Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 31: Dropping Daughter Off, New Cartoon, Quiet Night

A few hours ago, I dropped my daughter off a summer camp for a week.  This summer is her second at the camp.  She had a great time last year, and I'm sure she will have a great time this year, as well.  She was incredibly excited all day to get there.  Me, I still have a daddy thing.  I find it very difficult to let her out of my sight that long, even though it's completely safe and she's surrounded by tons of responsible adults.  Hard to let the little girl go.

With my daughter gone and my two-year-old in bed at 8 p.m., it's going to be a very quiet evening.  I'll probably get a lot of reading done tonight.  Currently, I just started The Hunger Games trilogy, and I'm finding it quite good.  Always up for an end-of-the-world, dystopian, young-adult novel.  Plus, it's much better written than the Twilight books.

Well, that's about all for today.  Thanks all of you for giving this blog its best viewing month ever--over 700 hits.  Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell your mom, tell your dad to visit.

Saint Marty needs more company.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, July 30, 2011

July 30: New Cartoon, Confesions of Saint Marty, Plugged Toilet

For most of the day, my toilet was plugged.  I spent close to an hour this morning trying to plunge it open.  I have the stigmata plunger blisters in the middle of my palms to prove it.  However, none of my efforts worked.  When you only have one toilet in the house, a clog is kind of an emergency.

I had to call in the big gun:  my brother, who's a licensed master plumber.  My brother showed up with my dad, who's also a licensed master plumber.  Within a matter of minutes, they had snaked the culprit out of my toilet--one of those little hand flossers.  It must have wedged itself just so.  It was holding up everything.

That was my major excitement for the day, which is hell of a lot better than yesterday.  I'll take a plugged toilet over paramedics in the kitchen any day.

I have a new Confessions of Saint Marty.  It's sort of inspired by the events of yesterday.  While I know what happened was serious, I have to look for the silver lining in a shitty situation.  (Or at least find a good joke.)

Saint Marty is having a good day.

Confessions of Saint Marty

July 30: Yesterday, Near Death Experiences, A Hero

I had every intention of posting yesterday.  However, in the afternoon, when I was done cleaning my house, I sat down, feeling quite tired.  I had been running errands all day long, so I thought it was a normal kind of exhaustion.  I didn't even think to test my blood sugar.  One of my daughter's friends was with me.  He helped me sweep and Swiffer my floors.  He's a really good kid, with a good sense of humor and a good heart.

Well, I felt myself drifting off as we sat watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  The next thing I remember is being on the kitchen floor with paramedics working on me.  It seems that my tiredness was the result of an extremely low blood sugar.  My daughter's friend, let's call him Hero, tried to help me, but when I fell on the way to the kitchen, he went running to the neighbor's house.  The neighbor is a nursing student whose father is an insulin-pump diabetic, as well.  She knew exactly what to do.

This movie's funny, even if you're dying!
Of course, the rest of the day, after the paramedics left, is a thundering headache.  Me feeling like I'm pushing through mud.  And, also, a lot of reflection.

This is the second close call I've had in the last couple months.  I've never seen a bright light.  I've never seen my dead grandma.  (Even if I did, she probably wouldn't talk to me.  She pretty much thought I was a "sassy snot," which was the worst insult she gave to her grandchildren.)  But when I finally opened my eyes, there was my daughter's worried face.  It broke my heart.  (Of course, that spell quickly dissipated when she whispered in my ear, "Daddy, can I have a puppy?")  If Hero hadn't been with me, I would have been alone with my two-year-old son, and my son could have been harmed, as well.

God gave me another chance yesterday, and I'm not going to screw it up.  Actually, God's given me two chances in the last few months, and I don't want to try for a third.  I always find myself afraid to go to sleep after these eipsodes.  Last night, I didn't fall asleep until well after midnight, and I tested my blood sugar about four times before I did.

Today, I give thanks for Hero.  I give thanks for second chances.  I give thanks for the life I have, regardless of how much I bitch about it sometimes.

Saint Marty is a really blessed person.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 28: Finished Book, Gettin' My Barbecue On, Hotness

Yes, I finished the book for Book Club before the actual meeting.  OK, so it was only about six hours before the meeting, but I still finished.  One of my coworkers thinks I should be ashamed of myself for waiting so long to complete the book, but I'm just proud of myself for gettin' 'er done.  I'm going to be totally prepared tonight, and I get bratwurst to boot.

Ready to talk about Wally Lamb and prison
And yes, I'm the cook tonight.  I have to get to the park at around 6 p.m. to get the coals going for everybody.  It's the one night of the year where people actually trust me in the preparation of uncooked meat.

And yes, I just checked the weather.  I didn't look at the radar on the computer.  I actually stepped outside, ran an errand in my car, and got a gauge of how things were.  The only thing I can say:  hotness.  It's not oppressively hot.  The humidity isn't too bad, and there's actually a breeze.  My sister, who happens to belong to the Book Club, is threatening to boycott if it's too warm.  I tried to remind her of the miserable, rainy, cold Book Club barbecues we've had in the past.  Her response:  "I'd prefer that."  She's a typical resident of the Upper Peninsula.  She bitches about the snow and cold in winter, and then, when we actually get some decent summer heat, she bitches because about that.  Basically, one of the favorite pasttimes in the U.P. is bitching about the weather, and my sister is a pro at it.

Not me.  I'll take this hotness as long as I can.  It could last through October, and I'd be happy.  Of course, that's a totally unrealistic expectation if you're from the U.P.  Yoopers all know that, come September, the snow could come any day.  All bets are off.  For the moment, however, I'll take summer.

Saint Marty is ready to sweat, barbecue, and talk about books.

