Saturday, April 30, 2022

April 30: Naked Line of His Backbone, Last Day of the Month, Grading

Santiago is tired . . . 

He unstepped the mast and furled the sail and tied it. Then he shouldered the mast and started to climb. It was then he knew the depth of his tiredness. He stopped for a moment and looked back and saw in the reflection from the street light the great tail of the fish standing up well behind the skiff's stern. He saw the white naked line of his backbone and the dark mass of the head with the projecting bill and all the nakedness between.

He started to climb again and at the top he fell and lay for some time with the mast across his shoulder. He tried to get up. But it was too difficult and he sat there with the mast on his shoulder and looked at the road. A cat passed on the far side going about its business and the old man watched it. Then he just watched the road.

April has been quite a ride.  Almost 30 days of events for the Great Lakes Poetry Festival.  Plus, some personal struggles with my son at school.  And I have to say, on this last day of the month, I am bone weary, to the point of fever dream exhaustion.  I wouldn't be surprised if I start hallucinating.

Worked a few hours this morning, in preparation for my vacation next week.  Now, I am doing my final grading.  Papers.  Exams.  I have until Tuesday to get everything done.  It's going to be a long few days.

Saint Marty's koan for tonight:  if you fall down in the street on your way home, finish grading that stack of papers.

Friday, April 29, 2022

April 29: Just Bed, Mary Doria Russell, "Bigfoot and Marty"

Santiago comes to safe harbor . . . 

He could feel he was inside the current now and he could see the lights of the beach colonies along the shore. He knew where he was now and it was nothing to get home.

The wind is our friend, anyway, he thought. Then he added, sometimes. And the great sea with our friends and our enemies. And bed, he thought. Bed is my friend. Just bed, he thought. Bed will be a great thing. It is easy when you are beaten, he thought. I never knew how easy it was. And what beat you, he thought.

"Nothing," he said aloud. "I went out too far."

When he sailed into the little harbour the lights of the Terrace were out and he knew everyone was in bed. The breeze had risen steadily and was blowing strongly now. It was quiet in the harbour though and he sailed up onto the little patch of shingle below the rocks. There was no one to help him so he pulled the boat up as far as he could. Then he stepped out and made her fast to a rock.

The Great Michigan Read with Mary Doria Russell this morning at the library.  A wonderful lady, whip smart and personable.  Then, a virtual matinee of Bigfoot and Marty this afternoon.  Thirteen people in a Zoom meeting.  It was a good day at work.

Tonight, I ate, cleaned a church, and slept.  

Saint Marty's koan for the end of this week (and the poetry festival):  after being attacked by sharks, take a nap.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

April 28: No Great Weight, Poetry Closing Jam, Open Mic

Santiago reaches the end . . . 

He spat into the ocean and said, "Eat that, Galanos. And make a dream you've killed a man."

He knew he was beaten now finally and without remedy and he went back to the stern and found the jagged end of the tiller would fit in the slot of the rudder well enough for him to steer. He settled the sack around his shoulders and put the skiff on her course. He sailed lightly now and he had no thoughts nor any feelings of any kind. He was past everything now and he sailed the skiff to make his home port as well and as intelligently as he could. In the night sharks hit the carcass as someone might pick up crumbs from the table. The old man paid no attention to them and did not pay any attention to anything except steering. He only noticed how lightly and how well the skiff sailed now there was no great weight beside her.

She's good, he thought. She is sound and not harmed in any way except for the tiller. That is easily replaced.

Visited a local high school English class this morning to share and write some Bigfoot poetry.  The kids were great.  So talented.

The last night of the Great Lakes Poetry Festival.  A Poetry Closing Jam.  We had a wonderful musician to accompany poets at an open mic.  Lots of different voices.  New people.  Friends.  I was exhausted by the end of the program.

Saint's Marty koan for this evening:  sometimes you're the boat, and sometimes you're the carcass.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

April 27: Strange Taste, Working at Home, Chips and Wine and Gossip

Santiago fights his last fight . . . 

But by midnight he fought and this time he knew the fight was useless. They came in a pack and he could only see the lines in the water that their fins made and their phosphorescence as they threw themselves on the fish. He clubbed at heads and heard the jaws chop and the shaking of the skiff as they took hold below. He clubbed desperately at what he could only feel and hear and he felt something seize the club and it was gone.

He jerked the tiller free from the rudder and beat and chopped with it, holding it in both hands and driving it down again and again. But they were up to the bow now and driving in one after the other and together, tearing off the pieces of meat that showed glowing below the sea as they turned to come once more.

One came, finally, against the head itself and he knew that it was over. He swung the tiller across the shark's head where the jaws were caught in the heaviness of the fish's head which would not tear. He swung it once and twice and again. He heard the tiller break and he lunged at the shark with the splintered butt. He felt it go in and knowing it was sharp he drove it in again. The shark let go and rolled away. That was the last shark of the pack that came. There was nothing more for them to eat.

The old man could hardly breathe now and he felt a strange taste in his mouth. It was coppery and sweet and he was afraid of it for a moment. But there was not much of it.

