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The Watchful Cell
C J Stark 

What if, like me, one day you inexplicably found yourself restricted to a cell that was small, sparsely furnished and confining. One corner of this room, you notice, is occupied by a sleek, black, glistening snake quietly coiled and lying very still. It might be any snake but for itís hooded throat. This observation proves, only too clearly, it is not any snake, itís a cobra. The cramped quarters of the cell, the oppressive closeness and lack of light or air by itself are enough to cause some tense anxiety. And with the presence of a cobra in there with you as a cellmate, well, I damn near soiled myself at this prospect. At first, I figured Iím as good as dead. But, shortly, I think to myself, itís only a snake, and not a very large one at that.  The actual problem here, clearly, is the bite. Itís only the bite thatís to fear. So, as long as the snake lives in his corner of our communal cell, and I live, respectfully, in mine, why be overly concerned?  If I should notice the snake sliding over to one of the nearby corners, I just move myself, gently, to the far side from that one. In a way, it all almost feels dreamlike.

There are times, of course, at night, in the dark, I know the cobra knows exactly where I am from the warmth of my body. Snakes are like that, you know. And I can almost feel where he is in the dark, from the icy cold stare of his beady, yellow eyes, which are always open in a stare-like gaze, even while he sleeps. Sometimes, in the early dawn glow of our mutual cell, I can see one of those yellow eyes fixed on me in a stare. Cobras always stare. Theyíre like that, you know.

         This cobra is potentially dangerous, as any cobra might be. I could, if I chose, attack and kill it. Itís only a snake, you see and, as mentioned, not a particularly large one.  But this would, of course, expose me to his bite. I would quickly vanquish him, but then would begin a long, slow, painful demise of my own from his venom. No, this arrangement weíve come to at present, seems to be the best. He knows I can harm him and I know, of course, what he can do. We just move from corner to corner, cautiously, gently, as in a dance, with full and free run of our limited, shared environment. We, in our communal cell are linked, are one.

         Soon, as we become familiar with each other, he becomes not just any cobra, he is my cobra. Respect takes on a whole new meaning. Fear is reserved for other places, out there, in the outside world. Now, I canít say that weíre exactly friends, the snake and I, but we do have a common interest and concern; to keep an eye on each other. Some have encouraged, even insisted, with all good intentions, Iím sure, that I kill the snake, cut him out, use fire to scare him off. ďWhat if I cut myself?Ē I say. ďOr get burned, or burn my cell down? I could even get bitten in the process, thereís no guarantee about that, is there?Ē No, I prefer diligent caution, I tell them. I know my snake, sort of.

         I have been told, though, that no matter what, at some point, the cobra will bite me. In spite of my watchful, cautious concern, it is just a matter of time. He will bite me. Itís what they do. Snakes are like that, you know. Iíve thought about this and have decided that cobras may, indeed, be like that and there is nothing I can really do about it. There are so many other concerns and dangers to manage. Just crossing the street without looking, can be fatal. Or, eating poorly and not exercising can precipitate high cholesterol or high blood pressure. These are killers, also. You could have liver or kidney failure or a heart attack without ever getting a clue beforehand. And these things can sometimes happen suddenly. The list of dangers is frightening.

Surely, my snake is a problem, and a cause for some serious concern, but his bite, should it happen, will hardly be a surprise. And the results of the bite will be slow, if predictable. So, now that we have our understanding, Iím hoping he does understand, my cobra is essentially, not as frightening as he had been at first. At least, here, I know where this one particular threat resides. And he has actually made me more aware of other dangers; heís sharpened my focus. But this isnít, as I said, any cobra, heís my cobra. I just donít pet or feed him. Should someone come to visit, and ask, ďWhat is that snake?Ē nodding toward his general direction in the corner. I answer, ďDonít worry, heís with me. We share a cell.Ē

         Sometimes I even smile at our partnership, it being more curious than funny. I can only do what I must do and encourage my cobra to do his part in this uneasy arrangement. We have awareness, the snake and I, of what our place and movements should be. We move around each other with a fair amount of comfort. I know what heís like and am constantly aware of where he is. At this point, I never take my eyes off him. Itís what I do, now. Iím like that, you know.


1st Visit-Vertical Lament
by Carl Stark 2003
Is it possible to write
When thereís so little light?
Or even to think
While not in the pink?
Can you sing lifeís song
Knowing you havenít got long?
How can you burn with desire
With a well dampened fire?
This sudden ailment, a prostate discovery
Is shattering in scope for hope of recovery
Just as it appears thereís no more to frighten
Much more is learned that doesnít enlighten
Mountains of info, such abundant profusion
Adding yet more to the constant confusion
The varied conclusions in multiple view
Darken the outcome and cloud up the stew
So as all the tensions start to build
and to mount
One begins carefully to notice
and count
The remaining days
All but numbered
Taut and tense
And frightfully encumbered
Is this really to be so
So little time to grow
There must be choices less pointed and terse
That enlighten and lift, not making it worse
So many thoughts that I dread
Just bloating my head
Like the silly image ever so numbing
So foolishly focused mainly on plumbing
Or holding hard to dream once so erectile
Hoping itís at least just a little correctile
This same holds true for one other plea
Being able to hold oneís unstoppable pee
Or one other problem ever more foul
The vast great mess, the unstoppable bowel
Itís so clear now, to see for sure
How important loved ones can be, to endure
For nothing fills this so simple life
Like good company, a child or a loving wife
But if my body worked well all the time
It might engender a feeling so very sublime
And yet, my firmest notion
Though still somewhat corrupt
Is that thereís so little in life
Like getting it up.
ASK THE RABBI, By Rabbi Yossi Howidozit

Q: Is it permissible to take Viagra on the Sabbath?

