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I am in the process of unpacking a box filled with dishes from my old house in Kent, Ohio. The box was packed by my mother in the summer of 2000, before we moved from Kent to Amherst, Mass. We moved mid-August that year. Fifteen years.

I know the dishes were packed by my mom—systematic, careful, each china plate and each china cup wrapped in a plastic bag and, in turn, wrapped in newspaper. The newspaper, before 9/11. Summer 2000. Nobody knows. We are safe in our beds, we are asleep. We dream of our stock portfolios and our trips across oceans. Everything is normal and we are naive, babies. One more year and we’ll be in the shit forever.

But I want to write about the box.  As I get deeper into the box, pulling up the wrapped cups and saucers, I find droppings, shredded paper, acorn tops, seeds: evidence of mice.

The funniest thing to me, the most amazing, is that the mice had gathered up 6 or 7 pieces of a toy brick building kit from the same basement cupboard where the dishes had been stored.

Paul and I bought the brick house kit in Bavaria in 1992 on our honeymoon trip to Europe. We didn’t have kids yet, but knew we wanted a family. We loved the German toys: solid; well-made; beautiful in form, color, and design. The box was wooden with a lid that slid into the bottom, cleverly designed. The bricks were real and the kit came with mortar that you’d mix to make the structure permanent.

We never made the house out of the bricks, but one of my daughters would sometimes pull out the box and build up the little house as best she could. It was surprisingly more complicated than one would think (it does make a real structure after all) and the instructions were in German. Finally this year, I gave the toy away. Little did I know that several pieces were missing.

How did a little mouse carry a brick into its home? Do they drag these things with their mousey teethessess? These bricks do look as if they could be made into a mouse house, the scale would be appropriate, brick to mouse, bricks to mouse house.

In any case, I don’t like mice nesting in my house. They smell and they are abundant and secretive. They are cute as hell, the mice. I don’t think we have any any more, but when we bought the house, the entire house smelled of old mice nests and for good reason. The former owners apparently never cleaned and weren’t bothered by the old and musty odor emanating from the basement. It being a ranch house, this wasn’t far from kitchen and living quarters. Eww.

Paul pulled out the insulation from the basement rafters way back then and it was full of nests; hundreds of mice, no doubt.

Still, I think mice are amazing and adorable. Over the years, we had mice in spite of the fact that we always had cats and yet the mice thrived (throved?). Stupid cats.

The words German and brick inevitably make me think of the ovens of the Holocaust. I’m searching for photos on google images and even the little photos of German brick toy kits are too reminiscent of all things German for me.

My German mother and my German blood, my Jewish father and my Jewish blood. The brick ovens. It never stops, does it?

trying

Dipping toes in

a nip

of a fish

threatens

the clipped sound of I

A blanket of numb

wraps around me

between me and the urge to write

encased and unsafe

in pain

all the time

password

I could tell you my password

I could whisper it in your ear

in what manner would you use it, what threshold would you cross?

I would not like to see the new film, the one that is sublime and exquisite

my bones used to spiral within me, exquisite and sublime

born perfect

bones perfect

password protected

crossing into the next threshold which has its own rules of perfection, laws by which I cannot abide

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

greetings, if I have any readers left

just playing around with words right now

it’s been so long

nothing doing but snow again in Western Mass

how’s by you?

 

 

 

I know I’ve been absent for a while. I expect I’ll write here again, get my mojo workin’. I’m not going to try to do it though, at least that’s not a plan for now. When I think of things to write, or more rarely, when I draft something, it seems inconsequential to me.

This is a happy occasion. I submitted some poems in 2013 and heard from the editor of Literary Mama in August 2014. Usually, one gets a response much sooner, so I had forgotten I’d even submitted to the journal. I am thrilled that they accepted my poem.

It’s good to have an excuse to post. I’m here. I’m still here.

http://www.literarymama.com/poetry/archives/2014/10/miscarriage.html

starry crown

what if I woke up with a lotus on my head

filled with golden sun

and I could even type it with my eyes closed

and all the world made sense

my children whole and filled with golden light (they are you know)

the dark places and spaces, splaces if you like, filled with golden light (funny bits are welcome and are sometimes hard to summon in a person with cancer)

the light of god? not if you don’t believe in god, but it doesn’t matter because all are filled with light (no, I know, there are sick and damaged people beyond, seemingly beyond, the help even of their parents, beyond us….yesterday’s news and that father talking about his son and the sickness in our country, and I whisper in my head may it never be my children, never, and then, never any of my friends’ children and then any child I know and then anyone, let it not be anyone. WE ARE ALL CONNECTED. My network of helping friends is greater than those whose names I know. But this violence happens to someone we know, it is always one of us. We are kin.)

