Saturday, September 30, 2017

September 30: Standing on Thin Air, Randazzo's Fruit Market, 50th Saint Marty's Day

Billy now moved about the party--outwardly normal.  Kilgore Trout was shadowing him, keen to know what Billy had suspected or seen.  Most of Trout's novels, after all, dealt with time warps and extrasensory perception and other unexpected things.  Trout believed in things like that, was greedy to have their existence proved.

"You ever put a full-length mirror on the floor, and then have a dog stand on it?" Trout asked Billy.


"The dog will look down, and all of a sudden he'll realize there's nothing under him.  He thinks he's standing on thin air.  He'll jump a mile."

"He will?"

"That's how you looked--as though you all of a sudden realized you were standing on thin air."

Standing on thin air.  I frequently experience that feeling.  I can be walking along, smell something like an orange or banana, and suddenly I'm walking through Randazzo's Fruit Market in Detroit with my mother when I was five or six.  I shell a peanut, put it in my mouth, and I'm sitting at the Shrine Circus, watching the tigers jump through a flaming hoop.  I'm in thin air, between now and then.

Billy knows a few things about becoming unstuck in time.  This week, as I approach my 50th Saint Marty's Day, I'm going to be a little unstuck, too.  You're going to have to forgive me if I wax nostalgic about my past.  I'm standing on a mirror, looking down and up on myself.

I have a daughter who's a junior in high school.  She was born in the first year of the new millennium.  She never knew the twentieth century.  Can't remember a time when iPods and iPhones didn't exist.  I have a son in the fourth grade.  He thinks that Barack Obama was and should have been President of the United States forever.  (He and I agree on this little point.)

I will be cleaning my house this afternoon.  Then I will go to church and play the pipe organ.  For dinner, pizza from Pizza Hut.  These are things that I have done on Saturdays, without too much variation, for years.  Not exactly traditions.  More like comfortable routines.  That's what I see in the mirror I'm standing on today.

Saint Marty is thankful for routines.

September 30: Halfway Point, Saeed Jones, "The Blue Dress"

I am at a point in my life right now that I have to admit something:  I have passed the halfway point of my existence on this planet.  I probably passed it a while ago.

That thought is a little sobering.  I've been thinking about the things I have done and the things I still want to do in the time I have left.  I have had, for the most part, a really good life.  Loving but crazy family.  Beautiful wife and kids.  I've done theater.  Taught thousands of kids about writing and literature.  I'm a published writer.  Poetry and essays and fiction.  And I have fantastic friends.

Don't get me wrong.  I've had my struggles and dark times.  Still do.  And there are things I still want to do.  I want to publish more books.  Want to travel to Rome and England.  Want to go back to New York to see some plays.  Want ONE job that allows me to write and teach and write some more.  Want to win the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize.  Want to see Donald Trump impeached or resign.

Yes, as I approach Saint Marty's Day this year, I'm feeling a little nostalgia, for my childhood and mother and babies and President Obama.  I miss the hope I had in my youth, when I thought I could own the world.  I now know that I can't own the world.  But I can try to make the world a little bit better.

That's something Saint Marty can do with his remaining years.

The Blue Dress

by:  Saeed Jones

Her blue dress is a silk train is a river
is water seeps into the cobblestone streets of my sleep, is still 
is monsoon brocade, is winter stars stitched into puddles
is good-bye in a flooded, antique room, is good-bye in a room of 
          crystal bowls
and crystal cups, is the ring-ting-ring of water dripping from the 
of crystal bowls and crystal cups, is the Mississippi River is a 
          hallway, is leaks
like tears from windowsills of a drowned house, is windows open 
          to waterfalls
is a bed is a small boat is a ship, is a current come to carry me in its 
through the streets, is me floating in her dress through the streets
is only the moon sees me floating through the streets, is me in a 
          blue dress
out to sea, is my mother is a moon out to sea.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

September 28: Cufflinks Collection, Humility, Dolly Parton

There was a lot of talk about what wonderful jewelry Billy had given to Valencia over the years.  "My God--" said Maggie White, "she's already go the biggest diamond I ever saw outside of a movie."  She was talking about the diamond Billy had brought back from the war.

The partial denture he had found inside his little impresario's coat, incidentally, was in his cufflinks box in his dresser drawer.  Billy had a wonderful collection of cufflinks.  It was the custom of the family to give him cufflinks every Father's Day.  He was wearing Father's Day cufflinks now.  They had cost over one hundred dollars.  They were made out of ancient Roman coins.  He had one pair of cufflinks upstairs which were little roulette wheels that really worked.  He had another pair which had a real thermometer in one and a real compass in the other.

