Saturday, April 21, 2018

April 21: Laugh's the Wisest, Hair and Makeup and Pictures, Heartbreak and Disappointment and Failure

(Stubb solus,and mending a brace.)

Ha! ha! ha! ha! hem! clear my throat!- I've been thinking over it ever since, and that ha, ha's the final consequence. Why so? Because a laugh's the wisest, easiest answer to all that's queer; and come what will, one comfort's always left- that unfailing comfort is, it's all predestinated. I heard not all his talk with Starbuck; but to my poor eye Starbuck then looked something as I the other evening felt. Be sure the old Mogul has fixed him, too. I twigged it, knew it; had the gift, might readily have prophesied it- for when I clapped my eye upon his skull I saw it. Well, Stubb, wise Stubb- that's my title- well, Stubb, what of it, Stubb? Here's a carcase. I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing. Such a waggish leering as lurks in all your horribles! I feel funny. Fa, la! lirra, skirra! What's my juicy little pear at home doing now? Crying its eyes out?- Giving a party to the last arrived harpooneers, I dare say, gay as a frigate's pennant, and so am I- fa, la! lirra, skirra! Oh-

We'll drink to-night with hearts as light, To love, as gay and fleeting As bubbles that swim, on the beaker's brim, And break on the lips while meeting.

A brave stave that- who calls? Mr. Starbuck? Aye, aye, sir- (Aside) he's my superior, he has his too, if I'm not mistaken.- Aye, aye, sir, just through with this job- coming.

Stubb is good-natured.  His response to Ahab's unhinging and Starbuck's attempt at defiance is laughter.  Stubb can't do anything to change his situation.  He believes what will happen is predestined.  So, instead of wringing his hands, gnashing his teeth, losing sleep, Stubb laughs, because "a laugh's the wisest . . ."

I like to think that I'm good-natured.  I try not to let things get under my skin.  Not always successful at this, but I try.  Today is going to be a day of stress.  My daughter and her boyfriend are going to the prom this evening.  So, it's all about hair and makeup and pictures and dinner and grand marches.  Me?  I have to wash and vacuum out my car.  Chauffeur them around to various photo ops.

It's a difficult thing for me--to think that my little girl is a junior in high school, one year away from graduation.  That I'm no longer the most important male in her life.  That colleges are trying to court her.  She's driving now, talking about getting a job this summer.  Before my eyes, she has become her own person with her own ideas.  Thank God one of those ideas is that Donald Trump is a friggin' moron.

No matter how much I want to protect my daughter from heartbreak and disappointment and failure, I know she will experience all of those things in the years to come.  I can't do anything about that.  I'm not saying my daughter is predestined for disasters of the heart and soul.  I'm saying that the world and people are imperfect.  Because of that imperfection, my daughter will be hurt and disappointed at times in her life.  Can't get around it.

This day, however, is all about celebration of youth and love and accomplishment.  Like Stubb, I'm taking it one day (sometimes one minute or second) at a time.  I'm going to laugh and enjoy all that happens today--the ridiculous and sublime.  She's my little girl still.  At least for another year.  She's beautiful and sweet and smart.

Saint Marty is thankful today for his daughter.

April 21: "To the Dead," Frank Bidart, People Who Aren't Here Anymore

To the Dead

by:  Frank Bidart

What I hope (when I hope) is that we'll
see each other again,--

. . . and again reach the VEIN

in which we loved each other . .
It existed. It existed.

There is a NIGHT within the NIGHT,--

. . . for, like the detectives (the Ritz Brothers)
in The Gorilla,

once we'd been battered by the gorilla

we searched the walls, the intricately carved
impenetrable paneling

for a button, lever, latch

that unlocks a secret door that
reveals at last the secret chambers,


(the disenthralling, necessary, dreamed structure
beneath the structure we see,)

that is the HOUSE within the HOUSE . . .

There is a NIGHT within the NIGHT,--

. . . there were (for example) months when I seemed only
to displease, frustrate,

disappoint you--; then, something triggered

a drunk lasting for days, and as you
slowly and shakily sobered up,

sick, throbbing with remorse and self-loathing,

insight like ashes: clung
to; useless; hated . . .

This was the viewing of the power of the waters

while the waters were asleep:--
secrets, histories of loves, betrayals, double-binds

not fit (you thought) for the light of day . . .

There is a NIGHT within the NIGHT,--

. . . for, there at times at night, still we
inhabit the secret place together . . .

Is this wisdom, or self-pity?--

The love I've known is the love of
two people staring

not at each other, but in the same direction.                         


On this big weekend for my daughter, I've been thinking a lot about people who aren't here anymore who would have really loved seeing her in her prom finery.  My sister.  My wife's mother and grandmother.  My dad.  They all would have melted seeing her looking all grown up and beautiful.

I'm not going to get all maudlin here.  I just wish these people could see her today.  I think Bidart has it right in this poem.  Love is not about gazing into each other's eyes with adoration all the time.  It's about people looking at the same thing and loving it together. 

Maybe Saint Marty is being a little bit melancholy.

Friday, April 20, 2018

April 20: Sharkish Sea, Choice and Freewill, Daughter's Prom

By the Mainmast; Starbuck leaning against it.

