Friday, September 30, 2016

September 30: Lamplit Evenings, Heavenly Host, Galway Kinnell, "To Marty Our Lord"

Oh, it's mysterious lamplit evenings, here in the galaxy, one after the other.  It's one of those nights when I wander from window to window, looking for a sign . . .

What is Dillard looking for in her mysterious lamplit evening?  What sign?  Well, if it's the beginning of October, she's probably looking for the seraphim choir that heralds the coming of Saint Marty.  You're all familiar with the story.  A group of itinerant mimes sleeping in their RVs one night are woken up by celestial voices singing "Glory to Saint Marty in the highest!"  And the mimes stumble outside to see a heavenly host in the sky, looking very much like the musical group ABBA.

Of course, the mimes are sore afraid, and then go running through the streets of a nearby city, miming to all what they had witnessed.  Of course, nobody paid any attention to them.  After all, they were mimes.  So the whole world missed the advent of Saint Marty.

Tomorrow night, I'll tell you the story of the three wise men from the Wisdom Department of an eastern university who followed a star to pay homage to Saint Marty.

In the mean time, I'm going to share one of my favorite Saint Marty's Day poems from one of my favorite poets.

To Marty Our Lord

by:  Galway Kinnell

The legs of the elk punctured the snow's crust
And wolves floated lightfooted on the land
Hunting Saint Marty's Day elk living and frozen.
Indoors snow melted in a basin and a woman basted
A bird spread over coals by its wings and head.

Snow had sealed the windows; candles lit
The Saint Marty's Day meal. The special grace chilled
The cooked bird, being long-winded and the room cold.
During the words a boy thought, is it fitting
To eat this creature killed on the wing?

For he had shot it himself, climbing out
Alone on snowshoes in the Saint Marty's Day dawn,
The fallen snow swirling and the snowfall gone,
Heard its throat scream as the rifle shouted,
Watched it drop, and fished from the snow the dead.

He had not wanted to shoot. The sound
Of wings beating into the hushed morning
Had stirred his love, and the things
In his gloves froze, and he wondered,
Even famishing, could he fire? Then he fired.

Now the grace praised his wicked act. At its end
The bird on the plate
Stared at his stricken appetite.
There had been nothing to do but surrender,
To kill and to eat; he ate as he had killed, with wonder.

At night on snowshoes on the drifting field
He wondered again, for whom had love stirred?
The stars glittered on the snow and nothing answered.
Then the Swan spread her wings, cross of the cold north,
The pattern and mirror of the acts of earth.

Even he can't resist Saint Marty's Day

Thursday, September 29, 2016

September 29: Breast of Thanksgiving, Book Club, William Wordsworth, "Minstrels"

There is the wave breast of thanksgiving--a catching God's eye with the easy motions of praise--and a time for it . . .

Yes, there is a time for thanksgiving, and that time is coming.  It is six days until Saint Marty's Day.  Yes, less than a week.  If you haven't sent out your Saint Marty's Day cards yet, you still have a little time.  I think all post offices in the United States are staying open until midnight this evening in order to accommodate all the late card senders.

Tonight, I will be watching one of my favorite Saint Marty's Day television specials--How the Grinch Stole Saint Marty's Day.  It just warms my heart when the Grinch sits down with Little Cindy Lou Who at the end of the show to share a bowl of hot tapioca and sing "Welcome, Saint Marty, come this way / Fahoo fores dahoo dores / Welcome, Saint Marty, Saint Marty's Day."

Also tonight, my book club is meeting at my house.  In honor of Saint Marty's Day, we read a classic--Charles Dickens' A Saint Marty's Day Carol.  Ebenezer Scrooge haunted by the Ghosts of Saint Marty's Day.  And don't forget little Tiny Tim, eating his mother's tapioca pudding, and saying, "God bless us!  Everyone!"

So, this evening, I am giving thanks for good books, good friends, good food, and good Saint Marty's Day cheer.  Huzzah!


by:  William Wordsworth

The minstrels played their Saint Marty's tune
To-night beneath my cottage-eaves;
While, smitten by a lofty moon,
The encircling laurels, thick with leaves,
Gave back a rich and dazzling sheen,
That overpowered their natural green.

Through hill and valley every breeze
Had sunk to rest with folded wings:
Keen was the air, but could not freeze,
Nor check, the music of the strings;
So stout and hardy were the band
That scraped the chords with strenuous hand.

And who but listened?--till was paid
Respect to every inmate's claim,
The greeting given, the music played
In honour of each household name,
Duly pronounced with lusty call,
And "Happy Saint Marty's Day" wished to all.

Saint Marty's Day in Beijing

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

September 28: Aurora Borealis, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Saint Marty's Day Bells"

Before the aurora borealis appears, the sensitive needles of compasses all over the world are restless for hours, agitating on their pins in airplanes and ships, trembling in desk drawers, in attics, in boxes on shelves.

Yes, as Dillard points out, compasses worldwide tend to go a little cuckoo when the aurora borealis is about to appear in the skies.  Their needles twist and flit and jump and agitate, as if they can't wait for the advent of green light in the skies.

People all over the world get the same way about Saint Marty's Day.  In seven days, citizens of the planet will be twisting and flitting and jumping and agitating in celebration of Saint Marty.  I must admit that it sometimes gets a little embarrassing, especially when I see people from the Salvation Army dressed up as Saint Marty, ringing bells on street corners and outside of Walmart.

Of course, my favorite moment of the entire Saint Marty's Day season is in church, at midnight.  The lights are dimmed in the sanctuary, candles are lit, and the organ begins to softly play a Saint Marty's Day carol like "O Come, O Come, Saint Marty" or "What Saint Marty Is This?"  The bells begin to chime, and everyone sings.  Quietly.  Reverently.

I have another famous Saint Marty's Day poem for you this evening.  

Saint Marty's Day Bells

by:  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I  heard the bells on Saint Marty's Day
    Their old, familiar carols play,
        And wild and sweet
        The words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Saint Martydom
        Had rolled along
        The unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Till ringing, singing on its way,
    The world revolved from night to day,
        A voice, a chime,
        A chant sublime
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Then from each black, accursed mouth
    The cannon thundered in the South,
        And with the sound
        The carols drowned
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
        And made forlorn
        The households born
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is no peace on earth," I said;
        "For hate is strong,
        And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Saint Marty's Day in Hawaii.  Aloha!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

September 27: Abba Moses, Abba Marty, Anne Sexton, "Saint Marty's Day Eve"

I have been reading the apophthegmata, the sayings of fourth- and fifth-century Egyptian desert hermits.  Abba Moses said to a disciple, "Go and sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything."

Yes, Dillard knows a lot about the sayings of desert hermits, how those hermits found, in their solitude, the answers to the big questions about life and happiness and sin.  I am also drawn to a certain desert monk, Abba Marty, who made this proclamation from his cave:  "Hallelujah!  Saint Marty is the greatest of the saints, and the very stones of the desert proclaim his name."

It is one week until Saint Marty's Day Eve, when children kiss their parents goodnight, go to bed, and have visions of tapioca pudding dancing in their heads.  Hopefully, all of my faithful disciples have begun their preparations, because time is running out.  The Saint Marty's Day decorations have been on the shelves at Walmart since the end of June.

