The Final Cut – A Poet with Cancer


Sometimes when I’m driving, I’ll begin to make up songs. Especially driving to doctors’ appointments, and scans, and to infusion treatments. I rarely can write them down. It’s hard to write when I’m driving myself to these appointments.

Yesterday presented a prime example of the missed opportunities of which I speak. Then it occurred to me to use my speech recognition so I let my words flow. What’s presented here doesn’t have much in the way of editing. I thought it might be interesting to show you the process of poetry. Because what are song lyrics but poems, anyway? So a poem begins with getting it all out and doing a brief edit. Just checking for misspellings and major grammatical errors without too much attention to my punctuation or capitalization. (I’ve always thought it ironic that so often people misspell the word “misspell.”)

I then look for line breaks and repeated and redundant words and cut really awkward lines. Then I leave the poem alone for a while. It could be days. Sometimes I forget about it for a month or more if the poems are in one of my many notebooks or I’ve dictated them into my notes application on my iPhone. Often my advice to those who are afraid to write poetry is just write from your heart and don’t try to make it perfect. Either leave it alone or give it a bit of massaging. If you have a trusted friend to whom you can give the poem for some feedback then try it if you’re willing.

Then wait. Reread the work. If you like it, if it expresses what you want then call it a day. Share it or keep it privately tucked away in a notebook or your computer. Perhaps with practice you’ll improve.

It’s said poets are born, and the ability to capture the musicality of sounds and words and letters and rhymes and so on cannot truly be learned. Although I’ve been writing since the age of five or six according to my mother, there’s never a time I can’t remember writing poetry.

So here’s a very rough draft of a poem I’d actually like to have my husband work with me on to write a song. Often, and this is another word of advice, I read my poems aloud, either alone or with someone to bounce it off of for feedback. And never get married to your words. I’ve tossed away more than I’ve ever written down. In fact there’s hundreds of poems that will never see the light of day from the ink of my pen to the paper to the waste basket. Don’t be afraid to cut. Don’t get attached to something that’s neither going to bring you joy or something you’d never share with your closest friends. Just move along to the next one or take the best lines of that poem and start with those for a new one.

I’m my own harshest critic. But I cannot harshly criticize anyone who’s taken the time to write down their emotions and spill their soul out for public consumption. Keep on keeping on. Don’t stop until you’ve got no way left to capture your words.

And with that here’s that draft I promised.

The Final Cut – a song looking for music

Are my borders clean enough
Or do you need to get some more?
Are my boundaries even taken into consideration
When my edges show a bit too much?
You know me but will you get it all
When you make the final cut?
I’m lopsided and can’t stand straight
And I can’t walk with my usual proud gait
Then I enter my home crossing the threshold
And I leave the world alone but I wish you would leave me alone too
Oh, can’t you ever go away?
This cancers on mind today
(And every day)
Because cancer’s breath is in my lungs
Cancer’s legions fight my liver
Over cancer I’ve cried rivers
I could cry myself an ocean, I can cry myself a stream where you can sail me like a boat and set me out to sea.
But was there ever a time when I wasn’t sailing on —
That final cuts so deep
Just like water under the bridge. That water never carried me away. Was there ever a day
When I wasn’t in disarray?
Am I ever going to win and get to see the end
Of the storm with you?
When something else got in the way
Here on this cloudless beautiful new day
I’ll never know if I ever showed you how much I loved you dear body of mine
Take your time heal yourself and heal my mind and heal this soul and take my spirit.
Then please take me to heaven
(if there is one anyway)
Will I get there or is it on
This earth or somewhere in the sky
And for whatever it is worth
when I die I hope I reach Nirvana
Because my confusion never ends
The pain, the sorrow, this misery
The cuts the wounds the bruises, the bashes and the losses adding up. Like the punches thrown at me
that I duck and I missed by a breath
But I lost those fights in six rounds of radiation and now I found just what it means to be eaten away from the inside out.
And will the last time I take a breath
Will I breathe the air of a dusty Hopeful treasure chest? When will I’ll know it’s enough to lay me down to rest? So please don’t cry for me when I fly away are I’ll be right back today
It’s just a final cut
From this sea of discontent
Oh cry me a river cry me a stream and I’ll sail away off in your dreams
but remember I loved you remember I was here remember every day remember every year remember all the tears I cried
And when I died
And remember all those days when I told you I loved you don’t be taken
By surprise when you close your eyes at night and dream of me and see my face and touch my cheek and don’t know why I was ever there
You’ll reach over and I’ll be gone call me out
you said you couldn’t play
but I needed you so much
on a day much like today
so don’t ever think I disappeared
Even though I won’t be here
I’ll always be here see me clearly
I loved this life so dearly
Until the final cut.

3 comments on “The Final Cut – A Poet with Cancer”

  1. Very cool. Nice to see your process. Using the speech recognition was a great idea. I’ve written a couple of songs about my cancer journey. Nothing I’ve recorded or anything, but the process sure did help me pour my feelings out. The first one is an ode to my lymphoma, only it isn’t nice. It’s odious. LOL Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for your comments – as I clean this up Ill post the next in my series on the writers process. I’ll be including things like how to start journaling to how to get started with your own blog and why it’s important to share our experiences, We can find tons of information on Dr Google but the experiences of others give something none of the medical information can – the real time and real life expression of what the cancer journey does to us all – heart, soul, body, mind, family, friends, finances and so forth. I make up songs all the time and think I’ll remember to write stuff down – and I don’t so I’ve been known to pull over on the road or find a shaded parking lot to finish or get a poem or blog post started. I hope you enjoy the blog and keep readying, The last two poems I have posted will be read during a poetry reading with surviving breast they’re wonderful about doing a lot with writing and expressive and therapeutic healing through writing, I really love working with them,

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