July 28: Book Club Tonight, Barbecue and Rain

Tonight, I have my annual Book Club barbecue.  As usual, rain is forecasted.  It never fails.  The Upper Peninsula could be in drought conditions, and, on the night of the barbecue, we will have enough rain to turn the Gobi into another Great Lake.  We will still be having the barbecue, come hell or very high water and winds.  I'm in charge of getting the coals going, so I'm going to need a lot of help.

Have umbrella, will barbecue
I am almost done with the book for today, another Wally Lamb.  It's quite good.  I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy it, but I am.  Now I just have to finish the damn thing.

Saint Marty has to hit the book today.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 27: Ice Cream, New Poem, Wallace Stevens

For what should have been a very slow day, I have been very busy.  Answering phone calls.  Stomping out small fires.  Working on a new poem.  The time has flown by.  It feels as though I haven't gotten much accomplished, however.  I have a few more hours to go.  Maybe I can finish a few more tasks.

The poem I just finished is inspired by my friend, Matt--one of the people my wife and I shared a Thai pizza with last night.  Since he's moved to Marquette, he's been trying to make whitefish-thimbleberry ice cream.  At least that's what he tells me, and I have no reason to doubt him.  It sounds a little disgusting to me.  Anyway, that detail reminded me of the Wallace Stevens poem, "The Emperor of Ice Cream."  Stevens' poem is about death.  My poem is about the exact opposite, I think.  It's about new life.  Starting over.  Food.  And ice cream.  Writing this poem made me a little hungry.

Whitefish and thimbleberry, anyone?
I've got a busy evening ahead.  I have to practice with the praise band at church.  I'm hoping to go for a run when I get home.  I have to finish the book for my Book Club get-together tomorrow night.  Too much to do, and not enough time to do it.  Time to get back to work.

Saint Marty has to read some Wally Lamb.

The New Emperor of Ice Cream

for M. G. F.

He makes whitefish-thimbleberry
Ice, a new flavor to accompany
The table of his life, set with moose,
Poetry, venison sausage, and snow.
The topography of hunger necessitates
This change of recipe from sherbets
Of his past, from caribou pancake,
From mosquito blood orange, from
All those tastes that quenched his tongue
In Juno and Phoenix, Barolo and Big Sur.
Now under Lake Superior sun, he mixes
Rock salt, fish, milk, rubus parviflorus.
Crushes.  Freezes.  Stirs.  Freezes again.
Until this roller of cigars, this whipper
Of concupiscent curds, finds his days,
His nights embroidered with cream,
With wail and want, with infant scream.

July 27: All By Myself, New Look, Thai Pizza

A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there
This morning, I'm all by myself.  There are no surgeries today at the surgery center where I work, so nobody but little ol' me is working.  It's going to be a long day.  When I say long day, I mean looooooooong.  And, when I have time on my hands, I get a little antsy, focus on things I've been meaning to do but haven't gotten around to.  Hence, the new look of the blog.  I've been getting a little tired of the design, so I decided to make a few changes.  (Yes, I used the word "change," even though I, in general, think change comes from some circle of hell Dante never got around to visiting.)  I think the new background looks pretty cool, as well as the new type face and colors.

Yesterday night, my wife and I went out with some new friends, Matt and Louisa.  Matt is a poet, creative non-fiction writer, and new professor at the university.  His wife is from South Africa and just about the nicest person I've ever met.  We had a great night, going for a nature walk and then getting a pizza.  On the walk, we came across a crowd of people and cars staring into the woods.  It seems a moose had been spotted a few minutes before we came upon the scene.  We searched for the moose for a couple minutes, but never saw it.  The pizza was fabulous--Thai pizza with peanut and sesame sauce.  Can't get much better than that.  Overall, it was a really fine evening.  Good weather.  Good conversation.  Good food.  Good friends.

Thai pizza.  I know you're jealous.
Well, I need to eat breakfast and get to work.  Stay tuned for another post later today, probably with a new poem.

Saint Marty embraces a small change.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 26: Ego, Blessed Titus Brandsma, Humility

OK, for the last week or so, I've been totally focused on sending out work for publication.  This morning, I submitted five more poems, this time to the Black Warrior Review.  This magazine is one of the long shots.  If I get published there, it will be a huge deal.  My motivation for this push to publish is purely selfish:  if I don't get more publications, I will never be even considered for a full-time teaching position at the university where I'm currently an adjunct.  And I'm tired of being the writer on the panel with only one book and a couple magazine credits.  I want to be better known.

That is a total ego thing.  I don't want to be a starving poet.  I want to be a poet with a full-time, well-paying job.  Plus a few prizes and awards.  That's all I'm asking for.  I really don't want to spend the rest of my life working two jobs and 13-hour days.  It's no fun.

Of course, when I'm feeling this self-absorbed, God sends me a little reminder about humility.  Today's saint is Titus Brandsma, a Carmelite priest who died in a concentration camp.  Before World War II, Titus did a lot of things:  taught at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, wrote as a journalist, traveled, and evangelized.  When Hitler came into power in Germany, Titus refused to hide from the Third Reich.  That's how he ended up at Dachau.  At Dachau, he was beaten daily, tortured, and experimented on.  The end of his life humbles me:
On July 26, 1942, Titus gave his Rosary to his nurse who had left the Church.  She administered poison by injections, and Titus died in ten minutes.  His body was cremated at Dachau.
Titus didn't really care about being published, even though he was a journalist.  He used his work to combat injustice in the world.  (He once wrote about marriage laws against Jews in Germany, condemning them publicly.)  In comparison, my poems seem pretty trivial, even silly.  I'm not fighting Nazis or terrorists, unless you count Republicans.  For Titus, it was all about helping the children of God.  For me, it's all about helping a child of God.  Myself, to be exact.

