Monday, October 31, 2016

October 31: Fall Migration, Great Pumpkin, My Nobel Prize

In autumn the winding passage of ravens from the north heralds the great fall migration of caribou . . . 

The passage of ravens.  The great fall migration of caribou.  Autumn.

This morning, I heard a great flock of geese above me, loud as city traffic.  Honking and honking.  Heading away from winter, toward something warmer, something summer.  Perfect music for the beginning of Halloween.

It is late.  I have just returned from the great migration of trick-or-treating.  Both of my kids are in bed, and I am surrounded by plastic pumpkins filled with Milky Ways and Twix bars and boxes of Dots.  I am watching an episode of the new season of American Horror Story.  Believe it or not, I've never watched the show before.  It's a good way to end a windy, dark Halloween night.

The Great Pumpkin has come and gone.  It is time now to slip into November and Thanksgiving.  December is right around the corner, and Bob Dylan will be traveling to Sweden to receive my Nobel Prize.

Saint Marty wishes everybody a Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October 30: Wife's Birthday, Carving Pumpkins, Classic Saint Marty

Today was my wife's birthday.  We celebrated it.  Sort of.  We went out to lunch at one of my wife's favorite restaurants.  Carved pumpkins with our kids.  Had dinner at my parents' house.  And I worked.  Finished my lesson plan for Tuesday's class, since tomorrow is Halloween and I will be busy prowling the streets in search of candy with my son in the evening.

Right now, I'm watching a movie with my daughter.  Kolchak:  The Night Stalker.  She's loving it.  Of course, she knows that it is one of my favorite television films and series.  Perhaps she's indulging me a little bit.

By the way, Bob Dylan has finally indulged the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy.  He called her, and they spoke for 15 minutes.  Told her that he was "speechless" over the news of the award.  So, Dylan will be taking a trip to Sweden this December.

And I will be sneaking Milky Ways from my son's Halloween candy tomorrow night.

Today's Classic Saint Marty first aired four years ago.  So much has changed.  So much is still the same.

October 30, 2012:  At This Time, Rolling Year, All Soul's Day

"At this time of the rolling year," the spectre said, "I suffer most.  Why did I walk through crowds of fellow beings with eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode!  Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?"

I know I have used this passage before, but on this first episode of "Saint of the Week," it is particularly apt to touch upon Marley's penance as a ghost.  Marley wanders the world, seeing all the suffering and anguish he could have helped alleviate while he was living.  It is a terrible eternal punishment, to be in a constant state of regret and mourning.

On November 2, the Catholic Church celebrates All Souls' Day.  On this day, people on this planet can offer prayers and alms for those who have died who are "being purified in the sufferings of purgatory."  By offering these sacrifices, we can help the Marleys of the afterlife pass through the pearly gates and enter heaven.  Now, whether you believe in Purgatory and punishment or not, most Christian churches at this time celebrate those who have died in the past year.  In Mexico, it's a national holiday.  Dia de los Muertos.  That's the day where everybody dresses like skeletons and makes sugar skulls and goes to visit grandma and grandpa at the cemetery, usually bringing them food and drinks.  It's sort of like Halloween, except the trick-or-treaters are dead.

No matter what tradition you celebrate, the end of October and the first days of November are reserved for remembrance, for reflection on those you have lost.  It can be a solemn time, or it can be a time of celebration.  It depends on the culture and traditions.

So, whether you're eating Milky Ways or sugar skulls, or lighting votive candles, I wish you a peaceful All Souls' Day.

Saint Marty will end with a traditional Catholic prayer for this time:  Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May they rest in peace.  Amen, Marley, amen.

My son's jack-o'-lantern
My daughter's jack-o'-lantern

Saturday, October 29, 2016

October 29: Carl Kolchak, Kim Addonizio, "Scary Movies"

When I was a kid, my favorite TV show was Kolchak:  The Night Stalker.  It was about a Chicago reporter, played by Darren McGavin (yes, the dad from A Christmas Story), who spent most of his days tracking down and battling vampires and zombies and other things that go bump in the night.  It lasted only one season (1974-1975), but it was the best series ever.  Ever.

I have always been attracted to darker subject matter.  I'm a poet.  What can I say?  Loved The Exorcist and Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street (the originals, not the lame sequels).  Read every Stephen King and John Saul novel that I could get my hands on.  Halloween and Christmas battled in my heart for supremacy.

I think the reason that horror fiction appealed to me is that it touched on subjects that kids aren't normally exposed to.  Big subjects.  Death.  Afterlife.  Violence.  Myth.  Murder.  Monsters.  Sex.  Horror fiction doesn't shy away from crossing boundaries.  That's why the Goosebumps books are so popular.  They acknowledge the fact for kids that there's scary shit out there.

As an adult now, I still watch an occasional horror film (mostly with my teenage daughter).  But I can't remember the last Stephen King novel that I've read from start to finish.  Maybe, as I've gotten older and encountered the real scary shit in the world, I don't feel the need to read about it, as well.  It's not so entertaining any more.

Tonight, however, Saint Marty is going to force his daughter to watch an episode of Kolchak.  It's still a freakin' great show.

Scary Movies

by:  Kim Addonizio

Today the cloud shapes are terrifying,   
and I keep expecting some enormous   
black-and-white B-movie Cyclops   
to appear at the edge of the horizon,

to come striding over the ocean   
and drag me from my kitchen   
to the deep cave that flickered   
into my young brain one Saturday

at the Baronet Theater where I sat helpless   
between my older brothers, pumped up   
on candy and horror—that cave,
the litter of human bones

gnawed on and flung toward the entrance,   
I can smell their stench as clearly
as the bacon fat from breakfast. This   
is how it feels to lose it—

not sanity, I mean, but whatever it is   
that helps you get up in the morning
and actually leave the house
on those days when it seems like death

in his brown uniform
is cruising his panel truck
of packages through your neighborhood.   
I think of a friend’s voice

on her answering machine—
Hi, I’m not here—
the morning of her funeral,   
the calls filling up the tape

and the mail still arriving,
and I feel as afraid as I was
after all those vampire movies   
when I’d come home and lie awake

all night, rigid in my bed,
unable to get up
even to pee because the undead   
were waiting underneath it;

if I so much as stuck a bare
foot out there in the unprotected air   
they’d grab me by the ankle and pull me   
under. And my parents said there was

nothing there, when I was older   
I would know better, and now   
they’re dead, and I’m older,   
and I know better.

October 29: Unusual and Unexpected, Campaign Sign, Freedom of Expression

While the wonder engaged me, something happened that was so unusual and unexpected that I can scarcely believe I saw it.  It was ridiculous.

What Dillard saw was this:  a mosquito landed on the neck of a copperhead and drilled through its skin for a bloody snack.  That is the wondrous thing that so shocked her.  I guess that she didn't think that a creature as dangerous as a rattlesnake would fall victim to mosquito bites, just like the rest of us.

