Finding Hope in Despair — my article in Borderless

“There is no activism without despair, no despair without hope. Despair can be as powerful an engine for change as hope.”

Finding Hope in Despair — Borderless

Weigh Scale

Do you hear it?

Relief sounds like

a girl’s slip

a bird’s wing

your eye lashes fluttering

against your blushing cheek

Do you hear it?

Suffering sounds like

cloth pulled by stick across dirt floor

chalk pressed violent into board

fingers opening blouses raggedly

your chest bone protrudes

more than the year before

Do you hear it?

Felis catus

I didn’t care as much as the blood on the snow implied

it was after all just a horror show

you, with your nimble ways of

poking holes in my armor

you, with your kind smile and sharp knife

twisting screw

letting good drain out with bad

till meaning held no color.

I didn’t blame you at first

it’s a fact … some bite

they are taught to by pain

it’s a refuge, a coping mechanism, a

twist and writhe in slim net

of sanity and pathology

that’s all they know

the feral in their fur

if you try to be kind

they will purr

then go ahead and bite you.

I took my bleeding hand

stuck it in my mouth

to prevent saying the things I wanted to

Then I remembered all the little ways

you’d been before, the bare indifference

how I’d tried. Why had I kept on trying?

What possesses us to be kind

to broken things whose disapointment

in themselves turns to savagery?

At least it gave you an opportunity

to use that tenderness against me

I did feel a fool until I realized, yeah …

maybe you were my enemy all along

in that slow icing way you left me feeling emptied

which may say something about me

and how I should learn to try less

I’m sure you’d say; “nobody else can make you feel bad

without giving your permission.”

But I think I will disagree

that’s a passive-aggressive crock … Psych101

it’s your fault … no one else’s

with your holier-than-thou certainty

convinced you’re above us all

I walked away from the snow and the blood

a little cross at myself for not remembering

you can’t hand feed

wild cats.

eventually even the hypochondriac will be right

odd for the child

to fear drowning

when his life now is so long

stretching like taut ribbon in sun

he imagines like plain moths who drown themselves

in light emanating from dark

his own lifeless body buoyant on chlorinated pool

why he thinks of his death is anyone’s guess

perhaps the morbid humor of an intelligent mind

or the broken mosaic of life, beginning its downward cycle

once he asked his father, if the river levies bust

will I know I am dead before I am drowned or

will I wake in heaven first?

His father, a man who only worried about

whether his mistress was going to leave him for a younger man

did not spend time assuaging the boys fears

and he grew into a frightened soul who possessed

no mistress to sooth his night terrors

eventually even the hypochondriac will be right

maybe not this year

as she palpitates her breast for the forth time

crossing nervous fingers over heart, half prayer half search

malignancy her code red, flashing with every terrorizing headline

who invented social media? she mumbles beneath her breath

it was so much easier when we didn’t have access to all the maladies, we’ll one day die from!

Her hands cramp in late Winter cold, immediately she thinks

MS, MD, Fibromyalgia, the beginnings of CJD, maybe Parkinson’s

isn’t that a tremor? Or just too much coffee?

Her jittering nerves remind her, we are unable to compute

the exact day, hour, minute of expiry

all we know is our eventual death is an assured event

it’s the torment of those who are self-aware yet still ignorant

spinning in place, every migraine a brain tumor, every

sudden sharp pain a sign of pancreatic cancer, when a friend

discovers he has Multiple Myeloma (and he never touched asbestos his wife decries!)

she flicks through medical journals online searching for similarity

it’s not her wish to die, but a desire to live, control fate

keeping her on false tender hooks like owl without prey.

His life has been one of quiet dread, each day he inspects

the parts of him most likely to give out, checking his irregular heartbeat

the soft pounding of worry causing it to skip, feeling for swollen glands

skin cancers, lumps and bumps different from the day before

he knows his is an obsessive ritual, even as it soothes imagined

terrors, he sees the absurdity of living in fear bound to a wheel

perpetuated by hours spent researching ways of expiring

did you know you can develop throat cancer from invisible HPV

who knew love was such a sentence? He tells his eye-rolling neighbor.

If he counted the hours he took from his life

contemplating how he will die, when, what it will resemble

it’s quite mad

yet when he is lying in his childhood bed alone

impending dread crawling up his flannel spine

all he can hear are the waves calling

and then, a strange longing in him occurs

urging him to be done with bloody charades

join the onslaught and be carried out to sea

along with every child’s nightmare

and the stifled hiss of adults pressing their knuckles

closely to anguished mouths

for the pale mint waiting room seems

entirely too silent

an earie unsettled fog about it

waiting …

Bulletproof

(Inspired by reading Cordelia Feldman’s novel In Bloom, reviewed after this poem).

