Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Poems to keep ya involved

It has been quite a while since I have posted anything new. There is a reason for this, and I expect in a few weeks to be writing more about Hypertension and my medicalized life.

But in the meantime, just to be active (or something!) here is some of the latest poetry I've been working on. Warning: some of it's kinda grim. But, to be positive, writing it sure helped ME feel better! Hope I haven't gone Weldon Kees on ya!!

He wanted a taste

He stood outside

on a very cold day

steamy breath

smoking air

searched for cigarette butts

in the building entrance ashtray

parka several times patched

eyes hopeful for treasure

he picked out the good butts

checked each carefully

put it in a bag if it measured up

cancer sticks we call them

searching through garbage for poison

until he found enough

the taste of the life

mostly smoked cancer sticks

back in his room

hearing the shared toilet flush

he placed a plastic bag over his head

the one he put the butts in

one by one he lit them

enjoyed the taste, a taste

the bag held in

better to enjoy, a last puff

then he put the butt down

grasped the plastic tight around his neck

and waited for life to finally be done

Victor Schwartzman

See me no more

As his mom wakes her eyes brighten

she sees him now

standing by her nursing home bed

she is so happy to see him

he does not want to see her

he wishes she was still asleep

she loves him, he loves her

love makes it worse

when he sees her blank eyes

or when he sees she knows

what she has lost

fleeting memories of what she had been

he answers her same questions

works at chatting

pushes her wheelchair

hoping it will soon be over

wishing it was him instead

knowing it will be

Victor Schwartzman

Why are we alone

ever struggled

wondered how

your friends

become smoke


burning fire

drives smoke away

ever fought the good fight

you v. the world

principle v. reality

the loneliness

cripples your heart

friends avoid you

you deny them

why desert you

in your need

they do not want your pain

they can not help anyway

and when you feel better

you will come around

friends exist to betray you

Victor Schwartzman

Bob Solves Living in Fear

Bob lived in fear

fear of home invasions

fear of muggers

no violence in his life

but tv was full of it

Bob bought a gun

Bob watched the news

the Virginia Tech Massacre

shootings everywhere

his outside was sunny

his tv darkness was spreading

Bob looked at the gun

Bob was afraid most at work

fear of clients

meeting the public

he was paid to serve

nothing ever happened but

Bob loaded the gun

Bob held the gun

shiny heavy black metal

everyone wanted him afraid

everyone on tv

Bob pointed the gun

Bob shot the tv

Victor Schwartzman

Love: boon or pain in the ass?

we love rules as much as fences

love has two basic rules:

your partner is always right

forgive your partner’s mistakes

people have died trying to figure it out

love is

waiting for your partner to be ready

though your partner rushed you

phoning mom

when she can‘t remember how to answer the phone

love is thinking of the other person first

when the other person doesn’t remember you

love is putting your needs on the back burner

while you’re in the deep fat fryer

love is understanding
what can’t

or won’t

be done for you

love: boon or pain in the ass

Victor Schwartzman

Forgetting what is important

Every day he phones

mom in the nursing home

10 am - 10:30 am

most days she forgets

did he call yesterday?


why, he hasn’t called in a week

she tells cousins to phone him

asking if something is wrong

he phones every day

because he loves her

wants to hear her voice

feels guilty he doesn’t see her enough

and she forgets

Victor Schwartzman

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Please sign a petition

Outsider Writers, and the people signing this petition, urge to add an “Alternative” literature listing under its “Books” pull-down menu. Alternative Literature needs a room of its own. I have spent close to a year trying to get Amazon to make a decision on this issue without a response, so now it is time to see if people who buy and sell books on Amazon want to see have an “Alternative Literature” listing.

Amazon is an extremely important online sales tool for independent publishers and authors. Bookstore shelf space is more limited than ever, and it can be impossible to find new poetry or fiction from independent publishers. That is why independent publishers increasingly use online sites such as to market their books.

There are thousands and thousands of products listed on Amazon, but Amazon has made it easy to browse through products until you find what you want. Its site has pull down menus for main product categories. Click on “Books” and you will find extensive listings for everything from Graphic Novels to Performing Arts to SF and Fantasy. There is even a Poetry category. There is not such a Literature category, though.

