Friday 9 December 2022

Peter Thabit Jones, "A Cancer Notebook"


Peter Thabit Jones has authored sixteen books. He has participated in festivals and conferences in America and Europe and is an annual writer-in-residence in Big Sur, California. A recipient of many awards, including the Eric Gregory Award for Poetry (The Society of Authors, London) and the Homer: European Medal of Poetry and Art, two of his dramas for the stage have premiered in America. His opera libretti for Luxembourg composer Albena Petrovic Vratchanska have premiered at the Philarmonie Luxembourg, the National Opera House Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, and Theatre National Du Luxembourg. Further information is on his website here

About A Cancer Notebook, by Peter Thabit Jones

From the Foreword, by Patricia Holt

In A Cancer Notebook, Peter expresses, viscerally, purely, his emotions and thoughts while he is living with the reality of cancer. Being a poet, he does so in a way which can be integrated into another being directly, shattering the isolation, and giving each person a better understanding and acceptance of what they are going through - a precious step toward healing, emotionally and physically. This is the profound gift of Peter’s book. The poems are such a totality, each word adding to the whole, building within themselves to an integrated power and poignancy. 'Women’s Ward' and 'Words' are two such poems, among many others.

From A Cancer Notebook

The Bird in the Garden

Over two weeks
Since New Year’s Eve
And the word the surgeon said
Won’t leave. My thoughts try
To break through the ice of it.

I carry a bit of death for now -
Until it's removed. January
And a dunnock bird sits
In the swaying round feeder,
Unbothered by the cold breeze
Of a grave, grey winter, He pecks
At the hard, dry pool of seed.
I smile at the beauty of him.
He warms my emotions.
I love the positivity

In his need to survive.

Women's Ward

Midnight. I pass the women’s ward,
As I struggle, so slow, to the men’s room.
I momentarily think of their possible
Pains, maybe the loss of the features
Of their womanhood, the scars they
Will own for the rest of their lives.

The moon has always tracked their days,
Decided their mothering blood.
The ages enslaved them to kitchen
And bed, denied them the schooling seeds,
Denied them the flourishing voices
Of men. I pass their ward again.

'The eternal note of sadness'
Is always with us, it seems, unsettling 
Our lives and all that we are as humans.
Sleep well, sisters, caught by this thing 
Called cancer, and may your journeys
Be one to a safe and long future of wellness.

Note: 'The eternal note of sadness' is a line from Matthew Arnold’s poem 'Dover Beach.'

One Man's Notebook

Four weeks since my surgery.
What deep songs can I pull up 
From the well of my experience 
Of this thing called cancer?

I check my scar, healing to a crisp 
Dryness. Confined to my home
For now, unable to lift heavy things,
Restricted physically, I feel like a man

Stood at a crossroad with a number 
Of signposts. Will I ever be the same 
Again, after tasting a droplet of death?
Words have been the religion of my life,

The worship of their weights and sounds.
My mind pulls up emotions from the bright
Bottom of the strangest of months.
The splashes of inspiration will become

Phrases, lines, stanzas, and then poems,
One man’s notebook trying to record
The imagined and challenging road 
To a place I’m told is full recovery. 

1 comment:

  1. Superb, deeply moving poems Peter that will bring hope and comfort to many. Really chuffed to see you on the mend after surgery my friend. Stay safe and well.