Am I still blocked? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

green bed

Go ahead — hit that space bar.

I have some writer friends that I know will recognize an exchange similar to this:

“You should get out if these dreary rooms, Henry. They’re half the reason you’re blocked.”

“Am I blocked? I’d just thought of myself as a slow typist.”

“What do you do, hit the space bar once a day?”

John Updike in “Bech Panics” in Bech a Book (1970)

Just my way of saying, like I said in the comment on the last post, I’m coming back. Just watch this space. Things have happened.

Enjoy your day —


Another Celebration

Here’s how Five 2 One announced the inclusion of my poem The Road to Nirvanah (a Drama Review) on its blog.

Check it out! Another celebration! Road to Nirvanah by Joseph Saling 

#thesideshow is a National Poetry Month project in which the journal is posting on its blog a daily “freaky midget poem or fiction piece.” My favorite so far is The Cow’s Fault by Monica Lee about the ideas that get into cows’ heads and their consequences. When you go to see The Road to Nirvanah, the subject of which is a Harvard Square production of Road to Nirvana, a play by Arthur Kopit, stay around awhile and read the other works in the #Sideshow. They’re short and they’re freaky. Who needs more reason to celebrate?

That just makes me feel good.

Lasers Are Overrated Anyway

Who needs lasers? (Hint watch it in full screen in a darkened room. But don’t forget to hit escape and come back.)

Hi. I feel like I’ve been gone forever, even though I  didn’t go anywhere. Well that’s not exactly true. I did go up to Vermont in January — yes it was cold — to see S graduate from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She now has her MFA in children’s lit. You can expect good great prize-winning things to come.

And I’ve had a few more poems see the light of print. I plan to share those here over the next few weeks, so watch (and listen) for them. But, first, below, you can find a link to my latest publication. It’s a short story called “Huntington” in the March issue of Blue Lake Review. That’s an online journal edited by novelist Mitchell Waldman and journalist/poet Diana May-Waldman, both quite talented writers themselves. I can highly recommend Petty Offenses & Crimes of the Heart, Mitchell’s collection of short stories that I’m reading now, and Diana’s strong collection of poems a woman’s song. I plan to add reviews to The New Word Mechanic over the next few months and I’ll tell you more about both of them then. But I highly recommend you make the effort to get to know them and their work yourself.

So here’s the tease and the link. Enjoy.

Huntington (Printed at Blue Lake Review March 2015)

By Joseph Saling

I have this idea about how we live our lives — that there is no such thing as foreplay or afterglow. Not that life’s one fantastic orgasm,  though sometimes it can be — laser light shows, the earth moving, waves crashing on the beach, startled quail, like a fourth of July  fireburst, suddenly exploding from the bush in all directions against  the sky. But for most people, life is simply anticlimactic.  The kind of thing that sputters before you’re ready and doesn’t leave you feeling any different after it’s done. A series of slow shudders that makes you wonder why you even bother at all.

By the summer of my forty-third year, my life had settled into one of those slow shudders…(Blue Lake Review)

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2015.

When I Sleep I Dream online

Take a trip over to Carcinogenic Poetry to see my latest publication — When I Sleep I Dream. Then while you’re there — after you’ve left a comment about the poem (Hey! It’s good for the ego and for my future) — browse for a while and look at the other fine poets editor Michael Aaron Casares (a fine poet himself) has spotlighted.

And now, who’s in the mood for  little baby blues?

Perdix tells the tale

Spent three days last week in the hospital, fighting an infection in the skin of my leg that also spread to my blood. Funny. Just a couple of weeks before, I was feeling pretty cocky. I had the labs done for my physical that’s coming up in about a month, and when the results came, everything — everything — was normal. Pretty damn healthy for someone my age.

How little we know.  IMG_4149 (photo Joseph Saling 2014)

The following poem originally appeared in A Matter of Mind (Foothills Publishing, 2004). It also appeared in the July 12, 2013, issue of
Carcinogenic Poetry.

Perdix Tells the Tale

I’ll tell you how it all began. This man,
Named Daedalaus, could build you anything
You asked. One day, the king calls up and says
His wife has slept with a bull. He doesn’t mean
A stud who’s hung just like a bull. He means
A bull. And then this lady has a kid,
A monster kid who looks a little like
A man but looks a lot more like a bull.

The king tells Daedulus he wants the kid
To be put away. The people talk, he says,
And it’s embarrassing. So Daedulus,
Who’s got some time, says sure, he’ll take the job
And comes and builds a super maze. I mean
This puzzle’s worthy of the New York Times,
And even if you made it all the way
Inside, you’d never find your way back out.

Right in the middle of this maze, the king
Sticks his wife’s bastard kid. Now why he kept
The freak alive and simply didn’t drown
It I can’t say. But kings do what they want.
And you and I can only shake our heads
And pay the taxman what he says we owe.
And what a debt this king collected. He
Demanded neighbor’s kids to feed his beast.

But bless the Lord for heroes. Theseus,
Who’s tired of all this crap, decides that he
Can get a reputation if he finds
Some way to make the tributes stop. He says
He’ll kill the kid and get away before
The king gets wise. But first, he needs some help
To figure out the maze, and so he woos
The king’s daughter who tells him what to do.

