Wednesday, August 29, 2007

509 days, 9 hours, 32 minutes 9 seconds

There’s an abstract print of big floppy hats facing her when she lies down in the E.E.G. room. But she has to take her hat off. The technician wants to know why she shaved her head. He tells of his sister who went through three rounds of chemo for lung cancer. It spread to her brain, then her liver. He scrubs her head with what feels like Ajax. Have to make good connections, or there’s no point. Wire afteer wire after wire after wire, pale, multi-colored wires. He tells her to relax, to close her eyes. Lights flash, slow then faster. If this doesn’t bring on a migraine, nothing will. He tells her to open her eyes. He asks if she’s right or left handed. He tells her to close her eyes, then to try and sleep, and she sleeps for once. She’s been up since six again. He pulls off the wires, scrubs down her head again. She has to remind him to dry it please. She doesn’t want to catch cold.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

510 days, 3 hours, 5 minutes 19 seconds

"I make Tylenol and I promise, I'm not just making it for your kids, I'm making it for mine." This is about the fifth time today that this ad's popped up. Each time a different Tylenol employee. All men. Anyway, she went back and got the hat. And she ordered two nylon stocking caps made especially for under wigs. That's when the last ad popped up. So she no longer has to be afraid of vintage. Or Tylenol. But these days it's more often Vicodin or Percocet. She longs for those days when Tylenol was enough for her. Of course this makes her think of the Tylenol murders. The first person to die was a 12-year-old girl. She'd thought it had been someone's fiancé. Her memory failing again. Her father's old age.

510 days, 10 hours, 47 minutes 21 seconds

Another day, another medical test, another hat store. This one’s just a few blocks down from the other store and she thought she could walk there except it was hotter than she thought and they only had summer hats. Give it another month, they say. Things take time. Chemo takes time. Health takes time. Meanwhile she had to get out of the apartment on account of the terrorist cleaning there. So she goes around the corner on 72nd St. and stops in Tip Top Shoes where she’s been meaning to go all summer, except it’s in the middle of renovation with almost no stock. Then she stops to look at hats in the thrift shop where all the actresses, especially from soap operas, leave clothes on consignment. And the first thing she sees are magnificent jeweled turbans, and she wonders how many actresses suffered hair loss. Or were these used for putting on makeup, the old glamour image? But then of course there are also vintage felt hats and one rose hat with a feather made by Bonwit Teller that she’s absolutely mad about. Does she dare wear a used hat? With canccr? It looks immaculate. Bonwit Teller. William Tell shooting the apple off his son’s head. Jean Vollmer with a glass on her drugged head. Some women will do just about anything. With cancer?

Monday, August 27, 2007

511 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes 44 seconds

She knew a poet years ago who'd been a Bloomingdales model. Everyone joked about that. No one took her seriously as a writer.

511 days, 11 hours, 22 minutes 32 seconds

A little cooler today. His real birthday (which she keeps forgetting). After a ten minute visit to the dermatologist, she walks to Boomingdales to check out designer hats. She could have had her makeup done there. She shuddered at having her makeup done there. Along Third Ave., today, she passes stores like Sephora and Face. She looks in the windows.

Friday, August 24, 2007

514 days, 5 hours, 9 minutes 46 seconds

Even a little girl's choice of shampoo comes back to haunt her. She wonders how long her head will remain a watermelon.

514 days, 5 hours, 28 minutes 16 seconds

Two hours working alone in a café and already she's seeing things. She glances a Nemo storybook in Duane Reade and doubles back to see if it's a chemo hat. The pharmacy from hell.

514 days, 9 hours, 16 minutes 1 seconds

Jackie's pill box.

514 days, 12 hours, 18 minutes 39 seconds

This is a blog about language. This is a blog about politics. When George Bush reminds people they're working hard to put food on their family, where's the food really going? Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease, he informs us. He tells us he doesn't think we have to be subliminal about our views on prescription drugs. Subliminal --Below the threshold of conscious perception.

