mercredi 31 août 2011

The earliest poem I have, 1972

Woman Lying on Floor, Martha Sawyers (1902-1988)

When I woke up this morning,
turning out from my soul,
on my left lay some half-finished,
half-understood philosophy,
leadership potentiality,
an acceptance like the vague 
nodding on a head,
and on my right 
an ashtray lay overturned

I picked my bones up off the wood,
returned the book to its shelf
and swept the floor.
Silently the room turned with the earth,
and I followed suit––
There was nothing more I could do.

mercredi 24 août 2011

Cold Wars (a very old poem)

Cold Wars

I pick up the child with scorched hands,
My head all bundled like a Russian woman,
My mouth unpainted and white like Siberia.

Inside the cataclysm, the warstorm.
I'm feeling like a Bolshevik,
Rather martyred, rather burned by the Party,

Rather like this wounded child.
She's got my eyes and pale lips, her
Swollen breast equals my cry, restrained

Only out of necessity. Maybe she is me.
Maybe I never made it past the age of three.
Maybe I never made it to heaven.

She's beautiful. Her warm blood
Touches my frigid skin and as I kiss her,
My lips turn red with her life,

Ending in a tremor I shall never forget.
Wrong! I scream in between the cold wars,
I was mistaken. I was mistaken. I was mistaken.

~laura tattoo

mercredi 17 août 2011

not with the crows but with the sparrows

the world is falling apart
and i can't keep my damned eyes open
baby crows the size of dogs
flood the overhead wires
and remind me of the war on terror
war without end greedy selfish
war for oil for ownership of the future
for who will control what we do
what we have what we know
the same old media tug of war
upside down to get the blood flowing
back into the feet the legs the head
a deep breath before going under
to scan the mud bottom of the
lake to escape the underbelly 
of the beast one peek and
it's back to bed and sheet
for the hopeless like me who
can't breathe in the slaughterhouses
no i must withdraw and die elsewhere
not with the bellicose crows
but with the silent sparrows
with the rest of what's left 
of what were once humans
not warriors but healers
not death angels but geese
flying southward in harmony

i saw that today 
and it changed everything

vendredi 12 août 2011

pain, a discrete branch of medicine

A few days before Frida Kahlo died on July 13, 1954, she wrote in her diary: "I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return — Frida".

This time i'm not rushing to get there
we've given it three hours and i'm plenty early
it's a hot 85º outside so i hole up with a
book i've been trying to read for
a month in spite of motion sickness
a french book nonetheless just to
make it harder on myself
roll eyes, cue exhaustion, 
drop the book on the floor
jerk awake, hear my name called

Standing in line at the
prescription counter (main pharmacy)
i take a number - #0013
it gives me time to decide
if i'm actually going to buy this poison
the new doc has just prescribed
or if i'm going to stand by my guns
and tell her to go fuck herself

A year ago out of the blue my pain swelled
so hot and white that all i thought about
was getting out out out of here
the bottle of pain pills was full at the time
it would have been so easy, so
righteous, so in or out of your face
depending on our relationship
all without a shred of salvaging guilt
instead i got an increased dose
then decided to titrate off all narcotics
i got to half my usual dose and stopped
before the pain punched a wallop

Six months later in her office, I tell the doc
that i need extra 10s to break the pain cycle
breakthrough meds like i used to get
before i titrated down to almost nothing
"our little experiment didn't work 'cause
i hit a pain wall and it was a knockout
my shoulders are up to my earlobes
and i'm carrying a second body around
there's a burning fire i can't put out
in my arms, in my breasts, in my lymph
i've been surviving like this for 12+ years
and i think i know what i need to control it"

"well, it's still more of the drug, dear,"
smiling with a sardonic glint
as if she's already read my script
and disapproved of my editing
"besides," she suddenly announces
"this pain med is going off our formulary"
and she offers me another neuroleptic
the one another doc had recently said to avoid
at all costs: "the side effects are awful"
but that doc had another one to try
because each new doc has a favorite kind
"prescribers" i think and i sigh, resigned

At home on the web I read pages of comments
by patients transitioning from one pain
med to the other, to the one my new doc
suddenly remembered to discuss with me
after 40 minutes of useless arguing
"oxymorphone is 2x stronger than the one
you're on", when all I really want is not
to be knocked out, to be able to sit up
and take nourishment without an overwhelming
desire to throw up and maybe write some poems
is it permissable to still want to write poems
with a 24/7 pain condition?

