Category Archives: As Easy as Breathing

50–“Risk” from “As Easy as Breathing”

Updated from a post on Jan. 20, 2017

Trees and Shadow by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2010

Risk

It’s a risk
to wake up every morning

and see
if you fall short

or stand tall,
grow an inch or a foot,

see what seeds may land
and take root,

your heart cracked open
like a walnut.

It’s a risk
to get up every morning,

leave the land of dreams
and begin again,

leave the land of dreams and dreaming,
stride on solid ground,

learn and teach,
grow and glow…

then throw out all you know
and begin again.

It’s a risk.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 1998

From my book, As Easy as Breathing: Reclaiming Power for Healing and Transformation. It was written in response to a guy I knew who said he needed risky sports to feel alive. Watch my reading here: https://youtu.be/6OstW8lniek

In the years after my first breast cancer treatment (1996-7, surgery, chemo, and radiation), I continued to write with a healing intention, sharing my poems with those who might be helped by them. Eventually I considered assembling a book. My first concept was a small collection to help cancer patients and their families and friends. After 9/11/2001, I realized that people like me, who had dealt with life threatening illness, learned a lot about living in times of great fear. And so the book got bigger, with selected poems from a 6-year period. Over the years, these poems have supported many people in coping with all kinds of traumatic life circumstances—including cancer—and to even thrive.

“Risk” is track 34 on my CD, Full Blooming: Selections from a Poetic Journal… with some other poems from As Easy As Breathing and also Letting Go and New Beginnings (and 3 songs).

For more video poems

Two Poems of Comfort

Egret in St. Pete’s by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2008

I posted the following comment on Facebook in response to Tiffany’s request for stories upon Bill Farber’s birthday, 3/24/17, (He passed away a year ago):

“Twenty years ago Bill Farber was my Reiki teacher. He said something surprising that I still remember: that getting a Ph.D. in microbiology was the perfect training for becoming a poet.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 months later, he offered to do Reiki sessions for me before each chemotherapy, for no charge. I thought of it as making sure my energy batteries were fully charged and it made a big difference to how I handled chemo and how quickly I healed. Although we lost track of each other over the years, I continued to think of him as my teacher and was shocked and unexpectedly bereft when he died last year.

Tiffany, I don’t know if you remember meeting me when I was at the house one time, and you read me a poem you had written. It was very powerful and moving (and felt quite real, though I found out it was fiction). It inspired my poem, “To Tiffany (This came out of your poem),” which is very different from my usual style of writing. I included it in my book, As Easy as Breathing: Reclaiming Power for Healing and Transformation. As often happens, the death of your Dad also prompted me to write a poem, “The Passing of Bill Farber.”

I think I emailed both of them to your Mom. If you’d like to have them, let me know. Hang in there on this day of remembrance. <3<3”

So here they are, two very different poems of comfort, written 20 years apart.

The first is from my book, As Easy as Breathing: Reclaiming Power for Healing and Transformation. I wrote this at the beginning of chemotherapy, a time I very much needed comfort. (And yes, I had an actual stuffed bunny like this one.)

To Tiffany:

(This came out of your poem)

I snuggle deep
in my pink nest
with the bunny
I love the best.

He is comfort
and fuzzy forgiving,
always reflecting
loving and living.

His ears have
the softest fur,
white and warm
and so secure.

I hug him close
before I sleep
then put him up
on my pillow to keep

watch over me
as I sink to the deep
dark depths or float
or fly or weep.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 1996

And the second is from my poetic journal, my personal response to yet another loss:

3/7/16

The Passing of Bill Farber

Death lesson
like a toddler
learning object
permanence:

When the object
becomes unseen
does not mean it is gone
it can come back
or come back in another form.

And death is like that
they say: not gone altogether
but gone away and yet
he or she is still somewhere
still existing…somewhere

perhaps to return
or reunite with
perhaps slipped out the door
to other dimensions
parallel or infinite

waiting with the others
speaking if spoken to
aware yet somehow distant
listening to the big picture
expanded from who they were here.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016

58–“This Is the Moment I Have” from “As Easy As Breathing”

Granada, Spain at Night by M D Mikus, Copyright 2005

“This Is the Moment I Have

not tomorrow
with its joy or sorrow….”