514 days, 12 hours, 40 minutes 22 seconds

With these new hats, with this new style, suddenly words like control and remission don't seem as bad. All her life fighting for words, rejecting anything feminine.

514 days, 13 hours, 5 minutes 15 seconds

This is crazy. After a week of nothing but sleep, all of the sudden she can't fall asleep. Up till 4 a.m., 5 a.m. then awake again before nine. She kisses her husband goodbye. She kisses his brother and sister-in-law goodbye. She packs up prescriptions to take to the drugstore. She washes her face. She puts the cream on. She runs off to buy one more hat. She doesn't have time for makeup.

514 days, 13 hours, 12 minutes 10 seconds

So it was a few days before his birthday and his brother and sister-in-law were coming into town before going to Rhode Island and staying overnight and frankly she'd been dreading this. And even though she knew she'd be alone for the next two days, it was first day it wasn't raining and she had to get out of that apartment before it killed her (and not to another doctor). So she took off at 10 o'clock and ran down to the hat store on Columbus Avenue she'd remembered looking in years ago, totally unaffordable. But the first place she thought to go now. And she bought two hats for $500. And she tried on 50 hats. And they were felt, vintage look with pins and feathers and buttons, and they were comfortable. As she tried two more stories and she got Starbucks for lunch and she got a gelato at a place where for once she didn't have to wait in line (she's within 5 pounds of what she weighed when she met him) and by the time she got home they were at the door, their car already in the lot across the street. And her sister-in-law (Southern Belle) adores hats. She'd forgotten that. She's worked with cancer patients and she said nobody ends up wearing their wigs but she modeled it anyway and she said it looks good it just doesn't look like her. She knew it. She knew it. She knew it. When they went out to dinner she decided to wear the hat. And she held her head up. And she decides she wants one more hat now, one more exotic blue hat with pins and flowers and ribbons that she can wear with denim. Not only now, but always. No more bad hair days. No more wanting to hide. No, actually, these hats have brims like that Totes hat. It's getting closer and closer to September. There are people she has to see. There are people she wants to see.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

515 days, 21 hours, 52 minutes 59 seconds

Her desk is piled as high as her father's bed.

515 days, 22 hours, 58 minutes 56 seconds

1960. She wasn't quite 12 years old. It was the first year she followed politics. Kennedy and Nixon. And the first of the televised presidential debates. It was said then that one of the reasons Kennedy made such a good impression was because he understood to wear a powder blue shirt, realizing the white shirt would be greyed out against the bright TV cameras. Clothes matter.

515 days, 23 hours, 9 minutes 55 seconds

Three weeks ago, on his first visit to Texas, Bush presented the straight laced, suit and tie wearing British Prime Minister Gordon Brown with a fur lined leather bomber jacket. She remembered the media laughing, but thought it was a khaki safari hat. That's the way it's been of late, she'll remember pieces, but get some of the facts wrong. Her grandmother was like that. It's probably going to get worse.

515 days, 23 hours, 43 minutes 25.5 seconds

Downstairs her husband's asleep with a TV movie on. One in the morning, and he often does this. For the past hour she's been hearing bits and pieces of some 40s or 50s film she vaguely recognizes. She saves this file. She puts it up online. In your Easter Bonnet can be heard clearly. She hears her husband yawn, stretch, and get up. He'll be coming to bed soon.

516 days, 0 hours, 22 minutes 20.3 seconds

Use your head for something other than a hatrack. (Misspelled, for a moment there, hate rack). It's a cliché that for some reason she recalls her mother using.

For years she wore a man's Totes gray and white hat that she traded a copy of her book with another poet for. She thinks it was also a rain hat. It was way too large and she loved the way the brim fell over her forehead, hiding her face. It protected her. She has pictures. Lost somewhere years later, she thinks in a ladies room.