When I am filled in this way, I can forget

the house I haven’t adored or enjoyed for 14 years (too long) and maybe the house is metaphor for my own body and my own being and it’s tragic but true

so now if I don’t love my house, it’s okay; I still I have to love my body and my self, fully. I have to make do and not hate my house yes, hope and work for a better house, but make peace with myself and allow light

I have to Wake Up

we live in the darkness of bustling cars and news and the internet it is wonderfully connecting but we are not well in it we are on overload

My body is filled with chemicals so I have to take other chemicals to counter them, to live

sending the light—did you? because last night, after 2 am, I woke up bathed in it, filled with it, smiling, soft and peaceful, warm and content, feeling whole

I would not wish my diagnosis on anyone; there is no one to blame, so the alternative is to get mad. I haven’t gotten there yet. I need to see my anger and touch it and chew it to bits because I want to be free from it. I know it’s here when I ask “why me?” and when I can’t connect the person who I thought I would become (one who would always be free from cancer) to the one who I am, who has cancer in my body right now. Is it the power of the word cancer, from its history in my life, from the way it swirls around us as if it only happens to other people, takes ones we love, or is it something more?  The power of the word must diminish and it will diminish, but it may take a while. There will be better healing medicines and approaches. I believe every year there is progress and maybe a leap every 3 years, every 5, every 7, every 10.

Maybe I can reframe the meaning of the word. I want to hear it differently in my mind. cancer. multiple myeloma. treatment, recurrence. All the scary words. Can you help me? I want to face them first with a brave warrior stance and then let them lose their power so they are words I can allow to exist without me cringing in fear.

I want to show you my daughters. How mysterious their lives are when I see the photos of them when they were little and simply young; and now, in their lives as they separate away from me and Paul. The mystery of birthing them, nursing them, raising them, but they grow anyway and have a force within. They have to leave and it’s a good thing. It is what we want for them, to thrive and make their own lives with their own, new people.

Cleaving. To split.

Yes, give me a new house where I can be freer and have quiet from the road and constant cars, where the bedrooms are not next to the kitchen, where the ceilings are high and air and light crosses through the rooms. People say you don’t need a bigger house because my kids will leave soon, but that is beside the point. Not much bigger, just better laid out and off a busy road. And who doesn’t expect them to need places to come home to for many years nowadays? It takes a while.

I can feel the empty nest on the horizon and that’s not a mixed metaphor because that is how I can explain to you my experience of its approach.

I will have a new house. I will go into remission from multiple myeloma by god by hook or by crook by the golden light, by gum, as best I can making the best choices I can at the moment with the best information and help and friends doing research on the scary bits. I want it gone for a long while and then I want better options should it peak in again. I want to live. To wear a starry crown, but not a way over yonder like the hymn says; here on earth. To wear a starry crown. I woke up with one, so why not?

Thanks for your food, your prayers, your help, the beautiful flowers; your sending of light and visualizing all sorts of places inside of me, intimate spaces you never thought you’d know in yourself let alone in me. The interior of my bones, my perfect ribs, curving and white. We have little space in our bodies, our bodies are filled with cells and molecules and atoms. Fill mine with healing light. Calm blue waters. Do the same for yourself. Whatever colors work for you. Then receive some light and vibration from someone far away. You leave yourself alone, you sit still, even for a split second, and you receive the light of the universe coming to you. Don’t even try to be perfect, because in this practice, you already are. Leave yourself alone!

We are the light of the universe, how can the light fit into our very tightly-packed cells? Because we alone can conceive it and see it and make it so. It is a thought, a fantasy, a creation of the mind, but it imbues the body. It is a wish. You feel this when you meditate. It is mysterious but real, like not being able to put my finger on the passage of time.

I know, this is out there and sappy for me, but I woke up like this and I don’t give a shit right now. All the signals are telling me to re-read it, to hold it until morning, to wait, to judge. You know what happens when I judge myself? Yes, you are right, I become a better writer. But that’s wrong, that’s only judging something I produced. I can judge my work and make it better and I do and I want to and I should.

I’m going to let this silly sappy piece go

hold it in my hand and blow on it from my lips, right out into the world

all you have to do is receive

kiss the spark that is in you, the same spark that started the universe

there are rogue cells, there are bad chemicals in our air and water, I know. I have known for a long time because I was born in the sixties.

Say with me that these rogue cells must turn off the dirty work they started in my body. no party for them. off, be off with ya.

 

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shoo fly, don’t bother me, for I’m in love with somebody

my beautiful daughters, summer 2013

In my 50th year, I got a cancer diagnosis

Medical waste. You have no idea. If you’ve spent any time in a hospital, then again, you do.

If the way we live is making us sicker (though through advances in science, we have longer lifespans), we need to change it. We are stuck.

Cars, plastic, disposable everything. Cars, plastic, disposables. Single-use. Not biodegradable. Not safe. Medicines flowing from our bodies into the water supply and into the ground and into everything else.