Last night, I came across one of my favorite Saint Marty's Day poems, and I thought I'd share it this evening:

Saint Marty's Day Eve

by:  Anne Sexton

Oh sharp diamond, my mother!
I could not count the cost
of all your faces, your moods--
that present that I lost.
Sweet girl, my deathbed,
my jewel-fingered lady,
your portrait flickered all night
by the bulbs of the tree.

Your face as calm as the moon
over a mannered sea,
presided at the family reunion,
the twelve grandchildren
you used to wear on your wrist,
a three-months-old baby,
a fat check you never wrote,
the red-haired toddler who danced the twist,
your aging daughters, each one a wife,
each one talking to the family cook,
each one avoiding your portrait,
each one aping your life.

Later, after the party,
after the house went to bed,
I sat up drinking the Saint Marty's Day brandy,
watching your picture,
letting the tree move in and out of focus.
The bulbs vibrated.
They were a halo over your forehead.
Then they were a beehive,
blue, yellow, green, red;
each with its own juice, each hot and alive
stinging your face. But you did not move.
I continued to watch, forcing myself,
waiting, inexhaustible, thirty-five.

I wanted your eyes, like the shadows
of two small birds, to change.
But they did not age.
The smile that gathered me in, all wit,
all charm, was invincible.
Hour after hour I looked at your face
but I could not pull the roots out of it.
Then I watched how the sun hit your red sweater, your withered neck,
your badly painted flesh-pink skin.
You who led me by the nose, I saw you as you were.
Then I thought of your body
as one thinks of murder--

Then I said Marty--
Marty, Marty, forgive me
and then I touched a present for the child,
the last I bred before your death;
and then I touched my breast
and then I touched the floor
and then my breast again as if,
somehow, it were one of yours.

Children in Sweden celebrating Saint Marty's Day

Monday, September 26, 2016

September 26: Ridiculous Alternatives, Saint Marty's Day Shopping, Son's Eighth Birthday

Of the two ridiculous alternatives, I rather favor the second . . .

Okay, I am taking this quote from Annie Dillard completely out of context on this night of ridiculous alternatives.  Yes, there are two people debating each other tonight on American television about important issues like terrorism, poverty, and world peace.  Things that are really important for the future of not only the United States, but also the entire planet.

But I am here to talk about the most important upcoming world event:  Saint Marty's Day.  In nine days, people all over the globe will be singing Saint Marty's Day carols, watching movies like Charles Dickens' A Saint Marty's Carol, It's A Wonderful Saint Marty's Day, and, of course, A Charlie Brown Saint Marty's Day

Yes, people, it's time to do your last-minute Saint Marty's Day shopping, cook Saint Marty's Day cookies, and trim your Saint Marty's Day trees.  And don't forget the traditional Saint Marty's Day tapioca pudding (one of Saint Marty's favorites).

That's all I have for tonight.  It was my son's eighth birthday.  After eating about ten cupcakes and a huge Nestle Crunch bar, my son practically bounced into bed.  He had a great day, and he's extremely excited about celebrating Saint Marty's Day next week, as well, as are children all over the world.

Time to light the candles on your Saint Marty's Day wreath!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Setember 25: Morning Mishap, Bowling Birthday Party, Classic Saint Marty

This morning started out a little rough.  Had a little mishap with my new car that will involve some body work.  Nobody was hurt.  No police report needed to be filed.  It was an unfortunate mistake, and I will have to deal with the insurance company tomorrow.  However, I didn't let it ruin the day.  Didn't have time for that.

Just got done with my son's birthday party at a local bowling alley.  As of last night, we knew of only two kids who were going to be attending.  Two.  This morning, two more parents called to RSVP.  That brought the total up to four.  I made twenty gift bags last night, just in case.

So, as we were sitting at a table in the bowling alley, I was a little apprehensive, hoping that my son's cousins would show up soon.  And then little kids carrying presents started showing up.  One, two, three, four, five, six and seven together, and on and on.  We ended up with about twelve kids.  We had to order an extra pizza to feed everybody.

It was a good party, with my son running around with his friends.  He got about 500 Nerf guns (which he requested) and a new winter coat from his aunties (which I requested).  I was simply happy that I didn't have to pay strange kids to show up.  Last night, my son was worried that nobody was going to show up for him.  Today, he had a whole posse.

Tomorrow, my son will be officially eight years old.  The thing he's most excited about:  he no longer has to be in a car seat.  "I'll be a big boy tomorrow," he told me.  He's growing up way too fast, just like my daughter.

Today's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired two years ago, when my son was in first grade.

September 25, 2014:  My Son, Terry Godbey, "Smelling My Son"

Tomorrow is my son's birthday.  He will be six years old.

That number seems impossible to me.  I can't believe it's been that long since I first saw his squirming, naked form in the neonatal intensive care unit.  He was screaming at the top of his lungs, pissed off at a world where nurses and doctors were poking, prodding, stretching, and diapering him.  Wanting only to be warm and fed and asleep.

He has his struggles now, with kids on the playground, with his own impulsive mind.  But he is a genuinely good boy.  Terry Godbey has a poem about her son that I love.  It's from her newest collection of poems Hold Still.

Saint Marty dedicates this post to his beautiful boy.

Smelling My Son

by:  Terry Godbey

Leaning close to kiss his cheek,
I inhale the heady tea
of crushed wild grasses
and goldfish crackers,
the buttery fragrance
of baby flesh, lingering.

He snores softly,
the sound a dog makes
when someone it loves
gets too near the food dish.
I lie down beside him.

He cried on Christmas
after biting off the head
of a chocolate bear
with a large red heart,
his first taste of cruelty,
the treat spoiled.
But he is a different boy
at bedtime, devious,
willing to do anything
to stay up late, scattering
toys like cookie crumbs.

I, too, was devious,
willing to do anything
to trick my ovaries,
satisfy my craving.

Each night I stand over his crib
terrified the rise and fall
of his blanket
will stop,
remembering all my children
who never got to take their first breaths.

Happy birthday, buddy

Saturday, September 24, 2016

September 24: Birthday Party, Richard Brautigan, "Storm Over Fallon"

Monday is my son's eighth birthday, and my wife has insisted on throwing a party at the local bowling alley for him and his friends.  That means buying cake and ice cream, sending out invitations, worrying that nobody is going to show up, assembling gift bags.  It has been an ongoing assault for about three or four weeks.

Today, we have to take care of last-minute details.  Pick up the cake.  Stuff gift bags.  I've never understood the whole idea of giving presents to every child that shows up for a birthday party.  I would like to know what brilliant parent came up with that idea.  In my day, the highlights of going to a friend's birthday party were the cake and ice cream.  I didn't expect to receive any present for attending.

Yet, my wife and I cave to the modern practice of gift bags for my son's friends and cousins, because that's what is expected.  And we don't want my son to be known as a birthday party loser.

 It is now the Twelve Days until Saint Marty's Day.  Sing along:  "On the first day of Saint Marty, my true love gave to meeeee . . ."

