I believe in being prepared for any given situation. It isn't because I'm a pessimistic person; I think it is just good common sense. Hence, I've entitled my blog "Even Nothing is Something."

This covers my butt in any event. On any given day I can feel great exaltation that I have done something grand. I can scribble fiercely when my thoughts are leaping across the meadows of my mind like a happy little colt in the month of May, or my mind and writing can be as dry and arid, as cold and without life, as the Gobi desert - because even Nothing is Something.

I want to thank all of my fellow artists who work through other means and forms and who sell their work on the wonderful artist's site "Etsy," a place to buy and sell all things handmade, along with vintage items and supplies for their craft. They are a great group of people.

Those who have links to their site on my blog represent only a few of those whom I wish to include. Just click on one of those links and join the Etsy community. It is free. They are a great group of artists who have relieved me of my money in the most delightful of ways. If it weren't for their encouragement, I would have never shared my work through this blog.

Thank you my darling friends!

Enjoy my blog - The Poet or Not - More or Less

Friday, August 28, 2009

Poop is Offal

Greetings to all of my followers,
I decided that, before the month ends, I should at least post something new for those of you who have read my current scribblings to your heart's content. This is a tidy piece of prose written after Bruce, my husband, and I went for a hike in the Pocono Mts. Enjoy; it is all true, including the quotations from our conversations - which were brief as Bruce conducted his research through the realms of, yes, poop.

Poop is Offal

My husband, Bruce, and I both enjoy hiking. He likes to look around and observe nature as we move through State Game Lands. I like to push my body into turbo, moving as fast and as far as possible. Our differing styles would surely remain, but they would be greatly mitigated if I weren't so myopic. I don't readily notice that deer in the woods; or see how the bark of this tree differs from the bark of another. Bruce loves to notice all those things and more.

From such perspectives, Bruce and I set out one day for a hike in Pennsylvania's State Game Land. On such trips Bruce always takes the lead while I follow behind. This prevents me from running into trees, tripping over boulders or walking off a cliff. Bruce tries to move at a pace that will satisfy both of us. My heart rate can climb a bit; and he can stop to smell his roses. Trouble is we don't often want to smell the same scent...especially if it's offal.

You see, we are following the paw prints of two bobcats. On an earlier hike Bruce had found their den. I am excited to see this den; I want to hike at a pace faster than would permit the observation of animal poop. But Bruce relishes the opportunity to impart a nature lesson to a captive audience.

"Deer have been running through here. There's their trail," Bruce says with appropriate solemnity. "There is a pile of their poop! Goodness, look how big that pile is! These are pretty big deer tracks. If this wasn't a buck, it was an awfully big doe." Bruce says this with the greatest of glee.

At suitable moments I acknowledge his comments with a few little grunts and just continue moving along.

"Oop, wait a minute. These tracks here don't look like fox. They may be the tracks of our bobcats, but the prints are too old for me to tell. Hmmm, just a minute, here's some poop."

Picking up a stick, Bruce bends down and closely examines the little turds. Poking at the soft little nugget, he comments. "These are guts. Oh, and here is some fur. Could be rabbit hair. Here is the blood."

How charming. Bruce gives his undivided attention to solving this puzzle. Meanwhile, I enjoy the blue sky, the unseasonably warm February air and the blurry view of trees. I don't particularly care to examine the poop.

With a frown he concludes his investigation by observing some spots of blood a short distance from the turds. "Look, those are spots of fresh blood. Whatever it was that made these tracks killed something and was dragging it away. Maybe to feed its young."

To indicate that I have been paying attention, I proudly sum it up. "So, in other words, this spot has been the scene of a meal in and a meal out."

Absently Bruce replies, "Yeah, something like that."

We continue up the mountain. "Look the same animal drug a mole away. See the paw prints leading to that little hole in the snow?" Bruce asks, knowing he is onto something.

"Uh huh," I respond, giving the little hole a quick glance and return my eyes to the muzzy trail.

"Look here, Caryn. You can see where the Laurel has its growth spurt. The turkey will eat this part of the stem, and here you can see the plant's growth." Using his fingers to indicate an approximate space, he continues, "It grows about this much per season."

I arrange my features into something resembling great respect for the Laurel bush.

We move on a pace. "Look there! Turkey poop!"

In a tone of voice nothing like enthusiasm, I reply, "Fascinating."

Bruce's head spins my direction. "You didn't even look!" He accuses.

"Yes I did. It was back there on those leaves - little white dots of turd," I defend my honor. Bruce is satisfied.

