1. The Age of Cancer

It was the age of having cancer.
Breast was popular, even among the young
whose beautiful boobs should have been spared,
and prostate among dismayed men whose urine
began to dribble uncontrollably and whose
penises ceased to rise to any occasion.
Someone might say, “I am not my cock,”
or “I am not my tits,” and then begin to weep.

Not sleeping is not the same thing as being awake.

David decides to read In Search of Lost Time
while undergoing chemotherapy.
Do you think that’s wise? And what does
“undergoing” mean? Sinking into,
passing through, denoting an unpleasant passage,

He can read anything he wants to read.
He can read The Changing Light at Sandover.
Why not both? Why not the fattest books, why not
the deepest, the most elusive,
like the mind and the body in their amplitude?

He can lie awake and watch the furniture
rearrange itself into something like his life.

2. Chemo Day Five

FB: Day five of this chemo cycle
muscle pains and a sleepless night.
Can anyone tell us why everyone hates Anna Gunn on Breaking Bad?
She’s just an actress, for Christ’s sake.

Comment: You should do Breaking bad marathon therapy.
You should stop whining.
Hey, dad, I’ll see you next week. Can’t wait.

Twenty people liked this status.
And three offered prayers,
one of which worked instantly to effect
a complete cure. LOL.

3. The Persistence of Everything

Nothing goes away. It’s all still here,
which accounts for the room’s chattering clutter:
on the boat to San Carlos, the swaying hammock
above David cannot figure out how to enter
to sleep and his Spanish too poor to ask anyone
(Caroline’s daughter amused at his silliness when he tells the story)–
here it is, the hammock in the living room.
And then bathing in Lake Nicaragua at sunset,
watching Ernesto bathing in such a palette that
walking out he trails colors onto the bank.
Today is the anniversary of the March on Washington, fifty years ago,
and he asks his old friend Nelson what he remembers
of a brief walk at lunch that summer he is working at the FCC.
They listen to the great speech on TV. God, 1963!
So much to read, so much to think about, hoping to get arrested.
He doesn’t have dreams much, much less
a dream, most nights passing fitfully like the scenes
outside a speeding subway’s windows,
grimy and indistinct, but we feel there’s something
out there if the train would just slow down,
if life would just slow down, we ought to know.
The first time David visits New York with college friends,
they get lost on the subway and end up in Harlem,
which frightens these white kids, a night of misting rain
and helpless streetlights, but later he is working there,
in Harlem, in bright streets where people know him.
Life in chemo brain never stops to rest.
David and Caroline lying on their sides face
to face breathe each other’s breath, exchanging
cellular imaginings, her breath like a Japanese tea,
sencha, as he writes in a poem for her. And he sees at once
that this is how he is dying, face to face with
her, breathing in and out until the air leaves him
for good, and when she inhales she takes
what’s left of him finally into her heart.

4. Gaps in the Timeline

FB: We have discovered gaps in your Timeline.
It appears you were born in the year 2000
but claim to be 69. Please correct the discrepancy.
Your friends want to know the truth and nothing but.

Comment: I remember David when he was ten
in Tucson and ate too much fruit salad
and threw up on the lawn, well, actually
the green pebbles of a Tucson lawn.
I’ll post the pict. That would have been in 1954.
This is his aunt who’s been dead awhile
but never closed her FB account.

Added to the Timeline.
You have 35 Friend requests and fourteen events
awaiting your response, plus lovely women
over fifty looking for dates.

5. The Fluid Imagination

What he does not remember,
almost everything, after the fever and the trembling,
a temblor of the body. Apparently he was funny,
babbling in the emergency room, but has a clear
recollection of the ambulance, the city
falling away through the narrow back windows.
There were desert landscapes that undulated
in his consciousness like woozy special effects,
and he roamed through this surreal scenery, seeing
animals that might be fierce or welcoming,
he wasn’t sure, but he was not frightened.
They were not like any animals he recognized.
Such pleasure in giving himself over
to the fluid imagination where any life form might arise“Do you remember the first night you came
to my apartment you brought Rumicube
with you so that we’d have something to do
and then we were kissing on the couch?”
Caroline answers that she still wants to play
and promises to bring it to the hospital.

I walk along the pathway by the river
watching for you to bloom among Hawthorns,
to arrive because I want you to arrive,
as if the natural world might organize itself
according to my desires, my mind and the world
Caroline, creation of the landscape,
emerges from the desert in a white flowing gown,
takes form from blowing sand in wavering
desert heat, unnatural flowering.
“Were you at the hospital?”
“Yes. Remember? We were eating tacos.”

Chemo on my brain.
Doctor, doctor, you better come quick.
This old chemo is making me sick.

Elena’s plane lands as the ambulance
is transporting David to the hospital.

