Poem 1

Shadows Strengthening…
I Smell Her In The Silence.
Perfume. Coffee. Gum.
She Calls My Name.
From The End Of The Hall.
A Song Of Echoes.
How Could I Resist.
Z.

The Games We Played As Children…

I Grew Up In Farm Country. Smalltown, USA. Amongst Orchards Of Cherry, Pear And Apple, Fields Of Wheat And Corn, Barley And Rye. In The Spring We Raised The Maypole As Daughters Danced To Folk Music. And Every Fall The Harvest Came And I Remember Fireworks.

I Was Never Very Healthy As A Child, Prone To Sickness And Bedridden. In The Summer Months I Remember Having To Make Frequent Trips To The Hospital For Air Treatments To Asthma, Steroid Shots For Allergies To Dust And Pollen. I Looked Forward To Fall. To The Dying Of The Leaves And The Sleeping Of The Trees. And I Would Wait For The Snow And The Cold.

Twice, Sometimes Three Times A Week During The Long Vacation In Summer, Mother Would Keep The Three Of Us (Myself, My Younger Brother And Sister) Inside Most Of The Day Because The Orchard Workers Would Trawl Along The Rows Of Fruited Trees In Tractors Pulling Behind Them Great Air-Driven Contraptions Spraying Noxious Chemicals To Keep Away The Pests And Bugs. The Stuff Would Cling To Every Surface, Making Everything Sticky And Stinky. Mother Would Wash The Windows Inside And Out, Only To Repeat The Process A Day Or So Later.

One Year, For My Birthday, I Received A Chemistry Set And Some Old Textbooks. I Never Graduated Very Far From Explosives And Crystals. But, The Allure Of Scientific Inquiry Lingered With Me Into School The Following Year When I Made A Few Friends Who All Were As Interested In The Sciences As I. We Formed A Club Of Sorts And Submitted Displays And Demonstrations To Our Teacher Who Hailed Us As The Best And Brightest Of Her Students.

One Afternoon A Few Of Us Were Playing Where We Probably Ought Not To Have Been. We Found A Storehouse Just Off The Grounds Of The School Where Giant Barrels Had Been Stowed With Strange Markings And Numbers And Ominous Symbols Had Been Affixed To Their Hulls. One Of My Friends Remarked That The Suspicious Looking White Powder Coming From One Barrel Smelled A Lot Like The Stuff Her Father Would Spray On The Apple Trees Outside Her House. It Took The Six Of Us To Pull It Away From The Wall And There The Word -POISON- Was, Staring Us In The Face Along With The Skull And Crossed Thighbones.

What -IS- This Stuff? The Oldest And Smartest Of Us, Our Leader Asked. What Is It Used For? And What Does It Do When Administered? We Had To Know. We Had To Find Out. So We Took Samples And Brought It Back With Us For Research. A Week Later The First Grade Class’s Pet Rat Died From Lethal Food Poisoning. One Of My Friends Admitted To Having Killed It Himself As A Result Of His Research. And So The Game Was Up. We Were All Called Into The Principal’s Office For Questioning. Where Had We Obtained These Chemicals. What Were We Doing With Them. How Many Other Samples Had Been Taken. And So On.

The Girl Had Said To Me If Such Chemicals Were Capable Of Killing So Small A Creature Outright, Then Surely They Must Be Doing Something As Sinister To Us. She Remarked That Maybe The Reason I Had So Hard A Time Breathing Had Something To Do With The Chemicals They Were Using In The Orchard. And, She Said, There Is Something Else. Something I Had To See For Myself. Late One Afternoon Before The Bus Came She Took My Hand And Led Me To A Place Where The Playground Overlooked The River. She Pointed To A Certain Bend Where The Road Met The Bank And She Told Me To Go There After Dark On A Day The Orchards Had Been Sprayed. And I Did. I Had To Wait A Week. I Snuck Out The Back Window When I Was Sure Everyone Was Asleep.

It Took Me Almost An Hour To Get There, Running Through Trees And Reeling From Lack Of Air, But I Pushed On To Where I Saw Lights And Heard The Roar Of Machinery. I Climbed Down The Bank Almost To The Level Of The Water And I Saw What She Had Told Me. Her Father And Several Dozen Of His Hired Hands Were Dumping The Excess Chemicals From Their Spraying Right Into The River From The Backs Of Their Trucks And Ploughing It Into The Bank With Earthmoving Machinery. I Was Horrified. And Then My Footing Gave Way And I Fell Into The River. I Was Swept Up By The Current And Carried To Them By The Waters. I Was Delivered By Them To My Parents A Sopping, Shivering Wreck. But More Than That, I Had Learned Something. In My Brush With Death I Learned Something Sinister Waited In The Shadows. In The Food We Ate And The Air We Breathed.

