Thursday, July 30, 2015


She’d passed the building countless times:
Houses on north side of street
Face industry on south.
This house is narrow like others.
But brick painted white and
A few other differences of note:
Brick pedestal holds
Black skull with silver wings.
Half-dozen Harley’s rest
In paved front yard.
Sign on pedestal reads
Hell’s Angels 54.

Another sign, three doors west:
For Sale.
Is there some story there?
She’s looking to buy a house
With garage to shelter coveted Vespa.
This house has no garage, but
A Vespa would surely be safe
From random thieves just
Three doors from Hell’s Angels 54.

Surely a grannie with a Vespa
Could depend on Hell’s Angels
To protect her wheels at home.
But this grannie wondered
About how safe she could feel
Riding to work?
Will bikers give her a rough time?
Can Vespas even be locked adequately?
She doesn’t know anything about Vespas
Except she truly wants one.

She buys the house
And shiny new yellow Vespa…
And tries to assume safety
Of new wheels somehow assured
By proximity to new unmet neighbours.

But doubt creeps in.
Do these leather-clad ruffians
Understand their responsibility
To her? I mean, really?

So new yellow Vespa helmet
With tiny yellow visor
Clutched neatly in string shopping bag,
She approaches silver-winged skull
And without hesitation knocks
On black door.

No answer. Knocks again.
Hog roars up…
Rider big and bearded and tattooed.
He:  Hey! No one’s home.
......Whaddya want?

She: I want to speak

 ......To your public relations director.
Did he just roll his eyes?
He:   Oh, That'll be Skinner.

 ......He’ll be here in a bit.
 ......Wanna come in and wait?

Enormous be-ringed fingers key in code for lock
And open door.
In they walk.
OK, it does smell of beer and stale smoke.
Regular smoke, not the other kind.
She does know what that smells like.
After all she’s not without experience, you know.
Her best friend’s boyfriend in university
Was one of Timothy Leary's students at Harvard.
Of course sugar cube stuff didn't smell,
But stuff they smoked did.
And this is acrid smell of tobacco.
Lots and lots of stale tobacco.
And lots and lots of stale beer.

Reeking room is clean, just strewn with
Half-filled glasses and fully-filled ashtrays.
He:   I'm Bones. Can I get yer

 ......Summit to drink?
She notices gap in his smile
Where discoloured tooth should have been.
She:  Thanks, I don't drink.
He:  Do ya drink orange juice?
..... Squeezed some fresh this mornin'.

Skinner arrives as she sips OJ
Daintily from chilled beer mug.
Tall lanky version of Bones, he
Quickly glances at compadre
To explain unusual guest.
Bones just shrugs heavy shoulders,
Shambles off.
Leaves him alone with her.

He:  OK, Grannie. why’ve you come
......To Hell's Angels 54?
She tells him of worries about
Rampant Vespa thieves.
He:  You're like a neighbour.

 ......No one would dare harm yer scooter
 ......So closter our headquarters.
 ......Sorta like livin next to 55 Division of the cops, 
......But differnt, ya know.

She says,

 ......What about when I park
 ......At work?
Skinner raises unruly eyebrows.
She: I have an idea for your public relations efforts

 ......That would be good for me…
 ......And lots of other road grannies.

She outlines her plan:
Hell's Angels across nation
Will guarantee grannies and their bikes
Will not be messed with.
Grannies will have special crests
To mount on machines, coats and helmets.
No one in his right mind
Would bother a grannie so clearly protected by
Hell's Angels, would they?
And public could see Hell's Angels
Have warm-hearted side.
If some registered grannie's bike is ever found
In another's possession,
There'll be Hell to pay...

For sure.

Skinner seizes opportunity to trade on
Tough outlaw image
And provide valuable public service.
Shakes her hand.
Hires her to coordinate
New Hell's Grannies programme.

She designs Hell’s Grannies crest-logo,
Gets it registered as trademark,
Manages staff that log grannies
And their cycles,
Orders tee-shirts, mugs and
Pink leather jackets and helmets
All with new crest.
She co-ordinates media advertising,
Does sell-in with Hell's Angels affiliates
All across country and
Conducts press conferences.
She’s spokes-grannie for national
Advertising and PR campaign.

Now she doesn't need her Vespa
To ride to work
Because she works
For Hell's Angels 54,
Just three doors from home.

 ......Bette Forester.
.....  Toronto
 ......16 September 2003

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


As I relinquish myself to this night's sleep,
My rabbit ears bring me TVO images
Of Rushdie speaking of his books.
And of his drive to write them.
He says, after all, the human is
The only animal that is Storyteller.

I muse on this in dreams and awake
To re-read Gaiman's American Gods,
A story of humans and their gods
And their mutual need to believe
In each other...
In each others' story...
To be associated with story...
To be Story.
All the while L. Cohen
Sings via iTunes and
Brings tears...
Hallelujah! in the Tower of Song.

