Playing the Cat

Scene 1: Enter Stage Right, Cat

This year Cat knocked Mary down.
Mother of Jesus, Carpets, Jews.
Last year, Cat ran off with the Husband—
Taking Joseph’s coat, too.
Not seen since the incident,
Neither man, nor carpet, nor cape.
Cat, exit stage.
Three years now since,
Cat, spuriously,
Dragged down a turkey.
Bigger than his head, feasts Cat,
Dinner of greasy fowl, used and
Orphaned. All shiny fat prickly sinews
Cold kitchen floor decor.
We retired in living color,
Cat waits on sock rugs,
Chasing bugs and saints.

Eyes devour the Lollipop Guild,
Feasting on colorful Witches brews
Enter Wizard. Sleep in straw
The tin cans sending queues
Heads with curlers, spitting nails—
Shake and roar, black as night.
White pictures of spoiled babies.
“My,” gasping grandmother
Hungry, yet we search the air.
Relief, at long last,
A manger all in tact,
Still missing:
Carpentry’s first common
Union worker.
Cat stole him three years past.
In stretches morning, you gripe
“Such an imprint for a wife.”
(I am the knife.)
Cat, please take leave —
Please leave, leave the coffee.
Four years back, for I
Then me. We sighed, “no cat.”
Dreams of dances on tippy toes,
A vision of homes built round,
All trees and ornaments and we’s.
Petting slowly, backhanded
Head to tail.

Cat purrs waltzing,
Jesus asleep now, Joseph
Warmly herd sheep sows, Mary
Wailed and cried still.
Windows shuttered,
Elbows under chins, on sills.
We keep all the straw for a manger.
We each pull out one for luck:
I forgot to count the flock tonight —
Up to number 10 to silence
My weeping, I shivered.
The Egyptian visions,
The escaping slaves —
The sundown desert —
They eyed green knaves.
The riddle the answer the
Four Footed beastly things.
The long tail sweeping
Dust up on wings.

Nestled pyramids, soldiers of sand,
No servants hand, no strangers.
No one died today, no saints
Made. Cat wore the Ankh,
Carried the dog headed staff,
Drawing along the sea crooked to
And fro on the sand, wand dragging
Wagging a tail — Happy in now,
Yet name him Memento.
Cat, built it all alone, he meant
To say, “I made that,” in peace
Aligning November’s
Surrendering sun.
Cat dreams of Cat things:
Play, sleep, sun, warm, eat.

Return to your lines, to track back
Over three years, to four.
In scene two: sorrow and worry,
Cat pictures Mary, Joe, and the baby boy.
Rejoice, back in the trunk
Running for the fifth term monks.
Cat: teeth glitter with hope
Of centurions and scarabs run.
Cat, to you surrendered or given
From your own meaty dinner,
pulled. Drowned asunder
All in a Dead Sea, deep
Asleep, dreaming wonder.

Swaying, overhead wire flying
Cat awake and wicked green
Snipped, he nips at grass.
His game — Cricket.
Slow, moribund, drying spice scent.
Boring holes, hearing voices.
Charming. Then crack —
A bat. Eyes followed us
On western war bliss.
Then rob the sun, beaming
Warm like a kiss.
The Queens pearls go dark.
Yet to remember:
Do not face
Anything larger than you
May forget
To enter: open this moment.
Exit the Cat.

Merciful Sister

For Janis

Peace.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace.
Return to grace —
To feel my heart,
Beating through miles, through space.
Time melts if you just breathe,
And close your eyes, tightly shutting away all else, but leave —
One small Place, only for me out in the open.
Close your arms and fold them round your self and set the fire—
Do not fail to wash your soul – it’s open and sparking – yet alive as you desire.
Surrounding and around you finding love through the pain called “time,”
Find my breath in autumnal air billowing redgoldyellow and sublime.
Find yourself warmly engulfed by my warm arms like rays of sun and of sea air.
Gentle, perfect and golden, somehow washing your skin so clear,
The water rains from somewhere unknown, as bees hives overfull with honey.
You, merciful woman, with strength to cry for those who only scream,
Weak enough to walk with eyes shut tight, away from all your dreams.

