Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 31: Gratefulness, Billy Collins, "The Lanyard"

I am trying to be grateful tonight.

I did not have a great day at work.  But I have a job.  I am grateful.

I didn't have a great lunch or dinner.  Left-over casserole with macaroni and cheese, spam, and peas.  But I had food to eat.  I am grateful.

I won't see my son tonight.  He'll be in bed by the time I get home.  Sometimes I feel like I'm missing his childhood.  But he's a healthy, smart boy.  This morning, he kissed me and said, "I love you, daddy."  I am grateful.

I have to go to church tonight to meet with my priest.  We're hashing out the details of the upcoming Easter masses.  It's late.  I'm tired.  But I have a God who loves me, despite my shortcomings.  I am grateful.

I have never written a poem as good as Billy Collins' "The Lanyard."  But Billy Collins did.  I am grateful.

Saint Marty is a happy man.

The Lanyard

by:  Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I , in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

I am grateful for all the lanyards of my life

March 31: Midcareer, God's Love Number Forty-Two, Laurels

Forty-five years old, Ives was considered well into midcareer, and was already thinking about retiring in another ten years or so; there was a grind about the job that was slowly wearing him down, even if he no longer put in the kind of hours he had when he was in his late twenties and early thirties.  That is, he had "spent" a certain amount of his ambition and drive for the agency, proving himself, and now, as with others like Freeman, he'd hoped to eventually reap the benefits:  buy a vacation home in the country, travel, paint, look after his children.  And grandchildren if Caroline married and started her own family.

When his son is murdered, Ives is almost fifty-years-old.  He's had a good life and career.  His kids have turned out well.  He adores his wife and has a close-knit group of friends.  While he hasn't lived out his dreams, Ives is satisfied with his contributions to the world, and he's ready to sit back on his laurels, "reap the benefits" of a life well-lived.  Of course, God has other plans.

That paragraph depresses me a little bit.  I am about Ives' age.  Ives has a career.  Something he can look back upon in his old age with pride.  He's made the world a better place.  I'm not sure I have a career.  All my life, I've had jobs.  Mostly part-time.  Yes, I've taught for a long time.  I have children of former students in classes I teach now.  The principal of my son's elementary school is a former student from a technical writing class I taught many years ago.  Yet, I'm not sure what I've done constitutes a career.

A career, in my mind, is something you do full-time.  You devote all your professional efforts to it.  You take pride in it, and you're rewarded for performing your duties well.  A career is fulfilling.  I've had jobs.  Yes, I love teaching at the university, but I've never called it my vocation.  It's what I love doing.  It's my reward for enduring the tedium of the other jobs I've had.

I suppose I'm luckier than most, however.  I actually get paid to do something I love.  Most people I know punch a time clock, wait for the weekends, and count down the days to retirement.  At the end of this April, when the semester ends, I will be quite sad.  For the next four months, I won't step foot in a classroom.  Those summer months, without the stimulation of student interaction, are always quite difficult for me.

So, tonight, God's love number forty-two are my students this semester.  All of them.  Even the challenging ones.  They make me want to be better all the time.

Saint Marty isn't ready to sit back on his laurels quite yet.

Someone's gotta rest on them!

Monday, March 30, 2015

March 30: Poet of Holy Week, Billy Collins Again, "The Revenant"

For the first time in the history of this blog, I am bestowing the honor of Poet of the Week to a person who has already held the title:  Billy Collins.

Late last week, I was reminded of how much I really love Collins' poetry.  A student in my poetry workshop did a presentation on Collins' newest collection of poems, and I found myself moved, amused, and inspired.  So, Billy Collins, former U. S. Poet Laureate, is now the Poet of Holy Week.

The poem I've chosen tonight is for a friend who today found out that her little dog has cancer.  She's had Wishbone for 15 years, and the vet told my friend that Wish probably has about six or eight weeks left.

Saint Marty thinks Wish is going to outlive us all.

The Revenant

by:  Billy Collins

I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you - not one bit.

When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap and unman you with a snap.

I resented the way you moved,
your lack of animal grace,
the way you would sit in a chair and eat,
a napkin on your lap, knife in your hand.

I would have run away,
but I was too weak, a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel,
and - greatest of insults - shake hands without a hand.

I admit the sight of the leash
would excite me
but only because it meant I was about
to smell things you had never touched.

You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie.
I hated the car, the rubber toys,
disliked your friends and, worse, your relatives.

The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place.
All I ever wanted from you
was food and fresh water in my metal bowls.

While you slept, I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.
It took all my strength
not to raise my head and howl.

Now I am free of the collar,
the yellow raincoat, monogrammed sweater,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place

except what you already supposed
and are glad it did not happen sooner -
that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.

Good boy!  Please don't bite my balls off!!

March 20: God's Love Number Forty-One, Putting My Son to Bed, "Ives" Dip

On Monday nights, my wife drives our daughter to dance class, and I take my son to religion class.  I am in charge of bath time and bedtime rituals.  Usually, my son knows he can talk me into letting him stay up later than normal.  "Please, daddy, please," he'll say, lifting his folded hands to me as if I'm some Roman god he's praying to.  And I will melt and give him an extra ten or fifteen minutes.

I remember how terrified I was of having a son.  I don't follow any organized sporting events.   Can count on one hand the number of times I have fired a gun.  The idea of shooting any animal for sport makes me a little ill.  And my idea of a great night is a collection of Billy Collins' poems, a gin and tonic, and Mozart playing in the background.  The only time I wear a flannel shirt is when I'm being ironic.  I am not a typical father.

But, tonight, as I was singing a lullaby to my son, he reached over, took my hand, and said, "I love you singing, daddy."  God's love number forty-one:  despite my unconventionality, my son loves me.

That little exchange with my son almost made up for the crappy day I had at work.  For the time being, the crappy is going to continue indefinitely.  I'm back to dreading my day job.  So, my question this Ives dip Monday is this:

Is the crappy at my job going to be short-term?

And the Ives answer is:

The Explixa spoke of "existing outside of time."  Each moment, as he saw it, one died only to be reincarnated again.  With each "little death," one moved inexorably toward the eternal peace of a Supreme Death.

Okay, that is not comforting at all.  Little deaths.  Supreme Death.  Existing outside of time.

Saint Marty is going to eat a Girl Scout peanut butter patty and try to forget that answer.