The first year she and her husband were together she bought an expensive funky hat at a Christmas craft fair. A woman's hat. Reversible. It covered the full head, buttoned under the chin. She's needed the buttonhole replaced several times but still adores that hat. Hard to explain how important it was, that willingness to accept herself as a woman, her desire to stand out, be noticed. (Misspelled, for a moment there, he noticed).

When she picked up the beaver she also bought four chemo caps. To protect he shaved head. Not to get cold. Not to itch. Not to bitch. Today she even wore the dressy one to the doctor's. And put earrings on for the first time in three months. And part of her feels proud, different. These past three days, her energy finally returned, surfing the Internet to see what else she can find. Instead of working.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

516 days, 23 hours, 37 minutes 34 seconds

The world's starting to become a better place again. She can concentrate on solitaire.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

518 days, 0 hours, 8 minutes 46 seconds

Bob Leroy Head of Maquoketa, Iowa threw out the first pitch at the Portland Beavers baseball game Saturday, the result of a months-long promotion for Bob L. Heads around the nation. His motto: No matter what the score, I am always a Head. He also said he's been pitching hay and pitching manure and thought he could pitch a ball. The first 2000 fans were given free bobble head dolls of him. The Beavers, playing Las Vegas, staged a late inning rally which left fans nodding in approval. So the beavers won.

Her mop was adjusted today. It still feels more like a dead beaver.

Monday, August 20, 2007

518 days, 15 hours, 49 minutes 18 seconds

Ben bobs in front of the books she's written. All head and no heart.

518 days, 16 hours, 18 minutes 55 seconds

Then there was the prism they tried to put in her glasses once. It was a disaster. She bounced as she walked. Her head bobbed. Ben still bobs, sitting on the shelf with her books now.

518 days, 16 hours, 41 minutes 58 seconds

Soon it will be cold enough to bob for apples, he tells her, trying to cheer her up about being in the city in August. The first time since he’s known her. Yet another horrid memory – Seventh grade? Eighth grade? Her parents decided she was too old for a birthday party so threw a Halloween party instead. Everything took place in the garage they cleaned out for her. They had to bob for apples. The only girl who made it into the house was someone whose costume tore. She was crying. There were no boys. She was small for her age. She doesn’t think she’d ever heard the term migrant worker, but her teacher was all excited about Laos, the newest country to gain independence. It was even on the Safety test.

518 days, 16 hours, 51 minutes 37 seconds

Maybe it was a year or two after they married. Things are starting to run together here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

519 days, 1 hours, 37 minutes 18 seconds

The clock fell on her foot today. The ten-ton, hand-crafted, steel Wonder Woman, Wizard of Oz music box clock. At first she thought it broke two toes. It didn't matter. She'd been reaching for the computer. At least she didn't drop the computer. They were meeting a friend for brunch. Same place as last week. Different friend. Even now she has friends. She shoves the dead animal on her head, doesn't have time to cover the rash, and limps off. Wonder Woman.

519 days, 2 hours, 30 minutes 18 seconds

Hamster Brain. It was their favorite commercial years ago. The sister calls her brother a hamster brain (or does the brother call the sister that?) while the mother soaks blissfully behind the closed bathroom door in Calgon Bath Oil Beads. And she made up a song for him:

Employee of the Month
Employee of the Year
Hi Ho Delario
The Hamster Brain is here.

He was Employee of the Month, then tied for Employee of the Year. It was before they married. They went to Tavern on the Green to celebrate. And he was given a desk clock with a little plaque which sits above her computer.

519 days, 3 hours, 26 minutes 0.2 seconds

U.S. paid $1 million to ship two 19-cent washers. Anxious to get soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan all the tools they needed, they let twin sisters, South Carolina women in their forties, dupe them. Luxury cars, boats, jewelry, vacations. One sister committed suicide in her beach house.

