From writers’ retreat at Gray Bear Lodge, Tennessee, October 2014
My words are my music, each sentence a song
Language is gospel to me
It unleashes my spirit, makes right every wrong
Each story I tell sets me free
A word on a page is a beautiful thing
A statement, an offer, a claim
After hearing the stories told here in this room
My own voice is forever changed
My words are my ballast, my compass, my guide
Each story I tell leads me home
I sway to the rhythm of cadence and rhyme
My keyboard is my metronome
Live With Me
Written August 25, 2014 – For my husband Harlan, on our second anniversary.
Love me and live with me. Take from me, give to me.
Let me be all things to you.
Need me and ask for me. Set any task for me.
Show me the world from your view.
Hear my confessions. Forgive my transgressions.
Hold me with all of your might.
Chase me, embrace me. Entice me, unlace me.
Caress me ‘til morning’s first light.
Roam and explore with me. Leap with me, soar with me.
Linger with me when I’m slow.
Catch me and steady me. Guide me and ready me.
Help me know when to let go.
Hope for the best with me. Plan for the rest with me.
Know what my cancer portends.
Bandage and balm me. Comfort me, calm me.
Soothe me when darkness descends.
Tell me our time has been more than sublime.
Whisper that though we will part,
Our spirits enmesh, transcending the flesh,
And I’ll always live in your heart.
In Sickness and Health
Written August 25, 2013 – For my husband Harlan, on our first anniversary.
“I take you, my love, to have and to hold
In sickness and health,” we both said
On that magical day, who could have foretold
The course that lay ahead?
Darling, what a honeymoon
A time for us both to take stock
Our young union tested, too much, too soon
But this marriage is built on bedrock
There’s no better man I could have at my side
We are well-matched in every respect
I cherish your kindness, the strength you provide
Your extraordinary intellect
I’ve had escapades and adventures
I’ve taken big bites out of life
But I’ve found no caress so tender
As the sweet sound when you say, “my wife”
Your love is a gift that fills my heart
You bring joy and peace to my world
I’m yours, mi vida, ‘til death do us part
Your quirky film school girl
September 26, 2013
I seem to have cancer today
A rude guest who won’t go away
It hunts from inside
I have nowhere to hide
It is predator, I am its prey
I seem to have cancer this week
I’m stunned at the havoc it wreaks
My corpus corrupted
My life interrupted
My plans for the future oblique
I seem to have cancer this spring
Yet somehow the swallows still sing
In pastures bucolic
While I fight to the death with this thing
I seem to have cancer just now
I don’t know, so don’t ask me how
Not a dream, not a hoax
One of Life’s little jokes
When you’re not looking… Kapow!
I seem to have cancer this year
I feel sorrow but somehow no fear
Before I check out
I have one thing to shout
At the top of my lungs, “I WAS HERE!”
Rumination in Rhyme
March 19, 2013, last day of chemo and radiation.
Buried deep within lung tissue
Cancer cells begin to issue
At the source of life, of breath
A ticking time bomb, tumor death
Cells increase at pace prolific
Their spread not broad; instead, specific
In secret, silent, stealthy mode
They feed and breed to neck lymph nodes
A little lump, too small to note
Starts to grow beside my throat
I find it; no, it’s not a figment
This damn pimple is malignant
Brutal battle now we wage
But first we must assess the stage
I’m scanned and probed from head to toe
My body turns from friend to foe
A beverage with a taste infernal
Illuminates my parts internal
All the tests and imagery
Map my disease geography
Multiple opinions sought
Doctors voice consistent thought
Curtain comes down on Stage Four
We term it terminal no more
The local spread it seems is key
So cue the lights on Stage Three B
The outcome none can say for sure
But we’re going to treat for cure
To combat this disease most heinous
Pump with fluids intravenous
In the needle softly glides
I’m surfing on Etoposide
And if that isn’t strong enough
I get the truly toxic stuff
A steady drip of mean Cisplatin
Leaves me sleepy and cat-nappin’
Ill effects from my infusions
Gastric bloat and vein contusions
I’m warned the chemo may just cause a
Loss of weight and case of nausea
I’m not victim to this plight
I retain my appetite
Food of all kinds I devour
But can’t drink wine, it just tastes sour
Instead I use my high-tech blender
To indulge in fruit juice benders
Next I start to lose my hair
Bit by bit, in patches bare
I find I do not have the patience
For gradual deforestation
When Harlan and I planned to wed
We never thought he’d shave my head
Blade in hand, though no beautician
He grants each hair manumission
At razor’s edge they all vacate
And I am left with gleaming pate
I try to wear headscarves but can’t
I just look like Steven van Zandt
Bald as Buddha I intone
My mantra: “Rock this kick-ass dome”
Mulling questions fundamental
Seeking answers existential
I contemplate the crux of life
As daughter, sister, friend and wife
Friends and family send support
Long time chums and new cohorts
Gather round with warm embrace
In person and in cyberspace
I feel the love encompass me
Domestic and from overseas
I have so many helping hands
To pull me out of this quicksand
Every thought, each message sent
Cheers me with its sentiment
Your praise so high, without restraint
I think that I must be a saint
Though never drawn to things religious
I thank you for your prayers prodigious
I hear eight thousand monks are praying
It can’t hurt, is all I’m saying
Punctured, poisoned, bruised and burned
I hope the cancer’s course we’ve turned
My treatment for the time is finished
The tumors, by degrees, diminished
In order to recalibrate
We’ll test again, but now we wait
Though my disease may be constrained
I know I am forever changed
Cancer will now always be
Part of my identity
The balance I must find, in essence
Is between fight and acceptance
Whatever comes, I hope to face
With humor, fortitude and grace