Z.

A Gathering Of Elements…

I Look And I Cannot Turn Away.
I Listen And I Cannot Deafen My Ears.
I Touch And I Cannot Be Numbed…

What Is This That Moves Me.
What Force Has Flung Me Here.
What Is This Vehicle Which Propels Me.

I Come Closer To That Place Of Great Immovability And I See A World Obsessed With Speed. The Hunger For Inertia. An Appetite For Burning. Darkness Keeps Me. I Am Safest In Shadows. I Find Solace In Empty Rooms. Mine Is The Voice Of Waves Crashing Into Rocks And Spilling Upon Sands.

Too Long Have I Neglected You. My WordPress. Soon We Shall Do More. Together.

Z.

The End Of Another Lonely Year…

I Hate Christmas.

There. I Said It. And I’m Glad I Said It. I Hate Dragging The Plastic Tree Out Of The Junk-Filled Filled Closet. I Hate Untangling The Lights That Turn Into A Twisted Mass No Matter How Neatly You Wound Them Last Year. I Hate Presents No One Can Afford To Give Each Other. And, Most Of All, I Hate The Forced Visits That Take You Halfway Across The State Under Dangerous Conditions To Spend A Few Guilt-Ridden Moments With Relatives You Hardly See Who Look Nothing Like The Memories You Had Of Them From Last Year.

It Sucks Getting Old. I Am Not Even Old Yet And I Can Feel It Creeping In On Me. The Medicines I Need To Sustain My Life, The Stick That I Find Myself Leaning Harder On When The Cold Knifes Right Into My Gut. Most Of All I Hate The List Of People Whom I Miss Talking To And How It Continues To Get Longer Every Year.

My Great Grandfather Lived To Be Over A Hundred And His Complaint Was Always The Same, That He Lived Too Damned Long. Sure, He Got To See Washington Grow Into A State And He Laid Mortar For Must Of The Hydroelectric Dams Which Power It. But The Tradeoff Came In Burying His Wife And All Three Of His Daughters. And How Many Friends Had He Outlived Before He Laid Himself Down To Sleep For The Last Time. On His Birthday, Even. Christmas Eve.

I Was A Kid Then. I Have My Memories Of Him, Which Some Say I Should Be Thankful For But Which Will Never Satisfy The Hunger I Still Have For His Strumming On The Mandolin Or Limburgher Cheese Over Crackers. He Would Give Me This Look Right Before He Filled My Pockets With Change And Candy That We Were Both In On The Same Joke.

Before He Gave Up His Car And His Driver’s License He Would Take My Mother And I Out To Lunch Once A Week. He Had No Teeth And Eschewed Dentures And Yet He Would Gnaw Through A Steak and Slurp Down Barely Cooked Eggs. I Can See The Logic Now. It Wasn’t Like He Had Mortality To Deal With Or Anything.

What Creeps Me Out Is How Much My Family Says I Take After Him.

Groan.

Battery Death.

…And Happy Yuletide, Everyone.

Z.

The Tweet Of Cancer

There Was An Article I Read In An Online Medical Journal Entitled, “Cancer: The Emperor Of All Maladies”. I Found It About Midway Through My Treatment, When It Seemed Like Every Other Trip To The Bathroom Was To Dry Heave Into The Toilet…Because Solid Food Had Fled From Me Hours Hence In A Curtain Of Green Foam.

Really Researching The Subject And The Illness Itself Made Me Feel Powerful. As if I Could Use It As A Tool With Which I Could Educate Others. Or Threaten Them. Behave Better Or I Will Give You Cancer. Or, Better Yet, Treat Your World Better Because Cancer Is Out There. It Waits For You.

You Have To Admit It Is A Better Way Than How I Had Felt About It Up To That Point. Sheer Body Horror. Like I Had Been Plunged Into A Dark Cell With A Demon…

There Are Things That Cancer Will Do To You That You Do Not Know Are Wrong Until It Has Been Excised From You. Cut From You With A Knife And Burned Out By A Laser. Of Course What It Does Can Be As Different As The Disease Itself Depending On Where You Get It. For Me The Most Glaring Symptom Was The Erectile Dysfunction And A Sharp Decrease In Stamina. Worse Than Whiskey Dick. And When We Were Hoping To Have Another Baby. Because Our Daughter Wants So Badly To Be A Big Sister.