She knows what it's like in the Deep South. Jerry Falwell always on the lookout. Bob Jones University in Greenville. It was the first place she taught Poets in the Schools, nearly forty years ago, when there were separate Black and White teachers' lounges and the kids were paddled. Then she moved on to Oramgeburg. Warned not to walk the road at night.

Lock washers place tension against a nut after tightening, to help prevent the nut from loosening. She thinks of the single washer caught in her bra two months ago, how it had been just one more tool to keep her head straight, how a few days later she retrieved it. Her only souvenir. She keeps it with the marble-brains he gave her.

Friday, August 17, 2007

521 days, 4 hours, 44 minutes 23 seconds

Her parents would have been delighted had she gone to college. Any college.

521 days, 10 hours, 51 minutes 10.6 seconds

You're supposed to be a wreck, he tells her. This is what chemo does. My favorite wreck, he calls her. My Beautiful Laundrette, she thinks but doesn't say. She thinks of that 1,500 pound wrecking ball that broke free in Pennsylvania last week, rolling downhill, smashing cars, landing in the trunk of a Taurus, right near Allegheny College.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

522 days, 9 hours, 29 minutes 53 seconds

She thinks of St. Rudy's first inauguration, eight-year-old Andrew up there on the podium, hamming it up for the cameras. That boy ought to be spanked, a friend said. Father and son no longer speak. His daughter's campaigning for Obama. Both children loyal to their mother. He announced his divorce to the media before he told his wife. And this man wants to be president. Republican. Family values. Leave my family out of this, he tells a woman in New Hampshire.

And don't we all wish we could leave our families out? Her father getting all the details confused. A stomach tumor. Five hours at the doctor every day. Calling every other night to see what the doctor said, sometimes forgetting he just spoke to her. Sheer promotion for the MCI friends and family network. Whoever is left now that he's nearly 91. She's his only daughter.

And his father 93, planning the birthday party. Knowing something's going on, but not what. Ready to announce whatever it is to the world, highlight of the evening. She'd almost prefer he tell them they're getting divorced.

522 days, 10 hours, 35 minutes 26 seconds

When he turned 50, she threw him a surprise party that's remained one of the high points of their life together. Now that he's turning 65, this is what her body does to him.

522 days, 23 hours, 56minutes 8.1 seconds

Sign of hope at Utah mine. Geophones picking up a series of noises over five minutes. Another falling rock? An animal? A miner struggling to breathe? If one of her loved ones were down there, nine-tenths dead, with little chance of a normal life again, what would she really be hoping for?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

523 days, 11 hours, 27minutes 34 seconds

Penny Whistle Toys is, she thinks, open again. It had been closed by the court over a month ago, a large red and yellow sign on the window saying don't worry, kids, we'll be back. But this is what we teach the kids she doesn't have.

When she first moved in with him one of his nieces and one great nephew were still young enough that they always looked at toys for Christmas, and this was the best store around. And the most expensive. But he hated chain toy stores as much as he hated chain restaurants (except for the Toys 'R Us near Times Square with its indoor Ferris wheel that he never got to go on). That will be closing soon. Now there are other small expensive shops on the upper West side and they know about one in the village. Now that niece has two children of her own. That's how long it's been.

Meanwhile, Mattel is recalling nearly 19 million toys built in China because they didn't use the paint they were paid to use and there's possible lead here. All over suburbia mothers are digging through toy chests, checking serial numbers, throwing out toys in large red plastic Neiman Marcus bags that can't be seen through. Day care centers are replacing everything. Children in day care are being checked for lead. Children out of day care are throwing tantrums. Or she would have been, at least. Then again, even her Barbies probably weren't Mattel.

She thinks of the windows at Penny Whistle after 9/11 – some of the best in town. For Valentines Day, a red heart with stuffed Dalmatians inside and surrounding it. A white USA plane, American flag on its wing, seeming to fly into a building when we first attacked Iraq. She has the pictures to prove it. Don't worry kids, we'll be back.

