18 August 2018 poem

Cannon Ball

I placed one toe in the river Styx
to test the water.

I have no plan to cross over,
but a spirit shaking splash seems necessary
to invigorate my sense of living.

An old man at one of many temples yells,
Hey, you have to purchase a ticket.

Such a gloomy Gus.
Such a clock face frozen at eleven-fifty-nine
and fifty-eight seconds.

Before I jump in, an aquatic woman rises to the surface,
emerges, effortlessly treads water,
her lipstick smeared as if just after a passionate kiss.

She points to the Sunday School kids’
bake sale cookies and requests the sourest lemon bar
to give her a bit more pucker.

On a velvet cushion a single lemon bar rests.
In red letters on a piece of white poster board
in a bold script, is the word Everything.

I search the cluttered days of my life
and locate hundreds of plastic trash bags
filled with well and poorly spent time
twist-tied together with a long, white, double spaced list
of unrequited crushes.

I think twice about it. Then a third time.
Then, with a running start,
I jump into the river,
making the biggest ferry dock passenger drenching splash
I know how to plunge.


copyright © 2018 Kenneth P. Gurney

 

 

13 Aug 2018 poem

Investment Sale

A crowd of strangers gathers around me.
They are more interested in the stuff upon the table
than the person who lived that stuff into stories.

If they do not ask, they will never know
that Olympic National Park t-shirt
sweated through a bicycle ride all the way to Chicago.

Or feel the thousands of smiles
the camera captured for pithy captions
pinned to an interior wall covered in empty wine bottle corks.

An optimistic woman seems more interested
in the author signatures inside the poetry books,
than the poetry the books preserve to spark imaginations.

I discount the seven stacks of blank artist papers
and box of one hundred twenty-eight different colored pencils
and numerous sticks of charcoal for the eight year old.

She may be the next Helen Frankenthaler.
Or Mary Cassatt.
Or Hildegard von Bingen.

10 Aug 2018 Rambling

It is week I-don’t-know of this blog and I realize I do not have as much to say as I once thought I did. Life is happening even now as I type this entry and life affects me, but I find I have little comment on it.  Maybe I have learned the greater value of silence.

If I wrote about Trump and his administration, it would be simple whining. Maybe complex whining. Especially since I have been out of the news-loop for a few weeks and only a little political news sifts through on the other platforms, like sports, that I pay attention to.

If I wrote about the Cubs it would be about the late season angst that all Cubs fans know who lived through the 1969 season and the August-September collapse that allowed the Amazing Mets to amaze people.

I have written recently about my healthcare experiences and therapy, but feel I have shared enough of that for now.

I could write about the fact my space-bar on my keyboard often adds two spaces instead of one, but I have done my best to go back through this document and fixed those typos  so there is little or no evidence of it.

Since I have not been to the movies recently, I have nothing to add to that venue of discussion. If any of you have seen the Christopher Robin movie, please comment about the movie—I’ve been reluctant to go even though I am a fan of one Edward Bear, commonly known as Winnie-the-Pooh.

Oh, yes, the old standby. I am reading two books at the moment.  There There by Tommy Orange. It is a novel about Native American life in Oakland, CA that leads up to and includes a powwow.  I am about halfway through and highly recommend it. The other book is Soldiers In The Army of Freedom, by Ian Michael Purgeon. It is a history of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry. Yes. The American Civil War. Again. (I have read a great many books about the subject, yet I remain an un-credentialed expert.) It is a real good read starting in the pre-war, Bleeding Kansas era.

Right now I type this in my studio (my poetarium) while Baseball Hall of Famer Billy Williams stares at me from a poster that Dianne gave to me several Birthdays ago. He was my boyhood sports hero. Most the other boys of my childhood neighborhood understandably chose Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, as their hero. I could have picked Ron Santo, but he played third base and I was an outfielder, like Billy. A couple of my poems covered this topic of little white boys from the republican suburbs emulating their black men baseball heroes in the racially turbulent 1960s.

Our conversion of the garage into a studio / family room / place with chilled air instead of a swamp cooler progresses. During the process I learned part of the reason why contractors do not care for inspectors. Inspectors tend not to show up when they are suppose to and increase the projects duration by about one-third.  We wait for both  electrical and plumbing inspections today. So far (11:35 am) no inspector has showed up. Might as well be waiting for a cable guy or internet service man for all the reliability.

On 9 Aug 1862 the Battle of Cedar Mountain took place. The Confederates referred to it as the battle of Slaughter’s Mountain. It also shows up as the battle of Cedar Run, Cedar Run Mountain and Southwest Mountain as an amateur historian reads official reports.

This is enough rambling to fill a personal blog entry. Or, if you know the exact number of words that should be used to fill a personal blog entry, let me know.