The Amazon system works well if you want to browse through mainstream publications, or if you already know the author and/or title. But if you are looking for “Alternative” you have a problem. There is no Alternative category. The Alternative literature is there, but it is crowded out by the mainstream books. If you don’t know exactly what Alternative writing you are looking for, you won’t find it--but if you want to browse you will find plenty o’ pages listing books, but the Alternative writing is buried among the mainstream products.

It is time for Amazon to create an Alternative listing in its Books section, dedicated to alternative/underground poetry, fiction and prose. Amazon can start by simply listing books from small, independent publishers, and then can create subsections under Alternative, for poetry, flash fiction, political writing, and other subgroups. This would be great for publishers, authors, readers--and Amazon itself.

Victor Schwartzman

Outsider Writers

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Two poems related by email

Subject line not enough for this email

I have to enter a body

before I am allowed

to send an email

a subject line is not enough

I have to enter a body

but entering a body

is not to be taken lightly

whose body do I have to enter

is it the body of an internet employee

does she or he get a bonus

the things you do for work

now I have performance anxiety

Victor Schwartzman

Email to Cousin Lew

Hey Lew, thanks for the jokes


all the same up here, pretty much

mom probably had more t.i.a.s

mini strokes, they call them

she was not answering questions yesterday

staring into I don’t know what

her own world, her new world

dropped by her place today

just to see again, to know

she was not surprised when

I walked into her nursing home room

though I said nothing about coming

it was like, oh you’re here, that’s nice

she's very quiet

never reads, doesn’t even watch much tv

sleeps a lot

could be worse

she's still here

not in any pain


Victor Schwartzman

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hypertension 49: Where are we at now?

It's been a long while since I have posted anything on this blog about Hypertension? Why the delay? The basic reason is that through multiple postings I was able to write down my history. Once I got that far, there seemed to be nothing particularly new.

Right now, I am waiting for a followup with my third specialist. The first specialist moved to Alberta. The second generally only saw people once as he worked out of a hospital cardiology ward. So I've now hooked up with a third specialist.

Seeing the third specialist meant going through a new battery of various tests & bloodwork. In particular, I wore a blood pressure arm cuff for twenty four hours. It is just like the home cuff I use, but it's attached to a battery pack and a an electronic data gathering device. Every half hour, it would pump up, no matter what I was doing. Kinda cool, actually.

I have no idea what the readings ended up being. I was out late that night as it was the first night, at midnight, that the last Harry Potter book went public. My 18 year old daughter had to pick up her pre-ordered copy asap, so we went down to the bookstore together. It was a marvelous experience, seeing a bookstore mobbed with eager readers! I like the Potter series, although I've only read the first two--I was partway through the third when my daughter lent it to a friend, & I've never seen it again. Tributes to Rowling for writing so well that she has brought millions of readers into bookstores!!

My blood pressure remains unstable, but is generally below 140 systolic and hovers around 80 diastolic. I gather the diastolic readings are still not good, but often my systolic readings are in the normal range. At times, though--as when I started this morning--the readings are still too high (this morning, 151/88), especially given the multiple prescription medications I take.

Life remains draggy, meds-wise. One would think that if those doctors who insist that it just takes a little time to adjust to the meds are correct, that by now I would have adjusted--it has been over two years, after all. Whether the feels of weakness and tiredness are due to low blood pressure, the side effects of the medications, or some combination of both--who knows?

But the end result is that while I can work, I can only work successfully with a reduced work load. I can still produce the right amount of completed work, provided I do not have to juggle too much. The more work, the less gets done. It is as if concentrating and focussing uses up so much energy that, if I work very hard in the morning, it is almost impossible to stay awake in the afternoon. I have yet to find a way around this.

I did stop exercising for a while after my mom was in and out of hospital due to heart attacks. She also had to move into a nursing home. I'll try restarting the gym shortly--but, interestingly, it appears to have had no special impact on either my blood pressure or my weight.

The best advice for weight loss came from my third specialist. He did not bother with calorie counting, he just told me to get used to being hungry. Believe it or not, that worked--I just don't eat when I get hungry. That approach must be combined with sensible eating, of course. I find an ice cream cone today adds a pound or more within two days. Simple as that. Gotta avoid the ice cream, the chocolate, the pizza--all that stuff. I lost the most weight when for a few days I simply ate canteloupe and cottage cheese. That was filling, but very low in calories.

