Category Archives: poetry

the sky is empty

“I talk to God but the sky is empty.”
~ Sylvia Plath

Ge’ez, Sylvia Plath is sure a downer!

When I was little, I thought my grandparents lived in heaven, not because they were dead, but because they lived in Arizona (a stretch to see how I got here, I can imagine, but bear with me)….

I came to visit them with this kind of sky:

From this kind of sky:

So, when we went to visit (usually in early summer) our plane went up above the clouds, but never came back down through them… so, they must have lived in heaven, right? Please, also note that this was also around the time I was very saddened that Zeus and the pantheon of gods was not “real” and that my mother found me once, kneeling in the front yard praying to the moon-god. I was a wildly spiritual child.

Considering my family did not practice any real form of faith as I was growing up, they were Protestant in Roman Catholic countries after all – and any Protestants that lived where we were tended to be evangelical missionaries and not the most fun to be around – add in that we were considered to be “converted” and there were all those heathen Roman Catholics and indigenous cultures that needed to be saved. 

Many people tell you to lean in to your faith in trying times like this. It is amazing how much you seek something out, something that requires faith. But looking for something that is comfortable, that does not mean I must have a rebirth in any fashion, that means I don’t have to believe fossils were put on earth by satan to lure us to his evil ends,  something other than the spiritual connection to the cancer I got is because I have mommy issues, something other than I am not godly and got cancer because I am being punished… 

fuck – fuck – fuck – fuck

FUCK

How do you find faith in the midst of such fucking insanity.

Notice that is not a question, though it probably should be.

Anyway.

I learned that I had a sizable chunk of muscle removed with my last surgery. Granted, it was not the breast surgery removal of days of yore when women begged for a radical (nay, they wanted uber radical) mastectomy – the kind that took out muscle and bone (think ribs and clavicles). I’m missing 2 inches of chest wall muscle… and I’m still in disbelief… faith.

The way humans think is sometimes shocking to me. BUT, and it is a YUUUUUGE “but”, I get it. While my head understands that if treated correctly a lumpectomy has the same results as a mastectomy and you heal faster – but WTF does treating something correctly mean? My tumor was muscle adjacent, so does that mean that one of those a$$hole cancer monsters escaped and is it hiding somewhere? Somewhere that chemo and radiation can’t find?  Faith.

This is where finding faith again is crucial – but it is so freaking different this go around, faith that is.

If you are prone to that which is beyond the physical and don’t judge, I can share how I am re-learning how to lean in to faith again.  The thing is, I will most likely appear a heretic to you.

The one thing I know, is that I don’t think faith is about re-birth (that concept is what caused me to abandon faith before)… if it is for you, that is awesome – but I don’t buy it one effin’ iota.

I, beautifully enough, am finding this process of rediscovering faith kinda cool. and a bit painful.

It is especially nice since there is a disquiet in this process, of being a person diagnosed with cancer. It was present the first time and it is present again this time.  The subtleties of it that I experienced the first time is magnified, but both of my cancer experiences, so far, are incredibly similar… at least internally.

Because my first round was stage 1 and caught super early and only required surgery it was subtle. I felt like a fraud of a cancer patient because phht, it just needed surgery. People (most of them), aside from the time during the surgery put me at the bottom or low-end of a cancer continuum (that was practically equated with being cancer free).

In this round, where I am currently listed as stage 2B (and probably only because they did not take out more nodes and we will see if that changes after the next battery of test results come in), it is still sufficiently low on that continuum that I still feel like a fraud (though only less so because, after all, it looks like I am getting chemo and radiation this time) and the news about the cancer itself has just gotten progressively worse. Many of those same folks from my first experience are still like “well, you aren’t dying”.

I am adding silently  in my head; “that I know of” because I am still waiting for more tests and results of tests.

No, I am not dying (well, at least I don’t think so, but as I said… I will have a more definitive answer after I see the results of the next test). Trust me I celebrate that!  I am not healthy, I have a chronic disease that gives me (according to my radiation oncologist) an 81% 5 year survival rate (though this varies depending on the sites with such data). Yes, 81% is super awesome, but before this all went down I was with most others and had the general average population of a smidgen over 98% . A 17% drop in my life expectancy is still a crappy thing to have as a part of my life.

Trying to balance a good attitude with crippling doubts is a strange place to be.