Now this is a Supreme Death!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

March 29: Snow and Book Club, God's Love Number Forty, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

It has been snowing since early morning.  The wind is making a fine, powdery haze of the world.  I've been expecting the snow to switch over to rain.  That's what the forecast predicted last night.  So far, however, the precipitation has remained solid and white.

Living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, this kind of early spring snow shouldn't surprise me.  In fact, I should expect it.  In the past two years, the Easter Bunny has brought not only chocolate and jelly beans, but also lots of snow.  The rest of the week is supposed to be much warmer, in the fifties by Thursday.  Tonight, however, I will have to shovel.

I'm tempted not to shovel.  Let the sun do the snow removal.  However, the members of my book club are coming over this evening.  Therefore, I am obligated to provide safe passage to my front steps.  I don't want any broken hips or concussions on my sidewalk.  In about an hour, I will go outside and find the pavement, throw down some salt, and probably swear the whole time I'm doing it.

Last night, I wrote a new poem for next Sunday's Easter services at church.  I'm still tinkering with it, but it is, for all intents and purposes, done.  I will post it next week.  That's God's love number forty:  a new poem.

Today's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired four years ago, right around the beginning of this blog:

March 29, 2011:  Hiroshima, Low Blood Sugar, and Psalm 21

Last night, I had a low blood sugar.  I've been teaching the book Hiroshima by John Hersey to my Good Books class in the last week.  When I woke up with my low blood sugar, I was having a dream about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  For several minutes, I was in this weird state of waking sleep.  I actually thought I was in Hiroshima just after the bomb was dropped.  I was nauseated, believed I was suffering radiation sickness.  It was one of the scariest five or six minutes of my life.  It took me that long to figure out what was really going on.

I eventually drank some apple juice, ate a candy bar, and went back to bed after about a half hour.  It was an uneasy sleep I had for the rest of the night.  The dream stayed with me.  My dreams don't usually do that.  Within seconds of waking, they're usually slipping back into my subconscious like breath into winter air.  Maybe because of my low blood sugar reaction, maybe because of the intensity of those few minutes after I woke up, I just couldn't shake the experience.  It became the subject of my poem for today.

Many of the details in the poem are taken from John Hersey's book.  Reading it directly after the tsunami in Japan has been profoundly moving, for me as a teacher and for my students.  Now, we're heading into Cormac McCarthy's The Road.  I will be passing out the Prozac tomorrow with the reading quiz.

Tonight, I have to go to my daughter's chorus concert.  Grades 4 through 12 are singing.  It's going to be a long night.  We can't even sneak out after my daughter's performance.  We're in for the long haul.  I'm bringing papers to grade, maybe a pizza and some two liters of Diet Mountain Dew.  I'm hoping to be home by midnight.

Pray for Saint Marty.  He's in for a bumpy ride tonight after a really bumpy ride last night.

Psalm 21:  Surviving the Bomb

At 2 a.m., I wake from dreams, nauseous,
Sweaty as my daughter’s breaking fever,
Convinced I was in Hiroshima just after
Little Boy detonated in resurrection light,
The air, wave after wave of heat, took
Breath and buildings away, left
Skeletons, black fingers pointing
Heavenward, at the ascended Jesus,
At God, accusations etched on skin
By the blast, kimono flowers, leaves,
Fat keloid blossoms across spine, shoulder.
I rise, stumble to kitchen, sit on floor,
Remind myself of date, year, time.
Over and over.  August 6.  1945.  8:15 a.m.
A prayer.  A chant.  To bring me back
To reality.  My fridge.  My table.  My house.
My life.  I swim, kick back to surface,
The cells of my body not weak
With charged atom, not in process
Of firestorm, decay.  I breathe deep
Breaths, hear my son cry out
In his crib.  My son.  My daughter.
My wife.  I remain in darkness, aware
Of winter air on my arms and legs.
Grateful.  I think of how Hiroshima,
One month after, cracked, opened
With goosefoot, morning glories, sesame,
Spanish bayonets and day lilies,
How ash and bones grew green,
Everywhere, grass, bean, weed.
Green, green, green.  Everywhere.  Green.

Hiroshima after the bomb

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 28: Father Tom, God's Love Number Thirty-Nine, Elizabeth Bishop, "The Moose," New Cartoon

When he met with Father Tom in a French restaurant up on Fifty-third Street, they greeted each other, embracing, the priest amused by Ives' white hair as Ives was by his own--it seemed like yesterday when Father Tom would hurry into the studios at the Art Students League, his collar stuck away in a drawer while, his face burning red, he would sketch beautiful young women.  That he'd stayed in the order so long had amazed Ives, considering how he seemed to like women, but for the most part the priest had lived the "hard life" in Rome, and his letters over the years had been filled with more good news than bad and the names of many interesting and holy places.  About once a year, usually around Christmas, he came back to the States to visit with his family in the northeast Bronx, and he and Ives would get together and get drunk and talk about the existence of God and the Bible and death and the soul to their hearts' contentment.

Father Tom is one of Ives' oldest friends.  While they only see each other once a year, they are a part of each other's lives.  Ives tells Father Tom about his struggle with forgiveness, his marriage difficulties.  Father Tom talks to Ives about healing and friendship.  It's a relationship that endures, despite distance and time apart.

This morning, I spoke to one of my best friends on the phone.  We haven't connected in months.  In fact, I think the last time I heard from him was last May, just after my brother died.  My friend is a pastor in downstate Michigan.  He used to be a pastor in the U. P., and, over seven years, we developed the kind of friendship that Ives and Father Tom have.  Even though we hadn't spoken to each other in almost a year, I felt comfortable, happy, speaking with him today.

We discussed our families, our jobs (he's moving to a different church in July), and our mutual acquaintances.  I won't say I caught him up on the gossip, because that's not a Christian thing to do.  But, I did share some stories of a sensitive nature without credible corroboration.  (Read into that state what you want.)  I'm going to call him again tonight, when I get home from church.

That's God's love number thirty-nine:  a best friend who loves gossip and poetry and God.

I was going to end Elizabeth Bishop week with her most famous poem, "The Fish."  But then I remembered another poem of hers that I love.  It's a long, gorgeous meditation on life and nature.  It could almost be a U. P. poem.

Saint Marty has to work on his Easter poem now.