523 days, 11 hours, 27minutes 34 seconds

She's angry. Of course she's angry. If Bush had done one interesting thing instead of just bidding goodbye to Karl Rove and hanging on to Gonzalez; if a straw poll in Iowa had included at least one candidate she recognizes; if Bloomberg weren't going round and round and round on his pay to drive in Manhattan scheme; if the Democrats could just get down to five or six candidates in five or six debates a week, this blog might not be so damn personal. Still, she combs the news every day. Maybe it's just her lack of energy. And not being able to comb her hair.

523 days, 12 hours, 11minutes 41.6 seconds

She dropped her camera yesterday. But she managed to take over 40 pictures, some of them butts in the flower beds, one butt in a plastic glove. She wasn't even sure she'd be able to press the shutter. She had an hour before the doctor. What was she supposed to do, walk around in the heat responding to just the heat? Anyway, the camera's okay. With all this is costing her above and beyond insurance, and in another $2000-$3000: say it's for the latest technology.

523 days, 12 hours, 23 minutes 21 seconds

Bon Pain again today. But then she expected this. She was here just nine days ago helping a friend pick out a Toshiba from J&R. Sleek, 17 inch screen, no needless trial programs loading, no need to connect to the Internet just to set it up. This is the machine she should've bought herself. This is the place she should have bought it. Needless/needles. And a glass of water. She hasn't even had water yet today.

Her face is dried from all the creams last night. Her fingernails pick up crud every time she touches it. She doesn't even want to go near a computer, so she picks at scabs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

524 days, 10 hours, 45 minutes 50 seconds

There was so much more to write yesterday. But She needed Percocet for headache, before the headache got too bad. And she needed water to take the Percocet. And of course the water was on her left side and of course her hand can't feel when it's touching something and of course the water spilled all over the left side of the keyboard. She dried it off with her T-shirt. The nurse dried off the water under the computer with a towel. So it's working and then not working, working then coming up with crazy characters, menus she hasn't pressed. She was able to surf the Internet using just the mouse. She brought it home, called 4G data, grabbed a cab down there at seven o'clock at night (they're open until 10 plus weekends). The keyboard shorted out, he said. They ordered a new keyboard. Maybe they can get this done under warranty. If not how much is this going to cost? $300? $400? The cost of two or three dinners or one medication. She could have bought the Rings of Saturn paperweight, plus the one for a Christmas gift. But she'll buy those anyway. And at least the Percocet worked.

Monday, August 13, 2007

525 days, 10 hours, 26 minutes, 30 seconds

One doctor at 10:30, an emergency, who doesn't see her until 11:40, making her late for her noon drip, and the nurse has to leave on time tonight, and the doctor's on vacation again this week.

A friend she seldom talks with on the phone thinks the purpose of waits is to be sure you understand who's in control here. She tells him about her student and how much that suddenly means to her. She tells him of her last drip. And he says he sees another Ratner anthology in the works.

525 days, 14 hours, 51 minutes, 17 seconds

Seeing the tall, thin baby, head wrapped up, in the oncologist’s office was bad enough. But to see the fat sobbing baby this morning in the neurosurgeon’s waiting room hurt even more. Water on the brain?

She knew a seven year-old with a brain tumor once. At four he couldn’t walk or talk intelligably, but they were living in rural New Hampshire and doctors there didn’t even think to look. They say that at ten or twelve you could still detect brain damage, but she was out of touch with his parents by then and only saw him once.

525 days, 14 hours, 51 minutes, 17 seconds

Despite several orthodox Jews plus one Jew for Jesus praying for her, and two Buddhists chanting on her behalf, she really doesn't think God gives a damn.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

526 days, 5 hours, 51 minutes, 50 seconds

Now that she's lost most of her hair, the cranial prosthesis needs to be tightened. They said this would happen. She wears it to breakfast with a friend from out of town. It feels like a big wool hat, and too hot for this 80° day. In between bites of eggs she doesn't usually like finds good today, she's idly tipping it, turning it, adjusting it. God knows what she looks like.