Love  & Light

Kenneth

 

 

 

6 Aug 2018 poem

Cookie

You are a person of cookies.
You are chocolate chip.
You are walnut raisin.
You are lemon ginger.

People like taking a bite out of you.
They like coming back to you for seconds.
They like you with ice cream.
They like you dipped in coffee.

Some people like you raw.
Others half-baked.
Others well done to crispy.
But most like you chewy.


copyright © Kenneth P. Gurney 2018

 

 

30 July 2018 poem

End of Everything

I return to the white horse in the meadow.
I return with apples from the nearby apple tree.
We each have our side of the sun-bleached rail fence.

I have returned here a thousand times
with braeburns, golden delicious, fujis, and galas—
all from the same tree, all for different poems.

The white horse is always there
even though it is twenty years on.

My time is not linear. It is moments repeated.
Or stuck. Or so beloved I cannot help but go back in time.

Usually the journey is a subtle shift,
but sometimes it is an emotional jolt.

But each time I return the horse is in the pasture.
White against the grayed fence wood.

It arrives at the gate three steps before I do
and leans out toward my full hands.

A scar on my hand in the shape of teeth
testifies to my lesson on how to hold an apple properly.

The pasture, which earlier I called a meadow,
has a tree that casts shade to house the horse
when I first arrive up the hill from these encounters.

It is that tree and its shade I will rest under
with the white horse until the end of everything.


copyright © 2018 Kenneth P. Gurney

 

 

Therapy

Last week I told you about my ER visit and AMAs. Due to the ER visit and the belief that a severe panic attack had hit me in conjunction to other ailments, I started back up with my emotions therapist or spirit therapist if you prefer. My therapist is not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but an EMDR practitioner.

Note. I had participated in talk therapy with psychiatrists and psychologists for about 20 years—regular in the first five years, as required the next fifteen years. There was progress, but not what I hoped for—like the elimination of panic attacks, nightly nightmares, and regular feeling of unease.

My panic attacks, when they hit, create a vibration in the left side of my body that can turn into a numbness. If the panic attack goes farther, it causes disassociation with the body—that feeling where you could swear you stand adjacent to your body. Sometimes the disassociation can turn into an elevated three-quarter view many yards separated from the body and it appears I am looking down upon myself. If the panic attack deepens from that point, it knocks me unconscious—I recognize this blacking-out as it approaches and sit or lie down before I crash.

Usually, there is an emotional component to the panic attack. The emotion is tied into a trauma. The emotion is often abstract, like great fear, but not knowing what to fear, because the trauma is mostly blocked from the conscious mind.

My experience with EMDR therapy is that I, the client, sit in a chair and have stimulus applied to my body, while I discuss the traumas with the therapist. The stimulus comes in three forms: 1) a light bar with a moving light that tracks left then right, 2) an audio component (headphones) of simple music that alternates from one ear to the other, and 3) two buzzers, one for each hand, that alternate back and forth buzzing the palm of my hands and finger tips. The three are synchronized so the left side then the right side input the stimulus. The practice is designed to cause the brain to let go of held trauma. My experience over the past ten years is that it works one issue at a time.

What is bothersome for me is that when one issue is settled and quiets, a new issue rises to the vacated top to say “Boo!” after a respite of one to six months. If you have had a lot of unprocessed or stuck trauma, I guess that is the way it is.

When I say “discuss the issue with the therapist,” I often do not know what the specific issue at first. The talk zig-zags describing the abstract fear until the talk, wolf-like, picks up the scent and closes on the real issue. Often the closer we get to the real issue, the harder my mind fights my revealing what the trauma’s details. This fighting appears as physical violence my mind-body inflicts to itself with extreme muscle spasms (usual), blacking out (rarely), or throwing up (rarely). For some reason the muscle spasms are in my gut and back and bend me to the right at an unnatural angle, sometimes moving ribs  a little out of place. When blacking out or getting close to blacking out my body reproduces the feeling of a heavy object slamming into the right side of my head with a loss of hearing in my ears. You all known what throwing up is like, but the cause is the heightened anxiety at reliving the trauma, even a nano-second image of the original trauma if it was severe.

Note. I found I had to take a distraction break from writing this blog entry. To write this entry, even removed from telling you specifics, is to bring myself close to the trauma issues my therapist and I discuss and work on at this time. The break was to let the anxiety level drop down a few notches and some level of comfort return.

Note: When I am in the zig-zag phase, it is not unusual for me to divert on a tangent subject for a couple sentence. This tangent is a good clue I got close to the real trauma and was not quite ready to go there. I think of the tangent sentences  as a regrouping mechanism to allow my courage to gather.

