Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 31: Book Club Barbecue, Phil Legler, "Bedstraw"

My book club met tonight.  We read Fannie Flagg's The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion this month.  I liked it.  It wasn't really my cup of chai.  It was a light, funny distraction.  Flagg knows how to create characters that have a life of their own.  Plus, I learned about a part of American history I'd never known before.

We had a barbecue.  Hot dogs and bratwurst.  Fruit salad.  Noodle salad.  Brownies topped with pretzels and caramel.  The weather was perfect.  Seventy degrees and sunny.  In the background, a water fountain bubbling.  Perfect.  The only thing that was missing was my wife.  She had to work tonight.  Book club is usually the only night of the month where we spend a few hours with adults.

Tonight's Phil Legler poem is about love and summer.

Saint Marty needs to get to bed.


by:  Phil Legler

Like your touch
gone from me, they have already
closed once this morning.

The sleepy field was wet.
Yet now from a bowl of water
slowly the petals open.

And what a curious name
they have.  Imagine the sweetness
if lovers in a grove

lay and slept on them,
opening and closing themselves
in the press of dew.

Bedstraw in the July evening

July 30: Christmas Poems, Phil Legler, "Manger Scene"

Phil Legler was the person who gave me the idea to write a Christmas poem every year.  Phil's Christmas cards were poems.  The semester after I had him as a professor, I received a small note from him in December.  On it was the poem I'm including in this post.

Each year after that, I got another card, another poem, until he became too ill to continue the practice.  I wish I'd kept those cards.  They were always one of the highlights of my holidays.  That's why I write Christmas poems.  To somehow carry on Phil's legacy.

Saint Marty hopes you're all feeling a little holly jolly tonight.

Manger Scene

by:  Phil Legler

               It's not in how spellbound all
these travelers are, like us, propped here and holding
           tree-shine and tinsel enfolding
          the branch near the floor,
that there is anything strange or unusual;
               we've seen all this before.

               It's in the story--the same
snow falling, covering our footsteps, daydreaming men
            wishing the journey, the man-
          child crying in the night,
waking, held by the star, as if for the first time
               gathering in that light.

It came upon a midnight mailbox

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30: The New Yorker, Salaried Professional Writer, Dreams

Harold Ross, the founder of The New Yorker, literally begged E. B. White to join the staff of his fledgling magazine.  Ross begged for a couple of months.  Eventually, White relented:

Finally, in January 1927, Andy agreed to contribute new work every week and to show up every weekday, at least for a few hours, at a small office that was assigned to him.  In return Harold Ross agreed to pay him $30 per week.,  [White] had left Frank Seaman and was now working part-time at a different advertising agency, J. H. Newmark, where he earned the same amount.  Surely a frugal man could live on $60 a week, especially while still rooming with three others.  More important than the money, about which [White] had an almost cavalier attitude, was that at twenty-seven he had suddenly become a salaried professional writer.

E. B. White lucked out.  He got hired by The New Yorker before it became THE NEW YORKER, the magazine that every poet, writer, and essayist wanted to appear in.  Nowadays, most poets would sacrifice a limb to have even one poem published in its pages.  I, personally, would sacrifice a testicle to land a poem in The New Yorker.  White didn't have to make a blood offering.  He, almost literally, walked into a job as a staff writer/editor.

Of course, E. B. White did hang around New York for a few years before Harold Ross came knocking.  He published in various magazines and newspapers, and he dreamed of being the next Franklin Pierce Adams (F. P. A.) or Don Marquis.  He dreamed a lot, and he wrote a lot.

I think one of the requirements of being a writer is the ability to dream.  Almost every writer I know dreams of publishing in magazines like The New Yorker or landing a book on the bestseller lists.  Putting words on a page is an act of hope.  Hope that somebody will want to read it, publish it, give it a Pulitzer Prize.  Big dreams.

I've been dreaming writing dreams for a very long time.  I've published a book of poems.  I'm the poetry editor of an internationally respected literary magazine.  I've been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  I've had some success, but I'm still dreaming.  The day that I stop dreaming is the day that I stop writing.

Saint Marty has a dream tonight that some major editor or literary agent will read this post, track him down, and offer him a contract for an obscene amount of money.  It might happen.

Dream a little dream...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 29: Lovely Evening, Phil Legler, "Kite Weather"

It is a beautiful evening.  Not too hot.  Not too cold.  It's not a July evening, even though it is still July.  It's a late August or early September evening, so pleasant it makes me want to start walking and keep walking.  Down the road.  Up the hill.  Into the woods.  Past a lake.  And on and on and on.  That's the kind of evening it is.  It takes me out of myself.

That's what tonight's poem is about, as well.  It's about being transported.  Seeing the bigger picture.

Saint Marty could use a lot more evenings like this.

Kite Weather

by:  Phil Legler

Rattled, thrown
down against
the schoolyard fence, we
catch our breath,
held by so thin a
string.  Freed, we
resist the
air, keeping
both feet on the ground
that's turned to
sudden flowers, grass.
The yellow
willow grows
from a blue
sky, and we rise from
ourselves like
dreams, float above streets
and walk roofs,
loosen our
ties, drift high
taking up the slack,
stand tiptoe
hardly aware of
other spring
signs, having
the far downward swoop
lost at the
end of the block, the
trees rising.

That's me, in the sky, rising

July 29: The Writing, Some Pig, Prayer for Guidance

Zuckerman stared at the writing on the web.  Then he murmured the words "Some Pig."  Then he looked at Lurvy.  Then they both began to tremble.  Charlotte, sleepy after her night's exertions, smiled as she watched.  Wilbur came and stood directly under the web.

Charlotte easily fools Zuckerman and Lurvy with her writing.  Neither pay attention to her.  Wilbur, standing underneath Charlotte's "miracle," becomes the star of the farm.  Nobody pays attention to the little gray spider sitting in the corner of the web.  Wilbur's life is saved by language.

I think that's a wonderful metaphor for successful writing.  If a poem or short story or essay is really good, the writer fades into the background, and the reader is absorbed into the miracle of the words.  I feel this often with my favorite writers and books.  The first time I read The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris.  Mr. Ives' Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos.  Satan Says by Sharon Olds.  I could go on.  Each of these books were little miracles to me.  Good writing that became a part of my DNA in a way.

I've had an idea for a new book I want to write.  I've had the idea for quite some time.  It's a book that I would want to read.  I'm not sure if anybody else would be interested in it.  It's a strange notion, but I simply can't seem to shake it.  That tells me that it's something I need to pursue.  I need to spin this web, so to speak.

