Friday, October 20, 2017

Poetry Friday: Richard Wilbur and The Time I Fell Off the Internet Because Atticus Got Cancer

Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Wilbur (who has long had his own category on my blog), passed away last Saturday at the age of 96. May he rest in peace.

I sort of fell off the internet over the last two and a half months (which have felt surreal) but leave it to my beloved Wilbur to bring me back to my blog -- finally ready, I guess, to talk.


This summer had me thinking a lot about cancer. All the time. In June, my dear friend Lissa was diagnosed with breast cancer. In late July, an internet friend and kindred spirit, Beth, died after a long, brutal battle against cancer. I was angry at cancer, sick of cancer, hated cancer. I didn't want to hear about another person I loved being attacked by cancer.

On July 28, Atticus got a phone call, and we went in to see the doctor. A routine colonoscopy had revealed cancer.

There are all kinds of stories to tell about the month of August: waiting for the CT scan and the MRI, which would eventually tell us that the cancer didn't appear to have spread (though, we were cautioned, we wouldn't know for sure until after surgery.) Meeting with one doctor who scared us terribly, then meeting with a surgeon we liked and trusted. Not being able to get surgery on the calendar until September 15th. Five days, four nights in a hospital two hours from home. Dissolving into tears when (as we were preparing to check out of the hospital) a young resident delivered the news: the pathology report was already back. It showed no spread to the lymph nodes. They got all of the cancer out. 

I hadn't realized, until I crumpled into my husband's arms, how the hope for that news had been holding me upright until that moment.

And so, the prognosis is very, very good. Atticus is four weeks into recovery, and is getting a little better every day. There will be close follow-up, but he's working, he's sleeping. The man who ran two half-marathons last spring/early summer is running again. He's adjusting to his post-surgery body. We can start to breathe again.

And think about poetry. And Richard Wilbur.

"The Beautiful Changes," Richard Wilbur said.

Everything changes. All the terrible, wonderful, maddening time. The ground beneath your feet shifts, something breaks, you think you're falling. Then the dust settles and you see that

the beautiful changes   
In such kind ways,   
Wishing ever to sunder 
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose   
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.

And you are thankful for that second finding, for the hope that kept you upright. You are thankful for wonder.


I couldn't let a Poetry Friday about Richard Wilbur pass without referencing "The Writer" (which I have posted here numerous times). It's about his daughter. It's about my daughters, the daughters and writers who love Atticus. As Wilbur did his daughter, I wish mine always "a lucky passage."

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten.  I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

The beautiful changes daily. Minute by minute, it sometimes seems. And so I will keep wishing what I wish for Atticus and for my girls, but harder.

May Richard Wilbur rest in peace, and may my beloved Atticus live as long and beautiful a life.


You'll find the Poetry Friday round up at A Day in the Life


Atticus said...

Who's the lovely woman with that twisted, misshapened troll?

jama said...

OH, Karen. We have missed you. Sorry to hear about Atticus, but SO relieved that his prognosis is good and that he will be okay!!

What a trying several months you've had. It's never easy; I think everyone reading your blog has in some way been "touched" by cancer, either directly or indirectly. This summer we learned that my SIL's cancer had returned, as expected. She's had surgery again and is now doing chemo. The return of her cancer was expected. Apparently it isn't possible in her case to "get everything." The cells migrate to different parts of her body, and in its original location (ovaries), each time she's treated they can only kill off one layer of bad cells at a time.

I didn't know Richard Wilbur had passed away. "The Writer" was one of the first poems I posted when I first joined PF. Yes, to the beautiful changes, keeping hope alive, returning to wonder.

Big hugs to you, Atticus, and your girls. Welcome back, so glad and relieved to hear good news. Sending Atticus special, extra strong healing vibes!

tanita✿davis said...

Oh, my WORD, Karen.
I'm so grateful, and I don't even know your Atticus. Thank God he's fine now.
Oh, I'm so glad he's there with you and the girls still.

Hugs all 'round, and thank you for a bright note for today. ♥

Ruth said...

Wow, this brought tears to my eyes, and I didn't even read the poems yet. So sorry about your rough few months, but so glad the dust is settling.

