Category Archives: photography

Inspired by Tom Prasada-Rao

Heading Back Home by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2015

For me, the past year has been a “Twilight Zone” of one medical crisis after another—a new “surprise” before I’d even healed from the last one. From heart problems, possibly related to cancer treatment 23 years ago (with talk of a pacemaker) to 6 excision biopsies and 4 subsequent surgeries for melanoma, with an extreme allergy to the hypoallergenic tape, which caused blistering of my skin. Extended vertigo. I was hit by a motorcycle (no serious injury). A kidney stone (not my first, not the usual composition) led to a sudden jump in blood pressure. The procedure blasting the stone, went awry due to an equipment malfunction, which led to a whole array of ongoing problems including, bizarrely, a strained knee, which months later, is still debilitating. Interspersed with a sprinkling of other “issues” just for spice.

Not to whine or complain, but really? As it turns out, I’m doing ok. One moment at a time, remembering to breathe. Remembering I have healing tools and support. Remembering to ask for help.

Over and over again help has come to dig me out of the depths. My loving husband stepped up big time. Very few days have we both lost our “cool” in all this mess. Family and friends and my support team kept me going. Doctors who listen. Nature to rebalance. Books to escape with. Music to uplift. And the moving stories of others going through their own big-time challenges.

Tom Prasada-Rao is a gifted musician with a healing story. He is a lovely singer/songwriter who went through major cancer surgery this past winter. He wrote about it on Facebook, showing a photo of his long scar. Normally I don’t really care for post-surgery photos, but his story and attitude about his “bad ass scar” “increasing his street cred” was potent healing medicine for me as I headed into more of my own surgeries.

These are the 3 poems inspired by Tom and his music and courageous, loving, healing presence. My heartfelt thanks, Tom Prasada-Rao!

2/4/19

“Badass Scar”

Thank you Tom Prasada-Rao
for changing my anxious mind
in one heartfelt line
about your long surgery
and re-emergence into the light

As I face another visible scar
another 2 surgeries, not nearly
as complex or dangerous as yours
my troubles lightened and lifted
a smile appeared, no lie

Each scar—of the many—
a badge of survival
And the pain that comes still
even after months of healing
is nothing to what could have been

if cancer had won.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

2/13/19

Wounded Healer

of T P-R

Sometimes
stay very still
in one place
quietly breathing
and listen.
It is hard and
it is your job
to receive.
Not at some point
to restore or resume
or even to refresh
but to find
the new threads to weave
and then follow them out
of persistent darkness.
Tell your honest story
invite in those needing comfort
not to rebuild what was, but
to create who you are becoming.
To trust more
to be patient more than ever before.
To befriend darkness
to release and reveal.
To fully inhabit
this body with scars
measured in miles
in tears, in fears.
To go away, to dive deep
and come back
deeper still
loving.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

2/23/19

Doing Healing Work

from Tom and Eric and Karla
who have never met as far as I know

The hardest
when traveling
through and past
abject darkness
it to not become
dark
soaked in it
through and through
no matter how
it may damage you
and then spraying dark all around you
unaware, even unwilling.
No
I tell you true
do not choose to
go behind that door
in this life game show
we are creating.
Even if a dark dip
choose love
choose light.
Begin with you
let dark slide off you
“like water off a duck’s back”
as my mother used to say
to her sensitive daughter.
Or let dark overtake
temporarily, feel fully
and remember to release.
Or find your own metaphor
your own goal to aim for.
No matter what has happened
is happening
let go of fear
let go of mindlessness
remember you are a wondrous healer
think of all the scrapes and bruises
you no longer have, inside and out.
You are headed somewhere.
And if this is it
this black bottomless pit
where no light escapes or enters
remember
this is not who you are
only where you are.
Find a bird singing somewhere
or a leaf falling in the flowing river.
Find a cloud of any shape or color
or a clear cloudless depth of azure sky.
Find a song that uplifts
already written or write your own
maybe from your re-formation.
Look anywhere, there is a thread
or beginning of an idea of a thread
that can be woven into
a rope to shape into a ladder
to climb back out on.
Not avoiding the rich loam of life
the shell or armor of protection
as if nothing harsh or fatal
will get out or in
but consider
allowing the possibility of
transformation and transcendence.
Without change there is no growth
without growth there is no life.
Why else did you come?

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

One more bit of inspiration by Tom:
Although I’ve often read my poems to groups of people, it took years for me to record my first poem-video—just after my birthday in 2014. I was painfully shy about it. My willingness to make that first recording was inspired in part by Tom Prasada-Rao and his deeply heartfelt songs that he posted on Facebook. (I now have almost 70 poem-videos on my YouTube channel.)
Here is the blog post with my reading of that first poem, “I Know That.”

Or is you prefer, you can go directly to YouTube:
“I Know That”—on YouTube

Our Future, Still Being Written

6/20/18

Listening to Amelia Curran
After Hours of Reading

If this is all there is
and you have forgotten the rest
and if you cannot keep from
the seduction of despair
I understand
and
hold out a hand.
Rest a while
in the shade of favorite music
or vacation in a favorite book.
No shame in resting,
I understand
and
give permission
as for you
as for me.
And if in the barrage of news
every bit worse than the last
and tears well up and head hangs
still, I would urge you to remember
what is real,
who you are, have always been,
the long perspective.
A marathon requires pacing
replenishment, an eye on the far-off goal
as you put one foot in front of the other
as your heart beats and muscles ache
as you breathe
and breathe
and
remember.
You have trained for this:
Every challenge, hard time, tragedy, trauma
you found strength to heal and endure
and now you are called on for more.
Those faltering for now
are aided by others
who will in turn
need help.
Like geese in a “V”
stronger together, each leader in turn
falls back, resumes.
Yes, this is not what you sought
but this is what was sown,
the past playing out
but not necessarily
our future, still being written.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2018

Note: Amelia Curran is a Canadian singer-songwriter I heard of from Peter Mulvey (an incredible American singer-songwriter). Listening to music and reading is how I have been getting through some personally dark days and high anxiety.