When the rush comes

questions like: Why are you doing drugs? Are you an

unhappy child?

Do you realize how inappropriate it is?

Bad choices lead to worse choices. Slippery slopes. Killed brain cells.

Those questions seem irrelevant

for, that which you have searched

seemingly before awareness, birth, first flickering

is surrounding you and the fucking magic of it

is holding sorrow so far away

you can’t recall the last time you felt its fingers

closing around your throat in possession.

Yes sorrow

misery, self-hatred, dysfunctional thinking, dysthymia

depression, malaise, disorder, horror, they

have long sat at your scarred table

munching on your best intentions

not to throw yourself from a bridge

just because every day is so painful.

Parents show the whites of their eyes

like distrusting horses being inspected

for cavities and you are the hole

they observe without looking

wondering how they birthed

someone so strange, unexpectedly unwell

did we not take enough pregnancy vitamins?

Was it more like my ‘funny’ uncle and how he never

seemed quite right?

Blessed, tainted blood

that’s not it

anymore than sexual abuse or

quiet pinch of undiagnosed learning disorder

when there are cheery-faced celebrities proclaiming

their cured malaise, even as they grew up

in fire

therefore, it is not

the firing, how deeply you set, how many cracks

it is more the knife of life

cutting you open

silence surrounding before

you knew you were alone

a haunting long before words like

‘intrenched’ and ‘affliction’ were commonly nailed

like scarlet blooms on thirsty cacti.

Sorrow, you were flowing in my blood stream

like an unbidden life, wishing to suck mine out

marrow and all.

There’s only apologies

for not being able to be what you want me to be

grieving for the perfect mess made when I was doing my very best

not to cut myself to ribbons

and as self-hate dances with a wish to

pull hard on the string attached to light bulb

and just blink out ….

music and its phantasmagoric wonder

infiltrates darkness with a tender mercy

potent keys of a piano played on an empty stage

seem to possess a furtherment.

You, who sup at the high seat for well-adjusted

cannot really fathom, aside in dusty theory

the every day battle with spirits resembling

skewed reflection and how when joy arrives

soft and cloudy, she is split savagely

by the very strength of your inner tenency

to plunge headlong, when you want to do

the opposite.

Fate lifted me out of the car gently

like I meant more to him than a one-night-fuck

and maybe thinking back, I was

precious

in that turkish delight moment

softened at the edges by

little blue pills.

If I die in ten years from some malady

will you point your frozen heart at me

and say; “Her bloody drug use killed her”

without recalling

without it

I’d already be nourishing trees

with my life blood.

Will you state: “She was weak because she

couldn’t cope without them”

forgetting, we do what it takes

to stand upright, pulled from the inside

skins flayed on electric lines of penance.

For our generation, for some of us

those who didn’t yet know how to

put words to how we felt

the holes in our fabric

those diminishments

only worsening with perpetual self-reproach

(after all, didn’t we have a roof over our heads?

How the hell could we be so ungrateful?

Do they say that to people with cancer?

Only the smokers I think, we are banished

to the smokers ward if we suffer from

depression, they put us down as incurable

and slightly pathetic and faces turn away

like cliffs beckon our swift feet forward).

I danced beneath strobe lights, proud of reaching

19 and not having taken anything stronger

than weed, my iron will a contrast to

my crumbling will to live, sometimes

it fascinates me. He whispered in my studded

ear; “I know you disapprove of hard drugs but …

and like a violin played accutely until

you find yourself crying on the other side

of intensity, I saw the futility of holding back

how ‘good behavior’ didn’t work with the model

of suffering experienced daily, another way of

saying it was

fuck it

the pill was bitter like

poison

and returned me someone

I had not met in many years

happiness flooded my bloodstream

I didn’t care it was artificially induced

all moods are, all behavior dictated by

the flow and ebb of chemicals surging

in our amygdala.

Why do some of us fall so far?

When others seem oblivious of

sorrow like it’s a thing to bring out

at funerals and nothing more? Can we really

reduce it to ‘failure‘ and ‘success‘ and affix the

ugly admonishment forever, like kicking

someone all the harder once they are down?

The self-loathing and condemnation

invariably accompanying perpetual sadness

lifted like a shroud and music entered

my blood stream with an invoking joy.

Many years later I read about ‘self medication

and thought as a professional

trying to help people who felt

like I did / alone / worthless

how trite labels and ‘understanding‘ in general

was.

