Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 31: A Dream, Prayer, New Cartoon

Robert once had a dream when he was about ten years old, just after the family had returned home from Italy and he had received the Pope's blessing.  He and his father were strolling in Riverside Park, as they sometimes did in good weather, and even though there were no streams in that park, in his memory of it a stream came flowing down the hill south of Grant's Tomb.  He would remember seeing Jesus Christ standing waist high in the water, not as a grown man but as a boy of his own age.  And Jesus turned to him and beckoned, and that was the first time, he supposed, that he thought of becoming a priest.

Robert [Ives' son] struggles with his decision to enter the priesthood.  He has a girlfriend who he cares about a great deal.  He spies on a young woman from the neighborhood as she undresses in her bedroom.  On some nights, he plays in an amateur jazz band with his school friends.  He's not sure if he wants to be a priest, a husband, or a musician.  Yet, God sends him a message in a dream.  He interprets it as a call to the priesthood.  It could also be a premonition of his early death, as well.

God doesn't usually provide clear-cut answers.  We don't live in Old Testament times, when angels appeared on your doorstep and delivered personal messages from Yahweh.  No, we live in the twenty-first century.  God doesn't text or tweet or have a Facebook page.  Divine messages with clear-cut answers or instructions are a thing of the past.  Way past.

I have a friend who's struggling with a difficult question recently.  She was advised to meditate, clear her mind, and wait for some kind of answer from God.  It didn't go so well.  As a thinking, intelligent person, she couldn't stop her own thought long enough for any kind of answer from on high.  She just continued struggling.

My friend has made her decision.  I'm not sure how inspired it was, but she feels it was the correct one for her.  I just wish we lived in a world where angels still dropped by for coffee and God parted seas and turned bad guys into pillars of salt.  It would be a little easier to know right from wrong.  I'm a little tired of living in a gray world, if you get my meaning.

Maybe God's going to visit me in a dream tonight.  Maybe some seraphim is going to be waiting on my doorstep when I get home tonight.

Saint Marty should check his e-mail.  Maybe God sent him a prayer confirmation.

Confessions of Saint Marty

January 30: First Month of 2015, Rebecca Schumejda, "Black Banana"

Well, the first month of 2015 is almost over.  In the past month, one of my daughter's friend's was nearly killed in a car accident.  My sister ended up in the hospital with an infection that almost killed her.  It seems like all I've been doing all month is praying for people in dire circumstances.

Sometimes, it's difficult to understand why things happen.  Really good people are beheaded by terrorists.  Young girls sustain horrible injuries.  Republicans gain control of Congress.  Sisters get sicker and sicker.  How do you make sense of stuff like that?  Maybe through poetry.

Saint Marty has another poem from Rattle's "Poets Respond" series.  It's about making sense of a senseless situation.  And it's about bananas.

Black Banana

by:  Rebecca Schumejda

When my daughter wants to know
how someone could leave a baby
in a car all day by accident,
I think about how a few years back
she left a banana
wedged behind her car seat
for an entire week
and we could not
figure out what stunk.
After finding it, I looked up
“black bananas” online,
discovered there is a band
that goes by that name and
mothers who blog about
finding them forgotten
in diaper bags.
I saw images of
black banana hair clips
and big, black cocks.
I felt guilty that I wasn’t
patient enough, loving enough
calm enough to take a mistake
and turn it into a lesson. 
Back then, I yelled at her
as if she had murdered
the banana, Look what you did!
I screamed waving it at her
before throwing it into our backyard.
Now, I am thinking about that banana,
as she waits for my response,
how if somehow
I could peel it,
the answer would be there
like banana bread
just pulled from the oven. 

January 30: Guardian Angels, Christian Faith, Godless Fairy Tale

Determined to show Robert [his son] the same kindness that his father had shown him, Ives would teach his son about religion, for which the boy truly seemed to have a talent.  They would go off to church together, and the boy learned how to put his hands together in prayer, to kneel, to bow his head, and to make the Sign of the Cross.  And Ives would tell him, "All this may seem confusing to you now, but when you're a little older, it will become clear."  He told him about how tongues of fire and soaring doves symbolized the spirit.  He told him about the notion of a soul and guardian angels, and about the Holy Trinity.

Mr. Ives' Christmas is a book about a lot of things.  Depression.  Sorrow.  Forgiveness.  It's also about religion and faith.  In fact, I would say that it is one of the best religious books I've ever read, and it's disguised as a novel about a good man who has to endure great tragedies in his life and, in the end, retains his faith in God.  No, I'm not talking about Job, although Job and Ives would have a lot to talk about over a cup of coffee.  Ives' faith is deep, and he passes on this faith to his son at a very young age.

I have been in academia for a long time.  I've been a working college instructor for going on 25 years.  In my experience, there is a lot of eye rolling in the halls of a university whenever the subject of Christianity comes up.  It's as if most "well educated" professionals think of the Christian faith as an intellectual weakness.  If you believe in Jesus Christ and the narrative of His passion and resurrection, you are automatically lumped together with fanatics and zealots and Twilight fans.  Well-intentioned, but hopelessly misguided and, in many ways, not very enlightened.

I have been battling this attitude for most of my adult life. In classes I took as a graduate student, in conversations at English Department parties, in the classroom when I teach, jokes about Christian religions (and especially about Catholicism) are litmus tests.  If you ridicule and/or laugh at Catholic dogma, you are part of the in crowd.  Smart.  Savvy.  Intellectually cool.

Don't get me wrong.  I like a good Catholic joke as much as the next former parochial school student.  However, there is a difference between a joke about Catholics told by a Catholic and a joke about Catholics told by an English professor in order to demean.  Nothing brings a conversation to a halt in the English Department hallway after a Catholic joke has been told than saying, "You know, I find that really offensive."  Suddenly, the joke teller is cast into the role of insensitive, possibly bigoted, bully.

I am a Christian.  I am a Catholic.  I am also an English professor.  A poet.  An intellectual.  These things are not mutually exclusive.  They are complementary.  A Christian intellectual is a person who integrates the mind and spirit.  A Christian intellectual is more whole, in my opinion.  The same can be said of Jewish intellectuals.  Hindu.  Buddhist.  Muslim.  All of the faith traditions provide a wider understanding of the human condition.  And that's what being enlightened is all about.

Which reminds me of a little story.

Once upon a time, an inventor named Ben decided to build a machine that would prove that God did not exist.

