Sunday, September 24, 2017

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

Welcome to Sunday afternoon. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Purity of Boys

by:  Terry Godbey

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

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

In Praise of Daughters

by:  Martin Achatz



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

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



Saturday, September 23, 2017

September 23: God is Listening, Purgatory, Human Failings

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

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

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

"Think about it now."

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

"Exactly.  The same body of law applies."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saint Marty is thankful today for love.


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

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

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

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

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

Wind and Tree

by:  Paul Muldoon

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


Friday, September 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

Cuckoo Corn

by:  Paul Muldoon

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


September 22: Parsley and Paprika, Serial Killer, Gulags

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

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

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

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

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

"That sounds interesting."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, September 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saint Marty is thankful for his good friend, Helen.


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

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

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

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

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

Vampire

by:  Paul Muldoon

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

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

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


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Milkweed and Monarch

by:  Paul Muldoon

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

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

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

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

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

1983


September 20: Making Love to the World, Born to Write, Saint Marty's Day Nog

Billy helped Trout deliver his papers, driving him from house to house in the Cadillac.  Billy was the responsible one, finding the houses, checking them off.  Trout's mind was blown.  He had never met a fan before, and Billy was such an avid fan.

Trout told him that he had never seen a book of his advertised, reviewed, or on sale.  "All these years," he said, "I've been opening the window and making love to the world."

"You must surely have gotten letters," said Billy.  "I've felt like writing you letters many times."

Trout held up a single finger.  "One."

"Was it enthusiastic?"

"It was insane.  The writer said I should be President of the World."

It turned out that the person who had written this letter was Eliot Rosewater, Billy's friend in the veterans' hospital near Lake Placid.  Billy told Trout about Rosewater.

"My God--I thought he was about fourteen years old," said Trout.

"A full grown man--a captain in the war."

"He writes like a fourteen-year-old," said Kilgore Trout.

I like Kilgore Trout more and more.  Trout is the quintessential frustrated writer.  Every day, waking up, opening his window, and making love to the world with language.  He continues to write and publish even though it has never made him money.  Continues even though he's not even sure if anyone is reading his books.  He writes and writes, perhaps because that is what he was born to do.

It's rare to know what you are born to do.  Personally, I can't think of a single individual in my life who is living the dream, who gets up every day excited to go to work, excited to see what the day holds.  Maybe a few retirees who seem to have mission and purpose, who know exactly what their contribution to the universe will be.  Other than that, it's about punching time clocks, collecting paychecks, and counting down to Friday at 5 p.m.

I have to say that I sort of know that I was put on this planet to be a writer.  Writing is what makes me happy, fills me up.  Given the choice between sitting on a beach or writing at a desk, I would choose the a desk every time.  That's how I can say with a good deal of certainty that I am supposed to be a writer.

However, I have responsibilities.  A wife.  Kids.  House and cars.  My wife has bipolar and needs expensive medications.  My son has ADHD and needs expensive meds, as well.  I'm a diabetic with an insulin pump.  Again, expensive medications and supplies.  So, responsibilities get in the way of my passion.  Most nights, I'm too tired to even think about sitting down with my journal.

So I write in stolen moments.  Five minutes before I clock in for work.  Ten minutes at lunch.  A half hour before I teach a class.  I write on scraps of paper, napkins, used envelopes.  I cobble together my writerly life from the leftovers of my day, and I'm happy for those leftovers. 

This afternoon, after I publish my blog posts, I'm not going to write anything fun.  I'm going to type up a handout on an assignment for the mythology class that I'm currently teaching.  After that's done, if I'm lucky, I may have fifteen or twenty minutes of REAL writing.  My writing.

If I'm lucky.  And I will be very thankful for that time.

Only 15 more days left to Saint Marty's Day.  Time to whip up a batch of Saint Marty's Day nog, which is a lot like eggnog, but with Bailey's Irish Cream.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 19: Kilgore Trout, Little Reflections, a Little Insane

Trout lost his argument with the boy who wanted to quit.  He told the boy about all the millionaires who had carried newspapers as boys, and the boy replied:  "Yeah--but I bet they quit after a week, it's such a royal screwing."

And the boy left his full newspaper bag at Trout's feet, with the customer book on top.  It was up to Trout to deliver these papers.  He didn't have a car.  He didn't have a bicycle, and he was scared to death of dogs.

Somewhere a big dog barked.

As Trout lugubriously slung the bag from his shoulder, Billy Pilgrim approached him.  "Mr. Trout--?"

"Yes?"

"Are--are you Kilgore Trout?"

"Yes."  Trout supposed that Billy had some complaint about the way his newspapers were being delivered.  He did not think of himself as a writer for the simple reason that the world had never allowed him to think of himself in this way.

"The--the writer?" said Billy.

"The what?"

Billy was certain that he had made a mistake.  "There's a writer named Kilgore Trout."

"There is?" Trout looked foolish and dazed.

"You never heard of him?"

Trout shook his head.  "Nobody--nobody ever did."

