MaryLee Martin (1929-2014)

by Priscilla Long

MaryLee Martin started came into my writing classes beginning in 2006. What I appreciated most about her was her essential seriousness as a writer. I loved her turn to poetry, the intellect and passion she devoted to it. Her presence in class and in our community was ever-gracious and humorous, continuing through a couple years of terminal illness. Her enthusiasm and attention to the work were a gratifying component of every single class she was in. Also, she was a very good writer. 

In our community, because we are writers, we are inevitably and constantly revealing ourselves. So without much commotion or bother we end up knowing quite a lot about one another, since it’s part of the creative enterprise that our instrument—as they say in theater—is our selves and our lives even if we write about other selves and other lives. It was a great gift to learn of MaryLee’s childhood in Aberdeen, her struggles with Lewy-Body dementia as she cared for her husband, her love of plants and flowers and the garden, and her love of music. Another gift was her awareness of her own mortality, never shrinking from it but never losing her cheerful and loving way of relating to the community. 

When this year’s June Intensive (a seminar I teach) was coming up, MaryLee told me I’d better give her seat to someone else, since she probably wouldn’t be here. I told MaryLee that as long as she was breathing she would have a seat in the June Intensive. I wasn’t sure she’d make it. What a happy moment it was when she walked in with her little smile.

 I feel lucky to have known her. What follows is a piece by MaryLee titled “Why I Write.”

Why Do I Write

by MaryLee Martin

I, Mary Lee, write so that I will remember.
I write to resolve pain.
I write to change the past.
I write to cling to lost loved ones.
I write to save myself for posterity.
I write to notice what I may have missed.
I write to forgive. I write to let go. I write to clear my mind.
I write to clarify my thinking.


I write to frolic in my various delights.
I write to make myself laugh.
I write to see what the page asks of me.


I write to avoid the task at hand.
I write in hope of fame and fortune.
I write to amuse.
I write to share my experiences and my
wisdom.
I write to explore my foolishness.


I write to portray a woman of the twentieth century.
I write to find joy.
I write because I enjoy the lovely shape and sound of letters and
words.


I write to greet my readers from this sunny day and from
beyond my long, happy life.
I write to join eternity.
I write to relinquish my thoughts and words as they fade and
become ash.
I write to summon my children and all who follow us
to 
pleasure and appreciation of the present and hope for the
future.

I write to become myself.

Priscilla Long is a Seattle-based writer and teacher of writing.


Lalo Alcaraz

Cover cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz
Cover cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz

Lalo Alcaraz,  the artist/cartoonist who created the cover for Raven’s humor issue, Vol. 21, is the creator of the syndicated daily comic strip, La Cucaracha, seen locally in the L.A. Times and other papers nationwide. Lalo is also a consulting producer and writer at Fox Television’s Seth MacFarlane executive-produced animated show, Bordertown, which debuted this January, 2016. He is also a consultant for Pixar, and is on the team that is creating COCO, their animated movie around the Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico. A prolific political cartoonist, Lalo is winner of five Southern California Press Awards for Best Editorial Cartoon; produced editorial cartoons for The LA Weekly from 1992-2010; and creates nationally syndicated editorial cartoons in English and Spanish. He drew the Sonia Sotomayor themed “Lil’ Judge Lopez” cartoon which appeared on 60 Minutes, CBS News and Univision, and hangs in Justice Sotomayor’s Supreme Court chambers. Lalo’s books include the New York Times bestseller, A Most Imperfect Union, US history book with Ilan Stavans (2014), Latino USA: A Cartoon History, 15th Anniversary Edition (2013), Migra Mouse: Political Cartoons On Immigration (2005), and La Cucaracha (2004).  He is also Jefe In Chief of satirical website Pocho.com, co-host of KPFK Radio’s satirical talk show, The Pocho Hour of Power, heard Fridays at 4 pm in Los Angeles. on 90.7 FM. Lalo recently taught illustration at Otis College of Fine Art & Design in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of San Diego State University (BA in Art) and UC Berkeley (Master’s in Architecture). He has seriously talented but erratic children with his wife, a hard working public school teacher. He lives in a house.

The Chelsea Hotel

 

by Ann Spiers

Have I told you about my honeymoon? It was perfect.

When I stepped out of the taxi into a pile of dog poo, I knew I was in New York City. I slipped out of my wedding shoes and left them curbside, proceeding barefoot in my wedding dress into the Chelsea Hotel lobby. Being so unshod was possible back in the great and late 1960s, the hippie days. The Chelsea was perfectly seedy, stinky, badly lit. I was a poet. Dylan Thomas drank upstairs.