Ben worked day and night on his machine.  He built a telescope so powerful it could see beyond the smallest star in the heavens.  The telescope proved that infinity existed, but it didn't prove that God did not exist.  Ben then built a microscope so powerful it made electrons look like planets.  The microscope proved that everything was made of fractals, but it didn't prove that God did not exist.

Finally, Ben built a speaker so sensitive it could hear a butterfly flap its wings on the other side of the world.  As Ben listened, he could hear a voice.  He leaned in closer to the speaker.

"Ben," the voice said, "why don't you believe Me?"

"God," Ben said, "is that You?"

"Ben," the voice said, louder, "why don't you believe Me?"

"God," Ben said again, "is that You?"

"Ben," the voice said, even louder than before, "why don't you believe Me?"

"God," Ben said, "do You exist?"

There was silence in the speaker for a few moments.  Then, the voice said, "Ben, why don't you just Google Me and stop fucking around?"

Moral of the story:  Even God uses Google.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

On the eighth day, God made Google

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 28: Headline Poems, Lynne Knight, "On Hearing of Robin Williams' Diagnosis"

The poetry magazine Rattle does something remarkable every week.  It's a poetic challenge, really.  It's pretty simple:  write a poem based on a story from the week's news.  It can be something global or national or local.  Anything taken from the headlines.

The challenge is an attempt to make poetry seem relevant to a society that has grown up with the Internet and texts and tweets.  A society that feeds on instant information.  The moment something happens.  Poetry used to be important, dangerous even.  World leaders feared poets because poets turned a spotlight on injustice and cruelty and disaster.

Yes, poetry used to be a conduit of truth.

That's why Saint Marty loves these poems from Rattle.  They speak of something deep and raw.

On Hearing of Robin Williams' Diagnosis

by:  Lynne Knight

My mother had Lewy body dementia, too, a late
diagnosis. Eight years of losing all trace
of herself, like someone following her shadow
into a forest that got deeper and deeper
until it became what Thoreau called
standing night. Her name was Knight,
so sometimes I would think of her as
Standing Night, her shadow lost altogether
by then. Her words, her understanding.
So when I heard that Robin Williams
had the same ruinous disease, I thought
what a generous thing he had done,
what a courageous thing, without the help
of drugs or alcohol or anyone, not wanting
to implicate anyone in his death in a state
where assisted suicide is forbidden.
I thought if there were an afterworld
where the soul is restored to its original
form, my mother would find her way
to Robin Williams and tell him he’d done
the right thing, the thing she would have done
if she’d known all she had coming.
But I don’t believe the soul continues.
The spirit lives on in the hearts of others,
so Robin Williams will live as close
as it gets to forever. As for my mother,
she’d be content to know how much
my sister and I miss her, how we still
talk to her, how we rely on her wisdom
to stand us by on darkest nights.

January 28: A Murmur, Worries, My Children

When Robert was born a murmur was found in his heart, and although the doctor told Ives that such conditions were common enough, Ives still had suffered, his morbid fantasies getting the best of him.  Thinking not just about his own past, but about the myriad possibilities for disaster, Ives found it quite impossible to sleep and would spend half the night sitting by his son's crib, fretful when he cried or had normal digestive problems, colic and the like...

A first-time father, Ives worries.  A lot.  In fact, Ives never really gets over this phase of fatherhood.  He worries constantly.  Later in the book, when Robert tells Ives that he's thinking of becoming a priest, Ives, a pious and devoted Catholic, worries about Robert's happiness.  Ives doesn't want his son to miss out on any of the world's joys, including sex, marriage, and fatherhood.  Even in moments of great joy, Ives waits for something dark to swoop in and rain disaster.

I'm a lot like Ives.  I worry.  This morning, my son had a meltdown over taking his medicine.  He dissolved into screaming and crying and kicking.  This medicine really helps my son.  It calms him down and helps him focus during the day.  His teachers have noticed the difference.  His aunts have noticed the difference.  We've noticed the difference at home.  He's a happier kid, less prone to tantrums and hysterics.

And now, tonight, I'm worrying about tomorrow morning.  I'm worried about whether or not my son is going to repeat today's episode.  I'm worried that he's never going to take his medicine again, and we're going to return to the kindergarten year, where we were receiving phone calls from his principal and teachers every other day.  Him punching a classmate in the face.  Him kicking his music teacher.  Him bending and breaking a tree on the playground.  That's my worry this evening.

Next weekend, my daughter has her ballet recital, a performance of Sleeping Beauty.  I'm worried about that, too.  I'm worried that her pointe shoes are going to get wet or collapse.  (I can't afford to get her an extra pair.)   That parts of her costumes will go missing.  That she'll fracture her foot or sprain her ankle or strain her back.

I'm like Ives, sitting by Robert's crib in the middle of the night, imagining all kinds of calamities.  Murmurs of the heart and body and spirit.  I love my children.  Want only the best for them.  It's a difficult vigil to keep, being the sentinel of safety and hope and happiness for my daughter and son.  And it's a little exhausting.  But that's why I work from eight o'clock in the morning until ten or eleven o'clock at night.  To give my kids opportunities to be the best they can be.  That's all any parent wants, isn't it?

That's what Saint Marty wants.

Worry works for me...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

January 27: A Handsome Baby, Fatherhood, Luckiest Guy in the World

Ives was twenty-eight when Robert was born, and from the start Ives had been surprised by his paternal instincts; it was almost inconceivable that someone so good and pure could have come from him.  He was a handsome baby, with big, blue intelligently cast eyes, and a hint of sadness that must have come from his father.  He had Annie's Celtic coloring and a symmetrical, pleasing, high-cheekboned face.  Well behaved from the start, a baby who never cried much and had, like his parents, a quiet disposition, he would naturally become Ives' favorite and grew into a loving and considerate son.

I love this description of Ives as a father.  His wonder and adoration of his son.  It touches upon one of the mysteries of parenthood:  how a person is transformed from a "me" person into a "we" person.  Ives lets go of dreams of being a famous artist and embraces dreams of proms and graduations.  Ives' children, Robert and Caroline, really become his masterworks.  His greatest contributions to the future.

I remember the weeks leading up to the birth of my daughter.  Sleepless nights, worrying about how I was going to share my time and energy and love with this little invader.  When my wife was in labor, I sat by her hospital bed, terrified.  I knew nothing about bottles or formula or diapers.  I was the baby of my family.  I never had to take care of younger siblings.  And then, just after sunrise, I was handed this pink creature, shivering and fragile in my arms.  I looked into her eyes and found my reason for living.