Faith said...

You made me cry. So glad they got it all out! I gotta start reading Richard Wilbur.

Jamie said...

So glad to hear your hopeful news, Karen.

Erics said...

Praise God! What you've had to endure! It seems cancer is everywhere, sadly. I am so glad for this good outcome for your dear husband. Blessings to everyone!

Polly King said...

Love it, Karen. Praying for you and Atticus.

Diane Mayr said...

My thoughts are with you and Atticus. I'm a breast cancer survivor who feels she has dodged a bullet. Soon the memory of the ordeal will fade and you'll consider it all a grand inconvenience that stole a portion of your life from you. You can't get it back, but you can forge ahead!

Karen Edmisten said...

Oh, my dear friends, so good to hear from all of you! I'm so grateful for your words of support here.

Jama, I'm so sorry about your SIL. That's heartbreaking. I'll be holding her in my thoughts. Yes, The Writer was probably one of my earliest Poetry Friday posts, too. Wilbur always takes my breath away. I find it so ironic that some critics thought of him as cold and distant.

Tanita, thank you so much. It's good to share a bright note today. :)

Thank you so much, Ruth. And you must read the poems!

Faith, thanks, and yes, you do. ;)

Thanks, Jamie. Hugs!

Erica, yes, so many cancer diagnoses and such a feeling of helplessness in too many cases. Thanks for popping in here!

Polly, thanks -- and you know my prayers continue for you!

Diane, you're so encouraging. Thank you so much. Onward!

Tabatha said...

Happy for you and Atticus and the girls that you had good news at the end of your hospital ordeal. I'm sure the time in between that and July 28th must have been a horrified blur. Wishing you a healthy fall!

Melanie Bettinelli said...

"And so I will keep wishing what I wish for Atticus and for my girls, but harder.

May Richard Wilbur rest in peace, and may my beloved Atticus live as long and beautiful a life."

Amen, amen.

Karen, I'm crying. I'm so happy for the good news and this is so beautiful all tied up in poetry.

Mary Lee said...

Oh, Karen! What an end-of-summer you've had! Like Diane, I am a breast cancer survivor (next year I'll celebrate 20 years!!) but I still remember with a wrench of my gut that shift of the universe when I got The News. Processing The News with hubby, sitting at a bar with a glass of wine. Walking through life until surgery knowing that I carried a killer inside my body. Coming out of the year of surgery and treatment with a changed appreciation for each moment.

Healing and positive thoughts are winging to you and your family...especially to Atticus. Hooray that he is running again!

Karen Edmisten said...

Melanie, thank you. {Hugs} and happy tears at this end, too. :)

Thank you, Mary Lee! And thank you for sharing about your own battle. Yes, the memories of processing the news are vivid, and will be with us always. Recovery is hard, but we keep reminding ourselves that they got the cancer out, and that will give us many more years to remember, and to appreciate every moment, as you said. :)

Karen Edmisten said...

Tabatha, yes, "horrified blur" sums it up perfectly! :) Thanks for your good wishes. All the same and all the best to you and yours!

Kortney said...

The picture of you two beauties at the end--such a lovely way to end this lovely post. Peace keep you, dear one.

Kay said...

Oh, Karen, what a time you have had. I am so glad to hear Atticus is healing and growing stronger day by day. I hope he continues to do so.

penelope said...

Oh Karen I've been wondering, and worried, because you have been quiet here for so long. I am so sorry. What a blessed relief on the pathology report. Prayers of healing and thanksgiving winging their way to you. {{hugs}}

-- Penelope (formerly ellie from facing west: new phase in life means new blog)

Karen Edmisten said...

Kortney, thank you. Peace to you and yours as well!

Thank you, Kay! We appreciate it so much.

Penelope, so good to hear from you, and thank you! I've fallen behind on blogs I love and I look forward to catching up with you.

Andrea said...

Beautiful post Karen! Love and miss you ��

Jane @ said...

I hate, hate, hate, hate cancer, too. Wishing you both so, so, so much light and love and health.

Karen Edmisten said...

Jane, thank you so, so, so much for that!

Andrea, love and miss you, too!