Sunday, January 28, 2007

Poem called "Choices"

I thought I'd already posted this, but I went looking for it, and hadn't. It's one of the few poems I've written in the past year.

into the blank universe
I don’t deserve this
the indifferent molecules
shrug, move on
into the book called history
nostalgia for a past that’s not your own
about it
a cup of wonder
Drink it,
deep and cold
whatever’s there (or not)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Another poem (this time, a new one)

. . .
The Scene Painters' Brainstorm
. . .
Aubergine is the color of
dusk, falling out of night.
. . .
Titanium white, the hint of
stars that float around us
as we walk among
the squalid scene we call
the world.
. . .
Cobalt blue can be
our treasures,
buried, hidden
in the secret place we hurry to
when we are burned, and weary,
walking in our shoes.
. . .
Cadmium red could be
the poison, mixed with blood,
to stanch our wounds
(must be careful, or we lose
our leading lady, leading man).
. . .
But how to paint the door?
It must be clear, and black, and bright.
Ask the director.
She is focused on the vision of this play
we call our life.
. . .

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Haiku (off the cuff)

. . .
I'm old. I know now
Attitude's not certitude.
I admit defeat.
. . .

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sunday, January 21, 2007


John and I were eating leftover Chinese tonight, and I decided to open one of the fortune cookies our favorite restaurant supplies in such abundance. We don't eat them, because they taste like cardboard, but we love the sound our black lab Obie makes when he chews them.

John's fortune read, "Where there is no vision, the people perish". As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. We were thinking of sending it to Dubya.

Mine read, "You are surrounded by fortune hunters". Do you think they're trying to get their hands on my disability check?

I went digging through musty boxes in the basement family room this evening, looking for some music to scan for digital collage backgrounds. While I was there, I found this long-lost poem that I must have written at least ten years ago.

this is the meaning of life.
you awake this foggy morning
put on first one sock,
then the other
tie your shoes in that peculiar, backwards way.
you go out.
and when the hump-backed lady
with the cherry rouge
knocks askew the pyramid of Kleenex
in the corner store that serves that stinking coffee--
you will help.
build the boxes
very carefully
into rows
dust her glasses that have fallen to the floor
and straighten out the earpiece.
and when she leans to thank you with her whiskey breath
you will see she knows
you are both pilgrims
dying, but not waning
in the self-same skies and ways.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It's almost over...

I'm sorry if this picture offends you, but if this is your idea of porn, you need to get a life, or perhaps a clue.

I gave in and bought a camera, a Nikon Coolpix S10, which is for regular people like me, rather than professional photographers like my brothers.Free Image Hosting at That works for me.

Anyway, I tried it out today, after swearing a lot trying to move that little tiny button that goes in four directions around in the menus to set it up. This picture (the real person, not the smiley--that's much more representative of my drawing) is one of my first efforts.

It was very yellow and weird until I played with it in Photoshop. Also, my shirt looked like we hadn't cleaned our bathroom mirror in twenty years, when in fact it's only been about ten. Anyway, this is my chest, 19 days into my 20 days of radiation for the tumor in my sternum. This is much better than when I had radiation for the primary cancer; my skin broke down then, and was all gooey. I had to do saline soaks. This is just like a bad sunburn. The only other symptom is that I'm tired, but not so tired it couldn't be explained by the fact that I have Stage IV breast cancer and refuse to accept it, and so take jobs like working as a temporary executive director of an agency that was on the verge of disappearing from the planet.

Not really. I accept it. Even if I do have to post these goofy things sometimes to chase away irrational feelings like, "I wish I didn't have cancer". You can probably understand those feelings, though, can't you?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Just wondering...

I don't usually talk much about politics, but...

Does Joe Lieberman want to be the next Republican president? What do you think?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Breathing fire

I've been trying to figure out why they call it Dragon.

I'm referring to Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a new program I'm trying to learn to work with. I'm using it right now to dictate the words to this blog entry. It feels a little weird.

I'd really like to write my memoirs. Or something remotely resembling memoirs; I guess you can't have memoirs without a memory. And memory is something I'm very short on these days.

