Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On Rectitude

I pity you, Dear Reader.  The richness of life's tapestry around me calls up this pity, this sadness for you and what must be, by comparison, a bland and monochromatic existence.

You poor thing.

When you look out your bedroom window, you aren't gifted with the best-crack-dealer-on-the-block's cheery wave.  You don't know that the color of the day is green.

Just yesterday, it was red.  Our dealer sported red trainers, baggy jean britches -- with the fabric crotch a mere two inches superior to his knobby knees -- patched with scarlet pockets, and topped off the ensemble with one very backward baseball cap, cardinal brimmed.  His t-shirt was high tech, some sort of wicking material, and sternly black, the better to make the red shine.

The kelly green for the day does not quite work.  It's neither editorial nor a suitable fashion irony.  Let us hope his dope makes up for his design deficit.  He was working the phone, as usual, when he looked up to give me the highest five.

Back to your pitiful state, Reader Darling.  You were not greeted at your waking by the Feline Triumvirate, working together as a tight, tight trio.  Buddy the Outrageously Large Maine Coon was in charge of attacking the door and all major vocalization.  It sounded like a freaking tornado spinning out in that gaudy gilt and velvet hall. Marmy of the Fluffy Butt paced behind the other two, whipping that marvelous tail with each about-face.  It was kind of nice to hear that staccato undercurrent of her gutteral *ack*::*ack*.  That leaves the rest of the feline phenomenon in Dobby the Runt's domain. He was toe-tapping, rat-a-tat-tatting, bringing some soul to the beat they had going on.

I had shut them, and Fred, too, out.

The Spaz chose Easter Sunday to begin an all out blitz of my ragged nerve endings and my CRPS-afflicted attachments were flailing about with all the abandon of their resurrected joy.  It was hell.  It was the purist of agonies.  I kept yelling "He is Risen" out the Computer Turret windows -- more lead than glass pane.

I've declared war on my tendency to curse.  Hence, screaming "He is Risen" and, for some reason, "Ichabod Crane." For a week or two, it was "Christ in a hand basket," until Fred informed moi that that was, sniff, common.

So, anyway.
Right!  The Easter Spaz Attack and the Eviction of All Living Beings From the Bedroom.

Fred left of his own Free Will -- to continue tossing in Christian textual pearls.  I had hobbled to the bathroom, the best bathroom in our West Wing suite, the one with the Lotus Pool.
I wanted a space in which I could scream at will -- nothing to do with "Free Will," this screaming. It was a holler that demanded its own Appalachian valley.

When I came out, a very crooked smile pasted on my blotchy face, Fred was gone.  Along with his triple-decker sandwich and his grape soda.  La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore is on tour with her troupe's most successful staging of Faust in decades, so I didn't have her or her entourage to throw out.

There was no one but Dobby.  Ever faithful, that little one.  He may be paid under the table, though, I don't really know.  I'd like to think he loves me enough that when everyone else flees, he runs toward me, the burning building, the swaying tower about to crash into waves of toxic cinder.

That may be overstating things a bit but it's my blog, not yours.

Much of yesterday's behavior was dictated by a visit to Dr. Go-To-Guy and Super Nurse Justine.  I did not even bother complaining of rabies, of CRPS sadism, and they attributed every bit of aberrant jerking to my aberrant personality, and the usual fever and chills.

Shake, rattle, and roll, My Babies, shake, rattle, and roll.

There is a sad tendency being played out in doctors' offices throughout the world, and when we all feel better, we need to stand up and change the damn channel.  I am referring, of course, to the prevalence of CNN on waiting room televisions.  Yesterday, I fought back by bringing my copy of Mother Jones to mix in with the Smithsonians and the well-fingered, tantalizing People magazines.

I underscored my CNN protest and my central nervous system maladies by an endless commentary on the purported "news." Things the receptionist may have heard:

"Yeah?  Well, I think you're oxymoronic."

"Yeah?  Well, why aren't you reporting on the dying baby Puffins on the Maine seacoast? The tragedy of baby bird fish food that is too large for their tiny beaklettes!" 

Most of my verbiage followed the "Yeah? Well..." formula.

So, Fred, Dobby, Marmy, Buddy, and I cruised around the Metro Tête de Hergé freeway pretzel while I hummed off key at high volume.  It about killed me to be in such pain, to be spasming to beat my cacophonous band, and not to be able to talk about it, admit it, show it.  Unless that off-key humming at high volume clued in my trapped audience somehow.  The dimwits.  

The sweet dimwits.

Sven Feingold was waiting by the moat when Ruby the Honda CR-V screeched to a halt just short of its pristine waters.  The sweet dimwits fairly peeled out of the car to interrogate him on his reasons for standing guard and to escape the putrid gaseous quality of Ruby's atmosphere.  Turns out Sven was just taking a break from some Maze work -- topiary saps his strength.  He knocked off for the day and joined us all for a fish dinner I had promised to cook.  We invited the best-crack-dealer-on-the-block but he was too busy organizing lookouts and runners, much in the way we used to get up a good softball game late in the breezy afternoons of my lost youth.

Well, that didn't happen. The dinner, I mean. People lined up to beg me NOT to cook, and to "go rest." I gave most of that crowd the "Yeah? Well..." treatment.  And I went to our suite to go rest.

My legs were dancing like a hopped-up whirligig.  There were four packages from Amazon dot com awaiting my penknife's slash.  I had ordered:  4 bottles of Valerian Root that were on a kickass sale and four canvas container thingies, designed for me to "organize" my CDs and sundries, an effort to make my office even cooler a place than it already was.  

Someone at Amazon dot com has gone batshit crazy about shipping.  I always request the option that offers the fewest shipments as possible, trying to curb my large carbon footprint.  I did not request "free 2-day Prime."  So why, barely 24 hours after placing the order, did I have four large boxes to unpack.  One box held one of the stackable canvas container thingies.  One box held another of the stackable canvas container thingies and three bottles of Valerian Root.  One box held two stackable canvas container thingies, stacked.  And the last box, unbelievably, contained one bottle of Valerian Root and what looked like an entire box of green puff pastries, those Earth-friendly biodegradable supersized bubble wraps, tied together like salamis.

So, anyway.

I hope you begin to pity yourself, as you gauge your empty days against my full and abundantly purposed time.

