Strange Day

Cool fall settles in with fresh zephyr
dawn beats away Ancient night
reflecting stained glass morning

Eager for majestic day
awaiting Brenda to start morning routine
trio of cats stretched across dormant legs

Seems just a reverie away 1994
studying massage at Heartwood
Institute of Healing Arts
East of Garberville
nestled in the emerald triangle
near Eureka and Trinidad
200 miles north of San Francisco
on the Mendocino fault
near the Redwood valleys
of Northern California

Clouds thick with the cool dawn
the sun cleared skies by 11 a.m.
mornings consisted of hiking
to mountain peak for twilight yoga with Gayna
followed by greeting sun with Michael in Tai-Chi
then Polarity class with Bruce
learning fundamentals of energy

Rumor on campus
some heard that the Grateful Dead
would play acoustic at the Warfield
as the Warlocks for those propitious to attend

Noon we snacked a quick organic feast
then caught ride with Gypsy
in a purple beat-up old VW van
easy trekking canyon cliffs
snaking desolate roads to highway 101
40 miles from Pacific Coast 1
just south of the Valley of Giants
where Redwoods stand primordial lofty proud

About 30 minutes into the descent
just after reaching paved roads
smoked out brakes surrendered grip to gravity
momentum gave-way to extreme acceleration

Increasing velocity rapidly loosing control
road disappearing to surrounding blur
there was no way to halt what was to come
nowhere to go nowhere to run

A few minutes turned into long centuries
terror animating moments
rubber trying to cleave to road
as speed gathered shooting us
sideways off graveyard cliffs

In death lunge there was just enough time
to realize space
before trees snapped limbs crackled
as we caved ridge in meteoric crash

Mountain unmoving my body puddle to ground
squashed in instant Jell-O smash
head snapped back in whiplash fashion

Carrie screamed my arm my arm
O, God... my arm
someone please help
then silence overcame panic moments

I knew something was certainly wrong
I tried to get up to run
to reach escape before the van exploded

Unresponsive my body lay
collapsed heavy in pain
arms swaying when I try to move
uncontrollably like limbs of trees
pushed by the wind's own interest

Loosing consciousness
inclination to breathe
body in despair
vision lost ears ringing
uncertain void stealing soul to new flight

Thinking Chinese

Laid up shattered on hospital bed
baffled by current circumstance
no retort TV for comfort/friend

Bewilderment I came to
in I.C.U. senses reeling feeling extremes
in temperatures pain awkward upheaval

3 times Flat-line death prevailing
asphyxiation pneumonia clogged breath

Weeks gone I can't even recall
screws drilled into skull
stabilizing the halo aligning my neck

Doctors backed by med school degrees
intruded morning sleep
making routine rounds
condemning me with callous word
to never walk again

'This is how it was going to be'
paralysis living with disability
dependent on monster wheelchair
help dressing bathing using bathroom

As quick as they came they left
leaving me racked in pain
wishing for a hole to hide
where nobody could touch me or see me
where all the noise and drama
would just disappear
They think they know disability
because of expensive degrees
years of college education
advising and then walking out

I wanted a hammer to crush skulls
shatter spines
this is paralysis
no walking out

They psychiatrist says I'm depressed
well damn it man
I just broke my fricken neck
what do you expect

Get out get out leave me alone
your books can't explain
what I'm going through
don't feed me your intellectual opinion
or professional revelation

Go charge your 150 bucks an hour
to Medicaid but please
spare me the lame explanations

I'm screaming inside
scared out of my wits
unsure what next to do
what can I do

Just turn off the light as you go
and shut the door
as you leave

Get up get up I say
but my body won't listen
leaving me stranded in bed alone
having pissed on myself
as if I'm thinking Chinese

I have been very near
the Gates of Death
& have returned
very weak & an Old Man
feeble & tottering,
but not in Spirit & Life
not in The Real Man
The Imagination which Liveth for Ever.
In that I am stronger & stronger
as this Foolish Body decays.

-William Blake

For Mom and Dad

Kind loving gentle soul parents
nothing but love for you

I apologize for my misgivings
for pushing further
than most need to go alone

I'm so sorry
you had to fly to California
to be by my side
see me so utterly broken
plugged by needles and tubes
so many machines surrounding
as death ruled my world

I struggled for life breath
as you paced waiting rooms
for news and chance reconciliation
crawled from hell & high mountain
when all was darkness cold
promise only of more suffering more pain

Light hurt sound anguishing
everything discomfort
sleep evaded
I couldn't fathom survival this way

But you pushed me
willed me to try and make it
through confused circumstance
disability intruding routine

Life balanced precariously
on dancing blip of green line
trachea regulated ventilator air
feeding tube for liquid goop

My body once so tone
shriveled away
bones poking through
you provided what comfort you could
resigning to love me
in whatever way was possible