Spent the day working at home with my son, except when I had to give a final exam to my students at the university.  Then my son and I went to an event at my local library for National Poetry Month.  I read with another local poet.  Some Bigfoot poems.  Some other poems.  

After the reading, we had chips and wine and gossip with some poet friends.  It was a good distraction from the sadness of yesterday.

Saint Marty's koan for tonight:  don't invite sharks to a dinner party.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

April 26: Hope So Much, Seventh Grader, Son's Voice

Santiago tries to hope . . . 

I must not think nonsense, he thought. Luck is a thing that comes in many forms and who can recognize her? I would take some though in any form and pay what they asked. I wish I could see the glow from the lights, he thought. I wish too many things. But that is the thing I wish for now. He tried to settle more comfortably to steer and from his pain he knew he was not dead.

He saw the reflected glare of the lights of the city at what must have been around ten o'clock at night. They were only perceptible at first as the light is in the sky before the moon rises. Then they were steady to see across the ocean which was rough now with the increasing breeze. He steered inside of the glow and he thought that now, soon, he must hit the edge of the stream.

Now it is over, he thought. They will probably hit me again. But what can a man do against them in the dark without a weapon?

He was stiff and sore now and his wounds and all of the strained parts of his body hurt with the cold of the night. I hope I do not have to fight again, he thought. I hope so much I do not have to fight again.

This afternoon, a seventh grader at my son's school (a boy my son has known since they were in Head Start together) brought a gun to school and shot himself in the bathroom.  For a tense hour, after I found out what had happened, I tried to contact my son.  He didn't answer his phone.  My mind went to a terrible, dark place since my son has been struggling with depression and suicidal ideation for several years.  I have never heard a sweeter sound than my son's voice when he called me to ask if I could pick him up from school.

We attended a Bluesday Tuesday concert this evening.  It was a very distracted night.

Saint Marty's koan for this evening:  hope is the sound of your son's voice.

Monday, April 25, 2022

April 25: Violated Your Luck, "Bigfoot and Marty," Biggest Crowds

Santiago muses on luck . . . 

But in the dark now and no glow showing and no lights and only the wind and the steady pull of the sail he felt that perhaps he was already dead. He put his two hands together and felt the palms. They were not dead and he could bring the pain of life by simply opening and closing them. He leaned his back against the stern and knew he was not dead. His shoulders told him.

I have all those prayers I promised if I caught the fish, he thought. But I am too tired to say them now. I better get the sack and put it over my shoulders.

He lay in the stern and steered and watched for the glow to come in the sky. I have half of him, he thought. Maybe I'll have the luck to bring the forward half in. I should have some luck. No, he said. You violated your luck when you went too far outside.

"Don't be silly," he said aloud. "And keep awake and steer. You may have much luck yet."

"I'd like to buy some if there's any place they sell it," he said.

What could I buy it with? he asked himself. Could I buy it with a lost harpoon and a broken knife and two bad hands?

"You might," he said. "You tried to buy it with eighty-four days at sea. They nearly sold it to you too."

This evening, I screened a documentary for the Great Lakes Poetry Festival.  It was titled Bigfoot and Marty, and it was about . . . me.  We got one of the biggest crowds of the entire festival.

Saint Marty's koan for the night:  luck is like Bigfoot or a shark--it can surprise you or bite you in the ass.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

April 24: Until I Die, Cindy Hunter Morgan, Pizza and Wine

Santiago has some regrets . . . 

The old man watched for him to come again but neither shark showed. Then he saw one on the surface swimming in circles. He did not see the fin of the other.

I could not expect to kill them, he thought. I could have in my time. But I have hurt them both badly and neither one can feel very good. If I could have used a bat with two hands I could have killed the first one surely. Even now, he thought.

He did not want to look at the fish. He knew that half of him had been destroyed. The sun had gone down while he had been in the fight with the sharks.

"It will be dark soon," he said. "Then I should see the glow of Havana. If I am too far to the eastward I will see the lights of one of the new beaches."

I cannot be too far out now, he thought. I hope no one has been too worried. There is only the boy to worry, of course. But I am sure he would have confidence. Many of the older fishermen will worry. Many others too, he thought. I live in a good town.

He could not talk to the fish anymore because the fish had been ruined too badly. Then something came into his head.

"Half fish," he said. "Fish that you were. I am sorry that I went too far out. I ruined us both. But we have killed many sharks, you and I, and ruined many others. How many did you ever kill, old fish? You do not have that spear on your head for nothing."

He liked to think of the fish and what he could do to a shark if he were swimming free. I should have chopped the bill off to fight them with, he thought. But there was no hatchet and then there was no knife.

But if I had, and could have lashed it to an oar butt, what a weapon. Then we might have fought them together. What will you do now if they come in the night? What can you do?

"Fight them," he said. "I'll fight them until I die."

Another poetry reading this evening for the Great Lakes Poetry Festival.  Cindy Hunter Morgan and Lynn Domina reading in Morgan Chapel at Saint Paul's Episcopal Church.  Pizza and wine afterward.