It Was Barely A Week After The Surgery That My Beautiful Wife And I Had Sex. I Was Still In Sutures. It Was Amazing. I Told It In A Tweet. “The Doctors Took The Mind Of A Thirty Year Old Man And Put It Into A Seventeen Year Old Body.” I Came So Hard I Cramped In My Surgery Area. But It Was Okay. It Was Grand.

I See The Difference In The Pictures. Before. About A Hundred Ninety Pounds. Last Weigh-In Since. One Hundred Forty Three. The Weight I Was When I Graduated High School. Cancer. I Tell People. The Ultimate Diet Plan.

I Have Learned To Make A Friend Of It Since. Or Its Memory. I Don’t Mind Telling People The Truth About Cancer. Especially If It Frightens Them Into Being A Better Person. It’s Like What One Of My Closest Friends Told Me In My Darkest Moments During Treatment. If You Want To Beat Cancer. You Have To Be Cancer.

Z.

Blogging From Battery Death…

Doctor’s Appointment At The End Of The Month…

I Love It When Physicians Take The Mommy Tone. Truth Is I Knew All About The CT Scan We Scheduled Last Month. I Have Been Dreading It For Months.

For Those Who Don’t Know…

You Get Up In The Middle Of The Night To Pound Down A Bottle Of Barium Sulfate. They Tell You It Tastes Like A Milkshake. Which Is A Lie. It Looks Like Milk (I Guess) But It Leaves A Metallic Aftertaste And There. Is. So. Goddamned. Much Of It. I Might Try Bonging It This Time Around If They’re Really Going To Lean On Me About It. Thing Is You Have To Suppress Your Urge To Vomit Because Not Only Is The Entire Process Expensive But Vomiting Invalidates The Test And They Have To Reschedule The Whole Thing All Over Again.

So.

After That. Go Back To Bed For An Hour Or Two. Get Up. Repeat. That’s Right. You Have Two Jars Of The Filth To Get Through. Once It’s Over There’s The Ride Across Town To The Imaging Centre With The Stuff Sloshing Around In Your Gut Like Cold Oatmeal. Undress. Lie On The Table While You Get Stuck With Needles And An IV Feed, One Of Which Is An Iodine Colourant To Make Your Veins Pop Up Real Pretty During The Scan. The Iodine Makes You Lightheaded And Hot From The Back Of Your Nose Down To Your Ankles. You Make A Few Passes Through The Spinning Donut And That’s It. The Process Ends As Thanklessly As It Began. They Don’t Want You Eating From The Night Before And So You Don’t Know If You Are Hungry Or Nauseous. Last Time I Picked Hungry.

Bullshit.

I Can’t Watch Star Trek Anymore And Not Feel Bitter. Like We’ve All Been Short Shrifted Somehow. This So-Called Modern Medicine Feels More Like Slow Torture In A Robot Horror Movie. The Physicians And Nurses Are Very Kind But I Imagine It Must On Some Level Feel Like They’re Peddling A Pile Of Bullcrap.

And It Is All Bullcrap. This Cancer Thing Keeps Haunting Me. I May Be Cured But My Soul Feels Ravaged Beyond Repair. It Is Everything I Imagined It Would Be. And I Don’t Have To Imagine Much Because I Have Seen It. I Have Stood In The Room With It And Watched It Wear Down Some Of The Best People.

And The Appointment Falls On The Anniversary Of The Diagnosis. It May Be Coincidence. But Coincidence Isn’t Comfortable Anymore.

Z.

Shadows Of A Darkened Room…

Remission.

I Was At A Parent-Teacher Night About A Week Or So Ago And I Talked To The Principal Briefly About The Episode. She Said It Was Great That I Had Been Treated And Said How Wonderful It Must Be To Have My Whole Life Ahead Of Me Now.

Sometimes I Just Want To Start Screaming.

What Of The Life Which Came Before It. I Wanted To Ask. And What Of The Awful Now Which Sits Between Us Like Some Unseen Weight. Everything I Have Tried My Hand At In Life I Have Failed. Or Has Failed Me. And Here I Am Left Among The Wrack And Ruin Of My Own House With Uncertainty On The One Side, Despair On The Other And Sorrow Throughout.

And Then I Reactivate My Facebook Account And I See People Are Still Up To The Same Old Bullshit. I Can’t Believe These Are Actually People I Know In Real Life Poisoning The Internet The Way That They Do With Their Endless Unread Petty Complaints When There Is Real Horror Haunting The World.

Z.

Dark Knights Are Rising…

(–From Coded Journals In Ink, And Blood[…?]…08.04.201–.)

