Thank you to the editors of Floating Bridge Press for inclusion of my poem in Pontoon. It’s beautifully presented.
Lately, you’ve read some of my poems detailing the struggle I’ve had over the year with recovering from a heart attack, my triple bypass, gall bladder surgery and pancreatitis. It was a full year of not knowing if I’d ever feel good again, or work doing what I love, or being able to do the fun stuff with John that we did prior to getting sick.
A week ago I hit rock bottom being denied a trip to LA to see Springsteen and the E Street Band with friends I took to see the River Tour at the Sports Arena 35 years ago in 1980. His son invited me to go at Christmas and I spent 3 months super excited about going. I wish I still had a photo from that long ago. At the time, I had a girlfriend, and we had driven down from Utah where I was going to school to see him in October. I drove the whole way with a a broken ankle, which was put into a cast 3 hours before the show. I was transformed that night into a decades long fanatic of Bruce Springsteen and his band. I was drawn to his music, his sense of community, and the sheer joy he had in performing and giving back to an audience that clearly loved him and the band.
Having been denied that trip last week by security here in Seattle, I was crushed. It was exactly a year since the open heart surgery and I was planning on using the weekend to come out of recovery and into a new life ahead. Sitting in the airport watching the plane taxi from the gate without me was when I hit rock bottom. I was inconsolable and felt like I had no place to turn.
The following Saturday morning my husband, John, and I woke up early and the sunrise was particularly beautiful. We sat on the deck with our coffee and watched the sky change, the sun come up over the Cascades and light flood our home. I began to feel better. Then, Tuesday morning I decided to buy a ticket for Springsteen’s show in Portland and drove down. I didn’t go to the show with anyone because I wanted to be anonymous and be able to dance and sing for 3.5 hours without a care in the world. Springsteen shouted at the top of the show, “Are you ready to be transformed?” and if there was anyone in that arena needing to be transformed, it was me. And by the end of the evening, extremely tired, hoarse and feeling like I’d overdone it from a tight chest, I was feeling transformed. A lifetime of memories of countless shows, how I felt when I saw the band in all its various configurations, and the one constant feeling of community – a shared moment in time with people who just wanted some release came back. I was released from my inner demons, pain, and the hard realities of recovery.
Then, in Seattle, my Godson and his fiancé, my husband, a few other friends all went to the Seattle show. We were invited by our good friends, Judy and Todd, to join them and we all witnessed an epic show. It was far different from the Portland show as Bruce was in high spirits, the crowd was with him the entire night, and the band played tight and beautifully. One of the causes dear to my heart – feeding the hungry – was in the house as expected, but that night it was different as Pearl Jam offered to match whatever was collected.
In a gesture not done yet on this tour, Bruce collected signs from the audience and the last hour and a half became a bit of a free-for-all adding energy and fun to an already glorious evening. Sitting with John, dancing with my Godson, and completing my transformation from a stunningly hard year happened.
At the end of the show, when Bruce again asked, “Are you done?” several times to the audience to egg them on, I was thinking to myself, “no I’m not, not by a long shot.” And so I’m ready to take what comes, come back into my life, our lives together as a married couple, and move on. I just had to wait a week to be restored. All it took was a quiet morning over coffee with John, a sunrise, two Springsteen concerts, and my Godson, his fiancé, and a whole host of wonderful friends. It’s great to be reconnected to all that lies ahead.
1 year ago this weekend, I had triple bypass surgery. It’s been a very difficult year save for the brightness of my marriage to my husband, John, last summer and the continuing love he brings. I wrote a cycle of poems that I thought I was finished with, which I presented at the Rainier Valley Lit Crawl a couple of weeks ago. Things happened to me again, which prompted the start of this poem on Friday, March 18th, the exact date of the bypass surgery. Without going into a lot of detail, I finished this poem today, heaviness lifted, and life continuing on.
I hope you’ll enjoy the poem. I’m doing just fine. It’s for John and all of you.
All You Who Sleep Tonight
Neon moss has inched up the tree’s trunk
from so much biblical rain. An indication of
how this year unfolded. Beauty is found in touch –
spongy, moist follicles envelope fingers intent on
everything alive. If I dug in farther, arm and body
disappearing into green, I might hibernate ‘til spring,
emerging from my cocoon, arms spread, patterns
of photographs, intersecting memories, peopled
by all of you, you who belong to me,
both good and bad, ingrained in corpuscles
mapping my existence. The musicality of
dripping water, coursing through this carpet,
over light infused waves, I could follow
like notes from an oboe, each measure
I cascade down until I break free from
the hollowed out tree of me.
I try these wings; heat warms them
as light filters through stained glass.
Is that you who waited for me –
the one I wrap myself around each night?
Or the one I refuse to let go, she whose
presence alters dreams. And what do I do
with a life of never-ending negatives:
a bad heart, a bad pancreas, opportunities stripped away.