Storm Over Fallon

by:  Richard Brautigan

Thunder roared
across the sky
like the voice
of an angry man.

Rain started falling,
slowly at first,
then faster and faster,
and louder and louder.

The man became silent.

The voices of the rain
chattered like
little children
at a birthday party.

Saint Marty's Day in Rome

September 24: Lone Sailor, Stolen Affairs, "The Walking Dead"

I am passionately interested in where I am as is a lone sailor sans sextant in ketch on the open ocean.  What else is he supposed to be thinking about?  Fortunately, like the sailor, I have at the moment a situation which allows me to devote considerable hunks of time to seeing what I can see, and trying to piece it together.  I've learned the names of some color-patches, but not the meanings.  I've read books . . .

In the writing of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard had a lot of time to do all the things that writers are wont to do:  go for long walks in nature, research a lot of information that nobody else is interested in, sit in solitude and write.  She filled twenty notebooks with her musings on nature and God and life before starting Pilgrim.  She wrote the first half at her home and the second half in a library overlooked the roof of a building.  No worries about money or health insurance.  Just scribbling and thinking and scribbling some more.

My writing times are more stolen affairs.  In between registering patients and correcting essays.  Before I leave for work at 5:30 in the morning, after I get home from teaching.  Waiting for football games to start.  Waiting for dance lessons to end.  Five minutes here.  Forty-five minutes there.  Sometimes, on a really good night, two hours in my university office with the doors closed and my desk light on.

I wish that I had the discipline to get up two hours before I went to work in order to write.  However, that would allow me to get an average of about three to four hours of sleep a night.  I may be able to do that for about two or three weeks.  Then I would transform into a refugee from the cast of The Walking Dead.

So, for now, it's just tiny writing moments.  Like right now.  I'm sitting in McDonald's, sipping Coke Zero, and typing this post.  When I'm done, I will take out my journal and start working on a new poem.  I have about an hour left before I have to drive my daughter to her dance lesson and my zombie apocalypse of a day begins.

Saint Marty--the McDonald's Poet Laureate.

Friday, September 23, 2016

September 23: Honeybee, Homecoming, Film Appreciation 101

Now it is early September, and the paths are clogged.  I look to water to see sky.  It is the time of year when a honeybee beats feebly at the inside back window of every parked car.  A frog flies up for every foot of bank, bubbles tangle in a snare of blue-green algae, and Japanese beetles hunch doubled on the willow leaves.  The sun thickens the air to jelly; it bleaches, flattens, dissolves.  The skies are a milky haze--nowhere, do-nothing summer skies.  Every kid I see has a circular grid on his forehead, a regular cross-hatching of straight lines, from spending his days leaning into screen doors.

Many things happen in September.  As Dillard points out, honeybees slow down, end up in car windows.  Skies become milky white.  The sun becomes white and large.  Young people become . . . wistful at the end of summer.  And football games begin on Friday nights.

Tonight was homecoming at my daughter's school.  The air was crisp.  Popcorn and pizza were everywhere.  The cheerleading squads were trying to outshout each other.  My daughter was in the band, and the band was playing as loud as it could.  "Louie Louie" and the school fight song.  Floats were paraded.  A king and queen were crowned.

We left after half-time, when the pep band was done.  The moon was high and bright.  When we got home, it was hot chocolate and pajamas.  Right now, my daughter and I are watching The Social Network.  For the last couple weeks, that's what we've been doing.  I've been picking movies for us to watch.  Like a little father/daughter film club.  Last night, it was Billy Elliot.  Some other recent screenings:  Little Miss Sunshine and The Wonder Boys and Juno.  Call it Film Appreciation 101.  In a day or so, I'm thinking of moving on to Quentin Tarantino.

Homecoming has come and gone.  I am home.  It is late.  The movie just ended, and my daughter went to bed.  September is drawing to a close.  Time to start the countdown.

Twelve more days until Saint Marty's Day.  Time to decorate your Saint Marty's Day tree.

Queen Elizabeth's Saint Marty's Day Card

Thursday, September 22, 2016

September 22: Collection of Poems, Richard Brautigan, "Private Eye Lettuce"

I finished revising a new poem this afternoon.  I've been working on various drafts for over three or four weeks.  That's nothing, though.  Poet Elizabeth Bishop worked on some poems for years.  Years.  It's another Bigfoot poem.  Number five or six.

I am giving a Halloween poetry reading in October.  I'm billing it as the debut of my new poetry collection.  Of course, I have a long way to go before I have a new book.  That's OK.  For now, I'm just happy that I have one new poem, because that's how a collection of poems comes into being:  one poem at a time.

Saint Marty is on his way.

Private Eye Lettuce

by:  Richard Brautigan

Three crates of Private Eye Lettuce,
the name and drawing of a detective
with magnifying glass on the sides
of the crates of lettuce,
form a great cross in man's imagination
and his desire to name
the objects of this world.
I think I'll call this place Golgotha
and have some salad for dinner.

September 22: Fragment of a Shell, MacArthur Genius Grant, Nobel Prize in Literature

At the seashore you often see a shell, or fragment of a shell, that sharp sands and surf have thinned to a wisp.  There is no way you can tell what kind of shell it had been, what creature it had housed; it could have been a whelk or a scallop, a cowrie, limpet, or conch.  The animal is long since dissolved, and its blood spread and thinned in the general sea.  All you hold in your hand is a cool shred of shell, an inch long, pared so thin it passes a faint pink light, and almost as flexible as a straight razor.  It is an essence, a smooth condensation of the air, a curve . . .

Dillard is talking about something hard and rough turned into something beautiful and translucent over time.  A seashell turned into pink light, and essence of air and curve.  That's really what art is all about, taking ugliness and transforming it into poetry or dance.  It takes hard work.  Talent.  A gift.  Sometimes, genius.

The recipients of the MacArthur Foundation's genius grants were announced today.  There were scientists and teachers and activists.  Playwrights and poets.  One of the winners was one of my favorite writers, Maggie Nelson.  She writes nonfiction, sort of.  A crazy blend of poetry and prose that defies classification.  One of my favorite books of hers is Bluets, which is her examination of the color blue, in all its permutations and meanings.  It's weird and frustrating and gorgeous.  Genius?  Probably.

Every year around this time, I wait to read about two things--the announcement of the MacArthur awards and, right around my birthday, the announcement of the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Like the selection of the MacArthur genius grant recipients, the Nobel is shrouded in secrecy.  Nobody knows, until the doors open in the Swedish Academy and the Permanent Secretary comes out, who will receive the Nobel diploma.

For some reason, I've always had this dream that, one day, I will receive a phone call in late September, telling me that I'm a genius, and then, on my birthday a few weeks later, my name will be spoken by the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy.  I know, I know.  It's unrealistic.  Hell, it's more than unrealistic.  It's a friggin' hallucination, an acid trip, a psychotic break.  But it makes me happy when I think about it.

Now, I am not a MacArthur genius.  Yet.  Japanese writer Haruki Murakami is currently on the top of everybody's list for the Nobel Prize in Literature this year.  Oh, well.  When I go to sleep tonight, I will still be dreaming of the double knockout.  Maggie Nelson.  Maybe Murakami.

