Dark and Dog-tired, Take Two

I’m still up in the air with my feelings about Facebook’s “On this day…” feature. Some days it causes a baritone belly laugh and others it brings forth a saltwater flood from my eyeballs. It has reminded my hermit self of events I had forgotten about attending, and it’s brought back words spoken that had been pushed out of my mind.

But today, today… . Today, that bastard feature showed me a blog post of a poem I wrote last year when I had once again relapsed. It was titled Dark and Dog-tiredReading over it again today took me back to that drive to the mountains—my place for recovery of all kinds. The poem was unedited when I posted (too full of emotion to care), but finding it again, I will definitely be working it over and over until it’s in better shape.

Not only was I reminded of this forgotten poem dealing with relapse, but another poetic influence may have been my savior today. Earlier this year, a dear friend sent me the memoir The Best Day, the Worst Day, written by Donald Hall about his marriage to Jane Kenyon. Two writers/poets and their difficult path traveled together through the fury of cancer. It is an absolutely devastating but beautiful story of love. I’m not a huge fan of his poetry, but his words in this memoir…oh, my. Theirs was a love that, I am not ashamed to say, I envy.

I may have connected with the story a bit more than I normally would have because of some of the drugs she had to take being the same ones I have also been on and off and on again over the last three years. His descriptions of her levels of pain and the side effects were spot on—things I have never been able to express to friends and family. The rage. The moonface. The depression. The joint pain that you lie about and say is a 6 when really it’s closer to a 12 on a scale from one to ten. The hair that embarrassingly covers your entire body, including your cheeks and chin. The clumps that fall from your head.

And the one that rang out in my mind recently and wouldn’t leave—the rash. A few days ago, it broke out across my chest and collarbones and felt like thousands of tiny bonfires raging under my skin. At first I thought allergies, but my brain said, Pay more attention! Remember, woman! And I did. I remembered Hall’s description of Kenyon’s cyclosporine rashes and how they’d have to rush her to the emergency room, so I called my doctor. His words were, “Stop taking it IMMEDIATELY.” Those are scary words to hear about a drug that is keeping me in remission.

What if there is already too much in my system? What if I called too late? What if stopping now isn’t soon enough? What if stopping now makes me relapse?

I can’t go through all this again.

I can. And I will if that’s what comes. Every time I feel like we’re getting a leg up on this syndrome, another hurdle is thrown on the track and the reasons to keep me jumping are already dwindling—dark. And I’m exhausted—dog-tired.

So I’m going to focus on the fact that poetry got me through this day a year ago and it helped save me today. Instead of worrying about what is next, I will work with my words and lines and keep leaping.

Dark and Dog-tired

The highway was lined with yellows
–goldenrod, helianthus, lupine–
like someone took time to highlight
the key parts to memorize. Remember
cotton fields flush with puffy fluffs
as if marshmallows grew on stems
not factories. And don’t forget
the pecan groves with lush canopies
and polished grounds, those debonair
debutantes of all seasons, branches
heavy with fruits for holiday pies.

But the fallow fields are etched
in my mind–the soil dingy and stale,
left to lie empty, convalescing acre
after acre fringed with those vivid
yellows against grey skies. Memorize
learn by rote, recollect, recall–
recovery comes after harvesting
before recovery after reaping.

Indents halve my fingernail beds
a quarter inch up. Three months, ten
days, however many hours and minutes
times thirteen midnight charlie horses,
times fifty 3 a.m. granola feedings,
times brushfuls of torn hair clumps,
times two of remission. I’m reminded
with nail beds like fallow fields
where keratin canyons highlighted
when my body’s fertile framework
was trampled by armadillos of apathy
and only the soil was left–
dark and dog-tired.

*I’ve been trying to write two different posts recently. One was going to be about my road trip to North Carolina and the other was about the relapse of my syndrome. I couldn’t get either one to where I wanted and then realized tonight that a lot of the language I was using in both was poetic in nature–so why not go at them from a poetic standpoint? Considering road trips are my time to work through what’s going on in my life, it made sense to me to combine the ideas. This is the unedited result.

Black & White Sunday: Grandparents Day and a Poem

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Today is Grandparents Day and although I do not have any living grandparents, my recent baking and cooking trials have definitely been inspired by my grandmother on my mom’s side and the only one I ever knew well. My dad’s parents lived in Michigan, where he’s from, and the one thing I remember specifically about them is that on one of their visits, they brought me a Glo Worm and I was very excited. I loved that thing.

My mom’s father died when I was still young, so I don’t have too many memories of him, just stories I’ve been told. One such story is that I’d sit next to his chair out in the Florida room and he’d share his Pepperidge Farm cheese straws with me while we watched whatever was on TV and he’d have a cigar. I like to think that the reason I have a soft spot for the smell of cigar smoke is because of him.

But my grandmother was a big influence in my life. She comes to mind often in many little things that I find myself doing from growing philodendron cuttings in my kitchen window to collecting pretty plates and having a house full of things I love, not necessarily that match or follow a theme, to good posture and thank you notes. Years ago in one of my first poetic technique college classes, I wrote a poem for her about her house that we always gathered in as a family. She had to move into a retirement home for health reasons and we were all upset about not having that house in our lives anymore.

