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Cancer-stricken poet's verses provoke thought
Jim Chastain has achieved much in his 44 years. He's an author, attorney, journalist, film critic, poet, screenwriter and band manager. He's lost much, too. Cancer cost him his right arm several years ago, and now this devilish disease has spread to his liver.This tragedy hasn't kept him from writing, though. His latest book is poetry, "Antidotes & Home Remedies” (Village Books Press, $12). He explains that the first half of the book "finds me wrestling, whether directly or indirectly, with my ongoing medical situation.” The second half of the book, home remedies, is "filled with meditations that have arisen through journaling as I process that other part of my life where hospitals play a more limited role.” One poem, "To Be Read at My Funeral,” lauds his wife and son and is particularly poignant in the verse about his daughter: "Or to the beautiful daughter who always made you laugh, who went out of her way to hug you every time, every single time, you really needed it?” After showing gratitude toward his many friends, he closes the poem with tributes to his dog and cat: "Looking out upon a cold blustery day, with the sweetest of all dogs curled up by my feet and the fattest of all cats sitting on my lap, purring.” A brief, whimsical poem, "Oral Roberts University,” goes like this: "They offered the world a prosperity gospel then banked upon it.” The poems are both funny and serious, and all accomplish what any poem should: They make a person think. Chastain's memoir, "I Survived Cancer, But Never Won the Tour de France,” covers the first five years of his battle with cancer, which began when he was 37. — Dennie Hall