This morning, I came out of my house and encountered something unusual and unexpected, as well.  On my front lawn, I have a campaign sign for Hillary Clinton.  Over the last two weeks, I'd noticed that it had been damaged.  I assumed it was from the strong winds and rains that we have been experiencing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Today, I noticed that the sign is gone.  All that's left is its wire frame.

I have neighbors with Donald Trump signs in their front yards.  Obnoxious Donald Trump signs.  "Hillary for President."  "Crooked Hillary."  While I find the signs offensive and childish, I have never thought about walking down the street to vandalize or steal them.  That would be wrong.  And illegal.

Allow me to climb onto a soapbox for a minute.  The United States was founded on certain principles.  One of those principles is freedom of expression.  Citizens have the right to say anything that they want to say, no matter how stupid, repugnant, bigoted, misogynist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or xenophobic they are.  That's why my neighbors can fly huge "Hillary for Prison" banners on the sides of their houses.  I don't argue with that right.  The reason that this blog can exist is because of freedom of expression.

I am going to leave the wire frame for my Hillary Clinton sign on my front lawn.  It will serve as a constant reminder to the person who trespassed on my property and stole my sign.  It will also be a daily reminder to me of how poisonous and hate-filled the Donald Trump campaign has been.  Perhaps I will add a little sign to the wire frame that reads "A Donald Trump supporter stole my property."

Okay, Saint Marty is climbing down from his soapbox now.

A good question

Friday, October 28, 2016

October 28: My Daughter's Dream, Annie Finch, "Samhain"

Some day last week, my daughter told me about a dream she had about my sister who died last year.

My daughter was very close to my sister.  Until she got sick, my sister always spoiled her beyond spoiling.  On Halloween, a pumpkin filled with my daughter's favorite candy, video games, DVDs, one time a Nintendo Game Boy.  On Christmas, a heap of presents that spread across the entire living room floor.  Easter, a laundry basket of white chocolate rabbits and jelly beans and more DVDs and video games.  My sister loved spoiling her.

In the dream my daughter told me about, my sister came to her.  Played games with her, "just like old times," my daughter said.  It was almost as if my sister wanted to have one final time to spoil my daughter.  I could tell this dream made my daughter really happy.

In Ireland, the Celtic holiday of Samhain was the predecessor to modern Halloween.  Samhain was a time when the threshold between the real world and spirit world was easier to cross.  The souls of dead relatives were able to return to their former homes, seeking hospitality.  Feasts were held, with place settings for the dearly departed.  It was a festival of life and death.

Maybe there was a little Samhain in my daughter's dream last week.  My sister returning home to have a little party with her.

That gives Saint Marty a little comfort.


(The Celtic Halloween)
by:  Annie Finch
In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother's mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,
intimate, a waiting bounty.
"Carry me." She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.

October 28: Killing Frost, Pile of Dead Leaves, Christmas Essay

Since then the killing frost has struck.  If I got lost now on the mountains or in the valley, and acted foolishly, I would be dead of hypothermia and my brain wiped smooth as a plate long before the water in my flesh elongated to crystal slivers that would pierce and shatter the walls of my cells.  The harvest is in, the granaries full.  The broadleaf trees of the world's forests have cast their various fruits:  "Oak, a nut; Sycamore, achenes; California Laurel, a drupe; Maple, a samara; Locust, a legume; Pomegranate, a berry; Buckeye, a capsule, Apple, a pome."  Now the twin leaves of the seedling chestnut oak on the Carvin's Cove path have dried, dropped and blown; the acorn itself is shrunk and sere.  But the sheath of the stem holds water and the white root still delicately sucks, porous and permeable, mute.  The death of the self of which the great writers speak is no violent act.  It is merely the joining of the great rock heart of the earth in its roll.  It is merely the slow cessation of the will's sprints and the intellect's chatter:  it is waiting like a hollow bell with stilled tongue.  Fuge, tace, quiesce.  The waiting itself is the thing.

This passage smells like autumn to me.  The killing frost.  Berry and drupe and legume and pome.  I was recently on a panel with two other poets.  We spoke about the power of the month of October, which is what Dillard is speaking about here.  One of the poets said that October is his most productive month.  It is a time when, for him, it's easier to tap into the root of writing.  Or, as Dillard says above, it is a time for the "slow cessation of the will's sprints and the intellect's chatter."  The poet simply becomes a hollow bell, waiting to to rung.

This last weekend of October, I find myself exhausted for some reason.  My mind barely functions at the moment.  The evidence:  it took me close to four minutes to compose the previous two sentences.  It is only 4:30 in the afternoon as I type this, and yet I could go into hibernation right now.  I don't feel like a hollow bell, full of potential music.  More like a pile of dead leaves, rattling and scratching like bones in the wind.

I do have two writing projects in the works:  my collection of Bigfoot poems and my annual Christmas essay.  The former has started taking shape, although I'm not sure what that shape is eventually going to be.  The latter is merely a great idea in my head at the moment--one that requires some research and poetic inspiration.

So, my bell has been ringing this month.  Tonight, however, I feel the need for rest.  My body and mind let me know every once in a while that I am in need of more than my usual nightly quota of five hours of sleep.  A late afternoon slump.  Sometimes, I regain my energy.  Other times, I surrender.  Fall asleep on the couch for five hours.  Crawl into bed for a power nap and stay there until the morning.

I want to rest this evening.  But I also want to read and work on my Christmas essay a little bit.  Perhaps I will be able to do both.  Or neither.  Remain mute, like Bob Dylan.  Refuse to acknowledge reality.

If the Swedish Academy calls tonight, Saint Marty will answer the phone.  He doesn't want to be accused of being impolite and arrogant.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

October 27: Hillary for Prison Sign, Hatred without Boundaries, Michael Collier, "All Souls"

Went by a neighbor's house this afternoon.  He has added a huge sign to the side of his house.  It reads "Hillary for Prison." 

I am tired of this whole political season.  Trump supporters frighten me more than zombies or werewolves or hockey-mask-wearing, knife-wielding homicidal maniacs.  I can live with all of those things.  There's ways of dealing with them--decapitation, silver bullets, sequels.  Trumpers are different.  Their brand of horror is full of hatred without boundaries. 

I am not going to get on a soapbox.  This Halloween season, there's some really scary shit out there. 

Saint Marty preferred it when his neighbors hid their prejudices.

All Souls

by:  Michael Collier

A few of us—Hillary Clinton, Vlad Dracula,   
Oprah Winfrey, and Trotsky—peer through   
the kitchen window at a raccoon perched   
outside on a picnic table where it picks

over chips, veggies, olives, and a chunk of p√Ęte.   
Behind us others crowd the hallway, many more
dance in the living room. Trotsky fusses with the bloody   
screwdriver puttied to her forehead.

