My Beloved, Steve Ryals: His Last Poems

JoAnn and Steve 10th anniversaryThe last 10 months, my focus has been on helping my beloved husband, Steve, heal.

Towards the end of 2012, Steve had some growths on his neck (and other places) that were growing rapidly. He decided to go with an oncologist in Santa Cruz. He was told that there was a 70% cure rate with the type of Lymphoma that he had. His first 4 chemo sessions seems to go well–in fact, he was declared cancer free. However, his 5th and 6th chemo treatments took him to the depths of hell. He got an infection in his blood and had to spend 9 days in the hospital. Things never really got better…

He knew that he didn’t want to go back to the hospital ever again. So, he stayed at home.

One Hospice volunteer wrote to me that “Steve was a teacher until he left this earth. Steve taught me how to face death with grace and courage.”

Steve crossed over September 14, 2013.

Here are six poems that Steve wrote back in December, when he realized that he was dealing with something that was life threatening.

Eat life with both hands
Rip off huge hunks
Rend each day into savory hunks
Relish and drool over each moment
Holler with utter abandon at the absurd joy
That living full out brings

This motley stew of memories,
Always fading like a sepia photo of
no one in particular

This relentless cascade of seasons and friends
And beauty, and death, of loving and being loved


What else is there to say?
Have I told you about the time
I skipped through countless
Lives In the blink of a crooked smile?

Or the universe in which
All I seemed to do was
Scatter stars like seeds and
Watch them grow into lovely
Little universes of their own?

This life has galloped by
Like a horse bolting
From the stable where
Old stories rot into clear air.

Where fantasies of fear Molder,
But jesus people eat ‘em.

This moment rocks my world
Scatters tears like fireworks
Hammers my despair into yesterday
Leaves me gasping like the first
Fish to head up the beach…


We chatter our stories
Like drunken chipmunks
Ignoring winter lolling
About in the warm sun
Convincing ourselves that
The wolf is at someone else’s door

This random collection of scratching
Signifying communication but
Really only holding back tomorrow’s
Tide for an eye-blink, a breath,
One lingering kiss before good-night…


One day as I’m walking along
Dazed and confused
The staff of life
Thocks up the back of my head

The old guy wielding the staff
Sermons spittle mad as Donald
Messes with my concentration
Makes me lose my place in the day

Knocks me clear into next week
Where I’ll be having a blast
Going on about some past life
That never was…

Dazed and confused, what a comfort
I think, ignorance, bliss, it’s all
The same when the light gets
Bright enough and invites me home…



Our many lives swim like dolphins
I the endless inland sea

Surfacing to spin and play as Innocents,
starfields sparkling through ocean depths,
Why lie under the ancient sky
Oohing at the falling stars
Wondering who they are,
Could be brothers from another mother
Or an old friend just passing by

Oh these lives so precious
We just eat ‘em up
Suck out the marrow
Good to the last drop

We’ve played through the eons
Danced our lives away under those stars
Let’s go soon, I think, infinity is waiting


Live Your Meditation Like it is Going Out of Style

When I woke up in heaven
Throngs were rushing breathlessly about
Offering greetings and hugs like long-lost lovers

My own throng near knocked me down
In their enthusiasm like big dogs
Filled with incomprehensible quantities
Of puppy-like adulation and unconditional love

“Wait a second!” I squeaked feeling
Overwhelmed and a tiny bit shy
”Give me some space” just as everyone
Laughed and moved back a smidgen

When I caught my metaphorical breath
And looked around and saw everyone I’ve ever
Loved (well, those who predeceased us) smiling
And laughing and nudging each other, saying, “Wow!
Steve’s here… let the party commence!!!”

And so it came to pass that we partied
Our asses off until the cows came home
(assless as well… didn’t realize that
Cows partied that hard).

Then every part of me got loved up,
Adored, appreciated and forgiven, as though it
Had never happened, because, as it turns out,
The only thing that ever REALLY happens
Is the love we give and the love we receive.

So before your time on this zany funhouse
We call Earth has drawn to a close
(game over!) make sure you love with your
Whole heart—let it break open and love em
Bigger—there is never, ever to much love,
(and conveniently, don’t you think?) it’s the only thing
We take with us, as it’s always and forever
Our birth and death right…


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