Saint Marty's koan for this evening:  in the immortal words of Commander Peter Quincy Taggart from Galaxy Quest:  "Never give up . . . and never surrender."

Saturday, April 23, 2022

April 23: The Brown Fins, Second Place, Drunk on Red Wine

Santiago continues to fight . . . 

He put his hands in the water again to soak them. It was getting late in the afternoon and he saw nothing but the sea and the sky. There was more wind in the sky than there had been, and soon he hoped that he would see land.

"You're tired, old man," he said. "You're tired inside."

The sharks did not hit him again until just before sunset.

The old man saw the brown fins coming along the wide trail the fish must make in the water. They were not even quartering on the scent. They were headed straight for the skiff swimming side by side.

He jammed the tiller, made the sheet fast and reached under the stern for the club. It was an oar handle from a broken oar sawed off to about two and a half feet in length. He could only use it effectively with one hand because of the grip of the handle and he took good hold of it with his right hand, flexing his hand on it, as he watched the sharks come. They were both galanos.

I must let the first one get a good hold and hit him on the point of the nose or straight across the top of the head, he thought.

The two sharks closed together and as he saw the one nearest him open his jaws and sink them into the silver side of the fish, he raised the club high and brought it down heavy and slamming onto the top of the shark's broad head. He felt the rubbery solidity as the club came down. But he felt the rigidity of bone too and he struck the shark once more hard across the point of the nose as he slid down from the fish.

The other shark had been in and out and now came in again with his jaws wide. The old man could see pieces of the meat of the fish spilling white from the corner of his jaws as he bumped the fish and closed his jaws. He swung at him and hit only the head and the shark looked at him and wrenched the meat loose. The old man swung the club down on him again as he slipped away to swallow and hit only the heavy solid rubberiness.

"Come on, galano," the old man said. "Come in again."

The shark came in a rush and the old man hit him as he shut his jaws. He hit him solidly and from as high up as he could raise the club. This time he felt the bone at the base of the brain and he hit him again in the same place while the shark tore the meat loose sluggishly and slid down from the fish.

My son won second place in the Teen Poetry Contest for the Great Lakes Poetry Festival.  So proud of him.  He, of course, acted like it was no big deal.  Because he's 13 years old.

Furnace went out again this evening, but only for an hour or so.  Then, my wife and I got drunk on red wine and recorded an episode of a podcast.  

Saint Marty's koan for tonight:  keep a club close, and a bottle of wine closer.

Friday, April 22, 2022

April 22: Too Old, Furnace, Daughter's Graduation

Santiago refuses to give up . . . 

He was a fish to keep a man all winter, he thought. Don't think of that. Just rest and try to get your hands in shape to defend what is left of him. The blood smell from my hands means nothing now with all that scent in the water. Besides they do not bleed much. There is nothing cut that means anything. The bleeding may keep the left from cramping.

What can I think of now? he thought. Nothing. I must think of nothing and wait for the next ones. I wish it had really been a dream, he thought. But who knows? It might have turned out well.

The next shark that came was a single shovel-nose. He came like a pig to the trough if a pig had a mouth so wide that you could put your head in it. The old man let him hit the fish and then drove the knife on the oar down into his brain. But the shark jerked backwards as he rolled and the knife blade snapped.

The old man settled himself to steer. He did not even watch the big shark sinking slowly in the water, showing first life-size, then small, then tiny. That always fascinated the old man. But he did not even watch it now.

"I have the gaff now," he said. "But it will do no good. I have the two oars and the tiller and the short club."

Now they have beaten me, he thought. I am too old to club sharks to death. But I will try it as long as I have the oars and the short club and the tiller.

Furnace is working again.  Screened a matinee movie for the poetry festival--Moccasins and Microphones again.  Better attendance this time.  

My daughter graduated from the Student Leader Fellowship Program tonight at the university.  I attended the dinner/ceremony, and even got my daughter to pose for a picture.

Saint Marty's koan for tonight:  keep an extra knife in your boat for shark emergencies.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

April 21: Much Good Counsel. Furnace Person, Shark Highway

Santiago knows he's fighting a losing battle . . . 

"They must have taken a quarter of him and of the best meat," he said aloud. "I wish it were a dream and that I had never hooked him. I'm sorry about it, fish. It makes everything wrong." He stopped and he did not want to look at the fish now. Drained of blood and awash he looked the colour of the silver backing of a mirror and his stripes still showed.

"I shouldn't have gone out so far, fish," he said. "Neither for you nor for me. I'm sorry, fish."

Now, he said to himself. Look to the lashing on the knife and see if it has been cut. Then get your hand in order because there still is more to come.

"I wish I had a stone for the knife," the old man said after he had checked the lashing on the oar butt. "I should have brought a stone." You should have brought many things, he thought. But you did not bring them, old man. Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.

"You give me much good counsel," he said aloud. "I'm tired of it."

He held the tiller under his arm and soaked both his hands in the water as the skiff drove forward.