Cry for the little girl inside yourself—
On the strength of my back with enough us both.
You may seem an Angel to so many, too many who cannot See,
And yet a sister to only one, the only sister to me.

Happy, Our Holiday

No, honey leave the pictures, such a day,
Stop now. Forgetting me, you go by snowy woods
With undone dos, you push back and away.
The wagon’s wood paneling, home soon, maybe Monday?
Lunch sacks filled the seats, bags of foils and ribbons.
Be safe waves from the porch. Call soon, from the door, inching in.
Far and still miles to go for hours in traffic, in cold,
Of course it’s the weather, our ever season jokes retold.
Taking longer routes to savor day’s last light, your
Good behavior rewarded, we finally turned right.
Turn to arms ready for you, holding hands lit with candles.
Flickering and waxy, wick’s glowing halo blue,
Walk on too slowly towards the crowded mantle.
Oh, if not for that old home.

Next to the heat, slippered and robed, indecisions, made alone.
Arguing: revisions or mistakes? Taciturn remarks about cars, or
About the years the Mustangs strode through town.
Carbon emissions, dating, four on the floor,
All bits and stirrups, shoes clambering,
Upright models, proud dads, rough riders saddled up.
Still moving, they knew someone, but not you. Knowing not to stop.
Through their produced sounding recordings you think you know them now.
Though science told you, that’s impossible, yet
Not improbably how.

Along we rode, a dark-handed wind pushed us uptown, much
Deeper than we ever thought, in the white water they nearly drowned.
Snowed-in yield and stop signs, ice dripping like butchers knives.
We make of love just what we need and more, our story pleased the town.
With night and rhythmic light it became easier to see the wives.
Show them honey, show how we slow to stop, to go, on we go…
Spring sighs with black pitch tar, steam and rising streams,
Our guts overpilling with laughter splitting seams.
Yet certain of the weather, a moments motives you know to go.
When Minnesota blood runs south by the mouth of the great
Mississippi River, her byways and curved embankments sweet
With such late dates.

Reminiscing, your mind spits out memories as icy precipitation.
Our God instructs with tiny gifts, we take in anticipation.
The sole barer of pain, like a choral angel singing off key,
What saved your fall? What shines of shame in bars of gold, so disgraceful,
Frantically your air pounding fists whip to hate the truth.
All those heavenly men answer merely to save your face,
Full of knowledge, aging faithful barrels, full with your unfiltered wisdom.
A sick old king left us with only a word so random,
Maybe rehearsed, possibly untrue, told by his biographer —
(Well-known and only a provocateur).
Leaving not a single clue.

Weather and evening corralled the horses inside,
The engines idled, big girls gasped, and awkward boys cried.

The Second Line

Not the first, nor ever last,
The Second Line dances ecstatically past.
Behind the mourners, they’re not the saints,
All uplifted, marching in crowded street’s restraints.
Wheeling, turning, lift and fall with porch swings,
All souls rise upon the polls and upon night’s owl’s wings.

Arriving I walked through stranded streets,
Leaving, I grasp a heart (as my own skipped a beat.)
Coming to hear my disease my diagnosis,
Going to feel your hands opening my prognosis.
“I believe you understood I needed nothing!”
Somehow I left the sand untracked, forgetting every something,
And now I remember to choose without no judgement (or cups or wands)—
The images I neatly packed tumbled and eroded into sand.
When I lost my vision I cannot recall, but you held me in your light,
Though I came to find my courage, I dance away with second sight.

Saving Rescuers

I.

My love how wrong I am no star,
Somehow near but towards afar,
I leaned against your song.
Saving myself, I once sat up high –
Tall as a lifeguard tested and tried.

All zinc white nose, a clownish umbrella,

The angry preservation of a tune, a cappella.
Only block the violets from burning my skin.

Yet I rescind. Did I seek my mortal coil
Before drowning in the soil? So dusty.

Just before the burn wraps around my effigy,
Familiar arms grasp and pull you from the sea,
As your weight rises like an apogee –
Why must you make my job so hard?
A soaked coat draped over your bare

Hairless shoulder, While on the beach

Your chest fills with breath.

My waves, my shore.

II.

