Making a poem can be a way to get your mind clear when you’re facing a major crisis.  My friend (George) Cameron Keys was the featured poet at one of our Maui Live Poets sessions at the Makawao Library.

To help him read his work, he asked another friend, Paul Janes-Brown, a noted actor in our local theater.  Cameron said he was afraid that if he read his own work he would start crying.  Paul’s reading of this poem got the rest of us in the audience misty-eyed.

Here’s Cameron’s poem:


The beast roared twice before I could give it answer.

The voice said I was dying, or that’s what my mind heard.

The cure must start NOW, but I have no time.

Isn’t it all futile? The voice had said the WORD.


Hadn’t I always treated others well, with kindness and compassion?

The WORD had made me think otherwise. What had I done?

Along life’s path, hadn’t I met many others who were callous?

Weren’t they more deserving of this fate? Was anyone?


Do I waste my remaining days in this futile attempt?

I see despair in Linda’s eyes, fear for us.

Together we shall fight, her strength and mine,

With too much ahead to live and love.


 Picking my poison, each creates a new me with the cure.

Lose my hair? voice? hearing? job? I chance the worst for music, the best for life.

Days are long and lonely, I am now vulnerable, needing invisibility.

I hide from friendly eyes. Loving, caring eyes.


I hear her crying in my despair, she follows my thoughts with her eyes.

Occasionally she rolls over to look at me with a new aspect.

She delights with my caress; purring and playing with my fingers,

Distracting me from other thoughts, allowing me to laugh.


I notice the leaves moving in a dance from the freshening breeze;

A ballet of colour and sound announcing Spring.

Taking walks among strangers; laughing and sharing.

There is no pity in stranger’s eyes. Don’t they see?


I laugh, love, and remain connected to others who have not had the same experience.

They need not know of the terrible choices and pains involved.

All they need to know is that I’ll be there when needed;

To give caring love, or distance, as each one needs.


The story behind the poem is inspirational.  Cameron says, “On June 10, 2006 I received the diagnosis that I had Squamous Cell cancer in my neck and throat. As with most people, I thought of the news as a death sentence. The news came by phone as they didn’t want to delay surgery longer than necessary.

“I was depressed and thought of what I would need to do to wrap up my life, leaving some security for Linda, my wife. Then I thought that I’ve never been a quitter and I wasn’t going to start now. Getting as much information as I could, my doctors and I developed a plan of action. From then on it was simply making some very hard choices and moving forward. After 2 surgeries, chemo and radiation, I’m still here, relatively healthy, and with a new appreciation and gratitude for life.

“Even though the “cure” has its own problems and damages, I’m still here. I believe I’m still here to give of my experience as an example to others who may be in the same predicament. Everyone needs a shoulder at some time in their life.”

The poem has since been published in a couple of cancer newsletters.    When I decided to start a page on my website for poems of meaning and mana that were written by other folks as well as the stories behind them, I asked Cameron first to allow me to use this poem.  He also graciously provided this recent picture of himself in Ireland cuddling a Scottish Border collie pup.


photo credit:  via Facebook (with owner’s permission)


Please note:  If you would like to contribute a poem to this blog, please let me know by leaving a comment below.  I’d be happy to hear from you.

I do ask three things of my guest poets:

  • a poem of your own making that has great meaning and mana for you,
  • the back-story for the poem — what inspired you or how you made it or whatever you want to tell about it, and
  • an image you own that I can use as the featured photo in the header. (The last is optional. I do ask that the image you share is one you own — either an image of yourself or something that relates to the poem.  If you choose not to send an image, then I’ll go find something that works.)

If you click on this thing –> “Guest Poet Portal” you can submit a poem right now.


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

20 thoughts on “STEP BY STEP

  1. Netta,

    I really like your site and your friend’s poem here. I have had a similar scare myself and have lost close family members also so I understand.

    I also used to write poetry and stopped. Not for any good reason, just stopped over the years. I miss poetry and intend to frequent your site!