Titus, keeping me honest
I guess I need to keep things in perspective.  Yes, it would be nice if I published some poems, but nobody is going to die if I don't.  In the grand scheme of the universe, my poems are about as important as a crystal of ice on Uranus.  Maybe I need to refocus my efforts.  Instead of trying to help just myself, I need to look around, see who really needs help.  That's what Titus Brandsma would have done.  That's what any saint would do.

Saint Marty needs to make a difference, one poem at a time.

July 26: Another Great Start

I just got to work and found out that one of my coworkers called in sick.  That throws a little monkey wrench into today's surgery schedule.  (Yes, I teach college AND run a business office for an outpatient surgery center.  Need I remind you that I'm an adjunct?  Translation:  no tenure, no health insurance, no full-time teaching schedule, no way I can support my family on that.)  I generally don't like to start my day with a problem.  Last week, it was a skunk.  This week, it's an ill coworker.

I plan to send out some more poems for publication today.  I have the magazine already picked out.  I just need to look at the submission guidelines, pick out which poems I'm going to send, and write a cover letter.  That will take me a little while.

One of my best friends (who also happens to be a coworker) is coming back from vacation this morning.  I'm excited to see her.  I've written about Wonder Twin before.  She's my long-lost twin.  When she's at work, my day always seems to be a little easier, lighter, grounded.  I'm sure she's not happy to be done with her vacation, but I've missed her.

Welcome back, Wonder Twin
More to come later.

Saint Marty is going to have a good day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25: More Submissions, New Poem, Oslo

I sent out some more poems for publication, this time to The Christian Century, which seems like a magazine that is custom-made for me.  I looked at quite a few poets who have published in the magazine in the past.  Their subject matter, their style, their everything seemed perfectly suited for my work.  So I sent the poetry editor five of my poems.  We'll see what happens.

Another magazine to publish in...
This morning, when I wrote a little bit about the death of Amy Winehouse, I didn't even mention the horrible killings in Norway.  Generally, I stay away from news reports on the weekends, so anything that happens from Friday afternoon to Monday morning comes as a surprise to me.

Memorial service in Norway
Obviously, the man who is responsible for the bombing and shootings in Oslo has some serious mental health issues.  Regardless of police and lawyers saying he is completely rational and sane, a person doesn't go on a murder rampage like this without a few synapses not firing correctly in the brain.  As I perused the various accounts of what happened, I started thinking about how dreams can be both liberating and fatal. 

This shooter in Norway says he was striking some kind of blow against the spread of Islam in Europe.  His violent act was his dream, his chance to take a stand for his beliefs, as warped as they may be.  Other people, like Martin Luther King and Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln, had dreams, as well.  Their dreams lead to freedom, justice, equality, tolerance.  Dreams are powerful things.

That's what today's poem is about, the duality of dreams.

Saint Marty is dreaming of a vanilla malt right now.

This is what I'm talkin' about
I Have a Dream

Martin Luther King had one,
Raised his voice, fed that crowd
The way Jesus fed his audience
With bread and fish, told them
To break off pieces, pass it along
Until everyone’s stomachs filled,
Need banished to shadow, cave,
Places where nightmare reigns.
Mandela survived 27 years on it,
The limestone, veld flower
On Robben Island, his wheat and tilapia.
Gandhi marched to the sea for salt,
Cut it into dough, sprinkled it
Over silver pomfret until its meat tasted
Like heartbreak.  I dream of lines
Baked brown, the silence of yeast,
The crash of whale fluke in dark water.
Dream is funny like that, a coupling
Of joy and sorrow, a zygote
That swims, gestates, sprouts
Spine, eye, arm, leg, finger,
Crowds the womb into light and breath,
Into a form we recognize:
Hutus wielding machetes or
Poets stringing pearls or
Prophets preaching from treetops
In the hungry jungles of the soul.

July 25: Back In the Saddle Again!

Good morning, faithful reader.

Yes, I'm back in the saddle again.  Back at work.  Back at the computer.  Back at writing a new poem.  Back at sending some poems out for publication.  Back at sucking down Diet Mountain Dew to stay awake.  Back at the old Saint Marty grind.

I just read the news on Google about the death of Amy Winehouse.  While her death doesn't come as any huge surprise, it still fills me with sadness.  She had so much talent.  We've seen it so many times:  famous people bent on self-destruction.  Having dealt with addicts in my life, I can say that there is nothing worse than watching people you care about and love slowly (or quickly) destroy their lives.  We all have to keep in mind that this is not just the case of another rock-star-overdose death.  Amy Winehouse was a real person, with real, human problems.  She had a mother, father, family.  Let's all send a few prayers their way today, and let's say a few prayers for everyone dealing with addictions of any kind.  It ain't easy, folks.

Saint Marty needs to get to work.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 24: Taking a Deep Breath, Barbecue, New Cartoon

Well, after yesterday's whirlwind tour of Houghton and Hancock, today was much more sedate.  I even took a small nap in the afternoon.  We had barbecue at my parents' house for dinner.  Hot dogs and bratwurst.  Now, it's the end of the day, and the only thing I've accomplished is drawing two new cartoons. 

Saint Marty, just chillin'.

Confessions of Saint Marty

July 24: New Cartoon, Poetry Tour

I did the poetry tour of the Copper Country yesterday.  I had three separate events to appear at:  two panel discussions and a poetry reading.  Well, one of the panel discussions nobody showed up for, so I got home a lot earlier than I anticipated.  But it was a good day.  It's always a good day when all I have to do is be a poet and writer.

I have two new cartoons.  This is the first.

Saint Marty is in a hurry.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22: TGIF, On the Road Tomorrow, Poetry Reading Tonight

I'm soooooo glad it's Friday.  Starting with my close encounter on Monday with the skunk, this week has pretty much sucked.  I'm glad to see it coming to an end.  The weekend promises to be quite busy.

