Three chemo cycles down, They are shitty. I have a small window of normalcy after a cycle and right before the next one. I take care of business, get snacks for Jane, wash clothes, and maybe wash a dish.

It always starts with nausea. I try to get a handle on it before it gets to the watery mouth stage. Then food starts tasting hideous. My bald head starts hot flashing. Joint pain ramps up to unbearable levels. Exhaustion hits hard.

The mental and emotional side effects follow the physical side effects. Depression, despair, hopelessness, and frustration kick in with a vengeance.

There is no managing it. There’s only gritting my teeth and gutting through it. I count down the days to the next cycle. I visualize pier fishing. I feel good in my dreams. Until the pain wakes me up in the night.

One more cycle. Five or six weeks of hell. I’m still lucky.

How can I have a crisis of faith when I don’t believe? What are the words that capture this free fall and freedom? If I don’t drill down into discrete issues, well, it breaks off into limitless voracity of the best way to go with a joyful transition.

Whether that is life, extraordinary life, life beyond death or nothing, I don’t know.

Very few experiences move me to the sublime. Tony Jones does. Father Nathan Monk does. Rodney does. Music is my goddess. Just as certain permutations of religion have adherents, as do I with music.

Sometimes, a song will strike me like a bolt of lightning. Southern gospel is great for that. There are tons of closeted people in gospel. Anyway, Depeche Mode was my epiphany today. “Personal Jesus”? My Southern Baptist upbringing says, they ain’t no Jesus but what the One says! Ok, then.

I always thought if I ever had a disease like cancer, I would know it, feel it like an alien in my body.

It hasn’t been that way at all. The symptoms crept in one small twinge at a time, one extra cough at a time, one afternoon nap at a time.

One day, I was willing to bet I had a touch of COPD. I would have lost that bet the next day.

The medical machine crunk up slowly, idling for a scant week. Then that machine, that infernal machine, kicked into gear and started rolling toward an end I cannot see or fathom.

I’m not sick-yet. I’m not at the finality of the diagnosis-yet. But, I am paralyzed on this new road. It’s not familiar and it looks dark up ahead. The steering wheel is in a white-knuckle grip.

So, tomorrow, the machine picks up speed. Someone said, it’s like being handed a grenade with the pin already pulled.

Double canasta was the game. The cards were so flimsy, we powdered them before every marathon. Sweet tea and cigarettes fueled our competition. At some point, mother and aunt fixed supper for all. Males occasionally subbed but they were placeholders for the female energy that ruled and they knew it. I learned unimaginable lessons at that card table.

I gave you sweet still water

You craved sparkling fake fruity plastic

I gave you a cool mountain stream

You wanted the violent rush of a dam release

I gave you the fine linen sheets

You wanted satin and lace

I showed you the aching blue sky

You preferred neon lights that beckoned to your adrenalin fueled laughter

I gave you back to your subway life

But you came back again and again for respite and healing.

The night breeze stirs

Curtains move with a purpose off the ocean’s breath

Your fingers hover with the assertive purpose of hummingbirds

The hum vibrates on my skin. And god what a worship at the altar of sensation

I’ve known you

felt your mouth in a thousand restless dreams on my chest

As the hummingbirds search with their determined hum

I got on that bus that goes a thousand miles

with a pure heart and the best of motives that ride was a mix of toilet disinfectant smells and quiet the first two hundred miles

at midnight or better, at a small depot in Alabama a whole bunch of recruits got on with their stiff uniforms and fresh haircuts and politeness

we motored on, the kids getting more restless and a poor guy that fell asleep on my shoulder and the hum of the diesel engine became an annoying roar

2 am. There’s a bus stop with vending machines and more payphones than I ever saw in one place. A few of the recruits were using them.

Chapter two tomorrow.

Pluff mud poetry

You wanna know what’s sad?  I’ll tell you what’s sad.

It’s sad knowing that your cosmic twin, thirty years younger and fifty pounds lighter, is

sitting in an apartment in a giant, never sleeping city

feeling just as alone and isolated as you are, but she

still has hope.  She thinks she’s jaded, but she’s not.  She thinks she’s weary, but

she doesn’t know yet of the soul-crushing exhaustion of chronic empty bank accounts and crummy lovers and shitty food

She has no idea what despair is, and that’s a good thing because her still pure soul would disappear with the realization that nobody cares. Not really.

Imma tell that girl, my cosmic twin, to make friends with her isolation because it’s gonna be there for good.  Imma tell her that despair isn’t so bad when it’s a catalyst.  Broken dreams pave the way to reality. Imma tell her to…

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Shame. The running narrative has always begun with white-hot embarrassments of random memories.

The ice pick of shame starts tapping into hidden corners, chipping away at the carefully constructed brick walls around those things I cannot forget, nor reconcile.

It drives me to write, to rage, to sit inside the storm until it passes. My instinct no longer compels me to flight but to let it flow until the inevitable occurs – a blessed numbness of sleep.

By the light, I can see how to put up the walls again. All day, silent activity consumes my emotional energy.

Ah, but sunset comes slinking back and brings a terrible sadness with it. The horrible, weeping, random grief is not as often as in my younger days, but when it comes, it comes with layered complexity.

What I had thought was wisdom has turned out to be merely decades of experience in dodging that dreaded ice pick.

Well, shit.

Family speaks with a grief-stricken eternal voice. It never ends. It ends when I end.

The bright smile slides down, the stare of mortal tears fall from a hidden window.

I want to connect. I want the immediacy of being here now.

I want the pain of missing someone long before the pain of loss.

Remove the veil of propriety. We’re not saving for progeny.

Be present now, dammit. Feel the pain and joy, now.