My soul is more than matched; she's over-manned; and by a madman! Insufferable sting, that sanity should ground arms on such a field! But he drilled deep down, and blasted all my reason out of me! I think I see his impious end; but feel that I must help him to it. Will I, nill I, the ineffable thing has tied me to him; tows me with a cable I have no knife to cut. Horrible old man! Who's over him, he cries;- aye, he would be a democrat to all above; look, how he lords it over all below! Oh! I plainly see my miserable office,- to obey, rebelling; and worse yet, to hate with touch of pity! For in his eyes I read some lurid woe would shrivel me up, had I it. Yet is there hope. Time and tide flow wide. The hated whale has the round watery world to swim in, as the small gold-fish has its glassy globe. His heaven-insulting purpose, God may wedge aside. I would up heart, were it not like lead. But my whole clock's run down; my heart the all-controlling weight, I have no key to lift again.

[A burst of revelry from the forecastle.]

Oh, God! to sail with such a heathen crew that have small touch of human mothers in them! Whelped somewhere by the sharkish sea. The white whale is their demigorgon. Hark! the infernal orgies! that revelry is forward! mark the unfaltering silence aft! Methinks it pictures life. Foremost through the sparkling sea shoots on the gay, embattled, bantering bow, but only to drag dark Ahab after it, where he broods within his sternward cabin, builded over the dead water of the wake, and further on, hunted by its wolfish gurglings. The long howl thrills me through! Peace! ye revellers, and set the watch! Oh, life! 'tis in an hour like this, with soul beat down and held to knowledge,- as wild, untutored things are forced to feed- Oh, life! 'tis now that I do feel the latent horror in thee! but 'tis not me! that horror's out of me, and with the soft feeling of the human in me, yet will I try to fight ye, ye grim, phantom futures! Stand by me, hold me, bind me, O ye blessed influences!

Stabuck is not pleased with Ahab's leadership, sees doom in it.  Yet, the crew is under Ahab's spell.  Starbuck senses something wild and ferocious in both his captain and the other sailors.  As he thinks, they are all "[w]helped somewhere by the sharkish sea."  Translation:  reason and rationality will have little effect on them.  Starbuck has no way out.  He turns to God for comfort and the strength to endure whatever the cold sea holds in store.

I find these stream of consciousness chapters fascinating.  Previously, it was Ahab.  This time, Starbuck.  Two polar opposite characters--Ahab driven by vengeance, Starbuck by concern and fear.  Both men believe in their missions.  Ahab is chasing the devil.  Starbuck is being commanded by him.  Such an interesting battle of thought and will.

It is Friday afternoon.  Just got home from work.  My daughter is off having her nails done for her prom tomorrow evening.  My son is at my mother's house, no doubt playing some game on his computer or stomping through the thawed mud and muck.  Thus, I sit in silence, contemplating choice and freewill.  Neither Ahab or Starbuck seem in charge of their own destinies.  Ahab's fate is tied to a whale.  Starbuck's fate is tied to a madman.

Of course, I believe in free will.  My life is a product of the choices I have made.  I chose to get married and have children.  Chose to teach in the English Department of a university part-time, work in the healthcare field full-time.  Tonight, I am choosing to write this blog post about choices.  Later, when I go out for dinner with my wife and daughter, I will choose between gin and wine.

I am not disappointed in my life choices at all.  I own them.  I am not an Ahab, driven by anger or loss or retribution.  I'm not Starbuck, allowing another person to steer the ship of my life.  The last couple years have been pretty good to me.  Teaching awards.  The whole Poet Laureate thing.  Of course, I've dealt with some hardships, as well.  The death of my brother and sister and father.  But I have chosen not to let these losses define my life.  If I did, I wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning.

I am choosing to have a wonderful weekend.  To watch my daughter get her nails and hair and makeup done.  Witness her come down from her room in her prom dress,  Take pictures.  Attend the grand march.  Maybe cry a little.  Feel a little old.  Go home and wonder how my little girl turned into such a beautiful, smart creature.

I am thankful for the choices I've made.  For all the chaos and joy of those choices.

Now, if only Saint Marty's son would stop making the choice of getting in trouble on the school playground, life would be perfect.

#inschooldetention, #noafternoonrecess

April 20: Frank Bidart, "Love Incarnate," Polished Glass

Love Incarnate

by:  Frank Bidart

(Dante, Vita Nuova)

To all those driven berserk or humanized by love
this is offered, for I need help
deciphering my dream.
When we love our lord is LOVE.

When I recall that at the fourth hour
of the night, watched by shining stars,
LOVE at last became incarnate,
the memory is horror.

In his hands smiling LOVE held my burning
heart, and in his arms, the body whose greeting
pierces my soul, now wrapped in bloodred, sleeping.

He made him wake. He ordered him to eat
my heart. He ate my burning heart. He ate it
submissively, as if afraid as LOVE wept.


This is going to be a weekend of love for my daughter,  She is going to the junior prom with her boyfriend.  They have been planning for this weekend for a couple of months now.  Picking out dresses and tuxes.  Corsages and boutonnieres.  Making dinner reservations.  Alterations and fittings.  As I type these words, my daughter is having her nails manicured and painted.  Tomorrow, her cousin is coming over to help her with her makeup and hair. 

Young love is a wonder, so full of hope and innocence.  Of course, with young love also comes the specter of possible heartbreak.  Actually, opening your heart to love at any age opens the door to heartbreak.  That's just part of the whole process of making yourself vulnerable to another person.

I have no wisdom for my daughter.  I'm still a beginner at this love stuff myself.  Every day with my wife is new, a piece of polished glass in my palm, sparking sunlight.  Sometimes, the polished glass can still cut your skin, make you bleed. 

Saint Marty hopes and prays his daughter has lots of polished glass moments this weekend.