Having made it to this morning, it was something of a hoot to be invaded by the domestic animal family and to appreciate its loving idiosyncrasies.  Little Dobby gave me a "don't try that again" warning look and then demanded a double grooming.  That means making the perfect jug of coffee and then letting it grow cold because his tiny white belly needs brushing and bubbles blown.  The coffee ends up seeming fine and Dobby stays on his back a good while, emitting pheromones of love and peace, and mixing biscuits upside down with precious tiny paws.

"Yeah, well, His is Risen, and you can just kiss my Ichabod Crane."

Don't forget, Dear Reader, I can hear every thought you can squelch out.

Buddy watched the Dobby Double Grooming Routine, hooting softly at the appearance of the second jug of coffee being set aside to cool.  Then Buddy got That Look. He's part engineer, part artist.  He's very Leonardo. I regret naming him "Buddy." The folks at the no-kill shelter had named him "Munster," as they had given the whole Maine Coon kitten clan discovered at a local horse farm (the tiny kittens sheltered under a Budweiser Clydesdale runaway, attuned to the plight of abandoned young...) the name of a cheese.  As we witnessed the destruction of which the young Maine Coon proved capable, "Munster" began to seem more appropriate than the mundane "Buddy," even though his heartening habit of sticking right with you, no matter what (except for CRPS spasms), engendered that name. He was "our buddy," and soon responded to the word, so we let it be.  

Now I think "Bubba" might be suitable.  He has that wild look, and an indecipherable eye twinkle.

So Buddy got That Look.  He's been perturbed by the hospital bed since its arrival in January.  Never mind the problems of three cats staking out three territories on a bed this small, because when you add me to the problem, my body becomes land to which a feline must lay claim, and my body bears the bruises and scars.  The comfort provided by the bed is often offset by the aches of the cat fights over its ownership.

Buddy is the most delusional of all.  He thinks it's all his, including the pale, jerking human form that takes up most of the actual mattress area.  He understands the controls and is the only one not to flee when the bed suddenly begins to move, or the trapeze slaps gently against a metal pole.  But he cannot conquer the affliction of the bed rails. He's grown since his arrival, as you've likely gleaned, my smarty-panted Reader! There are four entries to the bed that are essentially trails around the rails. Simply avoid the suckers.  Simple enough, you'd think.  It's good enough for Dobby, though he also likes to arrive via the wheelchair parked alongside the bed.  He enjoys leaping over the rails with the verticle assistance of the power chair.  If I am behaving within parameters, he will jump and land between my feet.  If I am misbehaving, violating some Dobby protocol (failing to groom being the most likely), he plants his pointy, pokey paws right on my legs and I scream at him while he trims his toenails.  But Buddy... 

Buddy wants to make his entrances to the hospital bed by coming between the rails.  It is a small space.  Granted, he's a cat, and cats can fit into the oddest places.  This feat, however, is not about fitting into anything -- usually a box -- but about passing through something without becoming stuck in it -- usually, again, a box.  You are likely familiar with the famous Maru.  Buddy is no Maru.

This morning, the gods of engineering and Buddy's personal artistic muse smiled upon him and he found the necessary alignments and twisty turns necessary to leap between the rails without need of rescue or first aid.

It was beautiful.  
And it's now something he wants to do again and again.
He's solved his problem;  I've acquired a new issue.  For the moment it is solved by a stopgap blockage of the passage with a quilt.

Marmy, for her part, is demanding that standards be upheld.  She has fussed at me in the manner of mothers the world over, a funny thing for such a heartless queen, she who left kittens scattered willy nilly about the floor as she stalked off, the bubble over her head proclaiming, "You want milk?  Suck this!"  I reminded her of how she quit in mid-delivery when Dobby was trying to be born.  I got a "Yeah, well, *your* mama..." as retort.

She did her job.

I remember protocol.
I know what I am supposed to do, and what I'm not.
I'm trying.

For Sven, I've sketched out a few topiary fixes.  He's putting in a whole English Boxwood section memorializing Alice's Trip Down the Rabbit Hole and the Mad Hatter is driving him crazy.

For Fred, I'm preparing the aforementioned fish dinner, with fresh vegetables and a careful hand with the herbs.  I'm also taking a boat load of Baclofen, so that the filet knife and I shall be an interesting pair.

I won't bore you with the complete list of my tasks, my jobs, the things that people deserve without the pressures of all that asking and answering nonsense.  

For Mother Earth, I've but admiration and intention.  See the beauty, big and small, usual and not so usual. See the ugly, and its needs, its wonders, too.  Pick up the yellow plastic newspaper wrapper stuck on the drainage pipe. Get mad about our radiated oceans.  Save a Puffin.

I pity you, Dear Reader.  The richness of life's tapestry around me calls up this pity, this sadness for you and what must be, by comparison, a bland and monochromatic existence.

You poor thing.

beautiful redundancies: happy birthday season, sweet pilgrim

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Public Service

Okay, so I stole this from the UC-Berkeley News Center do-jobby.  I don't think they'll mind, and we all could use reminders of provenance.  You know, where stuff comes from, how stuff starts.  We should honor how things come to survive.  Thank you, Stefanie Kalem, for this text which I have stolen.  I see that you name yourself one "Wordy McWorderton" on Twitter, so odds are that you're a good egg.

I didn't know that The Dead funded the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic... that makes it almost... family!

Haight Ashbury Free Clinic founder receives Haas Public Service Award
By Stefanie Kalem, | April 16, 2014

When David E. Smith  was first finding his professional footing as a doctor, altruism wasn’t exactly valued in the medical community.

“Public service was out. If you did public service you were not a real doctor,” he says. “In my era, I had to get into a countercultural revolution that was anti-establishment in order to get into public service. And while that’s interesting historically, it’s not a career path.”

It is, however, a path that led him to be honored with the 2013 Peter E. Haas Public Service Award during a Cal Day ceremony. The award was established in honor of alumnus, philanthropist and distinguished Bay Area civic leader Peter E. Haas to recognize Berkeley alumni who have made significant contributions to improving society in the United States, particularly at the community level.

As a freshly minted physician in late-1960s San Francisco, Smith saw the psychedelic scene up close, and — with so many young people flooding the city to “tune in, turn on and drop out” — he saw a healthcare need he couldn’t ignore. And so, in the summer of 1967, he started the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, providing free medical care largely funded by benefit concerts by the Grateful Dead and the clinic’s other neighbors.                                                                                                          

But what may have seemed a seamless solution soon took on a darker color. With soldiers returning from Vietnam, the drugs got harder and the disaffection became palpable. “We deliver nonjudgmental care,” says Smith, evoking the mantra of the clinic’s particular brand of health care, which has evolved into the board-certified practice of addiction medicine. “The vets came to our clinic because they were so alienated from society and the government.”