Further along we find some paw prints of the bobcats. They are more recent and easily identified. "Look Bruce. There is another spot of blood." I am so pleased he missed it and I saw it.

"Yep, sure is Babes," Bruce awards me with a nod of respect. "You saw that one all on your own."

At the top of the mountain, Bruce recognizes the area and knows we are in the vicinity of the bobcat's den. The big cat’s prints mark the snow in every direction. We can see where the cat has chased a snow shoe rabbit. The poor little rabbit's prints give evidence of its horrifying escape.

Bruce shows me some Laurel leaves the rabbit has broken from the bush and nibbled on, leaving behind the remaining leaves for another meal. I am so relieved that the hair Bruce found in that first pile of poop didn't belong to this particular rabbit.

Bruce descends down a steep slope toward the spot where he found the bobcat’s den. Much to our disappointment, a tree has fallen over the burrow. We spend a few minutes enjoying the view. I can see a lovely entrancing blur of naked trees. The sky above us is simply spectacular. The white, downy clouds are hanging so low a child might have tried to reach up and touch them.

Bruce and I turn around and head home by a different route. Oh no. Will there be different piles of poop to examine? On our homeward walk we see the paw prints of a fox. Bruce points them out to me. I acknowledge them with my customary grunt. How awful, we lucked out on its offal.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Poetry in Pain

Watching a loved one die a slow death is one of the most painful things a human being can experience. My brother-in-law, Bill, succumbed to lung cancer in February of 2008.

Five years earlier he and my sister, Barbara, rescued a 5 month old infant from a homeless prostitute. The child's biological father was in jail. They loved and cared for this child as no one else could have. Haley is now six years old and quite a handful with ADHD, OCD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, all of which can be part of the ADHD symptomology.

In December of 2007 my sister and her husband finally had the money to legally adopt Haley. I will never forget the look of love and satisfaction that crossed Bill's face when he arrived home from his final hospital stay. He had come home to die.

He and I were alone in the living room that had become his bedroom. I held his hand and told him that he was such a good man and how much I appreciated him as a father for Haley and a husband to my sister. Bill began to cry and shake his head back and forth. In a voice filled with pain he denied my words. I asked him why he felt that he was not a good man. I'll never forget what he said, "I can't even take care of my own family."

I reminded him of the recent change in Haley's last name to his and how much he and my sister had given to this child over the years, how much they loved and sacrificed for her. This little family wasn't among the middle class, not even the lower middle class. They struggled for everything they needed. Bill worked two jobs so Barbara could be a full time mother to Haley.

The next moment after the shedding of tears is also one I will never forget. When I reminded him of the final formalizing of Haley's adoption, Bill stopped crying. His eyes moved to look upward at the ceiling and a smile of such peace, serenity and satisfaction transformed his face. He said two unforgettable words, "My daughter."

During the time that Bill battled this cancer, I wrote the following poems. I never shared them with him nor with my sister. I was afraid they might read into them something negative, something hopeless and that wasn't my intention. After Bill passed away I gave them to my sister. They speak for themselves. I need write little more.

The Warrior

MALEVOLENT CANCER dropped into their lives like a
METEORITE; but it did not bring with it Radiant Light.
Instead it brought an Atmosphere of DARKNESS, an uncalled for,
Unwelcome Roiling Entanglement with DEATH.

And the man found himself to be A WARRIOR as he took
Umbrage with this Immoral EVIL which Threatened
To transmute him from Life Into a Mortuary of Death.
He Advanced His Weapons of Fortitude and Strength.

THE WARRIOR who raised himself up from the Somnambulate
Numbness that comes from Death’s First Encounter.
CANCER, that foul fiend, that is Ingloriously Dishonorable,
Impersonally Murderous, and Brutally PILLAGES the

Body of THE WARRIOR who will Never Admit Defeat. CANCER
Contends with THE WARRIOR in a War of Attrition
That momentarily strips away from THE WARRIOR everything
Inconsequential to LIFE and THE WARRIOR becomes

A Toughened MAN who lives a LIFE made Lighter by
The Monumental Realization of the truer REALITY
Of Greater Priority to Those Grand Gifts not of Man’s Creation;
THE WARRIOR, with Guts of Iron and the HEART OF A HERO.

A Warrior in Death

He withstood the burden of his life in the face of death,
An Island of godless predation and wounded
Dignity. The author of Death wrote a requiem which would
Not be denied and life was not to be negotiated.

