Thursday, June 14, 2012


Those of you who read this blog on occasion have noticed that I usually have a lot to say about politics, and current events.

You also see that I've been conspicuously absent from political commentary, sometimes for a week or more at a time, punctuating the silence with news of this poet's birthday, or some other commemoration. Happily, too, there are posts from Bill Moyers and Michael Winship. I'm honored that they've decided to grace this page with their essays.

I'm not big on personal admissions, and I've always felt strongly about the boundaries between what is public and what is private, but I feel I owe it to you, my readers, to let you know that in February I was diagnosed with Cancer of Unknown Primary Origin which has metastasized, and I've been undergoing intensive, 5.5 hour chemotherapy infusions ever since.

Cancer of Unknown Primary is very rare, and afflicts 2-3% of those diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis is generally poor, but being the fighter that I am, I'm fighting both the cancer and the poor prognosis. The only thing I'm not fighting right now is the chemotherapy as it seems to be helping allay that demon mortality.

This is not my first brush with death. At eleven, my appendix ruptured and I had peritonitis. I was taken to the emergency room in the middle of the night, and my doctors told my parents to make the funeral arrangement as I would not survive. I spent an entire month in the hospital, and literally had to learn how to walk all over again. When the nurse would change my bandage which was filled with pus, I remember saying "I love that smell. That's the smell of life." That smell, to me, was the smell of the poison leaving my body. I still have the scar, all these years later, which stretches from my navel all the way down to my pelvis. Doctors didn't have time to make it pretty. So, I remember thinking, I'll never be able to wear a bikini, but at least I'm alive.

A year later I had an incisional hernia which, while not life threatening, was a major operation.

A year or so after that, when going for a swim with an older cousin at Jones Beach, I got caught in a whirlpool. At first, I fought the current, so I can be spotted and rescued, but then I realized that if I just went with the flow, the ocean would naturally lift me up, and that I would bob up and down until I'd be spotted. Indeed, my mother saw me from the shore, and a lifeguard went out and brought me back to the shore. I had lost consciousness.

I remember well two things from that experience of almost drowning, the minute right before losing consciousness. First, I remember fighting with every ounce of strength I had to stay afloat until I realized that fighting was using up all my energy, and that if I trusted the ocean, the whirlpool current itself would get me where I wanted to go, as well as thinking I've done all I can do, and it's out of my hands.

As Samuel Beckett writes, "How all becomes clear and simple when one opens an eye on the within, having of course previously exposed it to the without, in order to benefit by the contrast."

Second, and right before everything faded from view, I recall this immense feeling of peace as if I'd been infused with the kind of calm I've not experienced since. Yes, I understood that I landed within the jaws of death, but I was not afraid.

There was another rather absurd tango with the Grim Reaper at age 26, but I'll spare you the details of that one and instead say, I hope to not only be on the planet until my work is done, which is a ways off, but to be kicking butt, too. I plan to be here to see President Obama get re-elected.

I'm a poet, not a fundraiser, so asking doesn't come easily to me. Frankly, I find it easier to try and raise the dead than to try and raise money, but the time has come to figure out a way to do all those things one has always wanted to do, and which one can't afford like going on vacation, or taking a long overdue trip to Italy, so I've set up a secure donation page where, if you're so inclined, you can help get me there:
(if the link doesn't display, cut and paste it into the web bar)

As Beckett says, too, "The essential is to go on squirming for ever at the end of the line, s long as there are waters and banks and ravening in heaven a sporting God to plague his creature," so you'll see me here again inveighing against corporate gluttony, introducing folks like the Koch brothers, and just generally kicking up dust.
I'm not one for promises, but I promise you one thing. I will hang on as long as you do.