Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Last night's going-away poetry swap, special edition: 7 pm at David's Deli; bread products exchanged for potato products and tuna salad and then an adjournment to Del's place which we've never seen in the dark, only in Sunday-brunch sunshine, Del pulling the shades and Stephanie expressing astonishment that Del actually sleeps in the same place we eat bread and talk poetry.

Arrived at Union Square early and thought about sitting there and writing a mournful San Francisco poem but thought better of it and went shopping instead. There's a new Benneton store (so new it was unmarked--they should keep it that way--I went in like a retail explorer) and upstairs they even have men's clothing. The cute Asian sales guy upstairs predicted that I was the kind of guy who would like the cut of their shirts. It must have been the new haircut.

I finally gave Jennifer the copy of William Carlos Williams's Imaginations that I picked up for her at Moe's months ago. It's been a regular feature of the swaps that at some point someone says "Oh, you should really read Kora in Hell" and Jennifer says "I keep looking for it but can never find it!" probably because I bought the only copy. Situation rectified. Then Del showed up and handed Jennifer a spare copy of the Creeley-edited Best American Poetry 2002. Like Christmas in August.

Once we got to David's and were safely entrenched in the Celebrity Corner (home, I guess, of David's "well-known" hamburger) there was more: I passed around little wrapped boxes that contained Chinese snuff bottles, hand-painted and each with a different design. My dad brought a bunch back from China and Robin assigned one to each of the swappers by some arcane method that I didn't dare to question but that seemed to work. Del got grasshoppers, which he pointed out are good luck.

I was trying hard not to think about how this was the last swap before I left--but I actually managed to keep it out of my head most of the time. If anything, it made the whole occasion both more energetic and more focused, like dancing at the edge of the stage. Once we got back to Del's we managed to stay on task and get through everybody's poems--which were a revelation, so different and interesting. Everyone seemed to be going in new directions, and I realized how much I've been responding to what I've been hearing in the group--not so much "fix this line" or "change that word" as a general direction, a sense of what moves people in my work and what doesn't.

I don't think I was really sad until we'd finally left Del's around 11:30 and Stephanie, Cassie, and Jennifer were rushing to get to BART and I was walking with them and then suddenly at the corner of Geary I realized I had to turn left to get to my car. I said something awful like "okay, I guess this is it" and then somebody (Stephanie?) said "this is IT?" and then there were some watery-eyed hugs and then I was alone in my car. Fountains of Wayne helped me make it home.

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