Reading this little passage, I often wonder if Billy started this cufflinks collection, if he was that obsessive about it.  Having lived with Billy Pilgrim on a daily basis for close to ten months now, I can venture a guess that he really doesn't obsess about much of anything.  Maybe Kilgore Trout and his books, but that's about it.  Billy's cufflinks collection probably started with one pair given to him on Father's Day one year, and the next year, another pair.  And so on.  That's how most traditions begin--by accident.

I have been writing about Saint Marty's Day for almost six or seven years now.  It started out as a passing reference and blossomed into trees and carols and tapioca pudding.  It's easier for me to talk about Saint Marty's Day than a birthday.  I suppose it's because I was raised to not make a big fuss about myself.  Humility rather than pride.  I'm not sure if that's a family thing or a Catholic thing.

However, I think humility is an important quality to possess.  A lot of writers that I know exhibit very little of it.  When you are a poet, there's a certain amount of self-promotion that is necessary.  Poets don't become household names, so the only way to publish and sell books is to become a little like Dolly Parton.  Flaunt what you got.  Make your own Dollywood.

I've never been a good Dolly Parton.  I prefer not to be the certain of attention at any event.  I've worked hard to overcome this inclination, but it doesn't come easy.  Yesterday, I ran into an old high school friend.  I hadn't seen her since the summer after we graduated.  The first words out of her mouth, after we hugged each other, were, "Wow, Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula."  I quickly shrugged the comment off with a laugh and eye roll, and tried to switch the subject.  "So," I said, "what have you been doing with your life?"  Bait and switch.

I will talk about myself, if pressed hard enough.  I'll talk about my poems and my life.  That's why I write this blog.  However, I prefer to focus on Kurt Vonnegut and Billy Pilgrim and Dolly Parton and cufflinks.  I learn more about myself by doing this.  Staring at the lint in my bellybutton and writing about its texture and shape and smell is not my bailiwick.  Finding myself in Vonnegut, however, is.

Thus, I turn to Billy Pilgrim this evening.  In exactly one week, it will be Saint Marty's Day.  It's time to buy those last-minute cufflinks and trim the tree.  Soon, the holiday will be upon us, in all its tapioca glory.

Saint Marty's Day.  As Johnny Marty croons, "It's the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeaaaarrrr!"

September 28: Tolerant and Loving, Saeed Jones, "Boy in a Whalebone Corset"

The United States is having a difficult time with acceptance these days.  People or color.  Muslims.  Jews.  Gay.  Transgender.  Lesbian.  Bisexual.  Basically, if you happen to be anything but a white Christian male, you are in trouble.

I'd like to believe that my country is better than that.  That soon common sense and compassion will overtake the hatred and bigotry.  However, every time I read the news, I lose a little more faith in the citizens of the United States, and that makes me incredibly sad.

So, tonight, Saint Marty has a poem that reminds him to be tolerant and loving to everyone.

Boy in a Whalebone Corset

by:  Saeed Jones

The acre of grass is a sleeping
swarm of locusts, and in the house
beside it, tears too are mistaken.
thin streams of kerosene
when night throws itself against
the wall, when Nina Simone sings
in the next room without her body
and I’m against the wall, bruised
but out of mine: dream-headed
with my corset still on, stays
slightly less tight, bones against
bones, broken glass on the floor,
dance steps for a waltz
with no partner. Father in my room
looking for more sissy clothes
to burn. Something pink in his fist,
negligee, lace, fishnet, whore.
His son’s a whore this last night
of Sodom. And the record skips
and skips and skips. Corset still on,
nothing else, I’m at the window;
he’s in the field, gasoline jug,
hand full of matches, night made
of locusts, column of smoke
mistaken for Old Testament God.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

September 27: Time Window, Worry About Tomorrow, Shades Drawn

People drifted away now, seeing the color return to Billy's cheeks, seeing him smile.  Valencia stayed with him, and Kilgore Trout, who had been on the fringe of the crowd, came closer, interested, shrewd.

"You looked as though you'd seen a ghost," said Valencia.

"No," said Billy.  He hadn't seen anything but what was really before him--the faces of the four singers, those four ordinary men, cow-eyed and mindless and anguished as they went from sweetness to sourness to sweetness again.

"Can I make a guess?" said Kilgore Trout.  "You saw through a time window."

"A what?" said Valencia.

"He suddenly saw the past or the future.  Am I right?"

"No," said Billy Pilgrim.  He got up, put a hand into his picket, found the box containing the ring in there.  He took out the box, gave it absently to Valencia.  He had meant to give it to her at the end of the song, while everybody was watching.  Only Kilgore Trout was there to see. 

"For me?" said Valencia.


"Oh, my God," she said.  Then she said it louder, so other people heard.  They gathered around, and she opened it, and she almost screamed when she saw the sapphire with a star in it.  "Oh, my God," she said.  She gave Billy a big kiss.  She said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Time window.  I'm sitting in my office at the university right now, and I would give my left testicle for a window of any kind right now.  I'm staring at four, cream-colored walls.  There's not a whole lot of distraction, and I sort of like it that way.  It makes it easier to concentrate on blog posts or reading or grading.

