Picnic · Poetry

Poetry & Coffee Picnic: 8/21/16

…I was gravy in judgment,
which might not mean much
unless you’ve taken a spoon
of it and poured it back over a dumpling
shaped like your heart
                       –Tomás Q. Morín
Once a month in Queens, NY, Valerie G. Keane has us talk poetry. Not our poetry, but poems written by poets we love and don’t love and/or don’t get. Poets whose name just popped up on our search engine once the month’s theme is established, too. I love Poetry & Coffee. If 15 people show up with a poem, I am going home with 15 poems I either never read before, or poems I haven’t had the opportunity to talk about, and that is pretty bad-ass, no? You cannot possibly be a better poet or HUMAN BEING without having read as much as you can read. You just can’t. I can’t. But it’s not just the reading part that triggers growth. It’s most definitely the sharing. I do not want to keep a good poem to myself and so I never do. Going to Poetry & Coffee is my way of doing more than just sharing a poem via Facebook or Instagram or email. I get to discuss these poems with people who genuinely want to be there. I always take home with me a feeling of hunger once the event is over. I want MORE poems. I want to write more. I want to connect.

I also wanted some freakin’ figs on my cheese board and in my mouth so Yes to this latest gathering!

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This month’s theme was food and we threw ourselves a picnic. I immediately saw this as an opportunity to whip out my slab of cherry wood where cheese can only belong. But I also went a little overboard on bringing poems. We are generally supposed to bring just one. I brought 4. One for reading. The others were given as small offerings towards the end.

As for the cheese board? I went simple, which brought me as close to Summer as I needed to be.

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For the board, I made a small thing of Tristar strawberry jam. I had to. During my latest walk through Union Square’s Greenmarket, these tiny, red loves were EVERYWHERE like new blooms.

I paired the jam with a creamy, sharp cheese that was a cross between cheddar and parmesan, and of course my favorite peppery toscano from Trader Joes. There were figs (there NEEDED to be figs!), heirloom and cherry tomatoes from Valerie’s backyard, ciabbatta, grapes. Simple. Valerie made a gigantic sandwich with smoked mozzarella and layers of summer vegetables. Others brought homemade brownies, cookies, a cherry tomato and corn bow tie pasta that I honestly want to make when I get home, and then there were poems. Delicious poems. A poem about the disrobing of artichoke (Robin Robertson, Artichoke.) A poem called From Okra to Greens that Connie felt spoke to my deep connection to cooking (she nailed it.) The one I read aloud was Dorothea Lasky’s poem about–and not about–canning. Some were funny. One, Parkinson’s Disease by Galway Kinnell, made everyone deep-breathe and cry.

There was one other poem that got to me right in the gut. Thankfully P&C offers a safe place for crying, though I don’t think anyone saw that I did. It was Salad Days by TOMÁS Q. MORÍN. (Thanks, Joan!) It made me think of the one thing I’ve been missing for weeks, which is the cooking I’d do with my love who is no longer with me. In fact, I felt him most when I was putting together the cheese board, and I felt him most in this poem, where the drizzling of honey onto turkey bacon comes into play with it’s sweetness, and when there was Light:

It’s all happening now,
you liked to say, and I agreed,
though it was not the news
from the outside I relished,
but the daily Extra! Extra! the light
of the morning brought to my attention
every time we woke in your house
or my house and my heart
— salty, risen — was warm
again in a way it hadn’t been for years.
Organ of passion, organ of righteousness
that has never had a single flavor cross its lips,
how could you know
how much I would miss the honey of those days,
her drizzle of it on the turkey bacon,
my cracking pepper up and down the pan,
the sweet meat of happiness
I would no longer let pass between our teeth.

This brings me to Frank O’Hara’s Having a Coke with You, the poem we did not get to discuss, but one I had given to everyone as a gift. It was certainly a gift to me many years ago, and today. It is where the 4 o’clock light in some of my poems comes from.  It’s the poem that ALMOST made me want to name this blog Eating with You. Because it’s my favorite thing to do, it is.

it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

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