Battle Axe

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Battle Axe

Grim-faced, ageing,
wrinkles bone-deep
sculpting her skin
into unsightly waves,
a grimaced frown,
much practiced,
worn as a mask
to keep the world at bay.

Over her shoulder,
the mail-pouch slung,
brimful of letters,
bills, in all probability,
their content unknown
until the recipient’s
thumb or pocket knife
slits open the envelope
and reveals the secrets.

She carries more secrets.
They bob along in the streams
that flow beneath her skin
where joy and sorrow mingle.

Tomorrow, the surgeons
will perform their biopsy
and search out those secrets.
For now, she walks
with her eyes cast down,
unwilling  to meet
my all-seeing gaze.

Double Trouble

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Double Trouble
“I’ll need some ID,” the guy selling Fred a new cell phone said. “Something with a photo on. May I see your driving license?”
“Of course,” Fred pulled out his driver’s license.
The salesman took it, glanced at the picture, walked over to the computer, and started to type in numbers. Fred watched him as he nonchalantly punched the keys. Then Fred saw him stiffen and straighten up as he held the license up to the light, double-checked it, and frowned.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the salesman said, looking very sad. “This license has expired. It’s more than two years out of date.”
“You’re joking,” Fred said
“No sir,” the salesman replied. “This license expired two and a half years ago.”
He handed it back to Fred who also checked it with care. At first, the figures seemed blurred. Fred took out his glasses and put them on.
“You’re right,” Fred said. “It is out of date. I must have the new one in here somewhere.”
He started to rummage through all the plastic cards in his wallet. But there was no new driving license.
“I must have left it at home,” Fred muttered.
“They usually shred the old licenses,” the salesman smiled. “They never let you keep them. You must have forgotten to renew.”
Fred placed his hands on the cell-phone counter, looked down, and saw his face mirrored in the shiny plastic. He gazed into his own eyes and they looked back at him. Then his mind flashed back two and a half years.
He had just been through the biopsy, a messy, painful, and unnerving affair, and the results had come back positive.
The urologist demanded a new battery of tests: X-rays, bone scans, blood tests, MRI’s, examinations, more examinations, questionnaires, discussions about possible forms of treatment …
The different treatments were set out like food in a self-serve restaurant and, like the strange foreign foods that Fred liked to try without knowing exactly what they were, their names meant nothing to him.
Then there was the travel: out on the road between his little place in the country and the major cancer hospitals in the province with an examination here, and a consultation over there. All the medical staff he encountered were kind and helpful and the suggestions they offered were sound. The winter road conditions complicated matters, though, and twice he was forced to cancel appointments because of road conditions.
Then, a week or so after the MRI, the allergic reactions set in and, over a three week period he lost all the skin, first off his hands, and then off his feet. He watched the skin bubble, then he saw it go very dry, and then it just flaked off. He remembered getting out of the shower one morning, drying his feet, and staring down at the little pile of flaked-off skin that had come away with the towel.
A little later on, came the injections, the tablets, and that was before the start of radiation treatment …
Now, two and a half years later, Fred’s driving license, the one that should have been renewed on his birthday, had expired. He remembered that birthday well. He lay on his side in the hospital and the specialist drove that first needle into his buttock … what a birthday present. And now, two and a half years later, he had another special gift from that birthday, an expired driving license.
He thanked the cell-phone salesman, put his expired driving license back in his wallet, and said how sorry he was that e would be unable to purchase the cell-phone at this time.
Early the next morning, Fred went down to the Driving License Renewal Center to discover his fate.
The lady on the counter was most sympathetic. She listened to his story and told him not to worry.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “It happens all the time. But I’m afraid you’ll need to take all the tests again, including the road test. That’s the law. I’ll need to see some documentation. A photo ID is preferable. Do you have your birth certificate or your passport with you?”
Fred nodded. He had checked online to see what he needed and had brought all the right documents. He handed the passport over.
The lady behind the counter took the passport, opened it, and looked up at Fred with a sad little smile.
“I’m sorry, sir,” she said. “You are in trouble. Your passport’s expired as well.”