Hillary Clinton, whose voice is the rumble
of a bowling ball, whose hands are hairy
to the third knuckle, lifts his rubber chin to announce,   
“What a perfect mask it has!” While the Count

whistling through his plastic fangs says, “Oh,   
and a nose like a chef.” Then one by one   
the other masks join in: “Tail of a gambler,”   
“a swashbuckler’s hips,” “feet of a cat burglar.”

Trotsky scratches herself beneath her skirt
and Hillary, whose lederhosen are so tight they form a codpiece,   
wraps his legs around Trotsky’s leg and humps like a dog.   
Dracula and Oprah, the married hosts, hold hands

and then let go. Meanwhile the raccoon squats on   
the gherkins, extracts pimentos from olives, and sniffs   
abandoned cups of beer. A ghoul in the living room   
turns the music up and the house becomes a drum.

The windows buzz. “Who do you love? Who do you love?”   
the singer sings. Our feathered arms, our stockinged legs.   
The intricate paws, the filleting tongue.
We love what we are; we love what we’ve become.

October 27: Snakebite Kit, Something Black-and-White, Silver Bullet

I never step a foot out of the house, even in winter, without a snakebite kit in my pocket.  Mine is a small kit in rubber casing about the size of a shotgun shell; I slapped my pants instinctively to fix in my mind its location.  Then I stomped hard on the ground a few times and sat down beside the snake.

Seems like a crazy thing to do, sitting by a copperhead rattlesnake.  But that's what Dillard does.  Sometimes I think her curiosity impairs her common sense.  Yes, she has a snakebite kit on her person, but why take the risk of getting bitten?  For me, that would be akin to seeing a train coming and just standing on the railroad tracks to get a better look. 

Last night, when I pulled into my driveway at about 10 o'clock, I saw something black-and-white amble through my headlights, heading toward my front porch.  I had a moment of panic.  Although I didn't see the creature clearly, I'm pretty sure it was a skunk. 

I put my car in park and sat there, wondering what I was going to do.  You see, I've been sprayed by a skunk three times in my life.  Three times.  Now, I can't smell skunk.  It's a condition called specific anosmia, and it's hereditary.  My brother can't smell skunk, either.  We are lucky in a way, but we are also cursed.  The luck is that we are immune to the skunk's defense.  The curse is that we can still be victims of the skunk's defense and simply not know it.

So, yesterday night, I was sort of like Dillard.  I knew there was danger close by, but I had my snakebite kit with me.  I was safe, but I didn't want to take the chance of a close encounter of the black-and-white kind.  The scent of skunk lingers for days.  At least, that's what my wife has told me.  I didn't know what to do.

Bob Dylan has said that the answer is blowing in the wind.  I sat for a good ten minutes in my car, peering into the darkness.  The wind was blowing strongly, and leaves were swirling and whirlpooling around me.  I didn't find any answers.  I finally decided to bite the silver bullet and made a dash for the house.

I didn't encounter Annie Dillard or a rattlesnake or a skunk or the Swedish Academy trying to find Bob Dylan to give him his Nobel Prize. Which is a good thing, because the members of my book club are coming over tonight to talk about Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book

They wouldn't have appreciated their dinner or Saint Marty seasoned with eau de skunk.

Wouldn't want to meet him in the middle of the night, either

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October 26: Poetic Halloween Inspiration, Paisley Rekdal, "Bats"

I know some of my disciples have missed my Poet of the Week feature, and I apologize for its absence.  I have no real excuse, unless laziness counts.  In truth, by the end of my days, I have found myself fairly exhausted, unable to formulate thought or wit into anything worth reading.

However, this week, I will try to provide a little poetic Halloween inspiration, starting with the poem below.  The Great Pumpkin arrives in a little less than a week.  There are pumpkins to carve, scary movies to watch, and candy to consume.  Perhaps a ghost or two will show up.  Maybe a zombie Bob Dylan.

Join Saint Marty and Linus in the pumpkin patch.


by:  Paisley Rekdal

unveil themselves in dark.
They hang, each a jagged,

silken sleeve, from moonlit rafters bright
as polished knives.  They swim

the muddled air and keen
like supersonic babies, the sound

we imagine empty wombs might make
in women who can't fill them up.

A clasp, a scratch, a sigh.
They drink fruit dry.

And wheel, against feverish light flung hard
upon their faces,

in circles that nauseate.
Imagine one at breast or neck,

patterning a name in driblets of iodine
that spatter your skin stars.

They flutter, shake like mystics.
They materialize.  Revelatory

as a stranger's underthings found tossed
upon the marital bed, you tremble

even at the thought.  Asleep,
you tear your fingers 

and search the sheets all night.


October 26: Pact with the Devil, Daughter and Halloween, Boring Teenager

The world has signed a pact with the devil; it had to.  It is a covenant to which every thing, even every hydrogen atom, is bound.  The terms are clear:  if you want to live, you have to die; you cannot have mountains and creeks without space, and space is a beauty married to a blind man.  The blind man is Freedom, or Time, and he does not go anywhere without his great dog Death.  The world came into being with the signing of the contract.  A scientist calls it the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  A poet says, "The force that thought the green fuse drives the flower / Drives my green age."  This is what we know.  The rest is gravy.

This passage reeks of Halloween darkness.  I am especially fond of the blind man Time and his great dog Death.  Talk about a pair made for a horror movie.  Picture them, an eyeless Grim Reaper leading a huge werewolf of a hound.  If that isn't enough to send a shiver down your spine, then you are probably near to shuffling off this mortal coil already.  As Dillard says, the great pact of life is that we all eventually have to encounter the blind man and his pet.

Halloween is fast approaching, and I was informed last night that my fifteen-year-old daughter does not want to get a costume or go trick-or-treating.  She simply wants to walk around with her little brother while he raids the neighborhood.  The news kind of took me by surprise because, up until yesterday, my daughter was shopping for costume pieces online.  When my wife told me that she didn't want to dress up for All Hallow's Eve, I was very supportive.  I believe my exact words were, "So, she's going to be a boring teenager."

Yes, I understand that my daughter is asserting her independence, trying to figure out the world and her place in it.  Being a teenager is scary business, without having to dress up and carve pumpkins.  But I can't help feeling a little sad.  My daughter was always a Halloween nut.  Loved planning out her ensemble for October 31.  Designing pumpkin faces.  Now, another little bit of her childhood has gone for a walk with the blind man and his dog.

Halloween just isn't going to be the same.  I thought I had at least a couple more years of trick-or-treating left with my daughter.  I suppose that I should be happy that she still wants to walk around with her little brother as he hits the neighbors' houses.  There's still enough of the Great Pumpkin in her to do that.  And maybe she'll change her mind before next Monday night.

