Even in these days of Facebook, it can take news, good or bad, months to find us.
Marty Baum was part of my original poetical family, one of the regulars at World Famous Poetry Night at the Planet X coffeehouse in College Park, Maryland, back in the mid 1990s. Though we were all equal poets there, he was a mentor to me in the full-on, balls-to-the-wall style with which he read and performed his stuff.
He was one of the nutcases who kept coming even after the place burned down, meeting on the "grassy knoll" right across the street on the campus of the University of Maryland, or under the awning of a sub shop a few doors up. I remember a bunch of us meeting under that awning one night with a tornado warning in effect -- I can't remember for sure if Marty was there that night or not, but I think he was. We were a bunch of crazy young poets, so what the hell and why not?
It was Marty, as I recall, who introduced me to the work of Charles Bukowski; Bukowski's been a favorite of mine ever since.
I had lost touch with Marty over the years, but back in February we met up on Facebook, and for about two months after that we would occasionally swap comments. I hadn't heard from him in a while, but that happens; I wasn't checking on his page or anything. So I missed the news.
I just learned that Marty left us back on April 4th, a victim of lack of health insurance. According to notes left on his Facebook page, he had lost his health insurance when he lost his job last year. And so a minor infection was left untreated and ran rampant, costing this fine young poet his life. Another needless death brought to you by our ridiculous, laughable, tragic, profit-oriented healthcare system.
So if I should happen to punch out the lights of the next goddamn teabagger who parrots the bullshit about the U.S. having the best healthcare system in the world, you'll know why. But I'll try to refrain, in honor of Marty's general good nature.
Instead I'll try to take this as a reminder to let the people who've touched my life, know what they mean to me. So all my fellow poets, those I've shared the stage at readings with, those I've struggled with crazy writing exercises with: you are my brothers and sisters in arms, and I love you.