Lauren Camp on Time, Illness, and Tomas Tranströmer


One of my friends is wrestling a persistent cancer. I’ve been along the edges for a few years.
Visiting him the other day, I realized how time moves more slowly for certain people. How some people wait more. He told me that his life will be ongoing trips to chemo, then (hopefully) breaks in the chemo.
24 hours passed. I kept busy with a lot of things, and read the poem below. Something about it struck me hard. The stopping to meet whatever’s coming, and the way illness fits into each of our journeys these days, whether we’re on the train, or watching it.
Tomas Tranströmer

Tracks
2 am: moonlight. The train has stopped

out in the middle of the plain. Far away, points of light in a town,

flickering coldly at the horizon.

To read the rest, go to Lauren’s blog.

Poetry Bombing

Susan Nalder alerted me to this amazing event….read more here.

Tonight London will be hit by a poetry storm — that’s right, it will be raining poetry. Chilean arts collective Casagrande will drop 100,000 poems from a helicopter over the south bank of the Thames river at twilight. The poems double as bookmarks, and Casagrande assures that no poem will be left behind, leaving no remnants of the event — “People who witness the gliding, glinting bookmarks exchange them, turning them into coveted goods for barter rather than litter.”

This is not the first “Rain of Poems” to take place. Most recently, Casagrande dropped poems over Berlin, Germany, in 2010 and over Warsaw, Poland, in 2009. Their first “poetry bombing,” as it’s sometimes referred to, was in 2001 and took place in Chile over “La Moneda”, the government palace that was bombed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet on September 11th, 1973.

Rain of Poems serves as a symbolic reappropriation of the past.

Dead Sparrow by Michele Pizarro Harman

Dead Sparrow
after Bernhard

Doll One and Doll Two lean
over it,
the ruched form

as large
to them,
tiny as they are,

as an infant doll might be
but made of feather,
bone.

+

Their rimpled dirndls
drape them,
those of

no beak-
worn dreams,
the well of sympathy

+

so deep
for these
who know

no growth,
no death,
no need

for this straw hat
which only blocks
the sun

+

to remind them
of it
and of each thing

which belongs
to time,
their own hands

untouched
by the clock’s
and its

monstrous spin,
their wells of love
filling

for all things,
particularly for those like
their sparrow,

+

for those
unlucky enough not
to share

their plicatile,
their diastolic
stasis.

—Michele Pizarro Harman

Covalescence–You Don’t Miss Your Water

Thanks to everyone for your kindness and concern. I’m feeling much better. And that is great. Or is it?
Convalescence is a limbo. In a way, being sick is easier–it is unpleasant, terrifying, passive, and marked by (insert your least favorite symptom here). But it is without choice.
In my twenties, I took a raft trip through the Grand Canyon.For days on end, we could not see the entire sky. I liked that! Even in my youth I knew a certain kind of unlimited choice wasn’t good for me.
So I can stand up without the world spinning. And note that the beautiful thrashers in the cholla cactus have indeed hatched babies who are now fledglings. Was the neighborhood always this fascinating? This funky? Decrepit? No sooner am I standing, than I have an opinion.
Buddhists and seekers pay good money for silent retreats that focus on mindfulness. Actually a recovery from a bad flu or a case of strep throat or vertigo or somesuch will work just as well.The self dissolves, focused in the present of illness. The body recovers, the self kicks and screams, realizes the floor is dirty and that it has not had any COFFEE for an entire week.
And on to the next thing. No longer do I thank God for my legs. No longer does my family seem like angels. Oh no, I want not just coffee but a grant–and probably to get my way in everything.
It does not help to remind myself there are people in much much worse shape. I have a list of those I worry about and a list of those I’ve outlived. I’m not in Darfur (insert your most extreme scenario here.) No, invoking these things does not instill instant gratitude.
This has happened to me before, and I am sure it will happen again.

