Sunday, December 29, 2013

sweet gum shadows

***11/ 18/ 13

There was a point to the unfinished book discussion which I have come to terms with; rather, I have come to terms with coming to terms with.  I was getting there before I meandered and petered out.  

If confessed, is denial still denial? Strictly speaking, it would lose its most vital characteristic--its un-confessedness.

So, for the time being, I'll maintain that I am not afraid of death until such a time that the bejeezus squeezes through my pores and/ or sneezes full-bore through flared-out nostrils, scared-out at last, itself and its apostles: all-living-hell and holy-crap. 

But for now let me confess: back on 10/ 10, there was an element of denial that kept me from disclosing my point.  (To be fair, there is also an element of denial that keeps points undisclosed to one's own mind. But I don't think that was the case on 10/ 10.)

It's not death that has me sweating, it's the thought of unfinishing that's  got me bothered. I know that elsewhere I've said that forty-ish is as good and fair age to shuffle off as any-- to think otherwise would ungenerous.  This is not that kind sweat, not the cold one occasioned by the faceless reaper double-checking his Google Map just outside your door.  It's just a cool a sweat, really, the kind that annoyingly plips from your pits to your obliques while waiting alone in your boss's office.

Not finishing what, though?  Life?  Sure, but not in an ungenerous way.  Something less abstract than "life"; as such, life strikes me as just a vague sense of forward progress and air.  

So . . . less abstract how? 

I think I mean . . . less "air" and more photosynthesis. Fewer Pan-boys and more sweet-gum shadows on the wall. As a compulsive metaphorist (and nonce-wordulator, by the bye), I am given to panning abstraction for real, faux gems. In a manner of speaking. To flicking a willow's worth of lightning-bugs into a lidless jar in order to watch which ones will simply go on glowing and which will remember they can fly.  In a manner of speaking.

However, "metaphor" is nearly as abstract as life, and it's not some Grand Elusive Moby Dick of One which I fear I will never spear. It's more like I'd trade in whatever is left of my figurative poetics for the assurance that a certain box of Sam's-Club trail-mix will not be listed amongst my survivors. More like, you can keep the taut conclusions of my lifelong pondering if you'll just give me long enough to bore-through these final filaments of cotton between my craggy big toe and its last disturbing hoorah.   

Speaking of old clothes, I needed new ones.  I have always been stubborn when it comes time for a new wardrobe [read "a pair of jeans and a shirt that buttons"] and don't get me started on shoes--suffice it say, when shoe shopping became my own look-out, only two fingers would likely pull the trigger, jungle rot or a cluster of spiders. (You're welcome for both images.  Be sure to stop at the merch table on your way out to peruse my complete description-collection of filthily ruined footwear.)  

Speaking of old clothes, I needed new ones.  I had to buy new pants when I intentionally lost 25 pounds at beginning of the year.  When I unintentionally lost another 25 (yes, still very funny, Fate and Irony, you hunchbacked, hag-twins!) last Spring, I reluctantly bought a new belt.  

I'm happy to report one of the most resplendent (sad but true) bit of news of 2013, currently those britches and that belt are in-cahoots, having regained 25 pounds--first, intentionally, through gritted teeth, gagging on Ensure or baby-spooning toddler oatmeal; next, unintentionally, acted upon by the very steroids which reopened jaws and gullet, driven to consume like a teenager.  

Our Birmingham summer rained itself out, my new jeans served well five days week, on one or two of which I would actually venture outside, thus subjecting them to only the elements of a mild autumn.  Now late fall has brought its customary chill to our Birmingham days , dragging its disproportionate overnight brrrr-freezes in tow.

My newish jeans remain dutiful and most capable.  My closet is plenty packed with 20 years-worth of perfectly functional overcoats, which is to say stubbornly amassed, long sleeved grunge flannel and the immanently more timely and chic (ha!) long sleeved earth-and-clay-toned button-down corduroy.  And this apparel also remains dutiful and most capable.

So, with winter on its way, I needed new clothes.  Well, pajamas, stocking caps, and socks. Pajamas because my legs are practically meatless and no match for the cold, stocking caps because my big, bald head plumes body heat like a factory smokestack. Socks in case those filaments of cotton soldier through the holidays and continue to worry me, who knows, clear to next Halloween at which point I will cut the hole myself and frighten trick-or-treat urchins with my unwholesome big toe. (Stop by merch on your way out for a lithographed, artist's rendering of my description.)