Thus, my prayer tonight is for guidance.  I need help with my idea.  Help getting started.  Help writing.  I want to have fun with this book.  I want it to be a somewhat joyful experience.  I'm not asking for prayers for myself.  That would be hubris.  And there are a lot more important issues in the world in need of prayer.  The Middle East.  Liberia.  The Ukraine.  Pick one and pray.

I'm simply looking for a little miracle in my life, something that makes me step back in wonder.

Saint Marty wants to see SOME PIG.

I'm looking for a coincidence

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28: Poet of the Week, Phil Legler, "Return"

I know you're all waiting for the name of the Poet of the Week.  I gave this choice a lot of thought.  I want to pick a writer who I think is a little overlooked.  His name is Phil Legler.

Phil published three collections of poetry in his lifetime.  He was a lovely man, brilliant teacher, and fantastic poet.  I had the privilege of having him as a professor one semester.  He was one of the first people, aside from members of my family, who told me I had writing talent.

Tonight's poem is about the changing of seasons.  On my way into work today, I saw a tree with leaves the color of lemon.  Queen Anne's lace is blooming everywhere.  Summer is drawing to a close, and autumn is just around the corner.

Saint Marty isn't quite ready to say goodbye to July yet.


by:  Phil Legler

The wind turns, changes;
birds, like wishes, rise over
fields, fly south again.

The low clouds, husks.
In the hollows of both hands
nothing but shadow.

A leaf falls; the wind
gathers it up a moment.
I touched your breast once.

Silence like snow.  Now
I hear the wings fluttering--
pieces of a sky.

Queen Anne's lace and autumn are on the way

July 28: The Countdown, Vacation, "Web" Dip

The countdown has begun.  In five days, my vacation will begin.  At 5 p.m. on Friday, I will be free for a glorious nine days.  That may not sound like much, but I only take two weeks off a year.  The first week of January.  The first week of August.  No phones to answer.  No classes to teach.  Nobody telling me what I have to do.

As a kid, I remember the two weeks my family used to spend at a camp in the middle of the woods in Gay, Michigan.  No electricity.  Pit toilet.  Sauna.  At night, we could hear the surf of Lake Superior in the dark.  It was a rustic experience, something I try to avoid as an adult.  But, for a really young boy, it was like vacationing at Hogwarts (even though Harry Potter wouldn't come into existence for about 20 more years).  We were all witches and wizards in Hagrid's hut by the Forbidden Forest.  (OK, I'm not going to push that comparison any further.)

As an adult, I think the thing I'm looking forward to the most is reading a book that a friend of mine recently published.  I know that doesn't sound exciting, but I don't usually get to do much pleasure reading.  This book will be 320 pages of pleasure.

My question this Web dip Monday is,

Will I have a good vacation?

And the answer from the pig is,

"Everybody in!" called Mr. Arable.  He started the motor.  The ladies climbed in beside him.  Mr. Zuckerman and Lurvy and Fern and Avery rode in back, hanging onto the sideboards.  The truck began to move ahead.  The geese cheered.  The children answered their cheer, and away went everybody to the Fair.

Well, that's sounds promising.  Cheering geese and children.  The excitement of the Fair.  Ferris wheels and corn dogs.  That's pretty much a summer paradise.

Saint Marty's going to have a really good vacation.  Four more days.

Maybe I should get a new swimsuit

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27: Friend's Son, Bipolar, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

This morning at church, I spoke with a friend whose son has been struggling for a long time.  As I sat and listened to her describe her son's depressions, flights of energy, inability to hold a steady job, sleepless nights, and disappearing acts, I started feeling a very familiar sense of panic.  I knew all of the things my friend was describing.  I'd been through them all, to a greater and lesser extent.  But I hadn't experienced that panic for a very long time.  It was a state I lived in for quite a few years.

My wife has been doing really well.  She takes her medications, goes to her doctor's appointments, and recognizes when something isn't quite right.  Her road has been long and difficult.  My friend's son has a long and difficult road ahead of him, if he is indeed bipolar.  I told my friend that.  I told her it wasn't going to be easy to get him the help he needs.  It's one thing getting treatment for a person who wants to get well.  It's a whole other crappy ball of earwax to get treatment for a person who doesn't think he's actually sick.

I spoke to my friend's son, a young guy.  Twenty-one years old.  Highly talented.  Incredibly bright.  I told him he needed to get help.  I told him I was worried about him.  Eventually, he promised to go to a doctor tomorrow with his mother.  I told him that I was going to call his mother to see if he followed through on his promise.  And I told him that I was going to crawl all over his ass if he didn't.

I don't know if I did any good today.  All I did was listen and offer compassion.  That's it.  Sometimes, that's all you can do, I guess.

Today's Classic Saint Marty originally aired four years ago.  It's about mental illness and compassion, as well.

Saint Marty wishes the world wasn't such a broken place sometimes.

July 27, 2010:  Saint Pantaleon

Today's feast saint, Pantaleon, is the patron of physicians.  He is honored in the Greek Orthodox Church, which identifies him as "one of the Holy Moneyless Ones who treated the sick without payment."  The Greek version of his name is Panteleimon, which translates as "the All-compassionate One."  All the other details of Pantaleon's life are suspect, and that means that legend and fact have stewed over the centuries into a mash of truth and fairy tale.  The one thing that's obvious, from his name and titles, is that he was a man of great caring, a person who looked after the poor and broken.  I kind of picture him as a cross between Mother Teresa and Anthony Edwards on ER.  One of the hardest things to do as a human being is to comfort another human being who's suffering physically or mentally, especially if that suffering is acute and frightening.

Last night, I sat in a room-full of people who face that kind of suffering every day of their lives.  It was the monthly meeting for the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  It's a support group for those suffering from mental illness and their families and friends.  Basically, it's for people on the front lines, who deal with the effects of bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, mania, OCD, borderline personality disorder, you-name-it, every day of their lives.  Over the years, I've had therapists and friends tell me I should attend a NAMI meeting.  Last night, I decided to follow their advice.

