food jumps off my fork, typing and writing requires as many corrections as accurate words, i have to sit to pee, aspiration, blah, blahh, blahhh

How Lucky I’ve Been

By Mac Greene

 

When I was a kid, I climbed everything,

Trees, fences with barbed wire, construction scaffolding.

We even climbed up to the high school roof with our bikes on our shoulders,

Riding around on top of the world.

I never fell.  I never broke a bone.

When I pulled myself up a rocky ledge,

I never grabbed a sunning rattlesnake.

When we blew up firecrackers in soda cans,

I never lost an eye to aluminum shrapnel.

When I crawled hundreds of yards through storm sewers,

I never drowned.

When 20 or so kids, including my friends and brothers

Were arrested for breaking into the high school cafeteria,

The police didn’t come for me,

And I was never arrested at an anti-war demonstration.

 

When I swam after the dolphins, there were no sharks following them.

When I got exhausted, the tide did not pull me out to sea.

When we rented a canoe at Seneca and dragged it through the woods to the rapids of Great Falls,

We did not drown, although others did every year.

When we rented a rowboat in Florida and decided to go swimming,

Nobody lost a leg,

Although coming back we saw people feeding marshmallows to the alligators.

 

When my parents drove from bar to bar, careening down country roads,

Making spur of the moment U-turns on Route 301,

With us kids cowering in the back seat,

We never crashed.

When I drove drunk or high on LSD, I never crashed either.

When I smoked pot in my taxicab almost every night for five years,

I was clean on the two nights the police searched my cab.

 

When I raced the city bus at 30 m.p.h. on my bicycle with the lawn mower engine,

Gerry-rigged brakes and throttle, and no helmet,

I didn’t crash and suffer permanent brain damage.

When I raced down the 18th Street hill on my bicycle, still with no helmet,

It wasn’t me that hit the opening car door and was thrown to my death.

 

When I drove 24 hours (many times) from Sarasota, Florida to D.C.

And nodded out,

I didn’t crash and kill myself or a family of five in their station wagon.

25 years later when I drove 24 hours (many times)

From Hudson, Wisconsin to Martha’s Vineyard

And nodded out,

I didn’t crash and kill my family of six.

 

When I walked through inner city streets at 2 a.m., terrified,

I was never mugged.

When I left my boys alone to drive my cab all night, the apartment didn’t burn,

No one broke in, and neither boy had appendicitis.

During five years with no health insurance, none of us were ever injured or got sick.

The bear didn’t maul us when it stole our food, twice.

We didn’t step on the copperhead when we fled to the pickup.

When I drove that pickup from Utah, I did get back to D.C. with 40 cents and half a tank of gas.

When I drove that pickup to Quebec, making repairs along the way,

We ate cabbage for a week, but I got back with 18 dollars.

 

Alex didn’t die because the umbilical chord was wrapped around his shoulders

Instead of his neck.

After a week of frustrated labor, Alex didn’t pull the placenta out and Erica didn’t bleed to death.

Lydia didn’t die in the NICU.

Sophia didn’t die of appendicitis.

When the twins were a few months old, Erica and I put them in snugglies and went hiking.

When the path disappeared on the edge of an overgrown, crumbling cliff,

We kept on instead of backtracking, and no one fell into the river.

 

Ariana didn’t die of alcohol poisoning.

The scorpion that bit Alex was not poisonous.

None of us leaned against the tree in Costa Rica

Where the highly venomous Eyelash Viper was resting on the bark at shoulder height.

Traveling the world over, our plane never crashed,

And we were never kidnapped or murdered by terrorists.

None of the kids fell off the roof, not even Alex and his stoned friends.

His drunk friend didn’t drown when he fell in our pond.

 

Having polio at 27 months old, I still walked and hiked and wrestled and rode bikes,

And got a 4F that kept me out of Viet Nam.

Growing up with alcoholics, I became an intellectual and created an alternate dream.

Never knowing love, I learned love from my sons.

Painfully awkward and socially ignorant, I still found the love of my life.

When I was only somewhat honest about my lack of a bachelors degree,

I still got into graduate school and obtained my professional license.

I was only accepted to one graduate school, and one internship,

And I was offered only one job as an assistant professor.

A cabdriver and a hippie girl became a clinical psychologist and a pediatric endocrinologist.

Living dollar to dollar and paycheck to paycheck for most of my life,

I found myself in the top few percent of family incomes.

 

As an infant I slept in a drawer, because my 18 year old mother could not afford a crib.

My first memories are in a farmhouse without plumbing.

I grew up in a crowded brick bungalow.

But now I live in a great big house full of art and books, and everything we need.

With five acres of gardens and yards and woods,

Where I sit on a summer morning, looking at flowers,

Distracted by birds and cicadas, listening to the wind and the bees,

Seeing hummingbirds and butterflies,

Marveling at the golden sunshine reflecting from the pond, rippling on the tree trunks,

Writing about how lucky I’ve been.

