My apologies for resorting to another poem for today’s post. At least I’m trying to create a varied assortment.
After Sunday and my embarrassed huge-osity, I did get out and run yesterday (which is admittedly today as I am writing this). I only did four miles, but I at least got out. This morning I predict I am shoveling snow before Janet heads off to work; since that won’t really be much of workout, let’s hope for my long-delayed next trip to the Y later. (It’s supposed to start snowing later Monday afternoon, although, heavily overcast as it has been, there’s nothing yet.)
In efforts to relegate the blog (writing for free) into second place, I am attempting to work on my so-far-unfulfilled potential to earn some money from what I want to do (writing for pay). To bring a bit of cash into the house, I did accept my second substitute teaching job last Thursday. I’d prefer if I could earn by working away here at home on the keyboard.
I am trying to finish/polish “Details, Details” for submission. No one (except Tim—thanks, sir—who wanted to change my ending anyway) has responded about the story, but getting it done has been the great accomplishment of my secret vow to post something every day for a month. Perhaps I’ll try the same trick with another story. One is a bit too vulgar for this space: so far I feel the blog should be rather PG, while the story I am thinking of is headed into sci-fi noir territory, beginning with a lot of deliberate violence on the major character, and the baddies are a couple of foul-mouthed jerks every time they appear.
Another story could use a lot of work. It’s my horror story, which I imagine in three parts, of which I have bogged down in the first section. Hoping for some feedback, maybe I will make it into the next few posts here…
For now, let’s take a little wintertime trip to St. Maarten/St. Martin in the sunny Caribbean. Many years back, Janet and I took a vacation to the French side of the island (St. Martin). This poem, essentially just a piece of straightforward description, resulted from our arrival. We begin at the airport and then (via taxi) start around the tiny island toward our (really rather isolated) hotel. I tried getting this into the Iowa Poetry Association contest, but they rejected it a few years ago.
Speaking of rejection, Everybody returned from the Dramatic Publishing Company last Thursday, rejected. So now I have to redo it again and plot a new publisher to receive it. I am still sitting on “Underground” after Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine also passed on its retrieval from their slush pile. My single print source I had lined up as the third possibility has recently undergone severe criticism on the Short Mystery discussion group I joined to learn about the trade, so I am hanging in doubt. There are online publishers, but generally there’s no financial reward when they accept your work.
Yeah. Enough whining. Here’s the poem.
mustardcolored squat terminal (as the deplanees hike across the tarmac)
rose accents, white trim
inside—claustrophobic heat, humidity’s embrace
baggage retrieved, the outside is all sunlight
white—sky, sand, walls—even the cars
and paint beyond pastels—full blues, perfect pink, some lime and other greens—
the gaudy houses
walls, wooden doors and louvered windows—every one
like Mexico, Morocco, Fiji—International Tropical PostModerne
and into the taxibus (eighties Toyota van)
through the snarling-seeming slums:
dark heads and hands in clothing too thickly warm
cheap concrete construction
winding untended asphalt through the trees bushes flowers—
growths seedy, unkempt and tropical—folk, residences, plants
sticky and uncomfortable—the visitors and the afternoon
viscous in the whiteness of the sun:
uncertainty, like radiance, overwhelms.
15 June 1987
Since the poem’s pretty simple, all I can say is that obviously the brightness of the near-tropical sunshine overwhelmed me. Writing now, nearly 23 years later, I assume I was not equipped with sunglasses. My first pair of prescription shades (which remained my sunglasses until only about three or four years ago) got purchased possibly a year or two after this trip to St. Martin. Janet remembers me wearing them for the first time in Hawaii, which should have been about 1988 or ’89 (we really should sit down together, Janet and I, and make a list with dates of our vacations—much as I should have kept a diary). Presumably, then, I really was blinded by the light.
The list of countries includes all the warm-climate places I had been till then. Mexico was a Presbyterian Youth Fellowship trip (although I was never a Presbyterian, there were many attractions at that Mt. Pleasant church) early in college for me—I think—during which I bought my vinyl copy of the Woodstock album; I remember we awoke the group in a church basement/fellowship hall in Oklahoma by playing the Airplane’s “Volunteers” one morning on the way back. My friend Kevin and I also ran a black market business in seven-ounce Cokes at our first church-stay in Mexico City—buying them by the case at a little grocery down the street from the church and selling them to our friends at a profit (was that a lesson to me against being a businessman/capitalist?). Morocco had been the summer of 1984—still one of the most vivid and intense experiences of my life, even including my night sleeping on the floor at the Holiday Inn (nice joint, actually) in Marrakesh because of the horrid heat (the desk manager told us it was too cool—even at over 100°—to turn on the air-conditioning); it was cooler on the carpet than on the mattress. And Fiji had been, I believe, the most wondrous tip of them all, the summer of 1986. But back to St. Martin in 1987…
Arriving at our hotel (where we had a kind of mini-apartment, equipped with kitchenette where we eventually created clam pasta one night, so perhaps not exactly a hotel), I remember encountering (knowledgeably) my first bougainvillea (I still love those yards of huge flowers!) lining the sidewalk toward our room. I still find myself tempted to buy them at the hardware stores’ summer plant displays each spring. I believe I would even be willing to dig it up each fall and bring indoors for the winter; but Janet has gotten past indoor plants for us (too much work and too dirty).
St. Martin also marked our first vacation on our own to a place where English was not necessarily spoken (much). We had assumed Prague would be another such trip, but we never really had to speak anything but English last fall. As in France, St. Martin residents really did prefer to speak French, and I am not sure at this distant temporal remove just how we got by (Janet’s pretty much forgotten—even 23 years ago—her high school French, and mine is autodidact randomness and good luck from knowing some Latin and Spanish). However, we were nearly half our present ages, therefore that much more adventurous, perhaps, and did get by really quite well.
The picture, by the way, is my own photo of a watercolor we bought on St. Martin. I liked it because it looked exactly like all the houses we drove by both that first day and thereafter. Now that watercolor hangs, matted and framed, in our upstairs bathroom, along with a pink piece of paper art I had to buy in Spring Green, Wisconsin, many years ago, and our proud print of Botticelli’s Venus-on-the-half-shell framed in gilt and placed over the bathtub—visual joke or self-indulgence, we’ll take it either way.
I’m cleaning the oven as I write, and it’s been several hours, so I should check on progress there (and perhaps get to work on real writing).