If not, Saint Marty's jack-o'-lantern will be burning a little less brightly come the last night of October.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 25: Psychological Present, Composition Class, Ghosts

I am sitting under a bankside sycamore; my mind is a slope.  Arthur Koestler wrote, "In his review of the literature on the psychological present, Woodrow found that its maximum span is estimated to lie between 2.3 and 12 seconds . . . "

Think about Dillard's statement.  If it's true, that means that, by the time you were done reading the above passage, your psychological present changed.  By the tenth word or so, you had gone from "I think Saint Marty is the greatest writer since Shakespeare" to "I really am hungry for pizza."  Or something else.  You get the point.  All our minds are bankside sycamores, resting on slopes, ready to slide into the river.

In about 20 minutes, I have to go teach my composition class.  We have entered that dreaded phase of the semester:  research paper time.  That's right.  For three hours tonight, I have to somehow engage my students in the topics of doing research, documenting sources, and learning the new guidelines for MLA citation.

If that sounds like an impossible task, let me assure you:  it is.  I perform all kinds of tricks to keep my students interested, although I have stopped short of playing soft core porn in class.  I make them listen to spoken word poetry.  Hold competitions for extra credit points.  Tonight, due to the approach of All Hallow's Eve, we are going to be talking and writing a lot about ghosts.  That's my hook for the night.  I don't know if my students will find my lesson plan interesting, but at least I will have some fun.

It's just about time to head down the hall to my classroom.  I know that, since you started reading this post, you have probably gone to the bathroom, changed channels on the TV, surfed the Internet a little, and, maybe, taken a nap.

That's what Saint Marty would have done.

Not sure if this is a real ghost, but it got your attention, didn't it?

Monday, October 24, 2016

October 24: Great Thought, "The Neverending Story," Miracles

Sir James Jeans, British astronomer and physicist, suggested that the universe was beginning to look more like a great thought than a great machine.  Humanists seized on the expression, but it was hardly news.  We knew, looking around, that a thought branches and leafs, a tree comes to a conclusion.  But the question of who is thinking the thought is more fruitful than the question of who made the machine, for a machinist can of course wipe his hands and leave, and his simple machine still hums; but if the thinker's attention strays for a minute, his simplest thought ceases altogether.  And, as I have stressed, the place where we so incontrovertibly find ourselves, whether thought or machine, is at least not in any way simple.

Such an interesting argument.  Is the universe some great machine put into motion by God like some divine mechanic firing up a generator?  Or is it a notion, like Einstein's relativity or Hawking's black holes, spawned in the unknowable mind of the Supreme Being?  In the former, God can take a break, walk away from his creation as it hums along.  In the latter, if God takes a break, the universe ceases to be.

I don't know why this particular paragraph jumped out at me tonight.  I have been sitting in my university office, lesson planning, searching for teaching videos.  I have not spoken to or seen another person for close to three hours.  That kind of isolation makes me a little reflective.  Paranoid even.  For example, I just had this vision of God "taking a break" and the world outside my closed office door simply vanishing, like The Nothing eating up The Neverending Story.  When I open the door, I will be confronted by a void.  Emptiness.

Yes, I get in weird states when I work for extended periods of time by myself.  It's productive, but it also fuels the Stephen King lobe of my brain sometimes.  I know that there is still a hallway outside my door.  I just heard a couple of graduate students talking and laughing.  However, the idea of the universe being a machine does not appeal to me; I don't relish the thought of creation running on autopilot.  I prefer a more hand's on vision of the universe--God always attentive, tinkering, creating, throwing a miracle at us every once in a while.

I haven't experienced any miracles today.  Then again, I haven't been around a whole lot of people.  Perhaps, when I go to pick up my daughter from the dance studio, I will encounter something miraculous.  A unicorn crossing the street in front of my car.  A rainbow circling the moon.  A teenage daughter who is actually in a good mood.  It could happen.  Bob Dylan said, " . . . I've always thought there's a superior power, that this is not the real world and that there's a world to come."

Saint Marty just hopes that, in the world to come, teenage daughters make their beds and are nice to their little brothers.
I don't think I've ever been an agnostic. I've always thought there's a superior power, that this is not the real world and that there's a world to come.
Read more at:
I don't think I've ever been an agnostic. I've always thought there's a superior power, that this is not the real world and that there's a world to come.
Read more at:

The Nothing is right outside the door

Sunday, October 23, 2016

October 23: Pumpkin Shopping, Halloween Superstore, Classic Saint Marty

I spent most of today getting ready for the upcoming holiday.  First, we went pumpkin shopping at Walmart.  Got a couple of monstrous ones.  Then, after lunch at Burger King, we hit the local mall.

The Halloween Superstore was set up in an old J. C. Penney store.  It was huge, full of things that jumped, screamed, cackled, gasped, and moaned.  My eight-year-old son was more than a little freaked.  Of course, he enjoyed it a little bit, as well.  For her part, my daughter had a good time trying to scare the shit out of her little brother, as all older siblings are wont to do.

As the afternoon progressed, it became very obvious that my son had not been given his ADHD medication in the morning.  (He spent last night with his aunts.)  He bounced from one costume to another.  Kept running away from us.  And, as the afternoon got longer, he started using his favorite phrase--"I don't care."  As in, "If you don't come with us right now, we won't be getting this costume for you."  Answer:  "I don't care."  Or, "If you don't get in the car, we are not going to go back to grandma's house."  Answer:  "I don't care.  This is stupid."

My son is always a handful.  Without his medication, he's more than five handfuls.

Today's episode of Saint Marty first aired two years ago.  Oddly enough, at the time, I was also worried about my son and his medication.  Bob Dylan once said, "Take care of all your memories.  For you cannot relive them."  In 2014 on this day, I wasn't too sure what kind of memories my son was going to have of his time in school.

October 23, 2014:  A Fine Spider, My Son, Medication

"That's a fine spider and I'm going to capture it," said Avery.  He took the cover off the candy box.  Then he picked up a stick.  "I'm going to knock that ol' spider into this box," he said.

Avery Arable is all boy.  He carries around frogs in his pockets, and he collects insects.  Armed with wooden daggers and air rifles.  Accident prone.  Always doing something he's not supposed to do.  Avery seems like a prime candidate for in-school detention and Ritalin.

This weekend, my son is going to start taking an ADHD medication that is supposed to help him control his impulsivity and focus better.  When I was putting him to bed tonight, we had so much fun together.  As I read him a book, he made faces and did character voices.  We talked about the tooth fairy (he lost his first tooth this morning) and the pajama party he's having in school tomorrow.  He's so excited.  I'm afraid that this drug is going to change all that.  Make that hilarious little boy disappear.

Of course, I know that my son needs a little help.  His violent outbursts are like instant tornadoes.  They come out of nowhere and leave a swathe of destruction.  One of his teachers told us, "When it happens, he doesn't even seem to be there."  There's something going on in his brain that goes beyond Avery Arable-hood.  He's destroyed a tree on the school playground.  He punches classmates, bites his sister's arm, and rips the glasses off my face when he loses control.

