In October 2015 I was diagnosed with lung cancer. This kind of news, for anyone, is never welcome and each of us has our own response. Mine was quite simply, you can bugger off and leave me alone. After that initial reaction i settled down into reality and decided to come to terms with it. Many people are scared witless by this news and give up altogether, waiting for the inevitable end. For me, I know that every ones last day is written in the Diary of Death and I thought that I would make the most of my remaining time. So I’ve been playing music with Palmerston, although I missed the last two gigs. It seems the illness has its ups and downs, there are times when I’m on top of everything, and times when it takes the upper hand, leaving me low and struggling to feel good about life. However, as a believer in meditation and lives beyond this one I can steer my thoughts back to positivity. The Curious Chronicles of the Lost Heart, which can be found on another page on this site, show incidents where I behaved with less heartfelt attitude than I could have. I do feel strongly that it is important for us to love ourselves, even the crunchy unappealing corners. This is the chink in our armour where cancer can make a home for itself. There are many survivors of this disease, I intend to be one of them!
As a writer of poetry, you’d expect me to have written about my circumstance, well here are three poems inspired by my experience of cancer.
this rainbow appeared above our heads in the zenith of the sky, there was no rain at all so I decided to call it a sunbow. Shows that Hope can turn up any and everywhere!
This poem is the result of a meditation wherein I was looking at the marvels of life and how we might see or feel them.
I am a Silver horse awaiting the dawn,
moon brushed skin ripples on my muscles.
It’s still night dark but I can feel the dew gather,
hanging in the air and beading on the ground.
I stand in the portal of the east
at the birth of a day.
With the first glimmer of sun I step forth,
breath cold, clear, and crisp,
turn towards the south
and feel the day warmth
grow and glow.
My hooves become burnished amber
stirring a cloud of yellow dancing motes
as I move forward on the sandy trail.
My coat transforms into the pale gold of honey,
my mane flows free and fair,
uncombed yet untangled.
From canter to gallop I gather speed
shoulders moulding the rippling air,
fetlocks angling proud of the ground
as I stride across the sky.
A heartbeat flutters, calls me to stop
and be aware of where I am.
I see the beauty of life laid out all around,
feel boundless love,
an endless moment in suspension
where Time hangs in the balance,
welled by a single tear.
My eyes darken from the luminous
hollow blue of the horizon
to the lilac amethyst lightning veins
that sheathe our atmosphere.
I turn my equine head
to the waiting West
where a gentle zephyr caresses
the first flickering flush of evening stars.
I feel this delicate breath faint upon my flanks
and my anxious nerves are soothed and smoothed.
These neural nuances and calming
whispers from the distant celestial bodies
are healing hints, glimpses of a greater knowledge
granted by angels, gifted by guardians.
My mortal mind alone cannot
fathom the enormity of opposites.
Life is death and death is life
neither ending nor beginning,
love is pain and pain is love,
Time is everywhere but nowhere to be found,
immeasurable yet definitive,
marking the march from birth to death.
Those spirits who stand with me
know my limitations.
They gently peel away my mist-mind veil
and transparent living colour
breathes my vision into wondrous life.
I see sworls of luminescence
that encircle me, coalesce and forge
a radiant body that protects and projects.
Its Sapphire blue deepens my faith,
sculpts my hope into gentle shape,
erodes the sharpened edges of anxiety.
And so, at last, I look to the North,
Normally seen to be bleak,
dismal and despairing.
Even Dread leers over my shoulder,
standing reluctant guard in the gathering dark,
ready to run at the slightest doubt.
But now I am awake and alert
for insights in this absence of light.
I step gently but eagerly into a new unknown.
A gentle dust of ice lines the way,
leads me deep into my cave of hibernation
Where there is comfort and safety,
warmth and succour in the long sleep of winter.
Deep indigo night is an illusion and a reality.
What gives body to its density?
Is it that pinpricks of knowledge
gather so tightly there appears to be no space between them?
Or is it that some stars of wisdom
are still so far away
that their light has not yet arrived?
Here in my haven I lie
motionless in body, firm on the ground
but free to roam without limit.
I am cradled in the certainty of myself.
I will catch a dream as it passes,
nurturing it to blossom in my heart.
