Failing

Necessary evil, failure.  
Learning from mistakes
Like lying and broken bones
The body breaks down
And cries for more.
In this case tears
Hung high inside a bag
Delivered through a tube
Poking into my chest
Plugged in with a needle.
Giggling to myself
“Not a nipple”
Laughters ripple effect
Spans out amongst the others
And now everyone’s
Going to get in trouble.

But it’s my fault
No one but me
Got me in this mess,
Or have they? Because
It’s an art:
Learning recreational
Cursing, lying and
Running away from home.
My growling hunger
Turns to fear.
That’s where
Boredom hides.
As we seek home again
The place one cannot return.
Like a library book
With a Dewey decimal card
I’m no longer on file.
Suppose I stole the title.

Before dark I’m matchless
With no anger left to burn
So I return.
But it’s never the same
New people new names.
Strangers turn me away
That crazy woman’s back
She doesn’t live here
Not anymore.
The address I remember:
Only my own body.
Dirty gray cumulus clouds
Reach the places where
Shame grows. Right there
On the test not surprisingly
Cirrus streaking
Shocking the dusk
Into color of embarrassment and
Of cheeks slapped pink
For blue words
We try on for fit
But they fall off of our
Small bones too big
To not know
To small to talk shit.

Instead of daisies
In my mind the
Fertile soil hardened
Into my imagination now
Rusty colored clay.
Growing up worthy of
A head, once
Covered in hair
Jumping on a trampoline
Without a net
Be cautious of curls.
Now straight as
a cactus prickly as
a crown of new cowlicks
The color of
shock and shame.
Green and indigo
But not what I thought
Just a day ago.

Everyday failure:
Unthreaded needles
Stocking runs unearned
Continue up the thigh
Showing the quality
Of bare legs
With purple webs
Becoming ugly
And weak.
Sometimes my mistakes
Weigh like
Lead sinks, an umpire
Metal but not much ore
Certainly no gold or platinum.
My pick axe and
Shovel, sieve ad
Headlight
Mocking the brave
Fish that live in
Darkness so ink black
They willed themselves
A headlamp on
Their hard hats. Darwin
Had his way of
Plumbing the breaches of
My Grace in the name
Of the father who
Died with experience
My tribe hid
It’s treasure in
Broken Russian birds.
My genes unzipped
Finally to reveal
The ladder had fallen
Apart at the rung
Where I slipped.

Principally, I deserve
No less than
Expulsion from the school
Of this life and
Of the race of humans.
I have lost.

The Last Poet Standing

For Melissa Blank and Ben North 


Lasting longer than the rest
The final poet stood up
Amidst thousands of books
Burned down around her feet
Now ashes to ashes, now complete.
Dust to dust sunrise to dusk
She asked the gods to slip
Into her mind what she couldn’t find
Descriptions, colors, thoughts
Flowers she’s never seen, people she
May never meet.
And instead of bursting into flame
The room cried a storm of tears
And their ashes washed away down to the street
Where they sunk into the earth
Melting the soil leaving only
The voices behind with her to hold.

Yet only the words “death”
And “afraid”
And “cancer”
Came instead.
She cried out loud
“You don’t even know me, yet you defend me.” Pleading,”please. Give me back my words, please.”
Their brilliant brains battered them.
Now in their silence and rest,
The fates leaving her alone to give some reason.
Resonance of what happens now,
What do we do today
Now they’ve gone away.
A child asks these stupid things
Adults respond without a clue
Nothing to say, less they can do.
Yet,
She persisted and insisted on their behalf.
It’s no good, to herself again
Another crumpled page atop
The mountain piled high.
That night she sat
Opening and straightening and reading
But throwing each into the stove.
Her words cremated and remain forever unheard.
Her heart beat hard in her chest
Under the thousand pounds of weight.
She’d heard a ton of stones
Weighs exactly the same as a
Ton of feathers,
Rocks kill quick
While feathers from an unseen bird
Float into her mouth taking her breath and
Slowly suffocating the poetess.

The world turned again
And written in her hand the morning after
She picked up the papers reading
Only “death” and “fear” and “cancer”
Not one the right answer.

The poem, it’s complete
Yet one simple question remained
Unanswerable. What’s there to gain
By knowledge, here anyway?
But why choose me?
In her head a baritone voice said:
“You tell me why.”
And then she did.

This video dedicated to Melissa Blank whose death took a toll on me – not nearly what her husband and loved ones feel…but doesn’t every death from cancer feel harder and more personal the longer we go on with our own diseases? Thank you Rudy, for your friendship and for these memories for us for everyone when we die, too. Cancer friendships burn fast and bright and I’m grateful for ours. The Brain Cancer Diaries Music Version Stevie Wronder Higher Ground

Music Reactions: two friends with terminal cancer

youtube.com/watch

So, if you’ve not seen this video yet, you’ll find it entertaining, and perhaps a little sad. And perhaps you know Aimee Mann’s song, Save Me, from the film Magnolia’s sound track or if nothing else, I assure you’ll like the video. But it’s a hard song for anyone not to like. The video was created and edited by my good friend Rudy Fischman. Rudy has inoperable brain cancer, as well as two daughters and a wife – people with whom he wants to leave as much of a legacy of himself as possible.

He’s done a few more, and we’ve done several together coming to YouTube soon, so stay tuned. We’re enjoying our behind the scenes music banter as well as the time we share together developing a friendship that’s a marathon with some sprinting to catch up with the intent of a close friendship that may otherwise take years. It’s nit how long, but the quality it brings into our lives, mostly alone and misunderstood by the vast majority of those around us who don’t have terminal cancer.

Cancer friendships can end without warning. One of us will inevitably die first, and the other will mourn quietly and alone in our grief.

Rudy also produced the poetry episode 46 of The Brain Cancer Diaries by stop please watch and subscribe. You’ll find it here: Poetry Episode . It’s become a fan favorite and sadly Ben North died before it was filmed. Melissa Blank the second poet, died last week at home with her husband, listening to Nina Simone. I joined her death, quietly and alone; Rudy told me right as we began to film one of our music reaction video sessions. I put my face in my hands and asked, no one in particular, “why?” Why does cancer rob us of beautiful souls? It’s not a question so much as a statement.

It’s been another tough week, my friends, and I’ll give you a health update after I meet my new oncologist on Tuesday. In the meanwhile, farewell Ben and Melissa. I’ll carry the poetry torch in your honor best as I can, with dignity and the wisdom of your words whispering through mine. We did not need know each other to get one another. As I said, cancer friendships burn bright and quick sometimes. I’m the only one of the three of us still living. I can only believe that the survivors guilt I’m wracked with might be one of the culprits making my legs heavy with dangerous lymphedema and my belly round with at least six liters of ascites fluid, both side effucks of the radiation treatments I had back in October/ November 2020. Fuck cancer. Seriously.