As I listened to people speak last night, I heard story after story of heartbreak and frustration.  One 26-year-old attendee knew she had acute depression when she was 12 or 13; she didn't start receiving legitimate treatment until four or so years ago.  Another person suffered from mental illness since she was a child, but she didn't get help until she was in her thirties; she's in her forties now  and, in a one-year-span, tried to kill herself five times.  There was a young man whose brother is schizophrenic and violent.  The brother refuses to take his medication, and the man can't get him committed to a hospital until the brother hurts himself or another person.  Another man has a girlfriend with untreated bipolar disorder; the girlfriend screams at him and beats him up when they're together.  "She's my best friend.  She's helped me through a lot," the man said, paused, and then finished, "and she's pregnant now."

The details were different for everyone, but they were also the same.  Family members wanted their loved ones to be well.  Those with mental illness wanted to feel normal, think clearly, be happy, at peace.

Through all the anger and frustration at a health care system that, for the most part, fails patients with mental illnesses; through all the turbulence of mania and depression and psychosis and paranoia; through all the meetings with doctors and therapists and police officers and lawyers and judges; through all of this shit, there was one overriding emotion:  hope.

Hope that the pregnant girlfriend will stop screaming.  Hope that the brother will take his shot.  Hope that the next medication, the next treatment, will be the ONE.  Hope.

I didn't expect to find that at NAMI.  I expected the crying, heartbreak, pain, anger.  I didn't expect hope.

But there it was, shining through the understanding nods and concerned questions.  There it was in the face of the woman who said, "I'm going back to college this fall."  There it was in the girl who had found a friend she could talk to, who understood what it felt like to want to cut yourself.  There it was in the man who said he wanted to hold his unborn child.

NAMI is full of Panteleimons.  All-compassionate ones.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 26: Grown Up, Billy Collins, "Girl," New Cartoon

"Well, they've got to grow up some time," said Mr. Arable.  "And a fair is a good place to start, I guess."

Yes, Fern does grow up a little at the fair.  She goes running off with Avery, meets up with Henry Fussy, and spends most of her time riding the Ferris wheel.  Wilbur just can't compete with the lure of a boy.  A little later in the book, Fern says, "The most fun there is . . . is when the Ferris wheel stops and Henry and I are in the top car and Henry makes the car swing and we can see everything for miles and miles and miles."

Another place where little girls grow up is summer camp.  I picked my daughter up from Bible camp this morning.  As I pulled my Ford Freestyle into the camp, I started looking for her.  Didn't see her.  I parked and got out of the car.  She came walking up to us, wearing a boy's flannel shirt.

"Where'd you get that shirt?" I asked.

"Oh," she said, "it's Bradley's."

"Do you need to return it?" I said.

"No," she said, "he said I could keep it."

She's been wearing that damn shirt all day.  Plus, she's been texting on her phone like crazy.  Daddy isn't liking Bradley too much right now.  I'd prefer my little Fern to be sitting on a stool near Wilbur's pen, if you get my meaning.  Of course, my daughter assures me that Bradley's "just a friend."  Mmm-hmm.  And Hilary Clinton's just plugging her new book on Meet the Press.  No other hidden agenda.

It's not like I expect my daughter to stay cloistered and innocent for the rest of her life.  (Of course, a cloistered convent is not a bad option.)  I know she's growing up, and there are going to be a lot of Henrys and Bradleys in her future.  She could have just been a little less blatant about it this morning.

Well, my last Billy Collins poem sort of sums up my feelings tonight.  It's about a fairy princess trading in her tower for something a little more grown up.

Saint Marty's fairy princess traded her tower in for a boy's flannel shirt today.


by:  Billy Collins

Only a few weeks ago,
the drawings you would bring in
were drawings of a tower with a fairy princess

leaning out from a high turret,
a swirl of stars in the background,
and bright moons, distant planets with rings.

Then yesterday you brought in
a drawing of a scallion,
a single scallion on a sheet of white paper--

another crucial step
along the path of human development,
I thought to myself

as I admired the slender green stalk,
the white bulb, and the little beard
of roots that you had penciled in so carefully.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25: "Simple Arithmetic," Billy Collins, Nothing on My Mind

I really have nothing on my mind tonight.  It's been quite a long week, and I'm feeling a little depleted.  I need to recharge my batteries.  I usually do that by reading poetry or writing in my journal.  I need to do something solitary.

I don't often do a lot of stuff by myself.  Usually, my activities involve being around people.  My poems are written in fits and starts.  I cobble together a few minutes to scribble in my Moleskine.  At lunch, before I go to bed, in the early morning.  The quiet moments of my day.

That's what the Billy Collins poem for tonight is about.  Being alone.  Contemplating the waves and clouds and birds.  Being reduced by the beauty of the world.

Saint Marty loves the math of this poem.

Simple Arithmetic

by:  Billy Collins

I spend a little time nearly every day
on a gray wooden dock
on the edge of a wide lake, thinly curtained by reeds.

And if there is nothing on my mind
but the motion of the wavelets
and the high shape-shifting of clouds,

I look out at the whole picture
and divide the scene into what was here
five hundred years ago and what was not.

Then I subtract all that was not here
and multiply everything that was by ten,
so when my calculations are complete,

all that remains is water and sky,
the dry sound of wind in the reeds,
and the sight of an unflappable heron on the shore.

All the houses are gone, and the boats
as well as the hedges and the walls,
the curving brick paths, and the distant siren.

The plane crossing the sky is no more
and the same goes for the swimming pools,
the furniture and the pastel umbrellas on the decks.

And the binoculars around my neck are also gone,
and so is the little painted dock itself--
according to my figuring--

and gone are my notebook and my pencil
and there I go, too,
erased by my own eraser and blown like shavings off the page.

Sometimes, it's this simple

July 25: Heat of the Day, Italian for Dinner, Drunken Fairy Tale

After the heat of the day, the evening came as a welcome relief to all.  The Ferris wheel was lighted now.  It went round and round in the sky and seemed twice as high as by day.  There were lights on the midway, and you could hear the crackle of the gambling machines and the music of the merry-go-round and the voice of the man in the booth calling numbers.

After the heat of today, the evening wasn't that much of a relief.  I had quite a bit to do after I left work.  In fact, I just got home a little while ago.  My wife and I had to drop a friend's car off at the airport, and then we went out for dinner at a local Italian restaurant.  Garlic bread, soaked in butter.  Tortellini with parmesan and basil.  And an apple martini that was so strong I now feel as though I'm on a Ferris wheel.