And maybe, one year, Saint Marty--the first blogger to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September 21: Serious Subjects, Richard Brautigan, "I Feel Horrible. She Doesn't"

If you can't tell by my last post, I'm trying not to take things too seriously tonight.

Sure there are things in this world that should be taken seriously:  poverty, hunger, disease, famine, war, racism, sexism, homophobia, addiction.  I will not be making jokes about any of those subjects.  They are worthy of earnest discussion.  Let's face it, though:  how many of us discuss poverty or homophobia over a large order of fries at McDonald's?

My daughter is not having a good night.  She just went to the AT&T store with my wife and sister to pick out a new phone, since her new Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was recalled for having a tendency to explode.  Well, something went down that did not please my daughter.  A phone was ordered for her.  I'm not sure if it was the phone she wanted or not.  All I do know is that there were tears, shouts, and slamming doors afterwards.

I want to tell my daughter that, whether she gets an iPhone 7 or 6s, it's not going to bring about gender equality in the world or cure cancer.  She's taking it way too seriously.

Maybe Saint Marty should let her read a Richard Brautigan poem.

I Feel Horrible.  She Doesn't

by:  Richard Brautigan

I feel horrible. She doesn’t
love me and I wander around
the house like a sewing machine
that’s just finished sewing
a turd to a garbage can lid.

Speaking of turds . . .

Septmeber 21: Great University, Department Meeting, So Damn Serious

Once I visited a great university and wandered, a stranger, into the subterranean halls of its famous biology department.  I saw a sign on a door:  ichthyology department.  The door was open a crack, and as I walked past I glanced in.  I saw just a flash.  There were two white-coated men seated opposite each other on high lab stools at a hard-surfaced table.  They bend over identical white enamel trays.  On one side, one man, with a lancet, was just cutting into an enormous preserved fish he'd taken from a jar.  On the other side, the other man, with a silver spoon, was eating a grapefruit.  I laughed all the way back to Virginia.

Dillard revels in pointing out the ridiculous or ironic in her life.  Walking the hallowed halls of some possible Ivy League school, she spies an unexpected scene.  Two scientists (presumably)--one carrying out the work of science with a surgical instrument and the other scooping out the insides of a grapefruit with a spoon.  It's hard to take that image seriously.

I teach at a university, in a department where, sometimes, far too many people take themselves far too seriously.  While I think the pursuit of literature and writing is a serious and worthy endeavor, I also find the humorless affectation of some of my colleagues to be somewhat ridiculous.  Dillard would agree.

As a small example, at the last department meeting, a very heated debate broke out over the issue of whether graduate and teaching assistants should be allowed to attend department meetings.  I was not at the meeting, but one of my colleagues was.  She said that, for fifteen minutes, voices were raised and tempers flared.  It was as if they were arguing about giving the graduate students nuclear codes to launch missiles.

Again, I am in no way trying to diminish the work done by members of the English Department.  They are a hard-working and dedicated group of individuals.  However, the subjects discussed in English Department meetings are not state secrets.  They are questions about curriculum and courses and administrative duties.  In the nearly 20 years I have been teaching at the university, and in all the department meetings I have attended during that time, I can count on one hand how often sensitive, potentially confidential information was discussed.

I am a little tired of people with lancets who won't take a break from dissecting their fish to eat some grapefruit.  Life is way too short to be so damn serious.  And, if something is being said that may anger or upset a person or group of people, perhaps it simply shouldn't be uttered.  As my mother taught me at a very young age, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all."

Saint Marty's solution to this dilemma:  invite the graduate students to attend one department meeting.  They will never want to go to another one ever again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

September 20: Quick Laugh, Richard Brautigan, "Haiku Ambulance"

Okay, I only have a short while before I have to go teach.  Just enough time for a quick laugh.

Tonight's laugh is brought to you by Richard Brautigan.

It's one of Saint Marty's favorite haiku.

Haiku Ambulance

by:  Richard Brautigan

A piece of green pepper
off the wooden salad bowl:
   so what?

September 20: Many Souls, Reincarnation, Trump Family Tree

Alaskan Eskimos believe in many souls.  An individual soul has a series of afterlives, returning again and again to earth, but only rarely as a human . . .

Of course, reincarnation is an old concept, existing in many cultures, from Alaskan Eskimo spirituality to the Hindi religion in India.  The idea of returning over and over to earth in different forms, as reward or punishment, has a certain appeal.  It certainly is a strong deterrent from knocking over banks or having sex with octopi.  When I die, I wouldn't want to return to this planet as a louse on a kindergartner's head.  On the other hand, if I care for the homeless and donate a kidney to somebody, when I come back, I could be a well-hung movie star.

If reincarnation is an actual thing, I'm not sure if my current position as a contingent professor at the university is a reward or punishment.  Teaching first-year composition for three-and-a-half hours on a Tuesday night would certainly qualify as one of the circles of Dante's Inferno, if you will allow me to mix religious ideologies.  So, perhaps I wasn't that great of a person in my last life.  Maybe I threw an old lady off a lifeboat on the Titanic or was a member of the Trump family tree.

I have friends who believe in reincarnation.  One of my best friends is sure that, in a past life, she lived in China and had bound feet.  She attributes this feeling to the fact that she loves Amy Tan books.  I'm not sure if I would consider that as proof of past lives.  If I were to follow that reasoning, then I was probably a Southern woman with lupus in a past life because of my love of Flannery O'Connor.

Anyway, I have to teach my composition class tonight.

If Saint Marty does well, perhaps he will return as a nuclear physicist billionaire body builder.

I have a fear of past lives . . .

Monday, September 19, 2016

September 19: Poet of the Week, Richard Brautigan, "My Nose is Growing Old"

Sometimes, I take myself way too seriously.  Okay, most of the time, I take myself way too seriously.  This week, I wanted to give you some poems from one of the funniest poets I know:  Richard Brautigan.

His work always makes me laugh, and, let's face it, we could all use a good laugh considering the current presidential election in the United States.  I'm sure Bruatigan would have loved to write some poems about Donald Trump's hair.  Or nose. 

So, Saint Marty's Poet of the Week is Richard Brautigan. 

My Nose is Growing Old

by:  Richard Brautigan

A long lazy September look
in the mirror
say it's true.

I'm 31
and my nose is growing

It starts about 1/2
an inch
below the bridge
and strolls geriatrically
for another inch or so:

Fortunately, the rest
of the nose is comparatively

I wonder if girls
will want me with an
old nose.

I can hear them now
the heartless bitches!

"He's cute
but his nose
is old."

September 19: Something Different, Feeling Creative, "Poem After Annie Dillard"

I'm going to do something a little different tonight, because I'm feeling slightly creative.  This afternoon, I finished a draft of a poem on which I've been working for several weeks.  I think it's good, but I can't be sure just yet.  Got to give it a couple of days.

However, I am still feeling a little creative, so I decided to write a quick poem of the chapter titles of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  I thumbed through my copy of the book this evening, and, unlike other times, no particular passage stuck in my head.  But I kept coming back to the headings of each chapter.  They use sometimes beautiful, sometimes strange terms.  I thought to myself, here's a poem just waiting to be written.

