The ingratitude of the well

Inspired by the incredible Cordelia Feldman and her novel In Bloom, for sale now. For World Cancer Day.

It would be easy to say

I haven’t been stricken because I couldn’t cope with it

there would be no one, I have learned, if I were;

not a flower garden, or brothers with curry, or kind lipsticked nurses

socialized healthcare, or odd private room

there would not be a mom bathing or a dad talking

about vegetable garden and the latest episode of Silent Witness

who could really cope?

Even as I say this, knowing the avocado heart of it

I also know I could be stricken tomorrow, or already

as all of us could

(as all of us could)

and privately in a fat second

(like when you see a train wreck and you process a hundred thoughts all at once)

I know I have my will written (handwritten, badly, not rubber stamped)

ready to mail to fate should it come.

When I got sick, though not C.A.N.C.E.R.S.I.C.K., nevertheless I really planned

taking another way out

in my head, thoughts of how bad it had become, lead to imaginings

of suicide and how savage that is to hear

for someone who is dying and does not want to die

the ingratitude of the well

these thoughts fly around me

like bees unwilling yet to sting

my heart is heavy for her

wondering selfishly what I would do

had I the same burden

praying to an empty sky, for that not to happen

superstitious that even the mere wish not to be sick

evokes it

as if fate were laughing and throwing darts

at fleeing people

so helpless, we sink our teeth into projects

wind up time like a ball of yarn

knit it into shapes we can understand

all while keeping horror at bay

the imagined car crash, the loved one never returning home

a cancer growing inside like a whistle

on a hurtling train

it is easy to not find time for empathy

or to feel, it is too close, too raw, too impossible

to process

most of all I think of her grace

how she can appreciate something like a child might

I think of her humor

how she’s had me folded on the floor laughing at the

sheer fucking brilliance of her

I am proud in ways that hurt

she’s everything I am not and she’s also

deeply human

if one person says ‘I’m sorry for your loss‘ I will

scream; “She’s not gone yet! She’s never

going to be gone, that’s just not how

she rolls. Don’t underestimate her

don’t think you own her anymore

than you own your own life.

Those platitudes are all we sometimes have

we mean them more

than scrolling past someone’s bad news

crossing ourselves, as we step over graves

one day slated to be ours

we side step death like the dancers we are

thinking we’re somehow avoiding

something born before we were

and I focus and think of her

how if I could show her my feelings

they would be in movement, in laughter

in light, spinning like an electric waterfall

like her spinning class, where just for a moment

she is that girl beneath the hot trance lights of

the 90’s and I am dancing along side her

as the earth holds us both, alive

despite any ‘support’ she has

which I am more glad of than anything

though what support does against terror?

I cannot lend a description to

my own failings in the courage department

planning my demise when the first meteorite hit

although I read we use meteorite and meteor and astroid

interchangably

and they are actually very different

with only the burning of the sun

in common to collease

their strength as potential planet killers

my math teacher used to say

a morbid mind will only bring sorrow

of course she was right

in her Laura Ashley dungerees

that would now be worth $300 on Ebay

a funny ole world my grandma prosthelytized

nipping at the ever full box of wine in the kitchen

clipping her rose garden when ABBA wasn’t

sufficient to propel demons

I get it

I really do

there’s only avoidance really

we can’t look into the sun too long

we’ll lose our sight before

we’ve made our way back from the garden

or maybe

we’ll stay, our heads upturned

soaking in the rays

To dearest Cordelia, I adore you.

Please consider purchasing Cordelia’s first novel In Bloom, it is magnificent.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/cordelia-feldmans-eight-things-not-to-say-to-someone-with-cancer-p6bvz0xhsts

The wounded eyed girl

15Before I knew myself, uttered out loud the words

labeling me a this or a that or a who knows?

I developed feelings for a wounded eye girl

we were kids really, dressing up as Japanese geisha in my room

all festooned in asian print and a little tea set I got for cheap

from china town

we wore chopsticks in our hair and bowed ceremoniously

singing the only song we knew in Japanese

with The Mikado playing in the background

I liked her thin arms and her prominent nose

her knock knee urchin look and bandaged soul

I liked how strong she was even as she looked like she’d fly away

most of all I was attracted to her wounded eyes

for there is something heady and bewitching in

pain

and its infinite manifestations

we’d dress up, I would paint her lips scarlet, we’d put on

funny accents and roll on the floor looking up at glow stars

I still had stuck there with movie posters of vampires

she would fling her arm out across my chest,  tell me of herself

pouring out the suffering of her short life

and it was an awful life before she was

brought to this city we lived in, both from somewhere else

transplants, orphans, ghosts of ourselves with missing DNA

she would tell me of her homeland, how

her father beat her black and blue for

being a girl

why as she got older he took

each of her sisters one by one

and they didn’t come back

whole or even

well repaired

I wanted to lick the pain from her cheeks and hold her to me

until the wound healed

but nothing I could ever do would assuage

the wounds behind her dark brown eyes

so we played as little girls do

building camps and tepees and western saloons

once I played a prostitute and she a cowboy

I cocked my head, snapped a red garter and asked her;

want to have some fun soldier?