Tomorrow, I'm going to be on the road all day long.  I have three separate events to appear at in the Copper Country (two panel discussions, one poetry reading).  For those of you who are non-Yoopers, the Copper Country is on the far west end of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Needless to say, I won't be getting home until late Saturday night, so don't expect any posts tomorrow.

I was going to try to submit more poems for publication today, but I find myself tired and a little overwhelmed with other work.  I have scouted out my next victims for submission, but I haven't made any final decisions.  However, I will get back on the submission horse by Monday.  Hi-yo, Silver!

Tonight, I will be attending the readings at the Butler Theater in Ishpeming, as I said in yesterday's post.  If you're in the Ishpeming area, stop by for some poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and wine.  That's what I'm hoping for.

Saint Marty is ready for the weekend to start.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 21: More Submssions, New Poem, Poetry Reading Tomorrow

I spent part of my morning submitting more poems for publication, this time to The MacGuffin.  I shot really high yesterday with The Atlantic.  Today, I was much more realistic.  I looked for a magazine I actually stand a chance of getting into.  Five more poems, plus cover letter, in the mail.

Being more realistic today
The rest of the day has been taken up with work and finishing my new poem, which I think turned out really well, although only poets and writers who are trying to get published will find it funny, probably.  That's OK.  The poetry world is inbred.  Full of people who read and appreciate each other.  Pat each other on the backs.  Tell each other how important and good their poetry is.  I love being around poets.

Tomorrow night, I'm going to the Butler Theater in Ishpeming to hear some people read poetry and fiction and creative nonfiction.  I know one person fairly well, one person socially, and one person not at all.  I'm going for the person whom I know fairly well.

Come join in the fun!
If you want to be blessed by Saint Marty's presence tomorrow night, meet him at the Butler Theater in downtown Ishpeming at 7 p.m.  He'll be the one drinking the wine.

Submissions Accepted

Despondent Deconstructionist Review now
Accepting submissions for its fall
Poetry issue.  Wants poems
Of beauty and truth, or ugliness and deceit,
Focused on European-Jewish experience
Of lesbians and transsexuals,
Or vampires from outer space.
Will consider poems traditional,
Experimental, traditionally experimental,
Experimentally traditional, and haiku,
As long as they are not too short.
Please no pornography or swear words
Unless necessary for subject matter,
Or completely gratuitous and obscene.
5 to 438 pages, comic-book sized,
Not Archie Double Digest-sized,
More like monthly X-Men-sized.
Receives 128,436 poems per year.
Publishes 1.5 of those poems.
Reading period December 5 and 6.
Responds in 1 to 3 years.
Depends on backlog.  Pays in
Dairy Queen coupons and postage stamps.
"If you submit to us, expect
To be rejected.  Great poetry,
Like great poets, comes
From miscarriage, divorce,
Famine and genocide.  Desert places,
As Robert Frost said.  Although,
We don't like Robert Frost."
Send SASE with submission.
We burn all manuscripts.
The circles of return to birth
Can only remain open, but this
Is a chance, a sign of life,
And a wound.  Jacques Derrida.

Derrida's spontaneously deconstructing!

July 21: Another Hot Day, Battling Skunks

Well, it's only 6 a.m., and already the temperature is hovering around 75 degrees.  It's going to be hot today.  Not as hot as yesterday, from what I understand, but still pretty darn toasty.

At the moment, I'm watching the landing of the space shuttle Atlantis.  The last of the space shuttle missions.  It's a little sad.  For as long as I can remember, the space shuttle has been a part of my life.  Challenger, Enterprise, Atlantis, Columbia, Endeavour, Discovery.  All history now.

By the way, I'm totally skunk phobic now.  I stepped out of my front door yesterday morning, started walking to my car, and had several moments of panic when I mistook my shadow for a skunk in the grass.  I actually screamed like a girl.  Quietly, but I screamed.

More to come later.  Hopefully, I'll get my new poem finished.

Saint Marty hates skunks.

So long.  It's been good to know ya.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 20: Quick, Tired, Hot

I've been trying to post all day long, but it has been crazy busy.  I only have time to give you something quick and unsatisfying.  (Please refrain from any sexual innuendo.  I'm too tired to retaliate.)

This morning, I dusted off my bruised ego, picked up my copy of the 2011 Poet's Market, and submitted some of my poems for publication.  I shot for the moon today.  I sent five of my poems to The Atlantic.  This magazine receives 60,000 poem submissions a year.  It accepts 30 to 35 of them.  It only takes short poems and pays $4 per line.  That means if you get a 100-line poem accepted, you will receive $400.  That ain't chump change in the universe of verse.  Of course, this is a magazine that publishes mainly Pulitzer Prize winners like Phil Levine and Carl Dennis.  Therefore, my five little poems in the slush pile of Great American Poets at The Atlantic will, more than likely, end up as bathroom tissue for the poetry editor.  However, for the four to six weeks it takes to receive my rejection, I can dream a little dream.  I suppose that's worth the cost of postage.

Soon, I will grace these pages...
My plan, for the next week, is to send out submissions every day.  Just so I have something to sustain my illusion of being a real writer.

Tonight, after work, I plan to go for run, even though its 95 degrees outside and the National Weather Service has issued heat warnings.  That's if I can get my wife to let me.  She thinks it's unsafe for some reason.  Silly girl.

Saint Marty is keeping the dream alive.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July 19: Perspective, Being a Loser, Harry Potter

Well, after several hours of mulling over the fact that I didn't win that poetry contest, I have taken stock of my life, reevaluated my goals, focused on the really important things in my life, and come to a conclusion.  Losing sucks.

