Let's Speak The Same Language

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Yesterday my wife and I visited my radiation treatment doctor, and he declared, "Your body's free of cancer." My wife's ecstatic, but I continue in my present calm state of one day at a time. Now, all I've got to do is concentrate on my bucket list item, but, wouldn't you know? After several days not writing that included Thanksgiving's pleasant visit of my daughter, her husband and my youngest son to eat ham and everything else vegan and to play board games, I've lost the impulse to continue writing. Even the happy PSA reading hasn't brought a poem, and the poetry contained in Up Your Ass inspired by my prostate cancer seems dull and silly. I see no opening ahead, no light of inspiration streaming in through the tunnel walls I'm walking in. I'm 79 years old and, interestingly, a hand-written rejection note from Fiddlehead was penned on my October 20th birthday, a birthday gift I just received in yesterday's mail. Will this period of writer's block pass? Who knows. I'm getting old, but the bucket's over a distant hill now, and I've a far piece to walk ahead.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


The number of days remaining to me for the pursuit of my lone bucket list item, i.e. to get someone other than myself to publish one of my novels, has increased hopefully. My first PSA [prostate-specific antigen] test measured at 0.02 at the three month mark following the radiation treatments. The test measures the protein produced by both cancerous and noncancerous tissue in the prostate. As the prostate grows so does the protein content in the blood. Five point zero [5.0] is the high limit for safety. I'd be ecstatic save for the outcome of the presidential election, my natural tendency to imagine the worse and the fact a small amount of blood is oozing from the head of my penis today. I wonder what that means? It's got to be bladder or kidney cancer. Right? After all I was told secondary cancers sometimes result from radiation treatment of the prostate. 

I'm reading a poetry chapbook Duwamish Head by Richard Hugo put out by Copper Canyon Press in 1976. That's the year I got sober in Cheney Washington and, sober, attended  a party celebrating the end of a two week writer's workshop at Eastern Washington University to which Richard Hugo and James Welch unexpectedly arrived dead drunk after a long dark spur of the moment drive from Missoula Montana. Welch's Winter in the Blood had not long ago come out in 1974 and Hugo was at the top of his game. Just the sort of drunken shindig writers have been famous for since the days of Homer and Dionysus, and there I was a sober observer of the doings of what to me were the immortals who were driven to drink by celebrity and the suffering that informed their writing. Ah yes, to suffer is to write. Ahem.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


I'm having a difficult time writing for the past few days. Perhaps it's the election that didn't go my way. Last night I tried to meditate a bit and when I asked myself about the cause of my fear, I came up with the thought that I fear living in a heartless world. Well, I think that's a fair assumption, and my fear dovetails nicely into the prostate cancer I'm living with. Feeling death hovering in my consciousness does lead me to feel less powerful and less likely to survive a cruel and dog eat dog culture that I imagine will soon be coming our way. Actually the dog eat dog culture is already here, has always been here, looming just outside our conscious world. Ain't that the reason that all religions more or less begin with how to deal with human suffering and with fear of death that our conscious species must unconsciously live with? Talk about a cliche?

Also having to sit to pee is probably at a very deep place in my psyche troubling me. Diapers create the situation. There's no slip through to slip through, so I get to deal with the woman's toilet seat dilemma every time I pee out in the world so to speak. Happily I recently read that sitting down to pee fits quite nicely with our animal ancestors. The bladder is built to function best down on all four "legs".

So much for me today, sitting at a downtown Starbucks typing this, considering death and toilet seats while still questing to get someone other than myself to publish a novel of mine before I kick a bucket that seems a little bit closer than it did when I began this bucket list quest.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


Finished for a time the rewrite of a story called "Down Home Man". I have another great short story idea and I've still got a novel to completely rewrite, Delinquent Lives, and I'm working on another poem for Up Your Ass. It's to be called "Two Days" and made up of two oddly contrasted experiences that happened over two consecutive days. Below are the rough notes for day two. It's been a Facebook entry so maybe you've seen it already. Forgive it's length.

