Triumphs

 

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Triumphs

Now is the time of minor triumphs:
waking to birdsong in the morning,
making it safely to the bathroom,
shaving without cutting my face,
getting in and out of the shower
with neither a slip nor a fall,
drying those parts of the body
that are now so difficult to reach,
especially between my far-off toes,
pulling my shirt over sticky patches
still damp from the shower,
negotiating each leg of my pants,
tugging the pulleys that permit
my socks to glide onto my feet,
forcing my feet into my shoes,
hobbling to the top of the stairs
and lurching down them, left
then right, one step at a time …

Bears

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BEARS

Think of pink salmon caught in pools,
plucked from water, tossed to air,
the catch stacked rainbow‑fired.

Winter now:
unsnubbable, lumbering overcoats
closeted, laid to rest;
seeking power in hibernation
till sun from summit melts frosty dark:
fresh heartbeats forged in forest’s night.

Think alchemy:
prime matter moved safely in flask or jar.

Think circus stars:
The Great Bear leads the Lesser,
dancing to the trainer’s whip,
tumbling from their pedestals.

Secure behind bars,
think fallen stars.

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.

Bearing Witness

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Bearing Witness

Pen on paper,
words falling like tears,
salt waters that erode
the hardest of stones.

This man bears witness
to thought, word, and deed.
He’s the outsider who sees
the interior world
and drags forth its spirit
for others to see,

not painted in paint,
not sculpted in stone,
not a breeze through
bound river reeds,
just words on the page
lined up in thin lines
to flower and flourish
like an army that conquers
the world of the soul,
and leaves fresh footprints
on eternal snow.

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.

Moonshine: FFF

 

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Moonshine
Flash Fiction Friday
Friday, 5 May 2017

Here, on the wharf, in Santander, I stand in the shadow cast by the Customs House and gaze at the moon path sketched out over the water. “Over the mountain, over the sea, that’s where my heart is longing to be.” I taste the bitter salt of homelessness and know that I will never belong in this world and that I will never find a place to call my own. Back home, I have a black and white television and a black and white dog. Here I have nothing. Back home, when I am home, I am a latch key kid. My parents leave for work at seven in the morning and my mother gets home about five every night. Those ten hours on my own are mine to do what I like with: but I must account for them. “What did you do today, dear?” And everything I say I do is checked. Did I make the beds? Did I do the laundry? Did I finish the ironing? Did I wash and dry the breakfast dishes? Did I clean the house from top to bottom?

Sometimes I strip and stand in front of the mirror in their bedroom and look at my naked body. It’s not much to look at. Once I stood there with the carving knife in my hand and deliberately cut myself across the ribs, just to feel the pain and watch the blood flow down. Other days I play cards against myself. That way one part of me always wins, but then the self I play against is always doomed to lose. Sometimes I wage battles with toy soldiers, moving them up and down across the carpet in front of the fire. Occasionally, I throw a soldier in the fire, just to watch him perish.

Sometimes I just sit on the back of the settee and press my forehead against the cool window. The rain is cold and cools the window pane. I know the sky is crying and sometimes I think I know why. I’ll go back to my boarding school soon. There, we are taught to be isolated and to live in isolation. The bullies will come and they will bully me. I have not grown much over the holidays and I know they will be even bigger, and even stronger, and even faster. I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to go back to that school. I don’t want to be bullied and abused. The masters cane me and the older boys beat me and the bullies force me to do things, unspeakable things, things that I don’t want to do. I have tried to run away but someone always brings me back and then they beat me for running away. “Don’t be a coward,” they say, “take it like a man.” And I do.

I look across the water. How beautiful is the Bay of Santander beneath the moon. I look up at the hills, at Peña Cabarga, at the hills from whence cometh my salvation. My grandfather walks towards me over the waves. He helps me choose stones and pebbles, helps me to fill my pockets with them. He takes me by the hand and gives me courage. He and I walk down the slip way, hand in hand, and then we walk out across the moon path and into the sea.

Brain Drain

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Brain Drain

I do the daily crosswords,
first on the computer,
and then in the newspaper
when later it arrives.

My wife does the Sudoku,
but I hate numbers
though I adore
the restless energy of chess.

Online games of point and click
deaden my brain and kill my eyes.
I lengthen my winning streak of patience
every day. Twice I have climbed
to fifteen hundred wins, then wiped
them out to start again.

Boring? Not at all.  Anything to keep
the old grey matter ticking over;
anything to keep me
lively and alive.