Some decisions are coming up--do I keep working full time, do I retire on a small pension & find other work, do I go to part time work? At 62 I don't feel like retiring, although I would find plenty to do. We are all too much tied into our paid work ethic, I guess.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Poem: Three Views of an Alcoholic

Three Views of an Alcoholic


I don’t drink that much

I’m okay if I don’t start before noon

otherwise the day is gone

I know I slur words

feel normal until I stand

sneak drinks when she’s shopping

at night when she’s asleep

worried about getting caught

but not worried enough to stop


Our son is a drunk

where did we go wrong

he was always a happy child

seemed on track in school

then he dropped out

started drifting through life

eyes always bloodshot

couldn’t get him on the phone

we failed him


Dad’s pissed most of the time

I tried talking, yelling, crying

when he’s drinking he’s not there

says stupid things thinks they’re funny

you can always see it in his eyes

the visine and mouthwash fool no one

we all kept up the lie

I needed him

I’ll never forgive him

Victor Schwartzman

Poem: Children, parenting, pets

Children, parenting, pets

They said

they would look after them


the pets of his children

just as a parent

he said

he would look after his children


Jake looked at the cockatiel

his son’s from ten years ago

before his son went to college

then his son moved overseas

Jake still has the bird

the bird lives in a cage

solitary confinement as punishment for flying

Jake has to clean the cage

Joan looked at the little dog

her daughter’s from ten years ago

she swore she would never

walk or groom her daughter’s dog

three years ago her daughter moved out

and got a cat

the dog has accidents in the house


Joan has to clean the crap

Victor Schwartzman

Monday, August 20, 2007

Several Poems

Wondering what I've been up to? Here are some poems. There will be more Hypertension stuff coming up soon!

Life Partners


I wasn’t looking forward to the meeting

the worker was a pain in the ass

we bend over backwards to help him

all he does is file grievances

three more years to retirement

it’s like leaves falling in autumn

I waste a lot of time raking up

what he leaves on me

I wasn’t looking forward to the meeting

the manager is a pain in the ass

I’ve bent over backwards to avoid problems

all he does is ignore me

I dream of freedom

It’s like showers falling in spring

I waste a lot of time mopping up

what he showers on me


Lived with that woman thirty years

every hour of which she had a job for me

she never talks until I start something

always having to get her way

always having to be right

she’s not like me

me, why I’m Mr. Easy

I love her if this is what love is

Lived with that man thirty years

he sat on the couch most of them

always waiting for me to talk

without me he’d have nothing to do

there’s a right way to do things

he’s not like me

me, why I’m Ms. Easy

I love him, if this is what love is


My parents started driving me crazy

and never stopped

nineteen years until I moved

nothing ever good enough

I know they love me and all but

all I heard was the crap

they never left me alone

with their purse or wallet

Our daughter started driving us crazy

when Fran was pregnant with her, actually

she’s moved out twice, both times painful

her boyfriend has his hands full

that’s what she needs to mature

we know she loves us and remembers

all the good times we gave her

(and, we have always been careful with money)