Now, I don't need to read a whole bunch of angry comments from people who don't "believe" in drug therapy or ADHD.  My wife has bipolar, and her medications keep her sane and allow her to live a normal life.  Drug therapy works.  One of my nephews has ADHD, and, without his medication, he can't focus.  He's like a fly that flits and buzzes from one thing to another.  ADHD is real.  It's not a matter of belief.

I just want what's best for my son.  I want him to be able to play during recess without bloodshed or school detention.  I want him to be a "normal" Avery.  Toads and spiders and poison ivy.  Hell, I'll even let him play football.  As long as he's happy and not a threat to society.

And as long as Saint Marty doesn't have to sit through wrestling meets or take him deer hunting.

So, this is normal?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

October 22: Past Inserts a Finger, Smell of Orange, Druids

These trees stir me.  The past inserts a finger into a slit in the skin of the present, and pulls.  I remember how sycamores grew--and presumably still grow--in the city, in Pittsburgh, even along the busiest streets.  I used to spend hours in the backyard, thinking God knows what, and peeling the mottled bark of a sycamore, idly, littering the grass with dried lappets and strips, leaving the tree's trunk at eye level moist, thin-skinned and yellow--until someone would catch me at it from the kitchen window, and I would awake, and look at my work in astonishment, and think oh no, this time I've killed the sycamore for sure.

I love Dillard's image of the past as some little kid scratching and pulling apart things in the present.  I've seen my son do this.  He'll have a blade of grass or a piece of paper in his hands, and, pretty soon, there are shreds of green or confetti in front of him.  I do the same thing sometimes with Styrofoam cups.  After I'm done drinking my hot chocolate from it, I will slowly start to dissect it until it's a pile of white, environmental-damaging pebbles.

The past works that way.  Something nondescript, like a tree or the smell of an orange, is a portal into memory.  When I smell orange, for some reason I think of Christmas.  One year, I made an ornament out of an orange and cloves, and it filled the whole house with this sweet, citrus scent for the entire holiday season.  Orange also makes me think of Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center.  The day after I graduated from high school, I went on a trip to Florida.  There was a ride at EPCOT called Horizons, I think.  In Horizons, you rode in this spaceship.  At one point, the spaceship flew over an orange grove, and the smell of orange was all around.

Halloween does this to me, as well.  As I'm walking around with my kids, collecting Milky Ways and Skittles and raisins from the neighborhood, I think about the Halloweens from my past.  The time my mother sewed me a clown costume (this was before clowns became homicidal creeps), and I painted my face white.  Or, the year the film Alien was released, and I put on a pair of sweatpants, white tee shirt, and head band emblazoned with the word "Nostromo," which was the name of the spaceship in the film.  Nobody got that one. 

When I was a kid, there wasn't a designated trick-or-treating time.  Trick-or-treating began after school let out, and I didn't stop until the last front porch light was turned off, usually around 10:30 at night.  As Bob Dylan says, the times they are a' changin'.  After a couple of streets, my kids are pretty much done.  They want to go home, sift through their booty, and call it a night.  Churches throw "Harvest Festivals" on Halloween, I assume to circumvent the holdover elements from the Druids.  The Halloweens of my past were filled with Christopher Lee Dracula movies, full-size candy bars, and the fear of razors in apples.

Yes, the past has a way of inserting itself in the present.  This weekend, I'm taking my kids pumpkin hunting.  Then we will hit the local Halloween Superstore to do a little costume shopping.  I'm sure there will be eye-rolling from my daughter.  Tantrums from my son.  By the end of the excursion, my son will tell his sister, "I hate you." 

Saint Marty will just tuck those memories into the Halloween file in his mind, along with all the pumpkin guts and leftover Jolly Ranchers.

The good old days . . .

Friday, October 21, 2016

October 21: Air of Menace, A Hundred Conversations, Misphonia

Still, the day had an air of menace.  A broken whiskey bottle by the log, the brown tip of a snake's tail disappearing between two rocks on the hill at my back, the rabbit the dog nearly caught, the rabies I knew was in the county, the bees who kept unaccountably fumbling at my forehead with their furred feet.

Dillard has a bad feeling, as if some wall of water is about to roll over her.  She's talking about rains and floods, uprooted trees and washed-out bridges.  While I don't think she's a superstitious person, Dillard is looking around her, seeing all these signs of impending disaster.  Broken bottles.  Snakes.  Rumors of rabid forest creatures.

I have had a trying day.  Eight hours of calling patients.  Over a hundred conversations.  My voice is tired, my brain is tired, and my tolerance is tired.  When I left work, I found myself disliking people.  A lot.  Not because of the people I spoke to.  Because of the number of people I spoke to.

When I feel like this, everybody irritates me.  Right now, my sister is irritating the shit out of me because she's talking so loud.  Hell's Kitchen is on the TV, and Gordon Ramsay's voice is making my skin crawl.  I want to slap people who are chewing or swallowing too loudly.  (In case you're wondering, I do suffer from misphonia, where certain noises trigger irrational anger responses.)

So, there is an air of menace about me this evening.  Invisible bees buzzing around my head.  I have to force myself not to speak, because, if I open my mouth, I will probably yell, scream, or swear for no good reason.  I would look like a crazy person, which I might be.

I think that Bob Dylan suffers from misphonia, as well.  That's why he hasn't said anything about his Nobel Prize.  Either that or he just doesn't give a flying fig, which, again, irritates the shit out of me.

Maybe Saint Marty should just go to bed.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

October 20: Long Lyrics, Poetry Reading, Bigfoot

The birds have started singing in the valley.  Their February squawks and naked chirps are fully fledged now, and long lyrics fly in the air . . .

Birds singing in the February air.  Dillard listens to a mockingbird trilling in the trees, echoing in her chimney.  She sees the mockingbird as a limitless inventor, creating a song.  Repeating it, over and over.  Then, molding a new song.  Dillard writes that the mockingbird "strews newness about as casually as a god."

Tonight, I was a mockingbird at the library in my hometown.  I gave a poetry reading, accompanied by a couple of my musician friends.  The poems I read were from a collection about Bigfoot on which I have been working.  In the past few weeks, I've been very productive.  Four new poems, the last one finished this morning.  At this rate, by next summer, I should have a new book.

We got a bigger crowd than I expected.  A few complete strangers and some friends and family.  And one of my students.  Everybody seemed to like the event.  My musician friends sang "Creep" by Radiohead and "Mad World" by Gary Jules.  We started out the whole night with "Secret" by The Pierces from the TV show Pretty Little Liars

There are few times in my life when I feel like a real poet.  Most of the time, I write in stolen moments.  Early morning, before work.  In my office at the university, waiting for my kids to be done with dance classes.  So, my poems come together in pieces, revised and patched together over many weeks sometimes.  Tonight, I felt like a poet.  A real one.  I even had someone come up to me after the reading and say, "I can't wait to read your new book.  Do you have a publisher yet?"