I know that rejection goes hand-in-hand with being a writer.  I know some of the greatest writers never really gained recognition during their lifetimes.  If I don't want to experience rejection, I should probably make chocolate chip cookies for a living.  Poetry, and judging poetry, is so subjective.  The poet who judged the contest which I just lost abysmally did not like my work.  That does not make my poetry bad.  That just means his aesthetic and my aesthetic do not coincide.  (That's a very nice way of saying his taste in poetry is for shit.  Not that I'm bitter.)

I did find out the name of the person who won the contest.  I googled him and read some of his work.  He writes the kind of poems I dislike reading, full of imagery that doesn't come together into something organic and whole.  (That's also a very nice way of saying his poems are for shit.  Not that I'm bitter.)

Gaining some perspective?  Not.
I guess I don't have as much perspective as I thought I did.  Give me a few days, maybe a few shots of tequila.  I'm going to see the new Harry Potter movie tonight.  That will divert my attention from my disappointment and despair for a few hours, anyhow.  Well, that and the garbage can of buttered popcorn I plan to consume.

I think Voldemort judged the poetry contest
Right after I found out about my loss, a friend called to tell me her daughter is in the hospital, dealing with addiction and mental health problems.  I felt like a schmuck for sitting in front of my computer, feeling sorry for myself.  In the grand scheme of things, one little chapbook contest doesn't really amount to a whole lot.  My wife is well.  My kids are healthy.  I have jobs that pay the bills.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.  I get it.

But that thousand dollars in prize money would have really come in handy this summer.

Saint Marty is going to wallow a little while longer.

My schedule tonight

July 19: The Trend Continues

Well, yesterday started with my close encounter with a skunk.  This morning, my stinky week continues.

I just checked the Website for the poetry contest I've been waiting to hear about.  They've finally announced the winner and finalists, and...(insert drum roll here)...I'm not one of them.  Yes, I'm disappointed.  Yes, I'm a little pissed.  Yes, I still can smell skunk in my house.  And, yes, I don't feel like typing anymore at the moment.

I'll collect my thoughts and post something more substantial later.

Saint Marty, over and out.

Got this one down pat!

Monday, July 18, 2011

July 18: Another Skunk Poem, Meetings, Paranoia

I have been paranoid all day long.  I had to go home, change my clothes, throw out my trusty book bag, buy a new pair of shoes, and douse myself with cologne.  And I still think I stink.  Say that three times really fast.

Do I stink?
Tonight, I have meetings at church.  I'm hoping when I go home to change my clothes that the skunk scent will have dissipated quite a bit from this morning.  But it is once again in the 90s, with no air movement and about 100% humidity.  I think my house is going to reek.

I have a new poem.  It's another skunk poem, appropriately titled, "Another Skunk Poem."  You'll remember, a few weeks ago, I wrote a poem about a skunk.  This poem is like a sequel.  It calls to mind the World War I poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae.  I feel like I'm in a war with this little shit of a skunk.  Now that I have sighted the enemy, I have a physical image to heap my hatred upon.  If that sounds a little too dramatic, you haven't smelled my front porch.  Or my book bag.  Or my shoes.

I have seen the enemy...
Saint Marty is ready to declare war.

Another Skunk Poem

The pen I write with,
The journal I write in,
The paper I write on,
All smell of the battle, strong
As garlic and onion fried
In a skillet, served hot,
Full of steam that burns
Eyes, sits in the folds
Of shirt and pants, like seeds
Planted in midnight dirt,
Ready to sprout under August
Sun and heat into thistle, thorn,
Something that bites fingertip,
Draws blood to the surface,
Reminds me of my encounter
With the pungent warrior,
A creature fast as shadow,
Gone before I had a chance
To curse black-and-white
Hunger, its mustard gas
In my nose and lungs,
My home, to which I'll return
This evening, walk, room by room,
Find traces of the enemy
Still present in the poppies
Of wife, son, daughter,
Kitchen, couch, bed, quilt.
In this Flanders field, I am the intruder,
Skunk still rules the night.

July 18: SKUNK!!!!!

Just thought I'd write a quick post this morning, letting you know how my week is beginning.

When I came out of my front door this morning, I saw my garbage can on its side, garbage scattered across my lawn and sidewalk.  Well, I said something very unsaint-like, loudly.  A skunk came scurrying out of the garbage can and ran.  I immediately scrambled backward, into my porch, and said something else that I'm pretty sure will land me in the seventh or eighth circle of hell.

The stink was immediate.  I stood in the porch, not sure if I'd been in the line of skunk fire.  Then, I went back into the house and asked my wife to smell me.  She couldn't smell anything.  I had her smell my book bag.  Nothing.  I had her smell the case of Diet Mountain Dew I was lugging.  Nothing.

Satisfied, I got in my car and drove to work.  As I was driving, I kept smelling skunk.  (Mind you, I'm the person who cannot smell skunk unless it's so strong it would bring a normal person to her knees.)  When I got to my office, I called my sister and asked to if she would smell me.  I drove to my sister's place of work.

She sniffed me.  I didn't stink.  I brought one of my bags to her.  She took one whiff and backed away.  Bingo.

To make a long story even longer, I had to jettison a leather binder in which I carry my daily planner.  I had to throw out the actual bag, and I'm trying to salvage a couple books I'm unwilling to part with.

And, as I sit here typing this, I'm paranoid.  I keep smelling something rotten in the state of Denmark.

Saint Marty is having a pretty shitty morning.

Not a great start to the week...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 17: Quick Post, Happy Birthday, New Cartoon

I'm in the middle of a birthday party for my sister.  Today, she turned 50, so that opened up a whole wealth of birthday cards to choose from.  We are waiting for the strawberry shortcake.  We (my other sister and I) bought my sister a Kindle.  I can hardly wait for her to get it.

I spent most of the afternoon swimming with my daughter and her two friends.  (I affectionately refer to this trio as the Three Stooges.)  Larry, Moe, Curly, and I had a really good afternoon.