 

“…37hrs. Phone Theft Has Reached Epidemic Levels. Vermin Populations Intolerable. Pumpkin Is Suffering From Numerous Self-Inflicted Lesions On His Skin And Face. They Keep Crawling All Over Him. And Myself. R Seems Impervious. They Do Not Care For The Ivory Coasted Barrens Of The Moon. I Might Have Guessed. Sorrow Dwells Here. It Has Darkened Everything Around Us. And Burns The Valleys Below Our Hill. It Is Going According To Plan.” – Sleep.

 

Next Entry…

A Rotten Week…

I Report Theft Of One Phone.

Worse. Perpetrants Known.

Neighbours In 15a.

Fear My Accounts May Be Hacked.

Twitter Silence. Engaged.

Going Into Darkness.

Z.

Summer Vacation (For Whom)…

The First Time I Heard Real Weeping Come From My Daughter Was The Summer Vacation After First Grade.

All Morning Long, The Same Series Of Questions…Dad, How Do Kids Get Cancer? Dad, How Do Children Die? Dad, Can You Tell Me About Your Friends In School Who Had Cancer? Daddy, What Is Cancer?

And It’s No Accident And No Irony She Would Ask These Questions Of Me In My Office…The Abbey. Bayview Cemetery.

Gabe Lambert Was So Tiny And Skinny The Biggest Thing About Him Were The Glasses He Wore. He Was A Gifted Chess Player And Knew More About How To Run The Projector Than Our First Grade Teacher. He Could Do Math In His Head And Could Play A Tune Back To You On The Piano After Hearing It On The Radio. The Nicest Kid In School Who Never Spoke Above A Whisper. Leukemia Robbed Him Of Anything Like A Normal Childhood And Finally Took Him Around Christmas Of Second Grade. The Last Day Before Christmas Vacation There Was An Assembly And I Remember Myself And The Whole Chess Club, Seven Of Us In All, Were Called On To Speak A Few Words About Him Before A Packed Auditorium. My Mother Gave Me An Eagle Feather To Present To His Parents.

Ephron Weins Was Also A Member Of The Chess Club. He Was Already In A Wheelchair By The Time Gabe Passed On. He Had Marrow Cancer That Took A Long Time To Finally Kill Him. By High School He Wasn’t Even Attending Classes And Did All Of His Schoolwork At Home Or Between Regular Visits To Seattle. I Volunteered To Bring Him His Assignments And I Would Often Stop By The Corner Market To Buy Him A Big Hunk (His Favourite Candy Bar) Which I Would Sneak Past His Mom In My School Books. He Was So Weak The Last Time That I Saw Him He Just Sat There And Sucked On A Corner Of The Thing. He Told Me Not To Come By Again, Not Because He Wasn’t Happy To See Me, But Because He Didn’t Think I Should Have To Waste An Afternoon Watching Him Slowly Die. He Asked Me To Do Him One Favour, To Take His Sister To Prom, Because No One Had Asked Her Yet.

And So I Asked My Stepdad To Let Me Borrow His Motorcycle. And I Showed Up At Their House On A Honda, In Leather Pants And A Pirate Shirt With Ruffles. A Week Later, My Friend Was Laid In Peshastin Cemetery, And His Sister Told The Other Girls At Her Church It Was The Best Time She Had Ever Had On The Back Of A Motorcycle.

When We Came Back From Bayview I Went Immediately Out To The Backyard To Tend To My Bees And When I Turned Around I Saw A Raccoon I Had Been Feeding For Days On The Graham Crackers We Had Brought Back With Us From Ocean Shores. So Many Smores Which Went Unmade. There Was Something Terribly Not Right About How He Looked. His Hair Had Fallen Out In Places. The Black Stripes Of His Mask And His Tail Had Gone Thin And The Grey Of His Coat Had Faded To White. I Rushed Inside To Gather His Crackers And Some Nuts Which I Left Strewn For Him About The Yard. And He Hadn’t Moved An Inch, Which Surprised Me…

He Took One Lurching Step Forward And I Knew The Truth. He Had Gotten Into A Fight With A Car. He Dragged One Leg Behind Him, Twisted And Useless. It Took Him Almost Half An Hour To Hobble To His Hole Under The Fence And I Never Saw Him Again.  He Didn’t Even Touch His Crackers. He Just Looked At Them And Left.

“He Wasn’t Hungry?” My Daughter Asked, Incredulous. And She Started Sobbing Into Her Mother’s Breast. These Great Heaving Gasps That Shook Her By The Shoulders…

Z.