Victor Schwartzman

The Meaning of Life

In the beginning

the plot of dirt

was under an ocean

the ocean dried

dinosaurs left their footprints

people walked into those steps

a hut was built

then a city

a house rose on the dirt

the woman born in the house

loved her back yard garden

nurtured the flowers

until she could no longer

lift the watering can

she left the dirt. The new owner

built a large sandbox in the back yard

each morning with a rake

he sculpted a design in the sand

some designs looked like flowers

Victor Schwartzman

The Mind of an 16 year old

The mind of an 16 year old

can I remember

that far back

when there were

more dreams than realities

more goals than results

the world was about me

it was better that way

Victor Schwartzman

Hey pal, the bar is closing

Hey pal, does this sound familiar

work all day, eat and

sleep the rest away

with hobbies and cleaning

but mostly working

support my children

support my stuff

I use up my time

all to help the hive

we come and leave

I’ll be remembered or forgotten

matters not a snowflake

Hey pal, the bar is closing

I heard the last call

this final drink burns

been good talking with you

it’s dark outside but I’m not afraid

the air I breathe is killing me

why worry about people or accidents

about what I was born into

about what I helped create

can’t do nothing about anything

sometimes I dream

of driving and never looking back

Victor Schwartzman

Three Views of an Alcoholic

I don’t drink that much

I’m okay if I don’t start before noon

otherwise the day is gone

sometimes I slur words

I feel normal until I stand

then the world spins

there is so much I could do

I don’t want to do any of it

Our son is a drunk

where did we go wrong

he was always a happy child

seemed on track through school

but then he dropped out

drifting through life

eyes always bloodshot

we failed him

Dad’s pissed most of the time

I tried talking, yelling, crying

but when he looked at me

he only saw a roadblock

between him and the bottle

he doesn’t fool me with the Visine or mouthwash

I need my father, where is he?

Victor Schwartzman

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Poem: Lying To Your Grandmother

Lying To Your Grandmother


honey I’m back

get me a beer

it’s left me a wreck

get the kids in here

children today my mom

your dear grandmother

was moved from her home

by me and my brother

and put in a…facility

sorry for tears, it ain’t easy

what I did wasn’t me

it was this guy who was sleazy

to make her happy I lied

you’ll leave two months, maybe three

mom sat and she cried

when I’m old don’t lie to me


The bed is hard

my room mate snores

the food is lard

the nurses whores

I knew it was in the works

when they came that morning

their eyes low, like jerks

moving me with no warning

their little brains think

it’s them it’s about

so I end up in the clink

because they ain’t figured life out

they worry alone I’ll fail

they only love my money

it’s cause I’m cheaper in jail

damn calling me honey


Dad got me freaked

he tried to sell us

such a geek

when he’s zealous

what he and Dave done

getting gram in that place

what is a good son

Dad is a disgrace

oh he’s understood

we should believe the big lie

it’s for your own good

lay down and die

dad cried like never before

then waited unsteady

guess he was thinking up more

lies, but he said plenty already

Victor Schwartzman

Poem: Cherish Your Last MomentsTogether

Cherish Your Last Moments Together

I walk towards her

not yet seen

so I can sigh

it did not take long

before she began

to look like one of them

92 years old, my mom

two weeks ago in the hospital she did not look like one of them

now her gray hair brushed back institutionally flat

no make up

blank expression

slumped in her wheel chair

blank expression

breakfast crumbs on her blouse

blank expression

where is her wedding ring?

blank expression

“hi mom”

for the first time she does not recognize me

focusing her eyes

then the smile

pushing up against her cheeks

brightening her eyes

and she starts to cry

she had not seen me yesterday

where had I been?

she was worried something had happened

“mom I couldn’t see you yesterday

every day is becoming hard

and you’re not here

two weeks from the hospital

you have to get used to being here

at least until you’re stronger

maybe when you’re stronger

you can move back”

