Archives for posts with tag: cancer

there is a love that does not perish
there is a love that cannot fail
it is the sound of our singing
the sound of the clouds in the sky
it is a love that cannot be forgotten
it is the spring that never runs dry

the stars cast their spears down before it
the lords of heaven tremble before it
the damned in hell thirst for it
it is the love that cannot fail

there is a love that does not perish
a love that survives each loving part
a love that cannot be divided
the love within each beating heart

there is a love that is the source of strength
a love that always is re-made
at the root of each flower
each stone rolled ‘neath the water
at the base of each mountain
the spring of each ocean
the love that surrenders
that nourishes and sustains
that speaks words of truth
heard in deepest dreams

It is here with you now
Place your hand on your breast
Feel the beat that promises
The love that cannot surrender
The love that is always with you
The love that cannot die

There is a love that does not perish
that waits without breath or pain
without forgetting, without wanting
without comfort, without shame
waiting for you to find it
in the dance of light upon the water
take you in its hand
and remind you
what it is to love again

it is the love that cannot perish
the love that cannot be divided
the love that cannot be taken
the love that will always remain

 

This is the final prayer/poem in the book Deep Water. I would like to thank followers, likes, and readers for reading this book. I will post 12 books this year. This is my second book and now it is over. The most personal—if there are differences regards the soul in poetry. Which seems to me debatable.

I was uncertain how this book would be received after the insouciant attitude of Monochromatics. Thanks for sticking with me— there are more books to come and I promise more folly, less sorrow—but. always, poetry.

In my reading about bereaved parents, a common thread amongst fathers is they seek to create a legacy. I had a beautiful son, named Stephen Arlen Maxwell. Arlen means a pledge, a deep promise. He died just before his eighth birthday so there is a horrible resonance to this last post. I am going to add a picture of him going out for Hallowe’en as a Jedi. A hero. This book is his legacy. Thank you for reading.

arlenjedi

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dear lord,
what the fuck’s the use?
amen
dear lord,
why not someone I would choose?
amen
dear lord
ruler, roost
er biting the snake
as surely as the worm
feeds on shit
in the yard at dawn
amen
dear lord
ripples on water
chain of your endless mail
amen
bless me lord
in victory and defeat
amen

as I await my day of death and dismemberment
I shall make a joyful noise unto the Lord
as I make my rounds, as I live and breathe
I shall make a joyful noise unto the Lord
as I seek my final moment
as I ask these endless questions
as I listen to answers I cannot hear
I shall make a joyful noise
I shall make a joyful noise
I shall make a joyful noise unto the Lord
I shall sing and play my mandolin
I shall grieve, flee, continue to sin
Until my end and this is where I begin
I shall make a joyful noise unto the Lord

In the crash, in the smash, in the graveyard trash
I shall make a joyful noise unto the Lord
as I reap, as I speak, as I ravage and I wreak
I shall make a joyful sound unto the Lord
as I shout, twirl about and loudly proudly doubt
I shall make a joyful noise unto the Lord

I will bellow, I will blow,
I will shout above and below
drum upon my breast
splash and make unrest
I will sing just for the song
make music all day long
a joyful chorus, a round of Horace,
through each note you will find us
through song touch and teach each one of us
and until my end, you can depend
I shall make a joyful noise unto the Lord

give me the strength and courage to endure
the tempest and tumult of my heart
let me know peace,
mind torn by doubt and despair,
let your works be a sign
that all is knit and One
pearl necklace strung light and dark,
both the Lord’s work.
Let me know your place is within,
that when I despair that you are lost,
you are lost.
That when I cry for you and there is no answer,
it is a sign.
I am a dust mote resting but a moment
in the sunbeam of your love.
And in that instant I am gold.
That is all I know.
Hear my prayer of thanks
for the stars and the sun and the moon.
Let each new day find new works of man begun.
New lives tumbled, new struggles found.
I listen and hear your song, Oh Lord,
I see the towers of the mighty and they are your shadow.
I see that we rise and fall upon a mighty ocean of time
and it is yours, each wave, each drop, each mote,
this moment to be shared with Thee

in the stillness
in the vacuum lock that defies entry
there you are
in the noise and tantrum
in the screaming, tears, pain, and hopelessness
there you are
in the empty hours of the morning
in the fruitless hours of the night
in the cold of winter, the blank stillness of summer
the howl of snow in spring and fall
there you are
I beseech you
be with me
I implore you
be with me
I beg and promise you
be with me
and
always with me
my support when all else crumbles
there you are
and I am with you
safe, singing, thankful for your blessings
the promise that is not broken
the trust that is not betrayed