My daughter and son teach me daily how to be a better person.  Fatherhood is not a state.  It's a journey, and I've been traveling for over 14 years now.  I've learned a few things along the way.  Dance lessons are expensive, but seeing my daughter pirouette and leap is priceless.  Football bores me, but my son is probably going to be a linebacker.  Children have a way of confounding your dreams.  I want my daughter to love poetry and literature, but she loves math and science.  I want my son to study ballet, but he wants to play basketball. 

My kids frustrate and surprise me like that all the time.  Tonight, I picked my daughter up from dance, and, for the entire drive home, we talked about Jimmy Stewart and writing and books.  Tomorrow morning, my son will sit in the car with me, listening and singing along with the radio.  Fatherhood is made up of moments like this.  Small.  Intimate.  Wondrous.

Saint Marty is the luckiest guy in the world.

Darn kids...

Monday, January 26, 2015

January 26: Working Hard, , Daydream, "Ives" Dip

I have been working pretty hard all day long.  Eight hours in the medical office.  Then, I took my son to religion class.  I spent a couple hours at church, listening to a video about confession and penance.  At least, that's what I think it was about.  I was sort of reading and preparing for teaching while the video was playing.  (I know, I know.  I'm going to hell.)  After I got home and got my son in bed, I took out my laptop and did additional schoolwork for a couple of hours.  It is now 10:10 p.m., and my eyes are burning.

I got a lot done today.  I have a whole lot more to do tomorrow, but I'm in pretty good shape at the moment.  I have to admit that I did daydream a little bit tonight about having a full-time teaching job.  One where I could go to the university, sit in my office for a few hours, and get all my crap done during the day so that I could actually relax a little bit.  At the moment, relaxation for me is when I fall asleep around midnight.

It's a daydream in which I indulge frequently.  To have a somewhat normal life with normal hours.  I have never had that.  Ever.  Since I entered the work force, I have always held down, at the minimum, two jobs.  At times, that number has climbed to four.  Currently, I have a full-time job (the medical office) and a part-time job (the university).  And I'm exhausted.

I'm not complaining.  I have learned a long time ago that complaining doesn't do any good.  It just makes me more miserable, and it doesn't really make for compelling reading on this blog.  I'm not the first poet to hold down a day job.  Wallace Stevens sold insurance.  William Carlos Williams was a doctor.  (That's why most of Williams' poems are so short.  He wrote them on the back of prescription pads.)

My question tonight for my Ives Dip is pretty straightfoward:

Am I ever going to get a full-time teaching job at the university?

And the answer from Oscar Hiljuelos is:

Slowly [Ives] began to earn more money, to dress better, and finally to settle into a series of relaxing affectations that defined the creative people in his field.

More money.  Better clothes.  Relaxing affectations.  Looks like Saint Marty's going to finally get his dream job.  Or he's going to write pornography for a living.

Sometimes, I don't even find myself interesting

Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 25: Shoveling Snow and Book Club, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

It is a little after 4 p.m.  I have spent the day preparing my home for the invasion of book lovers.  The members of my book club are showing up at 6:30 tonight to discuss Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See.  A great book, probably headed for at least a Pulitzer Prize nomination this year.

So, Friday night I cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed.  Last night, I swept and mopped the hardwood floors, and then I made a double batch of mini crescent weenies.  And, this afternoon, I shoveled my front yard and driveway.  (Split my pants in the process.  I took a spill in the street and felt the seams of my pants give way.  There was a brisk breeze blowing through my nether regions for the rest of the shoveling.) 

In a little while, I will heat up my weenies (please refrain from any crude jokes) and put out some plates and utensils.  It will be a good night with good friends.  A nice way to end the weekend.  And there will be plenty of good food to eat.

Today's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired two years ago.  I was teaching poetry to a group of second graders...

January 25, 2013:  My Best Subject, Second Graders, Poetry

...All I said was English was my best subject.

"Oh, really?  Oh, I'm so glad!" the one with the glasses, that taught English, said.  "What have you read this year?  I'd be very interested to know."  She really was.

Holden is speaking to a nun he has met in a restaurant.  The nun teaches English, and she strikes up a conversation with Holden about Romeo and Juliet.  Her enthusiasm reminds me of many of the middle and grade school teachers I've known.  They have unbridled enthusiasm for their students and subjects.  And they fill me with their enthusiasm.

This morning, I taught poetry to a class of second graders.  Their teacher, "Ms. Rita," was my daughter's kindergarten teacher.  I've been teaching poetry lessons to her classes ever since.  Six years in a row, and I've loved each time.  There's something very uninhibited about six- and seven-year-olds.  They are game for almost anything.  I've had Ms. Rita's students write poems about colors and animals and themselves and similes.

This year, I had them write found poems.  Basically, a found poem is a poem assembled from the lines and words of another source.  I did a poem based on Jack Prelutsky's work.  I did another based on Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.  And I did a third one based on words I found on a package of Dove chocolates.  Then, the second graders had to "find" their own poems.

The class had just finished reading the story of the Gingerbread Man, so a lot of them chose that as a source.  It was fun and a little out-of-control.  We talked about chocolate and hippo chips and math.  And, after an hour, they sang me their "Thank You" song.  It was awesome.

Saint Marty wishes his college students were a little more like second graders, or maybe Saint Marty needs to be more like a nun.

I'm not sure this would be a good look for me

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, January 24, 2015

January 24: His Habits, Daydreams, Mary Ruefle, "Saga," New Cartoon

[Ives] had his habits.  In the office by eight-thirty, lunch at one, home (God willing) at six, though quitting time often varied.  Once a day, usually at four in the afternoon, he'd call his wife, careful not to disturb her between noon and three, when one of the next-door neighbors would watch his son, and Annie might do whatever she liked:  pursue her studies, go to a library, see old friends, or, if she liked, try some drawings herself.  He liked riding elevators up to his office on the tenth floor, and one morning had the fantasy that the elevator would continue onward like a Jules Verne/Wernher von Braun rocket to the stars.  Many daydreams.

I think the reason I love Mr. Ives' Christmas so much is that I identify so strongly with Ives.  Ives is a man of habit.  I am a man of habit.  Ives adores his wife and kids, would do anything for them.  Ditto me.  And Ives daydreams in a very Walter Mitty way at times.  Elevators turning into rockets to the stars.  I have similar fantasies, especially on particularly tedious work days.