the phone rang, interrupting the lie

it was on the table next to her

she looked at it

she looked at it

the suite was three months ago

a distant dream for her

sitting in her retirement community

the illusion of independence

aides and nurses there every hour

giving her the medications

helping her use the washroom

but she could sit on her own couch

watch her own tv

in her private apartment

moving her to this nursing home

splintered her confidence

each day a little more frightened

a little more confused

a little more unable

putting her this environment has worn her down

like a glorious wooden sculpture

always out in the sun and rain and ice

daring life, living in the moment

beautiful until its creator forgets it

and no longer protects it

the sculpture ages and dries

the beautifully carved wood cracks

splintering piece by piece in the wind

until nothing is left

but the memory

the memory of her

I look at her now

she already is a memory

has been for a while

I remember my mother, sitting next to her

that is why she is in this nursing home

that is why she lives her last days in a facility

that is why we no longer have a use for her

she has not been here for months


five years ago, after that surgery

she could not add her cheque book

two years ago she suddenly forgot

how to use the message system on the phone

I will never forget

driving in the rain to her retirement suite

to show her how to press the buttons

I will never forget

this will not happen to me

I will never forget

she will otherwise disappear

I try to cherish our time together

it is a challenge to cherish a cruel joke

yes I’m neurotic and worry too much

she gets worried but ten minutes later she has forgotten

and we share a joke together

I leave her smiling

then drive home in the night gripping the wheel

I have it good

most of my friends their parents are gone

at least she is still here

I can look after her

I can be her son

I can slip into childhood memories so easily with her

we enjoy those golden days

she can not remember lunch

but recalls vividly our playing in Brookville Park

for a few moments now we play together again

she is always the mother

but I can never again be the child

the child does not push the wheelchair

and I pretend to let her look after me

with endless questions

what I have eaten

have I had enough sleep, how is work

I let her mother me

give me advice like I should eat better

and there is some comfort in being that child again

until she asks the questions all over again

and I remember it is just pretend

but I was her child for a moment more

finally there is our time together

last times together, knowing the end is near

sitting in the same room

looking at the family photos on the wall

the blue sky through the window

knowing I can reach out and touch her hand

Friday, July 06, 2007

Poem: Elder Care

And here is a poem I wrote yesterday, still in progress. As you can see, there are issues I'm dealing with regarding looking after mom, who is 91. However this particular poem is a total fabrication, based on the temptation. So don't worry about mom's money, it's safe. At least, hers is.... But there is always the temptation, and my understanding is that this can be a common problem in elder care.

as with all my poetry these days I tend to post it quickly, so it's fresh, new and probably not so good. Any feedback? always welcome!

Elder Care

The first time I stole from mom was the hardest
it was the guilt, I think, she is 91
but maybe it was that I hadn’t done it before
a thousand dollars means zero to her
so she did not miss the money at all, no
but I did not want to meet a teller’s eyes
so I used the atm instead

Mom lost the ability to manage her cheque book
after the hip replacement surgery
mini-strokes made her worse
while I stood by she went from strong woman
who wrote letters to the New York Times
to not understanding her voicemail

I resisted stealing her money for a long time
but I had all those bills to pay
and it was so easy, she trusted me completely
hell, I’m doing everything for her
she owes me. By now, she doesn’t have much left
I gamble with what remains, trying to win back what I took
and with her spare change, I drink

Victor Schwartzman

Poem: Cross Talk

I wrote this poem after attending back to back high school grads: it's sorta a prose poem or story poem, or whatever:

Cross Talk

I was trying to listen to speeches
at the high school graduation
those people on stage were talking to me
about our children becoming adults
but instead what I heard
were the two women in front of me
blathering about someone I didn’t know
women! hell, I could gossip plenty
our son got some girl pregnant but she lost it
I don’t need to know details
or wallow in someone else’s problems
so I told them to be quiet

I was telling my daughter about Mary
when this jerk told me to be quiet
while talking about my granddaughter
about the miscarriage, her future
the boy who disappeared on her
men, there to cause trouble
the jerk behind me does not know
life is more important than speeches
to finish I had to whisper in my daughter’s ear
Marilyn needed to know my feelings
a daughter relies on her mother for advice
she relies on me just as Mary will rely on her

When he complained I was so glad
I hoped maybe mom would stop—but no,
she had to finish, leaning in
her breath smelling like a toilet
you’d think Mary was her daughter
all I wanted was to enjoy the moment
Mary’s cap and gown, how grown she was
to forget, for a moment, the mess
how she kept the baby for the future
endured the jerks, then lost it all
speeches about the future mean little
when the future stands before me

Victor Schwartzman

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Roger Keeling Letter

Hi. Roger Keeling, who lives in Portland, Oregon, has written me several emails regarding his own experiences with Hypertension. I am posting, below, an excerpt from his latest letter, where he discusses his own concerns about Hypertension treatments, and notes a book he found exceptionally helpful.

I encourage others who read this blog to send me similar emails, and I will post those, as well. There does not seem to be enough of a dialogue among patients about Hypertension issues--perchance we can start one here!

The excerpt:

I may surprise you by noting that a bit of skepticism has crept in to my brain… with the idea that by merely reducing BP, one smoothly increases one's odds against strokes and heart attacks. That applies to BP reductions from drugs as well as from other methods.

I have, all along, been under the illusion that the health effects of hypertension are completely connected to one's absolute BP readings. That is, if your chance of dying in a given year from a stroke or heart attack is X at an average BP of 120/80; and if that risk becomes 2X should your BP jump to 150/100; then if you can get your BP back down to an average of 120/80 by one means or another, your risk will decline back to X.