I thought I’d share that poem today and in revisiting it, will work on editing it. Because like gardens, writing has to go through many, many edits until it’s time to move on. Here is the original.

835 South Wilson

Grandmother, I miss your house on 835 South Wilson,
the brick house with the fifty-foot tall Southern Magnolia
out front, the one with the white blooms that I would hold
cupped in my hands, the one we always climbed
until the wind whipped my hair and I would wrap
my arms and legs tight around that tree’s trunk
looking up at Jeff looking down at me, laughing. I miss
the bottled Coke that I was only allowed to have at your house,
that tall iced-tea glass filled to the brim with igloo shaped ice cubes,
the sound of those igloos popping and cracking
as you’d pour that sugary Coke bubbling and fizzing
over them, the rolling of my mom’s eyes as I would take
my first gulp and our smiles as it slid down my throat.
I miss your pool with that rubber bottom I would slip on
trying to pull myself out over the ledge because who needed stairs?
Calling out ‘marco polo’, my mom’s hand in the scoop
of my spine as I arched backwards into the water, the melon sized
hydrangea blooms that fell into the pool, the ones
I would pick and put in a vase for you, Grandmother,
I miss the Easter egg hunts in my new pink dresses, Christmas
day photos with the family lined up and Bowdon would set
the camera timer and run to get in the shot as the red light
blinked, your vegetable garden, the old grapefruit tree
we would pull all the fruit we could. I miss your plate collection
in the dining room, the pale green tiles in your bathroom,
the smell of cigars and cheese straws that lingered
in grandfather’s recliner, the organ we played like we knew how.
I miss the feeling like the fizz in that Coke
when we pulled into the drive and saw you at the door.

Fliddly Flart (or Beshill My Heart)

No paperclips in the house to bind
these writer’s runaway words, so
the recycle bin fills and I’m staring at reticence
moulding and thinking someone sees colors
like I do.             Fliddly flart, the Fleet Foxes
sound like a soggy taco feels
and a thumbs down for any fox
is like starting a dream job in retrograde.

Tonight I saw myself in the mirror as the fox
printed on the platter hanging above my kitchen
sink. A little skinny. A little sketchy. Subtle.

It’s the fox you found and flew with across
New Mexico, Texas, and all those in between
states of bibles, backwoods, and blue laws–
bubble-wrapped, surreptitious fox on a plane
to hide under the tree.          Beshill my heart,
this plated fox is the white pony
of her flower-lined world,
line-sketched queen of gravity.

Tonight I saw myself in the mirror as the fox
printed on the platter hanging above my kitchen
sink. A little skinny. A little sketchy. Roguish.

 

This poem is the result of a discussion with a friend about needing motivation to write. At one point, I said, “Give me a title and I’ll write you a poem” not thinking they would actually blurt out a title right then–much less one I had no clue what it meant. I was caught off-guard, but knew I had to do it. I gave myself a day to produce something. Tonight, I made myself a tequila drink, turned on some music, and this is what came out.

Random, Unedited Poetry Moment: Weeding in the Rain

Clouds are yanging raindrops
while I go about my murder
escapades that I maybe enjoy
more than should be admitted,
but it feels good to yank weeds from
the soil they don’t deserve to feed from
and pile them up in a mound of nutrient
suckers no more. There’s just something
about tearing those mofos out
of that black dirt and shaking their roots
free of it, hanging limp in my hand
like the lizards I used to clip on my ears
as a fashion concession to my mom
who wanted me in pink bows and frilly dresses
while I ran around in my brother’s underoos.

Spider Man did my homework and made mud pies
in the garden. He could swim like a mermaid
for hours and roller skate like Linda Blair.

The milkweed is freed from the stranglehold
of the crabgrass, betony, and chamberbitters
and the rain has given me a water-beaded hat,
cooling my mind. A hawk landed on the ground
in front of my car when I got home from work
this afternoon. He looked back at me, spread
his wings fully on display, and flew off with
a strand of wandering jew stuck in his talons.

The August Garden Makes Me Want a Lobotomy

The August Garden Makes Me Want a Lobotomy

My yard genetically engineers monsters
in the guise of green trench coats and coy
cloche hats. Berries and seeds ride every
wheeze, every exhale from my swamp-air
laden lungs, scattering their troops
to sprout from hidden trenches.
 Never mind the birds.
Hungry birds. Always the birds.
Spreading these beasts into every niche
of my odd-numbers-look-natural
planted plot that doubles as my grocer.
Where are all the Paleo-fanatics?
I’ve got an all-you-can-eat
buffet of dandelions to pair
with your mastodon skewers
and this diet will surely work
dreams of bikini-ready bodies.
Fruitless blackberry vines have eaten
my azaleas and I can’t say I’m mad
at them, but I’ve got their aqua
tofana of vinegar and salt water
on the rocks ready to serve.
 And what is this trunked brute?
I know I didn’t plant a tree,
but here stands, like on royal
guard, a weed so strong
I could attach a hammock
and take a nap in its shade.
The August garden makes me want
a lobotomy. Blistered palms, sunburned
shoulders, joints vice-gripped
into claws. I revel at the thought—
frozen, February faces.