About the Author Michael Turner

Michael Turner

Michael Turner was born in North Vancouver, B.C. in 1962 and spent his teenage summers working in the Skeena River salmon fishery. After high school, he travelled through Europe and North Africa, eventually to the University of Victoria, where he completed a BA (anthropology) in 1986. Between 1987–1993 he sang and played banjo in Hard Rock Miners; upon his retirement from touring, he opened the Malcolm Lowry Room (1993–1997). His first book, Company Town (1991), was nominated for a Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. His second book, Hard Core Logo, was adapted to feature-film. Kingsway (1995), American Whiskey Bar (1997), The Pornographer’s Poem (1999) and 8x10 (2009) followed. A frequent collaborator, he has written scripts with Stan Douglas, poems with Geoffrey Farmer and songs with cub, Dream Warriors, Fishbone and Kinnie Starr. He blogs at this address mtwebsit@blogspot.com.

Books by this Author
8 X 10

8 X 10

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Excerpt

1
By the time he was sixteen his thighs had become so developed from speed skating his father had to make his trousers for him. These were the days when trousers were pants, made of denim or twill. Fashionable pants fit tight at the waist and loose below the knee, where they flared like muskets, swallowing the clogs that were also in fashion.

The pants were called bell-bottoms, and they were made by the newer companies, the most popular brand having an explosion on the right back pocket. Older companies remained competitive, but they serviced the uniforms of bikers and greaseballs–those who preferred their legs straight, their pants jeans.

With money saved from his paper route, he purchased a denim pair, asking that they be let out here, he pointed, and here, too, Dad.

His father bundled up the denims and left for work.

That evening, while preparing supper, something caught his eye. His first thought was to collapse, curl up in a ball, like he did as a kid when his father came at him.

He turned to find his father hovering in the hallway. His father had been doing that a lot lately–hovering–and it was beginning to get on his nerves.

Hey, Dad.

His father stepped forward, unfurled the denims.

He did his best to look thankful. His father had taken material from the bottom of the legs and reapplied it to the tops, thus defeating the purpose of bell-bottoms.

The next time he bought bell-bottoms he took them apart himself. Using newspaper, he made a pattern, then added the inches needed.

Again he showed his father, and again his father left for work. Only this time, instead of alterations, his father returned with a modified version of the template: stovepipes, not bell-bottoms.

As before, he did his best to look thankful.

He knew his father was frustrated, so he asked if he could help. Together they would make his pants.

His father nodded.

By day’s end, both men were satisfied. The only things missing were the pockets.

His father picked up some scraps and began cutting.

Let’s just use the store-boughts, Dad.

His father eyed the store-boughts, the one with the explosion.

I mean, why waste the material?

Why waste the scraps? his father shot back, grabbing the pockets and pinning them to the seat of his pants.

A few months later his father made a new pair, recycling the pockets from the last ones, now faded. The reproach was not lost on him.

That summer he gave up speed skating. By winter his legs had returned to normal. Bell-bottoms by then were passé.

His father continued to make his trousers. Not denims but wool dress pants, the kind he wore to work, like everybody else.

2
She hated the city. Hated everything about it. The people, the buildings. Everything.
It had been ages since she spoke to someone. That kid with the dog, its head the size of a boulder.

Spare some change, ma’am?

Fuck off.

She would have slapped him if not for that dog.

She spent her days at the kitchen table, a co-operative building just east of the downtown core. She drank tea, read the paper, wrote poems in the margins. Children ran past, screaming, grabbing what they could off the counter. Not even hers! No idea whose.

(Hers had grown. But they were not hers either. Not really. Not legally. Plucked from her breast the day they were born.)

She pined for the north. The mountains, the forests, the slow, winding rivers. And the old plank store, where everything hung from the ceiling. Point and they would take it down for you, wrap it up nice in brown paper.

She bought her mother’s housecoat there. White flannel, with red and yellow roses. Her best day ever was walking home with that bundle under her arm, the snow in the mountains, the afternoon sun igniting its peaks.

Pink tits, she wrote. And the sky behind it/ a light blue shirt.