The Moose

by:  Elizabeth Bishop

From narrow provinces
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,

where if the river
enters or retreats 
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;

where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats’
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;

on red, gravelly roads,
down rows of sugar maples,
past clapboard farmhouses
and neat, clapboard churches,
bleached, ridged as clamshells,
past twin silver birches,

through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,
pink glancing off of metal,
brushing the dented flank
of blue, beat-up enamel;

down hollows, up rises,
and waits, patient, while
a lone traveller gives
kisses and embraces
to seven relatives
and a collie supervises.

Goodbye to the elms,
to the farm, to the dog.
The bus starts.  The light
grows richer; the fog,
shifting, salty, thin,
comes closing in.

Its cold, round crystals
form and slide and settle
in the white hens’ feathers,
in gray glazed cabbages,
on the cabbage roses
and lupins like apostles;

the sweet peas cling
to their wet white string
on the whitewashed fences;
bumblebees creep
inside the foxgloves,
and evening commences.

One stop at Bass River.
Then the Economies 
Lower, Middle, Upper;
Five Islands, Five Houses,
where a woman shakes a tablecloth
out after supper.

A pale flickering.  Gone.
The Tantramar marshes 
and the smell of salt hay.
An iron bridge trembles 
and a loose plank rattles
but doesn’t give way.

On the left, a red light
swims through the dark:
a ship’s port lantern.
Two rubber boots show,
illuminated, solemn.
A dog gives one bark.

A woman climbs in 
with two market bags,
brisk, freckled, elderly.
“A grand night.  Yes, sir,
all the way to Boston.”
She regards us amicably.

Moonlight as we enter 
the New Brunswick woods,
hairy, scratchy, splintery;
moonlight and mist
caught in them like lamb’s wool
on bushes in a pasture.

The passengers lie back.
Snores.  Some long sighs.
A dreamy divagation
begins in the night,
a gentle, auditory,
slow hallucination. . . .

In the creakings and noises,
an old conversation
--not concerning us,
but recognizable, somewhere,
back in the bus:
Grandparents’ voices

talking, in Eternity:
names being mentioned,
things cleared up finally;
what he said, what she said,
who got pensioned;

deaths, deaths and sicknesses;
the year he remarried;
the year (something) happened.
She died in childbirth.
That was the son lost
when the schooner foundered.

He took to drink. Yes.
She went to the bad.
When Amos began to pray
even in the store and
finally the family had
to put him away.

“Yes . . .” that peculiar
affirmative.  “Yes . . .”
A sharp, indrawn breath,
half groan, half acceptance,
that means “Life’s like that.
We know it (also death).”

Talking the way they talked 
in the old featherbed,
peacefully, on and on,
dim lamplight in the hall,
down in the kitchen, the dog
tucked in her shawl.

Now, it’s all right now
even to fall asleep
just as on all those nights.
--Suddenly the bus driver
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.

A moose has come out of 
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus’s hot hood.

Towering, antlerless,
high as a church,
homely as a house
(or, safe as houses).
A man’s voice assures us
“Perfectly harmless. . . .”

Some of the passengers
exclaim in whispers,
childishly, softly,
“Sure are big creatures.”
“It’s awful plain.”
“Look! It’s a she!”

Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,
grand, otherworldly.
Why, why do we feel
(we all feel) this sweet
sensation of joy?

“Curious creatures,"
says our quiet driver,
rolling his r‘s.
“Look at that, would you.”
Then he shifts gears.
For a moment longer,

by craning backward,
the moose can be seen
on the moonlit macadam;
then there’s a dim
smell of moose, an acrid
smell of gasoline.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, March 27, 2015

March 27: Visiting My Sister, Elizabeth Bishop, "I Am in Need of Music"

After I am done typing this post, I'm going to visit my sister in the nursing home.  She's been there for almost three weeks now, with no end in sight.  She's not getting better, doesn't see her doctor until April, and can barely get out of bed.  After months of being, basically, bed-ridden, she's lost a lot of muscle tone.

It's not going to be an easy visit.  She's gone from being a woman who ran an entire surgery center with a staff of ten people to being an invalid.  I don't know what to do for her, except pray.  She's lost her job.  She's filing for disability. And it doesn't look like she's ever going to come home.

The whole situation keeps me awake at night sometimes.  Fills my days with worry.

Saint Marty finds a little comfort in the poem below.

I Am in Need of Music

by:  Elizabeth Bishop

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

Yes, that is comforting

March 27: The Cloisters, God's Love Numbers Thirty-Seven and Thirty-Eight, Poetic Fairy Tale

"Well," [Annie Ives'] son said cheerfully, "I'm going up to the Cloisters in a little bit to check out the choir.  They've got something going on with All Souls' Day, would you like to come with me?"

Robert, Ives' son, loves music.  He sings in the church choir, plays in a jazz band with friends, and buys his parents Thelonius Monk and Gregorian chant records for Christmas.  Annie, Ives' wife, accompanies Robert on a trip to hear choristers "singing in Latin about the transformations of the soul and other such autumnal subjects..."  Robert looks over at Annie, and Annie remembers his gaze after he is killed.  To her, the look said, "I will always be with you, Mama, from this day onward."

Yesterday afternoon, I attended my daughter's chorus concert with my wife.  It was all Broadway tunes, a lot from musicals in which I've actually performed.  AnnieSweet CharityThe Music Man.  It was a really good concert, even if some of the solos made me die a little inside.  There was my daughter, on the top riser, looking at me every once in a while, smiling at my pained expressions.  That's God's love number thirty-seven.

Today, the sun came out.  After a couple days of snow and wind, it was a relief to see blue sky.  Plus, even though the temperature didn't get above 15 degrees, the snow melted.  I didn't have to shovel my driveway when I got home.  I was able to eat a leisurely dinner, watch a rerun of The Big Bang Theory, and relax.  That's God's love number thirty-eight.

This weekend, I have to work on a poem for Easter Sunday.  I've been kicking around a few ideas.  It's difficult to write poems with religious subject matter.  I'm not a big fan of Helen Steiner Rice, and I certainly don't want to write like her.  That's the challenge I face.

Once upon a time, a humble bard named Sheldon lived in a distant kingdom.  One day, he was ordered by King Leonard to write a poem for the Royal Golden Jubilee.  Leonard warned Sheldon, "Make it good or lose your head."

