This Summer

This Summer

This Summer

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 18 2001 3:00 AM

This Summer

Sitting in the chair that is somewhere
between the chair of a barbershop and a beauty parlor,
chemo dripping into the catheter

surgically implanted into my chest, into body,
I resolve to smoke at least a half-ounce
of marijuana when I get home.

Perhaps I'll smoke a pound.
Dizzier than hell must be dizzy,
I'm still able to drive

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(though will I be able next week?),
and after getting my ticket punched
I roar out of the Farber Clinic

(how splendid to have cancer in Boston
and fall heir to the astute care
available here)

in the silver sports car I sport
during this debacle,
and heat roars into me

with humidity so deep
it is a theological offense
which I cannot help

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but take personally.
I think I may die without god,
my single comic integrity

that I have remained
an atheist in the foxhole,
though I am ready

to roar through the gates
if there are gates.
This summer I've joined the grown-old,

the infirm, the shut-ins, and the bald-headed young
(they the hardest to bear), this summer
starting with chemotherapy and ending,

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by god it seems almost an ending,
with thirty radiation treatments
which have brought me to my knees.

The marijuana works. It clears things.
How lovely!
How lonely it is sometimes to have cancer.

The grass is as good as it was
when I was sixteen and found grass made the grass
a bit greener over yonder.

Almost as good
as the music I listened to that summer.
This summer I rejoin

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the ever-new and always refreshing
"Get naked and stay stoned," Baudelairian crowd
as I plop stoned in the many rocks

of a river in Vermont
next to my friend's house
where we have for so many summers

worshipped the backroads
with the sports cars the two of us have driven
since we got the money to get them.

In a sports car I have worshipped this summer
the songs  I've recorded on tape
driving and listening incessantly,

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thinking this may be my last summer
this summer. This summer
I have conversed with death every minute

and found out I have the talent
to submit, to leave, even to flee,
and, in this, there's nothing exceptional

about me. Why, the sidewalks around Farber
are populated with so many about to die,
many of great courage and grim humor and great shuffle

getting ready, as they can, to go,
looking like they do, like the wounded of Atlanta
lying around in Atlanta just after the burning

of Atlanta in Gone With the Wind.
I am among them.
They are mine, and I am theirs.

Our motto: Fight to live; prepare to go.
This summer it is so good
to hear from friends (one of whom I hear

just died: brain tumor) before I drive on out
for another burn of radiation
before I suit myself with another week of chemo

tied to a portable belt so I can go out
easily to the ocean, to remaining
friends there, before I lean into another joint,

a late century life afloat on a sea of loans,
and hear over the telephone my sixteen-year-old
daughter in Virginia saying she now thinks

she will never ever smoke marijuana
because it is, after all,
just another "gateway drug."