 

July 9, 2007

Here is a springtime haiku: — vultures also a sign of spring — last week i had a new experience while walking the dog: a vulture, then 8, 10, 25, 30, finally over 50 turkey vultures. heading NE instead of South, but definitely a spooky reminder____of something. we are surrounded by these little mysteries/miracles

scroll down for an update on the pumpkin oddity

 

Oddity

by Mac Greene

One Year Later

One year later, and we still carve pumpkins even without the kids to motivate us.  We went to the same pumpkin patch and enjoyed all the young families, again.  This year there was a corn maize, which was fun in the daytime.  But it clearly could have been scary at nighttime, with costumed monsters leaping out unexpectedly, brandishing axes. and sadistic leers.  This year we only got two pumpkins and a handful of decorative gourds.

 

Once again, Erica carved a jack-o-lantern that was bold and symmetrical, with just a touch of holiday horror.  Notably, hers was crying with stylized tears running down each cheek.

 

I decided, again, that I would not carve a conventional jack-o-lantern.  I was thinking Picasso, broken symmetry, surprising or upsetting, all the disconnects of modern alienation.  So I carved a set of slashes that is vaguely similar to a face, nicely balanced cuts.  Sharp!  Erica says it looks like the victim of an axe murderer.  That is close enough to showing my resonance with the fear that originally defined this holiday.

 

he says “fine

while cringing with the truth

 

October 27, 2019

i wanted to track down a chimney swift colony. but i procrastinated and they are now in South America. i found last years pumpkin piece. see what you think. and an update on my Treatment Plan. JUST SAY YES.

Oddity

by Mac Greene

 

Mid-October, we went to a pumpkin patch full of young families, kids petting goats and climbing a pyramid of straw bales, the hay-ride tractor coming and going with squealing children and grinning parents.  We wandered about, pushing a red wheelbarrow as we chose four medium-sized pumpkins each with a broad side for carving.  I was curious to find a green pumpkin with orange lines down the creases, the very opposite of the expected.  Of course, I chose it for myself.

A week later we had our jack-o-lantern carving party.  To my disgust, the green pumpkin was rotten on one side.  I cut out the rot, figuring that the open side could be the back.  Without really thinking, I carved the eyes and mouth drooping down.  I made solid circles for the center of the eyes, and sharp spiky teeth.  But my coordination was not so good and my green pumpkin was not so firm, in the beginning stage of complete rot.  My jack-o-lantern, lacking the artistry and crisp execution of the others, was quickly labeled “the sad monster.”

Little needs to be said about the man with a degenerative disease, an oddity, apparently normal but rotting nonetheless, sad in the presence of monsters.

 

Halloween …

let there be no doubt

about monsters and demons

 

October 30, 2018

 

Update – October 20, 2019

    Mac’s Treatment Plan

 

The goal for the last six months or so has been to change anything necessary in order to fully enjoy each day.  I am in a degenerative phase of PD, moving downward to an altogether lower level.  It is painful and exhausting to walk, robbing me of the single most enjoyable part of my life, reaching back to age 2 when I had polio, resulting in my unspoken singular fixation on walking and hiking.  Erica and I have not yet fully grasped what this new deficit will do to our lifestyle.  Second, I had to accept that I cannot prepare any more poetry compilations.  This is due to a prominent cognitive symptom:  intolerance for complexity.  This will eventually rob me of my core identity as an intellectual, although for now I can still enjoy intellectual play.  But with the poetry books off the table, I can much better live in the passing moments of each day.  Third, at this reduced level of existence I am vaguely sore in most of my body most of the time, with a general malaise, and I am vigilant for physical and social slip-ups.

 

  1. I attend Rock Steady Boxing, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, finished at 11am. Challenging exercise, heartwarming camaraderie.  I will be starting Cycling Without Age in two weeks.
  2. I work in my career as Clinical Psychologist, Tuesday 8am – 6pm, Wednesday Noon – 7pm, Thursday 8am – 7pm.  I do not need the money, but I love the work and it is very good for my morale.
  3. Despite the pain and exhaustion, I walk the dog almost every day, and ride my e-bike whenever I can.
  4. I call my children as often as I can. And visit for 3-day weekends as frequently as possible; as long as I can still travel independently.
  5. I write poetry on Saturday and Sunday when Erica is at Yoga, and on Monday and Friday after Rock Steady.
  6. I am still following my PD Motto: JUST SAY YES, no matter how I am feeling, so Erica and I are going to concerts, dinners, and other events.
  7. In-between times, I do puzzles (KenKen, Sudoku, crossword) with only minimal guilt, because I truly enjoy them.
  8. Since unexplained weight loss is a PD symptom, I can now eat cookies and chocolate any time, as part of my treatment plan!

 

 

October 20, 2019

Hello everybody. Be alert for “murmurations” when 100’s of starlings perform the most graceful and elaborate synchronous flying – kind of like a dancing Mobius strip. I am close to having a lifestyle that is full of enjoyable activities. The biggest loss was giving up the compilation of any further poetry books – i am not up to the cognitive demands. giving that up frees me to just live each day. today’s poem is about that magic which we all assume but seldom name.

