poetry

Acre Of Light:
Living With Cancer

ITHACA HOUSE BOOKS, GREENFIELD REVIEW PRESS,
GREENFIELD CENTER, NY, APRIL 1994, OUT OF PRINT
LIMITED AVAILABILITY THROUGH AMAZON

BOOK DESCRIPTION

In 1987, poet Mark Nepo and his former wife, Ann Myers, were, like many mid-lifers, deeply involved with careers in progress and eyes confidently focused on the future. Life shifted drastically when first Ann and then Mark were diagnosed as having cancer. Acre of Light is their profoundly moving journey through illness and the transformation of healing. Of the book, Nepo says, “I wrote these things to help me stay alive. If you are in crisis, of any kind, I hope something in the truth of this experience will affirm your will to live.”

EXCERPTS

SETTING FIRES IN THE RAIN

You see. It was time. The tube had to come out. It had drained my lung of blood for days, through a slit in my side. The doctor was waiting and I looked to Paul at the foot of my bed. Without a word, he knew. All the talk of love was now in the steps between us. He swept past the curtain. Our arms locked and he crossed over, no longer watching. He was part of the trauma and everything—the bedrail, the tube, my face, his face, the curve of blanket rubbing the tube, the doctor pulling the tube's length as I held onto Paul—everything pulsed. And since, I've learned, if you want to create anything—peace of mind, a child, a painting of running water, a simple tier of lilies—you must crossover and hold. You must sweep past the curtain, no matter how clear. You must drop all reservations like magazines in waiting rooms. You must swallow your heart, leap across and join.

TU FU'S REAPPEARANCE

Out of the yellow mist
he came again, his oriental beard
in tow. We were on a healthy shore
and he sat cross-legged in the sand,
scratching delicately with a branch,
his slender head down. I crouched
and put it to him, "How do I block
the fear?" He kept scratching the sand
as if he hadn't heard. I grew angry,
"How do I block the fear?!" He lifted
his head and shrugged,
branch waving above him,
"How does a tree
block the wind?"
With that, he
disappeared.

FOR THAT

How could I know
creating and surviving
were so close

a membrane apart,
a pulsing, glowing film.

How could I know
each day
is
the last
and
the first

and beneath
that tension,
if we wade below it
like the surface
of a sea, a chance
only coral
can feel

and there
we grow
so thoroughly
that breaking
and healing,

creating
and surviving,
first and
last are
one, the
same.

There,
beneath
the tensions
of psychology,
beneath the
pockets of doubt,
beneath the
prospect of
days to be lived
or not lived,

a moment
so calm
it is
cleansing

and I smile
through my
whole body
just to have
a body,
just to have
this orchestra
within that plays
to no conductor.

Will you believe me then,
that like the zen monk
who finds wisdom
in his fears,
who hears more
than he can say,

will you believe me
that no matter what
is shucked or diagnosed
or bled, I would
trade places
with no one,
spirits
with all.

My purpose,
at last,
to hold
nothing
back.

My goal:
to live
a thousand years,
not in succession,
but in every
breath.

REVIEWS

Acre of Light is a sensitive sharing of the truth. I recommend it highly.”
Bernie Siegel, M.D., author of Love, Medicine and Miracles

Acre of Light is one of the most beautiful and poignant books I have read in a long time. It captures the essence of the courage and creativity of the human spirit.”
Molly B. Vass, Ed.D., Founding Director, Holistic Health Care Program, Western Michigan University

Acre of Light is most impressive. Once started I could not stop reading it. It is a beautiful message to all who face that Dark Night before us. Nepo reaffirms that one can prevail over the worst of adversities by seeking out love, beauty and the indomitable spirit of life. He says it all so simply and directly. His compelling language shows him a master of his craft.”
Maurice C. Blanken, Professor Emeritus, Rowan College, Glassboro, New Jersey

Acre of Light has so many, as the old Sufis said, "shakings of heart" between us in it. The honesty seems to govern all with rare integrity and clear beauty.”
Herbert Mason, Translator of Gilgamesh, Professor of History and Religion, Boston University

Acre of Light and Inside the Miracle are nourishment for anyone’s soul regardless of their life circumstances. They explore the issues of living and of consciously surrendering and would be a good healing tool for helping those suffering from trauma or personal crisis. They would make a great gift as a set that can be experienced over and over again with new insight and personal reflection.”
Kate Dahlstedt, Pilgrimage

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