I'm really glad it's Friday.  I'm glad my daughter is coming home tomorrow from Bible camp.  I'm glad to have some time to read a book, write a poem, or watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory.  Hell, I might do all three.  I'm trying to stay focused here, but, like I said, that apple martini was about 99% vodka and 1% artificial fruit flavor.  So I might as well get to my fairy tale before I pass out at the keyboard.

Once upon a time, a lumberjack named Bono went to an Italian pub and ate garlic bread and parmesan tortellini.  He also ordered a really large apple martini.  The other lumberjacks in the pub started to tease him, calling him names like "Bonbon" and "Applebon" and "Bonhead."  Lumberjacks aren't very creative.

Bono stumbled home, very drunk and angry.  He decided to practice his ax juggling before he went to bed.  Bono threw three axes in the air.  One ax came down and chopped off his left hand.  The second ax chopped off all the toes on his right foot.  The third ax landed on the top of his head, killing him.

Moral of the story:  never write a fairy tale when you're drunk.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Saint Marty is ready for a nap

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 24: "Hell," Billy Collins, Bed

I'm looking forward to going to bed tonight.  The cool covers and pillows.  The fan blowing across us like some lost Alberta clipper.  Darkness, and the warmth of my wife's hand on my arm or shoulder.  That sounds like paradise to me right now.

Which explains why the poem below appealed to me tonight.  It's a hell of a poem (incredibly labored pun intended), and it touches upon many of Billy Collins' favorite subjects--the collision of poetry with life and love and the ridiculous.  And it has that breathless moment at the end when the poem opens up like a chrysalis.

Saint Marty would kill to write a poem like this.


by:  Billy Collins

I have a feeling that it is much worse
than shopping for a mattress at a mall,

of greater duration without question,
and there is no random pitchforking here,
no licking flames to fear,
only this cavernous store with its maze of bedding.

Yet wandering past the jovial kings,
the more sensible queens,
and the cheerless singles
no scarlet sheet will ever cover,

I am thinking of a passage from the Inferno,
which I could fully bring to mind
and recite in English or even Italian

if the salesman who has been following us--
a crumpled pack of Newports
visible in the pocket of his short sleeve shirt--
would stop insisting for a moment
that we test this one, then this softer one,

which we do by lying down side by side,
arms rigid, figures on a tomb,
powerless to imagine what it would be like

to sleep or love this way
under the punishing rows of fluorescent lights,
which Dante might have included
had he been able to lie on his back between us here today.

What fresh hell is this?

July 24: Finding Words, Book Bag, Scraps

Then the oldest sheep spoke up.  "I agree that there should be something new written in the web if Wilbur's life is to be saved.  And if Charlotte needs help in finding words, I think she can get it from our friend Templeton.  The rat visits the dump regularly and has access to old magazines.  He can tear out bits of advertisements and bring them up here to the barn cellar, so that Charlotte can have something to copy."

The oldest sheep does convince the rat to go on a word hunt for Charlotte.  Templeton comes back with several choices, including CRUNCHY and PRE-SHRUNK and RADIANT.   The first two words are rejected pretty quickly, but Charlotte uses Templeton's third offering, which he found on a package of soap flakes.

Recently, I've felt a little like Templeton.  I've been gathering words without doing a whole lot with them.  Thursdays, I'm supposed to discuss a book I've been carrying around in my book bag.  I haven't been following through on this promise recently because I haven't been reading a whole lot.

In my book bag right now, I have an old Time magazine with a big article on summer book releases.  (I haven't read the article.)  I have my writing and drawing journals.  I have Fannie Flagg's new novel, which I have to finish by next Thursday for my book club.  (I'm about 50 pages into it.)  I have a poetry collection by Billy Collins.  (I will use this book for my second post this evening.)  And I have my grade book from the university.  Even Templeton wouldn't find a whole lot of interest in that collection of miscellany.

So, you see, that's why I haven't been writing any book reviews.  I haven't had the time.  At most, I've read a paragraph here, a page or two there.  Scraps, basically.  I have a week of vacation coming up and a list of things I want to read during those seven days.  That list includes at least one novel and a book written by a friend of mine.  Big plans.

I'll probably end up still reading scraps, anyway.  I'll want to spend time with my wife and kids.  My wife will probably force me to do something out of my comfort zone, like get in the car and drive three hours to go to a zoo that has tigers and horseflies.  Swimming.  I will certainly take my kids swimming.  My son has been begging to go to an actual beach.  He has no idea that last winter's deep freeze can still be felt in the lakes.  Lake Superior didn't completely thaw until June.  The waters are glacial.

I will have to be satisfied with scraps, but larger scraps.  Whole poems.  Entire chapters.  Maybe even a couple late-night binges where I gobble up a hundred or so pages.

Saint Marty can't wait.

She is in my book bag

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July 23: Anticipation, Sending Out, Getting Back

Just as in childhood his anticipation of the monthly issue of St. Nicholas had been greatly enhanced by the suspense of contributing to it, so had his trips to the newsstand gained in importance as he sent out light verse and small stories to newspaper columnists...

I love reading about E. B. White struggling as a young writer in New York.  Sending out his poems and stories.  Waiting to see his name in print.  White wasn't much different than I am now.  It gives me hope.  Charlotte's Web.  "Once More to the Lake."  Stuart Little.  White wrote a lot of classics.  And White also was neurotic and unsure of himself.

The process of sending out poems is difficult.  Every magazine advises would-be contributors to read back issues, familiarize themselves with the content.  Well, that would be great, if I could afford it.  Google helps out sometimes.  But it's all a crapshoot, basically.  There are a lot of really great poets out there, and I'm competing with all of them.

Every day, when I check my e-mail, I cringe.  Rejection is never easy.  Getting back an electronic message from editors saying something like "Thanks for sending us your poems but we hated them" is bruising.  Deflating.  Yet, writers are masochists.  We keep sending out our stuff, waiting, hoping.  Getting rejected never gets easy.  It always hurts a little.

Until that one moment when the electronic message from an editor goes something like "We are happy to accept your poem 'Anal Retention' for publication in our next issue."  Then, for several weeks, you feel special.  Chosen.  As if God has reached down and touched you.

Saint Marty hasn't been touched like that in a while.

Touch me, please!

July 23: "Genesis," Billy Collins, Feeling Love

Tonight, I put my son to bed late.  I attended a retirement party for a former professor of mine.  I can honestly say that this man is the main reason I am a writer.  I took a fiction workshop from him as an undergraduate, and he really encouraged me, made me feel like I actually did have a little talent.  He pushed me to go to graduate school, and he celebrated all of my successes.

