New Poems and Update on Joe and also on Pam

 

In truth, of the following poems one is not really new, since it was published some years ago in a volume called “Three Poets” (no longer available) put out by the Tunxis Poetry Review of Tunxis Community College in Connecticut. But I have always liked it. I will be including both in my second poetry collection, so I am putting them here as a kind of enticement, even though neither is about mental illness and/or schizophrenia. (Those I hope to “pre-publish”  before the book is out…maybe…)

 

BTW: A few notes for clarity and in case you are not familiar with a few words, forgive me: “lieder” means Romantic songs, in German,  “Bawds” comes from the same root as “bawdy” and means, essentially, “bawdy women”, “a water strider” is an insect… “la nostalgie de la boue” translates as “a longing to be back in the mud.” Also, I am sorry that I could not space it better, but the cut and paste option did not allow it.

 

CONSIDER THE BULLFROG

 

who

night and day

belches “jug-o-rum”

to a teetotaling

bog; whose noisy

lieder of drink

and bawds last all

summer long;

who nibbles

asterisks

of water striders

dimpling the surface

of the black pond

and ensnares

tangy damselflies

with the quick ribbon

of his tongue;

who after all

is not a Prince

in disguise; who

suffers himself to be

pithed for science;

who sculls

through sweet

mud in la nostalgie

de la boue; who

is Frog among frogs;

who needs no god;

who does not know

he will die.

 

The other poem, which is new but which I do not believe I will publish before I publish the book, is this one, a “nature poem” of a sort. It was written for my writing group “prompt” on the word “song or singing” as I recall…

 

THE SONG OF THE ANT

“For the listener, who listens in the snow...Wallace Stevens

 

In those days I was always cold

as I had been a long time, mindful of winter

even at the solstice of my high summer days

 

 

always, always the crumb and crust of loss

and near-loss of everything held dear

before the saison d’enfers and the ice to come

 

 

There was always the wind

There was the wind making music,

and I, at one with the quirky stir of air

 

 

bowing the suppliant trees

bowing the branches of those trees for the sound

of songs long held in their wood

 

 

Changes change us: rings of birth, death, another season

and we hold on for nothing and no reason

but to sing.

 

 

Joe has rallied some, yes! yet again, though he is clearly in a terminal decline. Last Thursday, a week ago, we thought he might survive only a day or two,  as he was in and out of consciousness and looked frankly terrible. But the following Saturday he was surprisingly alert again, and so it goes.

 

I was unable to visit him until yesterday, due to sheer exhaustion, and an inability to get a ride there  so that I didn’t have to drive myself in an unsafe state. But when I saw him — that is, Friday —  he was actually able to manage a bit of a smile, and appeared happy to see me. His first words in fact, spelled out on the letter board, were not about him but instead were, “You are beautiful” — what a sweetheart! When I asked him how he was, he spelled only that he was tired. He did tell me that he had trouble hearing, and when I offered to get the nurse to clean out his ear and fix the towel that blocked his other ear, he was grateful. But we couldn’t talk long as he grew weary after a scant twenty minutes. I offered to cut my visit short and return on Monday. That turns out to be easier on both of us anyhow as the letterboard is difficult for each of us in different ways.

 

joe’s level of consciousness remains variable. The irreparable and growing leak in his stoma (a “stoma” literally means a hole, which in this case is the hole in his throat and trachea that holds the tube through which air flows from the machine into his lungs) means that his O2 — oxygen — levels vary tremendously. The fact that he is also very “tired” is also an indication of lowered O2 concentration, though he may not understand this.

 

He did as I reported last time  agree to the DNR designation (Dr O, with whom I have been in touch, because she was so helpful with Joe early in his illness, told me that this is now called AND — Allow Natural Death). I do not think he completely understood its meaning, though, as he asked me two days later. I had to tell him it meant no heroic measures “like cracking his chest and massaging his heart” to make it truly clear to him, even though, if true, it also sounds a little extreme…After all, artificial ventilation is already a heroic measure!

 

As it is, unless the fistula forms (in his case a pathological kind of tube or passageway) forms between an artery that branches off of his aorta, and his weakened tracheal walls, which would cause nearly immediate death (with hopefully immediate unconsciousness without suffocation or any “drowning in his own blood” sensation), it looks like he will die of slow oxygen depletion and carbon dioxide build up. This would probably be the best way…Although his cousin tells  horror stories about “hypercapnia” I think he has been researching traumatic and acute cases of such carbon dioxide excess and not the slowly developing kind that Joe is experiencing. From all I muyself have read about ALS and respiratory failure, Joe’s dying should be painless and “easy.”. Especially if he only gets more and more tired and simply falls asleep…

I have been very weepy about this, esp when Joe has not been able to be very alert and it looked like death was near. But on Friday though he was “tired” he actually spent more time asking me how I was doing than  talking about himself…He “talks” mind you, by spelling via the letterboard. Which means that he looks at me to say yes, and away to say no, while I go down the board by row, and then across the letters, saying them by name…It is very laborious, less so for me because I have memorized the board, than for him because it is clearly tiring. I no longer stay more than a half hour, and try to keep it to 15 minutes. I try also to visit more often than once a week, and if I can, I go every two days or so. Still, as you can imagine, it can get exhausting.

