Tick

 

(For Ancil)

He was old and weather beaten

that day we sat on his front porch

cowboy hat perched on his head

like a parrot on a pirate’s shoulder

with penetrating steel blue eyes

he looked deep into mine

imparting some words of wisdom

that shall never be forgotten

“When ya go out in the woods,” he said, “make sure you pull your socks up over your pants so the wood ticks don’t burrow under your skin and lay eggs. They carry disease and you can get some sick.”

Auntie A and I

Waiting room stomach cramping

Dry lips and trembling hands hidden

Underneath a hospital green gown

Keeping modesty intact

But letting in the cold draft of the xray room

Mammogram for mama day

Breast sandwiched between icy steel slabs

Indifferent machinery radiation playing eye spy

Hide and seek with your tissue

Is it lurking here

Or there

Days pass

Phone rings

We need a closer look

It’s probably nothing, a handbook soothing phrase

Heart racing, it can’t be…no it’s not.  I won’t go there again this time

But you do

You see it again

A day from long ago

Auntie A showing Ma her mastectomy

You are ten and it’s a mystery

You ignore the order to stay in the kitchen with your innocence

Instead you rebel and sneak a peak in the crack in the bedroom and see hell

It’s a black hole where Auntie A’s right breast used to be

And the devils name is Cancer

And it is killing her

You hang up the phone in the present

Don’t say the word, you don’t have to, everyone else is thinking it too

We need to bring in the special forces of the ultrasound

Waiting room stomach cramping

Dry lips and trembling hands hidden

Beneath the plastic garment bag holding

A bra you may not need again

Two cups one breast

You start to panic

This way please you are directed down the narrow walk

The nurse says  your name too kindly

Your file is too thick

Cold table, dimly lit room

Romantic lighting for a sterile love/hate affair

Metal paddle sliding, probing

Settling on a black blob the size of a pea

Or a button

Or an aspirin

Or a tumor

Don’t say the word, you don’t have to, everyone is thinking it too

We’ll need to remove this and test it

You can go now

We’ll contact the doctor

You go home and think of that word, but this time you will say it and make it small

Just in case it’s there this time

Cancer

It’s like saying death

If you say it, it will scare it off

And it does

Until you go to bed and it lays there beside you

A hateful appendage like the breast you pretend isn’t there

The breast you have been terrified of for five years

Since they took out the cyst that wasn’t cancer

But wasn’t normal either

The one that put you on this twice yearly rollercoaster from hell

Needles aspirating

Lumps dug out

Biopsy

Safe this time

You leave the office feeling cancer free

You arrive home seeing the gaping hole that used to be your aunt’s breast

And you wait for it to get you too

The Last Time I Saw Raymond

I was out taking a drive back in the woods. When I came to the crossroads and the dirt road to town, I could see Raymond’s trademark bicycle propped against his porch. This was always a signal that he was available for a visit if the passerby was inclined to sit and chat about the state of the world or local gossip. Only one thing made me hesitate: hygiene. Raymond was not the cleanest of human beings and aside from the constant line of grime around his neck the smell of his kitchen sink could stop a wild bull from charging. Curiosity got the better of me, as well as some childhood nostalgia about this crazy old man in his eighties, so I parked my car on his patch of grass, being careful not to crush his “dandylyin flowers.” Raymond shouted to me from inside the dusky kitchen to “Come on in” and when I stepped across the threshold, a body moved like a streak of lightening behind the chair where Raymond was perched. He followed my gaze and said “Oh, don’t pay any attention to her, she’s foolish and just stayin’ with me, she’s my housekeeper.” I looked around at the dog shit on the floor, assorted bottles, cans, styrofoam containers, chipped mugs, empty pickle jars and rotting food in various stages of decomposition and wondered just what exactly ‘house keeping was’ because as far as I could tell, this wasn’t it.

