New Jersey    1991 -   

I can smell again.   I can   hear   better,   see   better
feel better--
not just the, I'm ready to select the happy face on my oncology unit's
"Choose the face that describes how you feel" chart kind of feel better--
but I feel better. I pet a dog

in line at a fish market, the owner stood in front me
"Aw! May I pet your dog?" "Of course, she loves it!"
(a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel)
I scratched behind her moppy ears
her big bug eyes looked up at me
my identity as an "I'm more of a big dog person" sits guiltily on trial

"Next! How may I help you?"
I point to two filets of salmon,
one for me, one for my red-haired gingerbread man, who is in a perpetual state of grinning lately because baby,
my sex drive is back!      (I love better too)
the fishmonger wraps the filets in newspaper and I can smell the print
"Have a good day!" Yes! And you too! It is a good day, a  damn good day!

On the drive home, I listen to talk radio
and realize it's over,
the afterwards, the post-cancer--it starts out feeling something like this,

        I'm asleep on a raft, floating, as 15 minutes pass, 30 minutes,
         an hour, a day, a month, a year...and suddenly it tips over and
         thrusts me into the water. Not only must I start to swim, but first I
         need to remember how to, and it's all in unchartered territory
         because I was drifting for so long that I no longer recognize any of
         the land's frame of reference points anymore.

I've finally shaken it.

I can smell the leaky tail pipe of the Volvo in front me.
Leonard Lopate finishes an entire segment, is on to his next guest now,
and the traffic has only crawled 100 meters or so

I start to feel it
the humdrum and insignificant frustrations of everyday people
the minute annoyances that I'm not accustom to
because I spent the last 18 months just focused on staying alive...

Little beads of sweat start to emerge on my brow,
I try road rage on for size, throwing up my hands impatiently and honking like the rest of 'em.
A driver in a white sedan throws his hands up back at me,
I fit right in

I barely finished the introduction
a boy or maybe a man
I read Vietnam, monsoon rains, how he watched the dead ascend to heaven from the helipad...

I felt sad

Jesus Christ!

this boy or man
pelvis deep in the muck
trying to connect the dots, trying to figure out when he went from being Tommy to just plain Tom and if the Tommy part of him was gone for good

I felt sad

not for his life but mine

Jesus Christ!

I read jungle, napalm

in the muck

hell, and I'm connecting my own dots
how my voice feels hoarse,
how I feel like I aged a decade in one night's sleep,
how I fell in love with the shadow of a man

or boy

worried the church won't take me back

that the man or boy won't either

I go out for an easy stroll to think on it some more

he binges on carotene for the night-watch,
plays hopscotch over land mines,

I go out for an easy stroll

while Tommy and Tom wade through the muck

Mar 6      Mar 6

A single drawn out sigh
spanning two calendars in time
It milks my will to die
It's buried by the sign that leads to Bobby's Run blvd.

Excuse me if I repeat myself
I keep talking backwards until the past resurrects itself
Remember your front yard?
Remember the park?
You can have me again in the soft blue grass on Bobby's Run blvd.

I know what's said been said
Once the hollow gaps in relationships are filled with words
we can never return to those empty spaces,
just cover 'em with plaster apologies
And it's never a seamless repair--the discrepancies in paint colors are always there
I stare at a dark spot on my wall on Bobby's Run blvd.

Oh excuse me if I'm repeating myself,
I know I said there was nothing

Oh excuse me if I'm repeating myself,
In your haunting, I saw that there was something

Oh excuse me if I'm repeating myself,
You can have me

You can have me again in the soft blue grass on Bobby's Run blvd.

He marvelled at the city from the window above his kitchen sink,
counting all the things that hadn't changed
in twenty years of staring at it

The odds were organized the way he liked
that today--at least--would be as adequately good as the last
A pot of water set for one egg,
he watched it pirouette as it boiled, then
fished it out with a spoon--carefully bent
for such endeavors--and added three dashes of salt

"There comes a time in every man's life where he must choose to take a step to the left or to the right."

So baffled by his wife, he let the egg roll off the spoon

"Oh honey," she laughed. "I'm sorry. I need you to move out of the way, you're blocking the tea cabinet."

"Why didn't you just say that?"

He wiped up the mess and started over:

pot of water
one egg
bent spoon
3 dashes of salt

Then sat down at the table with the newspaper,
taking note of the date

He took a bite of the egg
it was adequately good
like he knew it would be

Mar 3      Mar 3

this morning spring blew kisses to me in my bed
but the internet forecasts all say winter's far from dead
and the weatherman on the television said we're reaching record lows
so spring, unyielding sent a missionary breeze
that promised I would hear the neighbors playing with their kids
and smell the hyacinths, that I would see magnolia trees and feel like
rolling up my sleeves soon enough

though the streets are still lined with snow,
I looked outside my window and saw the sun

Feb 9      Feb 10

January, The Queen of Tragedies,
changed her name to Mae
Mae, Countess of the Fire Escape
watches the city get colder while mulling over
problems decades older than she--

because their undertones are sweet,
their answers guaranteed
because the present's too difficult to understand
and the future's too impossible to conceive

Mae, Midtown's Mistress, habitually begs the sun
for the moon's forgiveness

"It's much easier to sin after 6pm," she says

with a wink so well-placed and practiced
it fools the masses, corralling clientele
into her tiny apartment flat
re-lighting cigarettes, re-filling drinks
Rosemary Clooney croons
while the men swoon at her feet

And though she knows some day they'll up and leave,

She doesn't pay any mind to time
atop her throne made from flattery received
and the vanity youthful beauty brings
embellished with declined engagement rings
Mae, An Heirloom Posing As The Next Big Thing

Feb 7      Feb 8

Few weeks shy
of an anniversary--that makes
two years quarantined

and I am right where I left me.
Darling, bring a glass of water
and in the other hand an epiphany.

I'm in need of a revelation
I step outside and the answers
are not manifesting as they used to,

the clouds refuse to whisper,
the birds evading eye contact,
how many tree barks I knocked upon and received

no reply, nothing at all.
I scroll through card catalogs of motivation
and my heart uninspired

beats mechanically, its
chambers leaking leftover steam
while cancer continues stringing beads around my neck.

Two years back,
it took daggers to stop me from finding
something beautiful

Now I sit more obligingly
With both hands cupped over my eyes,
I wait in their shadow.

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