Just had my first seizure in eight years! Was sitting at breakfast when an electric pulse commenced in my left arm and spread down to my left leg. This continued for several seconds and was accompanied by a growing numbness in those areas. About 30 minutes later, I can still feel diminished sensation in my arm and some intermittent aches there also.
The sonnet form, itself, demands dissent, even defiance, which is perfect for a poet the caliber of Cameron Morse. “If given / a choice, I’d have had more children,” he writes. Thus, he announces, “Disease is underrated.” Among the conditions of his life, there is dark humor, where “The phlebotomist must like the taste / of my blood,” combined with a push against the dark. Steady yourself. Cameron Morse exhibits the holy tension between life’s limited time and his fatherly, infinite love.
Robert Stewart, Working Class: Poems
“You only get so many sunsets,” writes Cameron Morse in Sonnetizer. The poem “No Way” begins, “There’s no way to rush recovery. / The body waits to feel all right, / for the stars in its spine to align.” This transforms the ailing body into a site of mythic transformation. Morse is an experienced seer with wisdom to impart. It behooves us to listen.
Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09
Cameron Morse’s Sonnetizer limps and leans and then flies straight through the heart of what matters to us most when we feel the unraveling of our bodies begin. With great skill and tenderness, Morse presents to us a landscape of confused nature, failing health, and the rallying point that is the energy of a new life. What I loved about reading and re-reading this collection was how often I thought of my own body, my own family, and as he puts it, “The kiss of existence is fading / on my forehead, forever disappearing / handed over to a final daughter.”
Darren C. Demaree, a child walks in the dark
In Sonnetizer, Cameron Morse, though dealing with a long-term struggle with brain cancer, doesn’t ask for pity. When he touches on his illness, his attitude is stoic, even wry. The primary subject of these unrhymed sonnets is what he calls our “otherworldly world,” where he focuses on nature, fatherhood, and, most of all, the illusive “understory we wade through.” These well-crafted poems, rich in evocative imagery and fresh tropes, will sharpen your spiritual eyesight.
William Trowbridge, Call Me Fool
For those of you who want to hold out and buy from me direct, I’ll probably have a slightly reduced price but it may come out roughly the same with shipping …. I placed my order on Dec. 2 and still no books. I’m supposed to complain if that’s still so by the end of the week.
Funnily enough, I get my title corrected to sanitizer when searching on Amazon.
This morning my younger sister Mariah informed me that Moby had been put down, age 14. Adopted in 2008. The year Dad returned to China.
During the six years that Lili and I lived with my mom in Blue Springs before striking out on our own, this noble animal was my dog, too. I am profoundly sorry to say he is no longer with us. I always felt a kinship with the outside dog shivering in the kitchen window (his perch was literally the dog house) and watching over the yard while his indoor sibling mopped up droppings.
My poem “Phaedo,” published in an extinct magazine, and again in Father Me Again, goes like this:
My dog mouths the tennis ball like a syllable
in black gums, the first syllable
of a poem I am writing about playing catch
with my dog, Phaedo.
Leaf mulch and hay catch in his winter coat.
I snatch the ball out of his mouth
and fling its smudged neon
nap into the sunlight. Phaedo belongs to me
the way we belong to the gods, says Socrates.
Men are possessions, our bodies a kind of prison,
a chain-link fence, and the gods mind
the gates. The gods mind me, my tennis ball
leaping in the faded grass. I know my life
does not belong to me. I know I must chase down
the days of my life and ever so reluctantly
lay them at my master’s feet.
This poem makes me glad not only for the fun of the experience of playing catch with Moby but the fun of the experience of turning that into a poem about the attachment we all exhibit toward life.