 

I hope I haven’t repeated myself several times in the above, but if I have, forgive me.  I too am tired, though hardly as tired as Joe and not for anything near the same reasons. It is only the stress of having two dear friends “in extremis” so to speak, Joe near death, and Cy seemingly  having surrendered to “fading away.” I know that Cy is 92 and lost his beloved wife three years ago, and it is, I suppose, his right to want to “fade away” but goddam it, his physical health is pretty damn good, but for his own deliberate neglect of it. And it pains me to see that, if nothing else, he is just allowing himself to abdicate living and not even trying to accept treatment, either for his physical ailments nor for any depression.

 

Anyhow, I myself am not depressed at all, sad, yes, weepy as I said, yes, but in general just tired, sometimes headachey, but well enough. I just need to carve out enough time for myself to recuperate each week and NOT visit so much that I cannot do so. I know I need to find enough time to write and do art, as both replenish me in ways that spending time talking with others does not always do, much as I love my many friends. Hey, just writing here has done something towards that end. So thanks for listening, all you, and I’ll be Bach if you’ll be Beethoven for me…(okay that’s a stretch but I hope you’ll be waiting for me, nonetheless.)

 

 

Portrait in Pencil: Two Teenaged Girls

Actually, these lovely young women are my nieces, my brothers’ daughters, and I scarcely do them justice here. But  rather than their appearances singly,  it is the wonderful and loving relationship that I aimed to show more than anything else. Their mutual devotion is so very clear, the younger Adriane on the right and her older sister Claire on the left. I think the photo that this drawing was taken from is surely one of the most delightful I have seen, at least in terms of any recent photo of my extended family.

I am aware of the misalignment of the eyes and of other faults large and small, but to me it is the expression of love and affection between the girls that is much more important than these imperfections (plus, frankly, I have to admit I ruined the original portrait entirely trying to “fix” it, trying to “perfect” the placement of those eyes..I ought to have known better.)

 

My brothers' daughters, Claire and Adriane

Medical Research – Is it Mostly Bogus?

This is the conclusion of a recent article from The Atlantic Magazine article:

“Science is a noble endeavor, but it’s also a low-yield endeavor,” he says. “I’m not sure that more than a very small percentage of medical research is ever likely to lead to major improvements in clinical outcomes and quality of life. We should be very comfortable with that fact.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2010/11/lies-damned-lies-and-medical-science/8269

Have we been sold a bill of goods about the usefulness of psychotropic medications? Are we really taking more or less placebo drugs, or  medications that have not truly been proven effective except anecdotally? I feel for example, that Zyprexa helps me — to read and feel enthusiastic about life etc, but who is to say that I would not feel the same off all antipsychotic drugs, after a slow weaning period? I do not mean to suggest that everyone should stop taking their meds, I only wonder, after reading this article and others  if we really know much about the research that has gone into “proving” the efficacy of what we are being told to take for “our own good.”

Here is my own comment on the article above, which you will see at the bottom, if you read that far:  “Haven’t read all comments but if it has not been already stated, chaos theory is relevant here: sensitive dependence on initial conditions means that especially with regard to weather, it is impossible to predict the behavior of large systems even a day in advance, as we in New England know all too well. In terms of medical research, this holds as well, and indeed, it is all too often the case that what a researcher predicts is precisely what she or he “discovers”. Real scientific research should aim to falsify the hypothesis, rather than “prove” it true. Science can never prove anything absolutely true, it can only evaluate the relative usefulness of a hypothesis by the fact that so far no one has shown or proven it to be wrong.”

It is the last part that is particularly relevant: no one tries to prove their research hypotheses WRONG any longer. They only want to prove them correct. But that is easy. You simply manipulate a little data,  or eliminate those irritating bits of information that aren’t as pretty as the those that look really good when published in respectable journals or when advertised in glossy two page ads to the public. But truly scientific studies ought to try to show that a hypothesis, say that Zyprexa is an effective treatment for schizophrenia (a “squishy” diagnosis in itself) is  in fact not true, and ought to do this many times in many different ways. If  many studies fail to show that Zyprexa is not  ineffective in treating schizophrenia, then doctors might be justified in using it as a treatment, for the time being, until, at any rate, it is shown – if indeed it ever is — to be ineffective, or less effective than some other treatment. That is the correct use and usefulness of the scientific method. But research rarely proceeds that way any longer. All researchers care about these days is getting “proof” something is “true” that is, that something “works” which they do in all too many cases by massaging the facts and data.

If anyone is interested in discussing this article, please add your comments to this blog’s comment section and I will post them below, with my own responses. I would very much like to hear from you, esp with regard to anything you have to say about psychotropic drugs and your own experiences and knowledge of relevant research.