From the poem, “This Is the Moment I Have,” in my book, As Easy As Breathing: Reclaiming Power for Healing and Transformation. Listen here: https://youtu.be/DAdusMHbQ2Y

I wrote this in 1997 shortly after cancer treatment (surgery, chemo, radiation), thus the reference to “face topped by hair.” And following the healing from multiple sclerosis refers to “standing on two strong legs.” Though it was prompted by specific circumstances, I think of this poem often in my life now: “How often am I actually here…in this only moment I have?”

For more poem videos in the series

Track 25 on Full Blooming CD

53—“After Lisel Mueller” from “As Easy as Breathing”

Peony from my Driveway, Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2007

“…be still enough

to hear direction
even when heart

pounds in the darkness…
sometimes….”

From “After Lisel Mueller” in my book, As Easy as Breathing: Reclaiming Power from Healing and Transformation. (p. 286 in the paperback, also in eBook formats) Listen here: https://youtu.be/p-qpdvOrGaA

Before I wrote this poem in mid-May of 1999 I had been deeply discouraged and had decided to stop writing. Lisel Mueller lived near me and, in 1997, had won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her book, “Alive Together.” I already had tickets to hear her speak, so I decided to go. It was life altering. I learned so much from that one talk/reading. Some of her poems soaked into me as if she wrote them specifically for me, and others not as much. During the book signing Lisel Mueller was gracious and generous, taking unhurried time with each person. It felt like we were all at her house for afternoon tea.

This poem “popped out” as I drove home. (I did pull over to write it down.) And I discovered I was not going to stop writing poems, since “After Lisel Mueller” flowed out from me in one piece just like this. The words were very compelling and clear. My energy shifted, I was recharged in every sense of the word. Later I gave her the poem and she wrote back to me with an encouraging handwritten note. I am grateful still.

Let these words flow over you and recharge you. Breathe out and breathe in…

This poem is also track 35 on my CD. You can listen to all tracks here: Full Blooming: Selections from a Poetic Journal.

For more poem videos in the series

Poems for Jenny Cooper

Chicago Botanic Garden Copyright 2016 MDMikus

Chicago Botanic Garden, Copyright 2016 MDMikus

A few years ago, I connected on Facebook with Jenny Cooper, another member of Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir. She had a breast cancer diagnosis and I sent her my book, As Easy as Breathing: Reclaiming Power for Healing and Transformation, to help if it could. (I wrote the book during my own cancer journey.) She was in her thirties with a loving husband, Chris, and two young sons. She became a vigorous online presence, healthcare advocate and educator, putting up vivid, honest videos of her ongoing journey. Jenny chose to life fully in every way. Despite aggressive treatment, her cancer returned and continued  to grow.

She went on hospice this summer and is now dying. I wrote these poems in the last few months in support and condolence, to help me as much as anyone. (My youngest sister was also dealing with stage 4 cancer, but is holding on at this point.) I stayed connected with both Jenny and her husband as she declined. I do not know why things happen as they do, but I do know that life has meaning. Jenny’s life touched so many and will continue to.

8/8/16

For Jenny Cooper
and Chris

In the mist
of dying
is the living
compressed

A hand to hold
is everything
a witness
to all of it

What is meaning
anyway, but
knowing you will be
missed

One way you leave
other ways you stay
no way to not be
remembered

Your own personal
flavor of immortality
your peace-heart
expanding out to the sky

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016

 

8/25/16

For Jenny—One of Our Virtual Choir Family

What did you think
the end would look like?
Not this pain and suffering
more medications not covering
more drugged sleeping.

The bubble you live in
becoming smaller and smaller
time with husband and boys shorter.

Yes, the bucket list accomplished
the daily online posts
that express and convince
connecting still to the outside.
But why is this?
And why you?
A mystery as all of it
unfolds relentlessly.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016

 

9/10/16

All the Days Are Numbered

Jenny and Chris Cooper

This is what dying looks like
on the good days
like living but sharper
like living but clearer
like living but deeper
the choices and chances more limited now

What is important cuts through the clutter
to take a pain-free breath
to savor a juicy peach
to hear your child’s laugh
to look in the eyes of, talk with,
hold the hand of your beloved

This is what the end looks like up close
at the edge of the unknown
all the love you have gathered to you
all the love you sent back out
This…noticing. This profound…awareness
of the part the path you walk alone…
and never alone, entirely still.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016

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