20 Lines A Day

A Community of Writers and Photographers

Life After Death

She never quite had what others got so easily, it seems. She worked twice as hard and got half as much. Still, every summer she would find a way for a seed or two to curl their heads into the sun, sprout fuzzy, perhaps a bit prickly leaves that soon became a bud.One day, the bud would begin to open, showing its crimson soul. For a few days it would magnify itself, command comments on it’s beauty, then it would begin its trip home.

 Fall would come, she would hake her brown fluted bowl of seeds in the wind and finally succumb to winders cold and wind, break open and spread her seeds. And then spring would come again, and season after season, she would struggle to produce those lovely, fleeting blossoms.

 One year, someone mowed down her beautiful blossom, but she fought on for many years. Sun, rain, wind, cold, her strength lie somewhere inside that tiny seed. One autumn, it seemed no pod had formed,

No one noticed the one hidden in the soil. The poppy no longer bloomed in the place it had always been, But in the spring, a child scratched out a tiny patch around a new plant by her sandbox. She lined it with stones from the creek and soon, a beautiful red flower appeared.

 “What is this, mommy?” she asked one day.

“Oh, my! A poppy!” mommy gasped. “My Aunt Carol used to grow them! Be sure and save the seed pod.”

And she did.

In loving memory of Carol Johnson, November 5, 1948-August 1, 2013


I wish that I could be a prowling cat
or, ghostlike in the wall, hear pieces, bits
of whispered conversation. Oh. He quits?
How can this be? I feel my heart fall flat.

I wish my dad had not deserted us.
I wonder what we might have all become
if he’d not gone away and left us numb.
I felt a big subtraction, never plus.

I wish my father had approved of me,
shown his encouragement or his support.
Instead, he and my mom wound up in court,
their marriage then dissolved. He, fancy-free,

married again, then two times more. I saw
him try for happiness. O, how I begged
for his attention, but I had him pegged
right, and I sadly saw the fatal flaw

that kept him locked from free and easy back
and forth relationships. And how I wish
than cancer hadn’t spilled its nasty dish
into his lap to emphasize the lack

he must have felt. I stopped my wishing then,
forgave him, overlooked much, and calmed down.
He, after all, had shared his writing crown.
He’d lived Days One through Nine. Soon coming? Ten.


My Father’s Last Birthday

At the juncture

of life and almost-death

I saw him,

89 years, old,

surprised him on his birthday.

Balloons couldn’t cheer the room,

the gift bag too heavy

with its weight for what was to come.

We pretended cancer had not stabbed

him in the gut, but all around

the ghosts of Future leered.



A week or so ago I posted that a neighbor had been told that everything possible had been done to treat his cancer. His wife brought him home when the doctors had given him about two weeks to live.

He died this morning. I think he was in his early 50s, and was a husband, father, grandfather, and a dentist, a well-liked and respected professional in our community.

It’s a strange thing to consider. He was alive, and then he was gone. Such a presence…and then a voice stilled. That’s how someone’s death affects me, as a voice that’s been stilled. It’s a sad day in our little town.


A Sadness

Last night we learned the sad news that a neighbor, who has cancer, has about two weeks to live. He is about 50, the father of six, a dentist who is well-respected in our community, a strong Christian who does mission work on a regular basis. He is home because everything that can be done has been done. What courage this man is showing. He makes sure that others are taking care of their spiritual business even as he is about to be, as his wife says, “graduated into heaven.” Our community is in shock.

Every day is precious. I will look at my own frustrations as blips on a screen when I think about N.

Semblance of Symmetry….For Awhile

“Symmetry (from Greek συμμετρεῖν symmetría “measure together”) generally conveys two primary meanings. The first is an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically pleasing proportionality and balance; such that it reflects beauty or perfection. “

A lovely fountain, offering a quiet impression of balance and perpetual motion. It sets outside the elevators of the Oncology Wing. The elevators take you up and up to a floor that only offers a lack of perfection, an end to perpetual motion. You can sit by the fountain and gaze into it. Your mind escapes reality….for a little respite. It serves it’s purpose.


Profoundly Dependent While Independent, Under Siege

My dear, departed Aunt.

She has been gone almost six months to the day. I won’t go on about the whole journey of hoarding, isolation, dementia, injuries, removing her from her home, hospice, the passing. We went through the same journey with my Mom, save the dementia. With her you can throw in cancer too. Both had the hoarding illness…the addiction. Both were pulled from their homes by me, by circumstances, by necessity.

The point squirmed through my brain today as I glanced at the picture of my Aunt, seated in her room, in a care facility. She maintained a smirk, at best, and vacillated between being a sweet angel and a demented accuser. What struck me today as I looked at the photo, is this woman resided alone some forty years after her husband died. She was the epitome of the hoarder, that is not only addicted to the acquisition of stuff for whatever reason(s), but to a hard etched routine. 

I removed her from her stuff, from her cherished home, from her routine. I inserted her into the best possible environment, but her anguish, discomfort  was palpable, smirks aside, for the eight months she was away from her home, her stuff, her safe haven. 

I did what was best, what was necessary. I reasoned, explained, read, had others explain and no amount of persuasion, educated, crafty persuasion could overcome the addiction to her stuff and her routine. In the end, she did not give into reason and the realities of  her looming death (my Mom did that), but rather she tenaciously clung to every breath as if hoping she would make it through yet another hard challenge and sooner or later get back to her home.

Such a powerful addiction she endured. Such a little sweet, tough elf she was. Just the photo, it tweaked me a bit. 