Most writers live in obscurity, like Kilgore Trout.  Not by choice.  If writers tell you they don't care if anybody reads their work, they're lying.  Every writer wants to be read.  Every writer wants to connect with people through words.

That's the reason I write poems and essays.  It's why I write these blog posts every night.  I like to believe that somehow I make a small difference in the world with these little reflections.  I may be wrong.  However, I can't stop.  If I didn't write, I think I'd probably go a little insane.

Writing is like breathing to me.  That may sound a little melodramatic, but I would bet that, if you ask any writer, he or she would say the same thing.  For me, putting words on paper is my way of making sense of the world in all its craziness. 

As Forrest Gump says, "That's about all I have to say about that."

Saint Marty is thankful tonight for words.


September 19: Saint Marty's Day Decorations, Paul Muldoon, "The Birth"

Well, it's time to go up into the attic and drag out your Saint Marty's Day decorations.  In fifteen days, it will be Saint Marty's Day Eve, when children go to bed, dreaming of tapioca pudding.

So, tonight, put up your Saint Marty's Day tree.  Make some Saint Marty's Day cookies.  Maybe watch a couple Saint Marty's Day TV specials, like "A Charlie Brown Saint Marty's Day" and "How the Grinch Stole Saint Marty's Day."

And now, a poem in honor of Saint Marty's Day . . .

The Birth

by:  Paul Muldoon

Seven o'clock. The seventh day of the seventh month of the year.
No sooner have I got myself up in lime-green scrubs,
a sterile cap and mask,
and taken my place at the head of the table

than the windlass-woman ply their shears
and gralloch-grub
for a footling foot, then, warming to their task,
haul into the inestimable

realm of apple-blossoms and chanterelles and damsons and eel-spears
and foxes and the general hubbub
of inkies and jennets and Kickapoos with their lemniscs
or peekaboo-quiffs of Russian sable

and tallow-unctuous vernix, into the realm of the widgeon—
the 'whew' or 'yellow-poll', not the 'zuizin'—

Dorothy Aoife Korelitz Muldoon: I watch through floods of tears
as they give her a quick rub-a-dub
and whisk
her off to the nursery, then check their staple-guns for staples


Monday, September 18, 2017

September 18: Poet of the Week, Paul Muldoon, "Hedgehog"

Around this time of year, in literary circles, Paul Muldoon's name gets thrown around a lot.  He's an Irish poet.  A contemporary of Seamus Heaney.  Muldoon read at Heaney's funeral. 

Certainly, Paul Muldoon deserves to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.  I think he will, some day.  Maybe this year.  Who knows?

But, if his name isn't spoken in Sweden this October, Paul Muldoon can at least boast that he was named Poet of the Week by Saint Marty. 

That should be a consolation.

Hedgehog

by:  Paul Muldoon

The snail moves like a
Hovercraft, held up by a
Rubber cushion of itself,
Sharing its secret

With the hedgehog. The hedgehog
Shares its secret with no one.
We say, Hedgehog, come out
Of yourself and we will love you.

We mean no harm. We want
Only to listen to what
You have to say. We want
Your answers to our questions.

The hedgehog gives nothing
Away, keeping itself to itself.
We wonder what a hedgehog
Has to hide, why it so distrusts.

We forget the god
Under this crown of thorns.
We forget that never again
Will a god trust in the world.


September 18: Gutless Wonder, Kardashians and Hillarys, More Hopeful

Billy Pilgrim parked his Cadillac in the alley, and waited for the meeting to end.  When the meeting broke up, there was still one boy Trout had to deal with.  The boy wanted to quit because the work was so hard and the hours were so long and the pay was so small.  Trout was concerned, because, if the boy really quit, Trout would have to deliver the boy's route himself, until he could find another sucker.

"What are you?" Trout asked the boy scornfully.  "Some kind of gutless wonder?"

This, too, was the title of a book by Trout, The Gutless Wonder.  It was about a robot who had bad breath, who became popular after his halitosis was cured.  But what made the story remarkable, since it was written in 1932, was that it predicted the widespread use of burning jellied gasoline on human beings.

It was dropped from airplanes.  Robots did the droppings.  They had no conscience, and no circuits which would allow them to imagine what was happening to the people on the ground.

Trout's leading robot looked like a human being, and could talk and dance and so on, and go out with girls.  And nobody held it against him that he dropped jellied gasoline on people.  But they found his halitosis unforgivable.  But then he cleared that up, and he was welcomed to the human race.

Of course Vonnegut is trying to make some kind of profound comment about human nature with this passage.  The gutless wonder robot can bomb innocent people with burning jellied gasoline.  That's okay.  It's just another unpleasant job, like picking up garbage or emptying bedpans or being Donald Trump's press secretary.  Bad breath, however?  Fuhgeddaboudit.

Vonnegut's ciriticism still cuts pretty close to home in the United States.  We are a society that values Kardashians and demonizes Hillarys, unfortunately.  It doesn't matter whether a person is morally or ethically bankrupt.  As long as that person looks like Bradd Pitt or is as rich as Bill Gates, he or she can do just about anything.  Maybe even be elected President of the United States.

