Monday, June 30, 2014

June 30: Pizza and Guilty Pleasures

My daughter, wife and I are watching American Ninja Warrior and eating pizza.  It's sort of our thing.  We started doing it about three years ago.  I used to hate this TV show, but it has grown on me.  Like some rabid fungus.  I think the pizza won me over.

Tomorrow night, it's America's Got Talent.  No pizza.

Those are my summer guilty pleasures.  Well, also kettle corn and barbecued bratwurst.  Those are my summer guilty pleasures.  And banana cream pie.  Those are my summer guilty pleasures.  And...

Oh, hell, Saint Marty has a lot of guilty pleasures.

Guilty, as charged

June 30: Fat and Bald, Submitting, "Web" Dip

So, I was registering a patient at my medical office job this afternoon.  It had been a very long, busy day.  I was trying to help this older gentleman finish one of the forms for his appointment.  One of the questions on the form is "Do you wear glasses?"

I read the question to him, and he answered, "No, I have 20-20 vision."

"So, how do I look?" I joked.

"Fat and bald," the man answered.

I stood in front of him for a second, stunned.  Then I smiled and said, "Well, you look old and rude to me.  Shall we move on?"  And I finished the form with him.

I certainly could get in trouble for my response, if this gentleman decides to complain.  I don't care.  I'm a nice guy, but I couldn't help myself.  My medical office work is not a career for me.  It's a job.  Writing/teaching is my career.  It's what I love.

This week, I've set a goal.  I promised myself that every day this week, starting yesterday, I would submit my poetry for publication.  On Sunday, I sent my new book to a small press.  Tonight, I e-mailed some poems to a magazine editor with whom I have a connection.  Tomorrow, I will enter a contest.

So, my question for this Web dip Monday is:

Will I get my new poetry collection accepted by a publisher this summer?

And the answer from the little radiant pig is:

"You know," [Zuckerman] said, in an important voice, "I've thought all along that that pig of ours was an extra good one.  He's a solid pig.  That pig is as solid as they come.  You notice how solid he is around the shoulders, Lurvy?"

OK, so Wilbur is a solid, winning pig.  Zuckerman finally takes notice.

And fat, bald Saint Marty is going to get his book published soon.

Suck it, you old, rude bastard

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 29: Mother's Birthday, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

We are celebrating my mother's birthday this afternoon.  She is 83 years young.  I'm sitting at her dining room table, keeping her company, as I type this post.  My mother is a wonderful woman.  Raised nine kids.  Helped run my father's plumbing business.  Taught me that it doesn't matter whether you fail or succeed, as long as you always do your best.

My mother's memory isn't the best anymore.  She repeats herself a lot.  Her eyesight is failing due to macular degeneration.  She has to wear hearing aids.  Books, always one of the joys of her life, are simply impossible for her to enjoy now.  She can still sing.  Tells great stories about growing up with her sisters in Detroit.  And, above all, she loves her kids and grandkids more than anything.

Today, I celebrate a truly great woman.

Today's Classic Saint Marty comes from two years ago.

June 29, 2012:  Stream of Consciousness, Hiccups

I really don't have anything new to say right now.  Therefore, I will just let my mind go where it wants to go, follow the butterfly, and trust in God to get me where I need to be.  This process may be difficult, since the editor for Blogger seems to work in fits and starts today.  I can be typing away, and suddenly the entire system grinds to a halt. A little blue circle of death appears for almost a full minute.  Thus, my stream of consciousness writing will have to take a break, and there may be a few hiccups.  Like the one I just experienced.  I will make a deal with you.  Every time my computer hiccups, when it comes back, I will type the word "hiccup," which will explain any great cognitive leaps that may occur.  I will try to keep my fingers moving on the keyboard as fast as possible.

I hiccup My hiccup My wife and daughter are going to see the movie Brave this afternoon.  My son and I will be going stag for a few hours.  We may take  hiccup We may take a walk, although the temperature is supposed to be in the ninety-degree range.  I like being out in weather like that, but it may not be too good for a three-year-old toddler who likes to run a lot.  Perhaps I'll just strap him into the running stroller and go for a run.  Yes, I'm crazy.  I like hot weather running.  I like to sweat.  I like the sun and the humidity.  It makes me feel like I've actually worked hard.

Tonight, my wife and I are entertaining a notary who's coming to our house to have us sign the final documents on our mortgage refinance.  I'll be so glad to get that out of the way.  I'm hoping it won't take more than a half hour.  For some reason, signing my name on so many pieces of paper in succession makes me a little nervous.  I have this fear that I hiccup

I really want to see the hiccup I really want to see Brave as well,  but we couldn't get a babysitter for this afternoon.  Plus, we really couldn't afford a babysitter.  My wife and I drew straws, and I lost.  I figure if the movie is any good, my daughter will want to see it again.

I am coming hiccup This may be the end of this post.  I'm getting a little frustrated with the pauses today.  I wish I had something more substantial to talk about.  I have no new poem.  Yet.  I will be on a writing panel discussion on Sunday evening as part of the 2012 U. P. Book Tour.  I'm sort of looking forward to that, although I'm sort of terrified at the same time.  I believe Linda Nemec Foster is going to be on the panel with me, and that's a little intimidating.  We'll see if I can hold my own or if I just sit there, stuttering and saying things like, "Me like poetry lots I do."  That hiccup

Saint Marty has hiccup Saint hiccup Saint Marty hiccup Oh, screw it.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June 28: Unable to Speak, Love and Marriage, David Wagoner, "Thoreau and the Toads," New Cartoon

For a moment after this announcement, the Arables and the Zuckermans were unable to speak or move.  Then Avery picked up a handful of straw and threw it high in the air and gave a loud yell.  The straw fluttered down like confetti into Fern's hair.  Mr. Zuckerman hugged Mrs. Zuckerman.  Mr. Arable kissed Mrs. Arable.  Avery kissed Wilbur.  Lurvy shook hands with everybody.  Fern hugged her mother.  Avery hugged Fern.  Mrs. Arable hugged Mrs. Zuckerman.

There's a lot of love going 'round in that paragraph.  Some people may think Charlotte's Web is old-fashioned.  There are no broken families.  Mr. Zuckerman loves Mrs. Zuckerman.  Mr. Arable loves Mrs. Arable.  Avery loves his sister.  There isn't anything really dysfunctional in the story, unless you count Mr. Zuckerman wanting to carve up Wilbur like a, well, Christmas pig.  Aside from this small bump in the road, love wins.

I am going to write about love in this post.  For diabetic readers, you may want to dose yourself with some extra insulin.  You see, I'm a really lucky guy.  Despite all of my shortcomings, I have a woman who really loves me.  Yes, I am a poet.  Translate that statement into "I will never make a ton of money."  Yes, I'm moody at times.  I frequently feel like a failure.  I complain a lot.  Yet, my wife puts up with all of this.  Over and over and over.  She's a wonderful person, and I'm lucky to be able to call her my spouse.

Our marriage has had some rocky times, but we've endured.  In fact, I'd say our relationship is stronger now than the day we said "I do" to each other close to 20 years ago.  Not a lot of people can make that claim.  Love isn't always perfect.  I can vouch for that.  If love is true, however, it can bring light to the darkest times.

I have a poem tonight about love by David Wagoner.  It's about spring and love and mating amphibians.

Saint Marty thinks those things go together like a horse and carriage.