Along with the Bay Area group Swords to Ploughshares, the clinic worked with veterans settling in the Haight. But the increased patient load stretched the benefit-concert funding model thin. Luckily, another Berkeley alum, Richard Frank, joined the cause immediately after graduating in 1971 and served as CEO during that difficult time.

Frank, who nominated Smith for the award, now heads the Smith Family Foundation.

The issues of that time bear a distressing resemblance to the present day, with more and more veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with substance- abuse problems. The clinic — now part of HealthRIGHT 360, a family of programs that also includes Walden House, Asian American Recovery Services and Rock Medicine — still treats veterans, and anyone else who needs nonjudgmental, holistic care.

“To this day,” says Frank, “David offers his time and prioritizes his assistance to those needing addiction-treatment services and advice.”

Ground zero for the AIDS crisis
Though Smith didn’t expect the clinic to survive so long, the organization weathered the ensuing decades, holding firm to its founding slogan: “Health care is a right, not a privilege.” This became even more apparent during the early days of the AIDS crisis, for which San Francisco was, once again, ground zero.

“We were right in the middle of all these major sociocultural changes and epidemics,” Smith recalls. Through the clinic’s work with IV drug use and methamphetamine users, the organization got involved with the gay community and saw how AIDS sufferers were being ostracized. “A lot of people who were recovering from addiction came down with HIV,” he says. “And you’d visit them in the hospital and they were treated like lepers.”

The Free Clinic and the other programs of HealthRIGHT continue to work with vulnerable populations.That’s good for the bottom lines of the state of California and the city of San Francisco. “Every case of HIV that we prevented saved the system $170,000,” says Smith. Every emergency-room admission Rock Medicine reduces while providing care at concerts and other events saves the system $1,000, he adds, while every dollar in treatment saves seven  in health and social costs.

“We can demonstrate how Cal graduates working in the public sector have saved the state hundreds of millions of dollars,” he says.

The awards ceremony was attended by Smith, Frank, friends and colleagues from throughout Smith’s life, and students from the Peter E. Haas Public Service Leaders Program, a three-year-old campus program supporting students committed to public service. One such student was rhetoric major Joshua Tovar, who sees a parallel to Smith’s life in his own.

”My upbringing ignited my passion to serve youth from impoverished communities because I could relate to them,” says Tovar. “Berkeley gave me the outlet to put my passion into practice.This is what connects my experiences with that of Dr. Smith — it’s Berkeley. It not only gave us the academic rigor to pursue successful careers, but also the theoretical framework to see social injustices occurring around us.”

Smith is grateful to UC Berkeley not just for the foundation it built for him early on, but for how it embraces public service on a systemic level that goes all the way to the top. He cites the support of Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, the Haas family and the campus as a whole for its enduring commitment to the value of public service.

“UC has embraced this while maintaining high-quality research and education, which hasn’t happened on the East Coast,” says Smith. And the very human through-line of his legacy to the future — as edified by their Cal connection — is evident in the public servants of tomorrow.

“Dr. Smith,” says Tovar, “is a true icon for aspiring and current public servants to look up to.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Phoenix, Merlyn, Patriarchs and Colonels

This weekend, I am finishing the fifth Harry Potter novel -- The Order of the Phoenix -- and I think I'll shed a few tears over The Book of Merlyn.

But mostly, I'm going to be leafing through One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Autumn of the Patriarch, No One Writes to the Colonel... 

and other stories.

I've always been more sure of Gabriel García Márquez than of magic realism.

Monday, April 7, 2014

as i crawl beneath the rug, and retune my piano...

I've been avoiding you, Dear Reader.  That's something of a compliment, as the avoidance is based on my assessment of your acumen.

It is no secret, my modus operandi in writing most blog posts.  There are a few topics whose past treatment requires continued treatment:

  • CRPS breakthroughs
  • CRPS in daily life (including humorous leitmotifs about do-it-yourself amputation and the joy of suicide) 
  • Any findings in the case of lost child Lindsey Baum 
  • The reliable turdification of José Ochoa (lately, I've investigated the immense amount of money wasted on him by government grants, but gastrointestinal responses have precluded publication of this research) 
  • The scam CRPS / neuropathy treatment CALMARE / ScramblerTherapy (again, I've a half-written post on the hilarious background of its inventor and his woo-science, dedicated to the creation of a machine that spews electricity like a Fountain of Youth -- never mind the obvious idiocy of mixing water and electricity) 
  • Oh, and should my nausea subside, I am overdue in checking in on where the good Dr. Scott Reuben is malpracticing, and in what way

For a bit, I would regularly rag on Phil McGraw and some of his weirder acolytes, and while that was a gratifying release for simmering undercurrents of sadism, I'm trying to stop feeding that easy-peasy awful part of myself.  Now I just follow their shenanigans when late night efforts at mindfulness and distraction via YouTube cat videos fail.  Besides, one day my vision cleared, and I discovered my gratitude for the Unweird friends made while cavorting with McGraw's Chronic Pain Support Group.

By the way, Dear Reader, you've no need to feign shock at my admission of sadism.  On a good day, it makes me something of a Juvenalian satirist.  On a bad day, okay, I get a slight titillation from asshats getting their due... but not to the extent of paraphilia, or a personality disorder. Ignorance drives me batty and I am daily thankful for my innate, unfailing superiority.

It's also no secret that my navel-gazing can get in the way of what might be decently mediocre pseudo-journalism.  I write more about suffering due to CRPS, osteomyelitis, lupus, and osteonecrosis -- all hilariously related -- than I do my ardent political leanings, or other areas of ardor.  Do I wish my knees were worn from kneeling at some other altar than that of the personal?  Oh, yes!

Referring to your acumen, again, Dear Reader, it's clear that this blog is an attempt at therapy, written in as lively a way as I can pull off so that no one will wander the side halls of detritus.  I am writing my way through the remains of a life, deeply sorry for having wasted it so, and therefore frequently embarrassed by my strung together words, the over-estimation of serendipitous thought caressing circumstance.

There are circumstantial caresses that became blessings -- some fleeting benedictions, some amazingly enduring beatific guffaws. People I've met online, mostly.  Writings I'd never thought to have read had not some virtual friend made of them succulent, enticing fare.

One of those blessings is my friend "Peaches," an actual author, a man of the world, familiar enough with life to inflict suggestions as if it were his prerogative (by virtue of being so old, I tell him.. or dream of telling him, one day... one sadistic, wonderrful day!).