"God knows how much that last one took," he said. "But she's much lighter now." He did not want to think of the mutilated under-side of the fish. He knew that each of the jerking bumps of the shark had been meat torn away and that the fish now made a trail for all sharks as wide as a highway through the sea.

Furnace went out again today.  Waited most of the night for a different furnace person to show up.  Although I did attend a poetry open mic with my son, as well.

My wife, son, and I are spending the night at a hotel because it was so cold in the house.  And just to get a break from the stress.  

Saint Marty's koan for tonight:  a shark highway is better than a dead furnace.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

April 20: Slitted Yellow Eyes, Poetry Workshop, Long-Winded

Santiago takes care of two more sharks . . . 

They came. But they did not come as the Mako had come. One turned and went out of sight under the skiff and the old man could feel the skiff shake as he jerked and pulled on the fish. The other watched the old man with his slitted yellow eyes and then came in fast with his half circle of jaws wide to hit the fish where he had already been bitten. The line showed clearly on the top of his brown head and back where the brain joined the spinal cord and the old man drove the knife on the oar into the juncture, withdrew it, and drove it in again into the shark's yellow cat-like eyes. The shark let go of the fish and slid down, swallowing what he had taken as he died.

The skiff was still shaking with the destruction the other shark was doing to the fish and the old man let go the sheet so that the skiff would swing broadside and bring the shark out from under. When he saw the shark he leaned over the side and punched at him. He hit only meat and the hide was set hard and he barely got the knife in. The blow hurt not only his hands but his shoulder too. But the shark came up fast with his head out and the old man hit him squarely in the center of his flat-topped head as his nose came out of water and lay against the fish. The old man withdrew the blade and punched the shark exactly in the same spot again. He still hung to the fish with his jaws hooked and the old man stabbed him in his left eye. The shark still hung there.

"No?" the old man said and he drove the blade between the vertebrae and the brain. It was an easy shot now and he felt the cartilage sever. The old man reversed the oar and put the blade between the shark's jaws to open them. He twisted the blade and as the shark slid loose he said, "Go on, galano. Slide down a mile deep. Go see your friend, or maybe it's your mother."

The old man wiped the blade of his knife and laid down the oar. Then he found the sheet and the sail filled and he brought the skiff onto her course.

Tonight, another poetry workshop led by one of my best friends.  A good way to end a long day.  Everything we wrote was again 100 words or less, which is a challenge for me.  If you haven't noticed, I'm usually pretty long-winded.

And my furnace was out until about midnight.  Guy came out and got it running again to the tune of $400 for 20 minutes of work.

Saint Marty's koan for the night:  chew each bite 32 times before dying.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

April 19: Ay, Keith Taylor, Nachos

Santiago readies for battle . . . 

"Ay," he said aloud. There is no translation for this word and perhaps it is just a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood.

"Galanos," he said aloud. He had seen the second fin now coming up behind the first and had identified them as shovel-nosed sharks by the brown, triangular fin and the sweeping movements of the tail. They had the scent and were excited and in the stupidity of their great hunger they were losing and finding the scent in their excitement. But they were closing all the time.

The old man made the sheet fast and jammed the tiller. Then he took up the oar with the knife lashed to it. He lifted it as lightly as he could because his hands rebelled at the pain. Then he opened and closed them on it lightly to loosen them. He closed them firmly so they would take the pain now and would not flinch and watched the sharks come. He could see their wide, flattened, shovel-pointed heads now and their white-tipped wide pectoral fins. They were hateful sharks, bad smelling, scavengers as well as killers, and when they were hungry they would bite at an oar or the rudder of a boat. It was these sharks that would cut the turtles' legs and flippers off when the turtles were asleep on the surface, and they would hit a man in the water, if they were hungry, even if the man had no smell of fish blood nor of fish slime on him.

"Ay," the old man said. "Galanos. Come on, Galanos."

Hosted a reading by poets Milton Bates and Keith Taylor at the library this evening.  A beautiful event that reaffirmed my feelings for the poetry festival and my work.  Went out for drinks and nachos afterwards.  

Saint Marty's koan for tonight:  in the stupidity of great hunger, poetry and nachos will fill your up.

Monday, April 18, 2022

April 18: Everything Kills Everything, Another Documentary, Frozen Yogurt

Santiago knows a bad time is coming . . . 

Besides, he thought, everything kills everything else in some way. Fishing kills me exactly as it keeps me alive. The boy keeps me alive, he thought. I must not deceive myself too much.

He leaned over the side and pulled loose a piece of the meat of the fish where the shark had cut him. He chewed it and noted its quality and its good taste. It was firm and juicy, like meat, but it was not red. There was no stringiness in it and he knew that it would bring the highest price in the market. But there was no way to keep its scent out of the water and the old man knew that a very bad time was coming.

The breeze was steady. It had backed a little further into the north-east and he knew that meant that it would not fall off. The old man looked ahead of him but he could see no sails nor could he see the hull nor the smoke of any ship. There were only the flying fish that went up from his bow sailing away to either side and the yellow patches of gulf-weed. He could not even see a bird.