Those who loved him had to accept that all who live
Must eventually admit that the sense of human
Consciousness will inevitably be one of tragedy and the
Pain will pillage us of our desired misconceptions

Of Immortality. The horrifying truth will be so much more
Than we think we can endure. Mortality becomes
A distinguished Ancient dressed in Rags whose greater
Wisdom teaches us that we live in a delusional world,

With always a Future, when all we ever really have is Now.
Death will always unsheathe his sword and remind
Us of the truth - that our lives shall inevitably be the sum
Of the Monumentality of Human Disaster.

But, as long as we have Now one must see beyond the
Terrible, hideous affliction of our nature toward
Death, to the person we can be. Grief and Sorrow for those
Loved ones dead will be fresh each awakening.

Benevolent sleep will have been kind and offered us a
Brief respite from our sadness, it will have born our
Pains, causing them to recede like the outgoing tide of Sea.
Yet Now will intrude. We too must be A Warrior in Death.

The following poem was written for my sister. It was a horrible time. My husband, Bruce, and I had returned to our home so we could take care of some personal affairs. Had we known that Bill would pass away while we were gone, we never would have left. I still struggle with feelings of guilt. I should have remained with my sister, Bill and Haley. Barbara spent the final moments of Bill's life next to his bed, holding his hand.

She called me moments later. That particular memory is a blur; the images in my mind snowy like a black and white screen television with poor reception. Even the drive back to her home resides within the realm of the same obscurity. But, the time is captured in the following poem written for my sister. The first several lines were composed during that hellish journey.

She Cries

Rubber eats up the road,
like time ate up a life,
and we travel
toward the pain that
will descend upon our shoulders,
as teardrops well and drip from
a quivering chin. Death is chimerical,
a fire breathing dragon
biding its time, greedy and
implacable, refusing to be
forestalled or attenuated by love. We
will witness the indescribable
grief that we cannot imagine.
It will swell up from
her heart and spill from her eyes,
blue as the lake that contains
all the tears ever shed for the loss
of one who has been
loved so intimately.
She will have wept with the
regressive changes in his body
as Death mercilessly consumed
all that he was in substance.
The tires carry us closer and closer
to this place of affliction;
I hold my breath and
pray for intrepidity
where she may be vulnerable.
As we draw ever nearer
to where I will find
her in anguish, my skin crawls
until it shrinks, drawing me
closer to my inner core from
where my endurance must come.
We find her brave and stoic,
yet tender and frail.
Her mourning is
private, but I know her
sorrow must have grown to
become the whole of her existence.
The house is weary
and lonely, something is
missing. We know
it is a life, a man
whose voice we wish to hear,
just once more, a hand
opening a door, feet walking
across the carpet, a television
for background noise.
There is the aroma of
brewed coffee, but the
table is missing a cup and
in place of his chair there is
one with wheels. Even the
living room has been
stripped of him; perhaps
this is a blessing and
a gift for fortitude.
She cries; I know;
she is my sister.
Heartbreak has not
changed her, my
Sister of Strength.
Even in heartache she laughs.
In the days that come and
on the loneliest of nights,
she keeps her composure.
But, I know she cries;
we share a Sisterhood.
She cries and the salt
is on the palate of my tongue.
I know; she cries, and
I absorb the tears.
Wounding sorrow makes
us marvel that life goes on in its
perpetual echo, seemingly
unaware of our wretchedness.
She cries; I know.

This final poem was written for my niece. Last Christmas, as she and I stood by the Christmas tree, Haley said the words that are written in this poem. My sister - who was sitting on the floor with her laptop - and I locked eyes and the moment became a long pause as though someone hit the right button to freeze the moment in memory. The poetry speaks for itself.

And, My Daddy Died

Her eyes, the color
of a summer’s sky,
gazed so innocently
into mine and her
thick blond hair fell
to her waist in a
cascade of curls,

as she stood before me
and told me something
of her world. “I
have three dogs, two cats,
a bird, Mommy, Cousin
Putz, Aunt Caryn, Uncle Bruce
and my daddy died.”

I felt her little hands grip my
heart when she said to me,
“Aunt Caryn, you say that,
what I just said.” A pause,
pregnant with pain, closed
my lips; my sister’s eyes met
mine until I, too, could say:

“Haley has three dogs,
two cats, a bird, Mommy,
Cousin Putz, Aunt Caryn,
Uncle Bruce and her daddy died.”
Her daddy saw her last Christmas,
and he struggled through mid
February; a child watched

her Daddy die. While Mommy
held his hand, she danced
at the foot of his bed,
not understanding that
he spoke his final words,
and someday she would say:
“And, my daddy died.”