Friday, October 31, 2008

NYC poetry workshop

Last weekend I attended another poetry workshop in NYC with Ellen Bass. It was hosted by one of her students who lives in the Village on 12th Street with a view of the Hudson. Can we say 'pretentious'? But the best part, besides writing poetry, was staying with some friends in the Ridgewood section of Brooklyn. The husband, Will, manages a German/Austrian hall/bar (Gottscheer Hall--look it up). We ate pulled pork nachos, potato pancakes, krainer and spaetzel, bread pudding with raisins soaked in rum, and drank beer until we were fat. And that was just Friday night. Saturday night my friend Dorothy (Will's wife) and I went to an Egyptian restaurant, a little on the sketchy side, ate a delicious dinner, and smoked a hookah for dessert; there might have been a wonderful rice pudding in there too. Good folks, good food, and talk--plus poetry; it doesn't get any better than that.

This is one of the poems that came out of the workshop--others are still in the works. On Sunday we had been sent outside to the sidewalk to glean an impression from the yard sale taking place on there (wouldn't that make it a sidewalk sale?). As far as poetic inspiration goes, the yard sale didn't do it for me, but the Mexican restaurant on the corner was akin to the eighth wonder of the world, in its own quiet, understated way. Combined with a suggested word list, I managed to write a poem.

A glory reserved

“Shoot bandits’ heads to ring bells”
reads the faded sign above
the window of the Mexican restaurant.
An oversize discolored bottle cap
teases “Thirsty? Wet your whistle.”
Plastic lantern Santa, sleigh, single
reindeer gambol over the doorway.
Skulls in chorus line on the lintel
mock each hunger, signal every regret.
Our Lady of Guadeloupe waits
in the entryway—dark, lovely,
vacant of desire, her miniature
infant Son the pivot
on which her feet turn.
I can’t look away from
this corner, this blaze
of glory reserved, where
it’s Christmas every day,
even on the day of the dead.

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