526 days, 7 hours, 11 minutes, 48 seconds

She almost forgot: she can't hold things in her left hand without dropping them. So now Ben's got another chip in his skull. God damn fucking brain surgeon – how appropriate. At least it wasn't the Hummel. At least it wasn't poor Pluto.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

527 days, 10 hours, 45 minutes, 58 seconds

Her father tried to interest her in the heavens once. There was a man up in Ventnor with a high-powered telescope who set it out on the street whenever anything interesting was about to happen and invited friends and neighbors to watch along. He tried to interest her tripping over sticks on some mosquito trail to look for birds. He encouraged her to get up at six in the morning to ride bikes on the Boardwalk with him. And of course there were always his flowers.

527 days, 12 hours, 17 minutes, 9.2 seconds

Pluto arrived last week. A paperweight from Glass Eye Studios in Seattle, part of their Celestial series, each piece handcrafted with ashes from when Mount Saint Helens volcano erupted in 1980. But Pluto's been demoted. He's being discontinued next year. Especially at this moment, she feels kinship with what they're now calling a dwarf planet. She saw these paperweights last year and almost bought one for a friend who's always running out to view the stars with binoculars, some of the most beautiful artwork she's seen. Even more exquisite to hold in her hand. And now, greedy child that she is, she woke up this morning anxious to buy another for herself: the Rings of Saturn. The small disk in the center. Black lines swirling around it. Last night's midnight panic. The brain swelling. Movement, her husband says. Health, he calls it. And she wants to hate him. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. She didn't even know him in 1980.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

530 days, 21 hours, 22 minutes, 38 seconds

What beautiful hair you have, they told her all through childhood. And she thought of Little Red commenting on grandma’s big teeth. That curse. That fear. That mother she didn’t want to look like. Little Red. Now she sees her scalp is red. Or maybe pink. It was white, she always thought. Another illusion biting the rim of the waste basket. Curls so thin she can see through them. She feels as if she’s giving it up too soon – the hair, the anger.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

531 days, 13 hours, 32 minutes, 7 seconds

A glucose reading of 88 yesterday morning and again at bedtime. Does this mean she should learn to play the piano? She hasn't written for five days, she sure as hell better do something.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

536 days, 4 hours, 3 minutes, 27 seconds

Bush sneers at balding reporter, the headline reads. Nick Robinson from the BBC, who can't vote anyway. They've locked horns before. Such a silly country England is. Judges still locked in debate about whether or not to wear wigs in court.

536 days, 5 hours, 20 minutes, 50 seconds

It's been a long, hot summer. Only the start of August, and already the Madison Ave. topiary's losing its hair. Then again, she's not usually around in the summer. And most summer's it's the last thing she'd notice, but it's like he's waving her over. Or saying stop. Right now. Stop this.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

537 days, 9 hours, 52 minutes, 28 seconds

Five days ago the Special Olympics stopped at the White House rose garden and, accompanied by police, had its Flame of Hope relit. The games are global now. Athletes from China were on hand to be photographed. The president and the first lady were there to welcome them (and also be photographed). The president talked about sponsoring the games when he was governor of Texas, and how these intellectually challenged athletes inspired him to forge ahead as well.

537 days, 10 hours, 29 minutes, 1.6 seconds

Everybody brings her flowers. And she's delighted by what people choose. This last bunch has long purple spikes, as if designed for the one pottery vase she has. And she only has this vase because she bought it as a Christmas gift, then chipped it. When she was in the hospital her parents bought her a huge bouquet on the street, not stopping to think there wouldn't be a vase. But that was Sinai, sixteen years ago. Her mother was alive. Her father still spent hours tending his rose bushes. Hour after hour after hour.

And here she is, a teenager yet again. Her favorite song is Bobby Darin's "Artificial Flowers." She writes rhymed poems about crying clowns and dead roses.