H e a r t S o n s & H e a r t D a u g h t e r s of A l l e n G i n s b e r g
N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 1 4 : A r c h i v e s E d i t i o n
SUZI KAPLAN OLMSTED
Both Named Marge
Sick again, I watch news features about sex slaves, child prostitutes right
here, blocks from my arty urban loft home. Drowning on dry land, my
lungs are a factory for viscous slime, so thick and tough it blocks the flow
of air, in or out, my darkest army green invader, blockading me from life. I
cough until I am too tired to move, let alone cough again. Even before
breathing became so variable, my brain was and is an enemy lying in wait –
bright sun, the scent of an orange, not enough sleep, Arbor Day (whenever
that is), all can be a metal lance into my head, migraine, familiar pain
never better just because I’ve known it, my nauseous stomach demanding
that I stay away from cars and food, except for coca cola. I can’t see
normally, read or write.
I contemplate volunteering, helping in the program they praise, using my
training, education and broken heart to reach these little girls. But help
comes better from the meditation cushion than the street, from me at least,
since 12 year old hookers were almost the death of me. I can’t help
anyone if I’m confused in the bardo.
The first time I found out that there were 12-year-old prostitutes right
next to me, not in Bangkok, or Calcutta, or on MSNBC, I was trying so
hard to save the world that I missed it when my exploding head came
within a hair’s breadth of killing me, demanding painkillers until the
explosion nearly killed my connection with the people that I loved most.
Sick again, I croak guilty apologies to beloved friend Marge. Her real
name’s Nancy. Living in side-by-side trailers, in service to Buddha at the
Mediation Center, we both became “Marge.” She has also been sick,
cancer, and needs caretakers, since they have scooped out her innards like
ice cream, 1000 times more intense and serious than that which knocks me
on my back so often..
Nancy and I, late bloomers both, laughed together more than I recall at any
job so difficult, both falling in love with (& marrying) late-blooming poets
while cooking vast mountains of mediation food. My close friend from
ageless ages of karma, my Vedic sister, our birthdays a joint celebration
from every life, her open dakini (female Buddha skydancer) kind comic
wisdom heart tempering my own sharp tongue, bringing her the dubious
honor of later running everything at the Center with such ease and grace
they won’t let her leave. Even while working harder than 3 other people,
her body full of cancer, I never heard a sound from her bemoaning her
condition, at least not without a joke at its heart.
Marge/Nancy managed to save me right at the end, though in the last gasp
of a chance before it would have been beyond help or beyond hope. A
simple thing, really, but everything, and 52 sober new moons are mine, 4
years are mine, 52 dakini days of the Tibetan lunar calendar that may be
heavy with sickness, but not made worse by my own poor treatment. She
found for me a refuge, a bardo where they relieved me of my pills in
exchange for regular deposits of my pain, the bardo called Rehab.
Marge may be out of abdominal content, and unable to do anything for
herself, but I am the one wearing the same clothes all week, my hair in
tangled dreadlock, my poet husband due home from an office that pays my
health insurance, food dwindling in the house. I speak of Buddha but
worship t.v. instead. Marge, so cheerful, no matter how her body feels,
lays under the refuge tree, a thousand thousand buddhas cradling her. I lay
with the Tivo remote clutched in my hand, glad of the massive content I
have assembled. I am counting on Marge’s prayers, or I will never get out
of the human realm. Even so, she is not so holy that right now, I can think
of times with her and laugh out loud, one of the wittiest people on Earth,
laughter bringing tears to my eyes and a tiny bit of urine to my pants.
And reminding me – I really should change my clothes.
[Originally published in NHS 2009, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs09/Suzi_Kaplan_Olmsted.htm.]