Sheldon worked day and night, week after week, to produce a poem that would save him from the executioner's axe.  As the Golden Jubilee approached, he still didn't have anything to show the king.  One night, before he fell asleep, Sheldon looked out his window and saw a shooting star.  Sheldon made a wish:  "Please give me a poem for King Leonard."

The next morning, when Sheldon woke up, he immediately went to his desk.  He picked up a quill and parchment.  Without hesitation, he sat and wrote the poem.

On the day of the Golden Jubilee, Sheldon stood before the royal court, unrolled his parchment, recited his poem:

Leonard is golden and great.
He looks good in a crown that's ornate.
Although covered in warts,
he's hung like a horse.
That's why he croaks and neighs when he mates.

Sheldon waited expectantly for King Leonard's response.

King Leonard sat on his throne, staring at Sheldon for several moments.  Then, he turned to his guards and said, "Take him outside and cut off his head."

Moral of the story:  Don't use slant rhyme in a limerick.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Helen can pull that hat off.  I can't.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25: Writing's a Bitch, Elizabeth Bishop, "Sestina"

Sometimes, writing's a bitch.  No matter how hard you work, how much time you spend with pen and paper, magic just doesn't happen.  I have worked on poems for weeks and ended up abandoning them.  In my notebooks, if anybody ever goes through them when I'm gone from this world, are hundreds of starts and stops.  Hiccups and burps.  Tragedies and embarrassments.

I've tried to write a successful sestina for years.  I've never done it.  I've come close a couple of times.  But I've never produced anything that I would post or publish.  That's why I've chosen Elizabeth Bishop's sestina tonight.  Because I admire it.  Envy it.  Would kill to have written it.

Not that Saint Marty endorses bloodshed for the sake of poetry.  Unless you can do it without getting caught.


by:  Elizabeth Bishop

September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child,

It's time for tea now; but the child
is watching the teakettle's small hard tears
dance like mad on the hot black stove,
the way the rain must dance on the house.
Tidying up, the old grandmother
hangs up the clever almanac

on its string. Birdlike, the almanac
hovers half open above the child,
hovers above the old grandmother
and her teacup full of dark brown tears.
She shivers and says she thinks the house
feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove.

It was to be, says the Marvel Stove.
I know what I know, says the almanac.
With crayons the child draws a rigid house
and a winding pathway. Then the child
puts in a man with buttons like tears
and shows it proudly to the grandmother.

But secretly, while the grandmother
busies herself about the stove,
the little moons fall down like tears
from between the pages of the almanac
into the flower bed the child
has carefully placed in the front of the house.

Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove
and the child draws another inscrutable house.

I haven't killed for a poem...yet

March 25: Cramped Office, God's Love Number Thirty-Six, Coworkers

[Ives] would leave the apartment, catch the 125th El train downtown to Times Square, scoot over from Seventh Avenue, cut through the garment district, the streets and sidewalks already chaotic with people, get his daily blueberry muffin and two cups of coffee from the lobby diner, and make it to his cramped office.

Ives has settled.  He has a comfortable job in advertising, using his artistic talents to sell furniture polish, among other things.  He's able to buy his kids nice Christmas presents.  Send his daughter to a good university.  Help his best friend open up a restaurant.  While he's not a famous artist, Ives likes his boss and colleagues.  He enjoys the respect of everyone with whom he works.

I did not dream of working in a medical office when I was younger.  I dreamed of writing for a living, teaching at a university, traveling to London, Rome, Paris.  I wanted to have an extraordinary life.  I was going to be an artist, changing the world with my words and ideas.

Today, I teach part-time at a university.  I work full-time in a medical office, registering patients, collecting payments, scanning records.  All day long, I face people who are nervous, scared, angry, and sick.  I'm supposed to make these people relax, feel comfortable.  This life is not the one I imagined for myself.  I'm a lot like Ives in this respect.

I could be miserable daily.  I'm not doing work that I love.  However, I work with two people who make my job fun.  They make me laugh, allow me to be a little inappropriate at times.  We have a good time together.  And that makes my life tolerable.  Enjoyable.

That's God's love number thirty-six.  My two coworkers.  They make me happy doing a job that I don't find particularly fulfilling at times.

In his cramped office, Saint Marty has people he cherishes.

I am, too

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March 24: Another Poem, Elizabeth Bishop, "Insomnia"

Here's another great one from the Poet of the Week.  It's about a subject I know a little bit about.  Sometimes, I can't seem to shake off my worries at night.  I worry about house fires and burglars.  Bankruptcy and unemployment.  Why Selena Gomez still dates Justin Bieber?  Who's going to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry this year?  These things keep me up at night.

Saint Marty needs to take a sleeping pill and go to sleep now.


by:  Elizabeth Bishop

The moon in the bureau mirror
looks out a million miles
(and perhaps with pride, at herself,
but she never, never smiles)
far and away beyond sleep, or
perhaps she's a daytime sleeper.

By the Universe deserted,
she'd tell it to go to hell,
and she'd find a body of water,
or a mirror, on which to dwell.
So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down the well

into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me.

Really, what does Selena Gomez see in this idiot?

March 24: An Adventure, God's Love Number Thirty-Five, Daughter in High School

Thinking that it had to do with sinning, [Caroline] quickly made her way out of that apartment, leaving her friend behind, rushing across Columbus Avenue to catch an Amsterdam bus uptown, her stomach and heart in knots.  Happy and relieved to be getting home, she was mainly concerned that her father might have started to worry about her.  She leaned her face against the window and noticed a battery of police cars and ambulances around 107th Street, their red lights flashing, building facades flickering on and off like neon signs, and she hoped that nothing bad had happened.  Her thoughts focused instead on how she had been stupid and allowed herself to get carried away by a handsome face, and that the marijuana had not sat well with her, that the glue had a depressing aftereffect, even if it had been exciting to embark upon an adventure.

Caroline, Ives' daughter, makes some bad decisions the night her brother is killed.  She goes to a strange apartment with one of her friends to meet some college guys.  She smokes marijuana and huffs glue.  One of the guys tries to force himself on her.  Caroline is wracked by guilt for years afterward, as if her actions had something to do with her brother's death.

