Just after returning home from having the latest batch of suspected melanomas and carcinomas biopsied, I received a phone call from the Black Dog Institute, of which I am a supporter.
Odd coincidence. My mental state fluctuates of course, but lately I’ve been having thoughts of “what if” my recent worry about myeloma had been real, and I faced chemotherapy. Or what if one of (or all of) these biopsies came out with a similar prognosis.
But I digress.
Of course they were asking for an increase in my admittedly modest contribution. I had to point out that I’m a pensioner now. I choose my charities carefully and allocate what I can. There’s no spare change.
I told them they shared my best regards along with the Flying Doctors, the Cancer Foundation, and Water for Survival, of which I was a founding member.
The young lady had a prepared spiel designed to lure me through a series of affirmations to a final commitment to donate. It started with the statistic that one in five Australians have mental health issues. I confirmed I was aware of this, and in fact had only recently met with four of my imaginary friends to discuss which of us it might be.
This did not draw a laugh, or put her off her stride, so I let her continue through her script. At the end I could only repeat what I’d said already about my budget.
However. I do feel strongly supportive of this organisation. Their website provides a lot of help . So I would like to recommend readers share it. Links below. If you have a friend who, well, you know. Help.
Now westlin winds and slaught’ring guns Bring Autumn’s pleasant weather; The moorcock springs on whirring wings Amang the blooming heather: Now waving grain, wide o’er the plain, Delights the weary farmer; And the moon shines bright, when I rove at night, To muse upon my charmer.
The partridge loves the fruitful fells, The plover loves the mountains; The woodcock haunts the lonely dells, The soaring hern the fountains: Thro’ lofty groves the cushat roves, The path of man to shun it; The hazel bush o’erhangs the thrush, The spreading thorn the linnet.
Thus ev’ry kind their pleasure find, The savage and the tender; Some social join, and leagues combine, Some solitary wander: Avaunt, away! the cruel sway, Tyrannic man’s dominion; The sportsman’s joy, the murd’ring cry, The flutt’ring, gory pinion!
But, Peggy dear, the ev’ning’s clear, Thick flies the skimming swallow, The sky is blue, the fields in view, All fading-green and yellow: Come let us stray our gladsome way, And view the charms of Nature; The rustling corn, the fruited thorn, And ev’ry happy creature.
We’ll gently walk, and sweetly talk, Till the silent moon shine clearly; I’ll grasp thy waist, and, fondly prest, Swear how I love thee dearly: Not vernal show’rs to budding flow’rs, Not Autumn to the farmer, So dear can be as thou to me, My fair, my lovely charmer!
I do not like you little fly And I shall surely tell you why You walk on shyte and things that die And then you land upon my pie.
Don’t come here with your shitty feet And walk across the things I eat I just want pastry, gravy, meat, Not hours upon a toilet seat
So shoo fly, do not bother me Fly far away and let me be I only want to eat my tea Not Campylobacter jejeuni.
The poet has used several literary devices to consolidate his theme. Firstly he has chosen to write only three quatrains with a simple aaaa bbbb cccc rhyme scheme. This sets out the poem in a deceptive, child-like simplicity, almost as if the it were a nursery rhyme, seemingly concealing rather than accentuating the depth and significance of the tragic theme.
He uses internal rhymes, assonance and alliteration to establish a rhythm that seems to support the nursery rhyme theme, belying once again the significance, indeed, the very the depths of despair and desolation plumbed in the work. For it is important to know that this opus was written during the great pandemic of 2020, when people around the world sat isolated in in their homes, afraid of death, and talking to flies. And dying.
He hauntingly starts the first and third verses with clever literary references to great literary works written before; one an ancient Latin tale of distrust*, translated and extemporised, it is said, by Tom Brown himself during his schooldays, and the other a song now considered racist, by Brigham Bishop. It was ostensibly about a fly and a negro soldier in Company B during the American civil war. It may have deeper, darker meaning. He was not the boogie woogie bugle boy.
Both references reflect and project the anxiety and stress of the poet’s own times.
It is known the poet suffered a serious bout of Campylobacter diarrhoea shortly before he wrote this poem. It was severe, and lasted eight days, at the end of which he was beginning to fear he might not just pass more crap than should really be in one man at any one time, but actually pass away.
The poem ends with both a bit of scientific erudition, and poetic licence with the pronunciation of jejeuni.
So this poem can be seen not as simple doggerel, but a deep and meaningful metaphor describing the poet’s state of mind, and the state of the world around him, in which the pie represents a life full of happiness and fulfilment (meat and gravy), the fly a wandering traveller, unknowingly infected – or perhaps a thoughtless fucking food vendor who made a ham and egg burger after not washing his hands after using the toilet on Friday the 20th of last month at about 06:30 just after I picked up Lyn at the airport – (sorry!) – thus unintentionally bringing chaos and pain with him.
The brevity of the poem mirrors the brevity of life itself. The three verses represent the three stages of life; childhood, maturity and decrepitude, also known in literary circles as beginning, middle and end. The poet pulls no punches here.
In the poem, the toilet seat is a subtle metaphor for social isolation enforced as Lockdown, that leaves people sitting alone and lonely at home, unable to leave. Unable to be in company.
“Eat my tea” is a metaphor for “live my life”.
Campylobacter jejeuni is clearly also a metaphor, and a clever one at that, for the dread COVID 19 coronavirus that threatens the enjoyment of life itself.