Thoreau and the Toads

by:  David Wagoner

After the spring thaw, their voices ringing
     At dusk would beckon him through the meadow
          to the edge of their pond where, barefoot,
He would wade slowly into the water
     And stand there in the last of light
          To see the mating toads--a hundred or more
In the shallows around him, ignoring him
     Or taking him for another, inflating
          The pale-green bubbles of their throats to call
For buffo terrestris, leaping half out of the pool
     And scrambling to find partners.  The atmosphere
          Would quiver with their harmonic over-
And undertones, with their loud, decent proposals
     Like the sounds of a church potluck, their invocations
          And offertories for disorderly conduct,
With the publishing of their indelicate banns
     And blessings to the needy in their distress
          And benedictions even beyond springtime
To all those of the faith.  And he would see
     Among this communal rapture, there underwater,
          The small gray males lying silent
On the backs of females, holding on
     To their counterparts with every slippery finger
          And toe, both motionless, both gazing
Inward at the Indivisible
     And rising from time to time together
          To the surface only an inch above them
To breathe, then settling again and staring
     With such a consciousness of being
          Common American toads, he would stand beside them,
As content as they were with their medium
     Of exchange, the soles of his feet trembling
          With a resonance he could feel deep in his spine,
Believing this mud could be his altar too,
     And his pulpit, where all of his intentions
          Would be as clear as theirs, as clear as the air
In the chill of the fading light.  He would lift
     His bare feet gently and silently, making scarcely
          A ripple, balancing
Himself onto the grass and, while his brethren
     Like a drunken choir went on
          And on without him, would sit down
Vibrant on the earth and once again struggle
     Into his stockings, into his waterproof boots,
          And straighten and square-not his rawhide laces.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, June 27, 2014

June 27: Weekend Time

I'm tired.  The week has been very long.  Thank God that I don't have any plans this weekend, aside from the normal stuff.  Breakfast at McDonald's with my sister and my son.  Cleaning my parents' house.  Playing the pipe organ at church on Saturday night.  Practicing with my praise band on Sunday morning.

It's going to be quite relaxing, and it's going to go by very fast.  Before I know it, I'm going to be picking out my clothes for work on Monday.

I never thought I'd be the kind of person who only lives on the weekend.  Up until recently, I've always enjoyed my jobs a great deal.  I felt, for the most part, fulfilled.  Don't get me wrong.  I still hoped for something better.  Hope is what fuels human beings.

But, I've joined the rank and file now.  I dread Sunday night.  I watch the time clock during the week, count down to 5 p.m. every day.  I find little joy in what I do at the present time.  That's pretty normal for most people, I think.  I don't like being normal.

Saint Marty needs a little more hope.

Don't think I haven't thought about it

June 27: Going Home, Elitist Intellectuals, Once Upon a Toad

"Charlotte," said Wilbur.  "We're all going home today.  The Fair is almost over.  Won't it be wonderful to be back home in the barn cellar again with the sheep and the geese?  Aren't you anxious to get home?"

E. B. White loved the life he led as a child.  He loved the summers he spent in a cabin on a lake with his family.  He loved the horses his father owned.  Later, he loved his life in farm country.  The barns.  Cows.  Chickens.  The spiders and geese.  In fact, White made a career for himself writing about everything he cherished from his youth.  He was constantly going home.

I have been an adjunct instructor at a university for going on 20 years.  That's a long time.  I've seen professors come and go.  Retire.  Die.  I've taught through the administrations of about five or six English Department Heads and six University Presidents.  I have never been offered more than a one-semester contract.  At the end of each semester, I'm not sure if I'll be teaching one class, two classes, or no classes the next term.  It's a tenuous existence at best.

One of the reasons I've never been offered something more permanent is because of a bias that exists in academia.  The English Department is full of professors who think they're better teachers and scholars because they've studied in such exotic locations as Indiana or Texas or Canada.  They went on a Holy Grail quest for a tenured position at a university and lucked out.  They've made sacrifices for their careers.

These elitist intellectuals are of the opinion that their sacrifices have somehow made them worthier of their privileged lives than others.  They look down on the likes of me, who elected to stay put, raise a family, and pursue an academic career closer to home.  I've sat through department meetings where contingents and adjuncts were treated like inferior children by tenured colleagues.

I think it does take a lot of courage to leave home and pursue a career wherever the academic winds blow.  I admire my colleagues.  They're smart, talented people.  However, I also think it takes a lot of courage to stay home, get married, have children, and roll the academic dice.  In fact, it may take more courage because there are more obstacles in the way of success, not the least of which are the opinions of elitist intellectuals.

Sorry for the rant, folks.  It's something about which I've been thinking quite a bit this summer.  I had to get it off my chest.

Once upon a time, a toad lived in a swamp in the middle of the woods.  The swamp was his home.  The toad was born there, grew up there.  He spent his days sitting on the same rotten log where his father sat his whole life (until a rather cranky snake came along and ate his father).

One day, a lizard from the other side of the forest moved into the swamp.  The lizard said to the toad, "Don't you ever get bored of sitting on this log, eating the same kinds of bugs, day after day?"

The toad just blinked at the lizard.

The lizard cleared his throat.  "I think life is too short to fritter away.  A life without change and adventure isn't a real life.  It's a wasted life."

The toad just blinked at the lizard

The lizard licked his eyes.  "Are you hearing what I'm saying?  You don't deserve this log or this swamp.  You can't appreciate it the way I can."

The toad just blinked at the lizard.

"I deserve this swamp more than you," the lizard said, "because I've been to other places.  I'm worldly and smart."

The toad just blinked at the lizard.

"And, furthermore--" the lizard continued.

Just then, the cranky snake came by and swallowed the lizard.

The toad just blinked.

Moral of the story:  don't fuck with a cranky snake.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Something like this...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

June 26: Book Club and John Smolens

I'm very tired.  But happy.  I will get back to my normal programming tomorrow.  Tonight, I have just enough energy to say that John Smolens is probably the coolest gentleman I know.

My book club descended on my house tonight.  Artichoke dip.  Pizza.  Chicken wings.  Chickpea salad.  And John Smolens' novel Winter by Degrees.  John, my colleague from the university's English Department, joined us for the evening.  We talked about first novels (WBD was his first published book) and writing and inspirations and character development.

John has always been a good friend, and he's always treated me as an equal.  A fellow writer and teacher.  He makes me feel good about myself.  John is retiring from the university.  Several English professors of a certain vintage were made retirement offers they couldn't refuse, and John was one of them.  The Department is going to be a much less interesting place next year.

Saint Marty is going to miss his friend.

A really good guy and writer

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

June 25: An Explanation

Sorry, guys and gals, the day has officially gotten away from me.  I had way too much to do tonight to prepare for my book club gathering tomorrow night.  I had to clean the bathroom and create a discussion guide.  My wife made the artichoke dip for me, thank the Lord.

It certainly didn't help that I also had to help a friend with her hanging baskets.  (Flower baskets!  Get your minds out of the gutter!)  And I had to practice with my church praise band for a little while.

My mind is toast, and it's only Wednesday.  I'm going to be in some serious trouble by Friday night.

Saint Marty needs a drink (or 20).

I said get your minds out of the gutter!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 24: Brother Can You Spare $650

Well, the verdict is in.  My car is in need of a $650 brake job.

Life sucks a little bit right now.  I have to figure out where and how I'm going to pay for this shitting repair.  Soon.  According to the dealership, my car isn't safe to drive.  Of course, this dealership tends to make everything sound like a life-and-death situation.

