Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 28: Beg Your Pardon, Mardis Gras, Poetry Reading

He tore open Weary's overcoat and blouse.  Brass buttons flew like popcorn.  The corporal reached into Weary's gaping bosom as though he meant to tear out his pounding heart, but he brought out Weary's bulletproof Bible instead.

A bulletproof Bible is a Bible small enough to be slipped  into a soldier's breast pocket, over his heart.  It is sheathed in steel.  

The corporal found the dirty picture of the woman and the pony in Weary's hip pocket.  "What a lucky pony, eh?" he said.  "Hmmmm?  Hmmmm?  Don't you wish you were that pony?"  He handed the picture to the other old man.  "Spoils of war!  It's yours, all yours, you lucky lad."

Then he made Weary sit down in the snow and take off his combat boots, which he gave to the beautiful boy.  He gave Weary the boy's clogs.  So Weary and Billy were both without decent military footwear now, and they had to walk for miles and miles, with Weary's clogs clacking, with Billy bobbing up-and-down, up-and-down, crashing into Weary from time to time.

"Excuse me," Billy would say, or "I beg your pardon."

Weary has been greatly humbled by the German soldiers.  All of his pomp and swagger have vanished, and now he is simply praying for his life.  Billy remains Billy--awkward and unsure of himself.  Apologizing as he is being taken as a prisoner of war.  Of course, Billy also knows that he will survive because he has been to the future, so he is not afraid.

Tonight, I am feeling greatly humbled.  As a kick-off for my Poet Laureateship (is that a word?), I am celebrating Mardis Gras by giving a poetry reading with some really great poets.  This afternoon, preparing myself for the event, I started assembling the poems that I intend to read.  Sort of a greatest hits list.  As I paged through my poems, I started feeling slightly inadequate.  Like I didn't really deserve to be the new Poet Laureate.

Of course, this feeling has to do with my ongoing battle with low self esteem.  Low self esteem is winning right now.  So, I'm in sort of the same state as Roland Weary--stumbling along in clogs, hoping that I don't fall flat on my face.  The thing that has put me in this frame of mind is all the people who have told me that they're coming to the reading tonight.  Colleagues from the university.  MFA students.  My students.  Not to mention all of my family and friends. 

I have this horrible vision of the other three poets reading ahead of me.  Then, I stand up to read, and everybody realizes that a mistake has been made.  Sort of like the end of the Oscars on Sunday.  Somebody is going to come running onstage with an envelope, and one of the other poets is going to be declared the REAL new Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula.

It's a stupid thought, fueled by self-doubt.  I'm going to have to do a few Jack Handey affirmations to make it through the night.  Say after me, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"

Saint Marty is thankful this evening for all his family and friends who are coming out to support him.

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