Four Poets

“Luxury is who you’re with,” my friend Maureen said years ago, and one of the true luxuries in my life is to be part of a group of poets I respect who meet regularly to discuss our work. Two of the poets I met at the Squaw Valley Poetry Workshop in 2001, and we have been in various permutations of this group since then. About five years ago, we morphed into this current group of four. We manage to meet once a month despite the myriad events that conspire against it. By now we know each others’ work and are comfortable enough and know enough about our strengths and weaknesses that our criticism is both honest and valuable.

The four of us started hosting a Sunday Salon, dubbed Salon 77, on an irregular basis. Lisa, the letterpress printer among us, prints the invitation, and we each get ten. Poets, writers, musicians, artists, sculptors and appreciators all show up, eat, talk, and have a few minutes each to show their work. Here is a blurry shot of us from the first Salon in 2009.

The next Salon is this Sunday, and as most of you won’t be there, here’s a sample of our work from yesterday’s poetry group:

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this is what is supposed to happen

under all the rain slickers hanging
on a spike near the door
we will find a mouse nest
in the old khaki army coat
Dad used to wear out on the lake
on the days when the wind whipped waves
over the gunnels

this is what is supposed to happen

the mice will have gnawed on the cuffs and filled
the urine soaked sleeve with wool
and fur plucked from their bellies
and oakum torn from between the logs
and stuffing from the life vests
and they will have nursed pups
pink as dried pinto beans
and in the winter
when the inadequately protected
plastic bags of popcorn and rice are empty,
their long sleep will have put down roots,
the spines will have curled into the fluff,
tail vertebrae will have wound
around the moldy skulls and metatarsals
no bigger than a kernel

this is what is supposed to happen

abandoned by us,
these four walls, a door and a roof
will welcome other heartbeats

Dad no longer needs the coat
or his own femurs

this is what is supposed to happen

we will leave the  coat outside
on the pile of old boards
blanketed in silvered
needles and matted birch leaves
the planks  will soften and bow
and all of it will linger
for barely a whisper, then
settle into the forest floor:
the old canvas, the zipper
the pockets where he kept
tobacco and matches
where he used to warm his fingers

Deborah Friedman

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Sun Return

Not thinking about death, or Darwin, or Persephone, my dog and I celebrated Spring Solstice by taking a walk on the Cesar Chavez Sanitary Landfill, which overlooks the San Francisco Bay. On this ground, just 25 years ago, I dumped countless loads of wood chips from my work pruning trees.

As we came up the first rise, Smudge and I both flinched when a great blue heron flew over, just a few feet above our heads, clutching a small mammal in his claws. Dipping suddenly lower, and swerving with the urgency of a car avoiding a head-on collision, the heron dropped the squirrel. It seemed to bounce a little before a red-tailed hawk, flying in close pursuit, snatched it up and disappeared into a Monterey cypress.

When the heron resumed his hunchbacked hunt in the field pockmarked with rodent burrows, Smudge and I continued on the trail up to the Sundial. I don’t know what Smudge took away from our urban adventure in “nature red in tooth and claw,” but I was left wondering what Persephone missed most about Hades embrace, and if, on her first day above ground, her breath smelled of fungi.

Joe Lamb

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When a Road

a road
takes over
and you wander
you’ll think of home now and
then; remember some of the
early days, before everything
crystallized, when unimagined routes
seemed inevitable. Horizons fled
at your footsteps’ approach. You set out over
the globe, your dominion, swaggering a little.
Then it all rushed in: life, fear, misery, tidal waves,
youthful hopes snuffed out. Back then books were portals, escape routes
or worm holes not so much into another universe as
a way to leave this behind. But this was shackled to your ankle,
it wouldn’t be left, it filled your interstices and came right along.

a rhopalic poem by Lisa Rappoport

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I’m done with regret.
But even as I say this
I know it’s a lie.
It doesn’t matter that I was young.
It doesn’t matter that I did my best.
What matters is harm,
I can appologize
forgive myself
be forgiven.
That splintered bone
won’t mend.

Meryl Natchez

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Not bad for four recent drafts! As for the rophalic poem, Lisa explained that it’s one in which each line has one syllable more than the preceding line. I’m looking forward to Sunday.


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