I'm sure 25 years of drinking didn't help me, but what finally did the deed was a combination of menopause, chemo, and the complete elimination of every molecule of estrogen in my body by the medication Arimidex. Oh, well. What we humans will do just to stay alive.

I remember my brother Jim asking me once, did I remember the time Dad chased us around with knives? I said no, I must have been too young. He said, "No, it was one weekend I came home on leave. Don't you remember I had to bang on the windows to get you to open the front door?" I was at least twelve or thirteen when my brother was in the service. And yet I have no recollection whatsoever of the experience.

I'd love to be able to describe the years when my children were little; it would probably be at least a little cathartic. But I'd have to remember them to do that--the years, not my children. The good news, I guess, is that my defenses are pretty strong.

The past couple of months have been absolutely wonderful for me. I've been able to reconnect with my children, one of the things I really wanted to be able to do before I die. I honestly didn't think it was possible. And yet it's happened. I wish I could freeze this moment in time, just to make sure no rift happens in the future. But I can't. I just have to go with the flow.

And try to make them believe that I love them, that I've always loved them.

Words are like fire. Maybe that's what the dragon is all about.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, stated: "From the beginning, Christianity has understood itself as the religion of the Logos, as the religion according to reason." Start from the beginning and tell the story of Jesus' life, then step back and judge how reasonable it sounds.

A virgin was impregnated by a holy spirit, in the form of a dove, and she gave birth to a child, whom she called (as instructed) Jesus. When Jesus grew up, he did a lot of pretty impressive miracles, such as raising people from the dead after they had already "begun to stink". Like Lazarus, Jesus too rose from the dead after three days in the grave, and probably could have used a shower himself. He appeared to his disciples, then sort of disappeared again, once or twice, as I recall (it's been a while since I read this stuff), and was eventually taken up bodily into heaven, which is of course in the sky. Does that sound rational to you?

Christianity, at its worst, is false logic and the pretense of reason. The savior myth is common; read about Krishna, Zarathustra, and Mithras, for example. The archetypal concepts in their stories include being raised from the dead, being born of a virgin, ascending to heaven, and being the son of God. We are expected to believe, however, that the story of Jesus is the only one that's literally true.

At Christianity's best, it is one of the mystery traditions. Jesus, who, in my opinion, is not who he is portrayed to be by modern Christianity, told us, "Ye must be born again". Being born again is not recognizing that you're a sinner, and if you want to go to heaven, you'd better join the church. It is a mystical experience that involves a painful change at the deepest levels of one's being. We shortchange ourselves if we simply accept the common interpretation of this and the rest of Jesus' teachings.

Another of Jesus' teachings that I like is, "whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it". Jesus was a guru, a leader for his disciples, and he understood that they needed him to follow if their spiritual journey was to make sense. But he could just as easily have said "whosoever will lose his life shall find it". Losing oneself is part of the process of being born again.

One of the few things I remember from my Greek class in college is the phrase that opens the Gospel of John: "En arch hn o logos" (which looks a bit different in Greek letters, which won't publish here). In the beginning was the Word. "Logos", in Greek philosophy, was understood to mean the inherent principle of cosmic order. John knew that God was the inherent order of the universe. Conversely, the inherent order of the universe--in all its various manifestations--is God.

Mystical, not logical. And as true as anything our hearts can know.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hot and bothered

This is my son, Adam, on a hot day in the desert. He seems to be withstanding the heat pretty well. I've titled this collage "Desert Journey".
I've done 14 of 20 radiation treatments to the sternum so far. I'm tired and a little cranky, and I'm getting quite a sunburn, but other than that it's been a piece of cake.

Did I say cranky? Perhaps surly is a better word, with a decided bias toward murderous. Don't worry, though, I'm good at keeping that sort of thing under wraps.

John and various friends have been going out of their way to give me rides to the cancer center. I feel guilty, since I know of course I "could" and therefore "should" do it myself and not bother others. Do you by any chance have a knife on you?

DNEC has hired a new executive director (hooray!!!) who will be starting January 22nd. If this radiation works and I'm in decent shape for a while, I want to get back to doing more art, and maybe write a book (she said casually). No, really. I'm thinking about purchasing the Dragon Naturally Speaking software and dictating some stuff. Perhaps someday an alien civilization will use it for their course in 21st century Earthen English. That's my specialty.