When the pharmacy tech arrives
i still haven't decided
so i plop down 60 bucks
and take all of it
topa topa topa max
maximum security prison
i'd rather be fat and free than
under the twinkling eye
of lousy prescribers
topa max, i think when i get home
no thanks!
been there, done that!

And then my eyes fall
upon unforgettable words
"when they changed the formulation
of oxycontin a year ago..."
pumped it full of polymers and fill
to keep addicts from crushing it 
and sticking it in a needle
and how all the pain patients got sick
how it lost 20-30% of its efficacy
with burning guts, face rashes, oozing
orange gel from rectums... oh my god!
yes yes and yes, plus tachycardia!
and when the pain ganged up on me
and i suffered alone for three solid months
enough to contemplate suicide
and leave my family to grieve what
they should have done to save me
(but never could)
no one had told me about the bait
and switch of one pill named OC
for another, same color, named OP
not purdue pharmaceuticals 
or my stupid doctors

"so if it's not on our formulary," said the doc
"you're going to be the one paying for it
out of pocket, so i think we had better
consider trying oxymorphone
go home and look, you're a good researcher"
and i feel a pain slither through my gut
the first alarm that my constipation is
coming to its bitter end along with
my appointment, my heart racing to 120
as I rise from the cushy chair with loads
of new options dangling from my hand
and a sick feeling like i'm sooo done
and i hit the bathroom, still unaware that
a now uncrushable polymer-laden pill
that used to work well for me before
has made me so much sicker
and that is why i have had to come
100-plus miles to meet my
great - new - prescriber

mercredi 10 août 2011

"the mind is a terrible thing"

fun in the night with Tattoo and Walker

she is taking back her breath today
out of her cloud bank of busy work
intoxicating words, phantom music
all the things she does to distract
herself from pain and boredom:

"the mind is a terrible thing"
we laughed about that when we
first met until we cried on the floor
but it turned out to be a metaphor
for the way we live

pushing the envelope into the night
until sunlight cracks the darkness
and we have to admit defeat again
that sleep is overtaking our bodies
and turning our brains to pale jelly

you in your room, me in mine
the electronic switching of mass
media 24/7 until two days later
I twirl a spinning yarn and you
write ten haiku for a massacre

why bother, you say, when no one
will read it and you chalk it up
to another process experiment
in which the two of us light each
other up like glittering bonfires

spitting out romantic-era music
and volumes of epic poems on death
we, the sole loners on a sinking ship
holding hands as we go under
my pain singing with your tinnitus

in the past few days I have chosen
to retract, refract the sparks that
come at me in light years 'til
i'm that blazing bush talking to
moses and you know it frightens me

brother, i've got to calm down the
neurons, drink plenty of water
and stop these dangerous floes
because the mind is a terrible thing
it can take you in the wrong direction

i'm going away for a spell to
that now unfathomable hinterland
taking with me a thing resembling
clockworks, discipline and sleep
re-integrating my action with inaction

i should have done this long ago
but it's not too late to give it a go
while you sit at your new hammond
walking bass notes with the left hand
chords with the right for the fun of it

lundi 8 août 2011

Day in D minor

for my friends


drowning in a sea
of recovered 

floating in
amniotic fluid 


slowly dying

i can do
about it

but regard your art
listen to your music
read your poems
and be grateful for you

jeudi 4 août 2011

Med Time

I wake up from that
last dream I can't remember
and the tv's still on
I want it to be five hours
but it is only three
and my eyes and neck
are aching
Did I take my 4 ams
or did I forget?
My body says forgotten
but the med box is empty...

Then I remember Ron
holding out his hand
like a bronzed buddha
until I was awake enough
to sit up and swallow
I've seen him sit there
for an hour until
his patience is spent
and he says
"Honey, I'm tired!"
I always feel like a lump
and apologize...

So the pills are swallowed
and the tv's still on
but it isn't time
for "Democracy Now"
and it isn't even time
for "Washington Journal"
It's hours hours hours
'til a timer sounds
the half-life ends
and I turn off the tv
and start it all again:
the insidious waiting
for the end of pain

mercredi 3 août 2011


o silent witness
behind softened eyes
on curled tongue
in gently held palms
silent witness
listening to the heart
the flow of breath
rising and falling

a relaxing sweep of peace
along nerve networks
one could almost call it sleep
but for consciousness

o silent witness
each time my mind engages
i hear a whisper of your name
and everything falls away

silent witness
when prana embarks
like a rocking boat
or a rising sun

all at once you are sky
and ocean and earth and fire
yet in the sweet moment
you are unchangeable

when i open my still soft eyes
and brightness fills them
i feel you seated in
my heart of hearts