Do Not Resuscitate–Me

A few days ago, I was hospitalized briefly with some very unpleasant symptoms. Many tests ruled out anything too nasty, and I’m home in a convalescent manner. My memory is uncertain about some bits, but I clearly remember the doctor asking if I wanted to be resuscitated. Now I was conscious, and not facing surgery, but it is the standard question.
Immediately I said, “No.”
Now this may seem irrational. I’m not yet 60, and most of the time I’m walking around and employed full time, busy with family and friends and projects. But I have my own private relationship with the specter of death and extreme disability (As I assume do all of us) and in that vulnerable moment I just said no to extreme measures.
Then I saw my husband Rich’s face. Not only had he taken me to the ER, waited on me hand and foot, worried, and generally been angelic–we did not agree about certain end of life options. I tend to the “Let the undertow take me” school while he is of the “let’s live as long as possible because there might be fun or at least lunch ahead” view.
I may have gained some wisdom in my years. “What would YOU like?” I asked him.
“Resuscitate,” he said.
My friend Hope, as positive as her name, was also keeping us company (and stable) in the hospital. She looked worried, too. I could not disappoint Rich.
“Ok,” I said. “Resuscitation is fine.”
Hope smiled. Rich looked relieved. The doctor regarded me briefly with an eye for emotional instability.
What did I learn? That I do know my own mind. And that what I want just isn’t that important.

SAVED by Marmika Paskiewicz

SAVED                                                -Marmika Paskiewicz
 
Two Jehovah’s witnesses –
a young woman &
an older man –
stop at my house this morning.
carrying Bibles,
other books,
and an invitation to wake up
thinking happy, positive thoughts.
 
But when they enter my gate
the man spies the Buddha under the apple tree
with a dead bird on his lap.
 
I rescued the screaming bird
from the cat last night;
chased the cat with a broom
I must have looked like a nursery rhyme
Like the butcher’s wife
chasing blind mice.
I placed the bird outside in the vinca, where it died,
released from cat torture, but
still uncurable.
 
I see two more women across the street
knocking on doors.  Part of the same family.
They always wear skirts;
and a cross around the neck, stockings
to bring their message;
I wonder if they come from 1954.
 
Or maybe they are not Jehovah’s Witnesses at all;
Maybe they are casing the neighborhood
Maybe they are jewel thieves
or collectors of electronics.
Why come on a Tuesday morning when people are at work?
To see who’s in and who’s out?
Who will they find? an old person;
someone who works a night shift and wants to sleep;
a mother at home with a baby?
 
I see them from my window.
promise I will be nice to them,
though they are invaders.
The man who knocks eyes me suspiciously.
The woman hands me the invitation, sweetly.
They depart, quickly.
This is how rumors begin, I know,
rumors of sin,
of Satanism,
 
I go outside
pick up the bird,
kneel in the garden
and dig a small grave
not far from a buried cat,
another wild friend.

Cloudy Contrast by Yehudis Fishman

CLOUDY CONTRASTS

Lying on Colorado manicured lawns,
I follow predictable cloud paths-
born, growing, dying.
Not so boring living here-
Pretty, circus-style scenes on Pearl Street,
touristy voices amplified
echoes from Flatiron Peaks.

Still, I’m so missing Santa Fe mysteries-
mesmerizing colors of a kaleidoscope sky..
heart racing wildness stirred up
by mercurial clouds, shape shifting
through refractions
of billowing sand and sagebrush-
light beams in prisms
of broken glass and shattered dreams.

My New Mexico friend
calls Boulder, ‘wonder bread country.’
Could it be he secretly envies
the trust fund youth cultured confidence
of ubiquitous riders on designer bikes –
polite, pure-bred dogs, properly leashed,
jogging along well groomed wilderness trails,
unwinding at dusk with cans
properly tossed in labeled  recycling bins?

But how can a frat keg at midnight compare
to the dawn’s early beer
before a grueling day’s work
from the Barrio to the plaza?

Oh how I long for somersault tumbleweed..
for suddenly transformed skies-
crystal translucent blue-white on the right,
ominous dark, death eater black on the left-
with myriad shades of gray in between.
No longer do I hear
Morning’s multilingual murmurings
of weary folk whose homes have been
Reclaimed by retired Hollywood émigrés.

In Boulder I never encounter
old cars driven till tires fall off in mid streets,
till paint cracks like wrinkled, red skin.
Still I continue to dream, not of svelte skiers on
snow seeded mountains,
But of drum beats pulsing, primeval,
of peace pipes ascending
in swirls of sacred smoke.