I’d write you a book of my foray with drugs

if it didn’t cause you to condemn me

then again

you already have

so why not?

Don’t throw stones

at glass

houses

unless

you’re bulletproof.

Cordelia Feldman writes on WP and has published her first book of fiction In Bloom. She’s a magnificent person and a genuinely beautiful human being. I urge you to purchase a copy.

In Bloom

I didn’t know what to expect when I purchased In Bloom. That can be exciting. I purchased it because I have followed the author Cordelia Feldman on her blog for many years. As a publisher/editor I tend to get high burn out for acquaintance reads but this was not at her behest, I wanted to read In Bloom, because the quality of Cordelia’s writing and humor over the years has often left me astounded.

In Bloom is semi-biographical set-in mid teen hood. Which might seem odd at a time when the adult author is struggling with metastasized cancer since her mid thirties and this has taken such a chunk out of her valuable life. One might not be blamed for thinking she’d write about a later time in her life. However, if the reader has ever had a prolonged battle with their health, they will intimately appreciate the difficulty of ‘going there’ and the positive impact of focusing on other things. In addition, the challenges a writer has to accurately reflect her past self, something few do realistically and Feldman excels at.

Cordelia has in her blog, done a monumental job of focusing elsewhere, she’s ‘bloomed’ in the years since her cancer diagnosis despite all obstacles. Her infectious optimism, her attitude of caring for others even as she suffers, the way she brings humor out of the darkness, and her undefeatable intelligence hook you from the start. With each blog post she refers sardonically to a book title, often obscure, and that quick mind of hers is as agile now as those who have never experienced a days sickness.

Likewise, with In Bloom, a little gem, a veritable Pandoras’s box replete with humor, nitty-gritty mindful observations, completely lacking in self-pity and with so much to evoke and fascinate. Why fascinate you may ask? Many of us can directly relate to being a teen and going through much of what Feldman has gone through, but many cannot. This is both a warning and a true invoking of a time in history and a type of lifestyle for the young that Gen X’ers and perhaps many others, can appreciate.

Just as we can put an album on and suddenly go back in time, In Bloom takes us to the tawdry experiment called youth and provokes some intense feelings about why we do what we do when we do it. For some, drugs are a clear cut no, no path to hell. For others, they’re a rite of passage. My personal take on it is; drugs are a gateway, to growing up and moving on, but for some, a gateway we don’t regret, nor judge.

The club scene of the 90s in the UK was spectacular and for many young things, going out and dancing all night on Ecstasy was the most fun they’ve ever had. If that makes them sound sad twenty years later, well you weren’t there. The clubs had such atmosphere and comradery that it was impossible not to see them as Magic Faraway Trees of their time. It might be like trying to explain to a non-drinker why a drink can feel so good at the end of the day. Or try telling your parents the Sixties weren’t a revolution.

All the proselytizing in the world and nary a judgment cannot convict those hearts who bloomed in that era and recall it with fondness and a little embarrassment. If you imagine ecstasy earned its name through hard graft, and lived up to it, there’s nothing shabby about those Turkish delight infused experiences anymore than throwing rocks at the Beats Poets for their dabbling with the illicit.

Feldman writes hypnotically and with great alacrity, understanding the mind set of the teen to an uncanny degree. Her intelligence as a writer is evident, but so is her sage wit. Feldman conjures a time that has passed but we can all to some extent, look back on. However, this is not all she does. In Bloom isn’t merely a celebration of taking drugs at raves, that really wouldn’t begin to give it its dues. In Bloom is an evocation of a young woman’s experience with mental illness.

Do drugs cause mental illness? We know they can but more often they exacerbate or draw out, what is already there, for chemical and hereditary reasons. We don’t truly know the myriad ways mental illness occurs, just that it does, and for so long, it was judged and condemned without trying to be understood. Feldman attempts understanding through description and succeeds admirably, in her gentle nudging toward insight through the stumbling’s of the newly initiated.

The main character of In Bloom is clearly a composite of the younger Feldman, but she’s also a character in her own right. Her experiences are not mere autobiography, she and her cast of bandits are all fully fleshed out people existing within In Bloom and they make you care about them, despise them, cheer for them. Do not forget 17 is the age mental illness will begin to rear its head irrespective of whether you are downing E or lemonade, although of course, the reaction with the former will be more dramatic and so it is.

I rarely want to stay up reading all night as I used to because I read for a living. But In Bloom was that notable exception, as I feel it will be for many of us. Before being tempted to cast stones and accuse Feldman of glamorizing drug-taking or blaming her cancer on her previous actions, consider the truth. We don’t get sick because we dabble with drugs as kids. We don’t start doing drugs because we read about them in a book. Pain has its outlets and kids know that well. There are deeper issues here, ones that In Bloom cannot speak to, but we all know they exist and we all know life is far, far more complicated than what we see on the surface.