So . . . not finishing what?  Let's go ahead and add this entry to the list. Better wrap it up.

Looking back on what I've just written, maybe my unfinishphobia is just a type of miserliness, monitoring my goods, wasting little, wanting little--worried that I'll be scootched against the wall on my deathbed, crowded by unneeded miscellany, unwanted trail mix, and (I confess) unread books. Then again, maybe I've failed in letting the "air" out of these particular thoughts and my "miserliness" is just a metaphor for an actual fret of dying, of leaving without finishing.  

Not finishing what? Life? Sure, in a vague sense, in a manner too close to ungenerous for my liking.  

***11/ 22/ 13

Fun with multiforme.

Party game--just in time for the holidays. 

At your last neuro-doc visit while going through the all too familiar rigmarole of motor-skill evaluation shared by the American Medical Association and the Alabama Highway Patrol (minus the itchy fingers in the former case and the cold hands in the latter), you discovered that after 17 years of nearly perfect performance, you can no longer touch the tip of your finger to the tip of your nose.  Not with your arms outstretched and your eyes closed, you can't. Your long fingers and large nose notwithstanding.

Your first attempt was woeful. You touched high on your forehead. As near your nose as the bottom of your chin.  On your second attempt, you did touch the bottom of your chin. On your third, you flat out cheated, peeking through your eyelashes. Even so, you only managed your lips.  As if to say,  "Shhh . . . I'm concentrating."  And on your fourth attempt, you will concentrate, by golly. But your nurse practitioner has seen enough.  You chuckle gratefully, she grins knowingly.

In the respective case mentioned above, at this point in the rigmarole . . . it'd be all "hands behind your back" and "don't Tase me, bro!"

The game: Have your family and friends circle-up, a la duck, duck, goose, and have them perform the feat--hands out, eyes closed, finger tip to nose--share chuckles and grins.  Then perform your unique rendition.  Share guffaws and no-but-seriouslys.  Yes-but-seriously.  Repeat until, one way or the other, the room is in tears.

The extremities race. 

You will need: (1) bowl teeming with Cheerios and tempestuous with milk (1) large metal spoon forged for maximum clangor (1) cup of your favorite morning coffee.

The object: to walk (20) feet from start line (kitchen) to finish line (computer desk) with the least  degree of mishap.  Degree of Mishap will be scored as follows: (4 pts) the player makes it from start to finish dry and without profanity (3 pts) the player makes it from start to finish with fewer than four sloshes of milk or coffee either stickying the floor or scalding the flesh and no more than two mild swears (2 pts) start to finish, fewer than eight sloshes but unlimited swears (1pt) from start to anywhere but finish. [exception: the whole kit and caboodle is fumbled. . . Kersplat. (100 pts)] 

The rules: the player must have (1) numb hand (1) unpredictably palsied hand (1) peg leg.
*** 11/ 30/ 13

Notes from the lavatory. 

If you require a stool to take a shower, you are not prepared to empty water from your ear like an Olympic swimmer--not from a standing position, you're not.

For the first time since I lost/ shaved all of my hair, I used shampoo ("no more tears" lavender, ladies) this morning on my fresh crop (primarily just a symbolic cleansing, though, sorry, ladies).

***12/ 1/ 13

I wrote this poem the morning after The Iron Bowl. As an Alabaman, I doubt the very existence of a sentient being galaxy-wide who is unfamiliar with this football game (American football game, I should say. Well, US of A'merican, I'll say)  but for the uninitiated, if you even exist, which I doubt, it is a legendary contest between two universities whose fan bases are legendarily fanatical. Briefly, yesterday's game was one for the mythological ages, galaxy-wide. In large part, the bout's outcome was decided by the place-kicker--very often, for what it's worth, an international footballer.  Upshot? Uproar.

Also, this is not poem about football.  It belongs here.

The Field Goal Kid's Nearest Adventures

It's a big, fat line between vitriol
And grace. There's no back and forth on a whim--

There are raw thighs and racked groins--
Because there's a tall, fat wall.