The desk clerk, being solo behind the battered boat of a register desk, asked us to wait. He would escort us to our room when someone came by to relieve him. Time ticked. We had things to do. This was our honeymoon. And certainly waiting for us upstairs were the spirits of Leonard Cohen and Janice Joplin, the songsters celebrated in Cohen’s “I remember you well / in the Chelsea Hotel…”

The clerk finally abandoned his post. Let the world have the Chelsea lobby. After unlocking our room, he stepped in, and Click! the door closed behind him. Unfortunately, there was no inside door handle to let him out. He jiggled the hardware, but he was caught with us in the room. He used the room phone to reach the front desk, but alas, no one had replaced him. He let the phone ring nonstop. Perhaps the ring would irritate someone enough to answer and locate a screwdriver to release the third wheel from our honeymoon suite.

A trio, we looked around the room. It was perfectly shabby, although the bed looked freshly made up. The rug, however, had a patina of dark brown, sorta the color of old dried blood. Sid Vicious would inhabit this room. Leonard and Janice must have booked this room. And Dylan Thomas must have died in this room. But just as the evening was slipping from perfection into gloom, someone answered the phone and arranged to let the clerk out. A threesome on any honeymoon — even Sid’s or Janice’s — was really not groovy according to my personal mode of hippiness.

We were fresh from our wedding ceremony in Washington, D.C. We had wanted to get married by the Quakers, the Society of Friends, in D.C., known for their anti-war politics, support of conscientious objectors, and a nice garden for weddings. But they wanted us to spend some weeks having “marriage lessons.” I had known my true love for one year, lived with him for eight months, what did I need yet to consider? And I wanted a May Day wedding — just us and a few friends. Undeterred, I fell back on the Jesuits, the priests of my youth. I went to their local church rectory, knocked on the door, and said, “I want to get married on May Day.” The priest responded, “Okay. Bring $25 for the bishop.” This culture was one of which I was perfectly familiar. My fiancée wore “good clothes” to work the week before the wedding, not wanting to get arrested in the biggest Viet Nam war protest ever and be in jail on our big day.

Planned for us in Manhattan was an evening “reception” hosted by a Seattle friend. He was adept at seizing opportunity, and for our benefit, he shifted his already-planned May Day party into our wedding reception. Later, he got a brief mention in The New Yorker as a friend of a rising artist and, much to everyone’s delight, he was referred to as “a wealthy friend.” Wealthy or no, my friend’s reputation includes the title “cheap bastard.”

But what a heart he has! Upon our arrival at the May Day party, he presented us with a cake, a sheet cake — not done up with wedding bells, but birthday clowns. However, the words, “Happy Wedding,” were writ across the cake’s icy field. Earlier, while tripping through Manhattan, our friend happened upon this cake in a bakery window. The place was about to close. Our friend never missed an opportunity, having been honed to survival as captain of a fishing boat in Alaska’s Bering Sea, the world’s most dangerous fishery. The baker conceded, “Yes, the cake was a display cake,” and “Yes, you can buy it marked down, and “Yes, at no extra cost, the words can be changed.”

How perfect the evening. Our friend’s large loft was separated by makeshift walls and furnished with objects found on the streets. A poet read from the claw-footed bathtub on a raised platform in the kitchen area. She sported lovely floating booblets. A ballerina pirouetted through the crowd. As forerunners of performance art, a pair of heroin addicts slept naked on the couch, one stacked atop the other. We marveled that white folks could be so white all over. And in spite of sweating so profusely, they did not slide off or out from under each other.

Later, back at the Chelsea, the screwdriver was left in the door hardware for our convenience. We read Dylan Thomas — “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower / Drives my green age. . .Love drips and gathers. . .” We toasted Thomas’s wraith, coalescing from the fumes of stale booze and cigarette smoke
left over from his last stay, the downing of his eighteen final whiskies.

It was perfect. The rest was ordinary: We spent our honeymoon night in the regular way. We are still married forty-some years later, have a good time, are set well for retirement, and are blessed with grandkids. How I miss the perfect days.


Ann Spiers is Vashon Island’s (Washington) inaugural poet laureate. The Peasandcues Press (Vancouver, Washington) recently published her poem Rain Violent as a letter-press broadside, designed and printed by Joseph and Marquita Green. Her latest chapbook is Bunker Trail (Finishing Line). Visit Ann at annspiers.com.

 

Published in Raven Chronicles, Vol. 21, 2015.