Family is one of those sacred words
whose meaning is not a birthright
but evolved through situation

It must be nurtured by lesson
celebrated by story
having been granted special provision
ultimate struggle
and in some instances seeming tragedy

Thank you both so much
I love you in ways
words could never reveal


Wounded Limbs

My friend & nurse Ellen
throws sunflower seeds out on the ground
as soon as she is done
all the animals come around

Families of cardinals doves
6 squirrels & a couple of jays
here as the sun rises
they stay until the evening of every day

The older cardinals fly in first
whistle to young waiting in the tree
with brief hesitation children fly down
knowing it's okay to feed

One of the Jays larger than the rest
chases the other birds away
the doves are the only to hold ground
& if their around the others will stay

Over time I see their changes
seasons of growth to life outside
still recently broken I'm shattered
unsure of what I might write

September 24 of 1994
hitchhiking our van careened off a hill
now May of 1995 a new year
and I'm still deciding how I feel

We lost our brakes on a mountain in Cali
plunged 85 feet to the ground
I tried to get up realized then
I was paralyzed from neck down

After tragedy one can easily give up
lose hope of gathering any faith
seems there's nothing left to live for
do I even have the strength

Time to waste away
give up now that I can no longer move
A brief moment of tragedy left me
with what seems nothing more to lose

In a dream I dreamt I walked away
freed from the prison of my bed
I was able to move in full capacity
unlike all those doctors said

I went to find a nurse shocking her
everyone was fully surprised
How could I step away from this
great tragedy in my life

It was then that I woke up
still unable to move
the joy in my heart dissipated
depression ensued

Hopelessly suicidal at first
my mind felt betrayed
though I always felt close to Spirit
motionless here I lay
Feeling life to be over
better I should die nothing could I do
Couldn't wipe away tears I cry
couldn't run I couldn't move

Couldn't scratch my head
or even blow my nose
Couldn't feed myself
or put on my own clothes

Never had I contended before
how people became paralyzed
& what that exactly meant for them
so different in daily life

How things can drastically change
in the wind of just one breath
How it seems that we walk always
one moment away from death

It's taken me nine very long months
to get my head kind of straight
For me to even want to begin to deal
with this strange twist in my fate

The greatest struggle now
gather what's left of the unbroken
quiet the crazy mind of thoughts
associated with being broken

This is the longest journey I've ever wandered
hardest role I've had to play
Definitely the strangest trial I had to bear
in what is the weirdest quirk of fate
Old friends disappear unable to cope
with friendship in this way
But there are newer friends to replace
those who run away

Must place emphasis on what's eternal
a life in the immortal journey of soul
Keep it all in perspective
watch it all unfold


Waiting Room Families

Unable to cope
with weird situations
scattered thoughts
that cross their minds
I feel compassion for those parents
crying to pass the time

Seeing their children broken
hanging on a whim
Facing dire circumstance
chances nil to slim

Peace to you in nights you try to sleep
exhausted but still awake
wishing there was something you could do
anything but just wait
Grieving hearts painfully sad
a million questions to the Lord
I say to you never doubt the path unfolding
for those whose destiny seems strange reward

Remember how to laugh
and try not to worry excessively too much
Watch your own health rest and nap
slow down your pace no rush
Don't waste all your moments
wishing it the way things were before
That's all past history now
those realities exist no more

Great Spirit bless the parents of this world
who bear the brunt of hurt
So difficult is it for them
having to do all the work

Bless us Great Mystery with smile
a gesture of your grace
So we may be strong in hope
in the trials we now face

My mother my father
no greater blessing there could be
The strange bond we now have
stemming from this injury

Condescending Facade

"What's wrong?" "How did it happen?"
"I'm sorry. You'll get better one day."
Judged and I'd never even met them before

My mom a Deacon in her church
was told by members of the congregation
that I must have been engaged in sinful living
for me to be so struck down

In order that I might walk again
it was imperative that I be saved
in accordance to the ways
and beliefs of her Church
otherwise remain 'unworthy'
of the Lord's consolation

They said if I prayed enough
and deserved it
everything would be fine
that God would redeem
my rampant living

She believed
which made it all the worse

Many from the congregation came to see me
in the hospital
praying over me preaching
while I huddle away cold
drowning in blankets
racked in horrific pain

I didn't want to see the overhead light
much less the strange faces of people
thinking me an obvious sinner

There could be no hell
worse than this
sense disorientation
piercing agony like I'd never known before

They didn't know of my past
that I'd done ceremony
in the desert alone
fasting and praying
inviting Spirit to circle

They assumed I needed to be saved
could they believe everybody in hospital a sinner?