I'm not going to worry.  My car will be fixed.  I will find the money somehow.  In the mean time, my biggest irritation right now is my crabby teenage daughter who is waiting to get her hands on my laptop.  She's literally crying hormonally on the couch.  It's not a pretty sight.

So, if anyone out there has a spare $600, send it my way.

Saint Marty will put it to good use.

It sucks to be a car owner sometimes

June 24: Terrible Case of Injustice, "Tara," Prayer for Health

"I see no difference," replied Fern, still hanging on to the ax.  "This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of."

A queer look came over John Arable's face.  He seemed almost ready to cry himself.

Fern is trying to save Wilbur's life.  She is passionate and emotional, and she touches something deep inside her father's heart.  As a father, I think I can speak for Mr. Arable.  He is gazing at Fern and wondering when his little girl grew up so much.  That "queer look" on John Arable's face is sadness and love.

Parenthood is an exercise in letting go.  You raise a child, and, eventually, you watch that child walk out your front door forever.  Hopefully, into a life of happiness and fulfillment.  This Sunday, I heard news about a teenage girl who might have a serious form of cancer.  The tests on "Tara" came back inconclusive, so more tests have to be done.

Tara is a beautiful, spiritual young lady.  She works in the church's nursery.  She's a counselor at Bible camp.  She picks up other kids on Sunday morning and drives them to church for Sunday school and worship.  Sure, she's also a teenager.  She starves herself for weeks to fit into her prom dress and then, after the prom is over, orders a pepperoni pizza and eats the entire thing.  Her life is about the Holy Spirit, and it's also about boys and Katy Perry.

I'm asking you to pray for Tara this week.  Pray that she receives good news soon.  Pray that she is healthy.  Pray that she has a great summer, filled with swimsuits, beaches, and sunglasses.  Pray that Tara grows up into a wonderful child of God.

Saint Marty, like Fern, wants justice.  Justice for Tara.  He wants Tara to have a long life full of promise and joy.

This is what Tara should be thinking about

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 23: Summer Bloggin'

It always happens.  The weather gets warmer.  The days get longer.  Suddenly, people have better things to do than read blog posts.  Summers suck when it comes to pageviews for Saint Marty.

I know, I know.  People like to do things like stay outdoors, visit with neighbors, swim, bike, or hike when June, July, and August come along.  I don't understand it, but it's a fact.  I'm running about 200 or 300 views less than last month at this time.

I could start catering to the basest elements of blog stalkers.  Nude selfies.  Sex videos.  Porn stories.  Or I could start including recipes and pictures of food.  Exercise blogs are pretty popular, as well.

Unfortunate, I eat way too much junk food, and I don't exercise that much (although I did go for a run tonight).  Nobody wants to see me in spandex, let alone naked.  Although a blog titled Hot and Wild Saints would peak my interest.

Stay tuned.  You may be seeing a side of Saint Marty nobody has ever seen before.

Nuns gone wild...

June 23: Oil Change, Car Repairs, "Web" Dip

I am once again in the position of needing expensive car repairs.  My auto is going to the dealership tomorrow morning for an oil change.  Every time I get an oil change, I discover that my car has some fatal ailment.  Bad brakes.  Bad struts.  Ball joints.  Whatever.  This time, I know for certain something expensive is headed my way.

For the last couple weeks, my brakes have been making some very unhealthy sounds.  Now, that's what I'm expecting.  I'm sure other problems will be diagnosed.  There always are.  I dread tomorrow because of the news I will receive, but it's out of my hands.  I can't do anything but wait and pray.  I'll be praying a lot tomorrow.

Thus, my question tonight for my Web dip:

Will the cost of my car repairs give me nightmares and insomnia?

And the answer from the pig and spider:

"He isn't dead," hollered Zuckerman.  "He's fainted.  He gets embarrassed easily.  Run for some water, Lurvy!"

Well, there you go.  Saint Marty's gonna faint like a pig tomorrow when he gets the news.

"It's gonna cost HOW MUCH?!!"

Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 22: Two Miles, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

I woke up this morning and said to myself, "If it's cold and foggy again, I'm not going running today."

When I stepped outside, it was beautiful, warm, and sunny.  "Well," I said to myself, "if it's like 80 degrees outside when church is over, I am NOT going running today."

When worship was over, I stepped outside.  It was 65 degrees, sunny, with a nice breeze.  "Well," I said to myself as I got into my car, "if my wife is back from grocery shopping when I get home, I'm NOT going running today."

When I got home, my wife wasn't there, and the phone was ringing.  I answered it.

"Hi, honey," my wife said, "I'm on my way home.  I'll be there in about 15 or 20 minutes."

I got changed and went for a run.  Two miles.  I thought it was going to be hideous.  Sore legs, sore lungs, sore feet.  Instead, the run was wonderful.  Granted, when I was done, I felt like I was going to die, but I recovered quickly.  Now, I can have a completely guilt-free day.  I can eat pizza or ice cream or a pound of bacon without a twinge of remorse.  Well, if I eat the bacon, I might feel a twinge, but it will originate in my lower intestine, not my conscience.

Today's Classic Saint Marty comes from 2011.  Exactly three years ago.

June 22, 2011:  Saint Thomas More, Rain, Tired

Yesterday's post was all about the first day of summer.  June 21 was supposed to be the longest day of the year.  It rained almost the entire day.  Today, which is supposed to be just as long as yesterday, has been a day-long downpour.  No sun.  No light.  All my talk about embracing the light in my last post was a waste of time.  When I left the Spiritual Autobiography Workshop last night, the fog was so thick I thought it was snowing when I looked out of the window.  It was dark by 9 p.m.

Perhaps because of this inclement weather, I have felt really tired today.  I've been trying to cut back on the amount of Diet Mountain Dew I drink, holding myself to one can per day.  This morning, I had my allotted can, but by lunchtime, I was falling asleep.  I am currently chugging down my second can of Dew.  I'm perking up a little bit, but I still can't quite get up to speed.  My mind is working about three bulbs short of a chandelier.  I'm hoping I'll get a second wind soon.

Today's feast saint is Thomas More, patron of lawyers.  Thomas More is probably most famous for standing up to Henry VIII, refusing to "render allegiance to the King as the Head of the Church of England."  Thomas was imprisoned in the Tower of London and, about a year and a half later, was beheaded for treason.  His last words were that he was dying "the King's good servant--but God's first."  During his lifetime, Thomas was a prolific author.  His most famous work is Utopia, about a fictional island state named Utopia.  In the book, More discusses things like religious tolerance, female priests, married priests, and divorce.

Being from a "mixed" marriage--I was raised Catholic, my wife is Methodist--I appreciate More's ideas about tolerance.  I've never made a big deal with my daughter about the fact the we go to "Daddy's church" on Saturday and "Mommy's church" on Sunday.  It's just church, and it's all about Jesus.  When my daughter gets a little older, maybe she'll start asking questions and making choices.  But, in a perfect world, maybe in Utopia, such distinctions wouldn't really matter that much.  American Catholics are notoriously liberal in their religious beliefs.  Most Catholics I know wouldn't have a problem with married priests, or female priests, for that matter.  Every Catholic church I know has some kind of support group for divorced Catholics nowadays.  The world really has changed since Thomas More wrote Utopia.  Yet, we still argue about the same things.  Despite his radical ideas, Thomas More became a saint.  He was a man of his time and a man of the future.