He offered me a chair and when I sat down, I felt something scurry up my leg and back down again. I shuddered and he laughed with his empty mouth, devoid of any teeth, since he had them removed back in the fifties because he didn’t want them to rot and choke him in his sleep. “It ain’t nothin’, just a centeepeed, won’t hurt ya.” I stood up and shook myself clear of whatever the hell it was and sat back down, just in time for Raymond to offer me a cup of tea from a pickle jar he used as a mug. I declined as politely as possible, but he didn’t really notice my queasy expression because he was too involved in the laborious task of licking his metal pie/dinner plate clean. As I watched, fascinated by the horror of it all, I tried with a great deal of difficulty to determine what precisely he’d been consuming, and if it would kill a weaker life form were they to swallow it. Finally, I could stand it no longer and I asked what he’d had for dinner. “Well, I bin down to the high school and ya know, them kids throw out some right good food, and as I’m savin’ for a new bike, I bin rescuing some of them lunches and savin’ them for my supper. I got more it you want some, it’s one of them leftover Donairs.” Naturally, my response was “gee, that’s nice of you to offer Raymond, but I’ve just eaten and I’m full up.” To which he replied, good thing then, cause I was hopin’ to have it for breakfast.”

Our conversation went on like this for about an hour, with little tid bits about his daily wood cutting activities thrown in for good measure. Finally, he started to gossip, which is why most people came to see him anyway, me included. I learned all about who was cheating on their spouse and their taxes, who was on welfare, growing pot on the back forty and to sum it all up, who was going to burn in the heat of hell fire for being an unrepentant sinner. He rounded off our evening visit with a lovely rendition of Rock of Ages and when he held a note, his eyes jiggle in their sockets as if the notes were shaking them loose. By the time he’d finished, I was more than ready to go, most especially because his ‘housekeeper’ came out from the other room like a mouse on roller skates announcing her angry departure because it was clear to her that he and I were having an affair! I made haste while the light faded and bid them both farewell, completely ignoring her insane insinuation. Just as I put my keys in the ignition, Mrs. Housekeeper asked me for a ride into town and on the way, she regaled me with stories from her life as a housekeeper and just as I guessed, it had absolutely nothing to do with cleaning.

I never saw Raymond again, but I do have a photo someone took of me with him, picking blueberries when I was three. Sometimes, when I see an empty pickle jar, I think of him and wish for one last visit in his little shack at the crossroads.

Mark wrote something wonderful on his blog that inspired me to write this. Thank you Mark!

Two Things

First, I just wanted to let you know about a wonderful place on the web that now lists me as a member:  Feminist blogs.

If you have time, take a stroll over there and read some insightful writing by some of the most dynamic feminist writers on the web.

I’ve also written a very short verse that relates to another area of my novel.

*******************************************************

Bruise

Arms I used to protect you

were beaten black and blue

He shoved my face into the dirt

They day he kidnapped you

Father

In cars we fled into the nights and years

until the daylight bled all over you

the white lines blurring into one long endless route

to somewhere that wasn’t  here because

you never wanted to be wherever you were

geography jumper with a runaway heart

my childhood map of the world

the borders of each new place shady and blurred

the depth of our temporary roots

defined by your whims and the quality of your lies

Truckstops and diners, gas stations and rest stops

The only homes I’ve ever really known

Temporary

Cold

In transit

Just like you

Father

The Haiku Prophet Of Doom

 

 

Yesterday I was reading Amy Nathan’s blog and her topic was interesting because it explored the notion that writers are helpful rather than assholish to each other.  I mostly agree that we understand and relate to each other in ways not understood by people who don’t create.  After reading Amy’s blog, I started to reminisce down that back alley of the past.   My social circles have always been populated by artists of every persuasion and I doubt I would have developed as quickly as a writer without their wonderful presence in my life.  Writers, poets, painters, cartoonists, musicians/singers have all played a part in my learning.  

  My art friends were lovely.  We’d get together and do painting sessions that lasted sometimes into the wee hours and never utter more than  five words to each other.  I loved these times because I felt the most relaxed, almost meditative and very free.  I can never recall a bad word, feeling or event between us.   We garnered so much knowledge from one another by simply watching the experimental process in action, merging colour, feeling and thought together.  