she laughed, such a lovely laugh

her black hair and coffee skin, shining with fantasy

she didn’t like being herself anymore than me

we got into our pretend saloon bed

I served her a pretend shot of whiskey

acted ‘saucy’ the way I had learned from TV

she rolled her eyes laboriously like a comedian winking

pulled up my petticoats which were real

and at one point had been my mother’s wedding dress

when she married my father, bare foot and broke

with a velvet ribbon tied around her neck

and our fingers explored each other

as we giggled and changed our voices to all the favorite

TV characters we knew

I think I even tried to be Sue Ellen

I wanted to tell her then, not to stop

to press my mouth to her pomegranate lips

touch her swelling breasts with my own lack of

run myself like a cat across her saffron skin

but even then I knew

damage makes bad bed fellows

we soon changed the game, to cops and robbers

climbing out of the window, swinging from trees

though in every story

there was an element of romance

I thought of the old shows I loved

where the actors were always

dancing around the circumference

of each others heart

how in real life sometimes they married

I told my father; Oh see! Oh see! pretend things can come real!

but some cannot

and she and I grew up

once she told me she had always known I felt like that

I blushed dark red because of course

thinking I’d been subtle when watching her changing clothes

she married a blonde haired man and moved to Australia

had a little boy and hopefully

a ceasing of her alotment of pain

because more than anything I wanted that for her

even more than the beautiful moment

of two girls

laying in sunlight

laughing at imagined things

for the rest and peace and escape

of anything real

 

All they saw

All they saw were moments left by those who came before

Not knowing what they meant or who they were

Lain in their waterpainted graves like matryoshka dolls

Did they grieve like us, whetting their knives on totems?

To understand those things that cannot be understood

A child breathing her last, in dimmed swaddling

The ache of old age, enveloping once limber athlete

Love crumpled like fallen leaves, forgotten beneath

Did they yearn to be special? Noticed? Relevant?

Or glide invisibly through spun sheets of glass

Like early morning bakers rising their bread

Grown stale by afternoon, becoming food for birds

Such circles clasped in ever decreasing circles

Worn as sea pearls on mermaids smooth throats

Were they kind? Merciful? Fearful? Incomplete?

The sight of tilled soil and ruined land cleared of living green

Did it bury the same arrow in their quincing conscience?

Will time gently lay a wreath of forgetfulness?

Over their efforts as if never and not, their lives

Extinguished in a long roll of time and bundled up

To lie beside other oxidizing keepsakes and memories

Til the last person who remembered, was no more

So much existing, lost in favor of the clamoring now

All they saw were moments left by those who came before

For Paul

016_imogen-cunningham_theredlistIn the other place of keeping

afterward when door is softly closed

and light extinguished

where flowers bloom without need of sun

perfuming air with unseen stamen

at last you are unburdened, free of torment

we sit at oiled wood table

eating buttered toast with fingertips

you tell me of  real things

that time you fell into a river as

you reached for tires swinging overhead

just one more inch and you’d have been saved

from submerging with oily fish

and yet you say, it taught you

the value of sinking and how quiet

beneath the world can be

where creatures with opaque eyes glide past

watching you try to breathe

they called it a near drowning

you claimed second-sight

we shuffle our checkers, mindful

it’s your turn to win tonight

 

for Paul

you were a brother of sorts

sprinting ahead of jostling crowd

lean and bronzed by effort

your heart a flutter of machination

once you said, now I am old

and I laughed and reminded you

there’s so much time left

except you knew

and I did not

time can collapse upon itself

just as it begins so it can end

all the days we spent waiting for the next

better to live now and climb

that tree to sling rope and dangle seat

children long after us

will come to the river and watch

each others fear and then wonder

jumping into the void

and as you are gone

I clear away the plates and ready for the next day

not sure it will be free of rain

I hear you outside among the trees

you are laughing at me

for my fear of things I cannot know

remember, you say, it’s not about control

it’s about having the courage to try

I watch you walk toward the river

you are straight and lean again

no scars, no pain cross your way

I want to go with you but you have told me

it is not yet time

we’ll play again, be patient

master this moment

live now in the warm rush of water

watching overhead

moving clouds turning from blue to white

and then to grey

 

For Paul. You counted, and you mattered.