The second poem I want to share started as a nod to James Wright’s poem, “A Blessing,” about another moment of connection with an animal. It came out the first year (2019) I began to contribute to Jordan Stempleman and the Kansas City Art Institute’s great student-run lit mag, Sprung Formal:
Blessing for an Old Dog
Ever watchful, black-eyed and black
jowled, and black jowls dangling,
have you gone blind
looking for me at the gate or resigned
yourself to solitude? Will you see me
on a spring morning and rather stay
in the shade than mosey over
to meet my hand? I would lower my hand
over the twisted rusty wires to smooth
the patch of white fur
on your forehead. We are connected.
Can’t be bothered to bark or get into
arguments. Abandoned, each to his own,
with only the other for company,
we grow old. Let the yard go to the birds.
I am six years older now than when I wrote this, I think, and the old dog is no more. Sentient beings like us with our own personalities, memories, and emotions slide into this giant concourse called life and hurry out.
Sometimes we play catch.
At today’s appointment with Dr. Tuncer I found out that I no longer have glioblastoma! Ha.
Apparently in August of last year the gods of medicine convened and made the following distinction: Those diagnosed with glioblastoma who have the IDH1 gene mutation do not have glioblastoma, they have grade IV astrocytoma. I have the mutation. Ergo, I no longer have glioblastoma. I have grade IV astrocytoma.
Those left with the designation “glioblastoma” have non-mutated tumors, called “wild-type.”
Not sure what to do with that.
The man also had good things to say about the Optune therapy as long as the integrity of the scalp holds up: Data is accumulating around folks beyond their first two years.
Temodar, though, is punishing my bone marrow, so I’m only going to do six more months of that before I start to see some longer breaks from that.
Tyler Robert Sheldon has again published a poem of mine. His magazine MockingHeart Review has been sending me acceptances even before his tenure there as editor-in-chief. In fact, it was editor Clare L. Martin who accepted my poem, “Halloween,” way back in 2018!
Because of my October at the Department of Radiology,
the UMKC School of Dentistry turned me away
for a free screening. Because of my October
in the Department of Radiology, I developed pneumonia
from a head cold, and Urgent Care sent me
to the emergency room. Because of my October at the Department
of Radiology, my favorite holiday is Halloween
when the zombies of tomato plants rot at their stakes
and oak leaves unspindle from a spiral of branches, falling
head over heels to cowlick and constellate the yellow grass.
On Halloween I pause over the moon’s wounded gibbous,
the garden mums and pumpkins racked outside Walmart.
I love the throb of gaslights, the one red lamp
burning in the bay window of the abandoned house.
Stars prick the dark because of my October
at the Department of Radiology. Treetops hiss
like a breath sucked through clenched teeth.
I paste the poem in its entirety here because it seems, in hindsight, a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy I made so much of October being the month of radiation. Then, in 2014, October, and now it is October again and for the first time in exactly eight years: radiation again, starting Wednesday! How weird that is. How perfect.
This year’s poem, it could be argued, equally so. The timing is strange, so why not a poem about time itself?
Time Is a Bridge
The bridge delivers me to the other side.
I am a letter, in this life. My contents
are for your eyes only. The bridge carries me
in her mailbag. I am an arrow pointing
toward you, the lost direction I was going,
the railroad crossing. My heart and hope
to die. There have been so many points
of no return, I’m terrified to think
how far I’ve come, I’ve strayed away
from home. The truth is time is a bridge
that collapses the moment you cross it,
it bursts into flame. Cinder sizzling in the dark,
icy current carrying every letter I’ve ever written
downstream into a maelstrom of mistakes.
I had so much faith in the strength of this poem that I included it in my manuscript, Sonnetizer, even before its acceptance for publication here! I memorized it for my TWP Reading Series reading here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwmj3zv2bzs&t=5s. I didn’t recite it, but “Time” remains a stand-out poem in the collection. I divided it into two stanzas because of time’s duplicity, its then and now. Radiation. Re-irradiation. Mom remembers my first neurooncologist saying I’d never have to undergo radiation again, it would be too dangerous, but here we are with Keleti, a radiologist willing to re-irradiate.
And the poems, you can see how far I’ve come in the poems.