed up! Anything can happen, including big assed dogs.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like. I wasn’t raised by wolves—wolves aren’t innately cruel—but suffice to say, my parents were ill educated and culturally challenged. Normal, far as I knew. Far from a priority, art was not even a concept in our home. A queen of blarney, my mother weaved elaborate tales and collected “ornaments.” Skilled with his hands, my jack-of-all-trades father hawked carvings while stationed in the Yukon with the RAF, identifying himself as a woodworker or carpenter. I think we all harbour an inner artist. Still, I was decidedly the family freak. Determined to honour my writing, to finally take it seriously, find discipline and seek inspiration, I’ve been reading biographies and watching documentaries, most recently C. Scott Willis’ The Woodmans, about a shining young photographer named Francesca Woodman, who committed suicide in 1981 by jumping off a building. Interestingly, that’s right around the time I was living in New York, starting out as a musician. An artist. It was brutal. I got out, made my way back to the west coast. And in an aside, interesting, isn’t it, the similarity in our poses above, the choice of iconography, me with my acorns, Francesca with her birch bark.
I just read an article in the Huffington Post by Yashar Ali called A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not “Crazy”which posits, “It’s a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don’t refuse our burdens easily. It’s the ultimate cowardice.”
I call the practice crazy making and portray it in my novel but this guy calls it gaslighting, after the film Gaslight. Remember how Ingrid Bergman’s husband tries to drive her nuts by deliberately setting the gaslights to flicker, convincing her she’s just seeing things. Ali makes an apt analogy. “You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive. You’re overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You’re crazy! I was just joking, don’t you have a sense of humor? You’re so dramatic. Just get over it already! Sound familiar? If you’re a woman, it probably does. Do you ever hear any of these comments from your spouse, partner, boss, friends, colleagues, or relatives after you have expressed frustration, sadness, or anger about something they have done or said? When someone says these things to you, it’s not an example of inconsiderate behavior. When your spouse shows up half an hour late to dinner without calling — that’s inconsiderate behavior. A remark intended to shut you down like, “Calm down, you’re overreacting,” after you just addressed someone else’s bad behavior, is emotional manipulation, pure and simple. And this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It’s patently false and unfair.”
And sad but true! So true. I suspect some men engage in such tactics in order to feel superior, in control. My gal pal Mahara pointed out they do it because it works. Certainly, it has shut me down on far too many occasions. We aim to please, we women, though I have always spoken the truth, damn the consequences. Been true to myself, despite the constant pressure to be a nice girl. A good girl. Behave. Here’s hoping Mr. Ali’s column can help spread awareness of the problem. Women are tired of being on the defensive. Another friend complained the message has more impact coming from a man. It isn’t the least bit fashionable to be a feminist these days, but at least we’ve got one in our corner, a useful male engine.
The long goodbye . . . I am slowly saying goodbye to this place that I love, a little bit more each day. Times are tough all over and we may be forced to Continue reading →
In a funk. Big time. Times are tough. Brutal. Interesting. Pondering human desire, nothing logical about it. Feeling guilty for feeling depressed. Funny how that works. I’m such a barometer of the times. Suck it up though 2011 sucks. Yeah, the boogie man’s gone but we all know Bin Laden’s death hardly provides a solution. *sigh* So uninspired. Spring fever? What spring? Interminable winter, so cold, I neglected to bring in the bear-attracting bird seed. They’re up from hibernation early this year, as last season wasn’t a good one for berries. I looked out my kitchen window the other day to see our friendly neighbourhood black bear raiding the feeder. They are incredibly agile, despite their massive paws, claws. He handily pulled the pole down and emptied both containers. I put it all in storage, haven’t seen him since. I posted this picture on Facebook and was surprised by the reaction; much fear mongering talk of bear attacks. Sure, it’s within the realm of possibilities, but if I couldn’t co-exist with bears, I’d live the city. I’m more afraid of people.
Maybe my agitation is due to metamorphosis. I’d like to shed a skin, or two. Spread my wings. I read somewhere that “when a creature first emerges from a cocoon, it can feel useless. It is neither what it once was, nor is it fully what it is about to become. It feels lost, bemused, more as if something has been taken from it than something has been given.” That’s me lately; useless. Bemused, but emerging from dormancy, hibernation.
And the sun’s out today, warmer temperatures predicted, the Canucks winning. I’m singing and playing guitar and the boys took me out for dinner. I think the flu and the worst of my allergies may be abating. And I have my birds. Always. I put out the hummingbird feeder and a pair of Rufous buzzed over immediately. In my Vancouver hotel room last week, I sat by the window, eating lunch, admiring the view when a seagull landed on the railing. He lingered, motionless, until I decided to share, put a leftover oatmeal cookie on the balcony. They have snow white feathers, eyes the colour of beets and purple feet. Radiant really, though we don’t usually think of them with any admiration, probably because they’re scavengers. I was astonished at his nimble beak, how he picked up every tiny speck of crumb. Resourceful. Tough. No, I’m not complaining. I have nothing to complain about.