Today I damn the field goal kid,
Tomorrow, I damn it all,
No turning back.

It's a wide, unplumbed moat between grace
And vitriol, no back and forth on larks--

There are waterlily snaggers,
The suicidal dragonflies. 

Today I surf the crocodile, 
Finger-trace her toothy maw, 
No turning back.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

concerning janjis and the yodeler

*** 10/ 29/ 13

As I do about 4 out of 5 weekdays, I'm lying abed watching The Price is Right. What "work" I do is typically wrapped-up by 10:00 AM CT.  Without fail, I am amused by the commercials wedged between Plinkos, come-on-downs, and those perennial jackanapes who bid one dollar over another person's bid. (A person with family and feelings and fiscal needs just like you, jackanape, so how about a fifty dollar cushion?)

The commercials are of roughly three types for roughly the same demographic:  Affordable life-insurance for retirees costing as little as a cup of coffee a day,  pharmaceuticals for the chronically infirm whose current regimen does not deliver the desired results, and for un-glorified go-carts for handi-enabling the butt-bound that they may clog grocery aisles.  

And I'm prone to pity this hapless lot of blue haired biddies and cavernously wrinkled old farts; yet I often think, man, can I get a Do the Dew spot or a Hunger Games trailer? Who are these pitiable armchair price-guesstimators? This feeble ilk that giddily but earnestly apply their unique telepathy to the boon of distant contestants as to when, for instance, they'd be advised to stop the mountain-climbing yodeler before he steps over the perilous precipice and plummets.

Who are they? Likely lying abed, likely done with work for the day, likely amused by commercials aimed surely not at themselves.  It's sad when you get to thinking about it.  As I suppose I now will about, say, 4 out of 5 weekdays.

***11/ 5/ 13

On the flip side of my dull regrets, glisten the countless blessings of a smiling life.

***11/ 9/ 13

Changing to this is my Janji is here please quote this is a test me

Please find above: the transcript of a "voice to type" program which I downloaded intending to dictate lengthier portions of these entries to.  In the case of "Janji" (I guess a mythical shape-shifter come to challenge me to a recitation-bee), I was going to begin this entry with an excerpt from a Willa Cather story that I've been musing over. 

Please find below, the topic: 

It has come to my attention, well . . . it's been brought to my attention by a certain wife of mine, that I have an objectionable tendency to speak of my death as if the hour is already appointed--unknown yet definitely chiseled in stone somewhere, probably in a dark, dripping dwarven mine, guarded, we may be sure, by a coven of Janjiis.      

One of the most objectionable aspects of this tendency, I imagine, is how glibly I broach the topic.  I talk lightly about the time when I won't be another mouth to feed, another mouth to speak for (she has to talk on the phone in my stead-- my voice is weak, my words are given to garble-- which she has to do often, due to my nearly constant pharmaceutical needs and clinic appointment rescheduling),  etc.

Whether it's out of a presumed need to present things as rosier than they are or as uglier, I'm not sure; probably, though, it's a confusing mixture of both and done at least as much for my sake as for my audience.

A ploy of the guilt-laden preacher and the modern poet.

*** 11/ 12/ 13

Mostly because I'd be remiss if I didn't somehow leave my mark on this peculiar date.

But also to report in the least jocund manner as I can manage a decline in my condition--or maybe better put as a ratcheting toward it's expected consequences--marked by increasing wobbliness, blurry vision, left-side numbness. These are familiar symptoms and so not particularly frightening but foreboding nonetheless.  

I went to see my neuro-oncologist yesterday (as scheduled not necessitated) and the upshot was an increase in my steroid dosage in case the immediate trouble is swelling and an agreement to wait until my MRI in a month to see if it's the tumors walking-off the radiation like a runner might a mere belly-cramp. (Sorry, friends of mine, who insist on a bipedal ambulation speed greater than that required to fetch the mail in summer drizzle but I stand by the word “mere”. I rarely do but here I play my cerebral œdema card complete with fancy “oe” ligature; but if “mere’ seems a slight to your sweaty achievements, jog it off, hands over head.)

Also . . . I wonder if humanity would be better off if there was a 10/ 11/ 12/ 13 or if there was an 11/ 12/ 13/ 14?  Time-to-get-right-wise or time-to-screw-it-up-less-wise?