I struggle. The struggle is real. Not because I have a Christian need for an after-life – but because I want to be more than just a life form – I want something divine to be a part of this experience, I want to lean in to something when I am so riddled and consumed with anxiety. A set of rituals that I can be a part of, a community where I feel like I belong. IN my head I often say to myself, I just want to be loved through this.

I read about Sherman Alexie today, something that I struggled with, but which spoke to the spiritual little girl in me that the unseen world is there for those that listen.  (the story is here).

I have found great comfort in so many people in my life, women and men – willing to be a part of this process with me.  I hate to lean on them, how do you answer the unanswerable to someone like me desperately seeking?

 

 

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without expectation or grace

812px-timmermann_law_and_grace
Law and Grace

an apprehension for reality, the death of the flower,
the collapse of hope, the crush of
wasted years, the nightmare faces,
the mad armies attacking for no reason at all
and/or
old shoes abandoned in old corners like half-forgotten
voices that once said love but did not mean
love.

see the face in the mirror? the mirror in the
wall? the wall in the house? the house in the
street?

now always the wrong voice on the telephone
and/or
the hungry mouse with beautiful eyes which now lives in
your brain.

the angry, the empty, the lonely, the
tricked.

we are all
museums of fear.

 

there are
as many killers as flies as
we dream of giant
sea turtles with strange words carved into
their hard backs
and no place for the knife to go in.

Cain was Able,
ask him.
give us this day our daily dread.

the only solace left to us is to hide
alone in the middle of night in some deserted
place.

with each morning less than zero,
humanity is a hammer to the brain,
our lives a bouquet of blood, you can watch
this fool still with his harmonica
playing elegiac tunes while
slouching toward Nirvana
without
expectation or
grace.

Poem for Nobody
~ Charles Bukowski

I am a rancher at heart, now I have brand to show for it!

My house was built before Arizona was a state.  As such, it has seen so many things and as I go to bed each night I try not to worry about the leaky pipe or the wobbly porch with a hole in it and instead try to concentrate more on what stories it has to tell.

This past weekend the grandson of the second owner of our home stopped by for a visit.
He grew up in the house and shared some marvelous stories with me. 
I learned that there is a cover-up and I was sworn to secrecy.
I learned that Wilford  Hayden would ride his old mule from the ranch about five miles north after dinner and sit on the porch chattin’ until well past midnight.
I learned that the brand the Stevenson family use (and did so when they lived in my home) was this:
can we pretend it is for 6 Squink or (last name redacted)?
Also, my cousin has a brand that needs to be renewed
I learned that I need to crash the next meeting of the Scottsdale Old-Timers club! 

Messages from my mirror

The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.
~St. Jerome  

Today I scheduled a follow up eye appointment for October.

As I opened up my calendar I realized that the four months would land on the day before I had my surgery, which was when my eye problems started.

In the eight months since my life was spared and my body was torn apart in order to do that… a lot has happened.

One of the things that I find most striking is that my eyes have changed. And I have been trying to figure out what it is that I have noticed.

I am not sure when I started to think my eyes looked different to me, but I recall wondering if somehow my irises had become lighter or cloudier in color. Cataracts at my age?

The crux is that they don’t look happy to me, they looked pained, tired, and perhaps even scared.

I don’t know that I am any of those things, but I am a very different person than I was in 2014 B.D.

That B.D. is Before Diagnosis.

This process has been hard, but the hardest part was learning to stand up for myself. Standing up to a mother and aunt that I know love me, but who felt that age gave them some sort of prize that included tearing me down… I am sure that is (was) not their intent… but as they threw things at me that I would have previously have bowed my head to and ignored but in the middle of my fight to feel whole again seemed unduly cruel coming from them. As I said, I am sure they did not mean it, but they still hurt me very deeply on a level that a doctor could not touch.

I think, perhaps, that is part of the cloudiness that I see in my eyes.

It is also navigating my health after a pretty invasive surgery, the unwanted weight gain, the change in shape, the pain, the aches… the health of my eyes included.

They are better now though, the scars left on them through repeated injury and a misdiagnosis are healing, almost gone. The burden of the change of lifestyle for them is permanent… eye drops for life, they said. Keep them moist, they said. I will, I reply.

But when I got home from my appointment today, I looked in the mirror and still saw that certain kind of cloudiness, and I hoped it was not permanent.

Then there is this.