My daydreams are a little less fantastic than Ives' daydreams.  I don't want my car to suddenly transform into a submarine so I can drive into Lake Superior and hunt for a giant lake sturgeon.  My fantasies are more grounded in some form of reality.  For instance, I once read a story about how the writer James Michener was working in a business office after the publication of his first book, Tales of the South Pacific.  A tedious, mind-deadening job.  Suddenly, the phone rings.  It's a call for Michener.  On the line is a reporter from a newspaper, informing him that he's just been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  That was the last day of office work for Michener.  That's the kind of fantasy in which I indulge.  Sudden, surprising acclaim.  Something to lift me out of the everyday drudgery.

I love the freedom of weekends, when I can pretend I'm in charge of my life a little more.  I still have obligations, but they are obligations of my own choosing.  People don't tell me what to do.  I make and follow my own schedule.  Of course, there's still a little daydreaming going on.  For instance, sitting here, typing this post, I imagine suddenly receiving an e-mail from a literary agent, raving about my blog and begging to represent me.  I know, I know.  Delusions of grandeur.  But cut me some slack, please.  It's the weekend.  I'll be back to my structured existence in two days.  Until then, I can dream.

I have another poem from Best American Poetry 2014.  It's about life and time and eternity and repetition.  How we are all part of the same story, told over and over.

Saint Marty would choose to repeat James Michener's story tonight.  Or maybe Robert Frost's.


by:  Mary Ruefle

Everything that ever happened to me
is just hanging--crushed
and sparkling--in the air,
waiting to happen to you.
Everything that ever happened to me
happened to somebody else first.
I would give you an example
but they are all invisible.
Or off gallivanting around the globe.
Not here when I need them
now that I need them
if I ever did which I doubt.
Being particular has its problems.
In particular there is a rift through everything.
There is a rift running the length of Iceland
and so a rift runs through every family
and between families as a feud.
It's called a saga.  Rifts and sagas
fill the air, and beautiful old women
sing of them, so the air is filled with
music and the smell of berries and apples
and shouting when a gun goes off
and crying in closed rooms.
Faces, who needs them?
Eating the blood of oranges
I in my alcove could use one.
Abbas and ammas!
come out of your huts, travel
halfway around the world,
inspect my secret bank account of joy!
My face is a jar of honey
you can look through,
you can see everything
is muted, so terribly muted,
who could ever speak of it,
sealed and held up for all?

Confessions of Saint Marty

January 23: Another Sharon Olds Poem, Stanley Kunitz, "Stanley Kunitz Ode"

The poem from Best American Poetry 2014 is by Sharon Olds.  I know what you're thinking:  "Another Sharon Olds poem?!"

The reason I chose this poem tonight is that I heard Sharon read a draft of it in California seven or eight years ago.  I was taking a week-long poetry workshop from Sharon in Big Sur.  Every morning and every night, I got to sit in a room with Sharon Olds and talk about poetry.  It seems like a dream now.  Like it never happened.  Every once in a while though, I come across reminders that it really happened.

When I read the poem below, I had a clear memory of sitting with Sharon one afternoon.  She took out her spiral notebook, and she started reading this beautiful tribute to her friend, the poet Stanley Kunitz.  It was so moving.  When she was done reading, she closed her notebook and said, "I have to run this one by Stanley."

Saint Marty did not dream that.

Stanley Kunitz Ode

by:  Sharon Olds

Ninety-five years before he died,
Stanley found an abandoned kitten
in the woods of Worcester.  Stanley's father
had drunk Drano in a public park, while
Stanley had still been turning, a nebula
slowly taking human form
inside his mother.  And when he found
the lost cat, he took it home
and gave it a box in the attic, under
the stars where his father was wheeling, and he raised
his feline companion--I don't know girl
or boy--without his mother much noticing,
hard as she worked, silent as she kept.
And his pet grew, and when they got to the woods he would
take off the collar and leash and they would
frolic together, she-he/he-she would
teach Stanley, already sinuous,
to slink and hunt.  And I don't know who it
was who suddenly saw that Stanley's
companion, growing stronger and bigger and
lither, was a bobcat, and none of us
was there the night Stanley released her-him
or there when it rose in him, the desire
to seek a feline of his own species.
And when he was 98, and Elise
had gone ahead, leaving her words and
images behind her, casting the skin of them,
I saw, in city in Ohio, an elegant
shaving-brush-soft replica bobcat,
and brought it back to West 12th, along with the
usual chocolates, and flowers, and a demo of my
latest progress toward a model's sashay on the catwalk.
And after that, when I'd come over, in those
outfits I wore then, Diana-ing
for a man, Stanley would be holding the stuffed
animal, and petting it,
nape to rump, nape to rump,
stub of the bob tail--98,
99, 100, those huge old beautiful
hands, stroking the world, which hummed when Stanley stroked it.

Stanley's hands

January 23: Dull Assignments, Work, Tedious Fairy Tale

At first, the job in itself, as an illustrator, was not so hard as tedious, [Ives'] hours spent with some rather dull assignments...

Ives is not excited by the job that becomes his career.  He is an ad man.  Working for a New York agency, Ives draws illustrations for products like floor polish.  It isn't fine art, but it pays the bills.  Ives is able to send his kids to school, go on trips to Italy with his family, and buy his wife books and jazz records.  His artistic dreams take a back seat to life's day-to-day necessities.

I understand the sacrifices Ives makes.  Doing work that is tedious and dull.  Uninspiring.  There is nothing glamorous in the work I do for the medical office.  For the majority of the time, I stand at a window, greet patients, and scan medical insurance cards.  For hours.  I try to liven it up with jokes and cartoon and polka music (really, I do), but tedium is a difficult dragon to slay.

I sometimes dream of quitting my jobs and devoting myself completely to my writing.  I know a couple of people who are, literally, full-time poets, supplemented with teaching gigs and grant-funded workshops.  They are not wealthy.  They walk the poverty line every day of their lives.  But they are happy, doing what they love.  Unfortunately, I've had a work ethic instilled in me so strongly that I would shovel manure in order to provide for my family.  Poetry has to take a backseat a lot of the time.

I'm not complaining.  I'm lucky to have the work.  I know this.  Yet, every once in a while (on bad days, every five minutes), I picture myself at home, in my pajamas, scribbling away in my journal to tapping away on a keyboard.  Writing.  Today was one of those bad days.  I was distracted.  Bored.  A little fed-up.  The English Department at the university is interviewing for several positions at the moment.  And I'm not qualified for any of them.  That depresses me a little.