I even go so far as to wondœr.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

defenestration. thanks, bob

*** 10/ 10/ 13

I can count on one hand the books I have started and never finished, and the other hand would probably suffice to count what others in that category have slipped my mind. (I might need Hands Across America to count the ones I should have let slide past my pride.) 

Thumb: Finnegan's Wake, James Joyce. The crown jewel of my forfeitures--started and abandoned three times.

Pointer: The Defenestration of Bob T. Hash III, David Deans.  Oh, how I tried.  Switched to my secondary book, came back and tried again.  It became more unfinishable the closer I got to finishing--an asymptote of reader x and story y, perhaps. (On the upside, I had never heard of the word "defenestration" before and within the year it made a useful appearance in a poem I wrote.)

Birdie:  Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope.  In my defense, it was the second novel of a two-novel volume the first novel of which, The Warden, I did finish with the intention of returning to the second just as soon as I finished a less yellowed, less tiny-typed, less 1850s-y book. Still my favorite kind of book, mind you, since my early teens; but there are a finite number of books by dead authors, naturally, and practically an infinite-supply of books (A-Million, let's say) to be enjoyed in which the characters bear some resemblance to you and some connection to modernity—which is to say that they relieve themselves at least once every three hundred pages and that the rumble approaching from ahead is not likely a coach and four horses but a sub-woofering Mustang coughing and hopping in your direction.

Ring:  no fourth comes to mind, ergo . . .

Pinkie:  no fifth.

I'm sure there is a book or two that would fill those slots, but I'll have to come back if they occur to me later.  Maybe I'll admit a special ilk.  Books I've bounced around in but have no compunction for never having completed. Here might be resting in peace such giants as: Virgil's Aeneid, Homer's Odyssey, and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Now the tally is six.  Call me Count Rugen—a six- fingered man, preparing to die.  Hello! 

Now I'm certain I had a point when I started this entry, but now I'm not so sure. At any rate, I don't think I guaranteed points, just thoughts, which more and more begin strong, coast a bit on momentum, start to meander, then peter-out.

If I had to guess, the thought probably began: This book I'm reading (Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood), will I even finish it? If not, why'd I even start it?  In all my days of avid reading it had never occurred to me, though, that these are valid questions in each instance of starting a new book—or any enterprise, really . . .

Then coasted: Besides, it's not like I've finished every book I've started--much less every enterprise, any one of which, let's face it, probably (certainly?) would have contributed to society more meaningfully. Seriously, just think, what difference would it have made if, say, I'd finished, say . . .

Then meandered: Finnegan's Wake or what else? . . . oh, oh . . . What was that Bob the Third book?. . .like a novel-length parrot joke . . . what else? . . . ha! I said "birdie" instead of "middle". . . puerile, Jonathan, puerile . . .

Then petered-out.

*** 10/ 11/ 13

Apropos of two months from now, I suppose: I have determined that the greatest hours of my life have been those belonging Christmas Eve's evening and night.  So, roughly 200 hours of gladness and peace, of snow-hopes and hearth-cheer.  Father turning the crackling pages of Luke's gospel, joyous through tears; mother divvying red robes and reindeer footies, smiling, eyes wide twinkling back the tree lights; brothers scrimmaging, speculating on shakable boxes.

And little has changed in my estimation. The venue changes and players alternate, but when the sun sets on Christmas Eve and the luminaries are lambent and the games have been trotted-out, when the cinnamon sticks have been added to the cider and the nog has been glugged, the truth remains: those hours, roughly 200, are filled with the stuff of life.  The worthy and satisfying stuff.

There were other hours which teemed with enjoyment.  Hours of adventure, hilariousness, calm contemplation. So many hours of so many pleasures that I cannot even roughly guess their number.  However, these times came sporadically, often unheralded and never so likely to be strung together by familial thread as Christmas Eves.  Which come every year, famously heralded—celebrations of broken bulbs on evergreens, armless ceramic Josephs on the mantel, and a Christ in the east, soon to cry, in a matter of hours.

*** 10/ 17/ 13

If our dramatic representations (in books, on screens, upon stages, from anecdotes) are indicative of expected reflections during one's last months, then allow me dispense with a certain reflection now.  