So, please keep in mind that this is a first and last draft.  It is for amusement, not serious contemplation.  A poetic exercise.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Poem After Annie Dillard

by:  Saint Marty

Heaven and Earth in jest look down and up
at us, seeing only the pitiful winter skins
of polar bears, black as the fixed universe
where everything revolves around this planet,
untying the knot of cornel bark, jettisoning
the present into the grasshoppers of spring.
Intricacy is nothing more than a flood of silt,
the fecundity left behind by tsunamis, where
landscape shifts, moves its ass like some teenage
boy stalking a neighbor girl, his nightwatch
from his bedroom window rewarded
with the horns of the altar, bright northing
glimpses of her neck, shoulders, the waters
of separation that map the blades of her back. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

September 18: Correcting Papers, Family Gathering, Classic Saint Marty

I spent most of the afternoon correcting papers.  Six essays, to be exact.  I have three left to go, and I will be able to hand them back on Tuesday night.  That's a one-week turnaround time for me.  That's pretty damn good.  I plan to continue this trend for the entire semester.  No piles of papers and exams to correct at the beginning of December for me.

This evening, I have a family gathering to attend.  Lots of food.  Lots of visiting.  My daughter is excited because she gets to drive us there.  Yes, my teenager has her driver's permit.  She's been chauffeuring me around all weekend long.  Back from her dance lesson.  Up to church.  Back from church.  Up to Little Caesar's to pick up pizza.  Back from Little Caesar's.  You get the idea.  She won't even let me have my car keys right now.

And tonight, I will be watching the Emmy Awards, because, among other things, I am an awards show junkie.  I've even watched the Nobel Prize Awards ceremony online, and that happens in the middle of the night usually.  Like I said, I'm a junkie.

Today's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired about a year ago.

September 19, 2015:  John XXIII, Pope Francis Visit, Laura Boss, "Remarkably You Love Me," Confessions of Saint Marty

There were the activities of Holy Week in Rome.  Holy Thursday at Saint John Lateran, Stations of the Cross on Good Friday evening, held on the viale outside the cavernous floodlit Colosseum, Easter Sunday at the Vatican.  There had been that morning in Saint John's, when, through a mist of frankincense, a procession of skullcapped cardinals in scarlet robes, and priests and altar boys carrying elaborate candles and antique bronze crosses swept in toward the sacristy.  And among them, as a choir sang and an organ shook the floors, Il Papa, John XXIII, blessed the crowd and, touching the heads of the faithful, laid his palm upon his son's brow.

Ives counts the above moment as one of the highlights of his son's short life.  Ives believes something holy happened; he felt a surge of energy pass from John XXIII to his son and then him.  He doesn't know what to call it.  Grace?  The Holy Spirit?  God's goodness?  Of course, as a Christian, I believe those three explanations are one and the same.

The United States is currently preparing for the first papal visit of Pope Francis.  The newspapers are full of the details of his trip.  Francis is going to address Congress and celebrate Mass.  I don't know much else about his itinerary, but people (Catholic and non-Catholic alike) are incredibly excited.

I have to say that I really like Pope Francis.  He does things that make people uneasy.  He celebrates Maunday Thursday by washing the feet of Muslims in prison.  He doesn't live in the papal apartment but in a simple room in a hotel attached to the Vatican where cardinals stay during papal conclaves.  He hugs people, dispenses with formalities.  He's not worried about being THE POPE.  He's worried about simply loving people the way Christ did--without judgement or agenda.

I would say that Pope Francis' guiding principle is love.  Particularly, he wants to make the world aware of social inequality.  Of the poor and desperate.  The unloved.  That's the mission of his papacy.  He goes around and tells people to love one another--Christian or Muslim, brown-skinned or white-skinned, straight or gay. 

I try to live by that credo myself, and I usually fail miserably on a daily basis.  I swear at other drivers when I'm in my car.  I get irritated by people I encounter at work.  I hold grudges.  I'm not above talking about people behind their backs.  In short, I'm human.

Sometimes I'm not a very lovable person.  In the past month, I've been moody, angry, sad, indignant, worried, angry and sad again.  Reading over my recent posts, I don't even know why people are still reading this blog.  I've been wallowing, and it's not very attractive.

Yet, there are no limits and conditions on love.  I'm loved by people even when I'm unlovable, when I'm mean or sarcastic.  That's what loving like Christ is all about--find the dirtiest, crabbiest, most unloving person in the world, and love him/her.  It's a tough assignment, but it's what will change the world.  No election, no army, no war, no financial bailout, no vaccine will alter the future.  Unless love is involved.

I'm going to climb down off my soapbox now.  I'm not perfect.  Pope Francis is not perfect.  It's the striving for perfection that makes the difference.

Saint Marty has a long way to go.

Remarkably You Love Me

by:  Laura Boss

me of the vacuumless rooms,
me of the paper cluttered rooms,
me of the I'll do the dusting tomorrow
me of the if it's mechanical or electronic
     I blank out
me of the if it's boring conversation,
     I stop listening
me of the unanswered letters and unpaid bills
who sit ankle deep in dust writing poems all night

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, September 17, 2016

September 17: Oprah and Deepak Chopra, James Dickey, "The Strength of Fields"

Every day, when I rise, I tell myself that I'm going to try to be the best person I can be.  I didn't get that from Oprah or Deepak Chopra.  It's just a little practice that I started a while ago.  Of course, as the day progresses, I mess up, get angry or sad or impatient.  Sometimes I say terrible things to people (my friends and wife and family).  Now, that works for Donald Trump for some reason, but it doesn't work for me.

In a little while, I have to drive my daughter to a dance lesson.  When I go home to wake her up, she's going to probably be crabby and teenagery.  I'm praying I don't lose my temper with her.  Later today, I have to rehearse at church with my musician friends for worship tomorrow.  Musicians can be quite temperamental.  Hoping that I don't have to deal with too much temperamental this afternoon.  And then there's church tonight.

Like James Dickey says in the poem below, life is all about walking in the fields, being a part of the world.  A good part hopefully, even if that good part involves things like dealing with death or money problems or addictions or cranky teens.

Saint Marty has a purpose today.  His purpose is to try not to mess things up too badly

The Strength of Fields

by:  James Dickey

... a separation from the world,
a penetration to some source of power
and a life-enhancing return ...
              Van Gennep: Rites de Passage 

Moth-force a small town always has,   

          Given the night.

                                                What field-forms can be,
         Outlying the small civic light-decisions over
               A man walking near home?
                                                                         Men are not where he is   
      Exactly now, but they are around him    around him like the strength

Of fields.    The solar system floats on
    Above him in town-moths.
                                                         Tell me, train-sound,
    With all your long-lost grief,
                                                         what I can give.   
    Dear Lord of all the fields
                                                         what am I going to do?
                                        Street-lights, blue-force and frail
As the homes of men, tell me how to do it    how
    To withdraw    how to penetrate and find the source   
      Of the power you always had
                                                            light as a moth, and rising
       With the level and moonlit expansion
    Of the fields around, and the sleep of hoping men.