I am also good friends with this man's son.  He and I went to graduate school together.  We shared an office when I was in a PhD program.  He has a fourteen-year-old daughter.  I have a thirteen-year-old daughter.  He is a poet.  I am a poet.  He's a really wonderful guy.  Adores his wife and kid.  Loves the Upper Peninsula.  Ditto me.

After we left the retirement party, I stopped by my wife's place of employment to say "hi."  It was good to see her smile and hear her laugh.  And now I'm waiting for her to get home from work.  We'll share a few quiet moments together before I go to bed.  Nothing monumental will take place.  We might discuss the rock my son found at the party, or the chocolate cupcake I ate tonight.  Small details of love.

That's what the poem I chose from Billy Collins is about tonight.  Love and devotion.

Saint Marty had a fine, fine night.


by:  Billy Collins

It was late, of course,
just the two of us still at the table
working on a second bottle of wine

when you speculated that maybe Eve came first
and Adam began as a rib
that leaped out of her side one paradisal afternoon.

Maybe, I remember saying,
because much was possible back then,
and I mentioned the talking snake
and the giraffes sticking their necks out of the ark,
their noses up in the pouring Old Testament rain.

I like a man with a flexible mind, you said then,
lifting your candlelit glass to me
and I raised mine to you and began to wonder

what life would be like as one of your ribs--
to be with you all the time,
riding under your blouse and skin,
caged under the soft weight of your breasts,

your favorite rib, I am assuming,
if you ever bothered to stop and count them

which is just what I did later that night
after you had fallen asleep
and we were fitted tightly back to front,
your long legs against the length of mine,
my fingers doing the crazy numbering that comes of love.

Counting on love

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22: "Good News," Billy Collins, Be Better

Tonight's poem from Billy Collins is about hope.  It's about relief.  It's about second chances.

I believe in second chances.  Everybody makes mistakes.  A mistake shouldn't define a life.  A life should be defined by dreams and actions.  I've made lots of mistakes over the years.  Thank God, I've also been given lots of second chances.  Actually, I've been given third, fourth, and fifth chances.  Every day is an opportunity to be better.  To start over.  Follow a recipe.  Make stew.  Find happiness.

Saint Marty will be starting over at 5:45 a.m. tomorrow.

Good News

by:  Billy Collins

When the news came in over the phone
that you did not have cancer, as they first thought,

I was in the kitchen trying to follow a recipe,
glancing from cookbook to stove,
shifting my glasses from my nose to my forehead and back,

a recipe, as it turned out, for ratatouille,
a complicated vegetable dish
which you or any other dog would turn up your nose at.

If you had been here, I imagine
you would have been curled up by the door
sleeping with your head resting on your tail.

And after I learned that you were not sick,
everything took on a different look
and appeared to be better than it usually is.

For example (and that's the first and last time
I will ever use those words in a poem),
I decided I should grate some cheese,

not even knowing if it was right for ratatouille,
and the sight of the cheese grater
with its red handle lying in the drawer

with all the other utensils made me marvel
at how this thing was so perfectly able and ready
to grate cheese just as you with your long smile

and your brown and white coat
are perfectly designed to be the dog you perfectly are.

This pretty much says it all...

July 22: Future is Assured, Tara's Good News, Prayer of Thankfulness

"A little tired, perhaps.  But I feel peaceful.  Your success in the ring this morning was, to a small degree, my success.  Your future is assured.  You will live, secure and safe, Wilbur.  Nothing can harm you now..."

At the end of the book, Charlotte is happy.  She has accomplished her goal.  Wilbur's life is saved.  He will grow old and, eventually, die of natural causes.  Then he will be turned into smoked bacon and ribs.

I have written about a young girl named Tara a couple of times in the last month.  Doctors had diagnosed Tara with thyroid cancer.  Instead of worrying about college applications this summer, she has been contemplating chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  Tara has not had a great summer.

Well, this Sunday, Tara told me that she had more tests done.  All the tests came back negative.  Tara is cancer free.  She will still be undergoing a radioactive iodine treatment.  I assume it is a prophylactic measure.  But Tara can return to being a normal teenager soon.

That is worth a prayer of thankfulness.  God has worked a miracle in Tara's life.  I want to thank all of my disciples who have prayed for her.  Sometimes it feels like the conversations I have with God rise up into the ether and disappear.  Tara is living proof that God is listening.

Saint Marty is very thankful tonight for answered prayer.

Now this would be answered prayer

Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21: Poet of the Week, Billy Collins, "Grave"

So, my first choice for Poet of the Week is former Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins.  He's brilliant, funny, accessible.

The poem I'm sharing today comes from his collection Horoscopes for the Dead.  It's a poem that was also published in Best Spiritual Writing 2011.

Saint Marty wants to be Billy Collins when he grows up.


by:  Billy Collins

What do you think of my new glasses
I asked as I stood under a shade tree
before the joined grave of my parents,

and what followed was a long silence
that descended on the rows of the dead
and on the fields and the woods beyond,

one of the one hundred kinds of silence
according to the Chinese belief,
each one distinct from the others,

but the differences being so faint
that only a few special monks
were able to tell them all apart.

They make you look very scholarly,
I heard my mother say
once I lay down on the ground

and pressed an ear into the soft grass.
Then I rolled over and pressed
my other ear to the ground,

the ear my father likes to speak into,
but he would say nothing,
and I could not find a silence

among 100 Chinese silences
that would fit the one that he created
even though I was the one

who had just made up the business
on the 100 Chinese silences--
the Silence of the Night Boat

and the Silence of the Lotus,
cousin to the Silence of the Temple Bell
only deeper and softer, like petals at its farthest edges.

Billy Collins is kind of a god

July 21: In Search of Publisher, Remaining Positive, "Web" Dip

My wife told me this evening that she liked it when I was trying to be positive.  I told her that I found it exhausting.  It is not easy, at the end of a really rotten day at the office, to say to myself, "Wow, what a great time!  I hope I get to do that again tomorrow!"  When I get a rejection letter from a publisher, I don't immediately think, "Well, I'm one rejection closer to an acceptance."  That's just not me.

Well, I am going to start looking for another place to send my manuscript tomorrow.  I don't want to enter yet another contest, send money off with the dream that I will somehow be anointed a genius.  First, I don't have that much spare cash.  Second, I am not a genius.  I am a hard worker.  Part of my hard work right now is going in search of a publisher.  It's not as easy as it sounds.  Poetry is not a money-making venture for anyone involved.  You have to be a little off to call yourself a poet, and you have to be even more off to publish a book of poems.