    1. Thanks for the visit, Jessica. I do hope you’ll stop by again…and that you’ll take up your pen again.

      — Netta

  2. This is a beautiful poem. I could feel his emotion in the words.
    I write in the same pattern he does, it seems. I lost inspiration to write even tho the influence was everywhere.
    Thanks for bringing to the front what most miss in poetry.

    1. Thanks for the visit, Rochelle, and for the encouraging words. I encourage you to jump into the poetry pool again. I’ve found it to be such a useful tool for seeing where your head is trending. (Sorry….turning into an evangelist here.)

      All the best…

  3. This poem hit me deeply upon his first three stanzas. “Home” with me. I went through the breast cancer and a survivor in the end. At first finding I “received” this blessing in disguise, I was so angry, and …well so many mixed emotions. I wish I had put pen to papyrus and shared those feelings, as though I sooo could as it still seems like yesterday. My daughter has recently found she has cervical cancer and I have encouraged her to write down these emotions as note to “her little girl” within, that is sooo much more frightened. Thank you George Cameron for your most intimate thoughts shared.

    1. Auwe! Thank you for visiting Renee. I shall certainly pass on your comment to Cameron. He will be pleased to know he touched you. Hugs to your daughter…and every blessing.

      — Netta

  4. Hi Netta
    What a lovely poem. It’s true that strangers don’t know what’s behind a smile n this refreshing. Reading a poem has provided me 5 mins of calm and reflection but I don’t think I’m much of a poet myself so will just enjoy these on your site and thank the people who contribute.
    Madsy x

    1. Thanks for the visit Madsy….


  5. Cameron Keys says:

    Thanks all for your comments and thoughts. This poem was cathartic for me and I’m just glad it affects others in a good way. Thanks again Netta. See you around town,

    1. Thanks for the visit, Cameron…and for the poem. As you can see, it was well-received! Hugs!

  6. Wealthfather says:

    This is another great blog post  I always enjoy reading all your articles and this one is no exception because they are very insightful This is the most extensive and comprehensive lecture i have ever received on how to write poems. I am also a poet and I will be glad of you can be one of my mentors.

    1. Thanks for your visit, Wealthfather, and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.

      In this thing, I figure, Life is the mentor and the poetry is a do-it-yourself project.  (There are no rules to follow except the ones that arise out of your own truth and Life-Its-Own-Self.)

      Please do come again.

  7. This is a great post and a wonderful poem I must say, I’m really inspired by your wonderful choice of words and this made me enjoyed every bit of it. Keep up the good work. This poem has various meanings and it deeply relates to my personal experiences in ways I can’t imagine. I’m bookmarking this post and site for more interesting poems such as this. 

    1. Thanks for the visit and for your thoughts, Ayodeji.  I do appreciate it.

  8. Kehinde Segun says:

    This is really emotional. This is actually cool post. Though I have not been in same situation, I have had something similar, but haven’t lost a family member that I was actually close to. So I really understand. 

    But it is really true strangers don’t know what is behind the smile. 

    This poem has really given me lots of inspiration

    1. Thank you for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Kehinde.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again.

  9. Hello Netta,Life-Built Poems is one of my favorite blogs. Not everyone is a poet, some are a poet. Poetic talent is not a God-given thing; It is to achieve. By reading the poem ‘step by step’ I got mixed up in psychological interaction. Man grown step by step. His choler spreads step by step. Step-by-step he overcomes himself. Life goes on concluded in futility step by step.Thank you so much for stirring mysticism.

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Ranao.  I love your description of how George’s poem affected you.  It is a truth that having to look at our own mortality does teach us some very important lessons — most of them hard to take.

      Please do come again.

  10. What a touching poem and I do imagine that knowing the author and hearing them read it aloud in person would be quite an emotional experience. I hope your friend is doing well. Thanks for so thoughtfully sharing their words and providing a portal for others to share intimacy through their poems as well. 

    1. You’re very welcome, Aly.

      Please do come again.

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