I have plenty of time windows in this office, though.  It doesn't take much to get me to stare into some pane of the past.  For instance, just a moment ago, I was thinking about the day after the birth of my son.  I taught a class of freshman composition, and I showed pictures of my newborn.  The teenage girls "awwed" and "oooohed."  The teenage guys kind of rolled their eyes, and I think one of them asked, "Does this mean you're going to push back the due date of the paper?"

My window into the future is kind of limited at the moment.  All I see is myself, in about five hours, leaving campus, exhausted and hungry.  I also see myself freezing my ass off at a football game this Friday night.  Aside from that, I got nothing.  Future windows are always foggier than past windows.

Some people would probably say that gazing through times windows is a waste of time.  It either makes you sad and nostalgic, or fearful and anxious.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today's trouble is enough for today."  Translation:  no time windows for you.  It's good advice, from a pretty good source.

So, I'm going to try to keep my shades drawn on time windows for the rest of the afternoon and evening.  I'm just going to focus on the next moment, which involves a chicken sandwich and paper grading.

Or maybe Saint Marty should plan out his life for the next five years, instead.

September 27: Longing, Saeed Jones, "Kudzu"

Really tired today.  I'm longing for a quiet night, although I have to teach an evening class.

I love the word "longing."  It stretches itself across sentence, line, page.  It calls to mind the feelings I had as a teenager, when the one person you longed to be with didn't like you "that way."  I remember that girl.  She was beautiful and smart, the object of longing from many people, male and female. 

I've not seen this person since I graduated from high school, many, many years ago.  And maybe that's a good thing.  She remains frozen in that longing, forever young and beautiful, like Marilyn Monroe or James Dean or River Phoenix.

And that's the way Saint Marty prefers to remember her.  Forever.


by:  Saeed Jones

           I won’t be forgiven

for what I’ve made

of myself.

            Soil recoils

from my hooked kisses.

            Pines turn their backs

on me. They know

what I can do

with the wrap of my legs.

            Each summer,

when the air becomes crowded

with want, I set all my tongues

upon you.

            To quiet this body,

you must answer

my tendrilled craving.

            All I’ve ever wanted

was to kiss crevices, pry them open,

and flourish within dew-slick


            How you mistake

my affection.

            And if I ever strangled sparrows,

it was only because I dreamed

of better songs.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

September 26: Great Big Secret, Online Pornography, Scoring Some Crystal

He looked so peculiar that several people commented on it solicitously when the song was done.  They thought he might have been having a heart attack, and Billy seemed to confirm this by going to a chair and sitting down haggardly.

There was silence.  

"Oh, my God," said Valencia, leaning over him.  "Billy--are you all right?"


"You look awful."

"Really--I'm O. K."  And he was, too, except that he could find no explanation for why the song had affected him so grotesquely.  He had supposed for years that he had no secrets from himself.  Here was proof that he had a great big secret somewhere inside, and he could not imagine what it was.

I have very little time tonight for reflection on this passage.  I'm typing fast, thinking fast.  I will not go back and proofread what I have written.  What you see is what you get tonight.

Unlike Billy, I am a person of very few secrets.  Pretty much, if you read my blog posts or poems or essays, you will probably find out everything there is to know about me.  Certainly, I don't hide the fact that I have had problems with online pornography in the past.  I talk about my wife's mental illness and sexual addiction.  If I were a meth head, I'd probably be writing about going out and scoring some crystal tonight.  (Yes, I have been watching too much Breaking Bad recently.)

I don't like secrets.  Secrets are things that encourage shame.  I was born and raised Catholic.  I have plenty of experience with shame and self-loathing.  Yes, there are good secrets (surprise parties, anniversary presents, family vacations).  But, for the most part, when I hear the word "secret," I think of extramarital affairs and cocaine-filled weekends. 

Today, I am not harboring any secrets from you.  It is my son's birthday.  He is my idol, so strong and funny and independent.  When he grows up, I want to be just like him.  And, hopefully, I can always be a person that he can look up to.  I suppose the one secret that I have regarding my son is my fear that I will some day be a disappointment to him.  That I will go fall from whatever pedestal her puts me on, and I won't ever be able to climb back up.

Saint Marty is thankful today for truth and his son and typographical errors.

September 26: Son's Ninth Birthday, Saeed Jones, "Boy in a Stolen Evening Gown"

Today is my son's ninth birthday.  He is a boy's boy.  Into trucks and guns and video games where bad guys are chopped in half by machine gun fire.  Sometimes, I don't understand him.

But he is also the most loving child I have every met.  Last Christmas, he bought extra presents for his class Secret Santa giveaway, just in case "somebody forgets."

