Fighting for Your Life is Boring: A poem

Here is a poem I am working on for my cancer poetry book. Would you make any edits to this?

Fighting for your life is boring
Unending sameness.
6:45 a.m., parking lot with the same four cars.
Truck, SUV, VW Bug and red Audi
in their same four spaces near the staff entrance.

In the clinic the lights flicker on
room by room:
Break room, hall, reception desk;
then the front door opens.

Walking the same path with my
green bag and ID in hand,
the same women greats me with the same sad smile
and buzzes me in.

The mind numbs.
The routine doesn’t change –
sameness without end,
comforting madness.

Routine and protocol are the cure:
same beam at the same spot,
small doses day after day,
to end the cancer.

Endurance becomes the key.
Just need to keep putting
on the gown
and lying on the couch.

And each day the cheerful chart nurse
stops to tell me of
another famous actor
I remind her of.

Till next week,

Posted in Poems, Prostate Cancer | Tagged , , , | 43 Comments

Friday Woodworking – More Marquetry from the Heart

The shop’s been busy.  The marquetry is the most complete project at the moment so here’s the progress on the Celtic heart knot.

All the pieces are cut:

The Celtic knot is fully cut.

The Celtic knot is fully cut.

And all taped up and ready for gluing to the box:

This is the top all taped and ready to glue down.

This is the top all taped and ready to glue down.

and finally here’s a full shot of the cutting board I use.  I cut this marquetry with a knife.  You quilters out there will recognize the green cutting mat.  You’d be surprised the number of marquetry tools I’ve found at quilt shows.

My marquetry cutting board.  Yes, I bought the green mat at the quilt show.  All you quilters have one for cutting fabric.

My marquetry cutting board. Yes, I bought the green mat at the quilt show. All you quilters have one for cutting fabric.

Oh, yes that’s a knight on a horse on my work bench.  Long story there…

If you need me – I’ll be in the shop,


Posted in Marquetry | Tagged , | 18 Comments

Remembering the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

I n honor of Veteran’s day I am re-posting this essay I did a few years ago about my first visit to the Veteran’s Memorial.  If you’re going to go see the memorial, do it in the early morning, when a light snow is falling and listen to the voices of those who served.


From the window of the airplane I could see the whole east coast buried under a blanket of new snow. An early December storm in 1982 had turn the world white and this California boy hoped that he had packed warm enough clothes. It was an odd time of the year to be a tourist in our Nation’s capital, but events had worked out just right and my plane was soon to land at Dulles airport. This twenty-two year old San Jose, California boy was about to begin his first, on his own, with no parents, vacation adventure.

What brought me to Washington D.C. was not the museums or memorials, it was Isaac Asimov my favorite science fiction writer. I’d read his books and short stories. Months earlier I had sent some money to support the newly formed Planetary Society, and in return got an invitation to attend a series of lectures and events featuring Dr. Asimov – for an additional donation of course. I was working and had money to spend, so I sent in the donation and booked a flight to see the creator of those stories that had sparked my young imagination.

On the flight over, I was excited to get a chance to see Dr. Asimov – idol of my geeky adolescent life. I was going to spend days in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space museum, have dinner in a fancy hotel where Asimov would deliver the keynote address and get to attend a reception at the Smithsonian’s planetarium where we would see a special program on space flight. It was an adventure. I’d borrowed an expensive 35mm camera from a friend and shot a whole role of film learning how to use it; I’d brought a copy of Asimov’s Caves of Steel, wore my best suit and bought a brand new overcoat for the frigid temperatures that Washington is rumored to have in December.

Today I still have the pictures I took, but somewhere on the flight I lost the book and whenever I remember that trip – Isaac Asimov is not my first thought. A simple bank cut into the ground walled with black marble and the names of 58,130 dead is always the overwhelming memory that floods my mind. Sorry, Dr. Asimov but I left you on a plane to Washington and found something else that has never left me.

The first few days of the trip I was busy attending events of the Society and in my efforts to see every square inch of the Air and Space Museum. I took pictures of everything I could. I must have taken three rolls of pictures of the Smithsonian alone. I traveled everywhere by cab – a novelty for a boy from a backwater suburb that still thought it was a framing town. I went to the museum, and the hotel where the dinner was held and where Dr. Asimov gave his speech. He talked about the definition of science fiction – I think.

Things changed on my last day in D.C. After three days of being immersed in geekdom, I decided to go out and indulge my other hobby – history. The Air and Space Museum is on the Washington Mall, that great expanse of city park with the Capitol on one end and the Lincoln Memorial on the other. Around the Mall are most of the important monuments and museums of Washington, and just outside the museum was one of the many stops for the Tourmobile. For a few dollars you get a ticket for this sighting bus that stops at all the important places on the mall and Arlington National Cemetery.
I bought a ticket and got on the next tour bus. I was the only passenger. There was a driver and a tour guide. On this cold December day the guide was bored and had no one to talk to. When I got on she said hello, and sat in the seat across from me. She asked what I was interested in and we had a nice conversation about the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.