Tonight, my wife and I are going to a high school orientation with our daughter.  Next year, I will be the father of a high school freshman.  I can't believe it.  As I was driving her home from the dance studio this afternoon, I started talking to her about electives and Spanish and geometry.  She was acting like a little adult.  It made me feel old.  And proud.  She's a beautiful, smart young lady.  That's God's love number thirty-five.

I have a daughter who is soon going to be a young adult.  Driving herself to the dance studio.  Studying for the ACT.  Applying to colleges.  Getting a part-time job to buy a car.  Sneaking out of the house to meet her dead-beat, football-playing boyfriend.  Well, not on my watch, little girl!

Sorry, Saint Marty lost his head for a minute.

Monday, March 23, 2015

March 23: Poet of the Week, Elizabeth Bishop, "A Miracle for Breakfast"

A new Poet of the Week.  Elizabeth Bishop.  I think Bishop was one of the best poets of the twentieth century, on par with Robert Lowell and Theodore Roethke and John Berryman.  An important writer that everyone should know.

Of course, "The Fish" is her most famous poem.  But there's more to her than all that rainbow, rainbow, rainbow.

Saint Marty hopes you enjoy the miraculous little poem below.

A Miracle for Breakfast

by:  Elizabeth Bishop

At six o'clock we were waiting for coffee,
waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb
that was going to be served from a certain balcony
--like kings of old, or like a miracle.
It was still dark. One foot of the sun
steadied itself on a long ripple in the river.

The first ferry of the day had just crossed the river.
It was so cold we hoped that the coffee
would be very hot, seeing that the sun
was not going to warm us; and that the crumb
would be a loaf each, buttered, by a miracle.
At seven a man stepped out on the balcony.

He stood for a minute alone on the balcony
looking over our heads toward the river.
A servant handed him the makings of a miracle,
consisting of one lone cup of coffee
and one roll, which he proceeded to crumb,
his head, so to speak, in the clouds--along with the sun.

Was the man crazy? What under the sun
was he trying to do, up there on his balcony!
Each man received one rather hard crumb,
which some flicked scornfully into the river,
and, in a cup, one drop of the coffee.
Some of us stood around, waiting for the miracle.

I can tell what I saw next; it was not a miracle.
A beautiful villa stood in the sun
and from its doors came the smell of hot coffee.
In front, a baroque white plaster balcony
added by birds, who nest along the river,
--I saw it with one eye close to the crumb--

and galleries and marble chambers. My crumb
my mansion, made for me by a miracle,
through ages, by insects, birds, and the river
working the stone. Every day, in the sun,
at breakfast time I sit on my balcony
with my feet up, and drink gallons of coffee.

We licked up the crumb and swallowed the coffee.
A window across the river caught the sun
as if the miracle were working, on the wrong balcony.

A great poet

March 23: God's Love Numbers Thirty-Three and Thirty-Four, Daughter's Award, "Ives" Dip

So, I'm home.  I've been traveling all day through Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula.  The worst weather we encountered was right in Madison.  Last night, as we were leaving the auditorium after the dance competition, it was snowing.  Hard.  By morning, a good five inches of snow was on the ground.  It was as if the U. P. had followed us.

Well, putting bad weather aside, I am happy to announce that my daughter received a Gold award for her solo last night.  She also took first place in her age category.  Of course, my daughter was not happy with her performance.  Immediately after she was done dancing, she came to sit beside me and said, "I made a lot of mistakes."  I gave her a hug, told her she was great.

That's the end of my vacation weekend.  God's love number thirty-three is my daughter's award.  She was nervous, without her dance teacher, and kicked some dance butt.  God's love number thirty-four is safe travel, through bad weather and good.  Traveling mercies were with us.

It is Monday, so I need to do an Ives dip.  My question this evening is:

Will I have a good, quick week?

And the answer from Ives is:

Then [Ives] looked around:  the nine or so people gathered on that floor--service personnel and curious office workers--seemed to be radiating what Ives could only define as goodness, as if they were angels, sent to reassure him during a crucial moment of doubt...

Well, I was dreading my return to work tomorrow.  However, in my moment of doubt and dread, maybe something good is headed my way.

And maybe Saint Marty will have a drink to find a little goodness tonight.

Congratulations to my daughter

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 22: Dance Day, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

My daughter's dance competition is this evening.  It will be an interesting night.  Her dance teacher couldn't come; she's in the hospital with kidney stones.  So, my wife and I are it.  My wife is going to be backstage with my daughter.  I'm going to be out in the audience, cheering her on and making fun of everybody else.

My daughter has been holding it together pretty well.  I would be just one step away from panic if I were her.  However, she's just watching TV, eating Pringles, and not panicking.  I hope she stays this calm when we get to the auditorium tonight.  I've seen her solo.  She knows it.  She just needs to have confidence in herself.

And I need to take a Xanax.

Today's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired two years ago.  A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

March 22, 2013:  Ackley, Need a Friend, P.O.E.T.S. Day Friend

All of a sudden, Ackley barged in again through the damn shower curtains, as usual.  For once in my stupid life, I was really glad to see him.  He took my mind off the other stuff.

Holden has love/hate relationships with a lot of people.  His roommate Stradlater, who goes on a date with Jane.  His mother and father, who can't seem to see how Holden is struggling after his younger brother's death.  His brother D.B., who sells out to Hollywood.  And Ackley, the guy who keeps barging into his dorm room uninvited.

I think most relationships are like this.  Love.  Hate.  Sometimes, you want to spend the whole day with a person, from breakfast to lunch to dinner to sauna where you whip each other's asses with birch branches.  Okay, maybe not the sauna thing.  Other times, the way that person chews a banana can make you want to commit ritual seppuku.  It's the normal ebb and flow of interpersonal interaction.  (I learned that in therapy.)

This morning, as I was driving into work, I passed a bank with a flashing sign.  It flashed the time and temperature and date.  It flashed "Happy Saint Patrick's Day," even though Saint Patrick's Day was last weekend.  Then it flashed this message:  "Need a friend?"  Now, I know that it was some kind of sales gimmick to generate business for the friends at Scru-U Savings and Loan.  Need a friend?  Come in and talk to our loan officer.  She'll give you enough money to buy the entire cast of Glee as friends.  However, that simple question made me reflect on the people who make me feel good about myself.