Saint Marty loves and accepts his son, no matter what choices he makes.  Guns or journals.  Trucks or dresses.  Video games or Broadway shows.

Boy in a Stolen Evening Gown

by:  Saeed Jones

In this field of thistle, I am the improbable
lady. How I wear the word: sequined weight
snagging my saunter into overgrown grass, blonde
split-end blades. I waltz in an acre of bad wigs.

Sir who is no one, sir who is yet to come, I need you
to undo this zipped back, trace the chiffon
body I’ve borrowed. See how I switch my hips

for you, dry grass cracking under my pretend
high heels? Call me and I’m at your side,
one wildflower behind my ear. Ask me
and I’ll slip out of this softness, the dress

a black cloud at my feet. I could be the boy
wearing nothing, a negligee of gnats.

Monday, September 25, 2017

September 25: Old Gang of Mine, Best Friend, Lobotomized

Now an optometrist called for attention.  He proposed a toast to Billy and Valencia, whose anniversary it was.  According to plan, the barbershop quartet of optometrists, "The Febs," sang while people drank and Billy and Valencia put their arms around each other, just glowed.  Everybody's eyes were shining.  "The song was "That Old Gang of Mine."

Gee, the song went, but I'd give the world to see that old gang of mine.  And so on.  A little later is said, So long forever, old fellows and gals, so long forever old sweethearts and pals--God bless 'em--And so on.

Unexpectedly, Billy Pilgrim found himself upset by the song and the occasion.  He had never had an old gang, old sweethearts and pals, but he missed one anyway, as the quartet made slow, agonized experiments with chords--chords intentionally sour, sourer still, unbearably sour, and then a chord that was suffocatingly sweet, and then some sour ones again.  Billy had powerful psychosomatic responses to the changing chords.  His mouth filled with the taste of lemonade, and his face became grotesque, as though he really were being stretched on the torture engine called the rack.

I am luckier than Billy.  I have close friends and best friends.  I'm not talking about people on Facebook who send you greetings on your birthday.  (Don't get me wrong.  Those are wonderful messages to receive.)  I'm talking about people who get me on a much deeper level, who have seen me at my absolute best and worst and still love me.  Billy really doesn't have that.

It may be a cliche, but my best friend really is my wife.  She knows me like no other person.  I would like to believe that all married couples have that, but, if Billy and Valencia are any indication, I know that is not always the case.  People fall out of love with each other all the time.

I'm lucky.  My wife and I have had our share of troubles, for sure.  Addictions and mental illness.  Separation.  Almost divorce (we even had custody papers drawn up).  But love won for us.  I wish I could provide some sage marital advice to couples out there, struggling to stay together.  I can't.  I really don't know what saved my marriage.  Forgiveness certainly.  Compromise.  Acceptance.  The ability not to judge, to remember why you fell in love in the first place.

Of course, all that has to come from both sides.  If only one person is doing all the work, the marriage is doomed.  I guess my wife and I are stubborn people.  We never gave up.  We came close, but we never took the final step.  And our secret is that both of is keep forgiving, compromising, and accepting.  We keep falling in love every day in small ways.

Sure, we still irritate the shit out of each other.  Sure, we yell sometimes.  Sure, we disagree about whether Fannie Flagg is a good writer or not.  That's normal.  Well, maybe not the Fannie Flagg thing, but the rest is regular as oatmeal.  Love doesn't mean you're lobotomized. 

But love does mean that you have someone to come home to at the end of the day who knows your failures and still, for some reason, thinks you're pretty damn cool.

Saint Marty is thankful tonight for the love of his wife.

September 25: Son at Eight, Poet of the Week, Saeed Jones, "Daedalus, After Icarus"

My son is eight-years-old for the last time today.  Tomorrow, he will turn nine.

It's difficult to believe that I am the father of a sixteen-year-old girl and an almost-nine-year-old boy.  I don't feel that old.  Yet, when I look at myself in the mirror, I know that I have lived over half my life already.

Today, I found a poem about a father and a son.  Daedalus and Icarus.  It was written by Saeed Jones, a poet I know very little about.  However, this poem speaks to me this afternoon on a deep level as I contemplate my mortality and my son's upcoming birthday.

Saeed Jones, Poet of the Week, reminds Saint Marty to allow his son to be his own person, fish or fowl.

Daedalus, After Icarus

by:  Saeed Jones

Boys begin to gather around the man like seagulls.
He ignores them entirely, but they follow him
from one end of the beach to the other.
Their footprints burn holes in the sand.
It’s quite a sight, a strange parade:
a man with a pair of wings strapped to his arms
followed by a flock of rowdy boys.
Some squawk and flap their bony limbs.
Others try to leap now and then, stumbling
as the sand tugs at their feet. One boy pretends to fly
in a circle around the man, cawing in his face.

