My Guardian Angel (for Simone)

thPhoto taken from the WEB

My Guardian Angel

I remember taking that dreadful one-mile walk thirty-seven times. Most of those mornings were sunny. Though, in my mind, they were the gloomiest, murkiest, and haziest of my life. I remember the building, modern in its outward appearance, and the uninviting smell once I entered. I remember the patients that sat in the lobby who greeted me with cheerful smiles. But I quickly learned that behind those forced, almost customary gestures of kindness, lingered specks of doubt that could never fully wane. I remember the array of colored candy in the glass jar on the counter next to the magazines about all things cancer. I remember the nurse calling my name and taking that long walk down the bright hallway filled with medical certificates and degrees and pictures of former patients on display. I wondered if all the plaques and certificates were supposed to somehow ease my anxiety, and if the pictures of former patients who had come back to offer thanks to the doctors were supposed to give me hope that this moment in time would eventually cease to exist, someday. I remember the darkened room where a large machine sat in the center, and the chill of the slab that was attached to the large machine, and that god-awful mask, perfectly molded for my face.

Every day that I endured radiation treatment, I clenched the side of the slab with my left hand. Somehow, this ritual brought me closer to my guardian angel, Simone. She lost her battle with cancer a year and a half prior to my diagnosis, and in witnessing her rapid deterioration, a part of me died with her. The other part endured a similar fight seventeen months later. Simone did not have many material possessions in this life, and the few she had were kept in a black backpack as she traveled from residence to residence. She did not have a ‘home’ in the typical sense. Sure, she had children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews and sisters and brothers, and a host of friends and others she affectionately referred to as family. Simone and I connected when I was thirteen over a similar passion for books and tastes in music. I enjoyed how our casual conversations about the most mundane of things always turned into deep-rooted debates about life in general. She never judged me, just listened, and offered her suggestions. There were no proverbial walls, constructed by my utter distrust of people.

Simone was a cook at a small café in downtown Long Beach. And though she loved cooking at the café, she loved cooking for her friends and family even more. She cooked for her family on most every holiday. She had a gift for arts and crafts, always making homemade Easter baskets for her grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. She made the best homemade cheesecakes of all-time, too! Every year on my birthday, I sat and watched as she beautifully crafted a special one just for me. Her main ingredient was love, always love. No ulterior motives, no hidden agendas. Just love!
She taught me many lessons before and after she died. But the one that will sustain the tests of time, “You are not your condition!” She always said that. She never made excuses for herself, or allowed anyone to feel sorry for her condition. Simone was many things in her life: a mother, a grandmother, a sister, an aunt, a friend. But she was my guardian angel. I held her hand thirty-seven times on that cold slab, donning that mask, that uncomfortable mask. And I always whispered to myself, “I am not my condition!”

by Charles Banks, Jr. (Poet/Writer)

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Between Dusk and Dawn (Writing as Curiosity)

Photo taken from the WEB

Photo taken from the WEB

 

 

BETWEEN DUSK AND DAWN
 
If I should die
In the hours between
Dusk and dawn when
The silence of howling sea breezes
And melancholy of chirping crickets
Prevail—
I will sing a song of contentment
While sipping from a hot cup of tea
In my grandpa’s old rocking chair
By the open window.
 
© 2014 by Charles Banks, Jr.
Writing as Curiosity

Announcement (3/24/2014)

Announcement:

It brings me great disappointment to have to announce that I learned on Friday morning that my cancer has returned, this time in my right lung. As of now, the only method of treatment is chemotherapy. I want to first thank everyone for their support in the last year during my first battle with cancer. I will remain persistently busy with work at Spilt Ink Poetry, diligently helping poets publish their work, as well as attending college. I look forward to releasing Spilt Ink Poetry’s Inaugural Newsletter in April, as well as working on the (re)publication of Melissa Medina’s first book of poetry. I am also collaborating on an erotic chapbook of poetry with Elizabeth Castaneda. Further, I have also signed on as an editor for Melinda Cochrane International Motivational Magazine: Summer Edition, 2014.

As I mentioned, I will remain actively involved in publishing, and I will reign victorious in my second battle with cancer. Thank you all again for your continued support, friends, family, poets and poetry lover!

Respectfully, Charles Banks, Jr.

 

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Beauty of Butterflies

I remember walking in haste
One sunny day in May,
As many of us often do—
Unattached from nature.
It was chance, I guess,
Or fate, I assume—though
I’ve always relied on the empirical,
That I stopped by this particular garden.
Rich in flowers and bushes,
It was like having an optical orgasm.
I fixated on a group of butterflies,
Five or six, resting on a bush with
Strange flowers. They were striking
Shades of red and purple and orange.
I found a connection with them.
“Maybe I am a butterfly!” I thought.
Maybe cancer is like the lifecycle of a butterfly.
Maybe my life before cancer is like
The caterpillar before the butterfly.
I remember smiling for the first time
In ages it seemed. I had something
To look forward to, life as a butterfly perhaps,
Colorful and vibrant, after the cocoon of cancer.

© 2013 by Charles Banks, Jr.
Writing as Curiosity
Published online at Cadence Collective: Long Beach Poets.

Bedside Vigil (Writing as Black Angel) Excerpt from “Burdens”

BEDSIDE VIGIL

I sat vigil over Tony’s bedside
for sixteen hours before he died
on Christmas Eve, five days before
his nineteenth birthday.
Nurses came and went, checking his vitals,
propping his pillows, asking if he needed
warm blankets or the window opened.
We traded cancer stories and laughed about how
the hospital food reminded us of radiation treatment.
I went through 37 rounds
and had been cancer-free for nine months.
He went through 28 twice before the cancer
came back and took over his entire body.
When I got to the hospital, Tony was frail,
pale-skinned, and frequently lost his breath
in the middle of a good memory.
He died just before midnight,
as the Christmas carolers sang from down the hall.
I remained at his empty bedside
long into the silence of morning,
sitting vigil over what could have been me.

© 2014 by Charles banks, Jr.
Writing as Black Angel
Excerpt from Burdens
Published by Spilt Ink Poetry

 
Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos

Art by © 2014 by Fernando Gallegos