The ultimate value of In Bloom lies in my knowledge that I would have enjoyed this book immensely whether I knew Cordelia as a writer beforehand, or not. Her skill as a writer has never been under question, she has proven her worth time and again with her tapping into the amygdala of her readership. Her intelligence as a thinker on this planet, is beyond refute. I only wish deeply that she were given time to write more, as I suspect, in Cordelia Feldman we have a voice of our generation.

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

WHAT WE VALUE

Our society worships entirely the wrong animal, venerating them and reducing others to ash.

The news recently devoted a good portion of the sports coverage to how much money certain sports figures were going to be paid for kicking a ball across a field. And this in a time when our jobs are dissolving, our society is being wrecked, our economy may be irrecoverable and certain industries will cease to exist en mass. Put simply, there will not be jobs to come back to folks but apparently we still need to pay these guys billions for their service to humanity?

I cannot understand how ANY society and how any of us can tolerate/accept a sports figure being paid anywhere NEAR that sum for what they do when those who really do jobs worth paying, are dying in droves because they are not receiving enough personal protective gear to protect themselves.

When did we start paying someone to kick a ball millions and a nurse who saves our life, hundreds?

What’s wrong with us?

If I were an alien observing our planet, I would seriously wonder if we all were crazy in our assessment of VALUE. What we value. What we do not. If nothing else, Covid-19 has given us a chance to see this once and for all and try to do something about it.

We have marched for Black Lives Matter during this time because it was over-due and our raw emotions on the subject burst out of their polite shell and filled the streets with ire and a desire for equality but how many of us really want equality? Not all of us that is for sure, look around and you can see it in every facet of life, a desire to be above someone else somehow.

We still routinely under-react and permit by our inaction, serious hideous crimes like rape to go unpunished in this country and others.

It’s the year 2020 and we still think inequality for women is acceptable in some forms and fashion. Let us not forget what Maya Angelou said about wanting to vote for a white woman over a black man. She said – women were the original oppressed group, thus we should work backward until all oppressed parties are equal. I agree with her.

We still think hate crimes against Jews and telling Jews that Israel should not be their country is somehow acceptable, despite those Jews having descended from that country. Would we say the same to Black People about Africa. Of course not! So why do we say it to Israel? Because of the Palestine Question which Europe in particular has decided to side with, uncaring of the history of persecution toward Jews and their right to have some land of their own. Of course we shouldn’t persecute Palestinians either and of course, Israel has made mistakes but it’s now about what optics politicians choose and what side of the story is half-revealed via inaccurate news reporting. It’s essentially about which side looks right to support? Because Trump supports Israel, most left-wing supporters are against it. Yet it is not that simple and never should be. Lest we forget our history.

We still think homosexuality is unnatural and abhorant and that being queer isn’t natural. We don’t say it out loud because it’s not popular to say it, but we think it and we act it and gays know. They know.

We talk about slavery and how horrific it was, but half the time we just pay lip service to the deeper issues, because we don’t know our history so we don’t mention Native Americans and how they were exterminated en mass and continue to be disenfranchised. We’re so proud of ourselves for changing the Red Skins but we think that’s enough. Or how slavery has never really gone away, it’s just changed hands and outfits, but it’s still well and thriving in many forms.

So it’s never enough. Until everyone is equal and inequality and racism are a thing of the past. But will they ever be? With people who seem to thrive on discrimination and putting themselves ahead of others and putting others down? If people think wearing a mask is too much, is it any wonder they really don’t give a shit if you are sick or you are vulnerable? Don’t they just want you to die and bugger off?

Likewise with illness, with chronically sick people, it’s never enough to just have laws that allow them to not be discriminated against because discrimination comes in a myriad of differing forms. Subtle. Unreachable. Devastating. People of color have to put up with this EVERY SINGLE DAY as do women, as do gays, as do sick people. Just one roll of the eye says everything. Says; ‘we think you are pathetic‘ invalidates an entire moment.

Chronic illness is a little like amputation. Obviously anyone who has suffered an amputation will refute this and rightly so. But metaphorically it remains akin to the loss of a limb. You are left flailing, unsure of how to right yourself, and continue as once you were. A part of you is lost.