We don’t know his name or why he walks
along our beach, talking to the wind.
To say nothing of those wings. A woman yells
to her son, Ask him if he’ll make me a pair.
Maybe I’ll finally leave your father.
He answers our cackles with a sudden stop,
turns, and runs toward the water.
The children jump into the waves after him.
Over the sound of their thrashes and giggles,
we hear a boy say, We don’t want wings.
We want to be fish now.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Septmeber 24: Sunday Afternoon, Classic Saint Marty, "In Praise of Daughters"

Welcome to Sunday afternoon. 

I've been working for a few hours on teaching stuff.  Now I'm doing blogging stuff.  Afterwards, I'm going to do poetry stuff.  I'm working on a couple new poems.  Tonight, I'll do some reading stuff.

Three years ago, I was worrying about boy stuff and dad stuff . . .

September 23, 2014:  Boys, Terry Godbey, "The Purity of Boys"

Yes, I've been thinking about little boys a lot these last couple of days.  Boy stuff.  I've never been a typical guy, especially in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where I grew up.  I don't like to fish.  The idea of shooting any living thing with a rifle makes me a little sick to my stomach.  I don't like the taste of most wild game meat.  Not my thing.  I'd rather read a good novel, watch a documentary on PBS, or read a poem.

Terry Godbey has a great poem about boys in her collection Flame.  The boys in the poem are trying to impress the girls.  The girls are trying to attract the boys.  There's much showing off by both genders.  But, in the end, they remain on their respective sides, wanting each other, but not knowing how to say so.

Saint Marty prefers that arrangement at the moment, especially for his teenage daughter.

The Purity of Boys

by:  Terry Godbey

Water glints and sparks as they spill
from the pool and smash the sunlight to bits,
every movement designed to impress,
each glance a measure of our meager curves.
They dive and ride their bodies,
bark like seals as we chatter
and make lacy splashes in the shallow end.
Each long day drips honeysuckle.
We burn with impatience,
count out coins for ice cream cones
that drizzle our striped towels.
Sulky, drowsy in the heat, we oil
our caramel skin, watch the boys
watch us and lay side by side,
arranging our long-stemmed legs
in the blue vase of afternoon.

And, since Terry Godbey's poem is about boys, I have a poem for you about girls . . .

In Praise of Daughters

by:  Martin Achatz

Zeus gave birth to Athena himself, from a pain in his deathless temples, ten thousand Greeks pounding the walls of Troy.  She charged from his skull, full grown and armored, wailed a war cry louder than the cries of all the mothers who've lost sons in battle.  A sound that shook the dust of Olympus.  Zeus heard her, saw the bronze on her breasts, watched her flight, up and up, and knew his creation was good, the way Elohim knew light and dark, heaven and earth, sea and mud, man and woman were good on day six.

I saw my daughter charge into the world on a morning of wind and ice.  Heard her first sound, a call to battle.  For oxygen and milk.  Her frog body, slick and red, mapped the contours of my heart, its empty ventricles and auricles.  Flooded them.  The way the sea flooded the Titanic that April night.  I foundered, split, capsized, went under.  Swallowed whole by an ocean of daughter.  Now, almost eleven years later, I watch her this autumn day.  She stands in a cyclone of gold and red.  The leaves spin, rise around her, catch her hands and feet and hair, carry her up and up.  To the clouds.  To the moons.  Up and up.  To the constellations.  Up and up.  Cassiopeia.  Andromeda.  Up and up.  Cygnus.  Scutum.  And up.  Virgo.  And up.  To the arms of Zeus.  Of Elohim.  Up.  Where she sings, dances like an owl-eyed goddess.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

September 23: God is Listening, Purgatory, Human Failings

"Did that really happen?" said Maggie White.  She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies.  Men looked at her and wanted to fill her up with babies right away.  She hadn't had even one baby yet.  She used birth control.

"Of course it happened," Trout told her.  "If I wrote something that hadn't really happened, and I tried to sell it, I could go to jail.  That's fraud."

Maggie believed him.  "I'd never thought about that before."

"Think about it now."

"It's like advertising.  You have to tell the truth in advertising, or you get in trouble."

"Exactly.  The same body of law applies."

"Do you think you might put us in a book sometime?"

"I put everything that happens to me in books."

"I guess I better be careful what I say."

"That's right.  And I'm not the only one who's listening.  God is listening, too.  And on Judgment Day he's going to tell you all the things you said and did.  If it turns out they're bad things instead of good things, that's too bad for you, because you'll burn forever and ever.  The burning never stops hurting."

Poor Maggie turned gray.  She believed that, too, and was petrified.

Kilgore Trout laughed uproariously.  A salmon egg flew out of his mouth and landed in Maggie's cleavage.

