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Now it’s turned into a bit of a waiting game, and working on the perfection of poems, and printing out poems that have hidden away in the recesses of the computer like lark buntings making nests in the wheat before harvest, the idiots, and I have to run before the thresher and try and collect every egg or fledgling or mother bird with bright liquid song…crying as I gathered them in my arms… I still don’t sleep well, but I am not so senselessly scared I might die. I probably won’t. There are more accidents waiting for me to try and cross a transcontinental highway in a town of five thousand. I’ve no energy, I hurt all over. I don’t know if this is how cancer feels or if this is my twenty year old car accident. Or simply emotions. I thought I’d get more writing work done, but I haven’t. I thought I’d get more house cleaning done, but I haven’t. It is so hard to move. The knee spurs are absolutely horrible in case yr reading this Dr. Bowen. Just because they are little doesn’t mean they hurt less. I don’t allow myself to fill with fear, but it’s always just around the corner. Why can’t I let it go? Everyone says in situ cancer surgery is so easy, but they are comparing it to thirty years ago, when it wasn’t easy. Or comparing it to someone they knew who had a really bad kind of cancer, so I’m stuck in their mind looking like a self-indulgent rich man’s child. Fuck you, I say to all those cheap hallmark card people who grew up with hypocrites and became, who suggest beachy-books and say things like, “It’s nothing like pancreatic cancer…” Of course it’s not. My cousin died of that,
My poor sad cousin whose heart had no home, so he visited all the relatives with his toolbox oiling squeaky doors, bringing in the mail, washing windows,(people who wash windows are saints), pruning deadwood from the plum thicket and cutting up the thin dry branches to make little tipi fires in the wasteland of the backyard after the garden, after the dried corn stalks have been laid to rest. All the little boys sitting back on their heels and watching him light the fire with a single match like some god. Salud Robert, yr confused heart, and yr Greek sailor’s cap. Taught by yr /our grandmother how you/we all would one day be fabulous wealthy success as beautiful as minor gods, as clever as Truman Capote with language and the ability to drink. You, Billy, Sammy, John, Ronnie, all the men of the family, our father, uncles, all convinced by Nana who it was so easy to be sparkled by as she told you yr fortune as she spent it; yr father spent it until all that was left was a few household items like teacups and saucers, linen napkins with a flourished “R” hand-embroidered in the corner, a few beaded handbags, empty of everything but old, spent theatre tickets, fine hankerchiefs, lipstick-stained and a small pair of opera glasses. Only daughter-in-laws, nieces, granddaughters cared, knew it was all sham but why could only the females of the family see through her dreams? The stories of an adopted Nebraska farm girl who was determined to be rich when she grew up, and bygod, she was and spent every dime before lying down with her final ringless fingers grasping at the bedlinens, still telling herself the Story, the lets play Pretend. Dear unlovable grandmother of, at one time, so many newpaper teas, art openings, fashion shows, dressed to the teeth, perfumed, coifed and the little diamond-studded wristwatch strapped to her pulse, matching her purse, her shoes… And yet, she would come home exhausted and dress down to her garden frock and collect flowers in a long woven basket for the maid to arrange in the house; all this as like to my poems poor metaphors for Illusion, Masquerade, Charade and yet I never yelled back at her, small consolation and I didn’t do it on purpose, but I made her hate me by telling the truth at countless poetry readings as I read from newly printed poetry books all the farm reports told by her father as if they were stories, because really, it was only for her
parents that the Game had meaning. She allowed them to take off the leather gloves, the overalls, and rest unless they wanted to “for old times’ sake”, whip up a pan of corn pone, or prune the bigger trees, as her father waited for the scent of corn to travel through the open kitchen door and assail him with memories so vivid he broke out in a sweat at the thought of all the danged hard work they did that amounted to nothing and how his own adopted daughter whipped her husband into nouveau riche and insisted after the merry-go-round rides, to lie down and rest, damn it, I got rich so you could rest, Pa, and when he died, she had no reason to keep the whip raised, because she was so forthright in her endeavor To Get There, that she lost everyone else’s love – ‘cept Pa’s and he was gone now. This is the male half of the bloodline the doctor’s forms requested when I discovered cancer in my right breast, my writing hand, when it’s the women who counted, carrying their strength in aprons, hiding from brothers and cousins with their relentless, roaming hands and I will speak of them , my cousins, my angel-faced girl-cousins who were told they were nothing but beautiful and better marry rich; but it’s us, we, who walked Nana from her trailer to the outhouse when the money was finally gone and her son allowed her her own trailer from which the cream of the crop, Victoria, was told she only had beauty and no brains. It makes me want to cover her poreless skin, her eyes as soft as does with the burka so that when she spoke the men in our family could only hear her, and they would have to listen and weep for her wisdom they had pushed away, that they had tainted with their greedy hands, and they could finally see her real beauty dripping from her mouth and in their shame, their tears would burn pockmarks and holes in their own skin until they looked like the farm hands whose blood ran through their veins and Vik could stand regal, healed from her cancer and blessed by the grandchildren who played at her feet. (to be con’t.)