In my life, I've had to stand up for a lot of things.  My father almost didn't come to our wedding because we got married in the Methodist church.  (He eventually did come, because we had a Methodist pastor AND a Catholic priest performing the ceremony.)  Many members of my family still struggle with my wife's mental illness and sexual addiction.  Rather than taking up love and compassion, they take up stones to throw.  My life is far from utopia.  Modern society will never be utopia.  I know that.  Thomas More knew that.  But, in my own actions, in the choices I make each day, maybe I make the world just a tiny bit better.

It's all in our hands
On this rainy Wednesday, with my tired mind, I embrace the idea of tolerance.  I embrace the idea of not limiting people because of gender or race or sexual orientation or religion.  I embrace the idea of the healing power of love, as corny as that sounds.  I embrace the idea of utopia.

Saint Marty raises his Mountain Dew to Saint Thomas More.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, June 21, 2014

June 21: Lilacs Bloom, Summer Solstice, Julie Cadwallader-Staub, "Reverence," New Cartoon

The early summer days on a farm are the happiest and fairest days of the year.  Lilacs bloom and make the air sweet, and then fade.  Apple blossoms come with the lilacs, and the bees visit around among the apple trees.  The days grow warm and soft.  School ends, and children have time to play and to fish for trouts in the brook.  Avery often brought a trout home in his pocket, warm and stiff and ready to be fried for supper.

E. B. White's descriptions of the seasons are beautiful, little poems.  Lilacs and apple blossoms, trout and bees.  In a few simple words, White is able to capture the essence of childhood summers.  Long days filled with bug hunting and frogs, and long nights filled with full moons and cricket song.

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  Tomorrow, the planet starts tilting toward winter.  However, the lilacs are in full bloom in my backyard, and tomorrow morning, when I leave for church, there will probably be a rabbit chewing dandelions on my front lawn.  Summer is here.  Finally.

It was fairly dreary for the solstice.  The sun remained behind the clouds.  Fog and rain pretty much dominated the day.  I didn't do a whole lot.  I cleaned my parents' house, drew some cartoons, and went to church.  At Stonehenge, I'm sure some ancient Celt wannabes did something weird, like get naked, paint themselves with mud, and dance around the stones singing, "Summer Lovin'" from Grease.  Or something like that.

I have a solstice poem for you guys tonight.  It's from the Garrison Keillor collection Good Poems:  American Places.  The poem reminds me of being a kid, just out of school, the entire summer ahead of me.

Saint Marty might go outside tonight and pee in his backyard.  That's something he also used to do when he was a kid.


by:  Julie Cadwallader-Staub

The air vibrated
with the sound of cicadas
on those hot Missouri nights after sundown 
when the grown-ups gathered on the wide back lawn,
sank into their slung-back canvas chairs
tall glasses of iced tea beading in the heat

and we sisters chased fireflies
reaching for them in the dark
admitting their compact black bodies
their orange stripes and seeking antennas
as they crawled to our fingertips
and clicked open into the night air.

In all the days and years that have followed,
I don't know that I've ever experienced
that same utter certainty of the goodness of life
that was as palpable
as the sound of the cicadas on those nights:

my sisters running around with me in the dark,
the murmur of the grown-ups' voices,
the way reverence mixes with amazement
to see such a small body
emit so much light.

Confessions of Saint Marty


June 20: Braces and Money

So, I just found out today that my daughter needs braces.  The orthodontist didn't give us any idea about how much this mouth full of metal is going to cost.  I'm sure it isn't going to be cheap.  The good news is that it's not going to happen until the end of the summer.  The bad news is that I have to pay 25% up front before a single tooth is caged.

I don't know how I'm going to pay for my daughter's orthodontic work.  I grew up at a time when parents were just happy if their kids teeth didn't resemble walrus tusks.  Now, I have to worry about overbites and grinding and alignment and crowding and spacing.  Brushing and flossing are secondary concerns.

Don't get me wrong.  I want my daughter to have beautiful, healthy teeth.

Saint Marty will just have to take out a second mortgage on his house to pay for them.

New roof or braces?

June 20: Versatile, Using Gifts, Once Upon a Frog

"Certainly not," said Charlotte.  "'Versatile' means I can turn with ease from one thing to another.  It means I don't have to limit my activities to spinning and trapping and stunts like that."

Charlotte has many gifts.  She can spin a web.  She can write.  She can sing.  She's smarter than any other animal in Zuckerman's barn.  And she's a great friend.  Charlotte uses all of her talents to save Wilbur.

I like to think that I'm a versatile person.  I can write.  Sing.  Play a musical instrument.  Act.  Teach.  Program computers.  Unplug a bathtub drain.  Fix a leaky faucet.  Cook a mean quiche.  I like to think that I have a lot of gifts.

I don't think I'm like Charlotte, however.  I don't always use my gifts to help people.  I think I spend too much time feeling sorry for myself and being angry.  Slowly but surely, I'm getting back to being thankful for the blessings in my life.  My kids.  Wife.  Home.  Jobs.  Blessed, blessed, blessed.  That's what I am.  In the fall, I'll be back in the classroom, talking about movies and poetry and literature.  I'll officially be the Poetry Editor of the university's literary magazine.

I'm a little tired of my versatile existence.  Three jobs.  One full-time, two part-time.  During the course of one day, I may collect money from patients and lecture about Citizen Kane and rehearse with the church's praise band.  Or I may clean a house and correct a pile of essays and attend a poetry reading.  Some years, I've had four to five W-4 forms at tax time.

Sometimes, I wish I had one job that made use of all my gifts.  But I haven't come across any classified ads for a poet/organist/teacher/clerk/editor/actor/singer.  At least, none that include health insurance.

Once upon a time, a frog lived in the middle of a swamp.  The frog was very talented.  He could dance and croak opera arias.  He recited Shakespearean soliloquies at night to the mosquitoes.

One morning, a snake came along and swallowed the frog whole.

Moral of the story:  frogs taste just like chicken.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

That's me

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 19: Thank God It's Friday Tomorrow

Friday.  I am so ready for the weekend.  I'm tired and stressed.  Tomorrow, my daughter has an orthodontist appointment.  She needs some kind of metal in her mouth according to her dentist.  She's actually looking forward to it.  I don't know why.

I don't really have any plans for the weekend.  My plan is not to plan.  Maybe I'll read a book.  Draw a picture.  Write a poem.  Go for a run.  Watch a marathon of The Big Bang Theory.  I'm free and loose.  I may wear underwear this weekend, or I may not.

Saint Marty's feeling a little dangerous.

She's feeling a little dangerous, too

June 19: The Judges, My Book Bag, Writing Contest,

"When are the judges going to decide about Wilbur?" asked Mrs. Zuckerman.

"Not till tomorrow," said Mr. Zuckerman.

Wilbur's whole fate rests with a contest.  If Wilbur doesn't win some kind of prize at the Fair, Wilbur will end up on the wrong end of an ax.  Perhaps that's a little shallow, but, after Zuckerman has the bronze medal and twenty-five bucks in his hands, Wilbur's life is safe.

There's something to be said for contests.  Currently, in my book bag, I have a packet of essays.  I'm judging a nature writing contest at the moment.  Last year, I was awarded first honorable mention (second place) in this contest.  This year, I am one of the nature essay gods, passing sentence and breaking hearts.  Of course, I'm jesting.  I'm honored that I was asked to participate.

This weekend, I plant to finish my work.  It's not difficult.  I read an essay.  I rank the essay.  Read, rank, read, rank.  By Sunday, I will have chosen the best and worst of them.  It's not like grading.  I don't have to correct or proofread.  I simply have to read and express my opinion with a number.