Regrets? Yes.  And how! But I think I'm supposed to say "no"; and if I had to do it all again, would I change anything? Without a doubt! But I think I'm supposed to say "doubtfully—you only go around once, what was is what is."

These pat answers as if experience predates innocence, as if wisdom comes with batteries included.  

With all of this being said and at least half-full disclosure being an aim of this journal: What do I regret and what would I change if I could?  In the interest of time, allow me to skip particulars and say that for starters and plenteous example, oh, about 60% of my early twenties clear through to my early thirties. A profligate, prodigal sot and no small jackass as a result. That's enough for one lifetime, I think. 

I can hear the protestations already, the latter day revisions of history: "Come on now, you weren't that bad, why remember this one time . . . [fill in an eking ray of goodness here] [a swatch of above-average decency here] [I'll even give you a handful of consecutive-week respectable, adult behavior here] . . .

But no, gracious friend, I appreciate the doubt, but regrettably I regret more than I could shake stick at, and let's be honest—who's afraid of sticks in a nuclear environment? I deeply regret that flimsy metaphor; and in one sneaky swoop, allow me to apologize for that and every other offense brought about by my decade of 60% depravity. All square? Good.

*** 10/ 28/ 13
[a poem about my non-chemical infusion therapy--tumor-cell-wise this kind chokes, chemo poisons]


It does not hurt,
This seeping 
Infusion. Faintly,
Veins sniff-out
The injected—copper, 
Rawhide, a cloying

It does not hurt,
This dripping
Nipping at my needle.
Infusion scarcely
Noticed by blood,
Noticed at all but by
The trickle—colored 
Stubborn as when
A sample is needed.
This needing hurts—
Infusion— barely
Enough to mention,
Except to say 
It hurts to need
At all
Or this infusion merely.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

eventually upon a time

*** 9/ 11/ 13

Reality continues to take shape when you throw-up in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  At least I  conscientiously used my go-green canvas bag instead of the traditional plastic.

*** 9/ 12/ 13

Confession: I no more used my green bag conscientiously than I vomited in front of God and everyone for funsies.  As we all know, when the gorge rises . . . it's go time! The odds of you being within fifty parsecs of porcelain or stone or are not good in your favor. 

Not being a zen-master (or really all that great at holding in a belch), when the gorge rises, I’m lucky to be conscious much less conscientious.  Grab plastic, dive for the nearest hedges, disgorge, then raise your hands to the sky like a gymnast who has just stuck the landing of her life.

*** 9/ 16/ 13

[from a book respecting the delayed response "coming to terms" theme that I found fitting and bluntly gorgeous]          

". . . It was the wear and tear of regrets which would surely set in soon. . . [but I] did not feel a blow of this sort immediately; and what often seemed like stoicism after misfortune was only the neutral numbness of transition from palpitating hope to assured wretchedness."

Thomas Hardy, A Laodicean  

***9/ 17/ 13

Even as you play through childhood, lumber through adolescence, dither through young adulthood, and fancy yourself good and self-actualized by middle-ish-age, I believe there is an inchoate sense of one of the dying man's chief concerns throughout; that is, how much good can I gather and how much bad can I forgo?  

The truth of this matter begins to reveal itself when your doctor's nurse practitioner uses the phrase "quality of life" in reference to a prescription she is filling out for you . . . because of a piddling complaint—excessive saliva which you are continually forced to swallow-back and which grosses you out.  You hate to be such a pest. You've already been calling her at least once a week for pharmaceutical tweaks, and she has gladly and dutifully answered the call.  

Of course, all along you had a vague cognizance of that dying man's concern—how much and for how long?  Playing, lumbering, dithering, and fancying, you've had the inchoate sense—a deal you didn't bargain for, a scale always a little offset—that, eventually-upon-a-time, "quantity of life" (the aim of over seventeen years of MRIs, CTs, EEGs, biopsies, radiation, and chemo) would sidle-up to "quality of life" (the aim of trifling-spit pills) and  soon enough become the sole concern.   

*** 10/ 1/ 13

[A poem by Dylan Thomas to his dying father followed by my personal and hopefully pardonable response to notion. Also, I could not more highly recommend going to website and listening Thomas’s mesmerizing reading of the poem.]