I got out at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and walked from the bus stop to the steps above the tomb and waited. Sitting there, I changed lenses on the camera for the best picture of the changing of the guard. I was the only civilian there. Something clicked in my head as I watched the solemn ceremony, that is the hourly changing of the guard. It suddenly seemed disrespectful to disturb the dead by clicking away on the camera. Slowly I put it away and thought of the dead men in the tomb and how their families never knew for sure of their loss. No closure for those mothers, fathers, wives, children or friends. I thought of the wars and the great cost of war. I thought of my father’s army service in World War II and wondered why he had made it home alive, where others had not. I watched the precision and respect the guards showed as they slowly and carefully went through the ritual of honoring the fallen. I clipped the camera bag shut and decided that this is a scene that one must experience and not view in a picture. I have never changed my mind on that.

After the guard was changed and the new soldier was slowing marching his post in front of the tomb I stood and slowly made my way back to the Tourmobile stop. There were a few people on this one. I took a seat in the back and stared out the window at the grave stones and monuments to the dead as the bus bounced along. A little while later the driver stopped as a we watched in silence as a military funeral procession passed us on its way to lay to rest the honored dead.

The next stop was the Lincoln Memorial. I can only describe that place as powerful. You must see it. You must see it in December when there are no crowds and you can be alone with it for a time. You must stand there and think of our nation. You must remember the price in blood that was paid for it.

I needed to be alone with my thoughts so I crossed the empty parking lot and around the reflecting pool. I walked at random – considering what I had just seen. Then I saw a pile of dirt left over from some recent construction project and a long black wall. Approaching it I realized that it was the recently opened Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. A simple testament to the Americans that died in that war. No brave words. No political speeches. No justifications for why they died. Just the names of 58,130 Americans who lost their lives in a far away place in the service of their nation.

When I returned home I returned the camera to my friend and had the pictures developed. I’ve shown them maybe a couple of times. There are pictures of the Air and Space Museum. Pictures from windows of air planes. Pictures of hotels and one picture of my feet, but no pictures of that tomb, or that wall. That is something you must see with your own eyes

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Miguel Part 2

At long last here it is, part two of Miguel’s day on shore. Part one is here.

Enjoy and do let me know if you liked this.

Miguel carefully climbed down the ladder into the boat.  The bosun called to Miguel, “Corporal, three of your men will row. You sit in the bow with the Padre and don’t jump on shore until I tell you this time.”

Looking back at the ladder Miguel saw not only his men descending into the long boat but also the Padre and the ship’s carpenter.  He also saw the crew hoisting up a second boat.

“Bosun, is everyone coming hunting with us today?”  Asked Miguel.

“We cracked a spar in that last storm.  The carpenter needs to find a tree to make a new one.” Said the bosun.

The Padre stepped next to Miguel on the bow seat as Miguel sat down and placed his musket between himself and the priest.   Looking over his shoulder, he watched his men climb down and take their places.

The bosun called out the order and they pushed away from the ship. The oars splashed into the water as the bosun cursed the clumsy rowing of the soldiers and they slowly started towards shore.  The day was bright, clear and a gentle wind helped push the little craft towards the sand.

No one spoke as they rowed in. The only voice was the bosun barking orders and in the distance the call of coxswain of the second boat with the carpenter following them.  Miguel reached for the bow rope as they got closer to the beach.

“Padre, would you hold my musket?  Soon the bosun will order me to get my feet wet. I can hunt with wet feet, but not with a wet musket.”  Said Miguel.

“Of course my son.” Replied the priest as he took a strong grip on the weapon.

“You’ve held a musket before, Padre?”

“Before I was called to the church, I too served our King with other skills.  I will keep it safe for you, Corporal.”

As Miguel looked into the priest’s eyes the bosun called, “Corporal, get ready.  And now!”

Miguel felt the boat hit sand.  Then he jumped over the side and into the surf.  Splashing his way up to dry sand he pulled the rope taut and held the boat in position as the sailors started jumping out to pull the boat further on shore.  Miguel kept the rope taught by stepping further up the beach until he reached a fallen tree where he could tie the rope.

Once the boat was secured on dry sand, his men started unloading their gear and moved off the beach into the shade of the cypress trees.  The priest stepped next to Miguel and held out the musket.

“Thank you Padre.” Said Miguel as he again looked into the priest’s face.  “Tell me sir, why are you here?”

“Do you mean, why am on the expedition or why did I come ashore?” Said the priest.


“Ah.  I came ashore to make drawings of the plants and animals and to make some notes on what we find here.  That is part of my duty on this voyage.  As to the other question, well we have no time to discuss that now.  I have my notes to make and you have a hunting party to lead my son. Gather your men and I shall give you a blessing before you go.”