Last night, I gave a poetry reading.  There were three people in the audience.  Two good friends and my wife (who is my best friend).  I had two other friends playing music and singing, as well.  I was surrounded by love, and it was great.  For an hour, I read poems, told stories, and listened to some really great songs that I got to pick out.

My phone rang about an hour after I got home from the reading.  It was my friend, Linda, who sang and played guitar during the reading.  "I just want to thank you," she said.  "I want to let you know how good that was."  I said something about how her music really made the difference.  "Oh, no," she said.  "You really are great.  Thank you for letting me be a part of that."

That's what friends are for.  Even though the number of people in the audience wouldn't even make up a bowling team, Linda made me feel like I'd just delivered my Nobel Prize lecture.  I was blessed and grateful.

Need a friend?  This P.O.E.T.S. Day, Saint Marty knows he has the best friends in the world.

You've got a friend in me

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 21: Good Forever and Ever, God's Love Number Thirty-Two, Andrea Scarpino, "Hearing," New Cartoon

With pained but transcendent eyes, bearded and regal, [Jesus] would come down the central aisle toward Ives, and placing His wounded hands upon Ives' brow, give His blessing before taking him away, and all others who were good in this world, off into His heaven, with its four mysterious winds, where they would be joined unto Him and all that is good forever and ever, without end.

At the end of his life, Ives is left with nothing but grace.  He's lived his life a good man.  In the face of heartbreak and despair, Ives has remained true to himself and to his faith.  His heart is full of forgiveness and love and peace.  He's surrounded by goodness, forever and ever.  It's Hijuelos' version of "happily ever after."

I have been surrounded by goodness today.  I got to sleep in, something I don't normally do.  I had a long, leisurely breakfast, something I don't normally do.  Then, I went back to our hotel room and took a nap, something I never get to do.  And then, this afternoon, I went to a movie with my daughter.  Kenneth Branagh's new, live-action version of Disney's Cinderella.  It was smart and moving and beautiful to watch.  And my daughter and I had a great time together.  Later tonight, I'm going swimming with my son.

That's God's love number thirty-two.  Goodness.  All kinds of goodness with my family, away from the normal distractions of my life.  I need to do this more often.  I don't need to travel three hundred miles to have a good time with my son and daughter and wife.  I just have to relax, let go.

I have a final Andrea Scarpino poem for you guys, in celebration of her being named U. P Poet Laureate this past Monday.  It's not a happy poem, but it comes from a book of elegies.  No surprise.

Saint Marty wishes all of his disciples goodness, forever and ever, this evening.


by:  Andrea Scarpino

Thirty minutes dead
when I arrived, algor mortis
in your fingertips, forehead.
Everyone says till the very end,
a voice perhaps, a recognition,
memory.  Your breath still wet
in the ventilator's plastic tubing.
I leaned close to apologize,
told of the airports, rental car,
highway.  Your hearing aids
in a hospital cup, heart no longer
moving blood.  Nothing
to carry the sound of my breath.

Confessions of Saint Marty

March 20: Another Poem, Andrea Scarpino, "Detritus"

It's late, but I wanted to give you another poem from Andrea Scarpino.

Saint Marty is going to bed now.


by:  Andrea Scarpino

The teeth you removed to brush,
pennies you scratched across
lottery games.  Paper cups
you filled with grapes.  Cheerios.
Bolts and nails sorted by size.
Tie clips, cuff links, miniature
American flags you pushed
into button holes.  Jelly jars full
of sand, pieces of Hadrian's Wall,
Parisian cobblestone.  Vitamins,
pills for thinning blood, vials
of insulin, gauze bandages.
Old address books, notepads,
outdated stamps.  Piece by piece,
a life reduced to garbage bags
that could belong to anyone.

March 20: Quiet Meditations, Madison, God's Love Numbers Thirty and Thirty-One, Fairy Tale Trip

There [Ives] sat, and as was his habit of old he began his quiet meditations.  Above the altar in that church, was a statue of Christ, set back in a kind of nook, and on either side of Him, representations of the Holy Mother and Saint John the Baptist, with their expressions of divine knowledge.  Looking at the altar he remembered another of his childhood thoughts:  in the same way that the baby Jesus, the promise of the world, lay resting in His crib, adored by the magi and the shepherds and basking in the warmth of angelic and familial love, so did the man Jesus, down from the Cross and awaiting His final resurrection, lay resting inside the altar, beneath the chrismoned cloth.  He laughed, remembering how the slightest breeze from the church's opened doors, rustling the altar's cloth, had made Ives' little heart jump:  at any moment, Jesus would be coming out of His resting place and the world would be filled with miracles.  He would be dressed in great flowing white robes, a beautiful light filling the church.

Ives feels at home in church.  At the end of his life, he sits in a pew and remembers his childhood, how he would imagine Jesus descending from the altar and walking down the church's center aisle, like a daVinci painting come to life.  And the world would be full of miracles.

Greetings from Madison, Wisconsin.  I have traveled here with my family for a dance competition in which my daughter is participating.  Last year, at this same competition, my daughter placed in the top ten of her category.  She doesn't dance until Sunday evening this time, so we have almost two full days to relax, shop, swim, and eat.  Maybe even go to a movie.

It feels good to be out of the Upper Peninsula for a little while.  While I feel most at home there, I also needed a break.  Both school and work have been quite stressful recently.  Lots of upheaval and change.  I don't really deal well with upheaval and change.  I like constancy.  I think that's why Ives feels so at home in church.  His son is murdered.  His life falls apart.  Yet, stepping into church, Ives knows what to expect.  Knows what prayers are going to be said.  Knows when he needs to stand and kneel.  It's the one constant in his life.

There are very few constants in my life at the moment.  I sort of cling to a few things.  This blog.  It has been a part of my daily existence for five years now.  Almost 2,400 posts.  That has kept me sane through a lot of challenging times.  That's God's love number thirty.

My son is driving my daughter crazy.  He's loud and over-tired.  Tomorrow morning, he will probably get up too early and annoy her even more.  My daughter refuses to go to sleep because "it's the only night I can stay up as late as I want."  She has been very hormonal and cranky this evening.  My wife is getting annoyed with me and my typing because it's late, and she wants to go to sleep.  I'm getting annoyed with everybody because I want silence, but my daughter is sighing and my wife has decided to eat M&Ms.  So it's a symphony:  sigh-crunch-crunch-sigh-rattle-rattle-crunch-crunch-crunch.

