Jousting the gods


The old man complains once again that he’s dying.

My immediate response kicks in: “You’re not dying.”

The main thing is to speak in monotone reassurance.

“You’re not dying,” I repeat. “I’m not ready for you to go.”

And we have nothing more to say the rest of the way.

Our third or fourth trip to disease harbor, we pray.

The edge we negotiate each day exhausts us both,

He teetering to the right and me pulling him back left.

We battle each under the armor of our own skin, an

Aged man and his aging daughter jousting the gods.

Health? No Care

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Stitching quilted time surgical square by square, a hodgepodge of olive drabs and polluted sky blues in pattern--patient in, patient out--
a nurse-maid wends her way through plastic bags plump and warm with piss
and blood-stained pillow cases where patients puke spittle in their sleep.

A helper of the sick, a cold hand but a hand nevertheless, she pricks fingers and asses, plugs up spills poured in gut-twisting fiery pain with a pat and a clean sheet, plight of the sick, wedged between death and dying her daily duties.

Goddess in green, she performs impeccably clean, masked, gowned and gloved, hairless and germ-free--safety's illusory garments for germ workers, spreading disease and then getting paid for treating the infected in the circle of death cheats.

A man who survived contracting a deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria from what they inserted inside his body, contaminated just by existing behind the sterilized hospital walls, lost his will to live, a potential suicide by health care.

Like homework sent home from school, he was delivered home to nurse himself, take back his own health with needles to prep and pop, blood to digitally track and communicate, which was too much to do for his weakened old self, so he opted out.

A list of twenty ten-step perilous operations to complete for his own mending, too soon after his near-death visit to the sleepless halls of buzz button calls and electronic beeps of monitors ironically measuring life's slippage.

Too weak to stand, he gathered his will, lost his way, awash in the maze of pop-in nurse-teachers, marching in step to medical time, protocols and measures, without care, dispassionately immune to measure more than mortal drops of human blood.

Daddy Deep

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What sound makes hollow deep?

Not quite sound at all,

It is a missing knock, 

Soft and insistent,

Knuckles weak.

A buzz of silence

Just about where the t.v. 

Lies blank and mute.

A sneer faded to black

And a joke told 10,000 times

With a missing punch line

Or vaguely remembered,

Souring the laughter.

Questions unrelenting and inane

Will one day go unanswered

Not for lack of interest, 

Raised eye brow, 

Rolled eyes, but

For want of asking.

Some day the house

Will die without you,

Emptied of its anchor

And upturned root.

That day will gut us,

No doubt, but not today.

Not this day.

When a father…

We never carry them the way they carry us, but we carry, we do.

I may never lift my father in my arms and cradle him to sleep–

but I would if that were the only thing to do, if he withered away,

the blood in his urine signaling cancer gone cure-less, and all

of his 6’3″body shrunk to size befitting my strength’s capacity.

His burden was not the same as mine now, yet just as heavy.

I make his doctor appointments, petition his insurance carrier

for returns and permissions, for money owed and paid, due

promises others should keep, I track them and bite my nails

when he drives, counting the days til the inevitable unknown.

I am his memory and his nattering nit-picking conscience.

Parenting him is not like his parenting me–not like it at all.

He left parenting to his wife, my mother, who stares skeletal now.

My parenting is ironic, the young to the old, whereas his or hers

was right side up. Picking up my body in his arms to rush me,

bleeding, to the doctor downstairs when I cut my finger off in the

city apartment steel shut booming door I teased with my 3 year old

fingers til it bit my left forefinger, my pointer, right off my hand,

he carried me, but not like I carry him, in his arms, not in my arms,

but in my constant vigilance and resentment and worry and fear.

I watch him and struggle to be patient, to be nice, to be a daughter

not a mother or a wife or stranger disinterested in the outcome,

though that may be how it appears on the outside, estrangement.

But it’s never-without-burning back of the mind bearing weight,

loaded on a mind’s shoulders, sagged under heavy-careful love.

He held me in lightness and faith, worry, worship and wonder.

I speak him in my dreams, awakening to his anger and my own.

Shaking off our bodies to the dust is always on our minds, we two–

a father to a daughter-mother-mortal-stranger til the end, ours.

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So Many Ways to Lose a Daughter

 

 
When they were little, headless operations I called them, 

toddling about with no motion detection sensors, 

oblivious to the science of mass in flight against

the immovable object, cause and effect, win and lose, 

I feared losing their pristine purity, their soft roundness

drenched in new flesh, irradiant, to rocks and bumps

in the playground grass or sandbox, opening into

split lips or knobby eggs on their foreheads. I feared

losing them to cars in free fall, driven by madness 

up on my lawn, taking my children with them, like 

the newspaper clipping in the local Starbucks report.

I feared flus and asthma, pneumonia, broken bones

and stitches they could contract or suffer with 

complication and then die in my arms or in their sleep.

I dreamed of kidnappings and wanderings off in 

supermarkets or department store aisles, lost, lost, lost.

I walked them to school the block and a half every day.