He had sailed for two hours, resting in the stern and sometimes chewing a bit of the meat from the marlin, trying to rest and to be strong, when he saw the first of the two sharks.

Tonight, I screened another documentary as part of the Great Lakes Poetry Festival at the library.  Except for myself, my wife and son, and my co-organizer and his son, nobody else showed up.  We still showed the movie, but it was kind of a disheartening experience.  Poetry isn't a huge draw, I know.  But, after investing so much time and effort into planning events, it's hard not to take nights like this one a little personally.

However, I did get frozen yogurt.

Saint Marty's koan for this evening:  when life gives you sharks, eat frozen dairy products.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

April 17: Killed Him for Pride, Easter Sunday, a Bug

Santiago keeps thinking about sin . . . 

But he liked to think about all things that he was involved in and since there was nothing to read and he did not have a radio, he thought much and he kept on thinking about sin. You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. It you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?

"You think too much, old man," he said aloud.

But you enjoyed killing the dentuso, he thought. He lives on the live fish as you do. He is not a scavenger nor just a moving appetite as some sharks are. He is beautiful and noble and knows no fear of anything.

"I killed him in self-defense," the old man said aloud. "And I killed him well."

Christ is risen!  Easter Sunday.  One of the strangest I've ever had, with no big family hoopla (that happened yesterday).  I stayed at home, took naps, and watched movies with my son.

Sometimes, I get cocky.  Full of pride.  As if I the world owes me something.  It doesn't.  In fact, I would say that I'm a bug, and the world is a pickup truck's windshield.  

Saint Marty's koan for today:  killing something well doesn't make killing right.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

April 16: Hope Returned, Easter Vigil, Haiku Easter Egg Hunt

Santiago thinks about sin . . . 

"Yes there is," he said aloud. "I can lash my knife to the butt of one of the oars."

So he did that with the tiller under his arm and the sheet of the sail under his foot.

"Now," he said. "I am still an old man. But I am not unarmed."

The breeze was fresh now and he sailed on well. He watched only the forward part of the fish and some of his hope returned.

It is silly not to hope, he thought. Besides I believe it is a sin. Do not think about sin, he thought. There are enough problems now without sin. Also I have no understanding of it. I have no understanding of it and I am not sure that I believe in it. Perhaps it was a sin to kill the fish. I suppose it was even though I did it to keep me alive and feed many people. But then everything is a sin. Do not think about sin. It is much too late for that and there are people who are paid to do it. Let them think about it. You were born to be a fisherman as the fish was born to be a fish. San Pedro was a fisherman as was the father of the great DiMaggio.

The Easter Bunny came this morning, because my wife has to work tomorrow (Easter Sunday) morning.  Had an Easter brunch with my family.  Then, I helped out with a haiku Easter egg hunt this afternoon.  No Mass tonight.  Just a quiet Easter Vigil night at home.

Saint Marty's koan for this Easter Eve:  stupid hope is a knife on an oar, a chocolate bunny in an Easter basket.

Friday, April 15, 2022

April 15: Take It When It Comes, Good Friday, Colored Eggs

Santiago stops thinking about the future . . . 

"Don't think, old man," he said aloud. "Sail on this course and take it when it comes."

But I must think, he thought. Because it is all I have left. That and baseball. I wonder how the great DiMaggio would have liked the way I hit him in the brain? It was no great thing, he thought. Any man could do it. But do you think my hands were as great a handicap as the bone spurs? I cannot know. I never had anything wrong with my heel except the time the sting ray stung it when I stepped on him when swimming and paralyzed the lower leg and made the unbearable pain.

"Think about something cheerful, old man," he said. "Every minute now you are closer to home. You sail lighter for the loss of forty pounds."

He knew quite well the pattern of what could happen when he reached the inner part of the current. But there was nothing to be done now.

An easy Good Friday.  I played Mass at 6 p.m. and then colored eggs with my kids.  

Saint Marty's koan for the night:  sometimes getting home means fighting with blood-hungry sharks.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

April 14: Not Made for Defeat, MFA Thesis Defense, a Snake

Santiago meditates on defeat  . . .

"He took about forty pounds," the old man said aloud. He took my harpoon too and all the rope, he thought, and now my fish bleeds again and there will be others.

He did not like to look at the fish anymore since he had been mutilated. When the fish had been hit it was as though he himself were hit.

But I killed the shark that hit my fish, he thought. And he was the biggest dentuso that I have ever seen. And God knows that I have seen big ones.

It was too good to last, he thought. I wish it had been a dream now and that I had never hooked the fish and was alone in bed on the newspapers.

"But man is not made for defeat," he said. "A man can be destroyed but not defeated." I am sorry that I killed the fish though, he thought. Now the bad time is coming and I do not even have the harpoon. The dentuso is cruel and able and strong and intelligent. But I was more intelligent that he was. Perhaps not, he thought. Perhaps I was only better armed.

I went to the MFA thesis defense of one of my good friends this evening, and then I went to a children's museum and touched a snake.