It was marriage that brought her here, a marriage that lasted just long enough to disqualify annulment. Nine months is too many, said one expert. Think of the child, said another.

She shut her eyes, let her pen drop.

And the sky behind it/ a faded denim shirt.

It had been wartime. The northern landscape was changing. Forests were being razed, fences unspooled, roads imposed. Even the newspaper looked different: the type was larger, and every day more pictures than words. She noticed these things. Then the soldiers.

They started showing up at dances. Always a big commotion, people rushing to the windows, the bus that brought them as clean and shiny as they were.

She did not care for them at first. (Nobody cared for the soldiers, least of all the men.) But one stood out, and he pursued her, convinced her she was different.

(That appealed to her–being different. All her life she had been told she was beautiful. But how beautiful? And to whom?)

He was by far the most handsome man she had ever seen. And it startled her, her feelings for him. So she left the dance hall early, walking home with the woman who sold pie.

For the next six days he was all she could think about. The width of his shoulders, his long, wavy hair. When she saw him again, he offered her his arm. Without thinking, she took it.

He was a good dancer. Graceful as a river/ solid as the oaks that lined its shore. After their second dance he asked if she would join him outside for some air.

Until then she had only kissed two boys. The first a stiff peck, more innocent than clumsy, a cousin. A year later, the cousin’s friend, someone she met on a hike. The pack out of sight, he lunged at her, his tongue splashing in her mouth like an eel. Unbearable.

But the soldier’s kiss, his was like the ocean fish swim in–rolling, flowing, abundant. She could feel herself sinking, taking on water. She reached for his shoulders, pulling him towards her, her feet off the ground, dangling.

The last time they met he was waiting for her behind the hall. They had decided to skip the dance and walk to the river, together.

She had been rehearsing the moment for weeks. Everything–every move, every breath–had been imagined. He would tell her he loved her, and that he wanted to be with her, forever. She would take the pendant from her neck, the one her mother gave her, and drop it over her shoulder. Then, taking his hand in hers, place it on her breast. He would kiss her first, before squeezing.

Which he did.

How she ended up over that rock is a mystery, a consequence, she later wrote, of a poor imagination. Not a bad feeling, but not a comforting one either. For it is the sequence that baffles. His lips where his hand had been, his hand in new places. Then hers detaching, turning animal. How he took it, wrestled it, pressed himself against it.

She opened her eyes, squeezing.

A flashlight to someone who had only known matches.

But there was no penetration.

When he came, the volume was so great she thought for sure she was pregnant.

But how? There was no/ penetration.

The next day he shipped out.

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9x11

9x11

and other poems like Bird, Nine, x, and Eleven
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
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American Whiskey Bar

American Whiskey Bar

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary
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Company Town

Company Town

edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
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Hard Core Logo

Hard Core Logo

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
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Intertidal

Intertidal

Vancouver Art and Artists
edition:Paperback
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Jerry Pethick

Jerry Pethick

Works 1968 - 2003 From Collections on Hornby Island
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
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Kingsway

Kingsway

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian, places
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The Pornographer's Poem
Excerpt

1.1

Sixteen years old. My first porno. Pornos, really. There were three: The Blue Balloon, something starring Clint Westwood, and another one whose name I can never remember. Cut together. And continuous. From noon to midnight. Seven days a week.
So: first porno was pornos. About fifteen minutes' worth. The cops threw me out before I knew what I was watching. But which one out of three? Does it matter? You'd think it wouldn't. But it does, in a way. I think.

This is what I know I saw:

EXT. THE VENUS THEATRE. NIGHT

A brick building. Her busted marquee. Purple curtains in the windows. Posters, too. A Hindu woman (40) stares from the booth. I approach, camera-right.

WOMAN

Five dollars.

I give her the five, she tears off a ticket.

INT. THEATRE

A small lobby dressed in pink drapes. A popcorn machine with a CLOSED sign taped to the counter. An older Hindu man (70) sits at a card table. In front of him, a shoebox. For the stubs.

He reaches out. I give him my ticket. He rips it in half, then points to a slit in the drapery.

MAN

There.