       You?    I?    What difference is there?    We can all be saved

       By a secret blooming. Now as I walk
The night    and you walk with me    we know simplicity   
   Is close to the source that sleeping men
       Search for in their home-deep beds.
       We know that the sun is away    we know that the sun can be conquered   
   By moths, in blue home-town air.
          The stars splinter, pointed and wild. The dead lie under
The pastures.    They look on and help.    Tell me, freight-train,
                            When there is no one else
   To hear. Tell me in a voice the sea
         Would have, if it had not a better one: as it lifts,
          Hundreds of miles away, its fumbling, deep-structured roar
               Like the profound, unstoppable craving
            Of nations for their wish.
                                                                    Hunger, time and the moon:

         The moon lying on the brain
                                                                    as on the excited sea    as on
          The strength of fields. Lord, let me shake   
         With purpose.    Wild hope can always spring   
         From tended strength.    Everything is in that.
            That and nothing but kindness.    More kindness, dear Lord
Of the renewing green.    That is where it all has to start:
         With the simplest things. More kindness will do nothing less
             Than save every sleeping one
             And night-walking one

         Of us.
                         My life belongs to the world. I will do what I can.

September 17: Mock-Orange Hedge, Leprosy, Maple Leaves

It is mid-September now; I can see in the fading light the jagged holes in the leaves of the mock-orange hedge outside my study window.  The more closely I look, the more I doubt that there is a single whole unblemished leaf left on the bush.  I go out again and examine the leaves one by one, first of the mock-orange outside my study, then of the cherry tree in the yard.  In the blue light I see scratched and peeled stems, leaves that are half-eaten, rusted, blighted, blistered, mined, snipped, smutted, putted, puffed, sawed, bored, and rucked.  Where have I been all summer while the world has been eaten?

Mid-September is upon Tinker Creek.  Dillard notices things that she hasn't notice before, like the fact that something has chewed up the leaves of the mock-orange hedge outside her window.  That's the way of the world, of course.  Eat and be eaten.  Blight and be blighted.

Outside my living room window is a beautiful maple tree.  It shades the side of the house all summer long.  In the fall, when its leaves start turning mustard and tangerine, the tree also gets what I have come to call a case of leprosy.  On the skin of the leaves, black and brown spots appear.  Dime-sized and nickel-sized.  These blemishes mar what would be a Norman Rockwell-esque autumn scene.

The tree isn't dying, as far as I can tell.  In the spring, new leaves appear, green and full and healthy-looking.  All summer long, those leaves waves and whisper in the warm winds.  If you can't tell, it's one of my favorite trees in my yard.  Come early October, despite its annual case of small pox, the maple can still be breathtakingly beautiful with its flaming colors.

But, as Dillard says, the world is an imperfect place.  Beauty and blight on the same leaf.  That's why Jesus tells parables like the prodigal son, who pisses away his inheritance and then goes crawling back for his father's forgiveness.  Humans understand (you will excuse my language) how inherently fucked-up we are.  Jealous.  Greedy.  Profligate.  Jesus wanted us to know that nothing is unfixable.  Mistakes can be made right.  Blight can be turned into beauty again come springtime.

I thing God has to be infinitely patient.  I mean, humans slaughtered His only son, and He didn't rain down fire and lava on our asses.  Nope.  Instead, He waited three days, and then He brought His son back.  To save us.  To make things right.  To forgive.  To make the sick, yellow maple leaves green again.

Saint Marty thinks that's pretty cool.

Friday, September 16, 2016

September 16: Gastrointestinal, James Dickey, "The Hospital Window"

Went to the doctor's yesterday about my chest and throat pain.  He ruled out anything cardiac (I had a normal stress test last June).  It isn't pleurisy--that usually occurs after an illness like the flu, something viral.  That leaves something gastrointestinal.  So my doctor is referring me to a GI specialist.  In two months' time, when I finally get an appointment, I may know why I've been feeling as if I'm dying.  (Cue the theme from Terms of Endearment.)

Despite having to wait that long for my diagnosis, I was much relieved today, as if a weight had been lifted out of my life.  For the first time in a couple months, I expect to wake up tomorrow morning without the specter of a fatal illness looming over me.

It rained today, but I didn't care.  Work was long and tedious.  Didn't care.  Spent my evening siting in wet bleachers, watching a football game.  Didn't care.  Nothing bothered me too much.  I'm reading a great book, Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  It's Friday night.  There's a great documentary about Mexican art on PBS.  Pretty soon, I'm going to head off to bed.

Saint Marty has had a good day.  A good, untroubled day.

The Hospital Window

by:  James Dickey

I have just come down from my father.
Higher and higher he lies
Above me in a blue light
Shed by a tinted window.
I drop through six white floors
And then step out onto pavement.

Still feeling my father ascend,
I start to cross the firm street,
My shoulder blades shining with all
The glass the huge building can raise.
Now I must turn round and face it,
And know his one pane from the others.

Each window possesses the sun
As though it burned there on a wick.
I wave, like a man catching fire.
All the deep-dyed windowpanes flash,
And, behind them, all the white rooms
They turn to the color of Heaven.

Ceremoniously, gravely, and weakly,
Dozens of pale hands are waving
Back, from inside their flames.
Yet one pure pane among these
Is the bright, erased blankness of nothing.
I know that my father is there,

In the shape of his death still living.
The traffic increases around me
Like a madness called down on my head.
The horns blast at me like shotguns,
And drivers lean out, driven crazy—
But now my propped-up father

Lifts his arm out of stillness at last.
The light from the window strikes me
And I turn as blue as a soul,
As the moment when I was born.
I am not afraid for my father—
Look! He is grinning; he is not

Afraid for my life, either,
As the wild engines stand at my knees
Shredding their gears and roaring,
And I hold each car in its place
For miles, inciting its horn
To blow down the walls of the world

That the dying may float without fear
In the bold blue gaze of my father.
Slowly I move to the sidewalk
With my pin-tingling hand half dead
At the end of my bloodless arm.
I carry it off in amazement,

High, still higher, still waving,
My recognized face fully mortal,
Yet not; not at all, in the pale,
Drained, otherworldly, stricken,
Created hue of stained glass.
I have just come down from my father.

September 16: Migration of Caribou, Box of Kleenex, Road to Hell

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

It is autumn, although I have seen no ravens from the north.  And I certainly didn't see any caribou tonight, although I did see a whole lot of football players running up and down a soggy field.  So, it was sort of like watching the fall migration of caribou.  Don't ask me if the home team won.  My daughter plays in the pep band, and we always leave after she plays during half-time.

Speaking of autumn, the annual fall illness has descended upon my household.  My daughter was out of school for two days this week, and she's still taking antibiotics.  My wife just crawled into bed with a box of Kleenex.  Me?  I'm attempting, for the second time, to watch The Wonder Boys with my daughter.  (For details on my first attempt, refer to last night's second post.)