Ah, it's great to be old. I had another fascinating experience today. Some would say this will be far too much information. Several years ago I started having bouts of bowel incontinence. I cut out coffee and tree nuts, and I thought I was doing well, but, no, even then, every month or so I'd have an accident. Then the prostate cancer and medicines and specially the radiation treatments can also create urinary and bowel problems, so recently, I've been wearing diapers every morning and leave them on until I get home. This morning we had a plumber over at 8:30am to fix a leaky faucet in the tub in our guest bathroom. He was a pleasant young man and very proficient. We exchanged many pleasantries, and, as he was leaving, I told him, "I think I'm going to celebrate and go out for breakfast. I don't know why. I haven't done anything. You did all the work." We shook hands and he left, and I departed not long after. I felt so healthy that I decided for the first time in months not to wear a diaper [now you all know where this is going]. Intending also to break my vegan diet, I marched out into a brilliant sunshine morning to a newly remodeled Sharis for breakfast. I ordered hot chocolate and from the honored menu a two egg cheese/ham omelet and French toast. While waiting, I was reading a book that a Facebook friend has written, The Triple Diamond Sutra. Humorous as hell and entertaining. The morning was going swimmingly. My interactions with the waitress were pleasant if not informative. Then it came time to pay the bill, and I carried my bill to the cash register, as you do at Sharis, and my waitress was also the one who came to the register to ring me up and swipe my credit card. That's when it happened of course. The credit card was in her hand when I experienced the tiny familiar burp feeling in my bowels that occurs without warning, and I said, "Excuse me, I've got to run to the bathroom." Of course, once I feel that tiny burp, it is already too late. All the way to bathroom, I was offloading a pile of food that had seen better days. By the time I reached the throne room, there was nothing left to offload. What a mess. I had to clean up the toilet, the floor and myself and wrap my soiled underwear in paper towels and throw the whole mess into the trash. Fortunately, the underwear was sufficient to protect my cotton trousers so no stains had appeared in the rear area. Of course, being without shame, I told the new woman at the cash register who was holding my credit card for me all about it. "I had to rush off to the bathroom," I explained. She said, "Yes, I understand those moments." "And I wasn't wearing a diaper," I continued. "What a mess." Later I realized the image my remark must have left in her mind. What can a man make of all this stuff? Yesterday afternoon, a kindly woman, probable thinking of me as a father figure, offers me a cross. Last night the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. This morning I'm reading The Triple Diamond Sutra at Sharis and, within minutes, I'm shitting my pants. You can't make this stuff up. I'm sure there's a deeper meaning somewhere in all this chaos.

Friday, October 28, 2016


Wonderful Friday night, my wife's home from work, and we just watched Bill Murray being awarded the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Award, and isn't it funny to watch an old dude like Bill and wonder how he grew so old while you remain so young? Speaking of which, I turned 79 this month on the 20th, and I'm still pursuing my goal fiercely, when I'm not weeping for myself, to get someone other than myself to publish a novel I've written. 

I'm slowly rewriting a short story from a first person narrative into a combined third person/omniscient pov, and I've even sent off a couple of haikus to haiku magazines. I've got a hundred of them at least. These last two days I've been working on another prostate cancer poem for Up Your Ass, and I'm beginning to understand what I'm trying to do. I'm layering in historical personages, friends, details from my own and others lives and historical moments and surrounding them with my mortality and letting them sit side by side to percolate together, hoping that something enticing will show up to stimulate a reader's mind. I no longer experience those powerful moments when words are summoned from out of nowhere by emotion and bonded in metaphor to mean something else. I guess imagination still works, but much more gently. Why else would Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Gabby Hayes, Nancy and her "Ronnie" Reagan appear together in the poem I'm working on? The inspiration is still there, but it doesn't torture me so much. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


It looks black when nothing inspires me.......
I'm sorry I've neglected this blog for so many days, but a couple of days I was in Spokane watching my youngest son, Patrick, perform with his improv group at the Bartlett. Sold out, lots of laughter. The Bartlett is an interesting venue. A bar, an espresso joint and a performance room in the back are interconnected. Later we walked Spokane's downtown streets, and it is a jumping place nowadays, people spilling out on the sidewalks. We couldn't find a quiet bar where we could talk so we ended up at the Onion where I got myself a bowl of their forever great onion soup. So delicious. My oldest son Sean and my daughter-in-law Sheila are coming over to visit, and Mertie and I are looking forward to visiting and maybe playing some board games.

On the other hand, many days these days, doldrums set in and nothing creative goes on in my head—"NOTHING," he shouts—and it's scary. These days I have to have a particularly sharp day in order to work at something. My inspiration is weak and faltering. I ask myself if it will completely disappear someday soon. 

On yet a third hand, I do sit down and submit poetry, short stories to magazines and queries to agents for the novel. Working at that does give me a sense of accomplishment. Currently, I have between 15 and 20 submissions out.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


So many projects this morning, my head is full. 

Reading the THE COMPLETE STORIES OF TRUMAN CAPOTE which I must soon return to Clark College library. 

A collection of my selected poems altered from third and first person to second person "you" entitled THE WORLD OUTSIDE MYSELF or ... OUTSIDE MY HEAD

At least two stories I want to alter from first person narrator to a third person point of view or an omniscient pov. 

Finish the rewrites of stories for collection into a book MANY VOICES, ONE HEAD

Create a very sotto voce symphony based on the silent communication and states of people texting or Facebooking. Of course, I can't write music, but I see all these people in my head silently staring at screens in the middle of noisy confusion and how a symphonic passage expressing that situation might sound. Is this because wife and I have bought season tickets to VSO the past three seasons?

Start and finish another poem for my poetry book UP YOUR ASS that might begin with:

The word came through on Facebook that Ray is dead at 84. 
His prostate cancer finally took him away. 
You feel certain you're not going to live much longer yourself. 
Why is that you wonder? It's raining today, a fitting state...
the world coming down to celebrate your state of mind....  
et cetera and something along those lines but made more poetic by arrangement and stress.

Ah...where to begin? Decided to work on the rewrite of another story for the collection of fiction MANY VOICES, ONE HEAD.