I don't think Kilgore Trout believes in Judgment Day or God or eternal fire.  He's simply messing with innocent Maggie.  Telling her things to elicit responses that amuse him.  Or maybe he does hold that concept of God, the Almighty Judge and Jury.  No matter.  His laughter is genuine and more than a little cruel, regardless of his personal theology.

I was sort of raised with this depiction of God.  I remember, when I was a kid, reading a really thick book about Purgatory.  It had a black cover, with white lettering.  Hundreds and hundreds of pages about punishment and purification and souls.  It was more terrifying than Stephen King or William Peter Blatty or Bram Stoker.  It gave me nightmares of lakes of fire.  Molten lead being poured into my mouth for lies that I'd told or repeated.  Hot pokers being shoved into my eyes for looking at pictures in magazines my brothers kept under their mattresses.

When I attend Mass now, I don't hear a whole lot of talk about Purgatory.  It's still a part of the Catholic belief system.  However, it's not a huge selling point for the Church.  Not that the Catholic Church is a commodity to be advertised and marketed.  But, torture does not give people the warm fuzzies.

I know what you're wondering:  Does Saint Marty believe in Purgatory?  My answer to that question is complicated.  I believe in redemption.  I believe that everyone can be saved.  I believe in God's love more than God's anger.  Being a parent, I know that my kids can drive me crazy sometimes, but I still love them.  So I'm sure the God gets a little insane about the stuff His kids do, as well.  That doesn't mean He sends hurricanes and tsunamis to punish us.  I don't think God is like that.

God wants me to be the best me I can be, because I'm a reflection of His love.  That's the thing that people tend to forget.  God wants each and every one of us to make the world a better place.  If we don't do that, God isn't angry.  He's sad.  Disappointed.  But He understands that we are human, with human failings.  And He understands and loves those failings, as well

Saint Marty is thankful today for love.

September 23: A Little Old, Paul Muldoon, "Wind and Tree"

I'm feeling a little old today for some reason.  Tired.  A little sore.  Like I could sit on my couch and sleep for about three or four hours.

Of course, I can't do that.  My daughter has a school thing this morning.  I have schoolwork to do, planning for next week.  I'm going to clean my house this afternoon.  Play the organ for Mass at 4:30 p.m.  Then, I may go home and collapse.

Just typing all that made me feel old.  Gone are the Saturdays where my main worry was whether Bugs Bunny was on TV.  When the hours stretched out full of possibility.  When one of the most exciting things was a trip to the library to see what new books had arrived. 

Nowadays, Saint Marty's Saturdays are pretty much planned out before he even gets up in the morning.

Wind and Tree

by:  Paul Muldoon

In the way that most of the wind
Happens where there are trees,
Most of the world is centred
About ourselves.
Often where the wind has gathered
The trees together and together,
One tree will take
Another in her arms and hold.
Their branches that are grinding
Madly together and together,
It is no real fire.
They are breaking each other.
Often I think I should be like
The single tree, going nowhere,
Since my own arm cannot and will not
Break the other.  Yet by my broken bones
I tell new weather.

Friday, September 22, 2017

September 22: Pennywise Time, Paul Muldoon, "Cuckoo Corn"

I've spent most of the day inside, in an office without windows.  I didn't see the thunderstorm roll through this afternoon, with sideways rain and a sky dark as a coal miner's lungs.  When I left work, things had improved a little.  It was still raining, but the sky was ashy grey.

Today is the Fall Equinox.  At 4:04 this afternoon, daylight and darkness balanced.  Twelve hours and twelve hours.  From this day, until the Winter Solstice, night will overtake day, second by second.  By All Hallow's Eve, the little ghouls and ghosts will have plenty of storm sewer, Pennywise time.

Tonight, Saint Marty has another Halloweeny poem for your reading pleasure.

Cuckoo Corn

by:  Paul Muldoon

That seed that goes into the ground
After the first cuckoo
Is said to grow short and light
Like the beard of a boy.
Thought Spring was slow this year,
And the seed late, after that Summer
The corn was long and heavy
As the hair of any girl.
They claim she had no business being near a thresher,
This girl whose hair floated as if underwater
In a wind that would have cleaned corn, who was strangled
By the flapping belt.  But she had reason,
I being her lover, she being this man's daughter,
Knowing of cuckoo corn, of seed and season.

September 22: Parsley and Paprika, Serial Killer, Gulags

The adulation that Trout was receiving, mindless and illiterate as it was, affected Trout like marijuana.  He was happy and loud and impudent.

"I'm afraid I don't read as much as I ought to," said Maggie.

"We're all afraid of something," Trout replied.  "I'm afraid of cancer and rats and Doberman pinschers."

"I should know, but I don't, so I have to ask," said Maggie, "what's the most famous thing you ever wrote?"

"It was about a funeral for a great French chef."

"That sounds interesting."

