The Art of Parties by David Owen Miller

The Art of Parties

David Owen Miller

First, find the smokers: they’re usually
out by the pool, the vapors from their cigarettes
embracing chlorinated steam: ask for
a menthol, nobody will bother you then, and
if they do, always carry a Zippo,
blow the smoke high and hard, mumbling
about what kind of shitty day you had, how
the kids or your boss got on your last nerve,
then when you’ve nearly moved them to boredom,
discuss the mix of Beaux-Artes and Alhambric
styles like you’re some kind of editor
for Art + Architecture.
Move on to
the catering table: wave your hand through
the effluvia of roasted coriander and cumin
wafting out of the gray chafing dishes;
comment on the next dish russet-colored
with caramelized garlic and shimmering fat;
A roasted suckling pig, you might exclaim,
with that apple in its mouth, it’s smiling!
Don’t forget to heap praise on the forks made
from recycled potatoes, the wax-coated
plates: they can hold a lot of juice, can’t they?
Questions like these always please a good host.

At the bar it’s important to order
a margarita and a Diet Coke:
drink both at the same time, it will look cool
like Vuarnets on the Champs-Elysees,
talk to the man with the curly toupee,
the one with only five months left to live,
he’s the last Methodist in Hollywood,
show him the Zippo and menthols
he will shrink from the flame, protect his hair,
but mostly he’ll smile like a knife salesman
and recount funny stories about bus seat belts
and mayonnaise.
Now, dull, scratchy folk-rock
covers of Marvin Gaye and Fifty-Cent
mumble from outdoor speakers: how fluid
ly you move thanks to your Pilates
Hip-Hop yoga classes: imagine
yourself the peacock, eyeballing your host’s wife
in her sleek black summer dress. Tell her
that’s not a beak in your pocket; she will
admire you; admire her admiration,
tell her you loved her husband’s last album
or movie, this is the Palisades after all
and even the help has a movie in development,
tell her about your t.v. deal, your internet
reality show, your youtube fanzine dedicated
to Beaux-Artes architecture and Zippo lighters
comments like these please a good host.

In front of you is the garden, go explore
the ceiling of the sky, the canopy
of low clouds and late December breezes.
Somewhere someone has stubbed out
his cigarette and filled the pool with Dawn
dishwashing soap: the kids use their arms
to make hobbit-sized bubbles, and as
they rise and shimmer under the fireworks
of the new year, the year your daughter
will creep out the window to meet the singer
she met on fb and never return, not even
in pieces, you feel your cynicism stretch,
wobble in the cold night air and explode.
You’re a long way from Omaha.

About the Author

David Miller is the next to the last Latin teacher in the L.A. Unified School District, and received both his B.A. in Classics and his M.Ed. from UCLA. He published in Red Dancefloor, Damned Spot and WordWrights!, but took a hiatus in order to start a family and teach English and Latin in both Watts and Santa Monica. After 11 years of sponsoring poetry and film clubs, his students and colleagues are forcing him to publish his poetry.