for love
for the strength that love brings
for the love that surpasses all obstacles
for the love that reaches into the pit of your belly and pulls you out of yourself howling alive and anew
for the love that lies with the child in its mother’s womb
for the love that makes the father at birth
for the love that draws man to woman
for the love that makes friends,
for the love that drives men and women to heal and nurture,
people to beg a bargain with the wind
and seek a cure for that which seems incurable,
I thank Thee

in the darkness
in the abyss
in the sorrow that surpasses understanding
be with me
in the misery of tears that cannot conceal what has been said
be with me
in the fainting, in the weakness, in the sleep that seeks exhaustion
be with me, be my guide, be my strength,
be my Father, be my Mother, be the Voice in the night
that sings of the sun, that tells the surety of the tides,
that guides the moon through its orbit, be Thee mine,
be with me, guide me through the unfathomable,
see me through the darkness that never ends
be the Goal and the Way, be with me
be the Promise and the Voice
be the end of all things and the beginning of time
outside and beyond all that befalls me
be with me

thank you Lord for each moment he lives
thank you for each footstep in the hall
thank you for every smile
thank you for a fall halted by provident hand
the barrel chested roll into another faltering step
thank you for the baldness and the hair that follows
for the roll of the seasons, each savoured
and exulted in—today we went tobogganing!
with your blessings there is nothing we cannot do, nothing we need fear
may your love shower upon him, may your strength flow through him
may you show us the path through this dark hour
and remind me each moment how I treasure this time
this time that is unique, that is eternal, that is now
this gift of his company and ours with Thee

Looking out the window of the hospital
across the courtyard
to those rooms over there—
that’s where we used to live.
the safe rooms, the chemo rooms.

Now, we are in Intensive Care
and Arlen is dying.
I stare out the window
and ache to see another time.

Hair dripping wet, dripping with diamonds,
hair transformed into a diadem,
each drop woven through your balding scalp a pearl,
a veil laid upon you, the bride’s veil lifts.

There they are, beneath the clear surface,
I see them, two small nearly naked bodies.
Arlen and his friend Daniel holding their breath,
diving to find the source of deep water
and if they can make it; two small nearly
perfect bodies that are so dear to me.

I could reach out & drag them back,
but I will not fear their adventure, I will
lay back, relax, let the poolside whirl pool me
to a moment poised between water and air,
where all is serene and in that instant I behold
what they seek. They dive to be the bubble,
the diamond caught within the water,
that often becomes trapped in the hair.

I dream I am in a boat.
I stare at the surface of the ocean
black, constantly patterned, shifting.
I dive into the water with strength
of purpose. One part of my mind
wants me to hold my breath as dream
water surrounds and threatens to crush me.
And then, I gasp & discover I can breathe.
I dive deeper and deeper until I reach
the canyons of the seabed. I am seized
by a knowledge that does not share itself with me;
the mountains of the depths rise about me
emerald, glass, as I descend into smoke & gloom;
I follow the seabed until I find a giant iron ring
set into an enormous stone trap door.
Gargantuan, it seems impossible to open,
yet, I swim to it and lift it with no effort.
The ocean empties into the ethereal kingdom
that shines, beckons and tells me, in its fashion
that I am the prince of this hidden land,
and I am returned to my righteous stand.

Parallel ripples drift across hot water,
before they fall into cool. I drift in the hot tub
as the boys compete in the pool—who is fastest,
who can hold his breath longest, who can
do the most somersaults, who can dive
deepest. I am the judge. Lolling on the edge
of the hot tub whose water spills
into the swimming pool, I watch
them descend. Daniel’s hair pulses about him
like a sea anemone—Arlen has no hair, only wisps,
strands too fine to be considered even seaweed. They
return sleek and wriggling, attended by air bubbles,
kick wiggled little boy bodies, eyes bulging,
“Did you see?” “Did you see?” “I saw,” I say.
They demand, “who won?” Should I tell them
the truth—the truth— that I didn’t notice? I rule
magnanimously, “I win! I win as long as you
are with me.” I declare judiciously, “try again.”
Grabbing the pool edge, they heave themselves up
pantomime deep breaths, Dizzy Gillespie cheeks
bulge and they dive, a repeat, bodies refracted
by the current of their passage, magnified,
now telescoped as depth comes into play
and they return gasping, demanding to know.
“Again,” I tell them, they descend, water
twisted lines of light, pool liner blue bright,
chromed ladder dappled shadow, glare, pause
the moment for the boys to return. And what if they
do not? What if they choose to remain suspended
in the fresh water pearl of a perfect day—
who would blame them —and suddenly
I watch afraid, ask, when will Arlen surface?
Two shining faces swim back to me, bubbles
stream from their nostrils, eyes bright
with their play, doing their best to teach me
to be unafraid.