They talk of periods of adjustment. The stages of grieving: Anger for what you have lost. Shame imposed by a society who now judges you weak. Acceptance of a ‘new normal’ that includes intolerable things such as chronic pain etc. For many, those stages of grieving never really end, they cycle and you go through different dilutions depending upon how you progress.

But progress is perhaps not the right word. In our linear society where so much is expected. For someone to drop off and no longer thrive, in nature they would be left behind to perish. In our society they are carried along but reminded frequently, of their burden, of their ineptitude.

For many who suffer mental illness, physical illness, both, there is a lot of shame attached to their existing after this fact. Even as people do not come out and say it directly (and believe me, many do!) there is a thin veil that is easily penetrable. People know when they are treated differently, seen differently, worse, judged without jury.

Being ‘sick’ in any manifestation is seen as a ‘weakness’ by our society. This invariably goes back to the ‘dog-eat-dog’ notion of surviving. The weakest link perishes or is a burden to the whole. But these days, with our so-called faith and mercy in place, one might imagine a little more compassion? And if you did, you would be sorely disappointed.

Since getting sick in 2017 I have felt intermittently well enough to continue working and ‘accomplishing’. But as with any pendulum, when it swings deeply toward illness, I am right back at the horror point of when it all began, down on my knees, imploring the universe for healing. And for the most part I have done this alone, because as all those who have been sick for a time will attest, most people do not stay by your side. Even those you expect to.

You can’t plan any longer. A trip is a fear because what if you get sick? Then someone suggests; maybe it’s in your head, maybe you are making yourself sick? And no matter how many times you prove otherwise, they think maybe it’s a choice, just like being gay is a choice, right?

Wrong. You can’t rely upon yourself like you used to because you never know how it’s going to be, how you are going to be. And usually you could be relied upon 100 percent and now that’s gone and somehow you still have to plan a future, but how do you plan a future if you can’t rely upon yourself?

I try to take something from every experience I have, including negative ones. Without learning we don’t grow we just regurgitate and I would rather grow even if I’m throwing up and in pain as I do it. I have taken from this experience what is obvious, but I have also tried to take from others experiences, and have noticed disturbing patterns among those I know who have also been sick for a while or a very long while.

People leave.

People don’t care.

Poverty goes hand in hand with illness.

Anxiety and fear are natural outcomes for a plethora of reasons.

Loneliness can kill.

What I have come to see is this. Sick people are TRUE WARRIORS.

They fight the unimaginable that most of us never have to endure. They have to get pacemakers in their 40s, they have to struggle through taking 2 hours to get dressed and STILL MANAGE TO SHOW UP and this strength – this strength is what I have learned the most from my experiences and listening to others. Strength comes in many forms. We dismiss most of those forms but they are real.

I watch people who have seizures and brain tumors, fight and fight and fight and I realize, we’ve got it backwards. We should be applauding these people not marginalizing them. But we do everything backwards, because as a whole we are poisoned by false ideas of what is valuable and what is not. We toss aside those we deem un-valuable when they are perhaps some of the most valuable people in the world.

So if you are disabled in any way, be it in your head, or your body, remember that. You are some of the most valuable people in the world. Let nobody ever let you forget that. You are some of the most valuable people in the world.

This is written for my sister Angie. You inspire me every single day. You are that light in the dark that refuses to give up and because of you, I refuse to give up too.

The Right To Die

https://www.yahoo.com/news/column-californias-aid-dying-law-100053133.html

The Right To Die debate is one I have strong opinions on. Ever since Brittany Maynard decided to end her life to avoid inevitable agony and suffering and watching her discuss this in many interviews, I concluded that the Right To Die law should exist for everyone, everywhere.

There are pitfalls no doubt. I can imagine nightmare scenarios where people are ‘terminated’ by bored relatives who do not wish to take care of them. So obviously safe-guards must be paramount. That said, I am open to the RTD law be expanded to include dementia patients and those with serious Chronic Illness, including long-term-depression.

That’s murder! You may say. And part of the invariable slippery-slope! But I would disagree. Unless you have been the victim of Chronic Illness and/or long-term-incurable-depression you cannot speak for others who suffer each and every day.

A few years ago I killed a kitten who was suffering. It was in agony, unsavable and its liter mates had died in excruciating agony. It was a Sunday and no pet-store nearby was open to euthanize the kitten. To spare her suffering I put her to sleep myself. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, I didn’t actually think I had it in me (to take a life) being vegetarian among other things. But the compassion for her suffering over-took the fear of harm.

The harm was her suffering any longer and that is how I see RTD laws.