I found this recent poem while looking for something else. Although written this past June, it was as if I had written it to encourage and support myself — and others– right now, the week of the midterm election. A reminder to breathe, to rest when needed, to help each other, to take the long view, to vote. I offer this to you in kindness, as my way of holding out a hand. Hang in there, dear ones.

November Sunset, M D Mikus, Copyright 2017

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

Let the Truth Be Known

IL Route 22, Sept. 2017, copyright MDMikus

I’m normally a pretty high energy person, an optimist. For a while I’ve not posted new poems (maybe one), nor written much. My energy’s been very low and I was mostly on hold. Every day I would try to do something. Maybe bike 10 minutes or get a load of wash done. Maybe just take my medications on time, eat healthy meals. Hang out with my husband. Breathe, drink enough water. This was not depression, which I recognize.

Because I am who I am, I tried to figure this out, made a list of fatigue factors. Tried to find what I could do about any of them. Slowly I am edging back to what feels like normal for me. Today was a good day.

I’m not saying any of this to get suggestions, and I appreciate your concern, truly. There are some things in life I can’t do anything about and I hate that (as Anne Lamott says). My youngest sister, Dorothy, is dealing with stage 4 aggressive breast cancer and has for almost 5 years. She is ten years younger than me. I was kind of a second mother and we are still close. Over the years I’ve done a lot of writing to help both of us. And I can support her in some ways, but I cannot fix this and the stress of it affects all of us.

I believe in healing. I have experienced profound body, mind, spirit healing for myself…more than once. And I also know there is much mystery in what happens, to whom, and why.

Dorothy has helped a lot of people in these 5 years. As she goes through the medical world, she spreads around what she learned from me about guided imagery, homeopathy, energy work (like acupuncture and reiki) etc. Her current oncologist encourages her to get massage and reiki etc. because it helps her feel better and thus do better. She’s shared my poems with her support group and taught me a lot. (She really likes “cupping” for pain–do you remember the Olympic athletes who used it?) She hugs everyone (a family trait).

One way I’ve learned to deal with anxiety of all types is to be grounded and in the present moment. “Right here. Right now” I say, even aloud sometimes.

Writing is coming back which feels wonderful, like I am coming back into myself. Here is a recent poem prompted by a video of an interview of Patti Smith. The poem reminded me there is always a context to what goes on all around me–the big picture, the cycles, the mystery of it all.

9/21/17

Let the Truth Be Known

After an Interview with Patti Smith
Posted on Facebook by Jan Krist

If I could tell you
truthfully
knowing what I know
the facts, the narrative arcs…

if I could say to you
eye to eye
unblinking
no fingers crossed—
however unlikely it seems
now
looking around
reading as much as I can bear
and stay sane
and still sleep at night

I would say:
It all works out
Not as some Pollyanna
apple-cheeked naivete but
I trust—on some level—
all is well and all shall be well

I do not know the details
I barely, barely know my place in it
on a single day
but I know that in this
pervasive dark
under the most abhorrent rocks
as truth is revealed
as what was wounded
in need of healing
comes to light
at first shocking but
as with many things
light and air and revelation
heals
and hope keeps breaking through
as others find answers
to the insoluble problems

I do not have to know it all
I do have to hold a space
for transformation to take place
encouraging, welcoming, embracing, accepting
the whole becoming
what it could be—

you and me…
we…

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2017

62–“Express, Process, Assess” from “Resist the Slide into Darkness”

Chicago Trains, Coming and Going, by M D Mikus, Copyright 2012

4/26/16

Express, Process, Assess

After Mike Latza and Oriah Mountian Dreamer

Fear and I are well-acquainted
but any love lost is unrequited
Fear is not my friend though
sometimes I pretzel-bend in its wind

It is a choice, this distance
a choosing and re-choosing in the face of challenge
Not what has happened that might
suck me down and in and under but
who am I in relation to this
potential grand piano falling from the sky
Why ask why when there is no answer
Why contract into fetal-ball position
as if that guarantees protection

Beaten egg whites gently folded in
add humor as leavening to lighten
the batter I am making from a recipe
handed down or found or made up on the spot
Trust…just enough

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016

From my upcoming book, Resist the Slide into Darkness. Listen here: https://youtu.be/DRxcVnP0uVo

Mike Latza is the editor of the journal, Willow Review. (I was the Illinois Featured Author in 2013.) I wrote this poem after the annual Willow Review launch and reading at College of Lake County, which is always inspiring for me. Oriah Mountain Dreamer is the author of The Invitation–based on her poem–and other books. We are connected on Facebook where she often writes beautiful, insightful short essays. Inspiration can come from anywhere and threads begin to weave together into something that speaks to me, that whispers “write this down.”

Randolph and State Streets, by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2012

For more poem videos in the series