Bistro

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Bistro is a finalist, one of three, in the New Brunswick Book Award (2016) for Fiction. The photo is an older one, taken by the local newspaper in my basement in 2014, and reproduced in the paper today. Funnily enough, I am wearing the same clothes today as I was when the photo was taken three years ago. Luckily, Clare has washed them for me, on several occasions, in the interval between then and now. Thank you, Clare, for all the little things you do to keep me alive and happy. Without you, I don’t know what I’d do. This book, like all my creative work, is dedicated to you.

Bistro is available online.

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 It’s more than two years out of date.”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 “It is out of date.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.”

 

Walker

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Walker

It’s as good as a walker, this shopping cart.
I set my heart on finding one and when I do
I hang on to the handle and goad myself
onward, up the supermarket ramp.

I hate it when people to see me like this,
body and confidence broken by my fall.
For when I fall there’s no safety net,
no security, just an old man lying hurt.

A leaf on a tree, I shake in the breeze.
I pause for thought, catch my breath,
then struggle forward, caught like a high-
wire dancer in the spotlight, my heart in my

mouth, trying not to look down, or fall,
struggling on, fighting the good fight.

Cramp

Chaos

Cramp
(Jackpine Sonnet)

Late last night, lying in bed,
cramp laid siege to my lower limbs.
I crawled out of that bed and stretched,
left leg, right leg, in the bathroom.

Aching still, the fear of more cramp
to come weighed heavy on my mind.

I didn’t want to wake my wife
with panic and alarums, so I slept
in the spare bed in the other room.

A great round moon sailed its pale-
faced boat on a sea of silent clouds.

I lay on the life raft of my bed
and prayed for cramp to stay away
and for the mattress to keep me afloat.

Clare

 

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Clare

She moves more slowly
up the slope,
pushing against the hill’s
shallow grain.

I knew so well her
swaying grace,
but now she shuffles
with the drag-

foot limp of the aged,
and aged she has,
like a good wine in
an oaken cask.

Her beauty still stays
in my memory,
lodges in my mind and
I see her as

she was, beautiful
in body, slim,
graceful, a joy to hold
and behold.

Her eyes still sparkle
and she bubbles
still with a champagne
joy that draws

me to her, and still she
enhances each
room she enters, filling
it with light.

Lost

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Lost

My body’s house has many rooms and
you, my love, are present in them all.
I see you here and there, glimpse your
shadow in a mirror, and feel your breath
brush on my cheek when I open a door.

Where have you gone? I walk from room
to room, but when I seek, I no longer find,
and when I knock, nothing opens. Afraid,
sometimes, to enter a room, I know you are
in there. I hear your footsteps on the stair.
Sometimes your voice breaks the silence.

It whispers my name in the same old way
I remember … how can it be true, my love,
that you have gone, that you have left me
here alone? I count the hours, the days,
and snatch at sudden straws of hope,
embracing dust motes to find no solace
in the sunbeams, salacious as they are,
that drag me from my occasional dreams.

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.