Obviously we have to put into place protections against this being misused. I recognize that many deeply devout folks believe God takes us when we are ready, but I have never subscribed to that. How is suffering in agony EVER God ordained? If a God exists I do NOT believe he/she chooses people to suffer in agony for years on end. Thus for me, that argument is moot.

Without the issue of ‘taking God’s job away’ we are left with the morality of RTD laws. If I see someone suffering as horrific as it is, to consider their dying at my or their own hands, I would want to help them not suffer. If that was their true wish.

In the case of dementia patients, if they sign a waiver now they can ask not to be force-fed and kept alive, but it still means those wishes can be ignored, effectively they can exist for years as a vegetable, and do nothing about avoiding that outcome. This isn’t a pragmatic thing. Obviously our society is going to be destroyed by dementia cases as more and more develop it, but irrespective, this isn’t about convenience of death, it’s about the mercy of death.

Few of us (I know some exceptions) would wish to shit on themselves, not be able to eat, remember, function etc, and lose all dignity and awareness. Most of us would prefer to die. Giving us a way to write this out and have a representative help us achieve this, seems to me, a mercy not a convenience.

The whole subject is heart-achiningly awful and we avoid talking about it for the most part. But we need to think of this. Just recently with Covid 19 ventilation, the question of dying and life has been very pertinent and young people who never wrote living-wills have been in limbo. It is never too early to consider these things because we really don’t know.

When I put my cat of 18 years to sleep it haunted me. Briefly I went back on my belief that RTD was the best choice because I thought; If I can’t handle the images and flashbacks of the catheter being put in my cats arm, and watching him being put to sleep, if I felt that was ‘wrong’ in some way, how could I handle it if it was my dad? Or someone I loved?

Truly I think I am nearly not strong enough to cope with that day. But despite that I would still do it. TO END THE SUFFERING. It would haunt me and yes it would feel worse to me than if they died naturally just as it would have been ‘easier’ if my cat had died naturally instead of being given drugs that killed him. Watching that was horrific and it did feel ‘unnatural’ because it was but sometimes it’s the only choice, and it’s the best choice and even if it leaves us feeling horrific, we should consider it.

I don’t regret putting my cat to sleep. But I regret that it had to happen and I still get flash-backs of the last moments. If I had to do that with a human-being I know it would be the hardest thing I ever had to do. But if I loved that human being and it was THEIR WISH I would hope I had the courage and love within me to do it or be part of it or at very least, support their wish.

Having had chronic illness I know we can be ‘not in our right minds’ and so the issue of ‘how sick is too sick?’ must be considered. Depressed people for example, may be able to be cured, so are they really the right candidates for euthanasia? I don’t know the answer, I only know that if someone I knew had suffered for 20 years and wanted to die, I would find it hard to deny them that mercy. If all else had failed.

This is not what we want to think about but right now, out there, are many people who are in this VERY situation right now and have no recourse to end their suffering. I believe safe laws CAN be made that protect against abuses and I believe at this juncture in our societies evolution we need to consider those things, not to keep our sick numbers in check, but to be merciful to suffering.

The courage of Brittany Maynard has stayed with me ever since I heard about her and followed her story. Some may say that is morbid. I say it is honest. I still think of her, she affected me deeply and opened up this debate. I hope others can get over their prejudices of what they believe others should do and give people a CHOICE. Just like my best friend who doesn’t believe she would have an abortion but believes others should have the right to choose if they want to have one. Such is this debate about an individuals right to choose their outcome. Who can honestly deny that in the face of suffering?

I often think if I live to be old, I will be alone and I fear that very much. I think if it were possible I would choose to end my life simply based on not having enough money to keep going or enough reason and family left to make it worthwhile. Is that wrong? Maybe. But one day that too may exist as an ‘option’ and a mercy, to help those who would otherwise resort to suicide which can often fail and leave awful aftermaths. This is a very sad subject but it’s one many of us will one day face one way or another. I don’t want to dwell on it, but equally, I don’t want to pretend it could never happen.

I think now more than ever, we have learned, anything can happen and we need to be prepared. Taking responsibility for our lives AND our deaths is a responsible decision, and helps those who may be left in our lives, follow our true wishes. I hope I never have to find out, but I believe we should all be prepared for both the best case scenario and the worst. Contrary to popular opinion, taking ones life is probably the hardest thing a person can do, not the easiest. But as this article above states, there are worst things than dying and I would say suffering in agony meets that criteria and forces us then, to consider this subject honestly and with compassion.