For Anne’s Challenge

Astounding Assemblage

Astounding the assemblage, auto parts,
tools, tires, all sorts of mismatched, unused things.
How odd the memory this junkyard brings:
Am I someone unloved, cast off, whose heart’s

desire is simple? Give me daily bread,
and in the giving, share your kindness. Touch
me at my depth. I fear there isn’t much
to me, that what my father, back then, said–

“Nothing but skin and bones, a skeleton–“
is true. He spoke about my weight, but all
I heard was “Nothing,” and I took a fall
in confidence. Then he and I were done.

Well, so it seemed. Relationship of rocks
made pleasing him impossible. I tried.
O, did I try…but couldn’t. Yes, I cried
so often, wondering about the clocks

that seemed to stop. We didn’t talk for years.
2009: Lung cancer claimed him. We
both wrote, so had fun sharing poetry.
I wonder still if he knew all my fears.

Astounding the assemblage, parts of life
that color where we go and what we do.
I want to hear a songbird sing, dove coo,
instead, sometimes, hear dissonance of strife.


Go Back…

Are  you still there, deep below the  layers

Physically changes barring your spirit from emerging

Pain spreading through your body like fire

Trickling over healthy muscles and engulfing them

Doctors unsure, questioning their values, morals

Where is the quality of life, where is the comfort

I see nothing but starvation, dehydration and emaciation

Your eyes when I look into them make it all real

The future without you beside me,

I want to go back, I just want to turn around and go back

To see that man again with the strength, purpose in his walk

To feel secure, safe,

Not alone.



It seems to be the topic today so here is my poem about cancer. It is mostly about my mother’s experience but also about cancer itself. I started to wonder how strange it is that “cancer” if it can be thought of as a thing works so hard to get rid of it’s host and thereby kills itself in the process. So I wrote a poem from the viewpoint of “the cancer” called Patients. It was originally published last month on my blog at: http://bloggernorm.blogspot.com/2012/05/patients.html


     I am here ... patient.
     I am here and I - am - patience.
     I am as patient as bedrock and black and silence.
I.   I am here... and you are not very patient.
     You are life.
     You are motion and energy and noise.

     You are life and you - are - oblivious.

     I am growing ... my patient.
     I am growing so slowly.
     Slowly like trees and canyons and space.
II.  I am growing...and you are slowing.
     You are still life but...
     You are wondering and wheezing and denying.

     You are wondering and you - are - fear. 

     I have exploded ... patient.
     I have exploded and I - am - rapacious.
     I am operating and gorging and mutating.
III. I am exploding ... and you are fighting.
     You are hope.
     You are chemicals and beams and invocations.

     You are hope and we - are - patients.

     We are tired ... fellow patient.
     We are tired and we - are - waiting.
     Waiting for relief and peace and closure.
IV.  I am here ... and we are inseverable.
     We linger.
     We are silence and acquiescence and patience.

     We linger and we - are - gone.


(c) 2012 Norman Dziedzic Jr.

1 Comment

Unexpected Visitor

To my Father, N.J.K.

He heard the buzzing of the bumblebee,
too close for comfort, and he brushed away
the thought of what its circling might decree.

Remembering when he was fancy-free,
when days were rich like goblets of claret,
that time arrests him now. Could I foresee

that cancer would invade my father, be
companion, enemy, move in to stay?
How is it he became a nominee

for radiation, chemotherapy?
The hopeless questions loom and lurch, they weigh
a thousand pounds without apology.

The buzzing zeroes in, a certainty
that life plans he had made have gone astray.
The warden locked his cell, threw down the key.

When will the strange stage IV malignancy
depart? What is the price that he must pay?
O, by the way, do these genes live in me?



Wearied by this gnawing at my mind,

I am holding onto  memories like treasure.

The chain of disease grows link by link,

Forging ahead, pushing, pulling, still hoping.

Draining the strength from my body,

So tired, battling day after day.

Pulling me into a mire of darkness,

Looking for hope, strength, light.

Fear wrapping its fingers around me,

The cold wet grip that tightens and takes your breath,

Like a snake capturing its prey.

A small spark still lingers, still exists,

In the darkness a light begins to grow.

To believe, to hope, to know,

That there is a chance.



A note about this poem,

My husband was diagnosed in January 2012 with non small cell lung cancer stage 3.  It has been a tremendous battle so far and what he has endured this far is beyond belief.  He has lost almost 80 pounds, he was not a big man, and can no longer eat or drink.  So this poem is written from his perspective.  To those with cancer, you are my hero.  What you go through is horrendous.  Never mind the disease, the treatments alone are torture and those are supposed to help you get better.   It is a journey not for the weak.




This Disease is Killing Us…..


Somedays my thoughts are inspired by the struggle with lung cancer attacking our family other days it’s the memory of infidelity and the impact it left. One day I just want to write about where I’m heading finally…

Originally posted on Can you hear me whisper...:

the pain stirs deep in my soul

Watching you agonize over choices

This horrid disease casts a shadow

Everything is dull grey, lifeless

I force a smile hoping its enough

Maybe my strength you’ll need

I try some light conversation

But you only reject me once again

Our love , our family, our home  is gone

An ego’s debt no doubt

When the storm was strongest 

We should have held tightest

And though the outcome be the same

We would have had each other 

To comfort, care and lean upon

For richer, poorer, in sickness and health.

The vows made now seem empty

Just words but void of meaning

The only truth between us left

Is until death we part


View original


A Magic Wand

I’ve had a response to my poem “Magic Wishes,” and that respondent said she wishes she had a magic wand, too, that she would use it to cure people of the big C.

I thought it might be kind of fun if we fantasized about this: So, if you had said magic wand, how would you use it?

There are so many opportunities. Curing cancer is certainly one. I would also give a complete life back to anyone who suffers from epilepsy. I would cure all childhood illnesses. I would provide strong arts programs in the schools. I would rebuild areas of the world where natural disasters have struck, leaving people homeless. I would, I would, I would…

And you? Weigh in. Dream big.


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