And when they were in middle school, I dreaded

the treacherous row of absent-minded, harried

dropping-off moms vs. the brainless, twit t’weeners on

bikes, laughing and careening their wheels into traffic,

caring little for mortality the daily drive threatened

like that boy and his friend on a bike, on the same road,

on the way to school two days before the school year

start, picking up his schedule, leisurely, laughing, 

peddling, looking back at his lagging friend just before

the swerve, the truck, the texting driver, the hit–gone.

I never let them ride their bikes to school, not with that.

I did not want to lose them to twenty somethings’ texts.

Just like I did not want to lose them to drugs, drunk

drivers and AIDS, cancer, concussions or accidents.

I did not want to lose them. And I lost them any way.

To friends, trends, music and driver’s licenses, to

social media and idealism, fierce loyalty and pride of

a generation angry in the wake of destruction their

parents have left them to navigate, chlorinate the gunk

of polluted finance and corrupt opinions and falsity, 

falsity everywhere. I lost them to independence and

opportunity elsewhere, greener, colder, blue-skyed

distant and lonely, free and home away from home.
 

credit: arthistoryarchive.com

Love and Let Die

 

credit: corvalisadvocate.com

You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves
.  Mary Oliver

In the morning after a rain when the ocean settles into the sky, the horizon looks true,
not divided but a continuum–grey on grey–indecipherably terra-firmament.

My life appears so linear, me moving my mother and father along their journey, as they once held my hand and led my toddling feet, cajoling them forward and dragging them back, the push and pull of a daughter’s love full of fear and longing as they travel into the night even as my daughters, soft and loosely tethered to my heels, unwittingly come along for that treacherous trek of mortality. But the line is an illusion. Time is recursively experienced and what else is there but subjective moments of breath?

Heidegger notes: Temporalizing does not signify that ecstases come in a ‘succession’. The future is not later than having been, and having-been is not earlier than the Present. Temporality temporalizes itself as a future which makes present in a process of having been. (Being and Time 68: 401).

The past, present and future are always with us in lived experience. I am one (of many others) with an awareness and constitution of my past, my history, born to certain parents in a particular calendar time, history, and place, aware that I exist–live, breathe, do–in the moment known as now until the someday I cease to exist and so experience time not as an arrow shooting from birth to death but as a walking simultaneity of past, future and present I carry and am.

Like time, bodies are continuous, only unmindful minds make it not so–the mime of generations. We are and are not the infant or/nor the corpse but live suspended between the two, seemingly marching forward from birth and facing death, but really carrying our birth and death with us at all times.  Living with another human being is living with her patterns and hang ups developed from childhood, her fears of her own mortality and the actions and inabilities to love or trust or celebrate life due to her genetics, home life, experiences or attitude toward her own mortality.  She is reckless because she can be in her twenties with so much life ahead or she is cautious and more discerning with the people with whom she spends time given she may only have a good ten or twenty years of life left on Earth.  Death shapes her.

To clearly “see” ourselves poised for death sharpens our vision of what is real and true, who we are. Since I will die, I schedule my days full of stuff to do. Since I will die, I plan from the time I become aware of my impending death to go to school, get a career, a family–live a life in finite time. If I were immortal, would I choose to get up and go to work each day?

The realization that I am not, wearing my own death as a blanket across my face in order to make me see what I do in the unknown time allotted to me, who I am, is the experience of time that allows me to be my authentic self, roughly paraphrasing from Heidegger. We all know what it feels like to have a close call. The aftermath of that potentially fatal collision–near miss–shows us who we are, what we are made of, what we hope for, and what is important to us–truly, not lost in the doing-ness of the day. So how to keep death in front of our eyes?

Read a lot. Observe. Listen. Think. Feel. Try on faces, clothes, philosophies, scenarios, and lovers; test your instincts and learn. “Love who can love you the way you need and want to be loved,” I tell my daughters. The formula is simple. It only takes knowing who you are, letting the “soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Time as aggregation, an amassment of experience and burning, is the fullness of space opening up as the big bang deity of the universes spreads the creation of all we are and imagine unending.

The deep field experiment (http://youtu.be/LENqnjZGX0A) of the Hubble telescope reveals that the infinite is even more than we circumscribed previously. David Eagleman, in his informative and entertaining Youtube video on Possibilianism, remarks that the Hubble telescope identified over ten thousand galaxies in a pencil eraser sized spot in seemingly starless space viewed from Earth. Upon learning this, I was struck with how humans are unfathomably minuscule and particulate and endless as moving dust of eons innumerable.

Perspective. There is no time or reason to suffer needlessly at the hands of others in the finite or infinite. Each human is an ever burgeoning expanding and shrinking self in a moment. We are not either-or’s, especially not labels that predict behaviors merely for the sake of another’s comfort. I don’t have to identify as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual in order for someone to understand how to act with me, determine what interests or potential lies in me.

Gender is not merely anatomy. Sexuality is not merely the act. In the words of Robyn Ochs, bisexual activist, writer, professor:
“Sex is between your legs; gender is between your ears.” In real people, sex and gender do not always correspond…sex and gender each exist on a continuum; thus there are more than two sexes, and more than two genders.

This resonates with my lived experience thus far. We cannot know another by assuming we know, only intuit and strive and thrive, be brave and curious. Love is all we get in finite time. Judge not so unthinkingly.