I have a new cartoon for you.  Still haven't heard anything about the poetry chapbook contest yet.  God is really trying to teach me to be patient.

Saint Marty needs to go eat some strawberry shortcake now.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July 16: No News, New Cartoon, Hot Day

It is over 90 degrees outside.  I went running early this morning, came home, collapsed on the floor, and proceeded to melt like the Wicked Witch of the West in a rainstorm.  Didn't do a whole lot of anything else today.

If you're wondering, I haven't heard anything about the poetry contest yet.  I keep checking the Website, and the same old message is posted:  "The winner will be announced by July 15."  Last time I checked my calendar, that was yesterday.  I suppose I I should think that no news is good news.  It's sort of like someone telling you on your birthday that your present is on the way.  I can still have hope right now.  I still have a present to open.  When my present actually arrives, it might be a tin of stale sardines, but, for now, I can still believe it's going to be a Pulitzer Prize.

New cartoon tonight.  Hope you enjoy it.

Saint Marty is keepin' the faith.

Friday, July 15, 2011

July 15: Poetry Contest, Waiting, On Edge

OK, I've set myself up for a really disappointing day.  Let me explain.

Several months ago, I submitted a chapbook of poetry for a contest.  The winner gets $1,000, publication this Fall, and 100 copies of his/her book.  Until a couple weeks ago, I'd completely forgotten about the competition.  Unfortunately, I did eventually remember.  I went to the contest's Website, and I found out that they're announcing the winner sometime TODAY.

Poetry is causing me stress today

Of course, I've tried to squelch my expectations.  Tell myself how many times I've entered contests like this one before and never made it past my entrance fee check being cashed.  However, I've been pretty unsuccessful trying to remain bitter, sarcastic, and pessimistic.  I've been thinking about that thousand bucks.  As you know, I've had quite a few expensive car repairs this summer.  Without having the income from teaching May through August, those repairs have drained our back account substantially.  The contest money would really come in handy.

Not to mention the fact that I'd like to publish another book to add to my list of writing accomplishments.  I'd love to go back to the university in a couple months and bask in 15 minutes of fame.  I've seen some pretty mediocre writers getting published in the last few years.  Maybe it's my turn.  (Not that I'm a mediocre writer.  I just mean it's time for a good writer to get published.  Me, to be exact.  You know what I mean.  Oh, never mind.)

As you can probably tell, I'm setting myself up for a really big let-down sometime in the next 24 or so hours.  I've tried to reason with myself.  I even looked up the work of the judge of the contest to see what kind of poetry he writes/likes.  His "stuff" is very different from the kind of poetry I write.  I know I'm not going to win, or I stand a very slim chance of winning.  I'm not trying to humble.  I'm trying to be realistic.

That's where I am this morning.  On edge.  Anxious.  Waiting.  Checking my e-mail every five minutes.  Obsessing.  Pretty much the way I am every day, multiplied by about a thousand.

Saint Marty needs to prepare himself for the bad news.  Wish him luck.

Waiting to open my empty present

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 14: Saint Francis Solano, Dad's Birthday, Worry

Today, my father turns 84 years old.  We are having a birthday partY for him tonight.  The birthday present I purchased for him arrived yesterday from  Amazon.  I bought him a copy of Charles Portis' novel, True Grit.  My dad loves the John Wayne movie adaptation.  I bought him the Coen brothers' movie adaptation for Father's Day.  I'm just continuing a theme,  I guess.  My father has only recently begun reading books a great deal.  However, he only professes to like non-fiction histories.  A novel is a big leap for him.  That's why I went with a novel that he's somewhat familiar with.

My dad's birthday gift

All day, my coworkers have been stressing over money issues.  See, the administrators of the hospital for which we work have been hinting at lay-offs and cost-saving measures for several weeks now.  This afternoon, the CFO of the hospital held employee "round tables" in which he laid out the whole, grim picture.  The people in my office are feeling threatened and insecure about the future.  It's understandable.  Many of them are the primary wage-earners of their households, or they are the ones who provide the medical insurance for their families.  I'm worried, as well.  However, I'm prone to worry.  It comes naturally to me.  I think I started worrying before I took my first steps.  I probably looked across the room and thought, in my one- or two-year-old head, "Do I really need that stuffed giraffe?  That floor looks really hard."

Watch out for the floor!

Today's saint, Francis Solano, was born in Spain in 1549.  At the age of 20, he became a Franciscan friar.  Then, at the age of 40, he he was sent to the New World to minister to native people of South America.  The Lives of the Saints says Francis
...became known as the Wonderworker of the New World.  A single word from him his lips would cause an attacking army to fall back.  When his companions were hungry, a command uttered by him brought in fish from the sea.  The simple movement of his hand caused a raging bull to become tranquil at his feet.
Francis died in Lima, Peru, in 1610.  That's about 21 years of preaching and miracle-working and converting in a land that was probably, at times, pretty hostile to his efforts.  Talk about throwing caution to the wind, taking a leap of faith, trusting in your Higher Power.  However you want to think about it.  Being attacked by marauding soldiers?  No sweat.  Feeling a little peckish?  How does seafood sound?  Being charged by rabid livestock?  Abracadabra, no more mad cow.

It takes a person of huge faith to be able to perform acts like that.  I'm not sure I'm quite as confident as Francis was.  I'm a worrier.  I'm comfortable with worry.  It's familiar to me.  It may cause me stress, give me some sleepless nights, and make me crave Milky Ways, but worry, in a strange way, is my security blanket.  I can wrap myself up in it.  I know that when I wake up tomorrow morning, I'll have the same worries I had the day before.  Pretty messed up, huh?  Welcome to my world.

