top of page
Book no.1



An Opera Singer's Facial Cancer

And Life Transposed


Déjà Vu


I couldn’t have known. Inexplicably, I was able to anticipate the nurses’ tasks. Somehow I “remembered” a sensation of intubation and

managed secretions, comparing my present trach to prior experience. “The last time I had a trach...”

insisted the impossible memory. I kept hunting for the source. It was maddening because I knew what I knew.


But I’d never had any illness more serious than the flu—as on the day of the Metropolitan Opera Audition District finals in Denver, for which I had packed a portable personal steam inhaler. And that was nothing at all like this tubular contraption completely bypassing the whole of my singing apparatus.

The night they took me back to surgery to undo all the work of the long day before had been truly the last night of my former life. A night of which I had no conscious memory, though I somehow seemed to have knowledge. 

Philosophers have contemplated phenomena like this for centuries. Plato, for one, framed a “theory of recollection” or Anamnesis, whereby humans are born with some basic concepts hard-wired. Certain kinds of knowledge, goes the theory, are either innate or previously experienced in some other dimension of existence, such that real-time learning is actually a process of gradually recalling unknown knowns, which are then borne out by sensory experience. Was that how I knew what I knew?

The night they took me back to surgery to save my life, they also sent me into a week-long oblivion, which drew a line of demarcation at the wild frontier of my new life. There had been those few hours of semi-consciousness in the ICU, when my outcome was still a tossup. I had opened my eyes upon the beautiful faces of my darling Evie and my darling sisters Kristina and Markie. I would have dozed off confidently, their pretty afterimages burned into memory, had they not presented me a clipboard and put a pen in my hand, to sign my consent to re-operate. 

Perhaps the night they took me back to surgery was a slice through my reality which so partitioned my consciousness that I perceived it as belonging to a separate life. Was that how I knew what I knew?

Perhaps, like so many coronal and axial scans, in slices of cataclysm and of miracle, such ruptures can illuminate hidden banks of experience which then become components of the essential self.


Like a memory stirred by an old photograph of oneself long ago, from a time when one inhabited an entirely other self, ever heartbreakingly alive in image, though at most, merely a familiar companion to the present.


Like evolution, perhaps, a leap into the next iteration, having no understanding of how or where to. Only an insistent sense of before, trailing clouds.


An opera singer's facial cancer

And life transposed

Coming 10/10/2023 from 

bottom of page