Yes, that's right.  I want to meet Peaches.  As much as I want to meet TW, Carol, Diana, Joyce, Benita, Tom, Betty, Fresca, T, and even some who have wished me ill, but in an inspirational way.

Peaches calls me Irene.  I call him "Peaches" because of a phrase that someone stuck into mine head years ago, in a late afternoon patio conversation at a Telegraph Avenue trattoria.  My memory is muddled, but I believe we trampled over Shakespeare and T. S. Eliot before someone declared someone else, glass raised, "a prince, a peach, a pear."

Since that chilly afternoon, spent over perfect antipasto and ignored obligations, I've found no higher praise to offer other beings than that they were "a prince, a peach, a pear." Roasted peppers and marinated artichoke hearts, spiced meats and bursting tomatoes, there was neither peach nor pear in the offing on our rickety cast iron table, rocking the red wine.  So the phrase is of even more value, its provenance being so wondrously lost.  Sadly, it casts its own restrictions -- I never use it to praise, or shower with abundant love, women deserving such approbation.  It has become a sort of obscure pillow talk, the pillow partners more in tune with its vast smooch galore than with its elusive ancestry or culinary provenance.  The role of the house red, delivered in a series of carafes, probably merits further investigation.

I remember the walk home, to a brand new private apartment on one of Oakland's first streets to cross Telegraph, leaving behind Sather Gate, crossing Bancroft and the cafés, book stores, tables of dangling earrings, poseurs, beggars, travelling to home, paper trash swirling, our awareness of danger waking, coffee our first plan before grading.  Funny, but the guy walking with me never was candidate for prince, or peach, or pear.  A good writer and sometimes great poet, he was a fraud, and the essence of the laudatory phrase lies in the genuine.


Peaches lives in New York City, the old fart.  He is a faithful friend, but that means, of course, frustration at my "here today, gone tomorrow" nature, a nature unaltered even by friendship or blood relation.  I've been under the radar, or, believe it or not, quite concise, these past few weeks.  Still, Peaches fires off an email every few days.

Like today:


In the dark here.... How're you doing?

Bless his heart, Peaches reached out at a moment when I was navel-gazing, seriously lost, seeing no way out from neurological jokes and jerks, pain bad enough to create tears in a body seriously dehydrated from constant fever.  He just wanted an answer.  I wanted a rescue buoy, garrish orange against the cresting teal.

beware, peaches, i've been avoiding writing anyone.  why?  the proof is in my outdated packets of yeast, my bread that will not rise.  i am in a baguette phase.  i'm also heavily medicated at the moment, which means you should stop reading NOW, content to know that i remain irene. i've been promoted from 100 mcg of fentanyl to 150 mcg patches. the joke is that the pain is stronger but there's just no point in making that known.

but, to answer your concision explicitly:

hey, i am DOIN'.  i am DOIN' (that's southern) the best i can.  

very briefly, last week, fred and i concluded that it was up to each of us whether our respective day would be good or bad.  we crowed and strutted, convinced that no circumstance has the power to inflict a "bad" day.  harrumph -- we don't even know what a bad day IS. complain?  whimper?  moan or groan?  ha!  not us!

that lasted three days and then we took a break.

i'm fine, peaches.  frustrated, sad, guilty, tired -- all of which i shall put aside once the fredster rises from his eight layers of covers to take on the day.  yes, fred is a layer fanatic, something he said he learned about in both brooklyn winters and in the huge temperature variations of the ethiopian desert.

well, there is one thing that sucks.  my eyes are going bad again!  and not in any polite subtle way, either.  i had a brief period of being able to read again and was enjoying the literary send off into sleep, no matter how tedious the novel. we are both working our way through minette walters, a very hit and miss affair. i find her interesting when she lets her inner sociologist sing. when she aims at popular success, she's tedious.
being able to read also meant a complementary tub of plain lowfat yogurt with frozen strawberries. it's become impossible for me to read well without the creamy tang of yogurt and the icy comfort of frozen fruit.

when reading goes, it's a musical bedtime, the lullaby a string of rolling stones' songs -- or, these days, the decemberists and early, easy-breezy, very cheesy brett dennen.  

last night was kind of wonderful, drifting off to phil ochs' "the party," which actually made me think of you... and a few other upper crust sorts, and the cocktail parties you must have both enjoyed and endured.

there's a funny aspect to last night's nocturne, the evocation of monastic hours --  in a completely messed up, annoying way -- beyond the cheapo-cheapo piano, designed to set the teeth on edge.  and then there's phil's voice.  hmm, best i move on, eh? 

some time ago, in asking around about phil ochs' "the party," one of my american lit professors recommended i read... tom wolfe's radical chic & mau-mauing the flak catchers.  

unlike my literati betters -- and that means everyone around me -- i suffered mental origami, a conflation of tom and thomas.  flashes of "golden moments," and so, i have to ask, have you read much tom wolfe?  i realize that the scales tip in favor of look-homeward-ish-ness than anything by the journalist author, who saw himself as a brutally honest zola.  and how many occasions have you had to smile politely at some idjit such as myself, mixing wolfe & wolfe, a heathen playing at americana?

so much happens so quickly in the brain, even a brain seeking sleep.

see? i'm DOIN'.  and while i admire concision, i live for word play... 

"And my shoulders had to shrug
As I crawled beneath the rug and retuned my piano..."

all my best to you and yours, and apologies for ruminating all over your email. it should blot up easily with a paper towel. my last sentence ought to be the first:  how are YOU (and yours), sweet peaches?  


(One hint to how the piano was made even more schmaltzy?  it was a series of plastic toy pianos...)