 

A Cancer Chronicle

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I wrote A Cancer Chronicle between 2014, when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 2016, when my recovery was complete and confirmed. The book was meant to reach me before Easter, but there were some delays. Last Sunday, when working with one of my writing groups, I saw the first hard copy of the book. A good friend had ordered a copy from Amazon and I was able to see it and sign it. My own copies arrived last Tuesday, late, but very welcome.

It is in the spirit of friendship and comfort that I offer these poems to any and all who, in their own turn, follow me on this long and difficult journey. Many forms of cancer can be beaten. Early diagnosis, good doctors and specialists, optimism in the face of difficulties, faith and belief, all these positive elements will help pull patients and fellow sufferers through the ordeal of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

I would like all sufferers to know that they are not alone, even on the darkest of nights. I would like them to know that others have walked this way before them and are there on the path ahead to offer their advice, comfort, and help. I call this A Cancer Chronicle because that’s what it is: the chronicle of one man’s journey from sickness back to health. My thanks go to all of those, too many to be named, who helped me along the way. I dedicate this book to them and to any who, like it or not, follow in my footsteps.

Pax amorque: may you all share peace and love.

A Cancer Chronicle is available online at Amazon.

Hollow

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Hollow

I am a hollow man,
my heart and soul scooped out
by worry, wear, and care.
Water fills my bones.
My muscles shake like jelly.

Hope?
I abandoned it long ago.

Faith?
In these changing times
it’s a series of corks
bobbing their apples
in a party barrel.

Charity?
Love grows old and cold
and loses its charms
as we shiver in each other’s arms.

For now, I’ll dodder
my dodo way
towards extinction.

As I shuffle
from room to room
I’ll rest for a while
upon this chair.

My mother went this way.
My brothers and my father too;
I soon will follow,
just like you.

Shadows

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Shadows

My front door stood open,
but I thought it was closed.
I tip-toed in and called:
“Is anyone there?”
Echo answered
‘there, there, there …”
then silence.

I walked from room to room,
startled by shadows.
I opened doors,
looked under the table,
searched behind chairs,
no one.

The house stood silent and empty,
save for the fear,
the silent fear,
that lurked
like a remembered cancer
and occupied each room.

Easter Seals

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Easter Seals

So, I’ll put my cards on the table:
it’s Easter and the seals are dancing
in the garden, and they are ring-tailed,
like raccoons, and they’re dancing
because it’s Easter and they’re Easter
Seals after all and you can’t blame them
for dancing when their time is upon them
and they’re in season and everybody
dances when the time’s right, don’t they?,
because I know I do, and I’m dancing right
now, dancing with joy and happiness
because last night, for the first time in two
years since I started my cancer treatment,
I only peed once, at half past three,
and I went to bed at ten and dammit,
that’s five and a half hours of sleep,
for the first time in two years, and I
usually pee every ninety minutes
and that’s five or six times a night,
but last night, I peed just that once,
and I went back to bed and I slept
for another four and a half hours
until eight o’clock in the morning
and that was almost ten hours straight
for the first time in … well, you remember,
I don’t need to repeat it yet again …
but boy, do I ever feel good this morning,
and yes, I’m laying my cards on the table
and I’m dancing, just like those Easter Seals.

Comment: I finally finished my poetic journal, A Cancer Chronicle, and I put it up on Amazon last Friday. A Cancer Chronicle is sub-titled ‘one man’s journey’ and in it I write about my reactions to the treatment I received for prostate cancer. I met many people at the cancer hospice during my eight week stay, most of whom were a lot worse off than I was. I admired the courage of my fellow sufferers and learned so much about human beings and how they face adversity. I was particularly impressed with the bravery of the women who were suffering from breast cancer. They were so strong, so courageous. In spite of their troubles, my fellow patients reached out and helped me from the first day of my stay. They pulled me through the difficult days and shared their experiences with me. I will never forget them. If this book can comfort just one cancer sufferer, I will be so happy.

It’s just a guess, but I am assuming that finishing A Cancer Chronicle took a weight off my shoulders and allowed me the peace of mind to finally sleep. I do hope that this is a milestone and that my recovery will continue. Pax amorque / Peace and Love.