Today I opened an email from a poet colleague. He has a blessed life with an artist for a ma, who gave him art and made him art and of course his fair share of lifes eddies and undertows to suck him under now and again. He is onery and yet sensitive.
I have often thought that he is my reflection but in reality I hope his essence is my destiny.
He is the head pastor of "the Church of Not So Much Pain and Suffering" and goes bravely where he has not gone before. He is one of the few people I can think of who does not care what others think, but actually has respect for himself. That's something more than naturally attained. It is something that is nutured and watered and grown in dark, damp "godforsaken" terrain as well as broad daylight.
At almost 60 years of age this guy has finally...or maybe again "found" true love. Over the past few months this new love relationship has been cast into the email seas like giant harpoons at the hands of Captain Ahab at the hands of Herman Melville the creator. Unlike the captain's harpoons many times these announcements and poems find their mark in my ocean of tsunami thoughts, death death dreams and heartaches of failures and even worse... things that fear has driven off.. I have long admired and yes patterned my words after the freedom of his brave, fierce, tender, silly, unyielding, unguarded words that strip him naked before the world everytime they are penned.
This ultimate artist and renaissance man has few regrets and admits he has done more than most. His newly found love now faces the ultimate test as does he himself as he faces cancer of the throat. He and new love still plan to sell their belongings and split this here continent for Europe. They hope to make a living from their art. Thusfar art has made a living off of them feeding off of their pain, their pleasure, their interactions with the dead and the living. Art has taken every opportunity to express itself through and possess them like ocean tides smoothing and grinding beautiful beaches for all but the beach itself to enjoy.
Unless indeed beaches are able to resist being moved by their oceans. The only other people I can think of that can stand close to this word meister and artist is R.A. Washington and Karen Job. I know many people who have done the "I Did It My Way" voyage. How many though have dived into the ocean body surfing to other shores as the sea saw fit to take them and become free? How many have plucked raw fish from the water when they were available and went satisfied... without when no fish were? How many have baked and dehydrated in the sun of life but accepted the water as carrier only and avoided suicidal sips of salty sustainance? He feels he will beat this cancer and to me it seems likely. In fact, I refuse to see him as anything but healed and healthy. Imperfect to be sure he may yet come face to face with God before he follows his mother to out of this world. Maybe face to face with God once more.
My friend Karen Job succumbed to cancer a number of years ago. She fought valiantly to the end and what does she have to show for it? Well in this world at least a daughter, grandchild and the following remembrance. In the next world? I don't know.
What I did on my summer vacation
Up to my neck in coffee at Joe Mugg coffeehouse,
Searching under writer’s block rocks
for a creative geyser or even a spurt.
Sifting through thin, wet air
for nuggets of neon green,
cobalt blue, candy apple red words
with those metallic flakes
that sparkle and catch your minds eye.
Wading toward still, deep silence,
expelling the world From my lungs
to completely go under.
More silence but not enough
Only fool’s gold does my
mental pan hold.
On the road again,
Lungs full of the world.
Hours of yellow ribbonned road sail by.
that I thought a thought deferred,
400 miles ago. The thread,
the vestige, the remnant of that thought
seems to have been washed away.
Sleep has drugged the world I breathe.
With each shallow drag of life,
I sink deeper into murky labored thinking,
head first. Clouds quickly inundate every space,
In my ears
around my head,
Those chasms that live
Expanding and contracting
Between the bumper car rhythm of electrons, protons
My eyes glaze over their windows
And pull their shades tight
As my consciousness loses control
Like a racing speedboat having bucked its rider
My subconscious self
Slides into the driver’s seat.
Breath in, breath out.
Hangin’out with my sister in Mobile.
roaches and small industrial strength ants
are neighbors and roving
alligators call upon small
pets for dinner.
She filled us with French cuisine
and “down home” restaurant food.
Filled us with fellowship,
and much needed solitude.
I watched my daughter Autumn
Happy, gleeful, carefree,
Baptized in her first pool play.
This is the joy of parenthood,
the joy of a father-daughter relationship.
If I die now, I am fulfilled
My voice mail has taken the analogue
Signal of a human voice and
Captured it, frozen it in
Fluid time, in an unstable
We are preparing for
More eating and drinking
And being merry, when
I punch in fifteen numbers
To release the digital signal.
Boop, boop, behp, buhp,
Each key on the keypad chirping its lifeless
Yet familiar and weirdly satisfying tone.
It’s Karen Job. She’s in the hospital. More surgery
For terminal cancer.
She would love for me to call her,
And I’ve been a terrible friend.
This message, living word
Morphed into digital signal,
Morphed to living word by the playing
Or is it by the listening?
At one hundred eighty-six thousand
Miles per second my mind travels
from daughter’s genesis to Karen’s
Book of revelation.
Humph. Death is…
Death is on the horizon
Death is the beginning
Of A new life; death is
Separation; death is
An illusion. Even if all these are true.
Still, Death is and all else is
Doctrine in this world.
I want to rip these pages
My vacation is over
It took an hour to find
Karen. It was
Another half hour to uncover
And reveal Karen positive. She
Was buried head to toe under stones
Of resignation and pea sized pellets
Of disappointments and setbacks.
Heavy blankets of immobility
were soaked in hours of surgery and dry
chemotherapy , and covered her to the neck.
“How is your son?”
“How is the Baby?”
“What is happening at your job?”
I drew a few quick sketches
of the outside world
with short, measured answers.
Eventually, I ladled
my tongue into a near-by
pond of adjectives, metaphors
and such giving her a cool
refreshing taste of reason
for leaving her bed.
Our living waters of conversation
spoke away the stones and pebbles
and caused the blankets to rise and float off
only to snag on reality dried clay feet.
I will be back several days next week, I say.
Standing by her bed, I
Run my fingers through her
Hair, curly and soft.
“Thank you for touching me.
People hug me and
Kiss me, but not many… touch
My lips rain
Kisses down on her face.
You know that kind of soft, warm semi-torrential rain
that fills your shoes, sloshing as you walk
and makes your clothes cling?
The kind that floods your loins with warmth
and tickles running down the crack of your butt?
“Do you mind if I kiss you?”
“Cav I love it when you kiss my face”.
“Karen, I’ll see you next week.
We’ll hit the art museum”. Outside the hospital I notice
A layer of dust
from her rocks and pebbles had conquered every
inch of me. The dark perfume of the blankets
mixed with those living waters
still resides this time later.
I haven’t seen her since.
Nor shall I again
In this world.