The Party

The fire-breathing rebels arrive at the party early
Their khaki coats are hung in the closet near the fur
Asking handouts from the ladies, while they criticize the Lords
Boasting of the murder of the very hands that pour
And the victims learn to giggle, for at least they are not bored

And my shoulders had to shrug
As I crawled beneath the rug and retuned my piano

The hostess is enormous, she fills the room with perfume
She meets the guests and smothers them with greetings.
And she asks, "How are you" and she offers them a drink
The countess of the social grace, who never seems to blink
And she promises to talk to you if you promise not to think

And my shoulders had to shrug
As I crawled beneath the rug and retuned my piano

The beauty of the hour is blazing in the present
She surrounds herself with those who would surrender
Floating in her flattery, she's a trophy-prize, caressed
Protected by a pretty face, sometimes cursed, sometimes blessed
And she's staring down their desires
While they're staring down her dress

And my shoulders had to shrug
As I crawled beneath the rug and retuned my piano

The egos shine like light bulbs, so bright you cannot see them
Blind each other blinder than a sandbox
All the fury of an argument, holding back their yawns
A challenge shakes the chandeliers, the selfish swords are drawn
To the loser go the hangups, to the victor go the hangers on

And my shoulders had to shrug
As I crawled beneath the rug and retuned my piano

They travel to the table, the host is served for supper
And they pass each other down for salt and pepper
And the conversation sparkles as their wits are dipped in wine
Dinosaurs on a diet, on each other they will dine
Then they pick their teeth and they squelch a belch saying
"Darling, you tasted divine"

And my shoulders had to shrug
As I crawled beneath the rug and retuned my piano

The wallflower is waiting, she hides behind composure, composure
She'd love to dance and prays that no one asks her
Then she steals a glance at lovers while her fingers tease her hair
And she marvels at the confidence of those who hide their fears
Then her eyes are closed as she rides away with a foreign legionnaire

And my shoulders had to shrug
As I crawled beneath the rug and retuned my piano

Romeo is reeling, counting notches on his thighbone
Searching for one hundred and eleven
And he's charming as a child as he leads you to his web
Seducing queens and gypsy girls in the boudoir of his head
Then he wraps himself with a tablecloth and pretends he is a bed

And my shoulders had to shrug
As I crawled beneath the rug and retuned my piano

Oh, the party must be over, even the losers are leaving
But just one doubt is nagging at my caustic mind
So I snuck up close behind me and I gave myself a kiss
And I led myself to the mirror to expose what I had missed
There I saw a laughing maniac who was writing songs like this

And my shoulders had to shrug
As I crawled beneath the rug and retuned my piano

-- Phil Ochs

Friday, April 4, 2014

Skull not that of missing Lindsey Baum

Mystery skull found in Washington state crab pot yields few clues
Published April 03, 2014
Associated Press
Authorities say a human skull found in a crab pot off the Washington coast belongs to a female, but it doesn't match anyone in a national DNA database.
The Grays Harbor County Sheriff's Office says the skull found off Westport was sent to the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va., and run through the Combined DNA Index System. No matches were found.
KXRO-AM reports the DNA profile did indicate the skull is from a female, and her age is unknown.
The Sheriff's Office says the results show the skull does not belong to Lindsey Baum, a 10-year-old girl who disappeared in June 2009. She was last seen leaving a friend's house in McCleary, about 50 miles from Westport.
A fisherman found the skull Feb. 21 in a crab pot about 2 miles off Westport in water about 100 feet deep.

Noblesse Oblige

One of the Noble Professions?  It doesn't feel that way.  Now it's more of an accusation.  I was just reviewing some of the fond recollections left at an online review site for some English prof to whom I am happily related, and came across an oldie but a goodie:

complete and total dick. thinks english is the most important thing in the world, and like most professors, has his own take on what is good. It will take you the first two C papers to figure out his style and he will fail you on the last paper for over-doing it.

That's okay.  I'm sure such reviews hold no sting for Brother-Unit Grader Boob, particularly given that professing is most ennobled by poverty wages and enriched by a systemic dearth of benefits.

Then, too, there are always the Warm Fuzzies arising from student appreciation.

Grader Boob is a great teacher, funny, caring, and with high expectations.  But, yeah, it's true:  He does have his own take on what is good. Like most professors.

Anja Niedringhaus: "...I should never take war as normal"

Anja Niedringhaus
October 12, 1965 -  April 4, 2014

[C]an you offer an insight into your motivation to continue to cover conflicts?

"It's difficult to answer the question of my motivation to keep covering conflicts. Maybe it is because I learned early in my career about how to cover conflict, I am not sure. But when I decided to go to Yugoslavia to cover that war on Europe's doorstep, I had the feeling that there is nothing more important in life to cover. I think for me to be a true journalist means to cover conflicts because sadly, in the last 20 years, there has not been a single year that I have not seen a conflict.

"But the world is not only about wars and conflict. Life has to have balance as does my work. I try very hard to keep that balance in my work. I cover also sports and political events and papal trips.

"That balance keeps me sane and reminds me that I should never take war as normal. So even today after witnessing so much war, I still arrive at a conflict filled with wonder at how this can happen and feel for the people and the soldiers caught up in the conflict. I see how their lives have been turned upside down by war.

"The day I enter a war zone and think it is normal is the day I will stop covering wars."

A U.S. Marine dog handler attends to his his Improvised Detection Dog, after he was injured and rescued by a helicopter of the U.S. Army Task Force Lift "Dust Off", Charlie Company 1-214 Aviation Regiment, in Helmand Province, on June 3, 2011.

A US Marine on his way to pick up food supplies after they were dropped off by small parachutes from a plane outside Forward Operating Base Edi in the Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan, on June 9, 2011. The smoke in the background comes from burning parachutes the Marines destroyed after they reached the ground.

Sarajevo:  "People tried to carry on as usual..." 1990

The War Children, 11 September 2010, Afghanistan

Injured U.S. Marine Cpl. Burness Britt, after being lifted onto a medevac helicopter, on June 4, 2011. Britt was wounded in an IED strike, a large piece of shrapnel cutting into a major artery on his neck.

Bali, Indonesia, 25 November 2013

Thursday, April 3, 2014

On the Bow

It may shock you to learn that no one but you, yourself, is responsible for your well-being.  There are sweet people who, by virtue of their job description or their innate goodness, will attempt to be of assistance and cheer, but it's not possible for them to make things right for you.

If you are going to insist on despair as your legacy, at least have pity on these kind folk, though they rarely need protection from us narcissistic idiots, having learned the secret of personal responsibility in utero or at the knee of a benevolent adult.

Turns out that my gracious Go-To-Guy, concierge physician to the stars, is under the weather, so our appointment is off.  Feel better Go-To-Guy!  However, being an orderly sort, I'd also arranged a needed visit to the pharmacy down the road from his office, his office being many, many miles away from Marlinspike Hall.  So the trip cannot be avoided.  This was enough to bring on tears and declarations about how I simply cannot bear the pain.

Then Buddy required a wheelchair lift to the kitchen -- he simply could not get there on his own. Necessary to the voyage was his stance on my lap, butt firmly fixed against my chest, chin raised against the sea breeze, his pose as close to Kate Winslet on the Titanic's bow.  I suppose, though, that Buddy'd prefer I say it better approximated the moment of Dicaprio's declamation: "King of the World."