"All the great chefs in the world are there.  It's a beautiful ceremony."  Trout was making this up as he went along.  "Just before the casket is closed, the mourners sprinkle parsley and paprika on the deceased."  So it goes.

Okay, this passage is funny.  A very unfamous writer telling a really good lie to an unsuspecting guest at Billy's dinner party.  It's the perfect situation for someone with creative aspirations.  Everybody thinks Trout is a famous writer.  Of course, none of the people present are readers, so Trout can tell as many whoppers about himself as he wants.  He could be a Nobel Prize-winning science fiction author if the mood hits him.

Being introduced as a writer at a party of non-readers is weird.  I've been in that position many times.  There's a certain amount of expectation that comes with the title.  I've been introduced as a writer and poet and, recently, Poet Laureate at public events.  If I'm introduced as a writer, the first question, usually, is something like, "Oh, what have you written?"  If I'm introduced as a poet, the first comment is usually something like, "Oh . . . I read Robert Frost once," followed by a halfhearted attempt to recite "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."  And if I'm introduced as the current Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula, the first reaction is usually an appropriate "Ooooh" of feigned admiration, followed by a hasty retreat to someone with a safer occupation, like a serial killer or Central American dictator.

Poetry is not safe.  Too many people have been tortured with poetry by English teachers in school.  Forced to write explications of Poe's "The Raven" or Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."  Graded on memorized recitations of Frost's "Mending Wall" or Robinson's "Richard Cory."  Only other poets feel comfortable around poets.  It's a small, insular tribe.

I find it much easier to introduce myself as a college professor.  (Not English professor--that profession is also suspect.)  Being a teacher is a somewhat respectable profession.  Enlightening young minds and all that.  Poets work alone, writing things that nobody understands or reads.  Poets are alcoholics.  Mentally ill.  Homosexual.  They don't hold steady jobs and are probably communists, plotting to overthrow the government.  Basically, poets are anything that is categorized as "other."  That's why so many poets found themselves in gulags in the Soviet era.

I like poets.  Obviously.  Like the way they see the world.  Like that eternal poetic quest for truth.  That's what I've spent my whole life doing.  I wouldn't know how to approach my life in any other way.  I make sense of my experiences through words.  Words help me bring order to chaos.  I like order.

Saint Marty is thankful tonight for the poets in his life.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

September 21: Party Was in Progress, Albino Moose, Socially Awkward

Billy invited Trout to his eighteenth wedding anniversary which was only two days hence.  Now the party was in progress.

Trout was Billy's dining room, gobbling canapes.  He was talking with a mouthful of Philadelphia cream cheese and salmon roe to an optometrist's wife.  Everybody at the party was associated with optometry in some way, except Trout.  And he alone was without glasses.  He was making a great hit.  Everybody was thrilled to have a real author at the party, even though they had never read his books.

Trout was talking to Maggie White, who had given up being a dental assistant to become a homemaker for an optometrist.  She was very pretty.  The last book she had read was Ivanhoe.  

Billy Pilgrim stood nearby, listening.  He was palpating something in his pocket.  It was a present he was about to give his wife, a white satin box containing a star sapphire cocktail ring.  The ring was worth eight hundred dollars.

Trout is a celebrity at Billy's party.  He's surrounded by optometrists who are probably guzzling gin and whispering about lens powers and astigmatisms.  It's a small, insulated group of people.  To them, Kilgore Trout is like an albino moose.  Something so rare that he practically glows like marble.  Think Bela Lugosi at the office Christmas party.  And, of course, Trout is loving it.

I have never been great at events that involve a lot of small talk.  I find myself quickly running out of intelligent or witty things to say, and then I fall back on stalking the hors d'oeuvres table, sneaking handfuls of pretzels or plates of strawberries.  When forced, I can be social.  Even charming.  However, I prefer gatherings of close friends or family.  Preferably with an open bar.

Since I was selected as Poet Laureate, I have been flexing my social skills quite a bit, and I think I've sort of turned into Kilgore Trout.  People seem excited to meet and talk with me at poetry events.  That's something new.  Most of the time, if I attended a poetry reading or book signing, I would sit as far back in the room as possible, preferably near an exit.  Now, I find myself front and center a great deal of the time.

I'm not sure that I like this turn of events, but I will admit to being more than a little flattered.  It's like I've won a local beauty contest, and now everyone wants me to show up in my princess gown at ribbon-cutting ceremonies.  I'm still waiting to be grand marshal of a parade. But, after I attend these shindigs, I go home and sort of collapse. 

Tonight, I'm attending an open mic at the Joy Center in Ishpeming.  I'm not sure how many people are going to be there.  I'm not even sure what I'm going to say or read.  I love the Joy Center and the person who owns it.  Helen.  We went to graduate school together.  Since becoming Poet Laureate, I have reconnected with her, and it has been wonderful.