So, I have to find some editor who has a soft spot for poems with a twisted spirituality.  That's my dilemma.  Sounds simple, doesn't it?

My question for this Web dip Monday is,

Will I ever find a publisher for my poetry manuscript?

Well, Charlotte says,

"That remains to be seen.  But I am going to save you, and I want you to quiet down immediately.  You're carrying on in a childish way.  Stop your crying!  I can't stand hysterics." 

OK, no more carrying on.  No more crying or hysterics.  I am going to be saved, and so is my manuscript.

Saint Marty needs to stop kicking and screaming and pick himself up off the floor.

I don't have no sense, either

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 20: End of Positivity, Dropping off Daughter, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

Today marks the end of my week of positivity.  I think that I stayed true to the spirit of the exercise, even if I bent the rules every once in a while.  I must say that remaining optimistic all the time is difficult for me.  I have a natural tendency toward pessimism.  For instance, after I read my rejection e-mail from the publisher yesterday, I immediately began questioning my worth as a poet, writer, and person.  That's just what I do.  Rejection is difficult to take.

I'm better today, although I'm still a little down. It doesn't help that I dropped my daughter off at Bible Camp this afternoon.  It's hard for me to let go, even though she's been attending this week-long camp for five years.  I know she's 13, almost in high school.  But I still think of her as that little girl with pigtails who used to fall asleep in my lap.

On a totally unrelated topic, I will be introducing a new feature to this blog tomorrow.  I'm calling it Poet of the Week.  Each week, Monday through Saturday, I'm going to feature poems from one poet.  Six poems in total.  I will introduce the featured writer each Monday, and I will include poems from that writer through Saturday.  So, look for the first Poet of the Week tomorrow night.

Today's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired almost four years ago.

July 29, 2010:  Saint Martha

I've always liked the story of Martha in the Bible.  Jesus comes to visit Martha and her sister, Mary, in Bethany.  While Mary sits at Jesus' feet and listens to Him talk, Martha is busting her ass getting dinner ready and the house cleaned and the good china and silver washed.  (Okay, I don't know if they had good china and silver back then, but I'm sure Martha didn't want Jesus to eat hummus/whatever with His fingers or a stick.)  Martha gets pissed at Mary for not pulling her weight, and Jesus scolds Martha:  "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need only of one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

I got a letter from my daughter last night.  It was the first of three letters I instructed her to write from the church camp she's attending this week.  I know that my daughter is having a great time, attending worship services, doing crafts, swimming, learning about Jesus and the Bible.  The directions we received from the camp director even told us to pack her Bible, a notebook, and a pen.  So she's studying the Bible, and I'm Martha, telling her to write her letters and do her daily reading of Harry Potter and be homesick, dammit.

So, I thought I'd share the contents of that letter with you.  The portions in bold are my daughter's words.  The portions in italics are my interpretations of her words:

(My darling father, whom I miss more than a drowning person misses air.)

first day totally awesome!
(I have struggled through this first 24 hours and am counting the days until you return to pick me up.  I put a smile on my face and pretend to be having fun, but, on the inside, I'm always crying.)

we took a swimming test and I won!!
(They took us down to the lake and let us enter the water.  I really didn't feel like doing it, but I knew you would want me to do my best.  So I participated in their swimming test and did my best for you, Daddy, because you are the greatest daddy in the whole world.)

well, lunch is soon
(I don't really have an appetite, but I'm going to eat whatever they put in front of me because you taught me good manners.  I want you to be proud of me.  I will eat, even though the only thing I'm hungry for is being with you, Daddy.)

I miss you!!
(More than anything in the world.  I cried myself to sleep last night and woke up crying this morning.  I've been crying so much that my eyes are swollen and red.  The camp nurse thought I was having an allergic reaction and tried to give me some Benadryl.  I told her the only thing that would cure me is a big dose of Daddy.)

(With all my heart and every atom in my body, forever and ever, until the end of time, because you are the best and coolest and most loving father in the whole universe.)

(Your little Mary, sitting at the foot of Jesus.)

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 19: Henry Fussy, Billy Collins, "Feedback," New Cartoon

Dr. Dorian closed his eyes again and went into deep thought.  "Henry Fussy," he mumbled.  "Hmm.  Remarkable.  Well, I don't think you have anything to worry about.  Let Fern associate with her friends in the barn if she wants to.  I would say, offhand, that spiders and pigs were fully as interesting as Henry Fussy.  Yet I predict that the day will come when even Henry will drop some chance remark that catches Fern's attention.  It's amazing how children change from year to year.  How's Avery?" he asked, opening his eyes wide.

Mrs. Arable is worried about Fern.  Fern spends all her time in the Zuckerman barn, talking with animals, and Mrs. Arable thinks there is something abnormal about her attachment to Wilbur and company.  Dr. Dorian is able to quell Mrs. Arable's fears.  Fern is a normal little girl, he assures Mrs. Arable, and, pretty soon, Fern will lose interest in livestock and turn her attentions elsewhere.  Toward Henry Fussy, for instance.

My daughter is leaving to Bible Camp tomorrow afternoon.  My wife and I just spent the evening packing our daughter's suitcase, making shopping lists, filling out medical forms.   We had to buy her a new sleeping bag this year.  She's had her old one since third grade, I believe.  It was a little small.  My daughter is really excited to go.

It's really a blessing that she's so independent.  She makes friends easily, and everyone loves her.  What's not to love?  She's funny, smart, compassionate.  Oh, she's really pretty, too.  She's been texting one boy from Bible Camp since last summer.  I'm not too keen on all the Henry Fussys that are going to be sniffing around the girls, but that's part of the allure, I guess.

I'm really happy that she's going to be spending a week with good, spiritual people.  She looks forward to it all year long.

Tonight is the last night of my week of positivity.  Therefore, I will wait to discuss the fact that I received a rejection notice from a publisher.  I submitted my new poetry manuscript to them about a month ago.  It didn't take too long to get the "Thanks, but no thanks" e-mail.  But I'm not going to talk about it, because I'm happy and thankful tonight.  I'll save angry and bitter for tomorrow.

I chose a Billy Collins poem for you guys and gals this evening.  It's from his collection Horoscopes for the Dead.  Hope it makes you chuckle.