Come on Elaine

glasses of wine in a table
Photo by Inga Seliverstova on Pexels.com

Come on Elaine … this is how it would go

you’d get the email about your son, either dead, or gone, or famous

extremes of an only child, spoiled by two successful parents

likely famous, as he was in childhood, yeah … fat and famous

so now, he’s still not tall and he’s still not thin but he might be

unwrinkled and have lots of kids or … Venereal Disease

he might hate me, i suspect he would

why? Why do i think he’d hate me?

When he was the one who threatened me with a sword

when he was the one who broke the Lalique vase

i suppose because breaking hearts is worse than betrothed glass

though someone, with his desire for the world

i doubt anyone had the power to break his, because words

written by 18-year-old boys on the inside of cassettes of

music for my girl, rarely mean what they say and speak

with their hermaphroditic pricks.

i was older than him in lots of ways

i would have told you Elaine, it wasn’t my intention and yes

you remember us arguing but it wasn’t all me

when he was high, he was really high and

when he was low, he was really low

a sundial beneath the earth

i stayed witnessing, smoking chain after chain

his taking of porn, watching nude and slobbering

as i clamored in my shared insanity, letting him

have his hunger sated in my emptiness.

Well … depravity is depravity and girls who hate themselves

they’re really good at running with that and boys who

like to torture cats

did you know what he did behind that red door Elaine?

did you know what he was really like or just your little boy?

i remember his father once visiting and how

estranged they seemed and he hollered at you like he’d

never stopped not for one minute

and you screamed and screamed and screamed

i remember it because i witnessed it, see i’m not the bad penny

you assumed,  but he might think i am, that’s how our memory works

put her in this box, label it wrong; She’s the reason i got a Second at University

she’s why i didn’t fuck enough,  she’s why i fell out with my really good friends

(who weren’t so really good, if they had those seducing intentions)

and she? Sure, she let his friends do her, like she sold her soul for lasagna

or a slice of wholesome bread with Ganja

God she was always hungry, or purging

and the drugs he gave her, sometimes with prescriptions, sometimes with sweaty palms

sometimes naked on his stomach where his scar, shone like a dalmatian on a fire truck

she half-liked his brown skin and his imperfections, the matted hair, green eyes, short squat pudgy thighs and tiny cock

they didn’t threaten her, they reminded her of a girl

she felt safe even when she felt scared, his hormone injections, wild untamed stare

he said she made him calm, especially when sucking him off to a good record

yeah I bet. Swallowing is harder for those who give head, to narcissistic boys with pretty

circumcision.

Though it’s been so long, she can’t be sure, of what cut what and who bled and who left the door, slightly ajar,

because that was the year she found out she was mad

and he was too, so they sort of worked

though he wasn’t her boyfriend, though he wasn’t her brother, he was a lot of things under the covers

places where they could escape themselves and that eventual horror of knowing

you haven’t got any hinges and the world’s gonna spit you out into the gutter.

Elaine, she could tell you that your son, was actually a surprisingly good lover after she got through showing him how

or she could lie and say; We just watched horror movies, sometimes he posed me

and pricked me, and played, games, with paint and swords

which was also true, because it was all true.

We gorged ourselves, only children without parents who were home

and when you were, you chain smoked too, behind your dust and your exhausted slump

we all did, drinking your wine, eating delivered organic food, such irony Elaine

you think i was just some dumb girl with thin hips and a small brain?

You used to look at me like; Who the fuck do you think you are? And I’d look right back because I wasn’t wearing my glasses and I was fucking the world with my sadness and it really didn’t matter what you thought or what anyone thought, because i’d already decided to jump

and i was watching all the time i was standing there, in my short skirt and my bare legs and my impossible tight breasts and my impossible tight cunt, all of which you hated, because your husband had left you for one

but one isn’t me, and i wasn’t her and she wasn’t it, and you weren’t alone, you were free of him, and he was the reason your son hated you, not me.

I watched through the floor boards, through holes in the ceiling, to your life unpeeling

for your short stubby hands revealing, to the kisses you gave the picture by your reading glasses, to the wine you drank and stained your hands with, before you passed them over yourself in genuflection like a good Catholic and reached for the vibrator

to your son hating you,  as he may have loved you also, why we never quite knew, does anyone? Hate being so close to love, as sex is to horror and horror is to desire.