We slowly crest.
Yet you weigh nothing, even wet.
Simply the dearth of your will,
So short and without regard or debt.
We hear the oceans excess cheers,
And feel it’s drag upon our boney years.
Like an owl’s catty joke –
All height without heft. I let go
Just as you parade and poke
At the grievers and the bereft.
Stronger than knives or strokes and
Beleaguered, lonesome old oaks,
Together again, those wings, the trees,
Gasping at them as I forgot to sing.
Spanning years’ dimly stated demands
Its our last night in the Neverland.
And thus we fly away and apart –
Your good leg tied inside paper.
A pigeon homed to name the saint.
Save for you, I cannot restore restraint
Of discord’s time off or it’s application.
For now slippers of silver, icy with complaints,
For in the shadows of Mercury’s elation,

Heaving words, breaking bones, ingratiation.

Ever! and yet now you take your final stand?
Yet who but I deserved to walk in chains and receive all reprimands.

Not a single one dared, none but you understands.

Cancer, My Jailor

Born with a scream, die with a whimper. Between those bookends, the self somehow develops. Perhaps it’s because we exist at the bottom of an empty well, waiting for the drenching rains of knowledge to float us up and out of the darkness. The more I know, the less I know, yet the more I’m told. How unsatisfactory.

Do you somehow quench a long thirst, find how to know yourself, somehow climb out of that well to find your soul?

Probably not. And not exactly where I’d hoped to wind up at stage 4 of my life. No, not like a pitcher winding up on a baseball mound, but wind up the ends of a life spent pursuing “right” actions. By ingesting information, sharing love, giving as fully as possible, I found no answer to my great questions. And if the unknown creates a thirst, I remain in a state of dehydration. My consciousness lacks something, and I belive I’m not yet done.

When I’m alone with my thoughts, I know there’s not anybody else who exists outside of my mind. Am I fearless in my self-consciousness if this doesn’t scare me? Descartes be damned with your cogito ergo sum, and screw the existential problems of a Danish prince or a French novelist who’ll always be a stranger to me.

On the eve of attending the week-long Cancer Help Program at Commonweal Commonweal Cancer Help Program I sit on a bed surrounded by words, paper, buttons, beads, clothes, books, and thoughts instead of someone else. The embarkation of discovery. What’s bothering me about this cancer thing?

I’ve lost my freedom. My free will in some sense. Thinking about my health, my ability to work, earn, travel, run, freely move about the world as I have for decades, I gave my freedom to a disease that’s beginning to travel around my body again. Now my liver and onto chemotherapy and other fun stiff drinks Stanford has in store when a changed me drives back over the Golden Gate Bridge next Sunday.

Walt Whitman said it far more concisely so I’ll leave him to you and say, “adieu.”

Wisdom is not finally tested in schools;
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it, to another not having it;
Wisdom is of the Soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and is content…
– Walt Whitman

Friendship, Cancer, and The Jokers

“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality” – Seneca

On my 52nd birthday my husband comedically quipped, “From her on baby you’re as old as a joker.” Why? “Because your age is equivalent of the number of cards in a deck.”

If you look in a card box after retrieving the deck of 52 necessary for the game you have in mind, such as solitaire, a pair of Jokers and the deck’s informational card sit, left over. I am the leftover — and now I’m entering the stage of life, the unwanted, the leftovers. I am in at the dawning of the age of the Joker.

Have a listen to the Australian band Wolfmother’s song, “Joker and the Thief.” It’s very catchy and if you like that song and haven’t had the pleasure of listening to Wolfmother their eponymous first album is great and has another song I like quite a lot called “Woman.” A three piece band, their sound is that of a love child, borne of f Spinal Tap and Jack White. Here’s a link for The Joker and the Thief on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lkPfgzR6Hw

“Can you see the joker flying over / as she’s standing in a field of clover.” Great visual for song lyrics, dreamlike and yet ominous, a girl whose innocence is her honor, and the bringer of death the Joker poised to take her away. At any rate, clover as I visualize it carpets the fields of Scotland and of Holland. Furthermore, when you find one with a fourth leaf, rather than the common 5 leaf species, it’s considered very very lucky. The green carpeted field conjures up the impression of a girl rolling in a field of money without a care in the world. The Joker takes away that innocence and invincibility – I’m no longer a girl anymore.