A: There are two differing schools of thought on whether you can take Viagra on the Sabbath.

Beit Shammai forbids the ingestion of Viagra on the Sabbath lest one violate the law that forbids erecting a structure (boneh) on the Sabbath.

However, Beit Hillel does not read it as "boneh" but as "boner" and permits the ingestion of Viagra on the Sabbath. The ingestion of Viagra (known as "Yeshurun" or the straight one) is permitted before sundown as long as the Kabbalat Shabbat takes less than a half hour to complete, the kids are asleep, and your wife doesn't have a headache.

Q: What bracha does one say before taking Viagra?

A: There is a choice of four blessings:

1) Borei p'ri ha-eitz - blessing over the fruit of the tree.

2) Boruch Atah Hashem zokeif k'fuffim - Straighten those who are bent.

3) Boruch Atah Hashem ya'aleh v'yovo - arise and come.

4) Boruch Atah Hashem Mechayei hameitim - raise the dead.
If you'll just let me take a slight feel

His eye broughs went up rather quick
Your gonna feel a very small stick
Come back in a week and thanks for the peek
I'm checking your PSA

So back to the Doc in a week
Says the treatments we have are real neat
If we stop right here you'll be dead in 5 years
The choices are yours can't you hear

So your searching the net all night
For all news about your new pet
Do nothing your dead if you want go ahead
But I think I'll stay for the fight!

Sam I AM
The Gay Manís Camp Guide To Cancer

As seen through the ass of Jared Bruce

     A gay RANT and dramedy based on life's most un-gay issues, my treatment for prostate cancer.  The health issues of the masses affects "us" too.  Seems more in the gay community that sarcasm and gay black humor become a defense for our life style vulnerabilities.  A way to even the attitude fields. We are most often harder on ourselves and those like us. Though I donít truly understand the curt assaults we attach to our lives as gay men,  I too fall victim to the habit.  Must be a training tactic for the next confrontation from the so called   ďnormalĒ world?  Whatever the reason for making light of serious situations I find comfort in the familiar pattern.  Click here to read more
ODDS by Charlie Gould We sit, and think, and wonder why,
And ponder of our fate;
We each lament, and shake and cry,
As disease we learn to hate.

I often think about my lot,
And curse my God, then duck!
But know what? The disease I've got,
Is sometimes just dumb luck!
""Using Life Wisely"

Using our lives wisely, not confusedly, in a rush of events that
consume precious time, but with a good measure of foresight
and judgment. Life can be painful without a rest, like a hard
weeks work without sleep. What makes life pleasant and
rewarding is a healthy variety of experience, of pain, of learning,
of giving, and the soulful pleasure of HOPE.

A noble vision of a beautiful life is found in the acts of
preparation, meditation and dedication. Spending the first act of
Preparation with the dead, those who passed before us.
Through their ages of wisdom we are able to seek and
understand enduring knowledge and sacrifice, and we are able
to better know our strengths and ourselves. The written word
turns us faithfully into learned and hopeful people.

The second act, Meditation, embraces the living and with deep
thought beholds all that is good and evil among us and we
endeavor to embrace the former and extinguish the latter. Faith
believes in that which we cannot see nor touch, especially when
our senses are blurred through a veil of tears.

The third act, Dedication, is devoted entirely to self and to those
we cherish, to serve, to further meditation, to philosophize, all of
which imbue the highest order of human goodness and
enhance the outcome, the balance of the future when blended
delicately with Hope, "Gods Plenty", Hope that eternal Godly
concoction that outwits all evil or scientific mingling.
Archambeault, The Practicing WordMason ¶ July 2001
I wrote this poem shortly after my husband was diagnosed with PCa after biopsy 10-10-02.  He was wrestling with treatment options at the time, later choosing RP in Feb. 2003. 


by Susie Roth, Nov. 6, 2002

Cancer, I know youíre not going to answer
Your deal is to instill
When your name is uncovered
But Iím calling your bluff
You donít have power enough
To destroy what weíve discovered together.

You threaten with issues of mortality
Sooner than we thought that would have to be
But weíve settled before about eternity
So youíre much weaker than you seem to be.

I looked for you when my husbandís skeleton appeared
Relieved the radiologist didnít see what I feared
With bone scan in hand
His doctor has canned your limited span.

For purposes you soon will see,
Iíve nicknamed my husbandís prostate ďTexasĒ
And Iím putting you here on notice from me
ďYouíd better not mess with Texas!Ē

Heís now faced with an incision decision
Or radiation not guaranteed it wonít miss
You really are rude, the way you intrude
And demand his answer to this.

Cancer, how dare you grab where you have no business?
Iím not spouting bravado
Iím well aware of your capacity to grow
But you really donít have the final say so
Apart from Godís sovereign willingn
There once was a man feeling ill
So he went to the Doc for a pill
So he said with some dread
Things aren't really that great in the bed

Doc spoke with enthusiasm and zeal
Drop your drawers let me see
We'll find out why you can't pee

last updated July 2005

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