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
night and day
to a teetotaling
bog; whose noisy
lieder of drink
and bawds last all
of water striders
dimpling the surface
of the black pond
with the quick ribbon
of his tongue;
who after all
is not a Prince
in disguise; who
suffers himself to be
pithed for science;
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…
“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.)