Miguel called his men over and they all knelt, listening politely to the priest.  When the prayer was done, Miguel loosened the strap on his musket and slung it over his back.  Looking towards the woods he say a faint trail leading away from  shore.

“Juan, do you see?”  Said Miguel.

“Yes, fresh tracks.  Our quarry is there.  Here is your crossbow and bolts.” Replied Juan as he handed over a small bundle.

“You don’t hunt with your musket?”  The voice of the priest startled Miguel.

“Padre, muskets are for hunting men.  Arrows are for hunting deer.”  Replied Miguel.

“A wise man. The thunder of a musket will drive that second deer of yours away. Well, I see your path over there.  I’ll make my drawings along the beach over there.” Said the priest and pointing in the opposite direction of the narrow trail.

Miguel turned to his men and said, “Juan take two men and scout up that path. I’ll take the others with muskets and follow in a few minutes.”

Juan slung a small quiver over his shoulder and pointed at two others who did the same.  Without a sound the three men disappeared into the brush.  The other men started loading muskets and leaning them against a tree.

“Two of you bring a loaded musket. I fear we may be turned into the hunted before the day is out.  Jose, you stay here with the extra muskets.  Let that bad leg of yours rest for a while.” Said Miguel.

The three men started down the little track into the grove of cypress trees.  The ground was dry and hard, making it difficult to see fresh tracks.  They saw signs of wolves, coyotes and heard the rustle of a small animal in nearby brush.  The trail curved up to a low rise where through a break in the trees they could see a hill in the distance just beyond a small valley where no doubt a stream flowed.  Below them the brush and trees cleared into grassland.  On their right they could see Juan’s group making its way up the far slope.  Miguel knew they were looking for a way over the hill and into the next valley.

Then Miguel saw it — knew that Juan had seen it first — as Juan was pointing to a place just to the right of Miguel.  His men sensed it too as they quickly raised muskets.  Before Miguel could turn the wolves charged from behind a tree and he was knocked to the ground.

The report of the muskets sent most of the attackers fleeing, but the one on Miguel was trying to get its mouth around Miguel’s arm.  Miguel managed to roll partway over and  caught the wolf in the leg with the butt of his crossbow.  The wolf let out a yelp and then collapsed on top of Miguel.

Looking up, Miguel saw Diego striking the wolf with the butt of his musket as Gabriel was wiping his knife on the wolf’s back, his musket abandoned on the ground. Pushing the wolf off, Miguel saw the blood on his shirt shelve.  Standing up, Miguel took his own musket off his back and fumbled for his power horn.

“Corporal, let me do that. I have my power ready.  I think we’ve driven them off, but they’ll be back.” Said Gabriel.

“Yes.  I am not sure if this is my blood or the wolf’s.” Said Miguel as he handed the musket to Gabriel.

“It’s the wolf’s blood, Corporal.  I struck him before he could bite down.” Said Diego.

“How many?”  Asked Miguel.

“Three or five.  It is hard to say, but two lie dead here. I am sorry, but missed with my musket and had to finish the job with my knife.  Here is your musket Corporal.” Said Gabriel.

Miguel took the musket and looked at his arm.  It was cut, but it didn’t look like the wolf bit deep.  Looking around he saw the other wolf with a musket wound.  On the hill, Juan was gone from sight.  No doubt on his way back to check on the rest of the hunting party, so Miguel decided to wait where he was.

They reloaded muskets and Diego dressed Miguel’s wounded arm.  Then they sat down to wait.  And they waited.

And waited.

“Diego, they are taking too long. They should have come back here right after they heard the muskets.  Something must be wrong.  Perhaps there are more wolves over there. Let’s go find them.” Said Miguel.

Taking their weapons and leaving the dead wolves, the three men started up the hill where the last saw Juan.  When they reached the spot, they saw trampled grass and a trail of tracks leading upwards.

They followed the trail for an hour.  Clearly they were moving fast and did nothing to hide their tracks.  What had Juan seen and why did not come back to the sound of the muskets? Miguel wondered.  When they reached the top of the hill, Miguel heard the sound of a someone chopping wood with a hunting knife.  Moving towards the sound, they saw Juan and his men cutting a pole.  Two dead deer were lying nearby.

“Corporal, here are the two deer.  We’ll have the poles cut and there will be deer tied soon.  We should be back at the beach to catch the outgoing tide. That was a cleaver trick of yours to follow the wolves and steal their dinner.  We could have been here all night trying to find these if you had not thought of that.”  Said Juan.

“Yes, Juan. I knew it would work. After all the Captain said, where there are wolves, there are deer.”  Replied Miguel as he turned and started walking back to the sea.


That’s what I wrote this week.  Not sure I’ll write any more on this story line as I’ve got my poetry book to finish editing and other other novel to finish, but this was a nice diversion from my other work.

Till next week,

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments