Two more poems from Saturday’s Salon

Both of these are by Lisa Rappoport:

Czeslaw Milosz Buys Lion or Tiger Urine at the Oakland Zoo

—or so it has been reported: or rather, so goes the report
of his intent, unaccompanied by any definitive evidence
of whether he did so, or no. He loved the deer, he loved
their musky attendance at his dwelling in exile on the Western
coast of this country, in the hills above Berkeley, at the edge
of the regional park called Tilden. But he loved also his garden,
the trees, the new life that both burgeoned and was encouraged
to burgeon; and the deer loved these also, but after their fashion,
which tended toward destruction. So other than building
eight-foot-high fences to exclude the visitors, the best
modern alternative to discourage their appetite
was to spread the urine of their enemies
about the perimeter of the property.

Although I cannot say whether the intended purchase was made,
the end of the story is that on the morning when news arrived
of Milosz’s faraway death in his once homeland, deer congregated
in the small yard, more than had ever been seen there. I like
to imagine them pushing and milling, crowding, stamping, bidding
a cervine farewell to a poet and a century, creating presence
in a place of absence.

The Death of Longing

In that alternate universe
where desperation is an aphrodisiac,
happiness is visible, palpable, and smells
like bubblegum; but poetry has shriveled
and you see people barfing all day long
from their disgust at reading, viewing,
and living a life of schmaltz. The word
longing means going for a lengthy walk,
and to miss someone is as rare and outmoded
as to contract a case of the vapors. Hearts
don’t break, they bend, like malleable rubber
balls that bounce without bruising themselves
or their targets. The more one is hurt, the more
confidence he gains, and slights are regarded
as compliments and exercise opportunities. Instead of
black holes physicists discuss white mounds: places
of infinite lightness, outside of the pull of gravity,
which reflect and turn back all that approaches.
The few remaining poets write mainly about latitude, longitude
and trigonometry, and are read only by the few remaining
librarians, those specialists whose job descriptions do not forbid
the reading of banned books. Some inhabitants have never returned
from their youthful longings.

Polenta Pizza & Some Highlights from the Salon

Here is the Polenta Pizza recipe from the Salon, as promised:

Polenta Pizza

1½ C Polenta
6 C stock
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ C butter
salt to taste

Roasted vegetables

Heat the stock to boiling and gradually stir in the polenta. Add red pepper flakes and a little salt. Simmer and stir occasionally until thick (about 20 minutes). Add the butter and stir. Check for salt and add if necessary. Spread on two or three large, lightly oiled cookie sheets with rims and bake at 425 until set, about 8 minutes.  Crust should be about ¼” thick.

Slice vegetables and toss with olive oil and whatever herbs you like. I roast about 30 minutes at 425, turning once as they tend to brown on the bottom first. Roasted red and yellow peppers, cauliflower, parsnips, carrots, anything goes on the pizzas. I like lots of onions, and I usually just slice these thin and sauté them in olive oil on the top of the stove, then let them dry on paper towels. It’s good to have heaps of vegetables. If in season, figs make a nice addition. I slice them and roast them with a little butter and ginger—use tinfoil on your pan for these, easier to clean. If you want meat, you can add fried pepperoni or sausage. If you want cheese, you can crumble a little feta or grated parmesan.

You can make the crust and/or roast the vegetables beforehand and assemble on the crust just before serving. Then just warm for a few minutes in a hot oven. Also good cold.

Also a few highlights from the salon:

Larry showed two broadsides he did recently with Lisa of Littoral Press, one of a Tony Hoagland poem (scanner bed a little too narrow to do it justice), and one of a poem by a friend and master potter, Jack Sears, who died just about a year ago:



And here is Jackie’s original composition, Dark Flight, on the violin, though she played a piano version for us.


Salon Saturday

For the past year or so, four of us have been hosting more-or-less quarterly salons–with letterpress invitations from Littoral Press and a diverse group of artists, poets, writers, and musicians attending and reading or performing or showing their work. Each of us gets 10 invitations, and about 30+ people attend. We’ve had everything from bronze and clay sculpture to handmade dresses to series of sketches and paintings to original music in addition to stories, poems, novel, play and memoir excerpts. Our only rule is no more than five minutes per person. Otherwise it just gets too long.

Yesterday happened (by coincidence) also to be the first day of the Squaw Valley Poetry Workshop, where three of the four of us met. This is a truly inspirational week in the Sierras, writing every day, and reading your fresh poem in workshops. I’ve been several times, and last time took one of my favorite signs, which we use now for the salon.

Our invitations say “inspired attire admired but not required,” and I usually wear a thrift shop item. This time was no exception.

The hat had a poofy furbelow on top that really deserves its own photo.








We had a strange artifact that had fallen out of a magazine called “Outsider 4/5” published by Loujon Press.  It was a pressed and laminated flower picked “within a mile of Geronimo’s grave.”

It had a letterpress note attached, explaining that it was not for sale, but was one of 500 distributed free (money would break the spell) with the hardcover edition of the magazine.  The note suggests you tap “dead center” seven times and say “I’m alive” something wild will happen to you within seven days “if you let it happen…”

Of course, I (and several others) walked to the center of the labyrinth and did so. On her way home, one guest already had something wild happen. As she unlocked her car door, she heard something behind her and turned to see a buck with a full head of antlers behind her!

I’d be happy to publish others’ contributions from the salon if anyone likes–just send them to me, or put a link in the comments. Here’s the poem I wrote that morning, inspired by my new hat:

Prayer or Question

I drop the carefully repaired refrigerator drawer
just as I’m about to insert it back into its slot
and I am suddenly in a Dean Young poem
where even the dictionary is agonizing
over meaning and objects have a singular
malevolence? I didn’t mean it
when I said this refrigerator is a piece of shit.
I take it back. Just let the drawer work
so that life can go back to normal.
Let normal be recognizable.
Let it be calm as a cat
curled on the red synthetic velour blanket
weaving its orange fur into the fabric
just by the impression of its body.
Let it be serviceable
as a hat to a pin,
though hats have fallen out of fashion.
Even rhyme can’t save them
with their dotted veils,
their frolicsome furbelows.
The spell check insists we have to frolic
without the help of the letter k,
its presence quirky as a kleptomaniac.
When you stand in the center of the outfield
you see everything baseball has to offer.
The grass is greener there.
They use a lot of chemicals,
paradoxically. No one wants to be out,
or miss out, out in the cold.
A refrigerator is a humming box
of cold in the center of the warmest room
in the house. Hum and function
so that I, too, may hum and function
after my fashion.

Another Loujon Press artifact is a letterpress edition of diary entries by Henry Miller, mostly about an artist named Hans Reichel, in Paris before the second world war (1937-1938). It’s a beautiful multicolored letterpress edition, with a final note by Henry Miller. The end of the note reads:

Out of this potpourri of food and fun some writing got done, some painting, and a lot of living. It’s hard now to tell which was more important. They went together, that is all I can say. And what better can one say? That his paintings are now coveted by collectors and museums means nothing to Reichel now. He would be just as wonderful if no one had ever heard of him.                               Henry Miller 5/8/66

I couldn’t have written a better description of our salon myself. I’ll post the Polenta Pizza recipe tomorrow.