Old Monk by Mary Lou Kownacki

Journal Entry 251

Mon, 2021-07-19 10:24

My friend Mary Miller tells me that every time I get a cancer treatment she puts me in “white light” and imagines the experimental drug as “prayer liquid.” I have received dozens and dozens of notes from people across the country telling me that are naming me in prayer on a daily basis. There is a special cadre of friends praying to Blessed Dorothy Day for a “miracle” that will advance her canonization process. My favorite prayers, though, because God hears them in a special way, are the prayers of the poor.

Journal Entry 250

Sat, 2021-05-29 13:57

I’m writing this from the Hillman Cancer Center where I’m participating in another clinical drug test. The first three weeks of the test call for 24- hour monitoring once the infusion is finished. Prior to that, it’s usually four or five hours of blood work, EKGs, more blood work, anti-nausea medicine via an IV, then the hour-long infusion, followed by anti-anxiety medication. So basically, I sit here for 30+ hours—which gives me a long time to feel sorry myself.

Journal Entry 249

Fri, 2021-04-30 15:02

Here is a poem for Friday, April 30, the last day of National Poetry Month. Thank you so much for participating in this celebration. I had a good time and hope you did, too.

You remain with me
old wild goose, no matter where
you roam—same autumn night.
--Issa

Do you like this poem? Why or why not? How does it make you feel?
Prompt: Copy Issa’s first line—You remain with me—and see where it leads you

You remain with me: old photograph, favorite poem, dear friend, lost love, blue heron etc.

Journal Entry 248

Wed, 2021-04-28 09:21

Here is the poem for Wednesday, April 28. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

First snowfall
of cherry petals
starting to scatter—
how hateful, tramping through it
over the pass from Shiga!
--Saigyo

Journal Entry 247

Mon, 2021-04-26 14:45

Here is the poem for Monday, April 26. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

Living in the mountains
I have grown old,
No longer needing much sleep—
I am always up at dawn
To greet the morning moon.
--Rengetsu

Journal Entry 246

Sat, 2021-04-24 12:49

Here is the poem for Saturday, April 24. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

One caw of a crow
Tints all of the fallen leaves
A deeper yellow.
--Richard Wright

Journal Entry 245

Wed, 2021-04-21 12:53

Here is the poem for Wednesday, April 21. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

Here in Shinano
are famous moons, and buddhas,
and our good noodles
--Issa

Journal Entry 244

Mon, 2021-04-19 09:56

Here is the poem for Monday, April 19. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

Let me die in spring
under the blossoming trees,
let it be around
that full moon
of Kisaragi month
--Saigyo

Journal Entry 243

Sat, 2021-04-17 17:37

Ooops! Sorry. Forgot to post this morning.
Here is the poem for Saturday, April 17. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

I give permission
For this slow spring rain to soak
The violet beds.
- Richard Wright

Journal Entry 242

Thu, 2021-04-15 07:15

Here is the poem for Thursday, April 15. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

Dear evening swallow,
today is a burden—and
trust nothing tomorrow
--Issa

Journal Entry 241

Tue, 2021-04-13 07:08

Here is the poem for Tuesday, April 13. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

The mare’s vigilance:
watchful while her foal drinks
deeply from the spring
--Issa

Journal Entry 240

Sun, 2021-04-11 08:34

Here is the poem for Sunday, April 11. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

Look, look, look!
These are the violets
Left by last night’s rain
--Richard Wright

Journal Entry 239

Fri, 2021-04-09 07:17

Here is the poem for Friday, April 9. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

In my dream I saw
The spring wind gently shaking
Blossoms from a tree;
And even now, though I’m awake,
There’s motion, trembling in my chest.
--Saigyo

Journal Entry 238

Wed, 2021-04-07 07:58

Here is the poem for Wednesday, April 7. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

A good day begins
with charcoal popping hot
and a good deep cough
--Issa

Do you like this poem? Why or why not? How does it make you feel?
Prompt: Use Issa’s first line to capture your good day.

Journal Entry 237

Mon, 2021-04-05 07:23

Here is the poem for April 5. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month, starting on Easter Monday. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

April 5, 2021

Only a memory!
A neighbor’s tasty rice cakes
At our gate as before
--Issa

Journal Entry 237

Tue, 2021-03-30 11:05

I got to hear one of my top three Gospel stories twice this week, once on Palm Sunday and again on Monday of Holy Week. It’s the story of the woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with perfume and is chastised by the apostles because the money used on the nard could have been given to the poor. Jesus, however, sides with the woman. Since the event gets tied in with passion narrative, the church explains Jesus’ approval by saying the woman was prophesying his death and anointing him in advance. That’s not why I like the story.

Journal Entry 236

Thu, 2021-03-04 16:44

I finished my daily conversation with Issa—I read one of his haiku in the book, The Spring of My Life, and then wrote a response-- and decided to have the next confab with Richard Wright, one of the pioneer literary voices for black Americans. He’s known for his groundbreaking books, of course, --Native Son, Black Boy--but also has a book of published haiku. In the year-and-a-half before he died at the age of 52, Wright began an almost obsessive writing of haiku, composing 4,000 of them in that period.

Journal Entry 235

Wed, 2021-02-10 10:51

My writing is mostly fueled by what I read. Now I find my life-long reading lust is in freefall. For most of my adult life, I prided myself on starting the morning by reading sections from four books—spirituality, writing, poetry, memoir---but no longer. Even my novel reading has dropped drastically. Magazines pile up. I’ve attributed it to a normal malaise following my cancer diagnosis and put it on the back burner to simmer until I figure it out.

Journal Entry 234

Thu, 2020-12-31 16:52

Maybe I wrote too much about dying and death because every time I picked up a pen in the past few months it seemed futile. Not that anything dire happened. The surgery they had planned for my liver cancer couldn’t be done—blood vessels were too close to my heart--but the doctor went to Plan B and removed all the large tumors there before gluing me back up. Now, it’s a matter of targeting with chemo the smaller tumors—two much simpler procedures. And this hope from the doctor: “I think I can give you at least two more years.”

Journal Entry 233

Sat, 2020-10-17 15:05

Ah well, I’ve had to make the decision of my life, literally. My options for ocular melanoma that has metastasized to the liver and failed to respond to the test drug are: a risky treatment that injects chemo into my liver or let nature take its course.

I was convinced that I would opt for the latter and been preparing for three to six more months on this lovely earth.

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