I've experienced incredible 'religious' moments
circumstance indescribable
to nonchalant conversation

They'd never understand telling me
'their way is the only way'
the rest would burn in hell

They said I must accept
they know what's right

I said "Hey, hey let's skip the sermon,
speak from the heart
see where Spirit leads conversation"

"You're not the only ones
doing the work

Let's share the lessons life imposes
screw squabbling over differences
in language or idea

The same rain that feeds the Earth
showers all people without regard

Let's talk heart to heart
not war over belief systems
but seek to reunite
the separation causing
your judgment of my condition"


Crippled Saints

We went to the movies
6 of us
3 walking 3 in chairs

Freezing though the sun shone bright
we saw "Powder" & sprinkled tears

Racing back to catch the sunset
night beat us home
drinking spiced cider
I warmed enough to write this poem

Powder offered his gift
to those unabashed by his looks

Bringer of dawn
he spread cryptic moments
on dying gardens in need of summer roses

How true for so many
wearing the mask of disability
souls eclipsed by passing fates

Treasures to bring
secrets to share
they pass us by
totally unaware
of the jewels
lining our pockets

One day all the stories
will have been written
all the roles played
the curtain will go up
& like old times
we'll create thoughts
for which are no words

Newly disabled
rediscovering the joys of life
I am what Spirit intends for me to be
stronger even with new promises to keep
& reason to keep them

Life as a quad is not so bad
just different
being a Leo
I always thrive on being center attention

The initial loss of freedom
movement & control
left broken questions
in a shaken mind
unsure of life
with such peculiarly quiet
though sometimes lively limbs

Over it
I tend to see myself now
as somewhat of a King
though I do what I can
some things I can't do
I don't mind not doing at all

No less human being disabled
still living passionately
growing accustomed
to the new look
in a stranger's eye

Where once looks of hunger prevailed
now looks of wonder reveal
curious discretion

The soul behind the mask
is always free to dream

Once rippling washboard abs
feet and fists
like hammers of lightning
able to heal or hurt
activate or alleviate pain

The body I so endearingly
stretched and shaped
formed from blood sweat and tears
through thousands of hours
beating away at unforgiving bags
journeys to other dojos to fight their best

Even if I knew
I'd do it all again

So what if my stomach swells
and my hips widen
paralyzed what's your excuse?

So I'll go through this life allowing
pretty nurses to give aid
comfort in awkward instances

Intimacy certain
humor a must
one life obliging
over zealous individuals
looking for opportunity to lend
an always appreciated hand

No better way to meet a friend
than in asking for help
with a door

A Different Way of Being

Another day passes yielding to night
candle fade cascades to shade
Keenest silence ample time to write
I'm recollecting events decisions
that I've made

Extremely weird
this different way of being
so much time to entertain thought
Almost used to waking
in this weird kind of dream
unsure still
what it is I'm being taught

What of this time
marred by natural disasters
the many predicaments testing our race
It is a time for each of us to master
conditions we are in
struggles we now must face

Misunderstood the weird quirks of fate
in battle who decides
which of us should fall
Why some die immediately some to wait
why them why us why any at all

Speculation about life
how we ever came to be
seeking answers to questions unknown
Here I am pondering improbability
knowing some lessons all must face alone
There must be reason to endure
something to thrust want to survive
Life key enchanting its allure
the most awesome blessing just to be alive

Each carries rocks
though some carry boulders
each a cross a burden to bear
Some are like Atlas
the world on their shoulders
carrying more than what seems fair share

Sometimes it's hard to confront pain
endure sorrows felt in heart
Sometimes our own thinking
drives us insane
the faith we struggled to gain falling apart

Scales are weighed measured in the end
though we live this moment
struggling right now
We'll be together forever all of us again
the suffering of our souls
redeemed somehow

We must pleasure in simple presence
consciousness in this enchanted world
sun dawning smile of spring flowers
Like the innocence of young boy or little girl
delighted with life
every second of every hour

Sensory satisfaction is pleasure for soul
everything new we have again chance to do
Never surrender dreams or the struggle for goals
hold fast to faith
angel grace will pull us through

The moment's effect entrances mind
a miracle every scene that passes
life is but a dream
& dreams fade with time
like hammers of lightning
happening in short flashes

Such a blessing to be alive
part of the creation
thank & praise the Creator
Each moment we have of life
each rising day falling night
each memory is
another sunset to savor

Challenged Existence
-For Beth Tumlin and Catherine Stefanavage

Parents of children with disability
are pushed to experience
the kind of unconditional love
that life in traditional mode
never gives challenge to know

Those that make it
facing uncertain circumstance
battling every prejudice
label and expectation
bless you
your commitment will be your reward

You will know parenting
in ways most are never
determined to know
or chance to receive

Love that withstood withstands
giving definition
worthy of its stature

Love we've yet to realize
the propensity of the word
sort of like All or One
holding everything
in one syllabic embrace