Static pops. Low groans. Some "oh" sounds. And some high-sucking "ahs." Snippets of dialogue. But they are so muffled, so scratched, the voices seem sexless, indistinguishable.

INDISTINGUISHABLE VOICE #1

Can you feel it?

My heartbeat. Beating harder. In 2/4.

INDISTINGUISHABLE VOICE #2

Yes.

I step into the light. The silver light. Hundreds of seats. The backs of ten heads. Silhouetted. I adjust, though I'm slow to focus. I think: Silver makes the darkest shadows. I still can't see. But I end up front-and-centre. A mystery to me. To this day.

INDISTINGUISHABLE VOICE #1

Here ...

The brightness of the first row. Skin completely white. The pores of my flesh. The stiffness of each arm hair.

This big guy takes the aisle seat. To my right. Creaking. An old guy. Fifties. The speakers hang above us. His crunchy coat like thunder.

taste it.
An interior scene. A woman and a man. She shuts the door. Not a crack of daylight. Just a candle by the nightstand.

INDISTINGUISHABLE VOICE #2

I'm gonna wanna smell it first.

The guy on the aisle. He crosses his legs. Then he uncrosses them. Then he crosses them again. And again. The heat off his body with each uncrossing. The salt in the air. From his lap. Different from the rest. I mean the others in the building.

IV #1

Okay.

His hands in his pockets. The whole aisle creaks. A sustained creaking. Then this ticking. Like a metronome. Then a note ascending. Chromatically. This tick ... tick ... ticking.

IV #2

Okay, then.

Soundtrack. Bass first. For two bars. High-hat. Then a close-up on her face. Eyes. Wow! Organ fills. Horns. Then wah-wah. Fuzz. And him. So funky.

His hands grip the armrest. The aisle creaks. The bolts strip. I feel me. Sliding down to see. To where I can't be seen. I scratch my cheek to see. Him. Leaning. Arching. Toes pushing out. Heels dangling down. His pushing pushes me. Jiggling my seat.

IV #1

Oh ... ohhh!

His eyes closing. His breathing. With my fingertip, touching. I trace the outline where I've grown to be. The strain against my jeans. And me. Leaning. Into this moment. Creaks. Everything.

IV #2

Ah-ah-ah.

An exterior scene. A blast of streetlight. His coat slides away. He pulls from his body. This monster. Holds it forth. The boldest I've seen. To this day. Mottled. Uncut. Big balls bobbing. Jumping for something. Right out of his goddamn pants!

IV #1

I'm coming.

In spurts. Three. The first between his feet. Then one straight up.

Disappearing. The last one a drop off the top of the stage.

IV #2

Yeah. Oh yeah!

An interior scene. Pitch black. The lighting of a match. A cigarette. Mumbles. Chuckles. One voice high, trailing off at the end. Suggests a question. Then another. Low. Monotone. Not inclined. Bored.

IV #1

You'll have to go now. You know you can't stay here.

IV #2

I've got a feeling you're right.

He adjusts his coat. Gets up. Goes.

IV #1
Do you think I'll ever see you again?

Footsteps.

An exterior scene. A car pulls away. From an old brick building. He's gone.

NEW VOICE

Young man?

ME

Huh?

NEW VOICE

Can I see some ID?

Two cops. One talking. One holding the flashlight. Asking me to leave. The flashlight in front. His partner behind continues ...

TALKING COP

It's for your own good, son. These people - they're perverts. You never know what one of them's gonna do in the heat of the moment.

EXT. THE VENUS THEATRE. NIGHT

Outside. The talking cop. His lecture. To the woman in the booth. She nods. Looks barely there. A ghost car pulls up, jumps the curb. The flashlight cop makes the OK sign. Talking cop calls out ...

Detective!

The guy from the aisle seat. He gets out of the ghost car. Looks right through me. To the talking cop, the detective says ...

What do these kids see in this shit?

And from the flashlight cop ...

If we knew, we'd be detectives.

1.2

- Sorry. I've forgotten the question.

- We asked you how old you were when you saw your first pornographic movie.

- Oh.

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Queen Rat

Queen Rat

by Lynn Crosbie
introduction by Michael Turner
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Paperback
tagged : canadian
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