Once shrimpy kibble had been served the Feline Triumvirate, once Buddy was convinced there was no available human food hid in my pocket, coffee was set to steep and my fine wardrobe transferred from the washer to the workhorse dryer.  Madame Marmy flaunted her fluffy butt, her wayward tail drifting into Buddy's food bowl now and then.  Dobby eyed the progress of the coffee, and precisely at the time of its distribution into mugs and such, he scurried to my hospital bed, as The Law clearly states "[t]here shall be no consumption of hot coffee, topped with a slight milky froth, until such time as The Runt, commonly known as 'Dobby,' has been brushed and in receipt of an ardent belly rub, as well as a tender cleaning from his eyes of that material called 'gunk.'"

In the precious conversational period book-ended by coffee intake, Fred and I did a quick gloss of the well-being concept with which I opened this post.  We even covered guilt, depression, and pharmaceuticals.  In dire need of a shower, I made public confession of my inability to take one. Moving right along, however, we did manage to agree that when he commenced his own shower, I would hobble to the half-bath and do a magnificent wash up at the sink, while seated on the toilet.
In sparkling synchronicity, we will emerge, like Venus on the half shell, cresting the waning waves as one, and hop into Ruby the Honda CRV and set out to do what needs to be done, impervious to the Human Condition.

We have two pharmacies to visit.  One for my drugs, and one that has prepared a compounding version of medicine for Marmy Fluffy Butt, who has a terrible case of the feline version of Crohn's disease.  We are having the medicine put in liquid form and chose a nice fishy taste to mask the terrible flavor of the drug.

The vet, the wonderful Dr. George, whose last name only an intrepid few attempt, gifted our girl with a Tranquility Collar.  She seems proud of it, its royal nature declared in purple hues, and displays it proudly, although with no signs -- yet -- of the promised tranquility.  She still believes Fred has betrayed her, allowing unspeakable examinations of her private regions, forcing foul-tasting goo down her throat.  She clings to me, and glares at him.

We hope that she will be fine, and soon.

Have a good day.

© 2013 L. Ryan

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Go-To-Guy Meets Obamacare

Crumpsall Lane Primary School

NOT a primary school in Manchester, Great Britain

Some people think I'm mad for retaining the services of a "concierge" physician when I've successfully run the marathon of applying for coverage through the HealthCare.gov Marketplace, set up by that wonderful bit of legislation known as the Affordable Care Act.

Okay, "Obamacare." Jeez.  A girl tries to deflate the negative connotations of a term by providing and modeling alternative linguistic monikers and is shouted down by her imaginary millions of Dear Readers.

Yes, I've adequate and affordable coverage now, and desperately needed it.  But nothing has changed, really.  Even when I had wonderful but not so affordable coverage under the ACA's early version of Obamacare -- the PCIP (Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Program) -- that began back in 2010 and saved my miserable self, I was considered mad for retaining the services of my Go-To-Guy and his flat fee service, then under the aegis of MDVIP.  He's no longer with them, he and his partner.  They're Wild Medicos.  They've gone rogue.  They're MDVIP without the corporation around their neck.

Go-To-Guy saw me through several valleys of death, always opining, in his crisp dark suits, understated cologne, funky eyewear, and with all of the surety of a hardheaded grandmother: "This, too, shall pass." When I had no insurance, he kept me on, and kept me OUT of the hospital. Why was I uninsured, being a bona fide State Employee 'n all?  Because my Bizarro World version of BCBS decided it was fair to charge me $1513 a month as a premium, with a deductible over $5,000.  So while it wasn't a game, it might have been a sporting challenge for myself and Go-To-Guy, as he kept dozens of balls in the air, and never let one fall to the ground, not even once. I became dirt poor, got sicker, but did not die, mostly out of a desire to see my staid and superb doctor kick major butt. Undoubtedly a conservative sort, he hooted and hollered and did backflips when Obamacare was passed, because then I could finally get the surgeries I needed, and the medications that he preferred, instead of the ones that Walmart sold for $4.

It was fun introducing him to the real world.  "Really?  You've got to be kidding!" became the standard iterative upon which all of our problem-solving conversations were built.  I doubt he's ever been in a Walmart.

The real Go-To-Guy is a compassionate, insightful, incredibly well-informed physician who decided that he wanted to return to the art of medicine as well as perfecting his scientific approaches to care. He was tired of dealing with insurance companies and rushing through patient visits -- though, having been with him a good decade before he changed his practice model, I can attest to never once having felt that he was timing the visit or needed to be anywhere but where he was. That's not to say he hasn't had his moments of rapidly rising color from chin to brow, complete with beads of sweat, and a cramping hand grip -- moments when I'd touched some nerve or other.

Go-To-Guy believes in the best of people.  He's shocked by any anecdote that relays an example of less than outstanding human behavior.  He's cute that way and I figure that attribute to be an excellent counterweight to my inbred pessimism.

And yes, there's that business of him saving my life a few times, and there's that aspect of acute intuition bolstered by being up-to-date and actually listening to this whiny, bitchy patient with the weird cluster of diseases.  Truth be told, however, the next time he is going over labs or a radiology report, muttering to himself, and I hear... "That doesn't make any sense... but this is Retired Educator, so who knows?" -- I'm going to bop him on his pate.  Well, as my reach is shortening and my strength waning, I probably could only whack one of his bony knees.

But... with the improvements being made in the field of assistive devices, add a flowery cane or a rubber-tipped grabber, and I could infict serious damage almost anywhere on his lanky body.


I see Go-To-Guy this week for the first time since January.  We maintain an email correspondence, mostly consisting of Q-and-A sessions and my need to vent.  This meeting will be our first when, technically, I have another physician serving as "primary care provider."  And so, I imagine we will still do a soft shoe rendition of quizzing and catch-up, medication reviews, but now he won't be able to order labs or imaging, or write for meds.

What shall I call my new Primary Care Provider, a young, inexperienced, very pregnant, well-intentioned and woefully-unprepared physician in her second year of practice?  Go-To-Guy and I had gleefully thought to outsmart my new ACA Market Place HMO by slipping the list of available providers to his partner's wife, who works as a hospitalist for the same HMO.  We giggled and called her our "mole." The mole eliminated my new Primary Care Provider straightaway, first thing, with nary a hint of hesitation.  Next to my new Primary Care Provider's name, she wrote, in caps, "NO." Then Our Mole underlined her capped "NO."

NO.  Okay. I bolded it and turned it red.

Mole-guided, I picked the guy with sterling credentials, 15 years experience, row upon row of accolades, and the highest approval of the hospitalists with whom he worked.  I made the appointment and the acid levels in my stomach decreased.