Once upon a time, a man sat down to write a fairy tale based on his life.  He scribbled, "Once upon a time..."  The man sat there for several moments trying to think of something magical or interesting.  He couldn't.  So he typed, "...a man sat down to write a fairy tale based on his life."

Then he sat there again.  And he sat.  And sat.  And sat.  He sat all day and all night.

Eventually, the sun rose, and the man still had no fairy tale.  So, picking up his quill, he scribbled, "And the man lived tediously ever after."  Then the man got dressed and went to his dull job.

And Saint Marty lived tediously ever after.

Make that two...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

January 22: Difficult Poem, Patricia Lockwook. "Rape Joke"

I have a difficult poem tonight.  It comes from Best American Poetry 2014, but, since it was first published, it has gone viral.  Everybody has been talking about this poem, and that's a good thing.  Poetry should evoke conversation.  Outrage.  Discussion.

Saint Marty isn't sure if this is a great poem, but it's an important one.

Rape Joke

by:  Patricia Lockwood

The rape joke is that you were 19 years old.

The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend.

The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee.

Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. “Ahhhh,” it thinks. “Yes. A goatee.”

No offense.

The rape joke is that he was seven years older. The rape joke is that you had known him for years, since you were too young to be interesting to him. You liked that use of the word interesting, as if you were a piece of knowledge that someone could be desperate to acquire, to assimilate, and to spit back out in different form through his goateed mouth.

Then suddenly you were older, but not very old at all.

The rape joke is that you had been drinking wine coolers. Wine coolers! Who drinks wine coolers? People who get raped, according to the rape joke.

The rape joke is he was a bouncer, and kept people out for a living.

Not you!

The rape joke is that he carried a knife, and would show it to you, and would turn it over and over in his hands as if it were a book.

He wasn’t threatening you, you understood. He just really liked his knife.

The rape joke is he once almost murdered a dude by throwing him through a plate-glass window. The next day he told you and he was trembling, which you took as evidence of his sensitivity.

How can a piece of knowledge be stupid? But of course you were so stupid.

The rape joke is that sometimes he would tell you you were going on a date and then take you over to his best friend Peewee’s house and make you watch wrestling while they all got high.

The rape joke is that his best friend was named Peewee.
OK, the rape joke is that he worshiped The Rock.

Like the dude was completely in love with The Rock. He thought it was so great what he could do with his eyebrow.

The rape joke is he called wrestling “a soap opera for men.” Men love drama too, he assured you.

The rape joke is that his bookshelf was just a row of paperbacks about serial killers. You mistook this for an interest in history, and laboring under this misapprehension you once gave him a copy of G√ľnter Grass’s My Century, which he never even tried to read.

It gets funnier.

The rape joke is that he kept a diary. I wonder if he wrote about the rape in it.

The rape joke is that you read it once, and he talked about another girl. He called her Miss Geography, and said “he didn’t have those urges when he looked at her anymore,” not since he met you. Close call, Miss Geography!

The rape joke is that he was your father’s high-school student—your father taught World Religion. You helped him clean out his classroom at the end of the year, and he let you take home the most beat-up textbooks.

The rape joke is that he knew you when you were 12 years old. He once helped your family move two states over, and you drove from Cincinnati to St. Louis with him, all by yourselves, and he was kind to you, and you talked the whole way. He had chaw in his mouth the entire time, and you told him he was disgusting and he laughed, and spat the juice through his goatee into a Mountain Dew bottle.

The rape joke is that come on, you should have seen it coming. This rape joke is practically writing itself.

The rape joke is that you were facedown. The rape joke is you were wearing a pretty green necklace that your sister had made for you. Later you cut that necklace up. The mattress felt a specific way, and your mouth felt a specific way open against it, as if you were speaking, but you know you were not. As if your mouth were open ten years into the future, reciting a poem called Rape Joke.

The rape joke is that time is different, becomes more horrible and more habitable, and accommodates your need to go deeper into it.

Just like the body, which more than a concrete form is a capacity.

You know the body of time is elastic, can take almost anything you give it, and heals quickly.

The rape joke is that of course there was blood, which in human beings is so close to the surface.

The rape joke is you went home like nothing happened, and laughed about it the next day and the day after that, and when you told people you laughed, and that was the rape joke.

It was a year before you told your parents, because he was like a son to them. The rape joke is that when you told your father, he made the sign of the cross over you and said, “I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” which even in its total wrongheadedness, was so completely sweet.

The rape joke is that you were crazy for the next five years, and had to move cities, and had to move states, and whole days went down into the sinkhole of thinking about why it happened. Like you went to look at your backyard and suddenly it wasn’t there, and you were looking down into the center of the earth, which played the same red event perpetually.

The rape joke is that after a while you weren’t crazy anymore, but close call, Miss Geography.

The rape joke is that for the next five years all you did was write, and never about yourself, about anything else, about apples on the tree, about islands, dead poets and the worms that aerated them, and there was no warm body in what you wrote, it was elsewhere.

The rape joke is that this is finally artless. The rape joke is that you do not write artlessly.

The rape joke is if you write a poem called Rape Joke, you’re asking for it to become the only thing people remember about you.

The rape joke is that you asked why he did it. The rape joke is he said he didn’t know, like what else would a rape joke say? The rape joke said YOU were the one who was drunk, and the rape joke said you remembered it wrong, which made you laugh out loud for one long split-open second. The wine coolers weren’t Bartles & Jaymes, but it would be funnier for the rape joke if they were. It was some pussy flavor, like Passionate Mango or Destroyed Strawberry, which you drank down without question and trustingly in the heart of Cincinnati Ohio.

Can rape jokes be funny at all, is the question.

Can any part of the rape joke be funny. The part where it ends—haha, just kidding! Though you did dream of killing the rape joke for years, spilling all of its blood out, and telling it that way.

The rape joke cries out for the right to be told.

The rape joke is that this is just how it happened.

The rape joke is that the next day he gave you Pet Sounds. No really. Pet Sounds. He said he was sorry and then he gave you Pet Sounds. Come on, that’s a little bit funny.

Admit it.

January 22: Introspective, Consideration, Thinking of Myself

Independent-minded, [Annie Ives] divided the world into two categories of people:  those who were introspective and gave true thought and consideration to others and those who were not.  She considered Ives to be the rare case of a man in the first category and the men in her family in the latter.  She once told Ives, while they walked along the boardwalk of Coney Island, that, in her opinion the troubles in life were started by people who never looked into their own souls.  He walked along holding her hand and nodding.  He was astounded, a woman nearly as introspective as himself, who loved him.