God's love number thirty-one:  my son has finally gone to sleep.  There is a tenuous silence.  My daughter has settled down with the iPad, and my wife has finished her midnight snack.  The noise level has decreased by several decibels.  Finally, the room has settled into a state of calm.  Sort of.

Once upon a time, there was a man who took his family on a trip.  The man's son got on the man's daughter's nerves.  The son kept asking, "Can we go swimming now?"  The daughter kept saying, "Shut up."  The man's wife got on his nerves.  She chewed M&Ms all night long.  By the time they settled down for the night, they all wanted to kill each other.

But they didn't.  Because they were all too tired.  So the daughter promised to drown her brother in the pool the next day.  The brother promised to kick his sister in the throat if she tried to drown him.  The man promised to smother his wife with a pillow if she didn't stop stop eating, and his wife promised to strangle him with a a shoelace.

And they all went to bed.

Moral of the story:  pack alcohol when you go on a family trip.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Where did I pack the gin?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 18: Recording Poems, Andrea Scarpino, "Homily"

I was once more at the studio of the local Public Radio station this afternoon, this time to record some of my poems for National Poetry Month.  Sometimes when I read many of my poems in one sitting, they all sort of blend together for me, create one large poem.  I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.  I don't like the idea of writing the same poems over and over (although it worked for Walt Whitman).  It was a little disconcerting.

Anyway, I do have another Andrea Scarpino poem for you.  It's a moving little prose poem.

Saint Marty needs to stop obsessing about his poems this evening, or he's never going to get to sleep.


by:  Andrea Scarpino

Notre Dame de Paris, Christmas Day.  She didn't believe in God and yet, the smell of evergreen, of wooden pews, incense swung in metal balls.  Tourists walked the sides of the nave past paintings, glass.  She bought a pencil sketch, gargoyles spouting water from the eaves.  She didn't believe in God and yet, she saw awhile, edge of a pew, listened to the priests, mass in Latin, hymns in French.  Morning sun warmed the glass, the smell of evergreen.  On her knees, she lit a candle, prayed, believed, Keep my father safe.  Amen.

Where's a hunchback when you need him?

March 18: "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," God's Love Number Twenty-Nine, Vacation

Ives kneeling, the choir started to sing "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," and his head tipped back.

Ives is at the end of his life.  He's tired, but happy.  At peace.  After decades of pain and grief, Ives can listen to music, pray, attend church without the torment of grief and anger.  In some ways, he has reached a kind of enlightenment, backed up by a church choir.

It has been another really long day.  My head hurts, and all I can think about is getting to Friday morning.  I will be getting the hell out of town for a few days.  No work.  No teaching.  Just eating, reading, drinking, and more eating.  Oh, and my daughter's dance competition.

I have not reached any kind of enlightenment like Ives.  For the past three or four days, I've been praying that I can somehow give my worries over to God.  After all, I can't control whether I get one or two classes to teach in the fall.  I can't control where I'm told to work in the medical office.  Yet, I'm losing sleep, getting headaches because I'm powerless.

So, tonight, with my head throbbing and my eyes burning, I'm grateful for the promise of some time off.  A vacation.  That's God's love number twenty-nine.

Maybe Saint Marty will find some enlightenment on the road.

I wonder if they sell enlightenment at Starbucks

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 17: Saint Patrick's Day, Andrea Scarpino, "Tissues"

I did my Saint Patrick's Day celebrating last night.  Almost half a bottle of Kahlua and Dancing With the Stars.  I was relaxed to the point of not really giving a shit about anything.  Of course, I paid for my celebration this morning.  Headache and nausea.  The nausea went away.  The headache stayed.

Another Andrea Scarpino poem.

Let it never be said Saint Marty is a sore loser.  Just a little hungover.


by:  Andrea Scarpino

We washed clothes,
paisley pajamas, undershirts,
remade the bed,
emptied your prescriptions
one by one, threw away
your insulin, squares
of alcohol.  The laundry
rang another load.
I opened the lid.
Your tissues everywhere
like snow, stuck to our clothes,
dimpled wash bin.
Handfuls in your pockets,
everywhere you go.
Everywhere you went.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day to all, and to all a good night

March 17: All the Things, Prayer, God's Love Number Twenty-Eight

[Ives] prayed, his eyes upon the painting of the Mother and Child near the altar.  He prayed for his dead adoptive father, and for his mother and father whom he had never known.  For all the things he never knew.

This passage appears on the penultimate page of the novel.  Ives has made his peace with all the heartaches of his life.  He has forgiven his son's killer, found passion for his wife again, renewed his faith in God's love and goodness.

It is late right now, pushing 11 p.m.  I've had another challenging day at work, and, at the moment, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight for the challenges.  I left the medical office with a pounding headache and a sense of futility.  Then things brightened up for a little while.  I attended my daughter's spring band concert at school.  Ordered a pizza.

After all that, I sat down to check my university e-mail.  In my inbox was a communication from the acting head of the English Department, listing all of the classes available to contingent instructors for the fall semester.  The class I've been teaching (and loving) for the past three years was not on the list.  Plus, the e-mail made it pretty clear that I may only receive one, 4-credit course to teach.  That would mean a loss of about $3,000 in income.

Unlike Ives, I am not feeling a renewed faith in God's love and goodness at the moment.  I suppose I can feel God's love in the small blessings.  I will have a class to teach.  I will he able to keep my laptop over the summer, thus this blog will continue without interruption.  I give thanks for both of those things.  God's love twenty-eight.

Now, Saint's Marty's going to have a piece of bacon pizza, brush his teeth, and take a sleeping pill.  Maybe he'll wake up in an alternate universe where poets are treated like gods and cheesecake is a vegetable.

I couldn't find a poet god cartoon

Monday, March 16, 2015

March 16: U. P. Poet Laureate, Andrea Scarpino, "Love as Stained Glass"

So, I thought it only fair since I told you who the new U. P. Poet Laureate is in my last post, I should probably give her another honor this evening.  Andrea Scarpino will be the Poet of the Week.

I know that you're all expecting me to make snarky comments about Andrea and her poems.  After all, I'm a little bit of a narcissist, if you haven't noticed.  And I have a slight problem with jealousy.  However, I shall rise above my baser instincts, or at least lock them up in a cage for the next seven days.