Saint Marty's koan for tonight:  what doesn't kill us makes us poets.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

April 13: Location of the Brain, Poetry Workshop, Hunger

Santiago kills again . . . 

When the old man saw him coming he knew that this was a shark that had no fear at all and would do exactly what he wished. He prepared the harpoon and made the rope fast while he watched the shark come on. The rope was short as it lacked what he had cut away to lash the fish.

The old man's head was clear and good now and he was full of resolution but he had little hope. It was too good to last, he thought. He took one look at the great fish as he watched the shark close in. It might as well have been a dream, he thought. I cannot keep him from hitting me but maybe I can get him. Dentuso, he thought. Bad luck to your mother.

The shark closed fast astern and when he hit the fish the old man saw his mouth open and his strange eyes and the clicking chop of the teeth as he drove forward in the meat just above the tail. The shark's head was out of water and his back was coming out and the old man could hear the noise of skin and flesh ripping on the big fish when he rammed the harpoon down onto the shark's head at a spot where the line between his eyes intersected with the line that ran straight back from his nose. There were no such lines. There was only the heavy sharp blue head and the big eyes and the clicking, thrusting all-swallowing jaws. But that was the location of the brain and the old man hit it. He hit it with his blood mushed hands driving a good harpoon with all his strength. He hit it without hope but with resolution and complete malignancy.

The shark swung over and the old man saw his eye was not alive and then he swung over once again, wrapping himself in two loops of the rope. The old man knew that he was dead but the shark would not accept it. Then, on his back, with his tail lashing and his jaws clicking, the shark plowed over the water as a speed-boat does. The water was white where his tail beat it and three-quarters of his body was clear above the water when the rope came taut, shivered, and then snapped. The shark lay quietly for a little while on the surface and the old man watched him. Then he went down very slowly.

Led a poetry workshop tonight for the poetry festival.  A good evening of of writing prompts based on poems by African American women poets.  In celebration of International Black Women's Month.

Saint Marty's koan for tonight:  the belly has its own brain.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

April 12: Not an Accident, Thomas Lynch, Teeth

Santiago has an enemy . . . 

The shark was not an accident. He had come up from deep down in the water as the dark cloud of blood had settled and dispersed in the mile deep sea. He had come up so fast and absolutely without caution that he broke the surface of the blue water and was in the sun. Then he fell back into the sea and picked up the scent and started swimming on the course the skiff and the fish had taken.

Sometimes he lost the scent. But he would pick it up again, or have just a trace of it, and he swam fast and hard on the course. He was a very big Mako shark built to swim as fast as the fastest fish in the sea and everything about him was beautiful except his jaws.

His back was as blue as a sword fish's and his belly was silver and his hide was smooth and handsome. He was built as a sword fish except for his huge jaws which were tight shut now as he swam fast, just under the surface with his high dorsal fin knifing through the water without wavering. Inside the closed double lip of his jaws all of his eight rows of teeth were slanted inwards. They were not the ordinary pyramid-shaped teeth of most sharks. They were shaped like a man's fingers when they are crisped like claws. They were nearly as long as the fingers of the old man and they had razor-sharp cutting edges on both sides. This was a fish built to feed on all the fishes in the sea, that were so fast and strong and well armed that they had no other enemy. Now he speeded up as he smelled the fresher scent and his blue dorsal fin cut the water.

Poet Thomas Lynch read at the library this evening, along with my friend Kathleen Heideman.  It was a glorious night, capped off with some drinks and conversation about death at Kathleen's house.

Saint Marty koan for tonight:  beauty is in the teeth.


Monday, April 11, 2022

April 11: Two Drinks of Water, End of the Semester, a Shark

Santiago thinks about dreams . . . 

The old man still had two drinks of water in the bottle and he used half of one after he had eaten the shrimps. The skiff was sailing well considering the handicaps and he steered with the tiller under his arm. He could see the fish and he had only to look at his hands and feel his back against the stern to know that this had truly happened and was not a dream. At one time when he was feeling so badly toward the end, he had thought perhaps it was a dream. Then when he had seen the fish come out of the water and hang motionless in the sky before he fell, he was sure there was some great strangeness and he could not believe it. Then he could not see well, although now he saw as well as ever.

Now he knew there was the fish and his hands and back were no dream. The hands cure quickly, he thought. I bled them clean and the salt water will heal them. The dark water of the true gulf is the greatest healer that there is. All I must do is keep the head clear. The hands have done their work and we sail well. With his mouth shut and his tail straight up and down we sail like brothers. Then his head started to become a little unclear and he thought, is he bringing me in or am I bringing him in? If I were towing him behind there would be no question. Nor if the fish were in the skiff, with all dignity gone, there would be no question either. But they were sailing together lashed side by side and the old man thought, let him bring me in if it pleases him. I am only better than him through trickery and he meant me no harm.

They sailed well and the old man soaked his hands in the salt water and tried to keep his head clear. There were high cumulus clouds and enough cirrus above them so that the old man knew the breeze would last all night. The old man looked at the fish constantly to make sure it was true. It was an hour before the first shark hit him.