By cleverly not mentioning toilet paper, a necessity when one has the trots, the poet brings it to mind by carefully not juxtaposing shitty and toilet seat in the same verse. This reminds us of the vast amounts of paper (read money) that the pandemic is costing society.
My word this guy packs a lot of meaning between a few lines.
You didn’t know I could be so bloody deceptively deep.
We talk about melanoma and avoid the C word. When I was first diagnosed, my GP advised me to let my family know that I have joined the 66% of Australians who have, or shall have, skin cancer. They are, he said, genetically predisposed to have it too. Hopefully not the ones with melanin. I do so hope that.
I’m a cancer patient. A few of my friends, but not one of my family except my Dad, have asked how I’m dealing with that. Well enough, I thought, thanks for asking.
Until now. I’m beginning to have reservations. The latest melanomas are deeper, and spreading faster. Therefore the cutting is deeper and wider. For the first time today I had internal stitches. My frigate bird lost half a wing. The two we biopsied on my back will be excised next Friday. The biopsy results were not good. They will be the biggest yet.
So far, Mehdi has done the cutting and stitching of two melanomas at a time in half an hour give or take. Today took longer. The next two will take at least an hour.
Considering this latest batch of seven were not even detectable three months ago, even by the sharp-eyed and very careful Mehdi, I have to consider the future implications.
I stayed with my friend Jeff for the last months of his life, because he did not want to go into a hospice, nor burden his mother with the supervision of his death. He had a cancer which metastasised and became terminal. I don’t want to go through what he went through, nor inflict it on anyone else, particularly anyone I love.
So I must use the C word.
I need a plan.
I’m rambling. It’s the Jameson’s. And the Guinness. I’ll have a Dubliner in coffee to follow. Finishing off Alcoholic Leftovers from St Patrick’s Day.
Because my arm hurts. Because it’s there, and increases the effect of the meds. And I don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow.
I have to have a plan. For when the outlook is dire.
Yeah. I’ll probably delete this post when I sober up. It is hard to keep the vow I made to tell it like it is.
It all makes sense to me now. Just staring into my coffee, I see it all clearly.
The Worm and the Salmon of Knowledge. Knowledge is not Wisdom.
My dog and my cat. Love and Loyalty are all.
Yin and Yang. There is a Tension and a Balance between Down and Up, Movement and Stillness, Entropy and Enthalpy, Chaos and Order, Cruelty and Kindness, Anger and Generosity, Pain and Cheerfulness, Sorrow and Laughter.
Here in a galaxy of crema and cocoa I see the Ornstein-Zernike relation of life.
Friday was a feel sorry for myself day. If you haven’t divined I have these, you’ve not been reading between the lines.
Having my oldest friend of fifty five years visit for a week had been a tonic, despite being marred by weather and these bloody legs not cooperating. There’s nothing we can’t talk about and nothing he can’t offer a sound insight for. I saw him off on Wednesday. Sadly.
Thursday I rested, only venturing out after my morning nap on the bike to do a little shopping at the local butcher and the bottle store. No pedalling, legs dangling, back straight. The rest did me good. I used the walker to get to the shower before bedtime, and didn’t need it at all for the early trip next morning.
I am rethinking my use of the walking stick. I suspect that leaning heavily to one side on it as I do may actually be causing, or at least exacerbating, the pain generated by my back. I suspect it is really necessary to keep it straight. The problem is to steady myself when my knees want to wobble me, without generating another problem by bending my spine sideways. . I have decided to try doing without it. Exercise more.
Following the advice of my mentor and guru, I next addressed, as best I could, a matter that has been preying much on my mind. That’s what led to the fsfm day. But I’ve now done what I can. There’s no more to be done. Move on.
This morning I had the excitement of the rakali encounter, followed by the pleasant discovery that a couple of days rest and comparative inaction had resulted in greatly improved mobility. That is to say much less pain. I climbed into the cruiser in an almost sprightly manner and went for my swim.
Dave hates that word. Sprightly. So I’ll take it on. I’m going to own it.
The return to gravity after ninety minutes of weightlessness was, as usual, a bugger. I wished after all I hadn’t left the walking stick in the car. But I managed the trip to the shower and changing room without stopping or leaning on anything. Small victory. I just need more resolve, and not give in too easily. And rest when I need it. No shame in resting when necessary. My yet immature eighteen year old brain must accept it has been mysteriously transplanted into some fat old codger’s sixty eight year old body. One that has not been properly maintained. One of my regrets.
I would have given you all my Oolong And I know you like to drink tea that’s strong But I’ve just drank up all that I had So if you want, I’ll try to brew again Baby, I’ll try to brew again, but I know The first cup is the weakest, baby, I know The first cup is the weakest, And when it comes to making coffee, he’s cursed When it comes to making tea he’s worse
I still want you to to try some Earl Grey Just to take the taste of chamomile away And I think you should give chai a try So. If you want, I’ll boil the jug again, Baby, I’ll put the kettle on again, but I know, oh The first cup is the weakest, baby, I know The first cup is the weakest And when it comes to making coffee, he’s cursed When it comes to making tea he’s worse
Your mask may hide your face. But your disguise Is pointless if you cannot hide your eyes. For all the depths of sadness in your soul; Your joys; your loves; the things that make you whole; Will show out from those orbs that I can see Despite your mask, if you can look at me.
I found this among my own poems, which are mostly crap. At first I doubted it was mine. But it has no citation, which I usually note down if I am referencing poetry by real poets. I don’t remember writing it, but that applies to most of the rubbish I have scribbled. Mostly very forgettable indeed. I would like to think this is one of my own, but I doubt myself..