It's Friday night, if you haven't guessed by the whole football thing.  After nine o'clock, and I still have papers to grade and poems to write.  Hopefully, tomorrow I will be able to get some major work accomplished.  That's my goal, anyway.  Of course, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I always have a lot of good intentions at the beginning of a weekend.  Tonight is like an apple, high on a branch, just waiting to be plucked.  I love Friday nights.  The potential of them.  The whole weekend stretching out before me.  It's one of my favorite times of the week.

Of course, come Sunday, I will have accomplished only half (if I'm lucky) of what I intended to do, and I will be feeling like a failure.

Tonight, however, Saint Marty is an unlit candle.  An uneaten Milky Way.  A pepperoni pizza waiting to be delivered.

Just because I love Bigfoot

Thursday, September 15, 2016

September 15: Alone with "The Wonder Boys"

My daughter just went to bed.  My wife and son have been asleep for over an hour.  I'm by myself right now.  Alone with my thoughts, as the old saying goes.  Well, I'm not quite alone.  I'm with Micheal Douglas and Frances McDormand, two of my favorite actors.  It's the movie The Wonder Boys, which is about a novelist with writer's block who has a really bad weekend.  His wife leaves him.  His lover tells him that she's pregnant.  He shoots and kill his lover's husband's pitbull.  On top of all of that, he has a 2,000-page manuscript that he doesn't know how to end.

I was supposed to be watching this film with my daughter, who requested that I pick out a comedy.  So I picked one of my favorites.  Ten minutes in, she looked over at me and said, "Daddy, I'm going to bed."  I sort of glared at her over my glasses (a tactic of intimidation that I employ with my students--it didn't work with my daughter).  "I promise I'll watch it with you tomorrow night," she said as she walked to her bedroom door.

Thus, I am alone, on the verge of the weekend.  I have some Bailey's Irish Cream in the cupboard.  Considering using it with some hot chocolate.  Then it would be me, Michael Douglas, and special hot chocolate.

Frost advisory last night.  Cloudy with a chance of meatballs tomorrow.

Saint Marty doesn't even own an umbrella.

September 15: Puffed Clay, Rising, James Dickey, "Falling"

I am puffed clay, blown up and set down.  That I fall like Adam is not surprising:  I plunge, waft, arc, pour, and dive.  The surprise is how good the wind feels on my face as I fall.  And the other surprise is that I ever rise at all.  I rise when I receive, like grass.

Well, falling is all part of the human condition.  Has been since the time of Adam.  We all fall.  As Dillard says, we plunge, waft, arc, pour, and dive.  And then, of course, after we fall, we pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and rise.  That's the great thing about mistakes.  We can, hopefully, fix what we mess up.

Now, dear Constant Reader, you are probably expecting me to admit to some kind of transgression or error.  After all, I started this post with the first fall.  I will say that I didn't accomplish half the things that I was intending to do today.  I have papers to grade.  Poems to write.  Books to read.  I actually corrected two of my students' essays.  After I'm done blogging, I'm going to sit down with my journal, try to finish something I started scribbling a couple of weeks ago.

So, in a way, every day in my life is an exercise in falling.  Will I actually work on my poem?  Maybe.  Will I correct some more essays?  Depends on how tired I am.  If I fall asleep on the couch watching a rebroadcast of the finale of America's Got Talent, I always have tomorrow to try again.  That pretty much describes my life:  try, fail, and try again.

Tomorrow will pretty much be a fall day for me.  I have to go to another football game to listen to my daughter play in the pep band.  Fall.  It's going to be rainy and gross.  Fall-fall.  Whenever I go to a sporting event, I always feel like a balloon at a porcupine convention.  Fall-fall-fall.  But I will enjoy listening and watching my daughter play for the half-time show.  Rise.  My wife will be with me.  Rise.  After half-time, we will leave.  Rise-rise.  And, maybe, we'll stop and get some hot chocolate on the way home.  Rise-rise-rise.

Saint Marty may not know anything about football, but he knows a thing or two about falling and rising.


by:  James Dickey

A 29-year-old stewardess fell ... to her
death tonight when she was swept
through an emergency door that sud-
denly sprang open ... The body ...
was found ... three hours after the
                              —New York Times
The states when they black out and lie there rolling    when they turn
To something transcontinental    move by    drawing moonlight out of the great
One-sided stone hung off the starboard wingtip    some sleeper next to
An engine is groaning for coffee    and there is faintly coming in
Somewhere the vast beast-whistle of space. In the galley with its racks
Of trays    she rummages for a blanket    and moves in her slim tailored
Uniform to pin it over the cry at the top of the door. As though she blew

The door down with a silent blast from her lungs    frozen    she is black
Out finding herself    with the plane nowhere and her body taken by the throat
The undying cry of the void    falling    living    beginning to be something
That no one has ever been and lived through    screaming without enough air
Still neat    lipsticked    stockinged    girdled by regulation    her hat
Still on    her arms and legs in no world    and yet spaced also strangely
With utter placid rightness on thin air    taking her time    she holds it
In many places    and now, still thousands of feet from her death she seems
To slow    she develops interest    she turns in her maneuverable body

To watch it. She is hung high up in the overwhelming middle of things in her
Self    in low body-whistling wrapped intensely    in all her dark dance-weight
Coming down from a marvellous leap    with the delaying, dumfounding ease
Of a dream of being drawn    like endless moonlight to the harvest soil
Of a central state of one’s country    with a great gradual warmth coming
Over her    floating    finding more and more breath in what she has been using
For breath    as the levels become more human    seeing clouds placed honestly
Below her left and right    riding slowly toward them    she clasps it all
To her and can hang her hands and feet in it in peculiar ways    and
Her eyes opened wide by wind, can open her mouth as wide    wider and suck
All the heat from the cornfields    can go down on her back with a feeling
Of stupendous pillows stacked under her    and can turn    turn as to someone
In bed    smile, understood in darkness    can go away    slant    slide
Off tumbling    into the emblem of a bird with its wings half-spread
Or whirl madly on herself    in endless gymnastics in the growing warmth
Of wheatfields rising toward the harvest moon.    There is time to live
In superhuman health    seeing mortal unreachable lights far down seeing
An ultimate highway with one late priceless car probing it    arriving
In a square town    and off her starboard arm the glitter of water catches
The moon by its one shaken side    scaled, roaming silver    My God it is good
And evil    lying in one after another of all the positions for love
Making    dancing    sleeping    and now cloud wisps at her no
Raincoat    no matter    all small towns brokenly brighter from inside
Cloud    she walks over them like rain    bursts out to behold a Greyhound
Bus shooting light through its sides    it is the signal to go straight
Down like a glorious diver    then feet first    her skirt stripped beautifully
Up    her face in fear-scented cloths    her legs deliriously bare    then
Arms out    she slow-rolls over    steadies out    waits for something great
To take control of her    trembles near feathers    planes head-down
The quick movements of bird-necks turning her head    gold eyes the insight-
eyesight of owls blazing into the hencoops    a taste for chicken overwhelming
Her    the long-range vision of hawks enlarging all human lights of cars
Freight trains    looped bridges    enlarging the moon racing slowly
Through all the curves of a river    all the darks of the midwest blazing
From above. A rabbit in a bush turns white    the smothering chickens
Huddle    for over them there is still time for something to live
With the streaming half-idea of a long stoop    a hurtling    a fall
That is controlled    that plummets as it wills    turns gravity
Into a new condition, showing its other side like a moon    shining
New Powers    there is still time to live on a breath made of nothing
But the whole night    time for her to remember to arrange her skirt
Like a diagram of a bat    tightly it guides her    she has this flying-skin
Made of garments    and there are also those sky-divers on tv    sailing
In sunlight    smiling under their goggles    swapping batons back and forth
And He who jumped without a chute and was handed one by a diving
Buddy. She looks for her grinning companion    white teeth    nowhere
She is screaming    singing hymns    her thin human wings spread out
From her neat shoulders    the air beast-crooning to her    warbling
And she can no longer behold the huge partial form of the world    now
She is watching her country lose its evoked master shape    watching it lose
And gain    get back its houses and peoples    watching it bring up
Its local lights    single homes    lamps on barn roofs    if she fell
Into water she might live    like a diver    cleaving    perfect    plunge