And so, of course, at my first "Meet and Greet" appointment with this fine doctor we chose, talented physician dude announced that, unfortunately, his patient load was already too large, and so, like a snake, he transferred me to the medico who had been branded with the capitalized, underlined negatory.  I must have looked like a large-mouthed bass hungry for oxygen as my lips flapped in the overheated exam room.  He did slip in, the sly devil, that she was scheduled to go on maternity leave in May, and that he would probably pick up my care during that time.

Why insist on choosing that facility?  Why there?  I dunno, really. It's brand new and everyone is super nice, super efficient, super interested in customer service evaluations.  There are onsite lab, radiology and pharmacy services.  The truth? I had visions of needing to flee, and hoofing it over to the safety of Go-To-Guy's office, one street over, and the adjacent two hospitals, in case I needed urgent care. Perhaps, too, a compulsion to talk politics might come over me and there's no one better than Go-To-Guy's gatekeeper nurse, Justine, for potty-mouthed dissing of right wing extremist asshats.

Having now had my second "Meet and Greet," I think I will call my new PCP "The 17-Minute Uh-Huh."  This commemorates our first encounter, spent ordering most of my medications, during which "uh-huh, uh-huh" was the response to each medication I pronounced aloud.  Well, actually, the "uh-huh, uh-huh" began to arrive mid-drug name after the first three prescriptions.  I was getting peeved, but then a strobing pink light induced seizure activity as she interrupted a response with: "Our 17 minutes are up!"

The 17-Minute Uh-Huh has many redeeming qualities.  She's cautious.  She can explain the parts of the ear in great detail (I am having that benign kind of vertigo that comes on whenever I turn my head to the right!  "So don't turn your head to the right!").  This was at our second meeting, brought on by a high temp, a high white count, the aforementioned benign vertigo, and a messed up thyroid assessment that kept stomping its little computerized feet and claiming I had both Hashimoto's hypothyroid AND Grave's disease.  Since everything else defied logic (she's new), The 17-Minute Uh-Huh glommed onto ear physiology.

But I will have a hard time getting over her blank look upon hearing "CRPS," and the aha-moment when I offered up the acronym "RSD," instead.  The trigger of a vague memory brought on the explicitly memorable: "Oh, yes!  Something Sympathetic Something!"

Go-To-Guy has this annoying habit of pulling out some electronic device and looking up things he does not know, or to verify information.  He's particular. And he loves learning. He has other habits I've noted through the years, like the first time he saw me after I "developed" CRPS.  Actually kneeling on the floor, he was carefully examining my right foot -- at the time, the only visibly afflicted part of my body, and that was only a subtle blue hue and swelling, despite the outrageous pain there and in my left hand and forearm. Well, my left hand had a "claw" formation, but I don't like remembering it, so I'll forget it again now. He asked permission before touching the thing at the end of my leg -- compare that to Jose "The Turd" Ochoa and his reputation for suddenly grabbing at affected limbs; compare that to the countless doctors, nurses, and aides who have poked, grabbed, and stuck needles in that region without warning, much less permission.  There are two nurses and one doctor who learned the lesson well when I kicked them in their respective midsections -- I was semi-conscious and on a respirator at the time, if that absolves me at all of such violence.  It doesn't, of course, but all three were wonderfully forgiving.

See how I run from what needs saying?

At that time, the day Go-To-Guy first saw the purported foot, the orthopedic surgeon responsible for its pitiable condition, was Dr. Eric Ward Carson?  Let's get philosophical and call him the Thick Necked Truth Deflector.  In the beginning, there was a different word, a different descriptive expression, very stylized, ladylike:  Dr. Doo-Doo Head.  He denied, deflected, referred, mumbled, threatened, demeaned... did everything but diagnose and treat the obvious.  It was after weeks of that barrage of crap that I saw dear Go-To-Guy.

Me:  "Dr. Eric Ward Carson says this will go away, it's not a problem, I'm over-reacting, and that there is no such thing as CRPS.  He says that CRPS is a psychological disorder."

[In desperation, I had seen a partner of Dr. Carson's, someone very trustworthy, who had replaced my right hip the year before, and had referred me to Dr. Carson for the left shoulder replacement gone woefully awry.  This partner took one look at my leg and said, "Oh no, you've got RSD..." He then went on to deconstruct the acronym, and introduce its pal, CRPS, writing it all out on the crinkly paper covering the exam table.  I still have the bit of paper.  It was my first clue to what was causing so much pain and... well, you know my tiresome litany.  He urged me to see Dr. Carson as soon as possible and start treatment.  But, as I said above, Dr. Carson's reaction was to deny the evidence before him.]

Go-To-Guy:  "It is very real, it is not in your head, and yes, you have it. I'm so sorry."

Why am I ruminating on this bad stuff today?  The mail.  In one large envelope, I received a copy of the labs and my "current problem list" from The 17-Minute Uh-Huh.  In another large envelope, I received a copy of my records from the neurologist I can no longer see -- the Hawaiian-shirt sporting genius, in shorts and Birkenstocks mid-winter, who made the "official" CRPS diagnosis in 2003, who ranted and raved about the cover-up operation put into play by Saint Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta, Dr. Doo-Doo Head, with the ample and able assistance of Doctors Leslie Kelman and Steven Sween.

This Stylish Neuro-Guy, seeing my confusion (at that point, pure fatigue), had grabbed a big book, what we love to call a tome, dedicated in its entirety to CRPS / RSD, and flipped to the big, bright, colored photographic section... and there I was.  "See!  This could be you!" He even loped out to the waiting room to drag a sleepy Fred into the exam room.  "See!  This could be her!"

No, that's not how it reads in the medical records.  There, I am an "unfortunate woman." There, I am diagnosed clearly with causalgia, not RSD -- or in the modern parlance, with CRPS Type II.  Why does it matter?  Ultimately, it only changes a bad attitude.  Doctors who still resist the diagnosis of "RSD" will sing a different tune if you change the name to "causalgia." And there are those who do the same if you say, "I've CRPS Type 2, not Type 1."  The difference relies on the identification through EMG, or nerve testing, of nerve "lesions" as the cause of the neuropathic pain in the path of that nerve. Stylish Neuro-Guy identified three separate nerve lesions, two in my right leg, and one in my left forearm -- the original sites of injury.