6. Everything is Watching

the sickness of uncertainty

How abundantly afflicted he is,
what’s swelling inside into a form
like biscuits in the oven
the kind that grandma used to make on the farm.
An enormous elm swallows the window of the asylum,
enlarged testicles elephantiasis of the erotic self,
a catheter bag strapped to his leg,
twenty minutes on the cross trainer.
Does the healthy body become the sick body
or are they different things,
as spring does not become summer but is different
or as life does not become death.
He’s never had balls like this, the girth of lemons,
soon the nurse will come and hook him up
the antibiotic flowing through the PICC line
into the superior vena cava at the heart of his body where the blood races
like the swift rivers of the mountains toward falling.
Little bionic polyps in his upper arm,
one for chemo and one for this super drug that kills everything
except the bug that needs to die.
Piss in the bag strapped to his leg yellow today as the sun
was last week when his piss was cherry cola,
reminding him of a song about champagne
that tastes just like cherry cola and a man named Lola,
L-O-L-A Lo Lo Lo Lola.
Caroline in the corner of his grim cell reading Lolita.
He picks up Proust again.
we try to discover in things, . . .
the reflection of what our soul has projected on to them
Absently pulling clumps of white hair from his balding head
and setting them to drift on the breeze from the open window
as the great elm comes forward on little elm feet
and peers compassionately in,
and even in the dark it is all perfectly clear:
do you not know that everything is watching.

7. At the SNF

FB: Shaved my head. Here I am with Caroline’s matching
baldness, at the SNF. Chemo heads in love.

Comments: You’re uber cute, the two of you.
Love the new look, your mutual baldnesses.
So sweet. You are an inspiration to us all.
What’s a SNF?
Pronounce it “sniff,” like the doggy hotel downtown,
it means Skilled Nursing Facility.
Oh, a nursing home.
Aren’t you a little young for that?
You’re never too young to be pampered by night nurses.

8. Zen Head

They shaved his head, Caroline’s daughter Leah and his,
on the SNF terrace under dreary skies,
puffs of white cuttings piled precariously in his hand,
as if he’d gathered cirrocumulus clouds,
first carving patterns in the wheat field of his old head
into a Dennis Rodman (visiting the Dear Leader this week),
and then a modified mohawk, Elena taking snaps
as Leah did when Caroline’s head was stripped to bone.
And now the two of them, matching cue balls, smile
for the camera. David feels he’s come into his own,
this is the head he’s grown into, Caroline calls it
his zen head. The elderly residents peer through the windows
at the scene, as at fish in an aquarium pursuing their difficult tasks
under water, no less. How can they breathe down there?
This morning the night CNA, emptying the catheter bag,
asks, “What nationality are you?” She wonders about the zafu
on the floor and strip of oriental rug, David’s bald head,
his yukata, his health, walking around the floor occupied
by aging zombies as if he’d come from another world,
and he says, “Japanese.” He can hear her say to herself,
“I thought so.” She empties his yellowish Gatoraid pee (yesterday
cherry cola) and says, “I like the fifth floor better.
That’s long term. No one’s leaving. You get to know
someone until they go to heaven, and I like that.”
David says he’ll have to die somewhere, maybe soon,
but not here unless the food gets better.
Seems like he’s always on the verge of dying and then doesn’t.

9. Where Turtles Lay Their Eggs

David is writing prose poems.

The time somehow flees, as we imagine, on dutiful wings, shadows crossing the window sparingly, probably clouds but also the possibility of an ending, even the hoped-for ending, a sinking down as through black water. These were childhood dreams and here they are again, but they arrive in daylight now. Night is for the sleeping dead, morning a resurrection, waking in a new body, each day’s body reinvented out of mystical threads. I am locked into this one room, the one room of my life no different, these walls closer and less colorful. Staring at the wall reduces it to waves, the subtle waves of quanta, perhaps, where there is more space than you might imagine for imagining. There is a dirt road somewhere in Costa Rica that leads back into the jungle–and, look, coati!–away from the desired beach, the huge Pacific, and no matter how hard I wish, it is impossible to retrace my steps. See them in the sand, the imprint of toes, the uncertainty of passage where the sea turtles lay their eggs.

10. There is Nothing You Can Do

The woman slumped weeping in her wheelchair
outside of his room, weeping through the day, it seems,
unceasingly, is weeping, and the nurse
keeps asking if there is anything she can do for her.

FB: We want to be here, in these parts, where we can all talk,
you know, face en face. That’s French.
No more separating us into separate fascicles of this poem,
the FB ghetto.

I control my own timeline.


Ok, so I read in Franz Wright’s new book, F,
that the expression, “You are the love of my life,”
is long-deceased, and wonder if anyone else agrees
or if that’s just Wright being maudlin. Caroline said once
I am the love of her life and now I’m concerned
it was meaningless, the phrase being out of fashion,
the sentiment out of touch with contemporary….

FB: Oh, shut up. Let’s just ask your friends.
That’s what they’re here for.
Anyone out there ever, ever say
“You are the love of my life” to anyone, ever?
We didn’t think so.

This is the gross mind speaking, the large mind
of which you’re a pustule lacking ANY
INSIGHT. And no it’s not the same as Jung’s
puny collective unconscious. You need to dissolve
like an alka-seltzer in the scrum of things.
Plop plop fizz fizz oh what a relief it is.
The MIND also knows all the words to all the songs.