Tomorrow, it's back to my normal life.  Instead of a mockingbird, I will be a worker drone for eight hours.  It will be a letdown for sure.  Then, this weekend, I have a huge stack of midterms to grade, a house to clean, and church services to attend.  Hopefully, somewhere in there, I will be able to start a new Bigfoot poem.

Bob Dylan is a Nobel laureate who doesn't care about being a Nobel laureate. 

And Saint Marty is a poet who really doesn't want to go to work tomorrow.

I feel a poem coming on . . .

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 19: Run a Universe, Pulitzer Prize, Sorry Bob

Is it a better way to run a universe?

Dillard is talking about evolution and death.  How the survival of the planet sort of depends upon death in some way.  As she says at another point in her discussion, "Evolution loves death more than it loves you or me."  Eventually, all of us will cease to exist.  That is a 100% certainty.  Yet, ironically, death will go on, claiming species, taking the weak, leaving the strong.  That's the way God set up the universe.

So, let me talk about how I would run the universe (or at least my little portion of the universe).  First, I would have a tenured teaching position at a university.  Most of my days would be spent writing.  You see, my first collection of poetry would have won the Pulitzer Prize, which would have immediately catapulted me into a full professorship, do not pass "Go," or associate and assistant professorship.

My second book of poems would also have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, making me the youngest and hottest poet in the country.  Harvard and Cambridge and Oxford would have come knocking on my door.  But I would have humbly demurred, preferring the rural life of the Upper Peninsula.

I would teach in the fall semester, only classes of hand-picked poetry students who had to submit samples of their writings in order to be selected for a position in my writing workshop.  In the winter semester, the university would pay me to simply work on my writing, perhaps giving a few lectures at the United Nations and the Library of Congress.

Speaking of the Library of Congress, I would have already served twice as the Poet Laureate of the United States.  I would have been offered the position as a lifetime appointment, but, again, I would have demurred because of my humility.

And, of course, I would have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature last week instead of Bob Dylan.  Unlike Dylan, I would have already granted interviews and accepted the Swedish Academy's invitation to attend the Nobel Week festivities in early December.

Wouldn't the universe be a better place with Saint Marty in charge?

Sorry, Bob, there's a new sheriff in the universe.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October 18: Saint Marty's Day Gift, Sharon Olds, "Ode to the Creature from the Black Lagoon"

So, I got Sharon Olds' new collection of poems as a Saint Marty's Day gift.  The book, simply titled Odes, has been making me very happy for over a week.  Even though I have featured her several times as Poet of the Week, I can't overlook the joy I take in these.

In honor of Halloween, I would like to share one of my favorites from the collection.

Yes, Saint Marty is a geek fanboy of Sharon Olds.

Ode to the Creature from the Black Lagoon

by:  Sharon Olds

I'm not sure how old I was,
not still twelve, I think, that child
lifted up on her telescoping legs--
and not yet fourteen, that worst year,
trying to talk to the other kids
through the agency of the monster I shuffled
around as--I think thirteen, I think
it was sometime during that thirteen-month
night, that I snuck out to see it.  It was not
human, though it had a torso and limbs
and a head, and it did seem a little like us
in its isolation and suffering
and menace.  Mostly it shined, mostly
it glistened, its craquelure skin mirroring
light, mostly I think it hunted
people, mostly it came up,
out of the Black Lagoon, and wandered
a town, a one of its kind--an it, post-
human and yet pre-alien.
It pains me now to think of the actor
in the glitter suit--no penis, as far as I
could see, though I had not seen one yet--no
breasts, I who was growing my own small
butter lettuces in the night, or
being used to grow them.  O bifurcate
sparkling with costume scales, O primate--
from the planet inside us--your thin skin
the gliss flay of the juices my possessed
body was making, thank you for showing us
ourselves, shimmering up out of
the night soup of the gene, thank you for your
beauty, your invincible strangeness, you dangerous
stardom, your fearlessness, your slime!

October 18: Parasitic Insects, Pile of Essays, Willing Victim

In another book I learn that ten percent of all the world's species are parasitic insects.  It is hard to believe.  What if you were an inventor, and you made ten percent of your inventions in such a way that they could only work by harassing, disfiguring, or totally destroying the other ninety percent?  These things are not well enough known.

That's a pretty amazing statistic.  Ten percent of the world's living things survive somehow by destruction.  Think about it.  Barnacles and tapeworms.  Pea crabs and lice.  Mushrooms.  All parasites, living off the life of something else.  As Dillard says, we are all "frayed and nibbled" survivors "in a fallen world."

I think I spend way too much energy every day fighting parasites.  When I get up in the morning, I immediately start thinking about all the jobs and duties and obligations that will nibble away at my day.  Work--chomp, chomp.  Teaching--chomp, chomp.  A disconnect notice--chomp, chomp.  Every day is like that.

I'm sitting in my university office, looking at a pile of essays that I graded this weekend while I was vacationing at the Wisconsin Dells.  Five or six hours on Saturday.  Five or six hours on Sunday.  Gone.  Eaten up by red ink.  Tonight, I will return those essays to my expectant students, who won't first read my considered and thoughtful comments.  Nope.  First, they will turn to their grades and either be happy or angry or depressed, depending upon which letters of the alphabet have been inscribed on their papers.

Please don't misunderstand me.  I am not comparing my students to parasites.  I'm simply supporting an observation that Annie Dillard makes in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:  we all live in a fallen world, and, as a result, we must endure a certain amount of daily parasitic activity.  That's how things work.  I offer myself up to grading papers because of the profession that I have chosen.  I am a willing victim.

That's probably a good test for happiness:  do you enjoy being chomped on every day?  If you can answer "yes" to that question, then you are a blessed person.

As Nobel laureate Bob Dylan once said, "No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky."

Saint Marty is chained to his classroom tonight.

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17: It's Raining, Wisconsin Dells, Nobel Prize

I hear a roar, a high windy sound more like air than like water, like the run-together whaps of a helicopter's propeller after the engine is off, a high million rushings.  The air smells damp and acrid, like fuel oil, or insecticide.  It's raining.

Dillard is talking about floods and rain.  The power of Nature to redefine the landscape with water.  She has seen Tinker Creek revised by summer storms--trees uprooted, banks washed away, and bridges damaged. 

Just got back from the Wisconsin Dells a little over an hour ago.  The drive was fairly uneventful, but, as we got closer to home, it started to rain.  It's still raining and thundering and lightning.  We got soaked unloading the car.  There weren't any trees down, but the wind was pretty strong.  My Clinton-Kaine yard sign was taking a beating, but so were the Trump-Pence signs down the street.

Tomorrow, I return to my normal life.  At work by 6 a.m.  Teaching until 9:30 p.m.  In between, grading papers and midterm exams.  Plus, I have to prepare for my poetry reading on Thursday.  It's always difficult settling back into routine after several days of non-routine.  Sort of like Bob Dylan giving a concert after winning the Nobel Prize last Thursday morning.  (He performed a concert that night, and so far he has not responded to the news at all.)