There's a lot more going on in that little passage.  A criticism of war crimes perpetrated against innocent civilians.  War's dehumanizing effects of soldiers.  Man's inhumanity to man (pardon the gender-specific language).  Vonnegut's writing in Slaughterhouse rarely operates on one level. 

I appreciate the subtlety of Vonnegut's humor and social commentary.  There are few writers, living or dead, who are his equal in this respect.  But I'm never really sure if Vonnegut believed that humans could rise above their inherent flaws.  Certainly, he shows us repeating our mistakes over-and-over throughout time, never able to make things right.  Dresden will always be bombed.  Billy will always be assassinated.  The universe will always end.  Always in the same way,  Always at the same time.  No escape.

I like to be a little more hopeful than Vonnegut.  Perhaps it's the Christian in me.  I want to believe that people, deep down, are good and kind.  That altruism is stronger than egotism.  That's what I try to teach my kids:  focus outward, not inward.  Instead of complaining about the homeless person begging at Walmart, buy that homeless person a Happy Meal from McDonald's.  Instead of judging a person by skin color or religion or sexual orientation, go to a movie with that person, make a friend. 

We aren't trapped by the past, present, or future like Billy Pilgrim.

Saint Marty is thankful tonight for Happy Meals and movies.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

September 17: Homemade Blueberry Jam, Classic Saint Marty, "Metamorphoses"

Sorry for my absence yesterday.  I was out doing poet stuff in a near-by town.  Read with a poet friend of mine under a pavilion by a beautiful lake.  It was a warm and lazy kind of day, where nobody seems in a hurry to do anything.  I ended up meeting quite a few wonderful people and picked up a jar of homemade blueberry jam.

Today, it was church in the morning.  Schoolwork in the afternoon.  Then reading and more reading.  Maybe some writing, if I'm lucky.

Today's episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired two years ago, and I was talking to a good friend about suffering and tragedy . . .

September 17, 2017:  Eerie Shadows, Balloon Viscera, Laura Boss, "I Don't Visit My Father's Grave"

...One night, while working late, Ives, in his fatigue, staggered out to Madison Avenue, for as far as he could see, the office buildings were casting eerie shadows, and he felt the world a lonely and dreadful place.  He often awoke with a gasp in the middle of the night, his heartbeat accelerated, his breathing shallow, his heart filled with sadness, his head with memory.

Ives grieves for a long time.  He grieves so long that his wife considers divorce.  Ives grieves.  His daughter goes to Nepal, comes back, gets married, and has kids.  Ives grieves.  His best friend's wife dies.  And still Ives grieves.  For close to two hundred pages, Ives is in a constant state of sadness

I don't know why, but I thought I would somehow be beyond crying over my sister's death by now.  I had it all figured out.  I allowed myself to be angry and sad for two weeks.  At the beginning of September, back to work and teaching.  No more time for tears or being pissed off.  That was my schedule.

It hasn't worked out so well for me.  I can go for a few hours, maybe a day.  Suddenly, I'm walking to my car or brushing my teeth or eating a banana, and I start crying and can't stop.  I was talking to a good friend from the English Department, and he asked me how I was doing.  I told him about my attacks of sorrow, and he said, "Well, yeah.  You're going to be recovering from this for the rest of your life."

We talked about how the human race is united by tragedy and sadness.

"Why can't we be united by balloon animals or something?" he said.

I told him that, every time I tried to make a balloon dog or swan, it turns into balloon intestines.

"That's it," my friend said.  "We should be united by balloon viscera.  Something that lifts us up from inside."

Saint Marty's had a good day.  Good day working.  Good day teaching.  No anger.  No sadness.  Just balloon viscera raising him higher and higher.

I Don't Visit My Father's Grave

by:  Laura Boss

I don't visit my father's grave
don't put stones on his tombstone
don't say prayers
don't forget him


And another poem for this quiet Sunday afternoon about autumn changes . . .

Metamorphoses

by:  Martin Achatz



I want to speak about bodies
Changed into new forms.
My daughter, ten, on the verge
Of petal, stigma, ovule, sepal,
Talks of All Hallows Eve, the form
She will assume when Selene
Rises into the starry heavens.
Talks of the living dead, hunger
For the taste of flesh, of body.
Then changes her mind.
She will be straw in cornfield,
Blight against crow feather.
Then she chooses
A fairy nymph of cobweb,
Draped in lace and silk,
Arachne’s fine handiwork,
Fat with flies and moth wing.
Her muse shifts yet again.
She will be spell caster.
Pointed hat, frog skin,
Green and marbled with the dark
Matter of the universe.  And now,
Her final mutation, she will be
A girl, red-cloaked, a penchant
For forest and hairy stranger
In her young breast.  I fear
This form most.  Fear she won’t
Want to morph back on All Soul’s Day.
Fear she will just keep changing
States.  Liquid.  Solid.  Vapor.
Until she drifts away from me,
Or becomes some creature I don’t know
How to love.