I want to reach beneath the surface and drag him out.
If only I could elongate like an eel, an anchor, a tube,
a reel, and then what? grab him by what hair is there?
yank him back to me safe and whole? It is me who gasps,
struggles, claws to return to the surface. Arlen is serene,
suspended beneath, above me and I cannot reach him if I try.
He is floating, suspended between joy and mirth and I
am ahead, below, still clinging, tied to earth.

The boys are in the hot tub—Arlen’s thin
strands of hair leak diamonds across his face,
and his sparseness is wound with watery jewels
that shine at each juncture until it seems
he wears a precious glittering net over his head
as women did in days of ancient wealth,
legend and song.

Watching your child die is like
watching a great puddle, left after
a rain, disappear upon the beach.
At first, it seems impossible it could
disappear, there is so much of it, but
as the sun warms the water diminishes
gently and by noon, if you were to go
for a swim, or look away for a moment,
it would be gone, faint ripples in the sand
the only marks where it had been.

When your child dies, you do not look away.
You want to hold him and to have him. You
count moments like people count the beads
on a rosary, praying there is no end to the cycle.
That is why the cross is there, to mark the beginning,
the end, and that is my child crucified before me;
lines run into his kidneys, tubes to let him breath,
numerous cuts that will not stop bleeding to allow
one last chance—but the beach is harsh
and there is no life for a puddle so far from the shore.
You watch the water disappear between grains of sand
leaving only a circle of wanting to have, wanting to hold.

Our first impulse is a need for words of meaning;
we read the twenty-third psalm over Arlen’s body
with its promise of the existence of God’s love,
its powerful plea, “surely goodness shall follow me
all of my life and I shall fear no evil”, and we cry
over his body, wash him & arrange him, now free of
electrical lines, bandages, tubes and mouthpiece. He is
normal again and we arrange his limbs in composure,
like you would rake a lawn before first winter snow.

I look at him and he is like a cartoon villain
stripped of his armour, now weak and harmless.
I am the Submariner, far from my kingdom,
powerless out of the ocean,
powerless outside of comic book stories
that follow any path they will, end and resurrect
whomever they wish, or just end and that’s it.
It’s finished and you never find out whether the hero
found his home, the girl, happiness. It’s over.

It is now and Spring has come. I walk through a new world,
struggling into being. I take photographs as I walk, trying to
compose portraits of perfection that then disappear, capture
moments of peace that I feel only as they appear to me
through a lens. I walk through the park in search of shadows,
graffiti, common grasses & saplings harmonizing in light rays
that point to one spot as if forever. I walk through each picture.
I stand in a puddle, shallow and reflective. I kick the surface, watch
the ripples, look through the view finder at the image of branches,
wires and sky above, see the man standing in the puddle, looking
through the camera. I let the camera go, reach down to him as he
reaches to me and our hands touch and disappear into each other.
The cold envelopes my hand, and as I withdraw it, the other man
retrieves his hand from the sky. I stare, uncertain what I am
to do, where I am to go, only sure that the water will not release
that which it has claimed its own. Arlen is dead and I am not—
I will find eternity in time, but first I must paint a portrait.
So I do.

(This poem marks the end of the third chapter of Deep WaterTransplant. I will begin to post the final chapter — Prayers — starting tomorrow.)

Imagine you are running down a hospital corridor.
It is like a television with the sound off,
silent film, only constant green flick, flick, flick,
of fluorescent tubes passed, nurses running alongside
a hospital bed, oxygen tank attached to the back,
others racing with the I.V. pole— there are six, seven nurses,
a doctor rushes up and is given a quick report,
their mouths move, hands move, the movie moves.

We are running because my son has stopped breathing,
we are running for the elevator to take him to I.C.U.—
Intensive Care Unit. You go in your stats are bad
the moment you go—and you either make it back—
or you don’t. I laugh—no one gets it—this is just a blip—
you don’t understand how full of life he is— just look at him—
this won’t beat him—medical personnel are telling me
how serious this is—they just can’t see the life in him;
I look through them as if they are ghosts—I can’t help it,
I see through them. “Relax, he’s going to be OK.” “Perhaps
you don’t understand how serious this is.” They can’t see
the life that is in him—this is just an illusion.

Did I make the wrong choice? Should I have known
as the doctors and nurses knew, this was the beginning of death?
That his liver had died inside him, and his life was over, though
it would take two months more and me never believing he
would not live. Two days before he died, he woke up and watched
his favourite movie cradled in his mother’s arms—can’t you see
the life? Turn the sound off, concentrate on the picture.
Did I make the wrong choice to believe you would live?

I don’t need help making wrong choices—I have made as many
as I could even without you—wrong deals, wrong loves, wrong
moments, and never certain which was the worst. Did I fail you?
No, I know I ran alongside of you alive, always sure you would
survive the green flicker of lights as the gurney races along
and I could almost sing so everyone could hear the life clearly
how much I love you, tell them to stop listening for a moment
to the train crossing clanging “this is your stop”.

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