        Do not go gentle into that good night,
        Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

        Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
        Because their words had forked no lightning they
        Do not go gentle into that good night.

        Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
        Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

        Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
        And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
        Do not go gentle into that good night.

        Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
        Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

        And you, my father, there on the sad height,
        Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
        Do not go gentle into that good night.
        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

A Good Night

After and in response to Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” 

Why should I bear the dark such enmity
When I've borrowed my share of its delights?
No reason I should, so I'll go gently

Into that purple uneventfully.
The traipsing zodiac, the city lights—
Why should I bear the dark such enmity?

All days grow shadows eventually
Then deliquesce into their starry nights--
More reasons I should, so I'll go gently

To my final constellation content.
That which illumines as easily blights--
So why bear the dark such enmity

When youth's glow is always more recently
A dimmer display of once crystal sights?
No reason I should, so I'll go gently

When that purple approaches intently,
When that black bucket swings low from the heights.
Why should I bear the dark such enmity?
No, no reason I should, so I'll go gently.

Monday, December 2, 2013

blast! oh?

*** 8/ 21/ 13

Another bit of consolation offered to the sick or otherwise under the gun, over the barrel, or against the ropes:  "It's gonna get worse before it gets better."

Often, yes. See childbirth. Note Atomic Fireballs. Behold zombie outbreaks.  But do not mistake it getting better for having made it through the worst.  

A couple of months ago, I could not talk; I could scarcely swallow; breath was hard to come by; steps were of the baby variety; all manner of things were not well.  But things got better.  Now I can speak and be understood; I can eat and walk—though clumsily in either case.  And a couple of days ago, an MRI showed that radiation and Avastin (fancy new chemo) have reduced the size of some of the tumors and some of the swelling has gone down.

Things have gotten better.  Sometimes they do and stay that way. See a fine wine. Sometimes things get better then worse and so on before settling into good. Note the Star Wars films taken in order of release date. But sometimes . . . lick those fingers, the fan in the cash box is blowing, the bills are a'flurry, the crowd in the used car lot is counting down along with the clock . . . pay no attention to the clock, stuff those pockets . . . stuff them good and plenty because . . . buzzer! behold glioblastoma multiforme  . . . worse, worser, and so forth.  

*** 8/ 25/ 13

[a poem about the ancient and therefore reasonably tired poetic device of likening one's lifespan to the seasons of the year]

Ode on a Cold Conceit
So this is what it's like to be the embodied
Winter of a million verses: the stark deciduous--
Bald, broiling since summer; the mum come lately,
Quickly crisping?

This is December, is it?  One last solstice
Before the calendar flops, the last hooray
For Christ before the wise men camel-in—

Gifts in tow. What does a metaphor say?
Feed me my lines . . .
If not . . . peas and carrots, peas and carrots,
From paper to stage, paper to stage; 

Horatio, it gets cold. So this is what it's like.

*** 8/ 28/ 13

As a poet . . . well, as a student and dabbler in a soon-to-be former life, I must say, indication of malignity aside, glioblastoma multiforme is a lovely pair of words.  Of course not coming out of your doctor's mouth but just to let roll out of your own mouth now and then.  More accurately, to let rise from breath to epiglottis then quickly from tongue-tip to tooth.  The 'g' and the 'l' are such odd fellows--the first seeming ready to get googly if given another millisecond, the second coming to rescue with its lullaby capabilities.    Those first two letters are nearly at opposite ends of the sound-sense spectrum—where our hard 'g' joins 'd' and 'b' towards the strong end (which is stoppered by those crowing bully twins the hard 'c' and 'k') and our 'l' sidles with familial ease into a liaison of 'm' and 'n'.

So pretty is this happy sounding union of ‘g’ and ‘l’, it's no wonder we are pleased to announce the arrival of our second syllable with a pleasurable 'o'. 'O'-- that ode to itself, prelude to some Romantic notion or mythic inquiry.  Or, as in our present case, 'O'--that  caught-breath to get us through the rest of the word, which we'll need what with the upcoming explosion.

Blast! A jarring syllable reminding us how we got to this frivolous discussion in the first place; we got here by a teeth-rattling diagnosis--the actual words spoken from the doctor's mouth indicating the malignity. Blast! But for the purpose of poetry, a lovely syllable generously donating its ugliness to the cause of our analysis. 

