While Not in Other News

For the last six and a half weeks, my 81 year old mom has been undergoing radiation treatments for tongue cancer, cause undetermined. She finishes on Friday a “tour of duty” of 33 treatments. Her mouth is raw; her throat is swollen; she is weary. The doctors told her she would need a feeding tube to make it through the therapy. She said “no tube.” Her friends at her senior independent apartment complex, the generous cook in the kitchen of that complex, the kindness of an assortment of drivers, amazing doctors, nurses and technicians at our local hospital, and her desire to keep on doing what she does every day–eating with 102-year-old Lenora and her other friends in the dining room and watching her soap operas–has kept her going. She has grit. Now, with one treatment to go, she has lost 6 pounds instead of the 25-30 the doctors predicted. No feeding tube.

Many headlines have splashed across the news waves this week. I celebrate in this poem news that does not make the Times but that does make a difference. My mom said today what I think is true about life in the midst of so many troubling headlines: “Things happen to us. We are human. We just do the best we can.”

“Egyptian Air Plane Crashed into the Mediterranean”
the week the doctor phoned to break the news:
“Biopsy Is Positive for Cancer”
A life sentence, headliner understated,
one of many.

Eighty percent survival rate;
Eighty-one year-old woman with an
eighty two year life expectancy.
so the doctor said.

Stubborn senior citizen
expectant of everyday life until death
is escorted on the arm of a shiny blue walker
into iron man battle.

Thirty-three excursions down Radiation Way;
Thirty-three high dose zaps to the tongue;
Thirty-three days of taste wasting away.
“Pulse Nightclub Massacre: 49 Dead”
“Zika Arrives in the U.S.”
“Alton Sterling Shooting Sparks Protest”
“Five Dallas Police Officers Fatally Shot”
“Summer Olympics Begin with
Uplifting Spectacle in Gritty Rio”
and Tina in the kitchen
down at the Cypress Gardens
apartments for senior adults
stirs up milkshakes three times a day
even though they are not on the menu
or in her job description
so mom, boosted up, loses six pounds
instead of the 30 they all said she would
with no feeding tube against all life expectancies.

Fortified by 102-year-old Lenora,
91-year-old Doris,
91-and-a-half-year-old Ruth,
and 70-year-old Mary and her 2001 Buick LeSabre
with the extra-capacity trunk,
determined octogenarian perseveres
while doctors and nurses cheer, amazed.

“Hillary Broke the Glass Ceiling” last week;
while not in other news
mom shattered expectations, gained 1.8 pounds,
four more tours to go:
“I’m with her.”

Breaking

This poem emerged as I thought about news stories and headlines I encountered last week (April 3-9, 2016).  Many other things also happened, but those referenced in the poem capture some of my ambivalence and worry about how we imagine and talk about life today. The poem also celebrates the ways people “walk on” through and in spite and in the face of life-denying headlines. Note: Doris Day’s dog is named “Squirrely.”

They gave up the ghost this week.
No more walking dead

for now

except the comatose American economy or is it “finally waking up”?
My neighbor with the zombie car battery
who can’t get her to her minimum wage, 25 hours a week job
four miles away
doesn’t think so.

And Apple? showing its age “maturing”

while Doris Day
“turns 92, shows adorable pic with her puppy”
Squirrely

Meanwhile
Alabama governor’s future “looks bleaker”
Cruz and Sanders celebrate in Wisconsin
Mississippi protects “sincerely held religious beliefs”
Pay Pal decides not to login to North Carolina
Tennessee designates the “Holy Bible
as the official state book.”

Newsfeeds are push-back-from-the table full
while “Conflict in Eastern Ukraine leaves 1.5. million people hungry.”
Perhaps Tennessee will feed them now?
“If you offer your food to the hungry. . .”

Breaking news
Breaking into homes
Breaking onto shores
Breaking out
Just breaking
hearts
spirits
dreams
lives

But mere clicks away from Flipboard and the front page
a mama puts a Hello Kitty band aid on a skinned knee
a large hand holds a small hand as first steps are taken
a young man breaks bread with a grieving grandma
Bailey learns to ride a bike
and Chris says no to the bathroom bully.

Season finale: walking dead
It’s time, don’t you think?
to walk
away from the headlines
for a little while anyway
one foot in front of the other
alive. Finally.