I pause and remember
Tiff's Not Wanted on the Voyage:
The old god who invokes
Noah's participation
In extending His story.
How in the stage version
Noah's family search each other's
Faces for understanding...
Then nod in confused acceptance
Of Noah's story.

Leonard says there’s a crack in everything.
It’s where the Light gets in…
A crack in this very wall!
I can hear it about other cracks in other walls.
The Light is always the same.

It is the Light of Recognition
Of human spirit... it is the Light of Knowing
Our part.... it is the Light of Acceptance
Of life... and its cycle with death.

Leonard, as well as Salmon, Neil, Timothy et al
Shine Light on snippets of my own story.
That Light exposes myself to myself.
I guess we each choose storytellers to call our own.
Some write, some sing, some tap dance,
Some seek directly the hearts of others.
After all, we need each other to sense...
To discover...
To find... 

The Story...

 ...Bette Forester
 ...30 July 11

Friday, July 24, 2015


Florence (left), the beautiful one,
with Alice, the bright one.
who later became my grandmother.

how it all began with a young typesetter
who later became my great-grandmother

April 1878:
Elizabeth Lovell Peak,
Eighteen, self-assured,
Born in Cambridge
The old one, in England
Comes to New York
With sister, Rebecca,
Another typesetter. Both
Full of girlish hope
For careers and families
In new world.

June 1878:
Rebecca decides to
Move to Winnipeg,
Later home to Winnie the Pooh.
Is there some connection?
Maybe someone will
Connect dots.
Not I.

July 1878:
Still in New York City
Reporter friend invites
Elizabeth to convention for
Small newspaper publishers.
He suggests she can look
For work all across continent
From one room in

... Mr. McNutt publishes 
 ...Weekly newspaper in
 ...Calvert, Texas.
Friend introduces Elizabeth.

 ...Oh, The Calvert Courier?... 
Asks Elizabeth,
Not because she knows
The paper, but because
Alliterative mastheads are
De rigueur in England.

 ...Why…. Yes, Miss Peak,
Answers Alexander Dewitt McNutt.
Smile in eyes as well as on lips.

That’s the beginning.
Mr. McNutt doesn’t hire the
Young typesetter.
He courts her via letters
And telegrams.
They marry.
Elizabeth moves to Texas
Where they live in white
Corner house in Calvert.
The Calvert Courier becomes
Renown regional rag,
Circulates beyond
Robertson County,
Even to Dallas:
Repository of Texas gentry,
Wealth and society.

Four daughters
Arrive in bi-annual increments:
Alexandra, the wild one.
Florence, the beautiful one.
Alice, my grandmother, the bright one.
Mary, the difficult one.
Little D, sole son,
Dies of consumption at four.

Calvert kids call Elizabeth
Old Lady McNutt.
If they cut across corner yard,
She chases them with broom.

Of course, they do it again,
Just for the spectacle.
And they also watch
As she chops snake to bits
In yard with hoe.
Later she admits to terror, not bravery.

November 1893:
On Houston shopping trip
With three-year-old Mary,
Elizabeth reads of ship
Sailing for England… today.
Sudden bitter homesickness
Counting money in purse
She finds enough for
One-way tickets.

 ...Have gone home with Mary.
 ...Will wire for money when
... Ready to return.
Terse telegram to Mr. McNutt.
Six months later they return
To blooming east Texas roses.
No explanation required.
Mr. McNutt is accustomed
To wife’s independent nature.

While husband is away in Dallas,
Elizabeth has carpenter move
Front door of house
To another wall.
When Mr. McNutt returns
He uses new door for a week
Before she points it out to him.

...It’s so convenient,
...I didn’t notice.
He tells her.
Still with the smiling eyes
After all these years.

The Calvert Courier flourishes.
The McNutt family prospers,
Lives happily.
Photos show little girls
In splendid dresses and
Feathered hats.
Elizabeth sets type on occasion
And helps in Courier office
So is able to continue as publisher
When husband dies
At fifty-six.

September 1898:
She lays him to rest
With military honours
Next to their son who had
Carried his name.
Sorting through Mr. McNutt’s papers
Elizabeth finds old invoice
Squirreled away in roll-top desk:
Cost to change masthead
From The Calvert Messenger
To The Calvert Courier.
Dated September, 1882.
She sits
Stunned to learn
Twenty years later
Effect of her first remark
On Alexander Dewitt McNutt,
And significance of
His first smile.

The next two years bring
Two floods and a fire to Calvert
Destroying much of town's core.
Businesses and population shrink
In rapid sucking spiral.
Elizabeth sells The Calvert Courier
And moves with her girls to
Oak Cliff, a suburb of Dallas.

...Bette Forester... 
...10 April 2004