Ives is a quiet man who really does care about others.  He doesn't harbor any illusions about himself.  A serviceable artist with some talent, Ives knows he is not a Picasso or Disney.  He uses that talent to support his family, help out his friends, and provide support to his church and community.  He is what would be called a pillar:  respected by all who know him.

I am not Ives.  I harbor illusions about myself.  I have entered a particular poetry contest every year for the last five years.  The prize in the contest is $10,000.  Every year, I convince myself that I stand a chance of winning that money (an amount that could really change anybody's life, but particularly a poet's life).  And every year, I have lost.  Even as I sit here typing this post, I am convinced it's only a matter of time until I inevitably am crowned the victor.  Illusions.

I spend a good deal of time thinking about myself, and I worry about what other people think about me.  Sure, I try to help out my family and friends as much as I can.  I volunteer at church (although I have scaled these activities back drastically due to church leadership decisions, among other things).  And, when I can, I provide community writing workshops and visit local school classrooms (although not as much as I would like).  But all of these things don't make me an Ives.  I am not a pillar.

At the moment, I am obsessed with the idea of being the next U. P. Poet Laureate.  I don't stand a chance, but, in the dark hours of early morning, I allow myself to imagine a scenario where it happens.  And it gives me no small amount of pleasure.  That makes me a little bit egotistical.  Maybe even prideful.  Regardless of who is named Poet Laureate instead of me, I will probably convince myself that he/she is of mediocre talent and probably paid for votes.  Like I said, I'm not Ives.

The other thing with which I'm obsessed are pageviews to this blog.  Currently, I'm averaging less that 50 a day.  I'm used to getting over a hundred daily.  It's bugging me a great deal.  I'm taking it personally.  Yes, I have missed posting a couple of nights.  Yes, it's January, and people are probably still trying to make good on their New Year's resolutions to go to the gym more to exercise and lose weight.  There are probably a million reasons why my readership is down, and none of them have to do with me.  That doesn't stop me from feeling like a loser every time I check the stats from this blog.

I take everything personally.  Unreturned e-mails and phone calls.  Rejections from editors of magazines.  My daughter's refusal to kiss me goodnight.  I could keep going.

Saint Marty is not Edward Ives.  Saint Marty is more like Miley Cyrus, twerking for anybody who will take notice.

I'm not the only one

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

January 20: Lynn Emanuel, Philip Dacey, "Juilliard Cento Sonnet"

Tonight, I'm a happy poet.

I an the new Poetry Editor of the university's literary magazine.  Every year, the magazine sponsors a poetry contest.  It's a pretty big deal.  Well, I have been trying to nail down a distinguished poet to judge the contest for the last few weeks.  So, last night, I blind e-mailed the poet Lynn Emanuel, thinking I stood about a snowball's chance in the Gobi of getting her to be the judge.

This morning, I received a lovely response from Ms. Emanuel, accepting the responsibility.  That response restored my faith in the poetic world.

And the poem I have for tonight also restores my faith in the poetic world.  A wonderful sonnet from The Best American Poetry 2014.

Marty is a happy saint tonight.

Juilliard Cento Sonnet

by:  Philip Dacey

Use every centimeter of the air.
That phrase needs elasticity, breathing room.
We need to hear the decoration more.
Her part has so many notes, it's almost a crime.

Tread lightly here--he's on his weakest string. 
You can be perkier in the lower half of the bow.
Don't be so punctual; you're right but you're wrong.
Trios are three soloists.  Soft doesn't mean slow.

Adjust your arm instead of the violin.
Attack, back off, and then attack again.
Let the sound of the chord decay before you go on.
When you have a rest, take it.  You want your touch
to make the piano say, "Ah," not "Ouch."
Keep your hand rounded, as if it held a peach.

Thank you, Ms. Emanuel

January 20: Hive of Falling Snow, State of the Union, Prayer Updates

When they stepped outside together, the snow was already more than six inches high and rising.  A beautiful night, the streets in every direction impassable to traffic.  Hardly anything moved save for the occasional snow plow on the avenue, bus engines whirring, strained, somewhere in the immense, agitated hive of falling snow, a kind of violet light puzzled them.  Down the street dozens of children who'd swarmed out of their apartment houses, were in the midst of a snow fight, the scene lit by wrought iron street lamps, snowballs bursting against hooded, gleeful faces, and dropping, soft as flowers, behind them.

I love this description of the streets of New York.  Muffled by snow.  Filled with kids throwing snowballs and laughing.  It's a scene right out of Currier & Ives or a Normal Rockwell painting.  There's a pervading nostalgia in Hijuelos' words.  Something both happy and sadSad and hopeful.

I'm sitting in my living room tonight, watching President Obama deliver his penultimate State of the Union address.  I still find Mr. Obama an inspiring figure.  A symbol of everything that's good about the United States of America.  Whether he's able to raise the minimum wage or bring free health care to every citizen in this country, he is talking about hope tonight.  Hope for a better life for everyone on this planet.  Republican or Democrat, nobody can argue against that aspiration.

Tonight, I'm going to give you some updates on people for whom I've recently asked you to pray.

My sister came home from the hospital last week.  She's still very weak, but getting stronger.  She will be starting physical therapy next week.  Her mental state is greatly improved, as well.  However, I think she's still struggling with depression.

My daughter's friend who was in the car accident is still at the University of Michigan hospital.  Late last week, she underwent facial reconstruction surgery and repair of a laceration on her brain.  The last I heard, she was still on a ventilator, but she was responding to her mother.  The doctors were very pleased with the results of her surgeries, but she still needs a lot of prayer.

And Sara, my friend who's struggling with her bipolar son.  On Sunday, she was laughing and making plans for the future.  I'm not sure how her son is doing, but Sara has started to take care of Sara, and that's a step in the right direction.

There is hope in there tonight, at least in my house.  I hope you feel it, even a little bit.  It doesn't have to be a partisan thing.  I don't care if you voted for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama in the last presidential election.  Everyone deserves to feel positive, uplifted.

And Saint Marty feels positive that Hillary Clinton should be uplifted to the Presidency of the United States in two years.

Is it me, or does John Boehner look a little jaundiced and constipated?