I’ve thought of giving up, casually forgetting
the pills I have to take, letting my heart
fail slowly, an old engine missing its spark.
No one would know. It would be as
a leaf in autumn, robbed of its life-force
falling away under cover of night. Inconsequential.
If I were that tree, moss enveloping it,
and if a big wind toppled it, small insects, and
organisms must begin to burrow into its striated bark.
It is a law of nature to begin again, nursing those in need.
At my deepest low, I woke, sipped coffee with my husband,
watched the sun’s rise – pinks, oranges, blue and light –
all clichés stripped away because if I did not have his love,
I’d be that leaf, falling, a slight wind’s breath
before it’s enveloped by earth, tremors only all of you,
all you who sleep tonight, will feel when you wake.
With acknowledgement to Vikram Seth for the title and line, “All You Who Sleep Tonight.”
I never want to know
the many things they did when
they flayed open my chest, my arm,
cracked my sternum and stopped my heart.
Blissful ignorance is what I needed,
and some drugs, buckets of them.
I was reminded too much of salmon,
gutted torsos, lungs, heart, parts.
But that’s how they do, these magicians,
these doctors with long pedigrees,
confidence and hubris.
Who wouldn’t want a doctor,
waltzing in, attendants parting like the
Red Sea, whatever music he wants,
when he holds you in his hands?
I got Springsteen for the angiogram,
whom I sung along with
until the bad news came,
when the world shifted,
and time coalesced in tears.
I hope my doctor played
the world’s songbook: didgeridoos, guitars,
bongos, canastas, pianos, ukuleles.
Dying listening to all kinds of music seems
an extravagance for dying isn’t elegant.
I’m here now, in morning’s silence,
choosing songs for a friend’s work,
of which she says, she’s stressed.
I want to tell her to stop,
watch the breaking clouds,
smell the ground after a night’s rain,
but it’s a luxury of healing,
which I’ll have to remember
to do in my new life, my after/life.
Check in with me in a year.
Ask me what song is playing,
ask me the lake’s temperature,
the sea’s color,
how it is to be finally married.
My answers will be ready.
Remembering everything, the heart, at last, breaks.
At first, in the undulating folds as my fetus came together
the cleft separated, a misaligned heart began, beating
days upon days. It remembered the fall, and mother
carrying me to hospital, the salt-air summers in Balboa –
running full ‘round the boardwalk. The heart worked hard
during polluted LA days, strained when angrily
I kicked a door in, but rested in the Sequoia, and rejoiced
in the wet grass meadows, morning’s sounds, quietude,
air ripe with Sierra smells. In the wanderlust days it took
in everything, loved men and women, small fissures erupted
when they moved on. The work of working, stress upon stress
angled in and targeted arteries. Family strife constricted
them: the relentless bullying and hurt over all those years.
Otherness took its toll, dark nights of longing, loneliness,
the hours exploring words, how they fit together,
opened my heart, secretly tapping singular letters
forming sounds to please it. Holding – everything inside
vise-like, constricting further the heart’s muscle. Death
had a hand in this: grandmother, mother, friends. Nights
with Tripp to assuage my heart until he too blocked
it from feeling for too many years forward. Were it not
for the other mothers, fathers, families, and grandmother
that kept it pulsing, my heart would be long dead.
They made it a sea, deep enough to weather storms,
until a day, when love settled home, opened me up,
and guided my heart’s tempest until it was repaired.
And now? All it/I feel is gratitude.
We bring home, from far off places, things to remind us of where we’ve been, and who was there. This tin star from New Mexico is hung in our home after waiting two years for a light to brighten it. The light is found on the day my fiancé’s grandson is born, on a day where friends and family say, “welcome to the world.” We hang this star of colored beads to welcome him. This star bought the day before I knew what love felt like, having explained to a friend that when you’re older, you finally recognize love, and accept it for what it is. This star reminds me of unconditional love, and when I was welcomed to the world two years ago. So welcome Connor, too, and know that today, just now, your star is born and hanging in our home.
When in life do you fall in love with appliances? When knobs and lights, heat and the proper lines of cool refrigerant expose the underbelly of age? When exactly does the idea of them take hold? Is it when building a home with someone you love steals you against the outside world? When the years that are left take on more meaning? The cast iron skillet will outlast everything we bought at the appliance sale. This knife will cut long after the refrigerator goes out. Maybe it’s the sudden agreement on just the right model, when you’ve walked up and down the aisles and you both stand in front of a beautiful sleek range and together say, “that one.”
I was so pleased to be interviewed by Karen Schechner, Senior Indie Editor for Kirkus Reviews for the Lambda Literary Website.
I thank her profusely for including me in her new series of interviews on self-published writers.
Click here for the interview: http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/06/26/qa-with-self-published-writer-tom-schabarum/
The Narrows, Miles Deep was first selected by Felice Picano for LLF’s 2011 Best Books.
The novella and stories are available on Amazon Kindle and Nook.