Start Anywhere–Sara Greenslit

Start anywhere: the once a year mammogram, the anniversary of the mastectomy, the anniversary of first palpating the lump yourself.

 

It does not matter where you start, just that you do.  The flowers in the yard have bloomed, died, and bloomed again.  It has rained.  It has snowed.  The lake thawed.

 

•••

 

This is similar to my scar:

greenslit image

 

 

 

But it’s purple.  It’s simple.  It’s simply there.

 

•••

 

What my veterinary medical training has done to shape my point of view: that flat, pink, round lesion on my dog’s arm—self trauma or a mast cell tumor?  A limping, 12 year old lab: Lyme disease, bone cancer or arthritis?  The mole on my arm—freckle or melanoma-rollercoaster-toward-death?

 

But then, contradictory as ever, I am lacking terrific worry over a recent monitoring breast MRI.  I think, If it’s really bad, surely they’ll call.

 

•••

 

A cold creeps in, into my head and chest.  I rattle, I wheeze, I sneeze and hack.  Everything refers to then: the last time I had a cold, I was having chemo.  It was mild, abated by acupuncture.  I had gotten two rounds of flu shots.  I slept all day, regardless.  Tick tock on a loop.  Back where we started, here we go—

 

•••

 

I am the breaker of things—the clanger, the banger, the splinter, the chipper, the gouger, the smasher, the cracked, the smacked.  I pound my feet, slam doors, drop plates, books.  Entropy sped up.  Forgivenesses lasped.

 

•••

 

Most of my new friends have had a cancer diagnosis.  We introduce ourselves as our malignancies: testicular, kidney, rectal, brain, breast, salivary gland, leukemia.  How many times have I said in the past, Just because we’re both gay doesn’t mean we have anything in common?  Well, being under 40 and having a tumor, it’s a mighty glue.  The ones I most identify with?  Both cancered and gay.

 

•••

 

Who are we, if not our illnesses?

 

I am my body, I am not my body.  I am my mind, I am not my mind.

 

Take genetic code, take personality, upbringing, nutrition, environmental contaminants.  Take me, take you.  Stir.  Wait.  And yes, no one gets out of here.

 

Bring in song.  Bird and human, howler monkey and vireo, humpback whale and Stellar seal.

 

And what about the shifting, calculable, predicted, to the internal flash and back away, or the years of grinding through—

 

Am I more than a list of symptoms, a rattling-off of diagnoses?

 

•••

 

Lying down on the cold, smooth comforter, blinds drawn against the heat, I fall into sleep again, even though the night before, I spend half a day slumbering.

 

Seeds from the feeder into the dirt have produced a small congregation of sunflower plants, about to bloom, where finch, sparrow and chickadee hide and feed.

 

And why are the newly opened sunflowers facing away from the sun?

 

•••

 

That duck across the street is lame.  The sparrows drinking out of my dogs’ water dish outside—do they have songbird fever?  The mouse feces in the shed—white-footed mouse, and therefore Hanta virus?  Did I bring the dreaded MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) home from work on my clothes?  It’s a paranoid’s picnic of possibilities.

 

•••

 

A contemplation of dinosaurs, of schist, algae blooms and ant migrations, wave forms, of saints, Vocalise, spinning and falling maple seed wings, sparrows on the feeder (one red-chested house finch on the end), slow-mo black & white footage of fruit bats feeding at flowers

 

 

•••

 

Andreas Gurksy’s “Ocean” series of the 8×11’ pictures of the earth via satellite

(us, a dust mote, above)

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs, black & white seascapes, the split second of static electricity

(hover here, in these canvasses)

 

•••

 

To pause, to watch, fall into one self, to maintain, to persist, resist assist, desist

 

Re-vision, dis-ease, dis-articulation

 

Not knowing if it was enough, or too much

 

Cell cycle (X), and which genes—off/on (p53), monitor, quell and (god) speed

 

Meta misspelled = meat

 

•••

 

Mary Ruefle’s whiting out the words of a Victorian novel to leave behind found poems

 

Jenny Holzer’s blocked out texts of

 

•••

 

Becoming the other

 

the difficulty being present for one’s own suffering

 

•••

 

the CAD not taken…                                                 (complete axillary dissection)

 

(hush, it’s always there, the mantra: 6×4.4×3 cm tumor)

 

NCCN, AI’s, CYP2D6, BMD, DXA, HOXB13:IL17BR

 

“I am irredeemable” (Mary Cappello)

 

•••

 

Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports”: his stark, repeated (elevator?) tone translates to the alarm of a blocked IV fluid line, or the first over-com tone for a hospital code, or the heart monitor, beeping.

 

Contrast this with the guitar-plucking finches, instruments amplified to pick up their landing, their pecking, one even fidgeting over a stick in the strings—an exhibit in London, seen online

 

•••

 

The new German shepherd adoptee has to have emergency surgery for a gastric dilation and volvulus.  While the surgeon is in there, the spleen is removed due to an infarct in the organ’s tail, or lack of blood flow from the flip and twist.  What I think out loud is, Great, one less organ to worry about getting cancer in.

 

•••

 

Who hasn’t, by mid-life, suffered some sort of amputation or other?

 

•••

 

Re-      cover               Re-      mission

 

•••

 

Not gained—not the surety of spirit or religion or manifest destiny.  Just the solid reiteration of Randomness.

 

•••

 

Trace backwards, to the source, the first cell(s—has to be more than one, due to lack of a concrete, single mass, but more of a rouge, flamed-shaped contrast-enhancing abnormality = “suspicious”): lymph node biopsy, mastectomy, and surgical biopsy← oncology and plastic surgeon appointments ← stereotactic core biopsy ← breast MRI ←surgical appointment ← mammogram ← left breast ultrasound←gyno appointment ← waiting two months to see if the mass shrinks; it doesn’t← finding the mass on self-exam ← time: months, no, years? for the constellations of clustered calcifications to form.

 

(Word of the Day

Monday, August 16, 2010

incunabulum

1.The earliest stages or first traces of anything.)

 

•••

 

Robert Ryman paints white canvasses white.  He paints because it’s his source of joy.  I identify with the works’ lack, their quiet, their ability to gather all the light in the room.

 

Kate MacDowell’s hybrid ceramics: a single white arm morphs into petals and leaf, where vein and muscle and bone should be attaching to the torso.

 

•••

 

What would it be like to take a series of pictures directly at the sun, but not looking at it, so not to be blinded?  Would all the frames be off, and you’d end up with cloud fragments, an edge of solar flare?  (The soundtrack would be my neighborhood: leaf blower, chirping sparrows, sirens, bass-boom of car stereos)

 

•••

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The metaphors inherent in apoptosis

 

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And what happens to your worldview, when your new group of friends ends up talking about cancer recurrence, these fears, death?

 

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Is it better to be alone with my seething brain, my rage?

 

•••

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No?  (exhale)  Gather yourself up, and begin again:

 

Start here: a scar.  It’s purple.  It’s simple.  It’s simply there.

 

 

 

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