WINNER of the 2015 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award
Poetry book, 92 pages, $15 cover price
Released: December 1, 2015
Poetry book, 92 pages, $15 cover price
Ron Salisbury was born in Bangor, Maine in 1943; too early to be considered a baby boomer, too close not to. He is a writer who has integrated his poetry with his business life for decades. Now, three wives deep, four children long and assorted careers past, he is a student in San Diego State University’s Master of Fine Arts program, Creative Writing. His work has appeared in Eclipse, The Cape Reader, Serving House Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, Spitball, Soundings East, The Briar Cliff Review, and Hiram Poetry Review. Miss Desert Inn was also a Semi Finalist for the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize, finalist for the ABZ First Book Contest, First Runner-up for the Brittingham and Pollak Prize in Poetry.
Ron Salisbury’s poems move us from the poverty of Maine, to the grittiness of New York, from the glitter of Las Vegas, to the glamour of California’s coast, informing us of the truth about this life, harsh as it may be, sorrowful, and wondrous and brief as it is. This is one man’s journey, and we learn as he does what it means to live with loss, with memory, with desire. An accomplished first book, informed by the poetry of Gilbert, Hugo and Kowit, these are poems of the middle passage, where there’s sometimes a woman and a glass of wine, always a good dog nearby, and a bad but beloved cat slipping out the side door. — Dorianne Laux
To examine seven decades of life from a barn in Maine to the spectacle of Las Vegas Show Girls, from the stadium of another ball game to the humble comfort of one’s room, is a lot of wonder , a lot of loss, and a lot of work – and all worth it. This is every man if everyman is a bit of Felix Krull, Confidence Man, a bit of Hunter S. Thompson, Studs Terkel or perhaps Studs Lonigan, or Dostoyevsky’s Gambler, and we celebrate him and we ache for him as he makes his way through the board room, the barn, the bar room, knowing he’s every one of us at some hour of the day or night—alone, fearless, a little afraid, and full of anticipation for the splendor of the world. —Sandra Alcosser, author Except by Nature and A Fish to Feed All Hunger
Miss Desert Inn by Ron Salisbury–It has taken a lifetime for Ron Salisbury to summon these poems from depths of what makes us human. We are fortunate to journey through memory and time with such a gifted poet. –Sherwin Bitsui
Ron Best loaned me his girlfriend
for the Junior prom. She graduated
two years before from another school,
had a job and great tight sweaters.
She held her Lucky Strike like a pencil,
blew smoke out her nose, didn’t drink beer
but carried bourbon in her purse. I would
have been in love if it hadn’t been for Ron.
On the slow dances, she’d snuggle in my neck,
her hands on my butt. “Are they all watching?”
It had been a bad year. Dumped by two girls,
each one, I knew, was the one. Stretched
out ahead would have been the house
squared with the lawn, white stake fence,
steady job, two weeks off in the summer.
I didn’t know it then, but I was on the edge
of Brewer, Maine. The last dive off the cliff
to New York City, then the swim through the surf
toward the rest of my life.
Ron’s girl pushed her Marilyn brassiere
against my sport coat lapels, her face
in my neck. Later, as I delivered her
to Ron’s waiting car, she whispered,
“If he ever dumps me, you’re next.”
And I’ve been looking over my shoulder
ever since, after every divorce.
Would the cigarettes have got her,
the bourbon? Or, would we be
in some town an hour from the opera,
her teaching English, still tight under
the sweater, and me trimming the hedge,
the grass a perfect green dream,
our afternoon tea in its cozy, steaming.
At the Eastern Star Fall Formal
some jerk kicked my mother’s chair.
A heap of yellow crinolines, legs out
and everyone rushing to help.
Nine hours later I was born, yelling,
pissing, and nothing much has changed
for me since. In January, before
that October, it’s always cold in Maine,
in their little two story, World War II
raging outside. Father’s a traveling salesman,
bad back, bad kidneys and mother’s raising
my sister, the meager meal always hot at six.
Was there much hope in Orrington, Maine?
In the world that night? Would there ever
be enough meat and sugar again?
I like to think it was hope, not dread
or the cold that pulled them together
after doing the dishes, dialing off the radio.
It would help to know I came from hope
that night, not dread.
A chain link fence between
his back yard and Ada Moran’s
kept her dogs from crapping on
the snow in winter that after melt,
appeared like foul pimples on the lawn
in spring. It also discouraged Ada
and her casserole experiments
from appearing at his back door
every week or so; Ada had designs
and Elwin wasn’t in the market.
Why not a six foot solid redwood,
thought Elwin, why’d I let
that Sears salesman talk me down
to chain link as Ada moved her chaise
to the fence edge and stripped
down to a little black thing
no seventy-five year old woman
from Maine should wear.
My father was a grocer,
not the run-a-store kind
kind. Really, a traveling salesman,
worked for Boutelle Savage
for thirty-five years until
Boutelle sold out
to the Hanaford Brothers,
shave-tail upstarts that fired
all the old guys, like my father,
pruned the client list, dumped
all the small family stores
in the north east section
Every Monday, father,
in his trim double breasted, stiff
starched white shirt, Bay Rum,
Lucky Strike in the corner
of his mouth, leather satchel
filled with flyers for deals,
order forms, new leads,
would pull out early
in his Sunday washed Buick
to start his route. Sometimes
gone a few days, especially
if he had to go to Machais
or Calais, right near
the New Brunswick border.
Lunch at the same places
where the other briefcase guys
would meet; Kendall Oil,
Mossy Meats, John Deere
equipment, a livestock vet,
joking with the waitress,
telling road stories and lies,
coffee and cigarettes.
After I was born,
he wrote my mother letters
from the road, how he couldn’t wait
to get home to the both of us.
When I was ten, sometimes
he’d pull me out of school
and we’d head north, Machais,
Calais, two days on the road;
two guys. In those lunch-time
diners, the waitresses always
poured his coffee first, sometimes
ran their hands along my cheek,
“He’s a fine one, Oscar,” they’d say.
“One fine boy.” I’d wait in the car
while he paid the tab, leaning across
the counter, close to her ear, her
hand smoothing his lapel.
It was like the night coming early
in winter and he still had chores
to do when they let him go. No more
work in Machais, no diners. No
waitresses. No suits. The weeks
closed in like channel grips. Trade in
the Buick, a pickup for spot work,
the first heart attack, the second.
Dusk at first, then night. Mother
at the hospital leaning over
to smooth his pajama collar.