So, I will show up tonight.  Maybe I'll be an albino  moose.  Or maybe I'll stay in the kitchen, eating dark chocolate and cheese.

Saint Marty is thankful for his good friend, Helen.

Septmeber 21: Dark Hours, Paul Muldoon, "Vampire"

Well, I have been thinking a lot about October today, even though we are still in September.  Tomorrow is the Fall Equinox.  Summer officially ends, and autumn officially begins.  It seems like the year is ebbing too quickly.  Pretty soon, the dark hours will outnumber the light hours.

In two weeks--14 short days--Saint Marty's Day will be upon us again.  I'm not ready for it.  I haven't even started my Saint Marty's Day shopping.  Haven't watched my favorite Saint Marty's Day movie yet--It's a Wonderful Saint Marty's Day.  I am way behind this year.

This evening, I have a Halloween poem from Paul Muldoon.

Think of it as an early Saint Marty's Day present.


by:  Paul Muldoon

Seeing the bird in winter reflected in the sheet of ice,
She recalls that she once covered her walls,
('Carefully appointed mirrors create the illusion of depth')
From floor to ceiling with glass.

Later, she would have the 'carefully appointed mirrors' taken away.
'The thing ought not be bigger than the fact',
She would tell herself.  Or, already spending the daylight hours in bed,
Say, "I am alive because I am alive'.

For even then she believed herself native soil enough for herself,
Though already she rose only as the nights fell,
Quietly lifting the single bottle that stood on her step since morning,
The top repeatedly punctured by a thirsting bird.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 20: Playing Hooky, Paul Muldoon, "Milkweed and Monarch"

I'm sitting in my office at the university.  Just took my shoes off.  It's one of those late September days that feels like late August.  Sunny.  Warm wind blowing.  Trees shuddering in color.  Temperature almost 80 degrees.  It's a day for not being in any kind of office.  A day where the world seems to be encouraging you to play hooky.

Of course I can't and won't do that.  I've already worked an eight-hour shift in the medical office.  Now, I'm waiting to teach my evening writing class.  The sun will be long gone before I leave campus tonight.  I'm a responsible person.  That means, on one of the last beautiful days of the year, I will spend the majority of my time indoors, thinking about playing hooky.

As the joke goes, that's my lot in life.  It's not a lot, but it's my life.

Saint Marty would prefer rain.  At least nobody else would be enjoying themselves, either, then.

Milkweed and Monarch

by:  Paul Muldoon

The rain comes flapping through the yard
like a tablecloth that she hand-embroidered.
My mother has left it on the line.
It is sodden with rain.
The mushroom shed is windowless, wide,
its high-stacked wooden trays
hosed down with formaldehyde.
And my father has opened the gates of Troy
to that first load of horse manure.
Barley straw. Gypsum. Dried blood. Ammonia.
Wagon after wagon
blusters in, a self-renewing gold-black dragon
we push to the back of the mind.
We have taken our pitchforks to the wind.

All brought back to me that September evening
fifteen years on. The pair of us
tripping through Barnett's fair demesne
like girls in long dresses
after a hail-storm.
We might have been thinking of the fire-bomb
that sent Malone House sky-high
and its priceless collection of linen
We might have wept with Elizabeth McCrum.
We were thinking only of psilocybin.
You sang of the maid you met on the dewy grass-
And she stooped so low gave me to know
it was mushrooms she was gathering O.

He'll be wearing that same old donkey-jacket
and the sawn-off waders.
He carries a knife, two punnets, a bucket.
He reaches far into his own shadow.
We'll have taken him unawares
and stand behind him, slightly to one side.
He is one of those ancient warriors
before the rising tide.
He'll glance back from under his peaked cap
without breaking rhythm:
his coaxing a mushroom-a flat or a cup-
the nick against his right thumb;
the bucket then, the punnet left or right,
and so on and so forth till kingdom come.

We followed the overgrown tow-path by the Lagan.
The sunset would deepen through cinnamon
to aubergine,
the wood-pigeon's concerto for oboe and strings,
allegro, blowing your mind.
And you were suddenly out my ken, hurtling
towards the ever-receding ground,
into the maw
of a shimmering green-gold dragon.
You discovered yourself in some outbuilding
with your long-lost companion, me,
though my head had grown into the head of a horse
and shook its dirty-fair mane
and spoke this verse:

Come back to us. However cold and raw, your feet
were always meant
to negotiate terms with bare cement.
Beyond this concrete wall is a wall of concrete
and barbed wire. Your only hope
is to come back. If sing you must, let your song
tell of treading your own dung,
let straw and dung give a spring to your step.
If we never live to see the day we leap
into our true domain,
lie down with us now and wrap
yourself in the soiled grey blanket of Irish rain
that will, one day, bleach itself white.
Lie down with us and wait.