My musician/singer friends truly touched my life by expanding my ability to use mood to my advantage creatively.  I used to be married to a blues guitarist, therefore all night jam sessions were a regular event for me.   I’ve been gifted with having my ears kissed by sounds produced by some fine and solid blues players.  I can’t begin to tell you how profoundly this affected my emotional attitude toward my own creative process.  Musicians are generous with their art and profoundly in sync with the world.  

Then there are my poet friends. I have plumbed the depths of true feeling  and explored symbolism with four  truly gifted and brave poets who I call my soul friends.  However, before I share my one truly hideous relationship with a bard of the dark arts, let me say from the beginning, I hate writing poetry.  I hate reading it, writing it and yet, from some deep black well of  hell  there is a sprite who has been given the demonic task to compell me to write verse, and badly written verse at that.   I also know there is NO future in it and rather than being satisfying it depresses and drains me.  It’s in this atmosphere of anti-poetic ranting I will introduce you to my favourite poet to hate:  The Haiku Prophet Of Doom.

We met at a salad bar in a deli where I used to work.  He was dressed in black from head to toe and every orifice had a piercing.  Lips, eye brows, nose, ears (five in each)  as well as his tongue.  Now, I’m not an anti-piercing advocate.  I’ve pierced.  My nose.  I’ve stopped.  He didn’t. You get the picture.   But that day, by the olives,  my initial visual of his personage were the flashing points of light bouncing off several bits of surgical steel and gold.  His crow black trenchcoat flapping  in the breeze as his lanky 6’3″ frame strode toward me, purposeful and pensive is seared into my memory like the brand on a steer.   

“Can I help you?”

“I want some olives.”

“what kind did you want?”

“Kalamatas.”

“How many would you like?”

“Two pounds.”

I start to scoop the olives into the two pound container and as I begin to dip a second time I hear a cough and look up.

“Excuse me, but I must have a closer look at those olives.”

“Okay, no problem.”   I hold a spoon of olives aloft for his appraisal.  

After eternity passed and hell had icicles,  he stated emphatically that he needed to inspect each and every olive.

“What for?”  I ask, partly wrankled and partly amused

“Well, for imperfections of course! I can’t eat olives with spots on them.”

Losing my happy sales clerk  face, I stated I didn’t  have time to microscopically examine upward of forty olives.  

Losing his satisfied customer face he stated that I was rude and he wanted to see the manager to which I responded with an offer of an introduction to our illustrious store manager.  Now fully huffy,  he declined, turned on his heel and walked away very dramatically like the black hole in the universe he was.  This was the beginning of our hate/hate creative collaberation.  He returned to the deli and started dating a friend of mine and she simply couldn’t restrain herself from telling him I was a writer.   Over the next two years I wrote poems for a coffee house haiku/poetry newsletter he slapped together.  Unbelievably, this obsessive compulsive artist  managed to cajole many merchants and gather enough advertising dollars to support the courting and sparking of my aforementioned friend.  Indeed, I must admit he was a half decent poet, but in all the time I knew him he was sullen, surly, and vain.  He fancied himself an erudite man of verse and all and sundry were informed of this very crucial fact.   “I would die penniliess and ragged for my art!” is one perfect example of his self delusion.  Eventually I stopped the flow of my meagre poetic contributions left the deli and began dealing black jack.    I will attempt to end my  remembrance of this bard on a positive note by sharing at least two things he taught me:  1) The Haiku Prophet of Doom is the ONLY writer or poet I’ve ever known who was and probably remains an unsupportive and emotionally unevolved cretin.  2)   Red flecks and dents on Kalamata olives are imperfections and as such should never be consumed as they may contain high levels of toxins which the body cannot expel and will permanently damage vital organs.   In his case, the vital organ was his personality.

In cyberspace, these people/writers are brilliant!  Go there, read them and enjoy yourselves.  My writing day isn’t complete without a reading of their words.  

Amysuenathan.com

Annebrooke.blogspot.com

Alltimeisunredeemable.blogspot.com

gmc.blogspirit.com

scribulus.wordpress.com

Madkane.com

debralschubert.com