It's not a cause for rejoicing, this shift in designation.  In any event, now I have both Type 1 and Type 2, as the disease spread from left arm to right, and right leg to left.  The facial involvement was God's private joke.  But there were times I might have been able to shut up some Talking Irritant by producing the EMG results.  It never occurred to me to get copies, as the "treatments," or lack thereof, are the same, no matter the type.  Causalgia / Type II is taken more seriously because it has demonstrable proof, and, I guess, because its "outlook" is more dire.

So that's why this is all spinning in my head.

Because here I am again... reinventing the wheel with "Oh, yes!  Something Sympathetic Something!" and referrals to the same orthopedic surgeons who have already tried their damnedest to save my bones, likely infected at the time I "acquired" CRPS.  Oh, to take that moment back.

Here I am, still fighting bill collectors who are calling to grab illegal "balance billing," stuck in a wheelchair and a freaking hospital bed, reliving the diagnosis with each newbie doctor, repeating tests that do not need repeating and that has done nothing but grind, grind, grind in the reality I'd be best served to forget.

My new Primary Care Physician, The 17-Minute Uh-Huh, still has CLPS listed as Number One on my Problem List. I wonder what that stands for?  A quick search turns up:

CLPS Colipase Pancreatic
CLPS Closest Lattice Point Search
CLPS Criminal Law Policy Section (Canada and Australia)
CLPS Calibration Lamp Power Supply
CLPS Common Logic with Power Supplies
CLPS Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science
CLPS Crumpsall Lane Primary School (UK)

I'm going to go with... "Common Logic with Power Supplies." I definitely have huge problems with common logic, and power supplies?  Don't get me started!

So, heck yes, my mocking detractors, I will forego my one Diet Ginger Ale a day, consider halving my coffee intake, eat canned tuna in lieu of fresh tilapia, cut off television service, sell whatever I have left to sell (a food processor, meat grinder, and a snazzy fondue set), to pay for access to Go-To-Guy, my concierge practitioner, who knows to ask permission before touching the thing attached to the purported limb adjacent to my rotting right hip.  He's my back-up, my reassurance.

He's Go-To-Guy.

2013 L. Ryan

Monday, March 31, 2014

Braden Hofen

Hi, Dear Readers --

I'm pulling my head out of... the sand just long enough to ask that you send glorious thoughts, wishes, and prayers of hope into the amazingly blue ether in the name of young Braden Hofen, who is receiving a bone marrow transplant from his brother Zach in just one-half hour.

Short notice, but the universe can handle it.

As can you.

He's one of my four (more or less) CaringBridge kids, and he's an interesting lad.  He's autistic, yet quite social, and a hot shot basketball player.  He's in isolation, as his immune system has been destroyed (on purpose) in preparation for the arrival of Zach's cells at 1:30 EDT.  The chemotherapy and its accompanying woes has not slowed his Nerf swooshes and 3-pointers.

His mom, Deliece, had a cancer journey herself, so she has too good an understanding of how he feels and a well-nourished hatred of the disease.  It is Braden's second cancer, his first having returned, and this current leukemia the gift of a "side effect" of the treatments for the primary disease.  A truly suckifying situation.

Here is Deliece's request.  I've never met her or Braden, but have read enough of her prolific and expressive accounts to know that she'd rejoice over a simple nod to the sky on behalf of Braden and Zach as much as she'd thrill over a formal Mass at the Vatican.

You can follow and catch up on their story at Braden's CaringBridge site.

A request...
1 hour ago
Hi Army,
I will save the explanation of how things are going right now but Zach was AMAZING and Z-Force is rocking it out! The doctors got a good cell dose and Zach is in recovery, smiling! I'm beyond proud of him!

We just heard that the cells are going to be transfused into Braden at 12:30 central, 1:30 EDT. I have a request for you. Would you please take just a moment at the appropriate time in your zone and send Braden and Zach positive thoughts, prayers, hope, whatever your heart leads you to do?

We have made this request a few times in the past when we have had significant events that were going to change the game. This is one of those moments...it's Braden's last chance. These cells MUST engraft...and frankly, engraft quickly to spare him greater complications, they MUST kill any remaining cancer cells, and they MUST be vigilant and take out any returning cells that may appear. Braden's organs must be protected for the rest of transplant.

That is what we need and we need the Army to hope for us now. Each time we have done this at a collective time, we have been able to literally feel your arms around us holding us up. You are our Aaron and Hur.

Together, we can do this. I completely believe the army is one of the major reasons Braden is here to fight this battle. Your hope, you believing in him...and now Zach, your prayers MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Please share with others and ask them to do the same. There is no such thing as too much HOPE!

Thank you everyone!


cANCER...you are going DOWN!  


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

For Dobby (Again)

a repost from last summer. it is never wrong to extol this little guy.  i find him sitting quietly next to me as i do my squirming, spazzing, and screams. he's more helpful than any pharmaceutical; he's pure love, our dobby.

*****   *****   *****

dobby under his brother fuzzbucket's lovingly applied rear naked choke.  dobby is always the wronged one, hence that haunting little star face, pleading for rescue. he remains 90% angel and 10% house elf.

For Dobby

The mucus sac of clammy grey
held you in its strong stone shade,
but who ponders the amniotic tint 
of mirky placenta?

(One is more challenged by its slime than its hue --

except that there was iridescence:
a window in, and a mirror refusing entry,
both; a slick uterine shimmer
repeating reflection's echo
between attraction and repulsion.)

A feral mother's long hairs spun
the moisture of birth into unctuous yarn, 
luxurious snowy strands coated
in melted sanguine maternal mystery,

the all serenaded by mewled complaint
as she gave up on you, the final kitten.
Liquid eyed, she hissed at last, and spat,
glared at us and at life's mess: her first four.

A wriggling membrane, half born, 
flashing nebulae of twirling bright whites,
intimations of very pink punctuation, dotted
outrage, hasty hints of pearlized claws and
anxious padded feet.

He grabbed hold with a ruddy hand muscled with curved strengths 
and gently pulled you from asphyxia, out of oxygen's debt 
and the dark, dank chambers of the queen.

He set the globe of you on my rough teal towel
whose one swift rub broke the holy seal
of the tiny one she'd given up on. 

The stars a forehead, a chest placket. 
The pink whorls a pert nose, perfect ears,
a confusion of paw pads --

but most of you as pearly glaucous 
as the original waxy package.  Tucked 
next a bulging teat, the warmth of dried
and silky siblings, you chose to climb
your mother's head instead --

and perched, drowned rat of a runt,
content, asleep, upon her silken nape, 
blind, cold, and born.

© 2013 L. Ryan