So, for me, to get at a trauma is gut-wrenching and mind-blowing. As in my body wrenches the muscles as I approach the trauma trying to protect me from it—I equate these actions to throwing up when a poison food is ingested. Sometimes my mind explodes in a flash of mental light and short circuits me into blackness, where I either pass out or become punch-drunk disoriented for a time.

My understanding of why the mind-induced body violence is still there is that in my mind the memory of the trauma is just as real is if the trauma takes place this very moment in the instant I touch the memory. The mind and body do not wish to re-experience those moments and fight to protect my present off-kilter equilibrium.

EMDR causes the brain to let go of the immediacy of the trauma and places the trauma back into the mind as a memory, not an on-going event. The thing is, in my case, I have to bring up the on-going trauma for the stimuli of EMDR to effect the brain, produce a brain chemical, that tells the mind the event is over and in the past.

What can I tell you is in my case EMDR works. At first, about ten years ago, we went over everything I learned from regular talk therapy with psychiatrists and psychologists earlier in my life and settled those events into the past. As issues rise up after a calm period to say “Boo!” we deal with them—this is eight years running of this off and on pattern of therapy.

If you are thinking to yourself, “Wow ten years is a long period of time,” I agree. (Thirty years if  you include traditional talk therapy.) But I choose to look at the sum of therapy against the sum of time living with the trauma affecting my life.

Example: When I was four years old my brother died. The death of a sibling is traumatic and the post death family dysfunction is traumatic, too. I lived with those traumas untreated and locked in me as an on-going trauma from age four into my early thirties. Those events affected my daily life unknown to me. For easy math, lets say I started dealing with that trauma in therapy at age thirty-four. In that case the death of my brother trauma had thirty years of affecting my life, my outlook, my thinking, my emotions, my interpersonal relationships, my self-relationship, everything about me. With hindsight, it is easy for me to understand it takes many years to work (both therapy with a professional and effort on my part to make life changes) on a thirty-year old on-going trauma in all its aspects.

In reading above about the muscle spasms, the blacking out, the throwing up in the  effort to reach the trauma to treat it, to heal it, I believe you deduce the process is painful. It is. The pain, I believe, is why many people choose alcohol or drugs instead of therapy. They choose numbness. Unfortunately, healing is often painful. To set a broken bone: painful. To remove a bad appendix: painful. To clean and stitch a deep cuts closed: painful. In modern times science has found ways of making physical healing less painful, but it is still painful. I wish there was an ice pack and two-aspirin treatment for traumatized emotions, but, no, there is not.

If the actual therapy session sounds like a bummer and painful, though with rewards, think of the days between therapy appointments. The old trauma has worked itself to the surface and has been begging the conscious to expose it and deal with it, heal it. Now the first therapy session takes place and exposes some, but not all of the trauma, so it is far more present. Okay. There are seven days until the next appointment. How do I deal with that?  Fortunately the old trauma is not at the surface all the time. I can distract myself with chores, reading, games, TV, sports, bicycling. I have Dianne, my partner, who is fantastic, and we have built a good loving home which feels safe and understanding.

In spite of Dianne and distractions the trauma will push through and push me into tears or small panic attack or nightmares a couple times per day. For me the key is recognizing what is happening to myself, then accepting it is happening, and adjusting my plans to accommodate the need to cry or the need to tremble or to ask Dianne for a hug to try to squeeze the quivers away with reassurance.

Adjustments I make while in therapy to get from appointment to appointment. I do not drink alcohol (a depressant). I reduce my sugar and carbs intake which are both hard on the body. I make sure I exercise, especially bicycling which is my favorite form of exercise. I take time to list good things in my life whether past or present. I find things that make me laugh—laughter is very important. I get out in nature—I find nature very spirit healing. Many friends have suggested meditation, but I have not yet picked that up, unless you count sitting in nature meditation. And this time around I have given up the political news on all media platforms.

A wish for good health (both mental and physical) to all of you.

Love & Light

Kenneth

 

24 July poem

Flock

I crafted a mourning bowl
to catch the tears of the bereaved.

I fashioned it after a carpenter inspired holy grail
that sold to someone’s mother at the community art fair.

Someone’s mother thought she purchased a lovely walnut bowl
perfect for mints when she hosted her bookclub.

Tears collected from this bowl distill into a magic potion
that brings dolls to life and life size, especially collectable horses.

My house is awash in Barbies of varying IQ
as I tested the formula on thrift shop dolls before perfecting it.

Soon the bereaved started bringing over lost-loved-one dolls—
we learned the hard way not to use customized bobble-heads.

Soon nuns started bringing over Christ encumbered crucifixes
in the hopes of truly being a Bride of Christ.

This created in me a moral quandary far greater
than those of men who brought over their life-size sex dolls.

From that point forward I collected bird figurines
to repopulate the migratory sky.


copyright © Kenneth P. Gurney 2018