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My (new) Left Foot

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FLUBBING AN INTERVIEW

I was on CBC RADIO NOON, but couldn’t “find” my words. This is really frustrating and why I call the longer essay Pieces Of My Mind, as my words and my thinking feel like scattered pieces, and yes, I’m mad as hell about it. Let me see …how about a do-over.[1] Write it out.

I believe I did a better job in Vancouver, in person, and perfectly medicated to find my words.

   He was the kind of guy that would put on his best shirt (not pictured) for a telephone radio interview.

—–

CBC: How did Love & Surgery  come to be? You had a divorce in 2017 and an amputation in 2018. That’s a lot to handle.

VICTOR: My exuberant Australian wife was my third divorce, and I was her third divorce. With six divorces between us we were able to keep the turmoil within the reach of a gin and tonic. Remember, there are only unreliable narrators. People looking at this kind of book assume it has the same weight or veracity as a memoir.[2] It’s not been noticed or considered by anyone, but the word “poems” hasn’t appeared on any of my five books since Jimmy Bang Poems in 1979. All of the books have a narrative arc, particular the three “Life Studies,” boy published in 2012 was about growing up in southern Manitoba and my love affair with the post office that still stands. I make sure to visit my mailbox whenever I’m down there.

CBC Let’s get back to the new book. It’s called Love & Surgery, there must be love poems as well as surgery poems.

VICTOR: Yes.  My wife and I met online and then went for a coffee at Bar Italia, before a road trip to Chicago which included a stop at the Green Mill. A lot of my love poems are related to jazz. One of my most memorable readings on my recent tour was between sets at a Sunday Brunch Jazz Show, at Hermann’s in Victoria. More than 40 people responding enthusiastically. I didn’t know any of them and I sold some books!

CBC: And the surgeries?

VICTOR: I’ve had plenty since childhood, but the most life changing would be the amputation in 2018.

CBC: Why was it necessary?

VICTOR: The surgeon said I have very bad cartilage genetics. We have cartilage aiding and abetting the movement of our joints. If the cartilage disappears it’s bone on bone, or worse, bone pinching nerve on bone. I had my hips replaced first, and there is a connection between the feet as foundation and the hips. The hips were causing me grievous pain, the hip replacements six months apart were wonderful. I was also having foot surgeries for something called Stage Four Flat Foot. Like my other joints the soft tissue holding my ankle in was beyond repair and needed a fix. The surgeon recommended ankle fusion stabilizing the foot by screwing the ankle on to the foot. The foot had already been fused, and those surgeries had worked out. Unfortunately I was the surgeon’s third failure out of 300 previous ankle fusions. This was extremely difficult because the pain did not stop. Not only that, but nobody believed me including my wife and her family.

CBC:  Did you have any other choice than amputation?

VICTOR: We discussed several options. I was not a good candidate for ankle replacement because of my weight and medical history, and because the fusion attempt would make it even harder. OK, that’s off the table. The surgeon then suggested we could do it all over. Probably his preference. Surgeons aren’t keen on amputating their work. But I choose to have a left below the knee amputation, to reduce recovery time, eliminate the terrible pain, and pray not to have phantom pain anyway. I was lucky, I’ve had very little phantom pain.

CBC:T hat must have been one of the hardest choices in your life.

VICTOR: Not actually. It occurs to me I should make a list.

CBC : You have a poem about the amputation you’d like to read?

VICTOR: Yes, it’s called prosection. When all medical students have a specimen it’s a dissection and when it’s just the surgeon using a specimen for a lecture it’s a prosection. (Drinks some water)

PROSECTION

No concern about whether I signed away my foot to teach
medical students a lesson. I can hear the party that night,
me not invited to dance. These young students, humans so alive
their skin is skin-tight even when they move. Mine continues
its crepe-y sag, on the calf of the right leg I have remaining
below the knee. Was it just yesterday I could feel the surgeon
pulling on my left foot, I said, “hey, you’re pulling my leg.”
I had very good drugs after all, still I didn’t hear any body laughing.

Sure, I could laugh about it then, still do with the same detached concern
dissociation brings when part of you is missing. Whatever phantoms
of the body opera are lurking yet to expose themselves? As I balance
on my new prosthesis, the students remember my ankle in pieces.

 

There’s some jokes there.

CBC; Yes, I couldn’t help laughing.

VICTOR: I try to get people near enough to the poetry to give the words a chance. My work can be dark and relentless, or so I’ve been told; I count on comic relief, humour as important ways to release tension. Somewhere I use the line “without a sense of humour, I’d make no sense at all.”

I’ve been fortunate to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all, to quote Leonard Cohen. Maybe the jokes in the dark poems are the cracks that let the light in…….

CBC: Where can readers buy your book?

Victor At McNally Robinson, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and online, and locally at Tergesen here in Gimli.

[1] Always more than two approaches, so far I haven’t been asking for accommodations like taping an interview instead of doing it live. I have tried to explain on Facebook what it’s like to be different, feel different, to be one of the things not the same. There I go on again referring to myself as a thing. Maybe I’m thinking about Thing one and Thing two. I feel out of sorts.

[2] like I write here.

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