They pull it off. They get away. The king
Gets pissed. He snatches Daeadulus and grabs
His kid, whose name was Icarus, and locks
Them up in jail and throws away the key.
This isn’t good, ‘cause Daedalus lives by
His reputation and he knows how quick
The crowd forgets a man who’s out of sight.
So Daedalus has got to make some plans.

The trouble is the only way he sees
To leave this place is going through the sky.
No problem for our man. He builds a set
Of wings from wax and feathers. Then he makes
A junior set and teaches Icarus
To fly. You should have seen them leave. They rose
Like hawks. They soared up through the clouds. They hummed
Like a squad of Blue Angels overhead.

But kids. They’re always running off. They get
Ideas. Won’t listen to a single thing
A parent says. They have to test and see
How far the limits go. And Icarus
Was just thirteen, and his old man had no
Control. The boy took off and wouldn’t stop.
Now what are parents always telling kids?
Don’t go so near the water or you’ll drown.

Don’t stay so long out in the sun, you’ll burn.
Just take the middle road. You’ve got a name.
So make your father proud. But Icarus,
He had to break the rules. They fished him from
The bay. And Daedalus, poor guy, no man
Should ever have to bury his own son.
You ask me how I know these things. My name
Is Perdix and my cousin’s Icarus.

I worked my uncle’s shop before these things
Took place. I studied well. I learned the trade,
But maybe learned too much. My uncle tried
To kill me. Now I watch just like a bird
Who hides beneath a bush. I see some things.
I write them down, I pass them on. I trade
My stories for a place to sleep, a tried
And worthwhile job for a nearly flightless bird.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2014.


About the Muse



Contemplation (c) JH Saling

“The words and phrases that describe the erotic happen to be the same that apply to poetic inspiration: pleasure, a deep satisfaction, mystery, unknowing, a chance encounter, the unpredictable, a letting go, a giving over, a giving into, a forgetting of the self, and the getting of a gift.”  (John Foy, writing in The Raintown Review Volume 12 Issue 1, March 2014.)


The following poem originally appeared in Poet Lore (1985) and was later included in A Matter of Mind (Foothills Publishing, 2004)


Her child-combed hair that smells of hay,
Thighs dusted with plowed earth,
She sheds her patterned dress and climbs
The attic stairs to me,

Where we collide among the cries
Of angry springs, sterile
Thrusts, and pain of ruined farmers’
Sons. A shotgun across

His chest, her father sleeps. Look. Smell
The sweat of honest work.
This girl works as hard as any
Man. Now she’s mine, until

Dawn, when he and I see her work
The fields, saddle shoes filled
With air next to school books along
The road that melts in light.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 1985, 2004, 2014.


And while we’re on the subject of the farmer’s daughter, let’s listen to Crystal Bowersox. Her work is pure inspiration. Her words pure poetry.


Jason at Sunrise Service


Sunrise (Photo credit: Diganta Talukdar)

The following poem was originally published in Pivot in the summer of 2002 and later included in A Matter of Mind (Foothills Publishing, 2004). It was firstposted on this blog in March 2013.

The reading is new for this post. Click to listen.

Jason at Sunrise Service

It’s cold, and the wind blowing across this hill
Makes it colder. I’m not used to wearing
Winter coats at Easter, nor to sharing
Sunrise hymns with strangers. But kids will
Pull you out of bed at awful hours and fill
Your life with endless nights. They don’t care
That their lives intrude on yours with that glaring
Arrogance of youth that can’t stay still.

At eleven PM Jason cut his hand.
At midnight, in a dim and sterile room,
A young intern sewed it shut. He stands
Here now to celebrate an empty tomb.

The spreading rose of day dissolves the night.
I watch him join hands with others to sing
Hallelujah toward the rising sun.
And as I walk a little further from
Their voices rising in the morning wind,
I feel the cold rise up around my heart.

His world’s a morning filling up with light
And sun-glazed faces like a ring
Of sacrificial fire. Their antiphon
Goes with me down the hill. He’s just begun.
The road is like a ribbon with no end,
And I’m too old to remember where it starts.

They’ll sing and share the bread. I’ll set the fan
Inside the car on high. I’ll sleep at noon.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2014.

Look for my latest poem “Painting Miss Annie: The First Meeting” in the current print issue of The Raintown Review (Vol 11 Issue 2, March 2014.)

Remains of the Season

Check out this latest post at Roxi St. Clair. (And then spend some time roaming the site. You’ll be glad you did.)
It demonstrates an excellent understanding of the Haiku Sensibility and how to apply it in English poetry. The only suggestion I would make if I were editing the poem would be to consider the word “at” rather than “to” in the fifth line.

Issue #010 of Aberration Labryinth

Check out the latest issue of Aberration Labyrinth for my poem “The Telling.” Then take a look at another new online journal from Canada called Caesura. I like them both, as well as like a lot of other online journals such as Carcinogenic Poetry and The Bacon Review. But not everyone’s so sure online journals are a good thing. What say you?