Michael R.I.P.

Michael R.I.P.

Frank Antonicelli, a good friend and author of “Know Your Enemy: taking the fight to cancer”, and I collaborated on this poem as a way of coping with the recent, sudden death of our mutual, long time buddy, Michael Barbaro. Vinny, as many called him, was a tender hearted man… one of a kind….  he will be missed…  I will take a moment to hug those most important to me today and say “I Love You.” I am grateful for family and friends.  peacefully, Matt 

a gift for you

a gift for you

Pablo Neruda wrote about how an early childhood experience framed why he wrote. While playing in the yard as a young child, he was near a fence and suddenly a small hand came through the fence, the size of a child about his age. This was followed closely by a small stuffed toy sheep. He was touched by this and went to his house and returned with his favorite pine cone and put it through the fence as a gift in return. He never met the giver of the gift. He reflected that we all expect to receive kind regards from those we know, but gifts given from those we do not know can be even more impactful. His writing became a way of giving a gift to those he would never meet.

This story helps me to understand that every single living thing has a gift that it can share with the world. Giving this gift brings us to a place that fills us up and also fills up others, many of whom we may never meet or know, and in ways we may never understand. Sitting here in Georgia in mid January, I wrote this poem with gratitude and as my gift for you, whoever you are.

I Love You, You are Enough

I Love You, You are Enough

this poem came as a part of a practice originally taught by Jim Finley at the Living School… breathing in and hearing God say “I love you”, breathing out and saying “I love you” to God…. I expanded this to meet my struggle with “enough-ness” into breathing in and hearing God say “you are enough” and on the out breath telling God “you are enough”… about 2am this morning after heartfelt cancer navigators retreat yesterday, this came through…. enjoy….

science unbridled


where bank balances and biology

intersect, Warren Buffett will live

forever, processed and incubated

eternally reproduced for the good

of shareholders, and it would have been

Hitler for the good of the pure blooded

a Reich of ten thousand years

and it will be unless those who know love

wise with simple clarity reveal one

cannot experience the heart

through manipulation of base pairs

Danny Boy

first day at college

first person I met

across the hall suite mate

from longkisland

we walked to orientation

slight southern lady politely

thick southern drawl

do things on Taime

don’t get Behaind

first belly laugh in college

first time I did not feel alone


fast forward 35 years

many many memories

my friend died too soon

sheepish full mouth grin

sharp wit

ability to talk paint off a wall

immediate knowledge of a person’s

strengths and weaknesses

firmly held opinions

love for family friends hobbies

will all be missed

over time

but he will not be left behind

morning stretch

no-see-ums bite my arms and ankles

still, warm, humid 7AM

haze from the cardboard plant

combined with mist from last night’s rain

moves in ground clouds through the low hilled valley

giving body to an imperceptible north wind



a mother can’t find her 3 year old child

who sits in a separate cell because

she didn’t know the rules of entry



grandparents, dad, cousins, uncles

celebrate the long awaited

birth of a first child

continuing a long lineage



the sound of a single bird is deafening

as my silent soul stretches

to hold it all as one

a gardener's favorite of all flowers

once a week

maybe twice in deep winter

I fill up two plastic 32 ounce gas station cups

and one half that size

with black sunflower seeds, then

dutifully march them over to fill

the forest green cylindrical bird feeder

found at a yard sale a few years ago

for two dollars (best bargain ever)


During these visits

I watch and listen to the birds

on slow days I talk out loud

and wonder if they listen

as they chirp, flutter, preen 

and wait for me to leave so they can eat


every spring

some random container

in which I would never dare attempt

to turn seed to plant

issues forth a medium sized spiky sunflower

which screams about unintended results

and kindness returned


the birds seem to watch

as I am fed by these

favorite of all flowers

for Ely

my patient and friend Ely

died last night

after many years of battling cancer

in lieu of flowers

follow her:



that everything is alright

with God

even though we doubt



there is always something just around the corner

that will sustain us

even as we despair



humble and never-ending

especially when we are afraid

limitless participation


cradles life

on the North facing porch this morning

two dogs snore

charcoal gray striped cat stares

a couple of black flies and a tiny tan moth

frame the hazy humid valley below

after last nights thunderstorm

only the highest wispy tree branches

sway just a little

air handlers rumble

along with invisible airplanes above, cars below

the occasional piercing chirp of a mockingjay


so this is

how it feels

to chug the joy

that flows from the heart of God

drunk off love

Ode to the Cardboard Box

Oh, carrier vessel of all modern day goods:

I see you.


I witness your birth from my porch every day,

perched on a ridge overlooking the valley

where your great brick and stack mother rests by a river


like most births, it is sometimes difficult to watch.


the massive spiked metal trucks

handling 30 year old long leaf pines

feeding them in


it brings comfort to read

that 85% of Earth’s biomass is plant material,

mostly wood, the substrate for your body


mulch remnants spilled from the trucks

highlight the shoulders of highways

leading to your birthplace

a very small percentage lost to production

about the same relative amount

as the .01% of Earth’s living organisms

that are human

and without whom you would not exist


I don’t see the inner workings

that transform tree to pulp

the formaldehydes or ammonia that flow

nor the river whose temperature is raised

nor the solvents used to clean the final product

nor the fine particulates or dust from combustion


mostly what is witnessed from my isolated hilltop view

is the smoke

that verifies presence of the fire within


massive plumes rise from your mother

24 hours a day


smoke balloons upwards for a little distance

nearly eclipsing the mountains behind

then settles to blanket the whole valley,

city and region

and when the wind is just right

out of the northeast

the pungent odorous smell

signifying your entrance into the world

wafts up to my porch


and I see you again and again

throughout the day:


as my patients arrive for radiation treatment

coughing up grey pale phlegm

asking how a person who had never smoked

can get lung cancer


as I open

small and medium and large boxes

into which have been placed

the necessities and gifts

the desires and guilty pleasures

the hopes and dreams that

sometimes define a life


occasionally you are the highlight

on uncomfortable commercials

where people use you for their primary residence

and you serve as more protection than vehicle


today, I bow in gratitude


there is never a benefit without risk

no free lunch

even when served in the thinnest colorful box