It made Saint Marty laugh out loud.


by:  Billy Collins

The woman who wrote from Phoenix 
after my reading there

to tell me they were all still talking about it

just wrote again
to tell me that they had stopped.

Confessions of Saint Marty


Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18: Postive Again

I was told that I've been cheating during my week of positivity because I've been saying things like, "I could say that the world is a stinking cesspool of injustice, but I'm not going to."

I don't think I'm cheating.  If I wanted to cheat, I could talk about the unrest in Gaza, the Malaysian passenger jetliner that was shot down over Ukraine, or the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest.  And then I could say something like, "The world is a really shitty place, but thank God my life is so wonderful."

That would be cheating, and I'm not a cheater.

Saint Marty is simply a man trying to remain positive in a world full of tragedy, war, violence, and Sarah Palin.

Even she can't suck the joy out of my life right now

July 18: Bestirred Herself, the Future, Twice Upon a Time

Now that the broken egg was buried, the air cleared and the barn smelled good again.  The afternoon passed, and evening came.  Shadows lengthened.  The cool and kindly breath of evening entered through doors and windows.  Astride her web, Charlotte sat moodily eating a horsefly and thinking about the future.  After a while she bestirred herself.

This passage is quite reflective.  Even Charlotte seems under some kind of spell.  The future looms on the fringes of the sentences like shadows in the Zuckerman barn.  I don't think Charlotte is nervous or frightened of what is to come.  She's moody, hungry to take charge of Wilbur's fate.  In a lot of ways, Charlotte is the architect of everybody's lives in the book.  A little gray god sitting in a cobweb.

It's really easy to fear the future.  The unknown is scary.  I would prefer to have a map of every moment.  That way, I would know what to expect.  I would have known that I was going to have to get a new job.  I would have expected not to be hired full-time by the university.   My brother's death.  The brake job on my car.  My sister's broken wrist.  None of these things would have caught me by surprise.  I would have been prepared.

I am here to say that I'm trying not to be afraid of the future.  All the time I've taken to submit my poems for publication, find publishers for my new books, and enter writing contests, those are investments in hope.  I have things to hope for, and hope is a pretty good antidote to fear.  Sure, I'm still nervous about the coming school year, my new medical office job, my teaching at the university.  But, right now, I'm optimistic about my chances for happiness.

Once upon a time, a young poet made a wish on a falling star.  "I wish," the poet said, "I knew what was going to happen to me every day."

The poet woke up the next day and ate oatmeal, went to work at the local apothecary, came home, ate some leftover mutton, and went for a walk by the lake where he saw a falling star.  "I wish," the poet said, "I knew what was going to happen to me every day."

The poet woke up the next day and ate oatmeal, went to work at the local apothecary, came home, ate some leftover mutton, and went for a walk by the lake where he saw a falling star.  "I wish," the poet said, "I knew what was going to happen to me every day."

The poet woke up the next day and ate oatmeal, went to work at the local apothecary, came home, ate some leftover mutton, and went for a walk by the lake where he saw a falling star.  "I wish," the poet said, "I knew what was going to happen to me every day."

You get the idea.

Moral of the story:  oatmeal is good for you.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after, and after, and after, and after...

Be careful what you wish for...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17: My Wife's Job

My wife's new job is going really well.  She's been getting lots of extra shifts these last few weeks, and she got called in again this afternoon.  It was only supposed to be a summer gig, but her boss told her tonight that, if she doesn't screw up, she's going to have a more permanent position.

This is a real blessing for our family.  The extra money is a welcome relief at a time when the shut-off notices are piling up.  God really does provide.  I just have to learn this lesson over and over and over and over.

Saint Marty has a long way to go in his faith journey.

Been there, done that

July 17: Another Story, Bedtime, Harry Potter

"Tell me another story!" begged Wilbur.

Charlotte tells Wilbur a story about her cousin who trapped a fish in her web.  Then she tells him a story about her cousin who was a balloonist.  Finally, Charlotte sings Wilbur a lullaby.

That pretty much describes my son's bedtime ritual.  A couple of books, a lullaby, some prayers.  Recently, I've been reading him I Love You, Stinky Face.  Tonight, however, we embarked upon Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  I thought my son would last about two sentences.  He listened for close to 25 minutes.  Almost the entire first chapter.

He really got into it.  Of course, it helped that I did my best Richard Harris and Maggie Smith impersonations.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep it up.  My Alan Rickman is a little rusty, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to pull off Emma Watson.  But I will persevere as long as my son is interested.

I'm looking forward to rediscovering the Harry Potter books.  It's been a long time since I visited Hogwarts.  For instance, I completely forgot that the first chapter of the first book is almost entirely focused on Mr. Dursley, and the writing itself obviously targets a much younger audience than the later books in the series.

I hope my son wants to return to Privet Drive tomorrow night.  Bedtime was great this evening.  Plus, it's a lot more interesting than Stinky Face.

And Saint Marty has always wanted to be a Gryffindor.

Repeat after me:  I solemnly swear I am up to no good!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 16: Working Early Tomorrow

Have to work early tomorrow morning.  It's going to be rough.  I'll be depending on lots of caffeine.  However, I will also be able to leave early, as well.  That will be a blessing.

I find this whole staying positive thing very taxing.  It's hard work staying on the bright side all the time.  Finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Looking for the silver lining.  That could be because most of the world is a stinking cesspool of injustice and despair, but I'm not going to say that.  I'm remaining optimistic.

As Erma Bombeck once said, the grass is greener over the septic tank.

Now, if you'll excuse Saint Marty, he's got some lemons to squeeze to make lemonade.

With a little luck, and a lot of sugar, things always turn out OK

July 16: It Seems to Me, Heywood Broun, an Underdog

...[White] particularly enjoyed Heywood Broun's "It Seems to Me" column in the World, which was so popular the newspaper promoted it on giant billboards.  A humorist and activist and essayist, Broun wrote about social injustice in the new prosperity following the war.  American business seemed like a train that couldn't be bothered to stop at the local stations; columnists such as Broun kept pointing out that many little people were being left behind or run over.  Broun defended labor unions and often took up the cause of an underdog who had been vilified in the more government-fawning media.

I love writers who combine elements of humor and political/social commentary.  I've read a little Heywood Broun in the past, and he really did fight for the underdog.  At a time when labor unions were almost considered criminal, Broun took up the fight for the working class.  He once ran for Congress as a Socialist.  I would have been friends with Heywood Broun had I lived in New York City in the 1920s, or I would have been his stalker.