I'm hoping to find something wonderful in these essays.  Something surprising and moving.  Perhaps I have set my standards too high.  I'm not looking for the next Henry David Thoreau or Loren Eiseley.  I just want something a little better than a middle school diary entry.

Saint Marty doesn't think he's asking too much.

I imagine a Nobel Prize in Literature

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 18: Wonder Twin

I talked to one of my best friends tonight.  She called me as I was leaving work.  Wonder Twin used to be one of my coworkers at my former medical office job.  I call her Wonder Twin because we have so much in common.  We're the same age.  We love the same books and movies and TV shows.  Her father was an English professor.  She loves my poetry.  I love her cardamon bread.

It was really good to share some time with Wonder Twin.  We're both feeling a little conflicted about our current jobs.  It's a nebulous kind of conflict.  More about the organization and management.  I'm not going to go into detail.  Big Brother is always watching, and I need to maintain my health insurance and salary.  (Yes, I am a little paranoid.)

Wonder Twin and I didn't solve the world's problems during our conversation.  We just basked in each other's mutual dissatisfaction.

Saint Marty's happy to have company in his paranoia.

Wonder Twin powers activate!

June 18: A Mask, Unveiling, Poetry

"All writing is both a mask and an unveiling."

E. B. White put much of himself into his writing.  White loved nature and farms.  Spiders, pigs, geese, horses, cows, sheep.  The only creatures for which White had no affection were rats.  Templeton is a scavenging glutton.  Charlotte is a hero.  Wilbur is a hero, too, sort of.  White's predilections are all through the book.  As he said, Charlotte's Web is both a mask and an unveiling for him.

Every time I sit down to write, whether it's a poem or blog post or essay, I'm revealing a little of myself.  Sometimes, a lot.  Sometimes, too much.  That's what I love about words.  Poetry, in particular, is all about truth.  The best poems, the ones that truly grab me by the throat, are the ones that touch upon some deep truth.

I also think most good poems come from a place of pain.  It's that pain that everyone recognizes and identifies.  Everyone has felt isolated.  Everyone has felt rejection.  Everyone has experienced loss and grief.  Poetry, for me, is a way of exorcising those emotions.  Poetry is dangerous.  That's why so many poets ended up exiled or imprisoned throughout history.  Poetry can change the world.

Tonight, however, I'm not changing anything with this post.  All I'm doing is sharing what's on my mind this evening.  Poetry.  Truth.  Pain.

Three of Saint Marty's favorite things.

When the dog bites, write a poem about it...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 17: Running in the Heat

After work this evening, I went for a run.  It was close to 80 degrees, and I was sweating like a hog by the time I was done.  It was...glorious.

This past winter was tough.  I wasn't able to run a whole lot, and I'm feeling the result of that long, cold hiatus now.  I'm able to run a little over a mile right now.  That's pathetic.  But I'm getting better.  I no longer want to collapse immediately when I'm done.  I can actually stumble into my house and pass out on the floor under the ceiling fan.  That's progress.

There's a race I usually run the weekend after July 4.  It's only two miles, and I haven't missed it for about ten years.  I don't intend to walk the race this summer.  Even if it kills me (which it might), I will run the entire two miles.

Tomorrow, Saint Marty will run two miles for the first time this summer.  His next post may be from the local hospital.

Saint Marty this afternoon

June 17: Ate Heartily, Local Story, Prayer for Love

Wilbur ate heartily.  He planned to leave half a noodle and a few drops of milk for Templeton.  Then he remembered that the rat had been useful in saving Charlotte's life, and that Charlotte was trying to save his life.  So he left a whole noodle, instead of a half.

One thing I love about Wilbur is that he's so accepting.  Sheep.  Cows.  Spiders.  Horses.  Geese.  He loves all the creatures in the Zuckerman barn.  Even Templeton, the rat.  Despite Templeton's shortcomings, Wilbur cares about him enough to save part of his dinner for him.  We should all emulate Wilbur the pig.

There's a story in the local news that's creating quite a stir.  A local man married his life partner this past Saturday.  They've been together for close to 30 years.  This man also happens to be a member of a local Catholic church.  He lectors, sings in the choir, serves on the parish council.  He loves his church family.  And he's gay.

This past Sunday, when he showed up to attend church, he was told he could listen and worship in the vestibule.  He was banned from being in the actual sanctuary.  I'm not sure of all the details.  I don't know who told him he couldn't participate in the celebration of the mass.  It could have been the priest or the bishop.  I'm not certain.  But there's no getting around the fact that what happened was wrong.

Pope Francis, traveling with members of the international press recently, held an impromptu press conference aboard Shepherd I, the Vatican's jet.  One reporter asked Francis about his opinion of the Catholic Church's stance on gays.  The pope's response:  "Who am I to judge?"

I think some members of the local Catholic church need to take a cue from the Holy Father.  So, my prayer focus this week is for love.  I'm going to pray that there's a loving, Christian reconciliation to this situation.  One that involves understanding, not judgement.  I hope that all my disciples can get behind that prayer.

Saint Marty is with Pope Francis on this one.

I've got Frank's back

Monday, June 16, 2014

June 16: A Wimp

I used to love scary movies.  Freddy and Jason.  Exorcists and poltergeists.  Demons and zombies.  I loved all of that stuff.  On Saturdays, when I was a kid, I watched creature features with titles like I Was a Teenage Cannibal and Blood of the Vampire Cuticle.

I have become a wimp.  I just saw a commercial for a new film called Deliver Us from Evil.  I sat there, mouth open, terrified.  I have lost my nerve.  I have no interest in seeing a movie that's going to increase my need for sleeping pills.  No, I will not be wasting money on two hours of terror.

Saint Marty prefers something happier, like Terms of Endearment.

My kind of scary movie

June 16: Health, Not Wealth, How 'Bout Happiness, "Web" Dip

It's been a good day.  I got off work early this afternoon for a doctor's appointment.  I was so happy to be able to leave my job that I literally could have been having a rectal probing without anesthesia, and I still would have had a great afternoon.

My doctor's appointment was great.  I have been an insulin-dependent diabetic for 33 years.  I have no diabetic complications.  My feet are fine.  My eyes are fine.  My blood pressure is great.  My cholesterol is normal.  I'm pretty healthy, for an overweight poet.  I celebrated this news by going for a run.  It was 80 degrees, and I stopped at a kids' lemonade stand to buy a drink and a cookie after I was done.

So, I've got health.  I don't have wealth.  Happiness?  Well, that depends on the day.  Tonight, I have happiness.  I just finished a great novel, and I'm enjoying writing this post.  Soon, I'll brush my teeth and go to bed with my wife.  We'll read our nightly devotions together.  Then, my happy day will be over.

Happiness really is a choice.  I woke up convinced that I was going to thoroughly enjoy myself today.  I did.  Now, if I can do that all the time, I wouldn't have to take a sleeping pill every night.  I'd wake up excited for the day's challenges.  Choices.

My question this Web dip Monday is:

Will I have happiness this week of my life?

And the answer from Charlotte:

...Charlotte had finished her web.  The word HUMBLE was woven neatly in the center.  Nobody noticed it in the darkness.  Everyone was tired and happy.

Message received.

Saint Marty has some positive choices to make.