“Behind these eyes there is a girl trapped within her pain – a girl feeling all the emotions of anger and sadness. She’s fighting for a way out.”
~ Chimnese Davids

poetry of deliberate awkwardness

One of the things with the notion of love is that there is a form of reciprocity that is involved  -  and yes, this is a generality… I can already think of instances where love is not expected to be reciprocated.


I love heart shaped rocks

I love road runners

I love Ecuador

I can say that I am pretty darn sure none of those love me back, (though I have an internal argument that countries/cities/regions can love someone but that is not really relevant to today’s thoughts) but that is not the kind of love of relationships.

I love my son, I am sure he loves me back.

I love my family, I am sure they love me back.

I love my friends, I am sure they love me back.

However…

Lyric Poetry, painted by Henry Oliver Walker (Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington D.C.).

Many of us do not take the time to notice and acknowledge how beautiful we are as humans.~ unknown

So, here is where I can say that in general I am really hard on myself. I don’t know that I am a beautiful human… I would like to think I am, but I can’t verify that I am with any certainty (you could ask my mom, and she would say yes, but she is my mom and of course she has to believe that…). 

If we have beautiful on one end of a spectrum I really can’t say that I think I would be on that end. If we have a  complete spectrum of beauty I can’t say that I would be on an end or even in the middle.. since there is something in the way we approach beauty that runs from good to bad that in some sense one part is better than another.

It is pretty sick, isn’t it. 

I mean, I look at my family, all my family and I am just wowed by how beautiful they are. I just can’t manage to apply to to myself.

I saw this Ted talk  and it struck a chord, though I think he may too easily dismiss duty in terms of love… but, I do think he has something in his ideas about loving the deliberate awkwardness of being human.

I am most definitely on a scale that measures that.


My favorite line is = POEM: wild geese

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.” 
Mary Oliver

Find the beautiful

THAT

Find the beautiful

Yes, that…

is my theme for this year.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson  


Finding the beautiful… it is very present in the external. 

But as I navigated just how ugly it was to go through this cancer thing, how easy it was for people to forget that it is my battle, and I had to find myself repeatedly trying to forgive… I lost my place. And I was so hurt by people that I am close to (who are ashamed of my diagnosis, who couldn’t/can’t talk to me about what was/is happening, who took things from me with out asking, who made things harder for me….) that I forgot to stop and find the beautiful.

So, fuck the folks who take away from this… they can live with their choices.

And I am so lucky, because I have people in my life who can help me do that. So, I have to let them in and help me see what I need to see.

I,  am so excited. Because, you see, this year, 2015, I get to find the beautiful.

Yes, that…

is really my theme for this year. 

Day 15 – 40 Days of Writing – Poetry

“but in the end

if we’re lucky

we’ll have the love 

of a precious few

maybe the ability to stare

death in the eye”


I am not shy to say that I loathe / hate / dislike  am ambivalent about poetry. OK, OK… Most of it. I love Yeats, and Keats. And Robert Burns. and a few isolated bits and pieces from others… I love the poems that Doralice puts on her blog… they are pretty [insert expletive] awesome… but really not much more. I only own poetry books that people give me. I have never purchased a book of poems.

If you navigate to my previous posts from 2011 you will see my desperate and unsuccessful attempt to try and find the magic in poetry that so many postulate that it has… (the posts start with “My favorite Line is..” if you are curious).

I even took a Coursera course to try and get it, figuring that I was reading them wrong or something along those lines. But, I found so much of it to be sad and pretentious and boring and far too much work to enjoy.

Maybe it is that I prefer Hemingway like poets, meaning that they use simple images, words, phrases, and images that make conjuring up the magic story that poetry can be, so seamless and easy.


Is this really true?


Anyway, that line above appeared in my feed on “The Facebook”. 

The whole poem can be found here.

So, I know now that what it is is that I am not a fan of most of the post modern poetry, I love the romantics, the ones who use and understand words with so much more grace, who don’t try to fray you out of feeling a place in our world, I don’t like the ones that push you into spending hours trying to decode what in the hell they mean, that make you feel like you are sitting an a very uncomfortable perch as you try to find meaning in them, that seem haughty and petulant with words meant to tease the reader. Those, I find difficult. I can’t read them without wanting to throw the book they are written in across the room.

I don’t need a poem to make me feel good, I can be pushed to sadness, and anger, and any other emotion but I need to connect to the words. I fight bitterly to do that in those times when I have sought to read poetry.