As an English-major type in that former life, I will treat you to the following bit of extraneous jargon: juxtaposition.  In real life, it means two or more things placed side by side. In literature, it typically means two or more things placed side by side to evoke stronger images by creating contrast or to subtly strengthen the rhetoric of an author's wonted perspicacity.

Bracketed by our restoratively respiring 'O's, the 'blast' ain't so tough anymore and is even more pacified by the final syllable, 'ma'--soft-lipped and maternal.

At last . . . 'multiforme'.  A word so cool that when spell-check offers a perfectly acceptable 'e'-less version, it's says, "Thanks but no; I was born this way."  A word so smooth it is both self-explanatory and ineffably mellifluent.  A word so lovely I can almost forgive its pernicious implications.

*** 9/ 1/ 13

If I have seemed blithe as I wend my way through these terminal thoughts it is because I have always faced life with humor.  Find the funny and speak it, do it; if possible, when speaking and/ or doing seems decidedly inappropriate, try to just think it, but don't hurt yourself holding it in.

If I have seemed unconcerned with the gravity of my condition, it is because the reality of it is like a slow leak into my comprehension, but the spigot is being turned by minute degrees and the pool of comprehension is widening and deepening.

If I have seemed unafraid, things are rarely what they seem.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

owww …kelly clarkson!


Respecting "bucket lists": ones comprising action figures, ponies, and nabbing a leprechaun probably were started too early; on the other hand, it might be a little late in the day if yours comprises cheeseburgers, pizza, and all you can eat Chinese food.  The former born out of hope and daydreams; the latter born out of hope and desperately fond memories of adult food. Either way, maybe start somewhere in between.  

*** 7-27-13

You would think having spent too, too much time in the humanities, and having bent my brain these years toward line-fashioning and verse-forging that I'd be waxing philosophical at this point of my goofy trundle toward decay instead of waning sarcastic. Or not, maybe we knew it would be this way.

*** 8-1-13

A question of etiquette: You are approached in a public place by an acquaintance who you may have seen you six months ago or yesterday or, worse, has never really seen you but is willing to lob a optimism-grenade in your proximity and almost invariably offers something like, "You're looking good!"  

Of the variety of unacceptable responses, which would be most effective toward restoring the balance between rubbish and veracity in the cosmos? A] “Oh, rubbish!”  2] “Who are you again?” 3] “As compared to whom . . . Gollum . . . Nosferatu . . . The asphalt-baking, slowly-emaciating corpse of a fly-swarmed, road-kill opossum?” Because your face is gaunt, your limbs are skeletal, and you are as likely as not daubing drool from the corner of your mouth? [Facial functionality still minimal at this time.]

*** 8-2-13

To my reckoning, fortyish is as fair enough age to clock-out as many others; by then, you've probably lived twice as long as you should have and half as long as you could have.  Call it a push and be grateful.
***8/ 9/ 13

The phraseology of terminal sickness comes locked and loaded—fraught with machismo and steel resolve.  "He lost his fight with cancer today after a courageous battle."  "They bombarded the tumor cells with aggressive treatment but in the end her body could not withstand the attack."  Whatever the case, if you're not fighting, you're not trying, at least not in the approved terms.  

Grit, grapple, growl. 

Problem is, I'm not a fighter.  I don't think in those terms.  I don't put up my dukes.  I'll put up my guard, sure.   I don't join the front-lines but if I stumble into one I'll borrow a helmet or a canteen, you bet, and thank you.   

If I've been anything in my life, I've been a student.  And not a particularly good one at that.  So, I understand the phraseology of tests and inquiry.  My sickness has been a test, this most recent development, something of a pop quiz I should have been ready for anyway having been in this class for over 15 years.  

In the scholastic sense, it does not courage to take the test.  It takes a bit of studying, a bit of patience, a bit of wishing you were fishing not fretting over potential essay questions from the blindside and probable temporary amnesia from straight on.  It takes a bit of will-power to stay in the class, is all.  To pass.  To take more tests—some with zeal, many with dread, most with that dull, unimpressive sense of survival—to pass, to take more tests, to graduate with your friends.

In the scholastic sense, I struggled but finished above average and not too addled to carry on.  