Well, I'm babbling boringly, which is something I swore I'd never do on this blog, so I'm going to stop now. I mostly just wanted to post the new collage. Enjoy that summery weather we're having.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I'm brave, or so they tell me

People often tell me that they think I'm so brave, and that if they were diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, they don't think they could cope. I keep telling them that they could and would, since there's little else to be done. I'd rather keep living than stick my head under the pillow.

Once in a while, though, something gets to me. Though I've been asking people to drive me to my radiation treatments most days, because I know I'll get exhausted at the end if I don't, I drove myself today. Just as I was about to make a right turn into the parking lot at the Gray Cancer Center, an SUV bearing the Hartford Hospital Security logo screeched across the entrance, blocking the way. A little man jumped out and furiously waved on the car in front of me, which proceeded meekly forward. I pushed the button to lower my passenger side window. When the guy saw me lean to the right to speak to him, he began to wave in an exaggerated manner, and yelled, "Not unless you have a medical emergency".

Well, this ticked me off just a bit, and I started to reply, when he seemed to get really enraged, and yelled, "Do you have a medical emergency?" I said, "No, but I have to go there!" He waved his arm to a spot on the side of the road and growled, "Just park there".

When I got out, there were a few gawkers around, but nothing really to explain the reason for the class one alert. So when I got inside I asked someone at the reception desk what was going on. She told me someone had had a seizure in the parking lot.

Now, keep in mind that this is a hospital. Surely they've had visits from people with epilepsy from time to time. And the parking lot that was summarily closed is where people with cancer, some of them close to death, are dropped off to enter the place where they have the treatments that keep them alive. No, surprisingly enough, I was not there to read the magazines, and though the wonderful people in the radiation department often provide homemade baked goods for us, if I had my choice, I'd just visit a local bakery to satisfy my sugar cravings.

I was homicidally furious. The hospital CEO will be receiving a letter.

All of this just to make the point that, yes, I cope. But don't leave the cover off the toothpaste tube, or you'll have to face my wrath.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Have a happy, scrappy, new year...

Just feeling silly, I suppose.

I grew up at the end of a little road off route 156 in Waterford, which is the road that branches off shore route 1 and continues along the shoreline while route 1 branches a little inland.

The road was (still is) called 'B Lane'. It didn't merit a real name, I guess.

About a half mile long, the road climbs slowly to a dead end, which is where our house was. The road was dirt until I was about six or seven, which made it a decent place to sled. It was a sad day when they paved it, since that meant they also plowed it. The kids who liked hot rods were happy, I guess.

My parents' house was one room and had a dirt floor when they moved in shortly after marrying. They partitioned the room to make a tiny bedroom and an all-purpose room, and put in a floor. Eventually they added a room off the first bedroom, where all three of my brothers slept. I slept there too, though my oldest brother's departure shortly after I was born (he's seventeen years older than I am) made it somewhat less cramped. When I got to be about four, I think, another addition was built on the other side, off the all-purpose room. I vaguely remember it being built. So then we had a living room and I had my own bedroom. The total square footage of the place couldn't have been 600 sq. ft.

My childhood friend Pat and I went up there this fall. It felt very strange; I kept getting a sort of deja vu-like feeling, which is a little weird considering that I was hardly absent a day from the place until I was over 20 years old.

Neither Pat's nor my house is still standing. It looks a bit less like little Appalachia, though it's certainly not an upscale area.

I'd give anything to go back into the woods behind where my house used to be. When I was a child, I spent a lot of time back there, playing in the tiny stream that ran close to the woods' edge, or reading with my back propped against one of the boulders the last ice age's glacier had kindly left for me.

Sometimes I would get quiet, knowing that someone was there. The presence didn't feel menacing; I just knew I had to respect it. We used to find arrowheads there and in the back yard, and after a while, I became convinced that the spirits I felt surrounding me were the natives who had left those stone bits behind.

I dream about B Lane sometimes. They almost connected another road from the other edge of the woods to it, back when my mother was home dying of colon cancer, but ledge kept them from completing that project. I'm glad.