Elaine, you summoned like a Magi, some kind of anger in him, at a strong mother or women in general, he was a sexist asshole, who liked men who hated women and women who let men hate them and I was a great substitute for Robert Crumbs little busty girls who bent over and let anger take them right up the ass

but he thought anorexic actresses with dark nipples were beautiful and one time i visited his office in Greek Street Soho WI and he was talking to a Jewish actress who i also thought was hot

Rachel Weisz you still are …

and she walked away with her five-inch heels and his eyes up her skirt

i wanted to say what about me? But i was just ordinary despite being an eight to his one, and she was a handsome, famous, adored shiny girl with a full rolodex and you were a tit man

who because you were a man, (though you’d never be a real man and that made you crazy) thought you could, (fuck Rachel Weisz? Seriously?) and you never would, but it was funny imagining, especially when you already had more than you ever would

(with me, the girl of cinders and soot)

so i watched you watching her and later on when you pretended it was her you took

i pretended right back because i wouldn’t mind being her or being you

and if i were her I’d let you split me open four ways like star of anise and divide me back because it’s a soulless game and I’m your whore and i’m your mother and i’m your bloody crack.

I’m sure now you have a young wife and four chubby kids with green eyes

or you might have died, by plunging into a canal, or cutting your throat with a blunt razor

if you’d started to shave after you starred aged ten in Ms Marple as the fat cheeked boy with shorts on and a smart mouth (yeah that was about right)

but either way, i hope you will let me know Elaine, what happened to your son

because i didn’t burn his house down, he did, he struck a match and he lit us both

on fire, until we stopped being repulsive and we stood charred and broken

in Camden Town, not being able to afford to drink, at The Elephant

or fuck each other in your bed, or die standing up right then and there

because burned people are shadows, they persist

in

reminding us

of

them.

I think of him regularly, whilst I’m sure, he has long forgotten me, which isn’t fair and is ironic and really typical, because men operate on a different time and hour. They think of the girl who is bending over now and not the one who did when they first learned to use their magic wand

unless she was obedient at all times and acted the part, in which case they will brag at 45 of the one they did in St. James’s park, who hitched up her skirt and got on all fours, and she was a “right go-er that one,”

Yeah I gave it to her so many times, she couldn’t walk and yeah, yeah, yeah, builders salivating in a pub talk, I guess you had me enough you could, but you’re probably an attorney and that means you like being tied up and debased, and it’s bad taste to talk about women who left you

raw

because you’re in control, you’re the passive one with the fat wallet and the penchant for sex in the afternoon in a diaper, or with a plastic mask over your hair, that you cut when you became serious, so you could hide the scream and the mess of your desperation.

Sometimes I check online to see, if you posted the naked pictures you took when I wasn’t even legal, in your bathroom, where your mom had lots of soap in fancy bottles

whoops

because we both have ruin in our DNA, and Elaine, if you’d asked, I might have slept with you both, your eyes were so lonely and I liked how ruined they were

the extending, unending madness of your family of animals

it comforted me, slowly dawning, I was mad also, I really didn’t know it, until

my

little foot

fit

your

little shoe

that

is.

(First published in Ascendum Magazine 2016).

I cannot, you see

person holding black and green bird
Photo by Kristina Paukshtite

What if she’s me? The woman screaming without reprieve?

And what if she’s you? The body beneath the sheets lifted by strangers?

Every time the phone rings, I see in my minds eye, your prone form

fallen, or hurt, somehow

this fear I inhabit is years in coming

your fragility creeps up on us like a wettened shroud

once so strong, you’d take me in your bronze arms and

press me to you where the sound of your powerful

heart beat assured me nothing would erase or remove

your certainty

then the sick hiss and whisker of machines

a tube down your throat, a glazed look, no recognition

slack hand filled with needles, empty eyes void of life

I felt you moving away even as you stayed

gone and still there

a stranger in your face, your expressions glazed

even the taste of your lips changed

as if blistering over from sudden Winter storm.

As time ticks down, we look up

to salvation, prayer and hope when

maybe nobody listens

I stand over you as you sleep

your little bluebird chest rising in dream

I want to

climb on the bed and laugh as once we did

curling around each other in chased game

oh so much joy in one shared heart

when i was your girl and you were my

evening rose

now the dust has settled and we still

scattered pictures, cannot see clearly

all around are shadows and shorn warnings

easy to lose ourselves in fears glory

like gathering a bird who has fallen from glass

stunned and dying pressed in our hands

death on us now, like unsought reflection

glinting, glinting, glinting.

I miss you, the you I knew

better than I know myself

who would turn in her sleep and

touch me without waking

such was our eternal fuse

one into the other, no boundaries

and time is a fickle fellow

taking you and keeping you sickened

welded to pills and paper casts of closed theatres

we stand apart, at times nearly severed

I would sacrifice all to make you well

but i have given everything i know

it is clear we go in different directions

one is the end and you drift like

wind on frigid water

while i continue to swim upstream

i cannot, you see

let go

your bright feathers dull

and still i look up

when birds fly into glass