The Watchful Cell
C J Stark
What if, like me, one day you inexplicably found yourself restricted to a cell that was small, sparsely furnished and confining. One corner of this room, you notice, is occupied by a sleek, black, glistening snake quietly coiled and lying very still. It might be any snake but for itís hooded throat. This observation proves, only too clearly, it is not any snake, itís a cobra. The cramped quarters of the cell, the oppressive closeness and lack of light or air by itself are enough to cause some tense anxiety. And with the presence of a cobra in there with you as a cellmate, well, I damn near soiled myself at this prospect. At first, I figured Iím as good as dead. But, shortly, I think to myself, itís only a snake, and not a very large one at that. The actual problem here, clearly, is the bite. Itís only the bite thatís to fear. So, as long as the snake lives in his corner of our communal cell, and I live, respectfully, in mine, why be overly concerned? If I should notice the snake sliding over to one of the nearby corners, I just move myself, gently, to the far side from that one. In a way, it all almost feels dreamlike.
There are times, of course, at night, in the dark, I know the cobra knows exactly where I am from the warmth of my body. Snakes are like that, you know. And I can almost feel where he is in the dark, from the icy cold stare of his beady, yellow eyes, which are always open in a stare-like gaze, even while he sleeps. Sometimes, in the early dawn glow of our mutual cell, I can see one of those yellow eyes fixed on me in a stare. Cobras always stare. Theyíre like that, you know.
This cobra is potentially dangerous, as any cobra might be. I could, if I chose, attack and kill it. Itís only a snake, you see and, as mentioned, not a particularly large one. But this would, of course, expose me to his bite. I would quickly vanquish him, but then would begin a long, slow, painful demise of my own from his venom. No, this arrangement weíve come to at present, seems to be the best. He knows I can harm him and I know, of course, what he can do. We just move from corner to corner, cautiously, gently, as in a dance, with full and free run of our limited, shared environment. We, in our communal cell are linked, are one.
Soon, as we become familiar with each other, he becomes not just any cobra, he is my cobra. Respect takes on a whole new meaning. Fear is reserved for other places, out there, in the outside world. Now, I canít say that weíre exactly friends, the snake and I, but we do have a common interest and concern; to keep an eye on each other. Some have encouraged, even insisted, with all good intentions, Iím sure, that I kill the snake, cut him out, use fire to scare him off. ďWhat if I cut myself?Ē I say. ďOr get burned, or burn my cell down? I could even get bitten in the process, thereís no guarantee about that, is there?Ē No, I prefer diligent caution, I tell them. I know my snake, sort of.
I have been told, though, that no matter what, at some point, the cobra will bite me. In spite of my watchful, cautious concern, it is just a matter of time. He will bite me. Itís what they do. Snakes are like that, you know. Iíve thought about this and have decided that cobras may, indeed, be like that and there is nothing I can really do about it. There are so many other concerns and dangers to manage. Just crossing the street without looking, can be fatal. Or, eating poorly and not exercising can precipitate high cholesterol or high blood pressure. These are killers, also. You could have liver or kidney failure or a heart attack without ever getting a clue beforehand. And these things can sometimes happen suddenly. The list of dangers is frightening.
Surely, my snake is a problem, and a cause for some serious concern, but his bite, should it happen, will hardly be a surprise. And the results of the bite will be slow, if predictable. So, now that we have our understanding, Iím hoping he does understand, my cobra is essentially, not as frightening as he had been at first. At least, here, I know where this one particular threat resides. And he has actually made me more aware of other dangers; heís sharpened my focus. But this isnít, as I said, any cobra, heís my cobra. I just donít pet or feed him. Should someone come to visit, and ask, ďWhat is that snake?Ē nodding toward his general direction in the corner. I answer, ďDonít worry, heís with me. We share a cell.Ē
Sometimes I even smile at our partnership, it being more curious than funny. I can only do what I must do and encourage my cobra to do his part in this uneasy arrangement. We have awareness, the snake and I, of what our place and movements should be. We move around each other with a fair amount of comfort. I know what heís like and am constantly aware of where he is. At this point, I never take my eyes off him. Itís what I do, now. Iím like that, you know.
|""Using Life Wisely" |
Using our lives wisely, not confusedly, in a rush of events that
consume precious time, but with a good measure of foresight
and judgment. Life can be painful without a rest, like a hard
weeks work without sleep. What makes life pleasant and
rewarding is a healthy variety of experience, of pain, of learning,
of giving, and the soulful pleasure of HOPE.
A noble vision of a beautiful life is found in the acts of
preparation, meditation and dedication. Spending the first act of
Preparation with the dead, those who passed before us.
Through their ages of wisdom we are able to seek and
understand enduring knowledge and sacrifice, and we are able
to better know our strengths and ourselves. The written word
turns us faithfully into learned and hopeful people.
The second act, Meditation, embraces the living and with deep
thought beholds all that is good and evil among us and we
endeavor to embrace the former and extinguish the latter. Faith
believes in that which we cannot see nor touch, especially when
our senses are blurred through a veil of tears.
The third act, Dedication, is devoted entirely to self and to those
we cherish, to serve, to further meditation, to philosophize, all of
which imbue the highest order of human goodness and
enhance the outcome, the balance of the future when blended
delicately with Hope, "Gods Plenty", Hope that eternal Godly
concoction that outwits all evil or scientific mingling.
Archambeault, The Practicing WordMason ¶ July 2001
|I wrote this poem shortly after my husband was diagnosed with PCa after biopsy 10-10-02. He was wrestling with treatment options at the time, later choosing RP in Feb. 2003. |
LISTEN HERE, CANCER!
by Susie Roth, Nov. 6, 2002
Cancer, I know youíre not going to answer
Your deal is to instill
When your name is uncovered
But Iím calling your bluff
You donít have power enough
To destroy what weíve discovered together.
You threaten with issues of mortality
Sooner than we thought that would have to be
But weíve settled before about eternity
So youíre much weaker than you seem to be.
I looked for you when my husbandís skeleton appeared
Relieved the radiologist didnít see what I feared
With bone scan in hand
His doctor has canned your limited span.
For purposes you soon will see,
Iíve nicknamed my husbandís prostate ďTexasĒ
And Iím putting you here on notice from me
ďYouíd better not mess with Texas!Ē
Heís now faced with an incision decision
Or radiation not guaranteed it wonít miss
You really are rude, the way you intrude
And demand his answer to this.
Cancer, how dare you grab where you have no business?
Iím not spouting bravado
Iím well aware of your capacity to grow
But you really donít have the final say so
Apart from Godís sovereign willingness.