The poem below is from Scarpino's recently published collection of elegies titled Once, Then.

See, Saint Marty can play nice sometimes.

Love as Stained Glass

by:  Andrea Scarpino

Plates of glass flushed with silver, red:

Mary's tender hands, golden crown of thorns.

Nothing more than sand, gathered,

molten, poured, what was given, turned.

Alchemy almost.  As if laid bare,

Earth offered every particle.  Here, Earth said,

take what you can, sand lime, lead.

Make it beautiful.  Make it tremble, burn.

Am I this bad?

March 16: And the Winner Is, Bad Day, God's Love Numbers Twenty-Six and Twenty-Seven, "Ives" Dip

This morning, I made the trek to the local Public Radio station for the announcement of the next U. P. Poet Laureate.  All of the other nominees were present, either in person or by phone.  After the pleasantries and introductions, the envelope was opened.  (Yes, there was an actual envelope.)

And the winner is...not me.

I was sitting next to Russ Thorburn, the reigning laureate, so, when he tore open the envelope, I could immediately see the name on the paper inside.  Andrea Scarpino.  I was expecting Andrea to win, and she is quite deserving of the honor.  She's accomplished, smart, charismatic, funny.  She'll be fantastic in the position.

Of course, I would be lying if I said I'm not disappointed.  For a few brief moments in the studio this morning, I actually allowed myself to believe that my name was in that envelope.  But, now that all the falderal is over, I will have a drink tonight (maybe two or three) and get back to my life as a husband, father, teacher, and poet.

It was a bad day at work in the medical office, so that has not helped my mood, either.  I find myself feeling stuck in a job I really don't enjoy.  So, no poetic accolades and shitty employment.  And it's pouring rain right now, soon to switch over to snow.

I realized late last night that I never talked about God's love in my March 15 post.  That means I have to talk about two examples of God's love today.  It's not going to be easy, considering my state of mind.  Here goes.  For last night, I would say that my new poem was God's love at work in my life.  For today, I would say that the fifth of Kahlua in my cupboard will be God's love at work tonight.  (Hey, I know it's a stretch, but that's all I got.)

I do have a question for my Ives dip:

Should I drink my Kahlua straight or mixed in hot chocolate?

And the answer from Ives is:

...[Ives] had eaten about half of the chocolate bar and was savoring its aftertaste when several of his fellow workers came out of the building, and while he nodded in his usual friendly manner, he could not even begin to entertain the idea of a conversation with them...

Hot chocolate it is!

Saint Marty will be feeling much better in a little while.

Happiness is on its way

Sunday, March 15, 2015

March 15: First "Star Wars" Poem, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

I mentioned it quite a while ago, and now I'm following through on my promise.  Below is my first Star Wars poem.  I finished it last night, after many weeks of false starts, revisions, and dead ends.  As with all my poems, this one provided a few surprises:

Dagobah Meditation

Yoda sends Luke into that place
of swamp and root and snake,
a test to see if he can face
truth, stare it down without
wanting to saw it in half
with light.  Sometimes darkness
breathes like a volcano, looks
like your father, wrecked
by loss.  What force can keep
a man moving when the woman
he’s loved for 62 years can’t
remember the song they danced
to on their wedding day?
He rises at 2 a.m., clamps on a mask,
searches the galaxies
for rebel moons and ice planets,
outposts where memories hole
up to fight a losing battle.
Luke fails his test, lets
himself be pulled into
the gravity of his dad’s collapsing
star.  There is no noise when love
dies.  It just slips away, winks
out, its final light reaching you
years after it’s gone.

Today's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired two years ago, but its sentiments are certainly not dated at all.

March 15, 2013:  Same Stuff, Big Glass Cases, Different P.O.E.T.S. Day

I took my old hunting hat out of my pocket while I walked, and put it on.  I knew I wouldn't meet anybody that knew me, and it was pretty damp out.  I kept walking and walking, and I kept thinking about old Phoebe going to that museum on Saturdays the way I used to.  I thought how she'd be different every time she saw it.  It didn't exactly depress me to think about it, but it didn't make me feel gay as hell, either.  Certain things should stay the way they are.  You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.  I know that's impossible, but it's too bad anyway.  Anyway, I kept thinking about all that while I walked.

Holden repeats himself a lot.  Much of it has to do with the spoken quality of Salinger's narrative voice in The Catcher in the Rye.  People repeat themselves in verbal interactions.  Casual conversation is sloppy.  In the above paragraph, Holden uses several words and phrases more than once:  "knew" appears twice in the same sentence; "walking and walking" in the third sentence, along with "kept"; "thinking about" and "think about" and "kept thinking about"; and the last word of the entire passage is "walked," echoing the earlier "walking and walking."

There is a point to my little paragraph parsing.  I think Holden's repetition reflects his urge to keep things the way they are, "in one of those big glass cases."  He's trying to hold on to a life that's slipping through his fingers.  He's already lost his little brother, and he doesn't want to lose anything more.  That's one of the qualities of Catcher that has kept it so popular for over 60 years.  Salinger is able to capture that teenage angst about growing older.  We're all Holden.

I'm Holden right now.  I look at my twelve-year-old daughter and have moments of quiet grief for the little girl who came into my life one snowy December morning over a decade ago.  I find shirts she used to wear when she was three and four.  "Daddy's Little Girl" and "Daddy's Princess."  I want to put her in one of those big glass museum cases, keep her young, untouched by that big old bully Time.  I want to be my daughter's catcher in the rye.

That's pretty heavy stuff for P.O.E.T.S. Day.  I'm supposed to be all "fuck it, tomorrow's Saturday."  I can't do that this morning.  I'm in a reflective mood, a little sad and thoughtful.  I've been like this all week long.  When I got home last night, I was in such a bad mood that I didn't talk much for over an hour.  My son was in bed, and my daughter spent the night at my parents' house.  It wasn't my "normal" Thursday night.  Perhaps that's why I wanted to kick a puppy.  I was "out of sorts," as they would say at Hogwarts.

There's something to be said for museums, where the past is preserved and held sacred.  Everything stays the same.  I'm with Holden on this one.  That kind of stability is comforting.

Put Saint Marty under glass.  He's ready for his exhibit.

I'm the tall, good looking one in the fur coat

Confessions of Saint Marty