One of the founders of the legendary Chess Records has died at 95. Setting out to make a quick dollar, the Chess brothers recorded some of the most important early African-American blues & rhythm & blues records in the history of the industry. Something about unintended consequences here.
A hot pink dawn over the river this morning only lasted about thirty seconds, but highly intense. Some perceptions have to be caught on the fly, others can be savored. Perception is neutral, a register of input, to borrow an ugly term from electronics. It’s what one makes of the input–the phenomenological spark–that creates a meaning. I don’t know how. (Weather & atmospheric phenomena continue to be my master metaphors.) Light from the sun shining across the river / taste of the first sip of coffee. The adventure of what happens.
Note: First thing in the mornings, while Carole is making coffee, I often have the feeling that the various systems & subsystems of my body are coordinating with each other & coming into coherent functioning. That’s what’s supposed to happen. It’s bad news when “systems” are glitchy, but that has not been happening so much recently. Things going relatively smoothly–I almost said “booting up,” demonstrating how hard it can be to keep domains of metaphor separate, though I think it’s important to be able to do so.
Via the NY Times I see that Thom Jones has died at age 71, one of the most harrowing writers of the Vietnam War generation of Americans affected by the Vietnam War. (Jones shared both my alma maters, the Universities of Washington & Iowa for the Writers Workshop). A classic example of a specific American type. “The Pugilist at Rest” may be the single best story about the War’s influence on an individual soldier’s consciousness that I am familiar with.
Milky coffee, english muffins, gray sky after a rainy night. It is surprising how normal I’ve been feeling for the last week. Given my disease, I’m grateful that I seem to have found a plateau of ordinary life that is characterized by weakness & mobility problems (still walking with a walker) but without sharp or debilitating pain. Current medication is mostly morphine ER at a low to medium dose, with a shorter-acting opioid for “breakthrough pain,” though I find I don’t need those as often as one would think.
I’ve begun doing some medical research online regarding pain associated with cancer. For quite a while now I’ve set my anxieties aside & just tried to get on with my days, focusing especially on writing poems; but lately I’ve had the sense that I ought to intellectually prepare myself for the progression of my kidney cancer. Perhaps it is time to start sneaking up on reality, though without becoming anxious or obsessive; in fact, I’ll probably want to go back to ignoring chronic symptoms as much as possible for a while. This sort of modulation strikes me as healthy & should allow me to work on publication projects, sending poems out, etc. (A lot of that stuff is easy to shunt aside, but has a remarkably positive physical, intellectual & even spiritual set of effects when I focus on getting such things done.)
So I’ll be listening to doctors, pharmacologists & etc. talking about pain & pain medications on YouTube & following up the very materialist parts of these discussion. (I have little or no problem dealing with the linguistic, metaphorical & spiritual sides of the problem; what I need to do for a while is look more closely at the nitty-gritty.)
Still, a lovely cool morning with mostly bare maple trees out the window, Somehow wet & dusty at the same time. The body adjusting itself to the various fields of force that act on all of us all the time. And acting on me & the qualities of my time & life in the coming months.
Late autumn leaves stripping off the trees today in a warm wind. Unseasonable & unsettling like the weather in my body, which feels odd but not actually abnormal–not having crossed some line defined by pathology. Weather must be the master-metaphor for illness.
I’ve recently, like most cancer patients, been concerned with the effects & side effects of medication. Side effects, the way we usually use the term, are unwanted, negative. But over the last couple of weeks, being treated for the crack in my pelvis with morphine & steroids & a bone strengthener, I have noticed periods of the day when I feel . . . good. Not high, just good mentally. Sometimes this is just the spacy sort of consciousness good for watching YouTube science videos, but sometimes, as this evening, the state of mind gave rise to a poem. Often, my poems begin with an idea, but this just began with a couple of images from today’s NY Times online Science section, one about the voicebox of a prehistoric bird, the other about a Saturn-like object somewhere 400 light years away. The rest was just a matter of constructing language as it constructed itself around a philosophical question–series of questions–I’d discussed with my friend Chris. It’s not that the insights are out of the ordinary, but, doing what a poet is supposed to do, I may have helped find some language to refract off the ideas in a useful way. I like the notion of refraction becauses it confuses the tendency toward making binary oppositions. I have no idea which drugs might be tweaking which neurons, or whether that matters.