Ain't true. My first clue of that was something you wrote, the observation that without treatment, your chance of a major "incident" (morbidity or mortality) in the next five years was about 17%; and if you took your drugs like a good little boy, and kept your BP down (and suffered every damned minute of it), your risk only dropped to about 12%. I thought, "Well, that must mean that if you'd been one of those blessed people who never develop hypertension, your normal risk would have been around 12% at your age and condition." But now I don't think that's the case.

I say all of this because I recently found a book that is, well, stunning. It is -- absolutely -- the best book on this topic I've seen. A couple of weeks ago I resolved to buy The DASH Diet book, which everyone in the medical community praises. Another book I got was "The High Blood Pressure Solution," by
Richard Moore, M.D., Ph.D. Just from reading his Preface and Preface to the 2nd Edition, I now understand (for the first time!) what the hell has been happening to my body. He does something no one, certainly none of the $&%*$# doctors, ever did. Something none of the other written materials, including brochures and the like on hypertension, ever did. He explains the CAUSE of "essential" hypertension. "Essential" means, in effect, "we haven't got a fucking clue," but in truth science DOES have a clue, and a good one.

Thing is,
Moore is a biophysicist (now retired, I think, but previously of the University of Vermont Medical School, and a graduate of Purdue). So he was primarily interested in what goes on at the cellular level. He and the teams he's worked with -- and the research he draws upon, all of it from peer-reviewed research journals, many of them well known (e.g., JAMA, Lancet, etc.) -- comes from this fundamental level of focus. So he talks, in language fully accessible to any intelligent layperson (very comparable, say, to Issac Asimov's "Intelligent Man's Guide to Science," that kind of thing), all about what's going on at the cellular level, and what the best research has shown. It's no big mystery at all! It's the potassium-sodium balance, what he called the K-Factor with his co-author back in the 80s when he wrote his first book ("The K-Factor", naturally).

Here's the thing: the entire nation of
Finland (that's right: the WHOLE country) adopted one of the primary recommendations that he emphasized in his first book. They mandated the use of a potassium-sodium-magnesium mixture to replace straight salt in all processed foods (including what's used at McDonald's, for example). The result was a better-than 60% decline in stroke and heart attacks in the country, reported after 10 years of the new diet (in 1996). Moore notes that 15% is attributable to better medications. The rest goes to the use of "pansalt." This drop occurred even though smoking by women had increased over those years, and obesity in Finnish men was up also. So this isn't something that's untried or unproven.

Anyhow, I not only have hypertension, but -- starting a year or two ago -- I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. And my cholesterol, which was always really good, shot up after taking one anti-hypertensive drug. I was tested again this week, and happily it's back down to an admirable 138 (but, the triglycerides did NOT drop, and my HDL “good” cholesterol dropped some 8 points).
Moore explains it all! He explains why the drugs did what they did. He explains how diabetes is connected to all of this. He explains what happened to me back in 2002, when I first had my hypokalemia (low potassium) crisis that sent me to the ER ... something none of the friggin' doctors would do for me at the time. This is true: I never got a single clue from any of them. Not a word! They just didn't know, yet wouldn't tell me that they didn't know.

So I'm strongly -- emphatically -- encouraging everyone I encounter who has any problems along these lines to go get
Moore's book. Interestingly, one thing he does is explain (with terrific references to the original studies, some of them among the largest ever conducted) how the link between forcibly lowering your BP via drugs and reducing your chances of dying aren't all that strong. There are benefits, of course, but THIS explains why forcing your BP back to the "normal" range does not, in fact, reduce your chances of a stroke or heart attack back to the same level it would have been had your BP never gone up in the first place (and, in fact, may improve your chances only by a total of about 10%).

He also explains how you can
REALLY improve your chances, a lot. Really beat the thing.

You may roll your eyes, because at one level is sounds just like what you've surely already been told: cut out all salt, go on a very veggie-rich diet, etc. But the difference is,
Moore is quite specific about what the goal is: getting a total ratio of 1:4 for salt:potassium, preferably from foods (rather than pills). This is where you get back to what happened in Finland. They didn't do anything nearly that extreme, yet still managed to reduce their stroke and heart attack rates by over 60%.

Best regards,

Roger Keeling
Portland, OR.