The cold stone oasis in the sanctuary of my hidden hill
harbours all of my bodies,
from those of light, to those of substance.
And in that sacred space
the Silver Horse dreams deep and awaits the dawn,
bringing the wisdom of my lives already lived.
The Golden Horse embodies hope and love
enabling their manifestation in my life.
My Amethyst eyes see the creation in destruction
allowing my obstacles to become opportunities.
My Sapphire radiance translates faith into action
that belief will become knowledge,
uncertainty will become trust.
And Creation, Genesis,
Just being alive, just being aware
knows no end, or beginning.
It simply is.
§ § § § § § § §
This poem, I hope, speaks for itself!
Pain is a remarkable gift.
Without apparent substance
it is however, unavoidably real.
A fanatical few seek it but to most of us
it’s unwanted, unnecessary, and an unwelcome herald
of news rather left unheard.
My reluctant tidings relate to
a gathering knot that is building a nest
beside my spine.
It’s sometimes numb, sometimes dull,
but does have a creeping and tenacious grip.
I feel it pirating atoms, perverting particles,
subverting nerves and stealing tissue.
It grows by division, destroys by discord
and is deemed to be a portent of death.
With casual arrogance in it’s progress,
It has no need for stealth, sleep or speed.
Pain stands guard over my emotions.
An autocrat pretending to be a princess
in need of rescue.
She lures me into fear, and I all unknowing
that her innocence is calculated to trick my mind.
In her garden I see the thorns
and not the roses, smell the decay
and not the petal sweet scent
moleculed in the air.
Pain poisons my vision of worth in the world.
A mist, rusted red, griméd yellow
and stimpled with green
binds my body from toe to head.
Its crushing spiral hugs my flesh and bones,
saps my spirit, corrupting me
with anger and frustration.
Makes me see failure and derision,
Makes me feel misery and despair.
I am become an hollow husk,
mind, body and being
hardly a shell, briskéd by a breeze,
barely a whisper of anyone’s whim.
I cannot find faith and I have lost sight of joy.
I hide from myself, tail between legs
and seek my affirmation from others.
It seems I have forgot
that I am my own source of wisdom,
that I should be my own true friend.
I should be the one to light my fire,
and grow the heartfelt glow
to nourish my sense of worth.
Pain, whose is it anyway?
Have I grown it?
Nurtured it without knowing
since my day of birth?
And now it ambushes me
as I walk a lonely trail,
defenceless, no sense of self.
With only a personality of corroded armour,
an ego, world weary and worn thin
by overuse and neglect.
Did I bring it with me from another life?
A legacy of misdeeds,
a dishonouring of trusts and uncountable hurts
to those I have loved, and hated.
Come to think of it, I find myself still doing it.
Pain has slowed me down,
stripped me of haste.
I travel now at the speed
of my own thought.
My body no longer needs,
and doesn’t want
the headlong but measured march
it once required.
Now I can ponder anything,
from the anatomy of the universe
to the anatomy of my body.
I discover that they are both things of wonder
and are worthy of the deepest love.
I peer into my physical being
and see that the cancer within
truly is a flower only made ugly by fear.
And I can’t help but wonder
If the same is true of society.
In these times of strange change,
ruled by hate and hurt,
there is legal crime and illegal honesty.
Violence escalates, tumbles me to oblivion
while I stare blindly at the perpetrators.
I am a moth frozen in the flame
watching the world’s destruction
in microscopic slow motion.
How to stop this demonic descent?
To become involved is to feed it,
and neglect is no resolution either.
Pain plays a torch on my place in the world.
Lying on my bed of dreams
I decide to abandon despair and welcome hope.
A dawn of realisation brings a ray of inspiration.
There is much that I can do,
even the thinking of light and love
brings their brilliance to life.
The golden sparks so created
gently brush the beings they find,
birthing, waking and lighting them up.
Like bees in a dance
these gentle ions seek nectar
to make the honey of hope.
Flowing clear and bright
it shines on all the dark corners of doubt.
In my spiritual being I can see that
fear consumes the heart,
destroys my connection
with life beyond the material.
Without that bond there is no light to grow towards.
I may not be able to arrest
the worlds descent into mayhem
but I will attempt to rise against the tide.