Did you know you can take your own cups and bottles to take-out or fast food places? Sometimes they will refill your insulated coffee cup. Sometimes they will refill your giant, heavy-duty plastic cup. I have 2 of these and we have 3 thermal, hot beverage cups. Just peer into any garbage can outside of any strip mall in America on a Saturday or Sunday and see if you might not like to try. Have a plan. You can take your own re-usable utensils places; this is harder to remember. You might feel queer. But you might inspire others. You can put paper napkins in your compost. You can put paper bags in the recycling. You can take your own bags for fuck’s sake don’t tell me you still use the store’s plastic bags when you grocery shop. Save that for times you really couldn’t attend to this small commitment. You don’t have to be perfect, but we all have to WAKE UP. Do what you can that’s easy. Baby steps. You can do this. It matters. Oh, and don’t idle your car.

I feel less sad. I had fun yesterday. I was exhausted all day, but I had fun.

I feel a little happy this morning, I’m tired.

I’m self-absorbed. How long?

I feel the light of the universe flowing through me.

I shaved my head because Violet and a friend of hers shaved their heads and I thought FUCK IT, it’s time. I waited so long for a haircut that my hair was unruly and unflattering, but since my hair will fall out from the chemo (Cytoxan) I got yesterday, this was a great option. In about 3 weeks, my hair (what little is left) will fall out. I am not afraid or upset about this. HAIR GROWS BACK.

The problem is my face looks very raggedy to me. That part is harder. Our hair becomes attention, a focus, beauty.

Violet decided to shave off her hair separate from my situation; still it’s kind of strange, but only in my mind in a way that I wonder what other people might think. Do they think she did it for/because of me? She didn’t. Her friend goes through many hair manifestations and so does Violet. Fun. It grows back. Don’t be afraid of changing your hair!

I picture my bones white, so white. Vibrant and healthy. Calm. After all these months of picturing them in this way, not every day, but enough, it is easy to see them this way.

Calming the marrow. Stopping the proliferating rogue cells. That’s a little harder. Let’s have at it. I will have at it.

I slept well last night, but am mildly nauseous (Cytoxan does this). I’m still tired so will probably go back to sleep. It’s morning.

When I say I shaved my head, I don’t mean bald. There’s a nice, soft stubble. It’s soft to run my hand across. You’d like it. It’s a pleasant sensation.

Don’t forget to sing. I forget. My friend who drove me to Boston and stayed with me Thursday night so we could be at Dana Farber at 7 am Friday morning, reminded me to sing, to recite poems we knew from when we were young. Play is not unique to humans, but it is essential for happiness. I’ve been forgetting. That makes me sad; but I have every day of my life to choose to play.

Teenagers play in different ways than when they were little kids. Adults, too. Slowly, we forget unless we are immersed. Stay immersed in play. Do this. Remind me, too.

Love, send healing light whenever you can. Sing. Chant. Drum. Stomp. Recite. Play. Kiss your children and your friends, male and female. Kiss your family. Kiss.

I am greater than this cancer. I am bigger than this cancer. I am bigger than what it or the meds can do to me. I am strong. I am determined to be free of it for good.*

2 mantras:

There is no room in my body for multiple myeloma (or any cancer)

There is only room for healing light and love

Can you see that? I can. Sometimes, and at least more often than before.

*but it scares me to think this. I hope I get better at it. When I can’t pull for myself, I am so incredibly grateful for your help. I know without a shred of doubt that there are hundreds of people pulling for me, some praying, some visualizing, some singing, all sending love and hope. Some helping in the most concrete ways: food, rides, goodies.

I am grateful. Thank you.

Here I am right before the buzz cut. I’m not sure I am brave enough to show you after. In time, when my face is more rested. EVERYTHING shows when you are almost bald!

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Bursting with love, Katherine

love and kisses to you all!

 

 

 

 

sad

It made me sad.

Finding an old name and then the face to go with it.

The couple, married before me, before any of us, straight after college.

You think a couple is a good couple because of so many things, their combined physicality for instance. Their interests. They way they make each other laugh.

They were both tall and thin. I mean, really tall and really thin. Both hipsters, not artists themselves, on the periphery, but always the right choice in music and film and clothing.

Without looking for either of them, I found them both on Facebook.

So many people are still there, in Cleveland, the art scene still alive. If I had stayed in Kent, would I have begun to venture back to the east side? Would my poetry have cropped up again? Would my daughter have wanted to go to art school and really have accepted the acceptance at CIA?

I would not have found Sacred Harp singing, that’s for sure.

*

They were at my wedding with a new baby. How little I knew of babies then, but thought I did. Thought I knew so much.

(for the first time, I’ve figured out how to put a video directly from my Photo Booth to my blog without making it public on youtube. how could this have flummoxed me so in the past? does this date mean it’s from October or November? dang dates)