I'm not sure, either

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 15: Doctor's Appointment, Father's Day, Classic Saint Marty

It's almost time for bed.  Midnight in Paris is almost over.  I can hear my wife in the kitchen, getting ready to go to sleep.  It's been a very nice Father's Day.  Tomorrow, I throw myself back into real life for another week.  It's funny.  I spend the majority of my time at a job that monopolizes my life.  Yet, I only really feel alive on the weekend, away from that job.  I'm actually looking forward to going to my doctor's appointment tomorrow afternoon because I get to leave work early (and be lectured about my weight by a physician with almost no personal skills, but that's another subject).

I know I'm not unusual in these feelings.  I have many friends, however, who are doing exactly what they want to do with their lives.  Their work isn't work.  It's joy.  Being in their company makes me anxious.  Jealous.  Unhappy.

But I don't want to go down that road this evening.  I want to enjoy these last few moments of the weekend.  Quiet, restful moments.

Today's Classic Saint Marty comes from Father's Day two years ago.

June 17, 2012:  Father's Day, Eggs and Hot Dogs, McDonald's

Today, I'm going to let my daughter and son write my post for me.  What follows below are letters they wrote to me today in honor of Father's Day.  For the record, I do love eating scrambled eggs and hot dogs, and I do not work at McDonald's.

Saint Marty wishes all the fathers out there a happy Father's Day.

From my daughter (11 years old):

My daddy is 36 years old.

His hair is brown and his eyes are brown.  My dad likes to wear a beret.  He loves to eat eggs and hot dogs.  He is smart because he knows how to be nice and care for everyone.  My daddy works hard at running and keeping us happy.  Daddy always tells me that he loves me, even when he's SUPER mad at me.  It makes my daddy happy when he sits down with the family, and he'll read to us.  If he could go on a trip, he could go to the tundra lodge with us.  I really love it when daddy laughs.  If I could give my daddy anything, It would be more love.  My favorite thing about daddy is that he is my loving, caring, smart, awesome daddy.

From my son (3 years old) with help from Mommy:

My Daddy is 3 and 4 years old.

His hair is brown and pink and his eyes are blue and purple and red.

He loves to eat strawberries, bananas, and Sissy's ice cream.  He is smart because he knows me and the crayons. 

My Daddy works hard at McDonald's.  (Sissy suggested that answer.)

It makes my daddy happy when he's with Mommy.

If he could go on a trip, he would go to the food store and get me 2 big trucks and a big, HUGE dump truck and I want a big, blue beep-beep.

If I cold give my daddy anything, it would be I don't know--I want to get Daddy a big truck for his birthday.

My favorite thing about my Daddy is I like to poop on him.  I like to give him a big, fat kiss.

Confessions of Saint Marty

June 15: St. Vitus's Dance, Recitals, New Poem, "Pie Jesu"

"What kind of acrobat do you think I am?" said Charlotte in disgust.  "I would have to have St. Vitus's Dance to weave a word like that into my web."

Charlotte's reference to St. Vitus pretty much defines my weekend.  St. Vitus is the patron saint of dancers, and today, June 15, is his feast day.  My whole weekend has been dedicated to dance.  I spent all Saturday in a dark auditorium, watching my daughter rehearse for her dance recital.  Saturday night, my daughter danced.  This afternoon, my daughter danced.  Tonight, her feet are sore, and she's a cranky teenager.  But she, and my son, danced and made their father very happy on Father's Day weekend.

I know I'm not a normal dad.  I don't watch football on TV.  I could care less who wins the Stanley Cup.  I don't go fishing.  Can't stand to touch worms or fish.  I don't restore old cars, and I don't have a bunch of woodworking tools in my backyard.

I like dance.  And foreign films.  500-page novels.  Art exhibits.  Musicals.  Poetry.  It is Father's Day night, and, as a treat, I'm watching Midnight in Paris.  I'm not normal.  I'm waiting to see if my son ever realizes his father is from another planet.  Right now, he just thinks I'm really funny.  I'll take that.  It's better than being an embarrassment.  That time will come when he's a teenager.

Last night, when I got home from the dance recital, I sat down with my journal and finished my Father's Day poem for church.  All the pieces sort of fell together for me.  I simply stepped out of the way and let the poem finally emerge.  I started writing at 11 p.m. and finished around 1:30 a.m.  I went to bed very satisfied.

I read my poem this morning during the worship service at church.  It was, of course, dedicated to fathers and father figures.  I read the poem, and then my cohorts in the praise band sang Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu.  By the time the music was over, there wasn't a dry eye in the church.  The pastor had to stand at the lectern for about twenty seconds to compose himself.

I'm not sure if all that means that my poem is any good, but I do think that the Holy Spirit was really present in church this morning.  I could almost see the tongues of fire.

Saint Marty was blessed this weekend.

Pie Jesu

At my brother's funeral,
my father made sounds
I'd never heard him
make before.  Ancient sounds.
Meteor smashing into Earth
sounds, shifting the planet
from brachiosaurus to Ice Age.
Noah loading up the ark
sounds, the heavens a black
boil of rain, mud, tsunami.
Vesuvius opening above Pompeii
sounds, a highway of magma
rolling over house, dog, mother, suckling child.
Abraham on the mountain
sounds, his son climbing like an ibex
ahead of him, higher and higher,
to that stone altar.  Sacrifice
is a part of the deal, giving
up something precious.
The last piece of pizza or
a night of sleep or
a grandfather's watch or
the marrow of your bone.
My father worked twelve-hour
days, fixed toilets, faucets,
unplugged plugged sewers.
His hands, hard as permafrost,
could tear Detroit phone books in half.
Yet, when he had to let go
of my brother, my father broke.
He sat next to me, made sounds
like a charging mammoth,
drowning lion.  Like an old man
asked to give up his last breath.
I think he was waiting, like Abraham,
to hear the whisper of angel wing
in his ear, singing Pie Jesu.
Lord, have mercy.

Friday, June 13, 2014

June 13: Counting My Blessings

I haven't counted my blessings recently.  In fact, for about two weeks, all I've been doing is feeling sorry for myself.  So, tonight, I'm going to list some blessings in my life.

First, I have a loving, beautiful wife.

Second, I have two great kids.

Third, I have a job that provides me health insurance.

Fourth, I have a roof over my head and food in my refrigerator.

Fifth, I have my health.

Sixth, there's a Democrat in the White House.

Seventh, I've worked with Sharon Olds.

Eighth, I'm a published poet.

Ninth, Hostess was saved from bankruptcy.

Tenth, I have a full-time teaching job at the university.

Ummmm.  OK.  So, nine out of ten isn't bad.

Saint Marty is very blessed.

This says it all...

June 13: No Ordinary Spider, Being Special, Special Fairy Tale

"Well," said Mrs. Zuckerman, "it seems to me you're a little off.  It seems to me we have no ordinary spider."

Mrs. Zuckerman is the only human being who sees through Charlotte's ruse.  Edith Zuckerman knows that the little grey spider is special, but nobody listens to her.  Everybody falls under the spell of the web, and, eventually, even Mrs. Zuckerman succumbs to the trick.  Thank goodness.  If Mr. Zuckerman had listened to his wife at the beginning of the book, Wilbur would have ended up Christmas ham, and Charlotte would have probably been pickled by some ersatz entomologist.

Being special.  Charlotte is special.  She convinces the world that Wilbur is special.  I've always been told that I have a special talent for poetry.  It's something I do well.  I play the piano and pipe organ, but I'm not a gifted or special musician.  I sing in church choirs, but I'm not a gifted or special tenor.  I've acted on stage, directed musicals and plays.  I'm pretty damn good in theater.   I'm not gifted or special, however.