To quote Broun, "it seems to me" there aren't enough writers like him anymore.  Writing has become too self-absorbed.  Nothing bores me more than poems or short stories or essays that are so "smart" I don't understand them.  I would prefer to read about the plight of illegal immigrants from Central America or coal miners in Kentucky.  I want something that engages not only my head but also my gut.  I like underdogs.  I root for underdogs.  I voted for Michael Dukakis, for God's sake.

My father was a plumber.  All my brothers are plumbers.  My oldest sister is a plumber.  I come from the working class.  I was taught to work hard by my parents, and I've done it my whole life.  Since I was 13 or 14, I've had jobs.  I worked with my father.  I bussed tables at the local Elks Club fish fry.  I mowed lawns.  Tutored writing.  Sold books at a bookstore.  Played the pipe organ at two different churches.  Last year, I had four W-4 forms to file for my taxes.

I believe in labor unions.  I believe in the equitable distribution of wealth.  No person should earn more money than a small African nation.  Everyone deserves decent healthcare.  World hunger should not exist.  There should be peace in the Middle East.  Hilary Clinton should be elected President of the United States.  (I'm sure that Heywood Broun would have voted for Hilary, had he not died of pneumonia in 1939.)

I'm grateful for writers who take up the cause of underdogs.  There aren't enough of them out there these days.  Mike Royko died in 1997.  Studs Terkel passed away in 2008.  Language poetry is still popular.  And Bill O'Reilly is rewriting the history of Lincoln, JFK, and Jesus.

Marty isn't a Broun or Royko or Terkel.  He's just a working-class saint who thinks Bill O'Reilly is full of shit.

Look, up in the sky!  It's a bird!  It's a plane!  It's a frog!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July 15: Harder than I Thought

Remaining positive has been more difficult than I expected.  I've been struggling to quell my natural sarcasm.  For instance, tonight, I wanted to write about how long my work day had been and how much I just want to stay in bed in the morning and how I don't have time to really write anything of substance. 

But I didn't.  I focused instead on blessings.  I'm wondering if I can train myself to be an optimist instead of a pessimist.  Of course, that would require a drastic shift in my person.  I've embraced the Dark Side for a long time.  It will take more than Yoda to change me back.  If I had been Dorothy, I probably would have left the Scarecrow in the cornfield.  If I had been Elliott, E. T. would have died.  If I had been Moses, I would have thrown water on the burning bush.

Saint Marty is a work in progress.

Someone call the Fire Department!

July 15: A Whole Noodle, Finding Blessings, Giving Thanks

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

Wilbur struggles with his feelings for Templeton.  After all, the rat doesn't do a whole lot to make himself likeable.  He steals food and prowls the garbage dump.  Templeton is a rat, and E. B. White didn't have a great fondness for rats.  But White makes Templeton a hero.  Wilbur knows that Charlotte would have ended up in Avery's bug collection if it hadn't been for Templeton's buried rotten goose egg.  The little pig recognizes that the rat has been a blessing, and Wilbur gives thanks.

Sometimes it's hard to recognize blessings, especially if you're a natural pessimist, like me.  Right now, I could complain that I'm tired, that I don't have enough money to pay for my daughter's braces, that I just received another shut-off notice from a utility company.  I'm great at complaining, because modern society is geared toward making people feel inadequate.  I'm not thin enough.  My house isn't big enough.  My car isn't new enough.  I don't look like Brad Pitt or George Clooney.

Yet, blessings are all around me.  I have a job.  I work with good people.  My kids are healthy.  My car is in good shape.  My house doesn't have mice.  There's food in my refrigerator.  I sometimes get to do things I love--read my poetry, play in a band, have friends over to talk about books.  Eat an occasional brownie.  So, I really am blessed.  I have enough.  Just enough.

My prayer focus this week is giving thanks, every day.  Thanks for the good things and the bad things, because bad things (like rats) can sometimes be the catalyst of grace.

Repeat after Saint Marty:  "I am blessed.  I am blessed.  I am blessed."

A blessing for a disease-carrying, filthy rodent.

Monday, July 14, 2014

July 14: Nothing Too Deep

It's after 11 p.m.  The late news is on.  It's getting cold outside.  My little part of the world is going to get pretty chilly tonight.  Record low temperatures.

The meteorologists aren't calling it a polar vortex.  They're calling it something like a polar dip or trough or something like that.  Whatever its name, it is definitely going to be frigid.  It is mid-July.  It's supposed to be 90 degrees and muggy.

Instead, it looks like there's going to be frost on the dandelions tomorrow morning.

Saint Marty put his ice scraper away a couple weeks ago.  That might have been a mistake.

Frosty isn't welcome here

July 14: A Good Night of Candles, Brownies, and a "Web" Dip

Hey, guys and gals.  It's really late.  My wife and I just finished cleaning up our house.  We hosted a Partylite candle party this evening.  Lots of wax, a couple cheese balls, and brownies.  Family and friends came, and we had a really good time.

But it's really late, and I just got a chance to sit down with my laptop.  This post is not going to be long.  I don't have the energy or time.  What I have is a lot of happiness.  And cheese.  The brownies are all gone.

My Web dip question is:

Will I be blessed by a full-time teaching job at the university this year?  (What the hell?  I don't have anything to lose here.)

Next morning, Wilbur arose and stood beneath the web.  He breathed the morning air into his lungs.  Drops of dew, catching the sun, made the web stand out clearly.  When Lurvy arrived with breakfast, there was the handsome pig, and over him, woven neatly in block letters, was the word TERRIFIC.  Another miracle.

I'll take that.  A terrific miracle.

Now all Saint Marty needs is a spider to weave a web that reads HIRE THIS MAN in the English Department office.

A miracle with cheddar

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13: Blessed Sunday, Quiet, Classic Saint Marty

After the chaos of yesterday, today is quiet, sunny, and cool.  A perfect Sunday afternoon.  I am thankful for this time of leisure.  I'm sure, if I thought hard enough, I could come up with some job I need to finish.  However, I don't feel like thinking hard.

I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the blessings of the day.  I may even go out on the back porch of my parents' house and take a nap.  Or I may nap on the couch, which looks a lot more comfortable.

I have a Classic Saint Marty from three years ago, and it contains a poem that, when I first wrote it, I didn't really like.  This afternoon, when I reread it, I found it much improved.

You be the judge.

July 13, 2011:  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