Coming to the end of the semester of teaching.  No classes yet for the fall.  I screened a documentary this evening for the Great Lakes Poetry Festival.  A world premiere film by a good friend about Joy Harjo and the NEA Big Read.

Saint Marty's koan for tonight:  even in the middle of a dream, s shark can bite your ass.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

April 10: Tasted Good, Poetry Workshop, 100 Words

Santiago sets sail for home and eats . . . 

He made the fish fast to bow and stern and to the middle thwart. He was so big it was like lashing a much bigger skiff alongside. He cut a piece of line and tied the fish's lower jaw against his bill so his mouth would not open and they would sail as cleanly as possible. Then he stepped the mast and, with the stick that was his gaff and with his boom rigged, the patched sail drew, the boat began to move, and half lying in the stern he sailed south-west.

He did not need a compass to tell him where south-west was. He only needed the feel of the trade wind and the drawing of the sail. I better put a small line out with a spoon on it and try and get something to eat and drink for the moisture. But he could not find a spoon and his sardines were rotten. So he hooked a patch of yellow gulf weed with the gaff as they passed and shook it so that the small shrimps that were in it fell onto the planking of the skiff. There were more than a dozen of them and they jumped and kicked like sand fleas. The old man pinched their heads off with his thumb and forefinger and ate them chewing up the shells and the tails. They were very tiny but he knew they were nourishing and they tasted good.

This evening, I attended a poetry workshop led by a good friend.  He made us write poems less than 100 words long.  A challenge.

Saint Marty's koan for tonight:  the smallest bites make the best meals.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

April 9: Purple and Silver, 3-Day Chapbook Reading, Math and Fish

Santiago regards the size of the fish . . . 

"Come on, fish," he said. But the fish did not come. Instead he lay there wallowing now in the seas and the old man pulled the skiff up onto him.

When he was even with him and had the fish's head against the bow he could not believe his size. But he untied the harpoon rope from the bitt, passed it through the fish's gills and out his jaws, made a turn around his sword then passed the rope through the other gill, made another turn around the bill and knotted the double rope and made it fast to the bitt in the bow. He cut the rope then and went astern to noose the tail. The fish had turned silver from his original purple and silver, and the stripes showed the same pale violet colour as his tail. They were wider than a man's hand with his fingers spread and the fish's eye looked as detached as the mirrors in a periscope or as a saint in a procession.

"It was the only way to kill him," the old man said. He was feeling better since the water and he knew he would not go away and his head was clear. He's over fifteen hundred pounds the way he is, he thought. Maybe much more. If he dresses out two-thirds of that at thirty cents a pound?

"I need a pencil for that," he said. "My head is not that clear. But I think the great DiMaggio would be proud of me today. I had no bone spurs. But the hands and the back hurt truly." I wonder what a bone spur is, he thought. Maybe we have them without knowing of it.

Hosted a reading of the winners of a three-day poetry chapbook writing competition today at the library.  It was the culmination of about six moths worth of planning.

Saint Marty's koan for today:  math and fish don't mix. 

Friday, April 8, 2022

April 8: The Harpoon Shaft, a Badass, Kill Wonder

Santiago has miles to go before he sleeps . . . 

He started to pull the fish in to have him alongside so that he could pass a line through his gills and out his mouth and make his head fast alongside the bow. I want to see him, he thought, and to touch and to feel him. He is my fortune, he thought. But that is not why I wish to feel him. I think I felt his heart, he thought. When I pushed on the harpoon shaft the second time. Bring him in now and make him fast and get the noose around his tail and another around his middle to bind him to the skiff.

"Get to work, old man," he said. He took a very small drink of the water. "There is very much slave work to be done now that the fight is over."

He looked up at the sky and then out to his fish. He looked at the sun carefully. It is not much more than noon, he thought. And the trade wind is rising. The lines all mean nothing now. The boy and I will splice them when we are home.

Watched a documentary about Maya Angelou today.  She was a badass.

Saint Marty's koan:  it's easy to kill wonder--just drive a harpoon through its heart.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

April 7: Do the Slave Work, Poetry Reading with My Son, Hard Day's Work

Santiago has killed the fish . . . 

The old man looked carefully in the glimpse of vision that he had. Then he took two turns of the harpoon line around the bitt in the bow and laid his head on his hands.

"Keep my head clear," he said against the wood of the bow. "I am a tired old man. But I have killed this fish which is my brother and now I must do the slave work."

Now I must prepare the nooses and the rope to lash him alongside, he thought. Even if we were two and swamped her to load him and bailed her out, this skiff would never hold him. I must prepare everything, then bring him in and lash him well and step the mast and set sail for home.

I did a poetry reading with my 13-year-old son tonight.  I think he may be a real poet.  God help him.

Saint Marty's koan for today:  at the end of a hard day's work, there's always more hard work.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

April 6: Silvery and Still, Fish is a Fish, "Letting Go"

Santiago has killed the fish . . . 