Into another    heavy silver    unbreathable    slowing    saving
Element: there is water    there is time to perfect all the fine
Points of diving    feet together    toes pointed    hands shaped right
To insert her into water like a needle    to come out healthily dripping
And be handed a Coca-Cola    there they are    there are the waters
Of life    the moon packed and coiled in a reservoir    so let me begin
To plane across the night air of Kansas    opening my eyes superhumanly
Bright    to the damned moon    opening the natural wings of my jacket
By Don Loper    moving like a hunting owl toward the glitter of water
One cannot just fall    just tumble screaming all that time    one must use
It    she is now through with all    through all    clouds    damp    hair
Straightened    the last wisp of fog pulled apart on her face like wool revealing
New darks    new progressions of headlights along dirt roads from chaos

And night    a gradual warming    a new-made, inevitable world of one’s own
Country    a great stone of light in its waiting waters    hold    hold out
For water: who knows when what correct young woman must take up her body
And fly    and head for the moon-crazed inner eye of midwest imprisoned
Water    stored up for her for years    the arms of her jacket slipping
Air up her sleeves to go    all over her? What final things can be said
Of one who starts her sheerly in her body in the high middle of night
Air    to track down water like a rabbit where it lies like life itself
Off to the right in Kansas? She goes toward    the blazing-bare lake
Her skirts neat    her hands and face warmed more and more by the air
Rising from pastures of beans    and under her    under chenille bedspreads
The farm girls are feeling the goddess in them struggle and rise brooding
On the scratch-shining posts of the bed    dreaming of female signs
Of the moon    male blood like iron    of what is really said by the moan
Of airliners passing over them at dead of midwest midnight    passing
Over brush fires    burning out in silence on little hills    and will wake
To see the woman they should be    struggling on the rooftree to become
Stars: for her the ground is closer    water is nearer    she passes
It    then banks    turns    her sleeves fluttering differently as she rolls
Out to face the east, where the sun shall come up from wheatfields she must
Do something with water    fly to it    fall in it    drink it    rise
From it    but there is none left upon earth    the clouds have drunk it back
The plants have sucked it down    there are standing toward her only
The common fields of death    she comes back from flying to falling
Returns to a powerful cry    the silent scream with which she blew down
The coupled door of the airliner    nearly    nearly losing hold
Of what she has done    remembers    remembers the shape at the heart
Of cloud    fashionably swirling    remembers she still has time to die
Beyond explanation. Let her now take off her hat in summer air the contour
Of cornfields    and have enough time to kick off her one remaining
Shoe with the toes    of the other foot    to unhook her stockings
With calm fingers, noting how fatally easy it is to undress in midair
Near death    when the body will assume without effort any position
Except the one that will sustain it    enable it to rise    live
Not die    nine farms hover close    widen    eight of them separate, leaving
One in the middle    then the fields of that farm do the same    there is no
Way to back off    from her chosen ground    but she sheds the jacket
With its silver sad impotent wings    sheds the bat’s guiding tailpiece
Of her skirt    the lightning-charged clinging of her blouse    the intimate
Inner flying-garment of her slip in which she rides like the holy ghost
Of a virgin    sheds the long windsocks of her stockings    absurd
Brassiere    then feels the girdle required by regulations squirming
Off her: no longer monobuttocked    she feels the girdle flutter    shake
In her hand    and float    upward    her clothes rising off her ascending
Into cloud    and fights away from her head the last sharp dangerous shoe
Like a dumb bird    and now will drop in    soon    now will drop

In like this    the greatest thing that ever came to Kansas    down from all
Heights    all levels of American breath    layered in the lungs from the frail
Chill of space to the loam where extinction slumbers in corn tassels thickly
And breathes like rich farmers counting: will come along them after
Her last superhuman act    the last slow careful passing of her hands
All over her unharmed body    desired by every sleeper in his dream:
Boys finding for the first time their loins filled with heart’s blood
Widowed farmers whose hands float under light covers to find themselves
Arisen at sunrise    the splendid position of blood unearthly drawn
Toward clouds    all feel something    pass over them as she passes
Her palms over her long legs    her small breasts    and deeply between
Her thighs    her hair shot loose from all pins    streaming in the wind
Of her body    let her come openly    trying at the last second to land
On her back    This is it    this
                                                          All those who find her impressed
In the soft loam    gone down    driven well into the image of her body
The furrows for miles flowing in upon her where she lies very deep
In her mortal outline    in the earth as it is in cloud    can tell nothing
But that she is there    inexplicable    unquestionable    and remember
That something broke in them as well    and began to live and die more
When they walked for no reason into their fields to where the whole earth
Caught her    interrupted her maiden flight    told her how to lie she cannot
Turn    go away    cannot move    cannot slide off it and assume another
Position    no sky-diver with any grin could save her    hold her in his arms
Plummet with her    unfold above her his wedding silks    she can no longer
Mark the rain with whirling women that take the place of a dead wife
Or the goddess in Norwegian farm girls    or all the back-breaking whores
Of Wichita. All the known air above her is not giving up quite one
Breath    it is all gone    and yet not dead    not anywhere else
Quite    lying still in the field on her back    sensing the smells
Of incessant growth try to lift her    a little sight left in the corner
Of one eye    fading    seeing something wave    lies believing
That she could have made it    at the best part of her brief goddess
State    to water    gone in headfirst    come out smiling    invulnerable
Girl in a bathing-suit ad    but she is lying like a sunbather at the last
Of moonlight    half-buried in her impact on the earth    not far
From a railroad trestle    a water tank    she could see if she could
Raise her head from her modest hole    with her clothes beginning
To come down all over Kansas    into bushes    on the dewy sixth green
Of a golf course    one shoe    her girdle coming down fantastically
On a clothesline, where it belongs    her blouse on a lightning rod:

Lies in the fields    in this field    on her broken back as though on
A cloud she cannot drop through    while farmers sleepwalk without
Their women from houses    a walk like falling toward the far waters
Of life    in moonlight    toward the dreamed eternal meaning of their farms
Toward the flowering of the harvest in their hands    that tragic cost
Feels herself go    go toward    go outward    breathes at last fully
Not    and tries    less    once    tries    tries    ah, god—