Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Tetrad: To Celebrate the End of My Treatments for Breast Cancer

The following series of poems represents months of work through the most difficult time of my life as of yet. I wish to dedicate these poems to all the wonderful people involved in my care: the surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, physician assistants, radiation therapists, nurses, and anyone else who has touched my world these last few months, both in private practice and at Roswell Park Memorial Institute. And to all of the cancer patients, both whom I have met personally and on the online support groups. Your strength never ceases to amaze me. Thank you to all. I couldn't begin to fully express my gratitude.


It's Not Up to Him

Tell me that I can stay,
A little longer.
A life formed out of bits of thread and spilled blood
Is just a moment, a flash.
My creative clutter the only proof that I breathe.

Flesh plundered, compromised, sight unseen,
By one bad seed waiting,
For that slim circumstance
To strike and grow in a moment,
Interrupting a long-awaited dream.
We never know until we know,
We are not a given, even if we are forgiven.

I’d love to speak to that cell,
Lone invader of my own universe,
Travel the rivers and canyons of this divide,
Confront him and my swept-up fear.
To understand what he’s after,
Stealing my breath in order to live,
And perish with me.

I'd love to debrief that cell,
Make him squirm,
Will he have one noble reason?
Will I even comprehend why,
He means to use my body as his own,
Home Sweet Home,
For a little while?

I’d love to speak to that cell,
To tell him that I will stay,
A little longer.

It’s not up to him.


Ode to Awareness

Does tomorrow melt in your mouth,
Not in your hands,
Like Desire pulling you along by a taut, silken harness,
Only to nestle and caress you within the jaws of the famished world?

Do you tell your Prince to wake you later,
As you languishly linger within the folds
Of a sleep, unblemished by potion?
But, sooner than later, you will need those eyes open wide,
That breath strong and able,
Expanding and contracting for life.

Do you gaze across an open, fertile landscape,
Only to while away in longing,
For that noble Youth,
When all bitter Beauty has is these petals in her void?
All the while, the leaves rustle amongst us, calling out for Winter,
Awaiting to hear his step on the porch boards.

Do your dreams recall a listless longing,
Lying limp and open on the forest floor,
White flood rising from your cool gown,
A sad stream echoing your delirious sleep?
A cold wind blows, suddenly,
harsh and heavy upon your parched skin.

Shivering with eyes aflutter,
You think,
Perhaps, there is another way,
To conceive of this future,
Without falling through the cracks and chasms,
Of a life lived by another.

As you grasp the reins,
You navigate your way,
Slowly, ever so slowly,


One Good Rain

All we need is one good rain
To wash these sins away.
Too bad it’s not so easy
To become clean again.

In the beginning,
There was sword and shield,
To keep us fully clothed.
Then we had witness protection,
To keep away all our foes.

Now it’s just a crapshoot,
We have nowhere to hide.
For me it’s just a walk on the beach,
But I am not too sure of the tide.

There really is no use,
I can duck in every doorjamb,
But I will always be looking backward,
A weapon filling each hand.

Protect both the chest and head
With armor reinforced.
Not once, but twice,
To withstand the force
An army of 100 men.
The battle cry sounds with a rush,
Of arrows emerging swiftly,
Over the cries of lonely voices
A raging fireball arcs,
And turns this armor to ashen dust,
This hope to smoke.

The fallen counted as we pass
Through these years
To days, not less dangerous.
It is not within the integrity of the body,
But in its own stealthiness.
We can disappear into thin air,
But still find invasion from within.
Crossing the crime of the organized
Will only leave you
With a neck forever cricked
a gaze directed behind those eyes,
A throat not quite nicked.

Night falls over the bustling bar,
A glow arises from the corner.
An enticing circle of fire emerges,
From the dimness
Beyond, the face slowly becoming visible
In the darkness.
A world alive at dusk,
A youth riveting and vibrant,
Confident in her ignorance.