The Blogoshphere. I’ve heard some bloggers refer to it as such. One intimated that it was a clan of sorts and my writing had better be good enough. Obviously, she doesn’t know me very well. I think web logs are like the rest of the internet, as varied, unruly and undomesticated as its users and prowlers. Everyone gets in, regardless of race, religion, caste or education; precisely what is exciting about the internet. Its inherent democracy and populism is its nature. After all these years, it is still a wilderness, even amidst the rampant advertising. What you find is often astounding. Yeah, I know there’s a lot of garbage too but you’re on your own there, wading through and discerning what is pertinent. What is pertinent to me is what my blog is about, which is why I dubbed it One Life. My life, which is as significant as any other. “All life is holy.” Charles Darwin or Ed Ricketts? Neither? I will have to track down the source of that quote. Speaking of wilderness, here are some excerpts from the travel journal I kept during my recent trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands. I fear I am still under their spell, which might explain why I’m having some difficulty getting back into the swing of things. Continue reading →
I know. This is bad. No entries for weeks! My only excuse and the bane of my existence this time of year, is Christmas. Ugh. It takes over my life every holiday season no matter how hard I try to avoid its demands on my time and psyche. I know I’m not alone in dreading the annual holiday tide. Christ, it’s long. I swear it begins earlier every year. Retailers start in with the Christmas music right after Halloween. People start shopping and talking about Christmas in November, by early December they’re having their obligatory office parties and by Christmas eve I’m so sick of the whole thing, I just want to fly away like a red-nosed reindeer. This quote pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter. “If I had been the Virgin Mary, I would have said No.”–Stevie Smith. Or, “Happy Fucking Holidays” and I think a lot of people must say that. By the way, don’t virgins always say “No?”
We were all quite ambivalent this year. It was *magical* for me as a child but that is tempered by memories of drunken uncles fighting or falling on the tree and my parents being more broke than usual for months afterward. So the three of us debated but couldn’t agree on whether to have a tree or not. Finally Josef decided he did–Oh Tannenbaum–and so went out and procured one. A lot of work to put up but I have to admit, it looks and smells divine and we can let it rot on our woodpile in the back acre. I think next year we should buy a live one and plant it post-Christmas. At any rate, we just moved in August and this was to be our first Christmas in the new house. We had been planning a bohemian-themed gathering, with absinthe and exquisite corpses and finally had the opportunity to host it around the weekend of the winter solstice. Think we had this party and focused on it as a way to bypass some of the holiday madness but it caught up with us a few days later as we scrambled to get gifts for the children in our lives at the very least, and then wrapping, cooking, and on and on. We did have the pleasure of celebrating New Year’s eve in Whislter with my best friend Cathy at her fantastic new house that took nearly four years to build.
Been scanning old photographs and I suppose melancholia is an archiving hazard. What would I remember if not for these photos? They are precious indeed. As a child I must have learned to disassociate as a way to cope with physical abuse. Numbness becomes second nature, so transparent that I could not see this tendency in myself, or ability, depending how you look at it, the ability to remain untouched by pain and fear. You become untouchable even in the midst of a beating. You ultimately lose touch with reality though, become passive. Loss is the key word here. You lose recall and thusly, your memories. It’s not as if I can’t remember anything as my sisters claim, but many things remain obscure. Safer that way. I wish there was a way to retrieve it, all the life experience I am seemingly not in possession of. It belongs to me and I want it back. My past. I have no idea how to achieve that or if it’s even possible.
Coincidence? A sign perhaps? While considering using “Sky Busting” as the title for my new collection of verse I often find myself leaning out a window to take photographs of clouds in motion and the ever-changing tableau. I refuse to put up a curtain in the bathroom because I want to stand in the centre of my room and see only trees and sky. We can traipse around in the nude if so inclined. We have a long driveway to clear when it snows but that’s the trade-off for the privacy we enjoy.
“Sky busters” are yahoos that take long shots at ducks or geese. It’s noisy, obnoxious plus a big waste of ammunition and game. I suppose I’m drawing parallels between ignoramuses and terrorists that bomb the sky with planes. Too big of a stretch. Another aspect I’m agonizing over. A lot of the poems in this collection are about travel and post 9/11 dread and guilt. (Nearly typed “post 9-1-1!”) I’ve been agonizing over everything: word choice, line length, structure, poem groupings/order, the title! I was becoming very ineffective, burning out but the manuscript needs narrative authority. I have sent it to my fellow poet and friend and editor, Heidi Greco who is going to provide her proofing skills and input.
I’ve experimented a fair bit with this outing, writing my first real concrete poem, “my mountain” but I have two versions! Neither is perfect because I don’t know Word well enough to manipulate the text properly. I think you need to be a graphic artist though I know poets have traditionally done it themselves. In any case, one is too small and the other looks more like a tree than a mountain but at least the type is readable. Will have to sort that out somehow.
What is this thing I have with birds? I dreamed the other night of a creature in my house that morphed from a hawk into a boy.
Recently I visited the GoGirls music website and forum in an attempt to find information on label support. It’s difficult to find labels that produce and promote spoken word that is not hip-hop. I like hip-hop but it’s not what I do. I wasn’t expecting much, got a few leads that went nowhere and one very condescending reply with a lot of unsolicited advice. I ignored it and in short order was pleasantly surprised to hear from a woman named Pam Southwell of RPW Records. A Canadian! She lives in BC, near Vancouver. Must ask her what RPW stands for. She had listened to the tracks from my forthcoming AURAL HEATHER cd posted at my website and said she was impressed with their innovation and would like to meet with me to discuss working together. Continue reading →