I’m now firmly planted on the other side of 50 years old – more than half a century on this third orbital from the dying star in our solar system. Remember when youth outweighed the cataclysmic teenage ubermensch-ism? Remember when 50 seemed extraordinarily old? 50+ years to a teenager seems so ancient. God, like, you know Stonehenge or the Pyramids at Giza. Rude punks, my other mohawk prickly friends and I would elbow one another and smirk towards those who crossed the half century line and to any person over 50: “wow that’s so old.” So, Ive turned some kind of corner now having become the joker in the pack of cards. The cards that don’t matter and stay in the box, and no one cares if they get lost.

I suppose if given the choice to see what I’d become now at this age, I think I’d like who I am and what I’d done and who I’ve become. Hopefully, you can look at yourself now, and know having all of those years to look back upon and smile with happiness in the warmth of good memories, or with bad decisions and hurt and sometimes embarrassment, the chill of regret comes and goes in a fleeting moment. Sometimes, we get the chance to undo a past regret. The opportunities come along infrequently, so try to recognize one when you happen upon it. I think it’s a strange enough concept, given the premise that you make your fate and take what’s in front of you – and make yourself better, create an improvement for your future self to incorporate. Use the good in front of you to drive your decisions.

Allow me to illustrate this phenomena with a personal example. About three years ago, I felt awful. However, I’d just gotten through a bunch of personal dramas — my dad died, my cat almost died, and a person who was a “friend” did something to cause enough stress to kill a normal human being. That was also when my husband tumbled deep into the dark well of depression.

Exactly thee months into 2015 I was really feeling awful and after watching me curl up into a ball on the bed ands reaching and crying in absolutely the worst pain I’d ever physically felt in my life. We all thought it was food poisoning. Wrong diagnosis. There were 7.5 liters of ascetic fluid that built up in my abdominal cavity. If you’re unfamiliar with how cancer travels from one place to another in the body, they can only travel via your blood stream or your lymphatic system. When cancer goes rogue through the blood stream, it goes through the liver which goes into overdrive and other extreme chemical reactions happen. I’ll skip the details, but the net effect causes a fluid to build up, and floating metastatic cancer cells coagulate without real purpose like Mercury in a thermometer. The silver beads attracted to one another and make larger more expansive ones that light up on a CT scan like tiny oil slicks.

Hey, congratulations you’ve got stage IV cancer of the breast and bone lesions. Well, that explains why I wasn’t feeling so well. I recall receiving an email right before that most horrible week from a good friend and the email required my immediate attention. My attention won’t relate to anything at all back then when I had the diagnosis come down on me so hard I didn’t know when or where I was in the scheme of life. I don’t think I even opened email from back then yet. It sits, unread in my inbox – all of it.

I lost the chance then at giving my hand to hold for a moment if she chose to pick it up so she could feel even slightly better – because I know intimately now tragedy causes loneliness. Let me say though, as a Joker I feel magically imbued with some preternatural ability to move around the here and now without being seen. Everywhere I go, I am not needed especially, yet I am empowered by my invisibility and the wisdom that improves with age. My wisdom tells me to go see her – call her – send flowers. DO ANYTHING to apologize that my physical state hasn’t allowed me to give her the attention then she probably didn’t need but I should have given her.

The Joker flies over and takes innocence like gasoline and soars over more clover until I find the lucky one, the one with four leaves. I am the luckiest Joker alive. So, to my friend who sent me a birthday card, now that the fireworks of the fourth are over I want to somehow tell her I love her and I think of her very often. I do hope she’s forgiven my remiss, having found out about my situation coinciding with her life’s loss. I hope so anyway.

She’s one of the good people I’m blessed in my life to know. The four leaf clovers? I now realize they’re the people in your life who I should never let go of and never give up on – regardless of the situation. They don’t care about a miscue. They’re too deep to be so shallow. They care about me and send the most positive thoughts they can.

Thank you my dear clover in the hills, I hope to see you very soon.