A tinkle of ice as the whiskey
Flows, the smell wafts over me,
Like a banana freshly peeled,
It passes my lips like a fantasy.
That numb little confidence I love
Has entered my skin.
I coast down its river through days
And months
And eventually years
To where I am right now.

Here in this room
Whiskey long forgotten
Yet still a part of me.
Is it really
A mere cellular memory?

That’s it.
The deed is done.
I’ve unsheathed the sword,
Released my own ball of fire,
Submitted my body to flame and forge.
I’ve opened the gate to chaos,
I’ve started this holey war.
I’ve crossed the mafia cell at its own game,
And I will always be looking back.
With a crick in my neck,
A dislocated shoulder,
Waiting for that next attack.

And I owe it all to those whiskey years,
And that marvelous carelessness.
In my innocence of youth,
I had grasped a light,
That has lingered ever since.
And it’s true.
It is still near,
Burning strong and very much


A Perfect 84

42 years of a life,
Lived well and full,
Is not enough to wrap,
My weary arms around the world.

42 more would do,
Let’s make it symmetrical.
42 more would do very well.
My social calendar,
Is much too full.

84 years you say?
You’d be lucky.
I know.
But, 84 years in the scope of things,
Is just a drop on the great agar plate
Of the world.

84 years is all I ask,
A perfect number seemingly.
Keats got only 25,
And I’m no Keats,
That’s what I see.

We’ll call him Gabe,
My angel
Alarmed me of what’s to come.
He tapped me on the shoulder ,
Changed my curfew to some,
Night I never dreamed of,
Then changed it once again so I’d learn.

Then I knew,
That I was strong enough.
I knew when I saw you in my room,
That night, of all nights,
Thank you for coming so soon.

I only wish,
That you were less frightening,
With your perfectly trimmed beard.
And eyes of clay and sinfulness,
Here on hallowed ground, so rare.

We are less earthy than you think,
Bring your white robes, I don’t care.
But I forgive you, Gabriel,
Your message was loud and clear:

These hands have more,
Comfort to give.
This left hand more to write.
This right hand more peace to share,
With those I encounter each night.

This hair much more,
Than vanity,
A frank expression of who I am.
This brain to compute and rationalize,
My relation to earth as it stands.

These eyes,
They are a window,
To a soul,
Not clean, but bright.
These bulky arms,
Which I lament,
Have held my child so tight.

These ears to listen caringly,
To those whom need me most.
This mouth with which to kiss goodnight,
All those whom are not lost.
These teeth to chew
The chocolate, most delicious and so fine.
This nose to smell the springtime air,
As it wispily leaves the vine.

This neck,
To accept,
Kisses and caresses,
All the same.
These shoulders
To shoulder the gardening,
Creating life along the way.

These breasts create a line,
From me to my
Beloved and his stare.
My waist encompassed by those arms
Who really, truly care.
My hips contain my power,
Of life and femininity.
Those thighs that I wish smaller,
Have gotten me from sea to sea.

These old calves are
Not so bad,
But shaving them gets routine.
My feet, oh my woeful feet,
You can kiss them,
But not this week.

My heart,
I save the best for last,
It holds so many dear.
Although I may not express myself,
Hear me loud and clear.

84 years,
Almost a century,
Of life to give and share,
This body with the great wide world,
I’ll do it, if you dare.

Knowing that I love you all,
Sleep silently,
Knowing that I care,
And never for a minute dream
Of when you will not be here.
Leave that worry all to me,
I’ve seen it all before.
To me it’s just a path I’m on,
And I’ve just opened the great big door.

This is my one wish for you,
Life can be so unfair.
For I have people looking out for me,
Some white dove--down here, up there.
Oh No! I’ve lost my shoes again,
Radiation is a bear.


Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Beautiful. I'm so glad your treatments are done!

TheWingchairTraveller said...

Thanks so much, Melissa! I cannot believe I've finally reached the end of the road.