Being special means that you have something beyond skill and talent.  A spark.  Something that sets you apart.  Michael Jordan and basketball.  Katherine Hepburn and acting.  Maya Angelou and everything.  They all had some quality that no other person possessed.  They were special.

I like to think that I have a spark for poetry.  I'm not sure if that's hubris.  I just know that poetry makes me feel alive.  When I'm writing poetry, I feel at home.  Maybe I'm wrong, but, if I am, I don't want anybody to tell me so.  Leave me to my little fantasy that I am a gifted poet.

Once upon a time, a really rotten poet named Gobert lived in a little village at the base of Muse Mountain.  Gobert thought he was gifted because, every morning when he was growing up, his mother would tell him, "Son, you are a special poet."

Gobert believed his mother's words.  So, he grew up thinking that he was the world's greatest living poet.  He wrote terrible poems his whole life.  Bad sonnets and sestinas and pantoums.  And he thought he was God's gift to verse.

One day, Gobert was visiting his mother in Ye Olde Person's Home.  Gobert said to his mother, "Thank you."

"For what?" said his mother through her mouthful of oatmeal.

"For telling me every day that I am a special poet."

"What?!" said his mother

"Every morning," Gobert said, "you would say to me, 'you are a special poet.'"

"I never said that," his mother said.

Gobert blinked at her.  "Every morning, that's what you said to me."

His mother spit a raisin into her napkin, shaking her head.  "No, no, no," she said.  "Every morning I told you to go milk Rochelle the goat."  She slapped Gobert on the head.  "You never did listen to me.  I used to think there was something wrong with you."

"You mean," Gobert said, "that I'm not a special poet?"

His mother cackled.  "The only thing special about you is that I had to breastfeed you until you were seven because you had food allergies."

Gobert never wrote another poem ever again.

Moral of the story:  Rochelle the goat never got milked and died udderly distended.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Udderly gross

Thursday, June 12, 2014

June 12: Almost Jason Day

Tomorrow is Jason Day.  Friday the 13th.

I've never been a superstitious person when it comes to Fridays and the number 13.  (Now that I have typed those words, I will probably find all four of the tires on my car flat tomorrow morning.)  In fact, I may kick a black cat and walk under a couple of ladders just for the hell of it.  Perhaps I am being foolish.  I mean, it's not like my life has been a bed of lemons made into lemonade in the last year.  (Yes, I'm mixing metaphors.)  I've never had any problems with Friday the 13th.

Of course, I've also never been stalked by a guy in a ski mask wielding a machete.  If that happened, I'm sure I'd be hiding under my bed with a small handgun and blow torch.

Thank God Saint Marty isn't superstitious.

Stay away from guys with goalie masks...

June 12: Another Story, Waiting for Rain, Publication

"Tell me another story!" begged Wilbur.

Wilbur is expressing a very human urge.  We all love to hear good stories.  That's why books like Charlotte's Web and The Catcher in the Rye and A Christmas Carol still exist.  They are wonderful tales.

I have not been reading much this week.  Nothing new resides in my book bag.  I've read a few good poems, but most of my reading has been back issues of Entertainment Weekly in my bathroom.  Yes, I deserve to be shamed.  I apologize.  In my defense, I have been working like mad on my Father's Day poem, which I will unveil to my disciples this Sunday.  Hopefully.

At the moment, I'm sitting in my office, blogging, waiting for the rain to start while my daughter is at dance rehearsal.  It looks like the heavens are really going to unleash something.  Dark, low clouds.  Plenty of wind.  Dusk falling.

I have decided that I am going to put forth a concerted effort to publish this summer.  I have a completed poetry manuscript that I need to place somewhere.  Somewhere good.  If I am ever going to get a full-time teaching position at a university anywhere, I need to publish.  Unfortunately, the old chestnut is true:  publish or perish.  I've been perishing for way too long.

Well, it's time to pick up my daughter.  No rain.

Saint Marty isn't going to get wet.  Yet.

This says it all

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

June 11: Nothing Post

This post is going to be filled with nothing.  I have nothing to say.  Nothing on my mind.  I literally am typing to simply fill the void on a computer screen.  By the time I'm done blogging, I will have communicated nothing of significance.

I have nothing more to say about work.  Nothing to say about poetry.  I certainly am going to say nothing about the current political situation in the United States.  I will say nothing about rich, heartless Republicans or spineless Democrats.  I will say nothing about global warming or world hunger.

Nothing.  That's my mantra.

Repeat after Saint Marty:  Nothing...nothing...nothing...the Tea Party sucks,,,nothing,,,nothing,,,Hillary Clinton for President...nothing...nothing...nothing...

Mission accomplished

June 11: Archy the Cockroach, Ambitions, Insignificant

...[Archy the cockroach] embodied both Elwyn's ambitions as a writer and his sense of being small and insignificant, as well as his need to hide from people...

The young E. B. White loved the character of Archy the cockroach created by newspaper columnist Don Marquis.  Archy was a poet reincarnated as a cockroach, and White truly identified with Archy's poetic endeavors and low self-esteem.  The future author of Charlotte's Web struggled with the urge to be read and his almost pathological shyness.

I'm not a shy person, but I do struggle with ambition.  I tend to suffer from bouts of extreme jealousy.  Nobody is safe.  Favorite authors.  Friends.  Colleagues.  In my life, I have lots of writer friends.  Some of them are fantastic and deserve all the attention they receive.  Others are mediocre and still receive lots of attention.  Most of them have full-time professor gigs at the university.  You can see where this discussion is headed.

I'm tired of being the only poet cockroach that doesn't teach full-time.  I'm tired of being insignificant.  Yet, at the moment, I'm stuck.  I have sometimes had this daydream that I was Robert Frost in a former life.  That would mean that I'm Frost's punishment.  His cockroach.

Saint Marty doesn't find that very comforting.

This guy's probably got tenure

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

June 10: My Whole Life, Dance Recital, Daughter & Son Prayers

Fern nodded.  "I had the best time I have ever had anywhere or any time in all of my whole life."

Mrs. Arable worries about Fern throughout the whole book.  She thinks her daughter is hallucinating or losing touch with reality, even going so far as to consult the local doctor.  In the end, of course, Fern chooses Henry Fussy and the Ferris wheel over her friends in the barn.  She grows up.

Like Mrs. Arable, I worry about my kids.  Both my daughter and son have a dance recital this weekend.  My daughter's foot has been hurting for about a week.  She even had an x-ray last Thursday.  I'm worried she's not going to be able to perform Saturday night.  My son is a little unpredictable.  On a good night, he could be the highlight of his dance.  On a bad night, he could be the highlight of his dance.  I'm hoping for a good night.

Yes, I'm a worrier.  I worry all the time.  I worry about stupid things--ants in my bathroom.  I worry about big things--bankruptcy and homelessness.  My kids have been rehearsing for this recital for almost half a year.  They're going to be great.  I really don't need to worry about the recital.  But I do.

So that's my prayer focus this week:  my dancing children.  I pray that my daughter's foot starts feeling better.  I pray that my son doesn't scratch himself in an embarrassing place in front of 500 plus people, or pick his nose.  And I pray for peace of mind for the next seven days.

By next Monday, Saint Marty will be looking for something else to worry about.