In a medical sense, I hope to fare as well; but I do not expect to finish summa cum laude or anything.  

A student: I've studied my diagnosis and what I can do, my prognosis and what I can't. 

Not a fighter: I've blocked and parried with meds, radiation, chemo, and a bit of patience.  

Courageous of me?  I don't think so.  It's the difference between gritted teeth and bared fangs.

My metaphors are getting mixed and my grammar willy-nilly.  Time to stop this train: wait! where'd the train come from—rather. . . whence the train?

*** 8/ 17/ 13

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  Sure, if what didn't kill you was a multivitamin that you choked on for second but managed to get down shortly with 8oz of V8. Sure, if what didn't kill you was a skydiving accident which occasioned a pair of bionic legs, an unhittable fastball, and a miracle ear to end all miracle ears.  

But if what didn't kill you was an insipid yet wildly catchy pop song can you be so sure that it truly boosted your well-being rather than sapped your soul an ounce or two causing a brief euphoria more like oxygen loss to the brain than cannabis contribution to higher consciousness?  

What if it was a grade one glioma?  Triggered seizures, tripped you-up with invisible wires? Grade two: stable, benign, pesky but manageable? Ok, you've made it through the early stages and they haven't killed you.  Grade three did not kill  . . . wait, grade three, what, when?  Oh, probably some early spring while the azaleas splashed the south with red and white vibrancy and the green-gloss magnolia leaves dipped gold from the sun to fling into your eyes--distraction's potion as old beauty itself--and then . . . grade three . . . through your garden on tiptoe, the squealing screen door with care, your kitchen filching leftovers, into your bed for a few nights, into your head, flitting into your dreams, a cameo you can't quite place--grade three, come and gone by Easter, your house warmed for grade four.  What is grade four?  Oh, it's gonna make you weaker well before it kills you.  So too, will platitudes and insipid songs--a slow, eye-rolling death.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

touche, abnormalities, touche


Not for pity. Not for sympathy. Not for applause. Yet not for nothing, I hope.


What follows are some random thoughts that have come to me which I supposed might be of interest to somebody besides myself. They are about terminal disease but set down here with far from morbid intentions; in fact, more the opposite is true.  It’s about dying but with a view to casting light from an as-it-occurs-to-me, first-person perspective.  But not an auto-eulogy nor self-styled elegy.  Morbid?  Yes, by definition, I would say; but hopefully not to the point of moroseness.

Expect perfect prose, expect to be left expecting . . . long since my advice to myself—it works pretty well, even if not altogether satisfying. Ditto perfect cohesion within journal entries or all-cylinder cognition throughout. These imperfections are the reasonable result of a crowded mind and crowding brain. I hope they are tolerable. 


For 17 years, I have been dealing a brain tumor.  At first, a benign sort whose symptoms were more or less kept in check by meds—anticonvulsants and happy-pills, mostly.  Over the years, the tumor would try to expand its horizons.  Two or three times, I spent weeks in bed among other unfortunate reactions to the tumor’s growth.  The more severe symptoms would eventually subside, and on we’d go.  Until the next flare-up, the next cause for concern. 

About 7 years back, I had a biopsy and we discovered a small upgrade in the tumor—it was beginning to show its ornery side, so we radiated.  Tumor stabilized, and on we went.  A few years later, I began consistently having seizures once or twice a month which led to chemotherapy for a year.  Tumor ostensibly stabilized and on we went . . . for a couple of months. But in the spring of 2013, my body went wonky again: short breath, speeding and/or snailing heart rate, loss of facial control and voice.  Two ER visits later and it was back under the biopsy drill (fancy new variety), back on my back beneath the radiation machine, back on chemo infusion (fancy new variety), back on MRI and symptom surveillance.  Because the tumor had reached grade four: glioblastoma multiform, which, barring miracle or misdiagnosis, is just about all she wrote—the final chapter still in draft form.

Early Summer,  2013

Day one of coming to terms with your truncated life expectancy is not the day you discover the new the tumors or hear the pathology report, rather it’s the day you double check your research and find that you misread months as years. Then it begins in earnest.


Here's earnest for you: since this "coming to terms" I have taken two naps and played on my iPad.

[additional entries queued,will follow with relative frequency until caught up]