I did, however, take a leap with my father's birthday present.  I think that counts as a step forward.  A teeny, tiny step forward.  Maybe tomorrow I'll spend every cent of my paycheck on something completely impractical, like a facelift or iPad or the Oxford English Dictionary.  I just saw on Google that someone bought a Jane Austen original manuscript today for 1.6 million dollars.  That's what I'm talking about.  Something totally useless.  Maybe if I wave my hand and say "iPad," God will send me one.  That's what Francis Solano would have done.  Of course, Francis would have given the iPad to some indigent person with WiFi access.

Saint Marty is going to take a flying leap of faith tonight.  He's going to eat chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla at his father's birthday party.

Taking a leap...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 13: Stuart Dybek, New Poem, Work

Well, I postponed the Spiritual Autobiography Workshop until the fall.  I spoke with the remaining participants, and they all agreed with the decision.  It was a little disappointing to me.  I really believe in writing as a spiritual discipline, and I really want to start a spiritual writing ministry at church.  However, most people think of writing as something frivolous and useless.  Even with great writing sessions, when I pour everything I have into leading a writing group, the workshops I've taught have only managed to attract, at most, five or six people at a time.  I don't know how to change people's perceptions.

Today, I've been thinking about something writer Stuart Dybek once said in a fiction workshop I took from him.  He said that not enough people write about work.  He was a big believer in stories about the workplace.  For some reason, out of everything he said in that class, that observation has stuck with me the most.  I have to say, I love reading poems and stories about work and labor.  There's built-in tension and conflict at work.  Work has its own vocabulary.  It lends itself to writing.

Stuart Dybek--a great writer

The poem I wrote today is inspired by my job in a medical office.  I love the terms and language involved in medicine.  The words have a definite beauty.  So, when I sat down and started to write today, that's what I focused on.  My work.  The result was a language poem, focusing more on sound and music.  It has a little narrative to follow.  Not much.  Above all, it's about the words.  How they feel in your mouth, on your tongue.

Writing is important.  At work.  At home.  At church.  In your relationships with spouses and children and siblings and parents.  And God.  Writing really is life.

Saint Marty shares a little bit of life with you today.

Poetry in a Medical Office

A cavern echo in chest, lung,
Pneumonia, bronchitis, influenza,
A roar, deep in a salt mine,
Full of subterranean stream, pool, lake.
Arthritic survey, scan of every joint,
Vertebrae to shoulder to phalanges,
Search for calcifications, densities,
Thinning and thickening of bone.
Masses, suspicious shadows
In the hump of breast tissue,
Mother, grandmother in the balance
Between health and prognosis,
Lunch and needle biopsy.
Swollen belly under green shirt,
Umbilicus, a knuckle, a snail
On the dune of childbirth,
A slow crawl from conception
To gravida para, that day
When the blur of black and white
Opens its mouth, sucks oxygen
The first time, howls placental blood.
In this place, hope digitizes,
Transmits, becomes talisman, prophecy,
Sacrifice, pieces of goat and ram,
Heifer, a dove as white as sugar,
Killed, carved, spread
On an altar to be read, interpreted,
Like dreams of famine, fertility.
Fat cows or hungry wolves.

Not my medical office, but close enough

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 12: Busy Day, Workshop, Babysitter

It has been quite a busy day for me.  Between work and preparing for leading the Spiritual Autobiography Workshop tonight, I haven't had a single moment to put any serious thought into today's blog.  I'm, therefore, apologizing in advance for this post's lack of content.

This afternoon, I learned that one of the members of my workshop was not going to be able to continue because she just started a new job.  That leaves only three people in the workshop, including myself.  I'm not quite sure what's going to happen tonight.  We may all vote to suspend the workshop until the fall.  We may vote to press on, since we've all done a lot of work already.

If the workshop gets postponed until the fall, I will probably still keep the babysitter coming on Tuesday nights so my wife and I can have a date once a week, even if all we do is sit at McDonald's and share a small order of fries.  We don't get too many opportunities to go out together by ourselves these days.

That's all I got for you.  It wasn't even worth pointing your mouse and clicking.  I'm not even sure what kind of image to use with this post.  Maybe something totally shameless, pandering to the dirtiest, basest elements of society.  Here goes...

Now that's disgusting!
Saint Marty will give you something better tomorrow.  He promises.

Monday, July 11, 2011

July 11: Sunburned, New Poem, My Daughter

I had a pretty restless night.  Because of my hours in the sun yesterday, I ended up getting a moderate sunburn.  I hate getting sunburned.  In bed last night, I just couldn't get comfortable.  At one point, right around two o'clock in the morning, I actually contemplated getting up and taking a cold shower.  My legs itch and sting.  My face feels as tight as a Lady Gaga dress.  My neck aches.

Yes, I have a raccoon sunburn!
Needless to say, I was pretty tired when I got to work this morning.  For a few minutes, I just sat at my computer, drooling.  I actually drooled, left a little wet spot on my shirt.  I had to get up, do some filing, guzzle a can of Diet Mountain Dew, and run a few laps around the office.  I'm much better now, but I really didn't think I was going to make it today.

Yesterday, while I was sitting at the pool, broiling myself, my daughter was having an argument with one of her friends in the water.  Apparently, the friend was upset because my daughter didn't invite her to go to the fireworks with her on Saturday night.  Her friend was floating around, sulking.  Maybe because I was hot and miserable, I got really annoyed.  I literally had to force myself to ignore the situation.  My daughter kept apologizing, and her friend kept ignoring her.  It took an act of God for me to keep my mouth shut.

My daughter and her friends
Of course, by the end of the afternoon, they were laughing and playing together, as if nothing happened, but I couldn't get over my daughter's need to grovel for her friend's forgiveness when she did absolutely nothing wrong.  Self esteem is such a strange creature.  Perhaps, because I'm a little older (OK, a LOT older), I'm less willing to beg for friendship.  I'm sure, when I was my daughter's age, acceptance was a life-or-death thing.  The only time I feel the need for that kind of acceptance now is when I write a poem.