I'm hoping this doesn't happen, either

June 10: Hack

I'm feeling a little like a hack tonight.  I've been working on a new poem for the past four days, and I simply cannot get past the first line.  In fact, I've had about ten or eleven first lines so far.  Unlike some poets, I can't really write a poem until I have my first line.

So, if any of you guys have a first line you don't need, send them my way.  It has to be something surprising or beautiful or breathtaking.  Preferably, it should be all three.  If you have something that fits that description, put it in a comment to this post.

Think Sharon Olds or Julianna Baggott or Phil Levine.  That's what I'm looking for.

Saint Marty isn't picky.

I don't get it...

Monday, June 9, 2014

June 9: Welcome to My Mind

Tonight, I will open my mind to you.  I will simply unleash my thoughts, without editing or proofreading or stopping.  You can call this post "Saint Marty Unplugged."

Here goes...

My sister broke her wrist on Friday.  She's splinted now, waiting for the swelling to go down before she has her appointment with the hand doctor.  She doesn't know if she needs surgery or not.  To screw or not to screw, so to speak.

I'm watching American Ninja Warrior with my wife and daughter right now.  I hate this show.  My girls, however, love it.  I don't think is has anything to do with the half-naked guys getting wet and sweaty.  I think it has everything to do with the fact that they enjoy forcing me to watch it.  They know I find it incredibly tedious and frustrating.  For the last three years, we've watched this stupid show all summer only to reach the finale and find out there was no American Ninja Warrior crowned.

I am trying to remain positive about my new job.  The people I work with are friendly.  They like me and seem to appreciate my efforts.  I am not going to focus on the fact that I'm not enjoying the change.  Change is inevitable.  I know that.  I accept that.  I don't have to like it.  I don't think I will ever be a fan of change.  That would require a complete change in my personality.

I am ready to get to work on my new poem.  I'm not sure I have any idea of what I'm going to write.  However, I have to put pen to paper this evening.  Something will happen.  I'm sure.  In fact, I can almost hear the first line.  It's goes something like this, I think...

Do not go gentle into that good night...


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...


We're going to need a bigger boat...


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...


Saint Marty is a poet god...

Yep, that's me

June 9: Another Day, Another "Web" Dip

Back to the grind this morning.  After watching the Tony Awards last night, getting to bed even later than usual, I had to drag myself out of bed when the alarm sounded.  The only thing that got me through the day was 52 ounces of Diet Mountain Dew and a sense of humor.

My sense of humor, unfortunately, has abandoned me tonight.  I have four more days of work left until Friday, and my daughter's dance recital is this weekend.  That means a lot of rehearsals and a lot of time spent in dark auditoriums.  No matter how you cut it, my life is not going to be my own for the next seven days.

Don't get me wrong.  I love watching my daughter do something she loves.  It's just a lot of driving and waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  I will make good use of my time.  I still have to finish writing my Father's Day poem.  There's not a lot of downtime at my new job, so, after I'm done blogging this evening, I will be poeming this evening.  Yes, I know "poeming" is not an actual verb, but it gets my point across.

I need to find some inspiration.

And so, dear disciples, my question this Web dip Monday is--

Will I find my muse tonight?

And, Wilbur (the pig, not the character from Mr. Ed) says--

...The rat crawled in and ate everything.  The he tore a word out of the paper, rolled it up, and started back to Wilbur's pen.

 Well, say what you want about Templeton the rat, but he does bring inspiration to Charlotte.  I believe his two contributions to the webs are "radiant" and "humble."  Templeton is a muse.

Saint Marty just hopes his muse doesn't come with bubonic plague and a tail.

Can you spare a poem?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

June 8: Tony Awards, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

The 2014 Tony Awards are on tonight.  Even though I haven't seen any plays in New York for, oh, let me see, 13 years, I will watch the show.  I haven't been to a play in a couple of years.  I used to have season tickets to the university's theater season, but it became a little too expensive.  I think the last musical I saw was Shrek with my daughter.  It was a traveling Broadway production that stopped in Green Bay, and I took my daughter for her birthday.

I love theater.  I used to act and direct in local productions all the time.  Then, life happened.  Children.  Work.  Mental illness.  I had to prioritize, and theater ended up far down on my list of important activities.  It still is.  But, one night a year, I unleash my theater geek.  Tony night.

I love theater people, because they're a very accepting group.  It doesn't matter whether you're straight or gay, short or tall, fat or thin, red or yellow or black or white.  Theater people accept you for who you are or who you aren't.  Tolerance is their creed.

That's what today's episode of Saint Marty is about.  Tolerance.  It first aired three years ago.

June 8, 2011:  Hatred, New Poem, Tolerance

Today, I've been thinking a lot about hatred and intolerance.  It always amazes me to encounter blatant bigotry--racism or sexism or ageism.  Homophobia.  Since my wife was diagnosed with bipolar, I've encountered a great deal of misunderstanding about mental illness.  All biases are based on fear.  People are afraid of things they don't understand, that are out of their scope of experience. Mental illness, unless you suffer from it or know a person who suffers from it, generates a great deal of discomfort.  It's a category of illness that is still socially acceptable to mock, fear, or reject.

I have spent the last ten years battling the hatred and fear of mental illness.  It's easy to blame a person with mental illness for being different.  My wife once bought a pair of mountain bikes for five hundred dollars when she was manic.  She couldn't control herself.  It was her illness.  Most people in my family don't understand that.  People can't control skin color or gender, but most people can control their behaviors.  Unless brain chemistry gets in the way.

I'm teaching a Good Books class this fall.  I've decided to focus on novels and memoirs dealing with mental illness, because I want to promote understanding and acceptance.  People need to realize that mental illness isn't a personal choice.  An African American can't choose to be white.  A man or woman, for the most part, can't choose a gender.  And a person with a mental illness can't choose to be mentally sound.  That's what I want my students to get this fall.

I know people who hate.  For the most part, their hatred stems from personal insecurity.  They feel somehow inadequate in their own lives, so they look for people who are weaker to attack, to blame for their problems.  Rather than hate the haters, maybe I should pity them, try to understand them.  That's not an easy task.  But it's a task, as a Christian, I'm supposed to accept, even embrace.  Dammit.

My new poem is about a person who hates.  I use humor.  I mock.  I try to point out the absurdity of hatred.

Sing with Saint Marty:

We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.

Parable of Hate

There was once a proctologist
Who went on vacations
To meet new people to hate.
He traveled to Texas
So he could say the words
Spic and wetback, slap
Locals on their shoulders,
Drink tequila shots, eat
Rattlesnake cooked over
Fires filled with smoke, venom.
He flew to San Francisco,
Ogled fags and queens,
Watched them parade along
Streets, up and down hills
In heels and fishnets,
Wished he could breathe
His repulsion into their
Bloodstreams, got nostalgic
For the early days of AIDS.
His next stop, the Upper Peninsula
Of Michigan, where he hit
A doe with his rented Audi,
Told his traveling companions
The problem with the U. P.:
Too many deer and Indians.
He blamed the Blacks
Of New Orleans for being
Too stupid and poor
To flee the waters of Katrina.
His latest trip, scuba diving
In the seas of Guam,
A place peopled by fat,
Lazy Polynesians, heifers
So unhealthy he couldn’t
Eat the whole week,
Survived on straight shots
Of spite and scorn.  The proctologist
Always returned from his journeys
Sure of his place in the world.
Doctor.  Healer of assholes.
Physician, heal thyself.

Code dickhead, Code dickhead
Confessions of Saint Marty