Monday, January 19, 2015

January 19: Favorite Poem, Sherman Alexie, "Sonnet, with Pride"

I know I haven't been doing a second post for the last week or so.  I'm sorry about that.  I've been busy, tired, [insert other lame excuse here].  Long story short, it's been a nutty seven to ten days.

This week, I've decided to share some of my favorite poems from The Best American Poetry 2014.  I have a great poem for you guys tonight.  It's one of my favorites in the collection.  A prose poem.  A political poem.  A small, lyric essay, in a way.

This one takes Saint Marty's breath away.

Sonnet, with Pride

by:  Sherman Alexie

Inspired by Pride of Baghdad
by Brian K. Vaughan & Niko Henrichon

1.  In 2003, during the Iraq War, a pride of lions escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during an American bombing raid.  2.  Confused, injured, unexpectedly free, the lions roamed the streets searching for food and safety.  3.  For just a moment, imagine yourself as an Iraqi living in Baghdad.  You are running for cover as the U. S. bombers, like metal pterodactyls, roar overhead.  You are running for cover as some of your fellow citizens, armed and angry, fire rifles, rocket launchers, and mortars into the sky.  You are running for cover as people are dying all around you.  It's war, war, war.  And then you turn a corner and see a pride of freaking lions advancing on you.  4.  Now, imagine yourself as a lion that has never been on a hunt.  That has never walked outside of a cage.  That has been coddled and fed all of its life.  And now your world is exploding all around you.  It's war, war, war.  And then you turn a corner and see a pride of freaking tanks advancing on you.  5.  It's okay to laugh.  It's always okay to laugh at tragedy.  If lions are capable of laughter, then I'm positive those Baghdad lions were laughing at their predicament.  As they watched the city burn and collapse, I'm sure a lioness turned to a lion and said, "So do you still think you're the King of the Jungle?"  6.  I don't know if the lions killed anybody as they roamed through the streets.  7.  But I'd guess they were too afraid.  I'm sure they could only see humans as zookeepers, not food.  8.  In any case, the starving lions were eventually shot and killed by U. S. soldiers on patrol.  9.  It's a sad and terrible story, yes, but that is war.  And war is everywhere.  And everywhere, there are prides of starving lions wandering the streets.  There are prides of starving lions wandering inside your hearts.  10.  You might also think that I'm using starving lions as a metaphor for homeless folks, but I'm not.  Homeless folks have been used far too often as targets for metaphors.  I'm using those starving lions as a simple metaphor for hunger.  All of our hunger.  11.  Food-hunger.  Love-hunger.  Faith-hunger.  Soul-hunger.  12.  Who among us has not been hungry?  Who among us has not been vulnerable?  Who among us has not been a starving lion?  Who among us has not been a prey animal?  Who among us has not been a predator?  13.  They say God created humans in God's image.  But what if God also created lions in God's image?  What if God created hunger in God's image?  What if God is hunger?  Tell me, how do you pray to hunger?  How do you ask for hunger's blessing?  How will hunger teach you to forgive?  How will hunger teach you how to love?  14.  Look out the window.  It's all hunger and war.  Hunger and war.  Hunger and war.  And the endless pride of lions.

Hunger, war, and lions

January 19: Daughter's Open House, Running Out of Time, "Ives" Dip

I haven't much time this evening for writing anything deep and reflective.  In about ten or fifteen minutes, I have to rush off to my daughter's dance studio for her open house.  I'm not sure if it's going to be hip hop or jazz or modern or tap or polka or the hokey pokey.  It's been one of those days where all my plans have come to naught.

I was supposed to have an hour-and-a-half to write two blog posts.  I ran late at the medical office where I work.  I was supposed to go to the gym to run on the treadmill for a half hour or so.  No time for that.  I was supposed to reread an essay for my poetry class on Thursday.  Ditto no time.  I have been simply running out of time all day long.

On top of all that, I think I have to go to the dentist.  My teeth are aching.  I'm not sure if I have a cavity or chipped tooth.  I may be grinding my teeth in my sleep.  I have been known to do that during stressful times in my life.  The beginning of this semester has caused me a few sleepless nights.  Whatever the cause, my teeth really hurt.

Once again, I am running out of time, so I will get to my Ives dip question for the week:

Will I be named the U. P. Poet Laureate this year?

And the answer from Mr. Ives is:

And in a few minutes they were standing around on Riverside Drive waiting for a northbound bus, its last stop Fort Tryon Park.  Shortly, around two o'clock, they were sitting in a crowd in an echoing gothically ornate hall listening to a group of choristers singing in Latin about the transformations of the soul and other such autumnal subjects, and in the midst of one such song, Robert, reached over and took hold of his mother's hand, holding it gently.  And he had looked over at her, his expression saying, "I will always be with you, Mama, from this day onward."

Well, the paragraph is about transformations and music and comfort.  I'm not sure if that means I'm going to be given the title or I'm going to be in need of solace.

Doesn't matter.  Saint Marty's gotta get going.  Out of time.  Again.

Shouldn't that word be "endure"?  Albom probably ran out of time to proofread

Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 18: Children with Mental Illness, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

I am at the end of a very long and busy Sunday.  Church in the morning.  Shoveling out a friend's house in the afternoon.  (After moving about five thousand pounds of snow boulders, I had to take a nap.  My arms and back are still sore.)  School work in the evening.  (I made a quiz for my film class, read for my poetry class, and worked on class rosters.)  This post is my last task to complete tonight.  Then I think I'm going to bed.

My friend, Sara, about whom I wrote last night, is doing much better.  I saw her today, and she was very upbeat, planning things out for her future.  I'm not sure if it was the booze that I gave her last night still working, but I haven't seen her that relaxed and happy in a long time.

A few years ago, I wrote a post about some of my other friends who have kids with mental illnesses.  I think it's an appropriate Classic Saint Marty to share this evening.

January 21, 2011:  Saint Agnes

First, let me put one burning question to rest:  no, I did not have jury duty on January 19.  The trial was settled, and I happily reported to work.  Life was good.  Life was full of sameness.  I have two more days next week for possible jury duty.  If the trials on those days settle, then I will have done my civic duty without having to do my civic duty for the entire month.