But that makes me ask, what makes you tick when it comes to poetry? What poems do you love? what poets have inspired you enough to purchase a book of their poems? If you write poetry, what inspires you? Do you feel ridiculous (exposed, vulnerable) when you do?

I am just trying to understand.

Day 12 – 40 days of writing – managing vulnerability

Vulnerable

I am feeling so very vulnerable.


vulnerable
/ˈvʌlnərəbəl/
adjective 
1. capable of being physically or emotionally wounded or hurt
2. open to temptation, persuasion, censure, etc
3. liable or exposed to disease, disaster, etc



Let me be very clear. I don’t do vulnerable. Rather, I don’t like to do vulnerable myself. Support vulnerable I am pretty good at. 

This is vulnerable:



I am not that.

But yet, I feel so exposed.

I suppose there is this thing about letting go. My whole life I have loved fiercely, family, friends, the underserved among so many other things. And there is something, with a couple of rare exceptions, that is very one sided. In most of the cases (outside of family) love not expected to be reciprocated. In terms of friends; I can love them as much as I need to but since I know how variances are in the complexities of human relationships, I haven’t really expected or even needed them to love me back.

Until now, I suppose.

I received an email from someone I think is wonderful and call a very dear friend and in her email she said she had called me a best friend. Oh, I was struck by that. I hadn’t known that she had classified me in that category, and I was deeply, deeply touched and very grateful. I am better at the subtleties of friendships with men, and not so good at them with a grand preponderance of women.

But, it feels so vulnerable to allow oneself to be loved in this kind of situation. At least, for me, in terms of relationships outside of marriage and genetics.

As an aside, I made a variation of this Ayurvedic Dal recipe, it is a family favorite that is rich and complex in flavor but so hearty and filling. I even quadrupled the basic recipe (only one can of coconut soup, and some other changes). The way the currants plump up and complement the curry power is like a bit of food heaven.

Normally, I make brown rice but for some reason I bought some jasmine rice. In an attempt to make rice Ecuadorean style I followed the way Carloti (our live in maid/nanny) showed me…something like this recipe, but letting it sit longer so you get a crispy bottom.

There is so much comfort in comfort food.

Day 6 – 40DOW – another stage, perhaps.

In Old Norse the raven was a popular symbol and represented the power and wisdom of the mythological god Odin who would strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest warriors with his two fearless ravens sitting on his shoulders.

Me Hello again, 3:00am. You kind of suck for me right now, though I recall the days when you were fun and I was much more invincible.

I’ve moved into the next stage. Or is it another stage?
It happened the second I hung up on the last person in my inner circle.
The very second my finger pressed the hang up button.
I felt stupid and ridiculous for all the crying and sad.
This is stupid, I thought to myself.
You’re trying to get attention, I scolded myself.
You are making more out of this than it deserves, my inner voice admonished.
I felt ashamed for my tearful calls and emails to these people who mean a lot to me. 
My brain rattled off a list of the reasons that supports its claim that I am swimming in ridiculous.
There was a tiny voice telling me this was all OK. These are scary new words and it’s ok to be scared. But tiny voices are easily shut down.
Is this denial? Acceptance? Are there even progressive emotional states after a diagnosis like this, like the stages of grief?
I know I am not going to die, so why all this fuss? Is it really all that ridiculous that I want my mother and aunt with me, even if this causes them even bigger inconveniences? That I want to monopolize their time and play paper dolls with them, like I used to do when sick and at home as a child.

I always loved paper dolls from other cultures

And the vestiges of anger are poking through in those who mean well and tell  me what to do, or discount my thoughts on what I know may be my treatment options. This is my damned body, not yours.
Is there an angry denial phase? Am I really angry? Am I in denial?
I hate that as my body recovers from the cone biopsy, the aches and pains tease me into thinking that the cancer has taken control… that it has, in a blind rage at the attempt at its excision, rallied like a fire breathing mythical beast and waged a war inside me that I am slightly oblivious to and thereby allowing to grow with wild abandon as I navigate the days until my oncology appointment.
I decided that if it should have a name that somehow the notion of carrion should be involved. I have decided to invoke the ancient Valkyries of my genetic past, the ones that were ravens that became the ears (thought) and eyes (memory) for Odin, that cleaned up the battle fields by eating away at the carrion that resulted.
I want those ravens to remove my carrion and bring me the wisdom to do it bravely.