Wednesday, July 19, 2017

POEM: At Sixty-Five (For Rick)

At sixty-five you think you’d have absorbed
enough wisdom through the pores of your skin,
settling in your lungs, travelling to your heart
& brain to give you something practical
to say. But no. That’s not the gift that was
given to you. Instead, joy is your su-
per power, not invisibility,
not strength. Not even the power to with-
stand raging fire, or to turn into ice
at a moment’s notice. Joy: that bounding
dance that unbinds us, that loosens us a-
gainst a world that double-bolts everything.
At sixty-five you’d think the memories
of us as children would be visible
from the outside, tattooed through the stories.
which never wear out from the re-telling.
Like thick marinara, aromas fill
the head. What I see is a mop-headed
kid counting planets in the night sky, who
taught me calculus in grade school, lying
flat on your back surrounded by churlish
waters, hands locked behind your neck while the
world burned to the ground around you. “Relax,”
you said. I love you for that. At sixty-
five you’d think you’ve entertained us enough,
roaming the globe with your guitars, & harm-
onicas, foam clown noses & fake thumbs
enough to make your point: that it’s a sin
to be too serious. But no. Somehow
the show always went on. At sixty-five
you’d think it’s time to look down, as if on
a mountaintop to total your blessings
& regrets into columns for the great
balance sheet of a life. But no. You
move as a hummingbird - from flower to
flower - giving all a life suspended
in mid-air, your finest illusion yet.

& I love you for that.

POEM: Sparrow

she picks water droplets off with a slender yellow beak
like sweet grapes, then hovers as if suspended by thread
the sparrow alights a branch of a rose-of-sharon,
its leaves, dripping from an early rain
the sparrow’s head, morning-light still, her wings

hammer the humid air

POEM: An Anti-lamentation

I will tell you the story of my escape, the whole
thing, from start to end, until I am naked.
Starting at the beginning, from the keening that my
captivity evoked, to the dizzying freedom once unshackled.

I bake freedom into the bread that I share. 
I come to the party with both hands open, hiding nothing.
My goal is to let my last days be ones of depletion, where
everything is exhausted, ignoring the urge to lock doors,
until doubt wanes, until it flits and fails, this same doubt
that rides the subways with me, that eats in the same
sandwich shops I do. I am wrong more often than I am right.
It’s just a state of being, like binary one or zero, on or off.
It’s not who I really am. Nor is my body me.  Nor my face.
Nor my bones. Nor my lack of grace. These are ghost stories
once told around a campfire.

I am a mystery, so I better start acting like one! I drop a buck
into a beggar’s cup and push every reason out of my head
why this is a bad idea.  Instead, I give naiveté the keys
to the car, let him drive a while. I can dine with the ridicule.
Mostly, we are wished-upon comets, circling the sun
every two-hundred years, waited for, but barely noticed,
trailing dust in the shape of a smile.

Brother, the lonely roads are the ones worth taking so let’s
walk them for no reason, and barefoot. I want to touch everything,
however transient, to fill the warp and woof of a life
with a generous urge. In the dark space between atoms is

where God awaits my choice in anticipation.

Monday, July 10, 2017

POEM: Petrichor

I will not
denounce the
things that make
me odd when
it’s my time.

I will not
bequeath them
or lock them
away in a safe.
This is how

you recog-
nize me in
our day-to-
day dealings:
my nebbish

look, my com-
pulsions, the
rattle of
me. How I
flick the light-

switch off then
on before
bed; how I
unlock and
relock the

doors, or the
duck-like way
I dance, not
caring a-
bout rhythm.

Even those
things I grew
to hate most
about my-
self: my body,

my mind, the
awkward way
I start con-
these are a

bag of screws
I carry
around, an-
nouncing to
the world who

I am, how
you know me,
long before
I occu-
py your space.

(Where do these things go when we are on our own at last?)

These parts, I
will gather
in a metal-
lic box that
you may o-

pen when-
ever you
wish and, like
the petrichor
of summer,

inhale and

Thursday, July 06, 2017

The Shot

I offer this story and I swear it’s true, just maybe not in the way you may think of “truth”.

I’m at Caritas Mercy Cancer center to get my 2nd Zolodex shot of the cycle. The nurse puts a teeny-weeny bandage over the gaping hole she just made in my body. I had never looked at the needle until now, I don’t know why. Damn if that thing doesn’t look like a knitting needle! (That’s why!) I didn't want to look, but I do. It has a spring-loaded thingy that pushes a small cylinder about the size of a fish oil capsule full of medicine into my body. The medicine will be dispensed over the next three months. It works on the pituitary gland, which works on the sex glands, which lowers the sex hormone and the green grass grows all around, all around, and the green grass grows all around.

It stings but honestly, after multiple surgeries, you’d have to shuck me open like an oyster to get my attention these days. It’s like what mothers tell me about childbirth: after that experience, ain’t nothing gonna embarrass you. Or so I am led to believe.

I go back to work. I head into the bathroom to pee. I wash my hands. I look in the mirror. I see a mortifying sight. A bulls-eye of blood about 3" in diameter on my shirt! I appear to be a victim of a drive by shooting in the men’s room!  I have a moment of not being in my own body. I am looking at someone else in the mirror. I imagine this is common when seeing your own blood leaving you. Worse, staining your work clothes. Worse still, wondering what explanation I will use finish the day at work.

I grab paper towel to clean myself. It isn’t doing anything. I apply water, then soap then soap, then more water.  Untuck the shirt. There is blood on my pants. I am rinsing paper towel in the sink now and now the water in the sink is turning red, like Easter egg dye. Now the sink is turning red. Its percussive appearance against the antiseptic white of the sink gives me more of that out of body experience. Like this is not my body. This is not my blood.

The bandage is hopeless. It is limp from blood. Insufficient for the hole. My blood is gruel. It’s pouring out. I cover myself for modesty. I head to the first aid station at work, around the corner from the bathroom.  No one there. Good. No explanation needed. I find gauze and medical tape. Lots and lots of medical tape.

I make this ad hoc dressing. Fold the gauze into a large square the size of North America and copious amounts of tape. (I realize it will hurt later when I have to rip it off my body but I want it secure). I’m not messing around. This blood needs to stop right now!  I drench my shirt and pants in cold water. I brush and dab, dab and brush. Right about now I am wishing that one of those super hand dryers was hanging on the wall. There isn’t one.

The bleeding stops - for now. This is only the 2nd of 3 shots for this round of my Zolodex.  It’s an adventure in biology.

“Probably hit a vein,” a friend says. “Probably,” I say wondering if this will happen again and what the odds are. Just my luck. I can’t hit the winning number, but this vein I hit.

 I go from looking like a shooting victim to Oscar Madison from the Odd-Couple, like I’ve dropped pickle relish all over my front. Except Oscar would never have tried to clean it.

 I look again in the mirror. I look like the loser date in that old 70s game “Mystery Date”  – the one where the players had to twist a replica of a doorknob of a front door on a playing board, then pull the door open to see the picture of who my date would be: a handsome prince-y type guy or the slob. I looked like that guy:  the loser slob date.

I hide behind my desk until the water dries. The clothing is not too stained. It will require laundry-surgery stat when I get home.

The moral of the story: the cancer is responding to the treatment. My PSA: near zero. So long as the cancer behaves, it can stay. Otherwise, I am going to be very, very cross at it. I will probably ask it to leave.