Right now, my two-year-old son is sick.  A few days ago, my wife took him to the doctor, and we found out  he has bronchitis, bilateral ear infections, and a sore throat.  He is one sick little boy.  Usually, my son only stops moving to sleep.  Even then, he throws himself around his crib as if he's a spot of canola oil in a hot frying pan.  He just doesn't value inertia very much.  On the other hand, give me a bag of scoop Fritos, a six-pack of Diet Mountain Dew, and an all-day marathon of Inside the Actor's Studio, and an F5 tornado couldn't budge me from the sofa.  My son, obviously, is a different story.  So, when he was content to sit in my lap, suck on a bottle, and watch The Antique's Roadshow, I knew he really wasn't feeling well.

As a parent, there's nothing worse in the world than to know that your child is hurting and not be able to make her or him feel better.  The complete and utter powerlessness is terrifying.  It's like watching the opening scene of Jaws:  you can't save the naked girl from becoming shark bait.  You have to sit and witness it.  Just like you can't make your son's lungs clear up or ears drain fluid.  You just have to squeeze medicine between his lips and wait.

I've written in other posts about my fears that my children will develop mental illness.  Two of my best friends have children with mental illnesses.  One has a daughter with schizophrenia, and the other has a son who was diagnosed with bipolar in the last year or so.  Both of my friends have said to me, "I don't think I could handle my husband having a mental illness."  One of those friends has stated, "I'd send his ass packing in the blink of an eye."  I suppose it boils down to a matter of choice.  My friends have no choice with their children.  You can't divorce a son or daughter.  A spouse, however, is supposed to be a partner, someone who shares the work of home and heart.  You choose your spouse.

Me, I think it would be worse to have a child with mental illness.  It would be like my son having bronchitis, ear infections, and strep throat for the rest of his life.  Nothing I could do would make him well.  I would be in that constant state of powerlessness I just wrote about, watching my child struggle every day.

I fell in love with a woman who happens to have a mental illness.  I choose to stay with that woman, despite some difficult struggles and complications, including sexual addiction.  I can not and will not give up on her, no matter how exhausting the problems may be.  And I have children who may, one day, because of their genetics, develop mental illness.  For a control freak like myself, I have relinquished control over a large portion of my life, by choice and by inheritance.  My marriage is my choice.  My son and daughter are my inheritance.

Agnes is today's saint.  She is one of those virgin martyrs who, at a very young age, was killed because (a) she refused to deny her Christianity, (b) she refused to accept the sexual advances of the guys who wanted her money and body, and (c) she pissed off a Roman judge.  The judge sentenced Agnes to a whorehouse, but she emerged untouched from that punishment.  The men were too frightened to even go near her, and the one man who did approach her was struck blind.  Eventually, Agnes was beheaded, but, like most of the virgin martyrs, she went to her death "more cheerfully than others go to their wedding."  She is now the patron saint of people in love, girls, rape victims, and a religious order named the Children of Mary.

My ten-year-old daughter and two-year-old son are pretty stubborn kids.  If my daughter decides she wants something like an iPod touch, she will eventually wear me down to the point where I'd buy her 10,000 shares in Apple Computer just to shut her up.  My son has thrown up so much food he didn't like that, by the end of dinner, he looked like a vomit-soaked version of Sissy Spacek in Carrie.  Agnes was a stubborn 13-year-old girl; she set her eyes on Christ and never looked back.  Some people think I'm stubborn (or stupid) for sticking with my wife these past eleven years.  My friend with the schizophrenic daughter has told me, "I don't know how you do it."  I would say the same to my friend.

It's a matter of acceptance.  I love a person who has bipolar and sexual addiction.  My friends love children who have serious mental illnesses.  Some day, my daughter or son may develop mental illness.  We can't control our loved ones' lives.  We have to take the back seat on the bus.  That's what really sucks on the lowest level of suckitude.  Sometimes, you just have to watch bad things happen.

I've been struggling to finish this post now for four days.  I can't.  I'm not sure what I'm trying to say.  So I guess I'll just sum up what I have said:
  1. I hate seeing my kids sick.  
  2. I hate seeing my wife sick.  
  3. You shouldn't piss off a Roman judge if you're a 13-year-old, Christian virgin.
  4. And, given the choice between being in control and being in love, I choose love. 
Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, January 17, 2015

January 17: Mary from Greenwich Village, Friend in Trouble, New Cartoon

Suddenly [Ives] was no longer speaking with [his friend] Tom but with the pregnant model, who identified herself as "Mary from Greenwich Village," now in a maternity dress and sitting with her elbow propped on the table, sipping some deli soup that one of the boys had gotten her, smoking cigarettes, and, despite her pregnancy, nursing her second or third glass of punch.

There used to be a time when Mary from Greenwich Village was the rule, not the exception.  Everybody smoked, pregnant or old or underage, and drinking while with child was not an uncommon practice.  Ives and his artist friends aren't shocked by Mary's smoking or drinking.  They celebrate the Christmas holiday with her, lighting her cigarettes and pouring her more spiked punch.  Mary is not being a bad mother.  She's innocently ignorant of the harm she may be inflicting on her unborn baby.

These days, mothers are warned not to smoke, not to drink, not to eat canned tuna, among other things.  In fact, a woman would practically have to be the Virgin Mary in order not to expose her future bundle of joy to some kind of danger.  Bearing and raising a child in today's world is a harrowing and miraculous thing.

No, these first few paragraphs are not a prelude to an announcement that my wife is pregnant.  I want to talk about a good friend of mine who's really hurting at the moment.  "Sara" has a twenty-something-year-old child with bipolar disorder.  Her child is obstinately refusing to comply with any kind of treatment for his mental illness, and Sara is at the end of her rope with him.  This afternoon, she had to kick him out of her home.  "I hate him," she told me this afternoon.  "I can't stand to be in the same room with him."  In another breath, she said, "I feel like I'm being punished for making wrong choices in my life.  For marrying the wrong person.  For having a child with him."

Mental illness in a close family member is a terrible cross to bear.  I know.  At various times, you feel angry, guilty, exhausted, frustrated, and powerless, and that's just in the first five minutes you're awake in the morning.  Sara is dealing with this whole whirlpool of emotions.  Plus, she has financial and health problems.  I sat next to her this afternoon, and I let her talk.  I didn't offer helpful suggestions.  I listened.  That's all.  At the end of our visit, she seemed to be in a better place.

I'm asking you all to say a little prayer for Sara.  She's wracked with guilt and hopelessness tonight.  She needs a little peace of mind, a little light, in her life.  And pray for her son.  He's lost and needs to be found, if you get my drift.

Saint Marty is going home to watch the movie Boyhood this evening.  Sara's bringing the popcorn.

Confessions of Saint Marty