So, unless massive floodwaters wash away his car tonight, Saint Marty will be back at it, making the world a better place, one comma splice at a time. 

The Swedish Academy is still blowin' in the wind . . .

October 16: Brain Weary, Normal Life, Classic Saint Marty

I just got back from the Kalahari's indoor amusement park.  My kids are beat, and my wife is exhausted.  I spent most of today grading a stack of essays and watching my daughter dance.  Then I went to the water park with my son.  The night ended with me on top of the Ferris wheel with my wife and daughter.

My brain is weary.  Really weary.  And I have a long day of driving tomorrow.  I'm not looking forward to the end of this weekend.  It means a return to all the worries and headaches of normal life, with no breaks until Thanksgiving time. 

That's about all I have tonight.  My brain has already gone to bed.  Tonight's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired two years ago, when my brain was awake.

October 16, 2014:  A Lamb, Bullying, Stephen King's Carrie

"You smell just the way you are," remarked a lamb who had just walked in.  "I can smell you from here.  You're the smelliest creature in the place."

Creatures of the sheep persuasion are not very nice in Charlotte's Web.  In fact, they tend to be bullies.  It's the sheep that tells Wilbur about the Christmas conspiracy of turning him into smoked bacon and ham.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree with the lamb, either.  For some reason, because they provide Zuckerman with wool, all the sheep tend to be a little...elitist, for lack of a better word.  They think they're above all the other animals in the barn.

I've been thinking a lot about bullying recently.  Earlier this week, I saw a PBS documentary on the subject.  I just browsed the news on Google, and there was a story of a twelve-year-old girl who committed suicide because classmates posted comments like this online:  "Why don't you drink bleach and die."  And, of course, there's the whole issue of my six-year-old son punching kids on the school playground during recess.

It doesn't help that I'm also rereading Stephen King's Carrie at the moment.  It's the ultimate bully revenge tale.  Carrie White going on a telekinetic killing spree after being pushed over the edge by a group of "popular" girls.  There's something very satisfying about Carrie's actions.  I'm not saying I agree with the mass extermination of all school bullies, but, in the context of King's novel, I root for Carrie, even as she is transformed into a blood-covered nightmare.

I don't want my son to be a bully.  Every time he gets in trouble at school for punching or scratching a classmate on the playground, I tell him, "You know, one of these days, you're going to punch the wrong person, and that person is going to punch back.  Hard."  I'd like to add, "And you better hope that person can't lift and throw Volkswagens with his mind."  But I haven't played that card yet.

I've known a few Carries in my lifetime.  People who skulk around the fringe of life, hoping not to draw attention to themselves.  They're quiet.  Sometimes bookish.  Always, they look as though they're ready to flinch or duck.  That's the result of getting hit by too many dodgeballs in gym class.  Carries simply want to blend in.

Stephen King published Carrie in the early 1970s.  It is now 2014.  Forty-four years later, the book is still relevant because there are still Carries and bullies.  Our world is a broken place.  A place where terrible things happen sometimes.  School shootings.  Suicide bombings.  Cruelty is as common as brown eyes.

I've made mistakes in my life.  Participated in bullying through silence.  It's easy to do.  Just turn your back and pretend that Carrie isn't covered in pig's blood, and that love and compassion are stronger than dodgeballs. Basically, lie to yourself.  Dodgeballs hurt.  Always.

So tonight, Saint Marty hopes everybody who reads this post will speak up for all the Carries out there.  Be part of the solution, people.

Don't be part of the problem

Sunday, October 16, 2016

October 15: Beauty and Grace, Amusement Park, Forever Young

The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.

Dillard is speaking about God's beauty and grace in the world, and human beings have a tendency not to see them.  Sometimes we ignore them.  Sometimes we're blinded by our own fears and worries.  And sometimes, on good days, when the stars align properly and the car keys aren't lost or the paycheck is larger then anticipated, we notice the goodness that God sends our way.

Over and over this weekend, I have been reminded of the beauty and grace of my daughter.  Last night, at the water park, an older gentleman who was a manager there told me that she was beautiful.  As she was dancing in her classes today, I was amazed by her poise and ease, how comfortable she is in her own skin.  Tonight, at the Kalahari's indoor amusement park, a young male attendant on the ropes obstacle course had the balls to actually flirt with her in front of me.  I felt like cutting his safety line and tossing him over the side.

Yes, my daughter has graduated from gawky, awkward tween to beautiful, graceful teenager.  I don't know how or when it happened.  I still think of her as that little girl calling for me in the middle of the night because she had a bad dream.  It's difficult for me to accept that she has secrets.  That boys are paying attention to her.  That she's growing up, and part of that growing up is being her own person, making her own mistakes, allowing her heart to be broken.  I can't protect her from any of that. 

Saint Marty turns once more to the 2016 Nobel literature laureate Bob Dylan to end this post, something he wrote about growing up:  "May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong.  May you stay--forever young."

Saturday, October 15, 2016

October 14: Live Water, Wisconsin Dells, Wedding Anniversary

Live water heals memories . . .

Greetings from the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells, home of much live water.  We just returned from the water park where my son dragged me up and down many water slides.  I floated down the lazy river with my daughter.  I sat in the outdoor hot tub with my wife.  Like I said, lots of live water.  Not sure it's the kind that Dillard is talking about, but it made me feel alive.

Since my daughter has been nine or ten, my family has been coming here every year for this dance convention.  It just so happens that today is also my wedding anniversary.  Twenty-one years.  Our marriage has had its ups and downs.  Huge ups and huge downs.  But, through a lot of grace, we have endured.  I'm talking a LOT of grace.

I've been dealing with memories today.  As I was sitting with my daughter in the hot tub this evening, she asked me how long my wife and I have been married.  When I told her, she laughed and said, "Wow, you are really old."  For a year of our marriage, my wife and I were separated.  It had to do with my wife's bipolar and struggle with sexual addiction.  During that separation, my daughter, who was in kindergarten, was my lifesaver.  Some nights, she was the only thing that kept me tethered to the world.

There were a lot of people (friends and family) who didn't understand why I reconciled with my wife.  People who thought I should simply walk away from our marriage.  Cut my losses, so to speak.  But I didn't.  I couldn't.  For my daughter, myself, my wife, I chose love and forgiveness instead. 

And here I am.  Twenty-one years after my wife and I exchanged vows.  With a beautiful, talented fifteen-year-old daughter and smart, funny eight-year-old son.  Surrounded by live water and love.  As the new Nobel literature laureate Bob Dylan once said, "Behind every beautiful thing, there is some kind of pain."

Saint Marty will take the pain, because the beauty is worth it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Occtober 13: Starlight Rained, Bob Dylan, 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature

Night risings and fallings filled my mind, free excursions  carried out invisibly while the air swung up and back and the starlight rained . . .