Illumination

for Alex

 

by Mac Greene

 

I have loved my dreams for fifty years,

which does not mean that I remember

more than a few from all that time.

I remember the light

in those evanescent, tantalizing moments,

when I straddle two worlds, suffering

like Moses, to see the Promised Land,

but not to enter.

 

I am educated in the principles of dream

interpretation, Freud’s strait jacket,

Jung’s God-Force everywhere.

I know that Dreams open doors

to other places in the lands of spirits.

where every dream-thing is freighted.

 

For fifty years, I awaken

to a green golden glow.

Not quite blinding, it refreshes

heals, invites, invigorates.

The dreamworld evaporates,

leaving nothing but light,

which interpenetrates,

suffusing the world in blind joy.

 

I do not recall people or places in my dreams,

neither tasks nor fears, loves or regrets.

But I will always envision the green gold

which glows behind, within and all around.

 

October 7, 2019

Here we go again. Today we will talk about the universal fear of the codger class.

Speed-up

by Mac Greene

 

I am slowing down, fast,

to the next lower level.

  1. Post-polio:

I cannot run;

it hurts to walk.

A half-mile and I am exhausted.

Stand while talking at any social gathering

and I gradually lose my balance,

tipping to the front, tipping to the side,

looking desperately for a chair.

I can only hope that vigilance

will protect me from that fatal fall.

  1. Dementia:

Every sentence has a hole in it.

If I am lucky I will find the word or a good substitute.

If not then my entire discourse will stop

like a de-railed train,

the back cars crumbling into the engines.

I often ask my listener to help me out,

“What was I saying?”

  1. Exhaustion

I mentioned that already.

I am content to do nothing.

I think I’ll take a nap                                                                September 25, 2019

 

Victoria’s Secret

by Mac Greene

 

Today I forgot to pack a shirt

for changing from gym clothes to office wear.

For about two seconds, I considered going to work in a t-shirt,

before backtracking home, 15 miles in the morning rush.

I tell this to no one.

 

In every conversation,

I forget my point, or anecdote, or joke two or three times.

When I remember, I insert myself anyway,

because who wants to be left out?

 

One fine day, I forgot how to insert the ignition key.

 

Shhhh!  Don’t tell anyone.

 

 

October 2, 2019

 

Whoopee! Look what I Got also read today NY Times: 2.9 billion birds gone missing due to habitat destruction and excessive pesticides.

PARKING  PERMIT  FOR  PERSONS

WITH  PHYSICAL  DISABILITIES

by Mac Greene

 

I did it, partly as a wry gift to Erica,

who hates those long parking lot walks.

Imagine the convenience:

we will never again look for parking.

What a breezy sense of entitlement,

we just drive up to the front door,

almost like a named spot,

“For Mac and Erica Only!”

 

Did I say Entitlement?

I now have a special right

based on PHYSICAL DISABILITIES,

which include  post-polio syndrome

flaring up 70 years later,

steady decline in the strength of my legs.

miserably slow, painful walking, poor balance,

stiffening tendons and joints.

 

A wry gift to Erica?

Things are clearly awry

when a handicap hangtag is a gift.

My first idea was us laughing about it,

because I don’t even mind parking lot walks.

 

Now I think that the hangtag is one more

affirmation of degeneration,

one more attempt to normalize the abnormal,

one more reminder to myself and all others,

that my life has changed,

irretrievably.

 

We are still waiting for the joke.

 

September 20, 2019

 

I’ve been thinking about where to go with this. I’ll let you know when I know. In the meantime, here is a heavy one followed by goldfinches.

You Don’t Know How You’ve Changed (said angrily)

by Mac Greene

 

You think I don’t know that I have turned into a frail old man?

that I have become tired, fearful,

quickly overcome by crowds and multi-tasking,

that I don’t push hard enough on doors,

or pull hard enough to open packages,

that I’m afraid of losing “it”.

I did leave fifty dollars in the ATM at Target.

I haven’t lost my keys or glasses or car

but I’m afraid of the day when I can’t drive,

because then I can’t go to work or the gym.

I’ve already given up night driving,

It takes 5 minutes to put on my boots

and my underwear ends up backwards as often as not.

Food jumps off my fork; drool spots my shirt.

I have peed on my foot.

You think I don’t know

that I triple check and still forget…something?

You think I am unaware that I lose my words

and quickly re-phrase or let my listener supply the missing word.

How often do I ask, “What was I talking about?”

 

Yes, I know I’m slipping away,

that little pieces of me are getting erased.

August 5, 2019

 

Who knows?

by Mac Greene

 

Here, at the far end of summer,

goldfinches are dressed

in their fine new feathers,

brilliant yellow, handsome black,

fully presentable for a king’s Ball.

 

They chitter as they eat

seeds plucked from thistles,

throw themselves out of trees

on a rollercoaster of song.

Straight out of Mother Goose,

they warble on the wing…

but who knows whether the songs

burst forth on the down glide,

or the upside?

 

 

August 30, 2019