Staying in Focus: While you Wait, Write Poetry

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  There are many things going on in my life these days, and much of it in the form of challenges to body and spirit.  Just prior to our trip to Alaska we were saddened to hear that  our son, Steven’s, marriage was in all probability over.  A separation agreement has since ensued, and I have spent many hours on the phone with Steve as he sorts through all this, sets up housekeeping for himself and tries to make this as trauma free as possible for his 2 young children, ages 6 and 3.

Upon our return from Alaska, our younger son, Kevin lost his job.  Kevin is okay, financially, and is working on some personal projects before taking another job, but I still worry about both of them.

There is a tiny silver lining in Kevin’s being home right now.  As I have had to give up driving due to the medications I take, and some of the symptoms I experience due to the Parkinson’s disease, he has been available to drive me to doctor appointments.  A few weeks ago, I had  a calcium scoring scan done, to determine if calcium had invaded my heart, in which case cholesterol medication would be warranted.   I already take so many medications , I am loath to add another if I can avoid it.  My cholesterol readings have been marginal.  So I’m trying to lose weight, improve my diet, exercise and  I take fish oil in an attempt to avoid more medication.

Well , the results are in and my calcium score was 0.  Should have been news requiring celebration except that the scan picked up two tiny nodules on my lungs.  My primary doctor was not overly concerned as these can be common and benign.  However, given my history with colon cancer, it bears the investigation.  So I moved up my scheduled visit with my oncologist and met with him last week to assess the situation. We are now awaiting the results of my CEA blood test which can detect a protein in the blood if colon cancer is present .  So far all mine have been clear.  I am also awaiting a call to tell me when they have scheduled a CT scan of my chest and abdomen for me.  I will see my doctor again on Nov. 5th.  All this waiting is what is most excruciating about dealing with doctors and diagnosis, but the information must be gathered in order to know how to proceed.

Fortunately, my guru of positive thinking, Michael J. Fox, was recently talking to Ellen DeGeneres on her show, and he said he never imagines the worst case scenario because if he does, and it happens, he will have lived it twice.  Such an insightful man.  So I’m trying to put it out of my mind.  Whatever it is, it is there, and will have to be addressed, either by monitoring or treatment.

Alerts, like these, wake us up, remind us to welcome each day our eyes open in the morning and we realize we are still here. To spend time with family and friends.  Not to let the minutiae of life distract us from the important things: to spend our time doing what we love for as long as we can.

So I’m concentrating on my poetry class.  I held the anxiety at bay yesterday by writing this poem.  It is so cathartic – it’s like the words absorb the anxiety and fear as I take them out of your head and place them on paper. The instructor gave us a list of the names of places and we had to write about our choice for five minutes then compose a poem.

Antelope Run

driving, just driving
highway blurry through unshed tears,
tears that cling to my eyes like
raindrops to a leaf
fleeing the present, fearing the future
filling the past with the images I yearn for,
from when I was young,  when I was healthy
a sign up ahead,  Antelope Run
can I outrun my fears?
without thinking, I make the turn
down a winding, twisty road,
the wind is blowing ,
whipping up waves
of tall meadow grass
that ripple in the sun
a ranch house appears,
a ship adrift in a sea of green
I pass under a weathered sign
faint letters whisper,
“Welcome to Antelope Run”
but the house is empty,  its
windows gaze with sightless eyes
at the rolling hills that surround it
the antelope have all run away
I sit on the crumbling steps
resting my head in my hands
and a song from childhood
echoes across the years
I hear my mother‘s voice, singing,
“…where the deer and the antelope play…”*
the tears begin to fall and I run and run
but not away.

* Home on the Range was originally a poem written by Dr. Brewster Higley in Kansas, in the 1870s. His friend, Daniel Kelley wrote the music, but in the twentieth century it was arranged by David W. Guion, who is often cited as the composer.  It is the state song of Kansas.  My mother would sing it to my younger brother as she rocked him to sleep.  I suppose she sang it to me, too…

I’m also being sure to spend some time in meditation each day.  I recently bought a book/CD set by Jack Kornfield called “A Lamp in the Darkness”.  There are several quotes I really like from this book:

It’s not what you planned, but this is your life. You’re still here. Listen. Something new is coming.

It doesn’t belong to only you.  It’s the dance of conditions. You can;t choose the music, but you can choose how you will dance.

This reminds me of another recent poetry assignment.  This one is called  a villanelle, and is incredibly complicated. It consists of 19 lines, made up of 5 tercets (stanzas of 3 lines) and a quatrain (the last 4 lines), but, line 1 is repeated as lines 6, 12, and 18 and Line 3 as lines 9, 15 and 18.Wait, there’s more! In the first five tercets the last word in the first and third lines must rhyme; in all the middle lines, the last word must rhyme with each other and in the quatrain the last word in lines 1,3 and 4 rhyme and line 2’s last word rhymes with all the other middle lines.  Whip it all together and it come out like this:


Oh, why didn’t I learn to dance?
to tap, salsa, jive, ballet,
once long ago, I had a chance

somehow I missed the resonance
of waltzes, mambo, the paso-doble,
oh, why didn’t I learn to dance?

Even though I lacked the elegance
to pull off the tango or merengue
once long ago, I had a chance

To twirl and whirl in pure exuberance,
to shimmy, shag  and schottische
oh, why didn’t I learn to dance?

I must continue to advance
and find an answer, straightaway
once long ago, I had a chance

Then nothing more of relevance
will this question now convey
oh, why didn’t I learn to dance?
once long ago, I had a chance.

After my headache subsided I got into the swing of things with this villanelle.  It’s better than going crazy (I think!)This class has been such a joy.  It’s amazing how you can bond with other people over the internet.  No one needs to be alone with a computer handy.

Well, just got a call from the doctor – scan is set for Monday at 8:00 am.  Meanwhile, I wait. It’s going to be a long week!


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