It is night.  I just came back inside after watching the Aurora Borealis ribbon across the moon.  Rising and falling.  Raining starlight and moonlight.  All that poetic jazz that Annie Dillard is talking about. 

Speaking of poetic jazz, at 7 a.m. this morning, I was sitting at my desk, streaming the live feed from the Grand Hall of the Swedish Academy.  At the appointed hour, Permanent Secretary Sara Danius stepped through those great white doors and announced the winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.  She first spoke in Swedish.  I don't understand Swedish, but I did understand two words she spoke:  "Bob Dylan."

That's right.  Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature this morning.  Not me.  Of course, since the announcement, the Internet has blown up with all kinds of elitist snobbery.  Basically, the premise against Dylan winning the prize is this:  song writing is NOT literature.  The argument in support of Dylan's Nobel:  the Swedish Academy expanded the definition of what is considered literature.

Me?  Of course I'm disappointed that Ms. Danius did not speak my name this morning.  However, since Dylan won this year, broadening the definition of literature, I figure that next year it will be time for a poet blogger with a serious Christ complex to win.

This December, Saint Marty will not be traveling to Stockholm to participate in Nobel week festivities.  Next year, however, Sara Danius will speak those fated words:  "Eeer borshneer deer Sankt Marty."

Eerkin feerkins deerpa Bob Dylan
P. S.  This weekend, Saint Marty is on the road.  Stay tuned for remote blog posts from the Wisconsin Dells starting tomorrow night. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

October 12: Daughter's Chorus Concert, Clint Margrave, "Recap of Yesterday's Tenure-Track Job Interview in English"

I am missing my daughter's chorus concert this evening because I have to teach.  If I had tenure (translation:  job security/wasn't a contingent professor), I would be tempted to cancel tonight's class.  That is not an option.  So, instead, I am going to stop at Walmart on my way home and buy her some flowers.

That's one of the most difficult things about being a contingent professor--the constant worry about job performance and evaluation.  If I really mess up one semester, I will not get a contract for the next semester.  Period.  So I don't cancel class.  Ever.  Even on those Upper Peninsula days when the wind is howling at 50 miles per hour and the snow is coming down thick and sideways, I still show up, ready to teach.  Because that's what contingents do.

I'm not complaining.  I have chosen this life, this position.  I love what I do.  However, sometimes, I dream of something a little better.  That's what tonight's poem from Rattle is all about:  dreaming of something better.

Now, if you will excuse Saint Marty, he has to start writing his Nobel Prize lecture.

Recap of Yesterday's Tenure-Track
Job Interview in English

by:  Clint Margrave

They asked me for an adjective
to describe myself as a teacher
and I gave them a noun.

They asked me to roleplay
a situation in which I told a student
she would need to retake the class
and I ended up giving
her a second chance.

Then I asked if the water bottle
provided for me
had vodka in it.

Then I referred to the hiring committee
which consisted entirely of women
as "you guys."

October 12: Shingly Beach, Midterms, Drunk Dialing

Stephen Graham startled me by describing the same gift in his antique and elegant book, The Gentle Art of Tramping.  He wrote, "And as you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged on the shingly beach of a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens."  That great door opens on the present, illuminates it as with a multitude of flashing torches.

Flashing torches in an open door.  That's what happens, according to Stephen Graham, when you venture into nature and allow yourself to experience it fully, with all the appropriate sense orifices open.  The present then becomes a raging forest fire of light, sparking all the nerve endings.  I suppose that's not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Of course, I do not have the opportunity today to follow Graham's advice about tramping.  I have papers to grade, a film class to teach.  It's midterm exam time at the university.  Students are spending extra money at Starbucks to keep themselves fueled for this week's challenges.  Tonight, I will administer a midterm exam about swish pans and lap dissolves and Citizen Kane.  Because that's what college professors are supposed to do.

Of course, tomorrow morning, when my name is announced by Sara Danius in the Grand Hall of the Swedish Academy, I will probably be living in the present for quite a while.  Open door.  Flashing torches.  All that shit.  Here is what I will be doing at the appointed hour:
At around 5:45 a.m., I will be sitting at my desk in the surgery center where I work most days.  There is a phone and a computer on my desk.  I will have the live feed from Sweden open on my desktop.  The countdown clock will be ticking away.  Then, about ten or so minutes before the announcement is scheduled to be made, the phone on my desk will begin ringing.  When I pick up the receiver, I will hear a thickly Swedish voice say, "Is this Sankt Marty?" 
That is how I will learn that I am this year's recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.  And I will live in the present.  I won't need to go for a walk in the woods or climb a mountain or sprawl on a shingly beach.  I may indulge myself in a small moment of self-congratulation.  It may involve a bottle of Tanqueray and a drunk phone call to the president of the university where I teach.  Said conversation may include the phrase "suck it."

Aside from that, Saint Marty really hasn't come up with a concrete plan of action yet.

Wonder who he would drunk dial if he won?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

October 11: Adjuncts, Anna M. Evans, "The Adjunct's Villanelle"

I know some of my disciples have been missing the poems I usually post.  This time, I decided against choosing a Poet of the Week.  Instead, I've been reading the fall issue of the poetry journal Rattle, which featured poems by and about adjuncts.  You know, those underpaid "part-time" instructors on college campuses across the country.

I am a contingent professor.  Have been for twenty-some years.  The poems in this issue of Rattle really spoke to me on a very deep level.  They made me sad.  Made me angry.  Made me laugh.  Therefore, I have decided to share a few of my favorites from the issue.

I type this post right now in my university office.  In less than a half hour, I will walk down the hall, into a classroom, and spend the next three-and-a-half hours trying to get a group of young people excited about writing and research.  First year composition.  It's not an easy gig, and there are some tenured faculty who get paid a great deal more money than me to teach the same class.  That's what being a contingent is all about.

In two days' time, when my name is announced in Stockholm by the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, I'm hoping to become the first contingent professor to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Certainly, that would qualify Saint Marty to teach at least a class in mythology.

The Adjunct's Villanelle

by:  Anna M. Evans

You just come in and teach, then you can go,
she says, distracted by her tenure file.
I wish someone would tell my students so.

From there I leave to meet with one who's slow
to understand the work.  It takes a while
to teach him what he needs.  Then, I can go.

Another text:  the fetus didn't grow.
She's on bed rest for weeks.  Can I compile
the work she'll miss?  I can, and tell her so.

Two student emails wait:  one's in a show
and really wants me there.  Good kid.  I smile
and write back saying I'll be thrilled to go.

The second wants a reference.  Just say no,
I'm told.  I could, but cannot reconcile
this with the student I remember.  So,

The one whose mom died doesn't need to know
my story, how I have to swallow bile
when I hear how I come, and teach, and go.
I don't.  I wish someone would tell them so.