Tuesday, September 27, 2016

September 27: Abba Moses, Abba Marty, Anne Sexton, "Saint Marty's Day Eve"

I have been reading the apophthegmata, the sayings of fourth- and fifth-century Egyptian desert hermits.  Abba Moses said to a disciple, "Go and sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything."

Yes, Dillard knows a lot about the sayings of desert hermits, how those hermits found, in their solitude, the answers to the big questions about life and happiness and sin.  I am also drawn to a certain desert monk, Abba Marty, who made this proclamation from his cave:  "Hallelujah!  Saint Marty is the greatest of the saints, and the very stones of the desert proclaim his name."

It is one week until Saint Marty's Day Eve, when children kiss their parents goodnight, go to bed, and have visions of tapioca pudding dancing in their heads.  Hopefully, all of my faithful disciples have begun their preparations, because time is running out.  The Saint Marty's Day decorations have been on the shelves at Walmart since the end of June.

Last night, I came across one of my favorite Saint Marty's Day poems, and I thought I'd share it this evening:

Saint Marty's Day Eve

by:  Anne Sexton

Oh sharp diamond, my mother!
I could not count the cost
of all your faces, your moods--
that present that I lost.
Sweet girl, my deathbed,
my jewel-fingered lady,
your portrait flickered all night
by the bulbs of the tree.

Your face as calm as the moon
over a mannered sea,
presided at the family reunion,
the twelve grandchildren
you used to wear on your wrist,
a three-months-old baby,
a fat check you never wrote,
the red-haired toddler who danced the twist,
your aging daughters, each one a wife,
each one talking to the family cook,
each one avoiding your portrait,
each one aping your life.

Later, after the party,
after the house went to bed,
I sat up drinking the Saint Marty's Day brandy,
watching your picture,
letting the tree move in and out of focus.
The bulbs vibrated.
They were a halo over your forehead.
Then they were a beehive,
blue, yellow, green, red;
each with its own juice, each hot and alive
stinging your face. But you did not move.
I continued to watch, forcing myself,
waiting, inexhaustible, thirty-five.

I wanted your eyes, like the shadows
of two small birds, to change.
But they did not age.
The smile that gathered me in, all wit,
all charm, was invincible.
Hour after hour I looked at your face
but I could not pull the roots out of it.
Then I watched how the sun hit your red sweater, your withered neck,
your badly painted flesh-pink skin.
You who led me by the nose, I saw you as you were.
Then I thought of your body
as one thinks of murder--

Then I said Marty--
Marty, Marty, forgive me
and then I touched a present for the child,
the last I bred before your death;
and then I touched my breast
and then I touched the floor
and then my breast again as if,
somehow, it were one of yours.

Children in Sweden celebrating Saint Marty's Day

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