My Loves Electric (Not Anymore)


Our “Friends” Electric Gary Neumann

There’s a knock on the door/ and just for a second I thought I remembered you.
So now I’m alone / and I thought I could fend for myself.
From Our Friends Electric by Gary Neumann

I’m in a terrible dream from which awakening may prove worse. My house in a state of disrepair, crumbling down around me. I try to run as the floorboards warp and break behind me with each step, I scream moving towards a closing door my hand grips inches from the handle as it shuts and locks me inside our home’s sweet wreckage. My good dreams of the future simply exist as memories never made. Each new day wakes me with only the potential of a kind morning. And still alone, my mind races back to that door slamming in my dream single lingering question: I face myself and ask – where do I go from here?

My partner of 10 years decided in his state of untreated general anxiety disorder and depression to quit the miraculous rTMS treatments that incrementally could save him from a life in darkness. The magnetic woodpecker that sat over his head for 40 minutes and gave me five memorably glorious and wonderful days with him. Days and nights when his eyes returned to their beautiful sparkling turquoise with flecks of gold from cold, grey, and dead.

We want to sell our townhome. Simon our cat and me probably, for my longer term mortality, must move away from him should he remain embodied in anxiety’s bouts of rage and pain. Because metastatic breast cancer should take poll position over his anxiety, my life simply cannot continue in the same manner. The last hellish three years of watching the love of my life deteriorate from the vibrant and wonderful man into a nasty and cold asshole. My own coming months and years cannot be spent writing behind bars of someone else’s prison, a prison I handed him the keys to but he refuses to leave.

The keys to my prison do not exist, there’s no cure, and there’s no future with happiness together as a team, the team I really counted on – but Einstein said not all things that can get counted, should be counted.

Many women must experience similarly traumatic stress events with cancer ravaging their bodies. My life’s spirits’ exhaustion shows. I burn hot on fuel called cortisol down unpaved roads, climbing hills to where I believe waits my husband only to drop 10,000 feet until I can stop myself from falling. In the uglier more humiliating moments, I feel useless and unrepentantly inferior to able bodied non-disabled women. People say, “just move out!”

If it were only so easy.

The energy, money, and help (none of which I have by the way) moving takes and the emotional toll of the move itself and consider just the breakup – could shave years from my already shortened life. Yes, I do need to reconsider my options. Unfortunately, I’m unable to work much ouutside of my home and if I have any of my own money I don’t qualify for Medicare. In our great country, one must live far below the poverty line to become eligible to receive medical insurance to cover the incredibly high costs of living in a body full of metastatic breast cancer.

I’m watching my life expire, while my love lives imprisoned by something preventable and completely unwarranted since the keys lay in his reach. I imagine what the feelings of excitement of embarking on a new future, unladened by the heaviness of a partner with depression would feel like. However, given the genuine sadness, memories of pain and ugliness and tears combined with my MBC, and my heart and soul feel nothing even close to free. It’s so unfortunate my new direction will bring only lonely, empty, impoverished days and sleepless nights.

It’s as though his depression, rather then a hug and an apology, will be my runner up prize when it comes time to hit the road. I don’t want this new life, but I cannot stay in this one either. For three years I fought to try to help him. And now I cannot help him any longer. If you’d known us before you’d know why I struggled for so long to try and take care of him at the risk and loss in years of my own health.

What the fuck is life without love? What is life without purpose? What does it feel like to truly live alone with pain? How do I go forth into a life without anyone’s name to put on my advance directive? There’s no one left I can trust to see out my end wishes. No one who I can trust to speak for me when I cannot. Everyone’s gone – dead or left when cancer entered my bloodstream. Never did it occur to me that I’d become this lost so late in the game, but Craig’s gone. He is not going to come back to me. I mourne him as he was and don’t know this person who says ugly horrible things and teases me with hope of his wellness and then maligns his state of mental health like a monster from an old movie in front of me.

It’s torture. He believes I am having him go to these treatments to have his brain scrambled like eggs. Yet rTMS was incrementally helping him. Now in his refusal to continue he’s just cruel and it makes me wonder what I did to deserve this horrible life. You’d think why would anyone do this and choose to hurt someone and himself? How egotistical can one be?

You’ll have to ask him. He may indeed become my last love and now my lost life. Indeed, the friend was electric, but he chose to leave its tapping on his door unanswered and thus, unbeneficial. If life as I hoped truly is over, where to from here?