The old man felt faint and sick and he could not see well. But he cleared the harpoon line and let it run slowly through his raw hands and, when he could see, he saw the fish was on his back with his silver belly up. The shaft of the harpoon was projecting at an angle from the fish's shoulder and the sea was discolouring with the red of the blood from his heart. First it was dark as a shoal in the blue water that was more than a mile deep. Then it spread like a cloud. The fish was silvery and still and floated with the waves.

Saint Marty's koan for tonight:  Sometimes a fish is a fish, and sometimes it's death.

Attended a poetry workshop tonight led by a good friend.  Here is something I wrote:  

Letting Go

by:  Martin Achatz

You remember that book
by Adrienne Rich you bought
in New York, the one Rich
inscribed, "To Lola, who went
diving with me one day"?
Even Lola couldn't hold
onto that gift, let it be
boxed up, donated
to a Methodist rummage
sale to raise funds
for Liberia.  Nothing
is ever really lost.  It's just
becomes loved by someone else.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

April 5: Water with a Crash, Reading Tonight, Death

Santiago mortally wounds the fish . . . 

He tried it again and it was the same. So, he thought, and he felt himself going before he started; I will try it once again.

He took all his pain and what was left of his strength and his long gone pride and he put it against the fish's agony and the fish came over onto his side and swam gently on his side, his bill almost touching the planking of the skiff and started to pass the boat, long, deep, wide, silver and barred with purple and interminable in the water.

The old man dropped the line and put his foot on it and lifted the harpoon as high as he could and drove it down with all his strength, and more strength he had just summoned, into the fish's side just behind the great chest fin that rose high in the air to the altitude of the man's chest. He felt the iron go in and he leaned on it and drove it further and then pushed all his weight after it.

Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty. He seemed to hang in the air above the old man in the skiff. Then he fell into the water with a crash that sent spray over the old man and over all of the skiff.

Gave a reading tonight with all of the former (and the current) U. P. Poet Laureates at the library.  It felt good to share some new--and old--poems.

Saint Marty's koan for tonight:  Death can leave you all wet.

Monday, April 4, 2022

April 4: Tail Weaving in the Air, How Deep the Ocean, Maya Angelou

Santiago tries to turn the fish again.

Now you are getting confused in the head, he thought. You must keep your head clear. Keep your head clear and know how to suffer like a man. Or a fish, he thought.

"Clear up, head," he said in a voice he could hardly hear. "Clear up."

Twice more it was the same on the turns.

I do not know, the old man thought. He had been on the point of feeling himself go each time. I do not know. But I will try it once more.

He tried it once more and he felt himself going when he turned the fish. The fish righted himself and swam off again slowly with the great tail weaving in the air.

I'll try it again, the old man promised, although his hands were mushy now and he could only see well in flashes.

Koan:  Eyes and hands can't change how deep the ocean is.

Saint Marty saw a documentary about Maya Angelou tonight.  She was a badass.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

April 3: Who Kills Who, Beauty is a Fish, Seasick

Santiago admires the fish . . .

That way nothing is accomplished, he thought. His mouth was too dry to speak but he could not reach for the water now. I must get him alongside this time, he thought. I am not good for many more turns. Yes you are, he told himself. You're good for ever.

On the next turn, he nearly had him. But again the fish righted himself and swam slowly away.

You are killing me, fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who.

Koan:  Beauty is a fish that can kill you.

Saint Marty gets seasick in the rain.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

April 2: Righted Himself, Speak to the Mountain, Poetry Events

Santiago doesn't give up . . . 

He felt faint again now but he held on the great fish all the strain that he could. I moved him, he thought. Maybe this time I can get him over. Pull, hands, he thought. Hold up, legs. Last for me, head. Last for me. You never went. This time I'll pull him over.

But when he put all of his effort on, starting it well out before the fish came alongside and pulling with all his strength, the fish pulled part way over and then righted himself and swam away.

"Fish," the old man said. "Fish, you are going to have to die anyway. Do you have to kill me too?"

Koan:  If you speak to the mountain, it will not get smaller.

Saint Marty has a month of poetry events ahead of him.

Friday, April 1, 2022

April 1: The Fish Turned, Fallen Behind, Koans

Santiago brings the fish closer . . . 

"Be calm and strong, old man," he said.

On the next circle the fish's back was out but he was a little too far from the boat. On the next circle he was still too far away but he was higher out of water and the old man was sure that by gaining some more line he could have him alongside.

He had rigged his harpoon long before and its coil of light rope was in a round basket and the end was made fast to the bitt in the bow.

The fish was coming in on his circle now calm and beautiful looking and only his great tail moving. The old man pulled on him all that he could to bring him closer. For just a moment the fish turned a little on his side. Then he straightened himself and began another circle.

"I moved him," the old man said. "I moved him then."

I've fallen behind in my blogging, so I'm going to submit some koans for the next 17 or so posts, based on the passages from The Old Man and the Sea.

Here's the first . . . 

Even is the fish comes closer, the heart remains distant.

Saint Marty is seeking enlightenment.