Like a new seed buried in the soil
I shall reach for the life-giving sun
because all my senses tell me
that fear will fail in the light.
Pain is a remarkable gift.
From sleep to wake is sudden
like a twig snap step in the woods.
A shaft of dawnlight burns my eyes,
so I turn my head away from the glare.
Lower my lids expecting escape
from blinding illumination, but instead,
I see only the deep dark depths
of my inner forest, limbs reaching out to
embrace me in their gloom.
Hungry for my attention, and proud of it,
branches fan out and stretch like the wings of
a bird you would never want to meet.
A phantom phoenix, a dark side myth.
It draws shadows that stalk and hunt,
flicker and dance, looking for light
to quench and smother, dance on and drown.
In sympathy, my body fights for breath,
gulping for air past the phlegm clot trap
that is set in my throat, sprung and waiting.
Nothing else exists but finding oxygen.
It’s a brain-numbing, thought consuming pursuit
but somewhere in that haze I remember
to lie on my side, it must be on the right,
and the frantic bubbling ceases, quietens.
My chest calms down, finds a slower rhythm,
but the sense of relief is clouded over.
Tendrils of un-named despair coil around
the tree trunks in my dream weaver grey matter.
Fear fires up the neurons in my brain,
synapses spread the fog of doom.
A sheen of sweat shines on my forehead,
anxiety rules, and ringing in my head are
questions without answers. An arm length list,
too many to quote, but am I a burden,
a weight on friends and family?
And what must I have done to earn so much suffering?
A sadness overpowers my heart,
it has no name and belongs to nothing
that I can lay a name to,
which somehow makes it worse.
This grey gloom is a heartless blanket
with no warmth, no comfort, no healing.
My eyes, open but empty, see nothing.
A prickling sensation tickles my head,
leaves a spider web touch, delicate on my cheek.
This is the sign of a visit
from someone in spirit on the other side.
A memory dances in my mind,
steps lightly on the neurons as a familiar face
floats into view. My first soulmate,
and not the last, she comes with the scent
of newly rolled cigarettes, Zippo struck smoke
curls in my nostrils, hangs in my hair.
On long journeys she would turn my tobacco
into neat little cylinders, fragrant but deadly.
It’s ironic that she fought the same battle as me,
different part of the body, but not worth the quibble.
In the joy and tribulations of our time together
we learnt how love truly endures,
though we did share our lives with other loves.
She smiles, laughs, and waves her hand as
her image fades, wisped away on her tobacco haze.
A matronly gleam pierces the gloom.
My mother, to me once estranged, but now endeared
reminds me of reality as she always did.
Even from the other side
where the dead may speak their mind,
I feel her thoughts in my head.
True to form I try to resist them,
(a childhood trait I thought I’d lost),
but she is right as was often the case.
In my youth I mistook her concern
For control and interference.
Now I know that she did really care.
I open my mind to the message she sends
and see a shadow of myself within my soul.
I’m a figure in fright, dimly lit
by a lonely light bulb in a broken room,
hunched at a table, a book placed before me.
A journal of my fears, written in the spider scrawl
of anxiety and ink splattered trepidation.
The phantom phoenix feeds my doubts
and I let it sway my words.
Follow it night-blind in total belief,
scared as a cat on its number nine chance.
But in moments of wisdom I see the truth
and the luminous phoenix brings a torch to falsehood,
burns the fables and reveals humanity
in all its glory and all its stupidity.
The wiser part of me looks with care,
ignores the mechanics of misery as the tumour
hotwires the engine in my brain.
Gloom floors the throttle and doom steers to oblivion.
This irresponsible tumour, this curious cancer
tries its hand at many things.
It plays with my appetite, adjusts my mood,
turns a dial somewhere, like the tuner
on an old-fashioned analogue radio.
It has no thought for my wellbeing,
doesn’t care that its predations
will end with the demise of both of us.
But I care, I really do.
If I have to share the rest of my life
with a tyrannical tumour, a grumpy old geezer,
then I will claim some say in what goes on.
Pain will disappear and despair will be forgotten.
so when the bleak black moments
wash across me, every dusk stained sky,
when I feel the drag of the phantom phoenix
absorbing light and drowning hope,
I will cup its body in my palms,
breathe gently on its nostrils
and watch in wonder
as it is born again.