Which brings me to today's poem, which is about my daughter and her friend and hurt and acceptance.  I've been stewing about the scene for a whole day now.  (My daughter has probably already forgotten about the whole disagreement.)  I'm hoping this poem will exorcise my anger.

Saint Marty needs to go rub some Solarcaine on his forehead now.


My ten-year-old daughter’s best friend hates her, floats around the swimming pool, ignores my daughter’s pleas.  “Talk to me.”  I listen from my lounge chair, eyes closed.  The sun sinks into my face, arms, legs.  Turns my skin tight and pink.  I try to ignore my daughter’s voice as it grows louder, more desperate.  “It’s not my fault.”  I’m used to these tectonic rifts, will let my daughter tread water, save herself.  The pool, green and cool as a frog’s back, would soothe my body’s heat, replace burn with shadow, moss, the cool loam of forest floor after weeks of wildfire.  But to interfere in my daughter’s battle with a splash or wave or eclipse of water would upset the delicate ecosystem being reestablished.  I open my eyes, watch my daughter and her friend drift away, deeper and deeper, my daughter’s voice, a thrum in the July afternoon.  Like cicada.  “I didn’t mean it.”  I wonder if her tongue will sting tonight the way my neck will.  If her words will blaze in the dark, keep her awake, remind her how many times she said “I’m sorry” as her friend left her red, hurting.  Craving aloe.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 10--Take Two: New Cartoon, Eating Cheetos, Relaxing

Compared to yesterday, today (July 10) was an absolute geologic time period.  I played in the band for worship this morning, took my son home for a nap, helped my daughter practice for her piano lesson, and then took my daughter and her friends swimming.

That's it.

Now, I'm waiting for dinner at my mom and dad's house.  Hamburgers and stir fry.  While I was sitting at the pool, I drew a new cartoon--the first one with color.  I figure it's Sunday, and most of the cartoons are in full color.  What the hell?

I'm going to take it easy for the rest of the night.  By the tingling on my legs, I don't think I applied enough sun screen poolside.  I'm going to be hurting tonight or tomorrow morning.

Saint Marty is done on one side.  Flip him over and sear the other side.

Confessions of Saint Marty

July 10--Take One: Race, Parade, Fireworks, New Cartoon

Sorry I didn't post yesterday, July 9.  Time just ran screaming from me.  In the morning, I ran a two-mile race with my family.  I took fourth place in my age bracket--older than dirt, male.  My daughter took fourth in her age bracket--ten to twelve, female.  My son, whom I pushed in a stroller, took first place in his age bracket--one to five, male.  He got a medal.  And my wife walked the whole way with her sister and our niece and nephew.  They got the congratulations-you-finished places in their respective age brackets.

Then I rode on a parade float for church.  I played keyboard in our praise band.  That was a blast, but hot as Hades.  Afterward, I took a nap.  (Remember my age bracket.)

I played organ for mass, gobbled down some pizza, and took my daughter and her friend to some fireworks.  That's a thumbnail sketch of July 9.

Saint Marty did take a few minutes to draw a cartoon at the fireworks.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, July 8, 2011

July 8: Race Tomorrow, Decorating Float, Parade

It's going to be a busy weekend.  Tomorrow morning, I'm running a two-mile race with my daughter and son.  I participate in this race every year.  It's a benefit for the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters.  I'll be pushing my son in a stroller.  From what I remember of the race course last year, there's only one really nasty hill to navigate.  Of course, that hill comes almost at the end of the entire thing, when you're ready to die.  My daughter, a few years ago, had a complete meltdown in the middle of the race because I forgot to bring her bottle of water.  There we were, in the woods, my daughter screaming and crying and sitting on the ground.  Not a good scene.

Last year's Fun Run.  I'm in there somewhere.

Tonight, I have to decorate a float for a parade tomorrow.  Usually, I avoid being a part of parades.  I prefer to sit on a curb and collect the candy that's thrown.  However, the band of which I'm a member was asked to play on a float.  I'm doing it for Jesus.  I'm hoping tonight's preparations won't take too long.

Last year's parade

My wife's twentieth class reunion is taking place Saturday night, as well.  She hasn't received an invitation, doesn't know where it's being held.  Supposedly, her class has a float in the parade.  She can't find out anything about that, either.  She wants to go the reunion instead of the fireworks tomorrow night.  I hate those kinds of events.  Plus, our daughter will be really disappointed if she doesn't get to go to the fireworks.  That's another worry.

However, my biggest worry today is about money.  During the summers, I don't teach at the university.  Being an adjunct, I'm a contract instructor.  That means, every semester, I have to sign a new contract.  I'm never guaranteed anything.  Well, when the checks stop coming from the university about mid-April, things start getting really lean, financially.  This summer, we've had three huge car repairs, totalling over $2,000.  Those repairs, coupled with the normal monthly bills, have depleted our savings account substantially.  For some reason, today I've found myself in an absolute state of panic about money.  It's grocery day, and we also have to pay the water bill, which I just realized was overdue.  I don't get another paycheck until next Friday.

I don't know why I'm sharing all this information with you.  Worry, especially money worries, tend to really throw me off-balance.  I often hear stories about people who are at the end of their ropes, financially, and hand their concerns over to God; those stories usually end with some unexpected check arriving in the mail or a forgotten loan that's suddenly repaid in the nick of time.  I have a really hard time turning things over to God like that.  I'm not sure if it's a problem with faith or trust or fear.  It's probably all of those things rolled into one, huge, sweaty ball of worry.  I've been trying to relax, pry my fingers off the steering wheel, so to speak.  It's tough.  I like to be in the driver's seat.

This weekend is going to be a complete lesson in letting go.

Saint Marty hopes he survives.

I'm trying.