When I Sleep…

My mother, Carol Saling, died September 27, 2018. She was born in East Liverpool, Ohio, in 1924 and would have been 94 this Christmas. Her dying, which was unexpected, followed a stroke that had occurred several days before. There was some lucidity for a day or two that brought about a rush of hopeful optimism among my brothers and me. But I think we recognized it for what it was and weren’t surprised when it proved itself short-lived.

Mom died in the hospital. But the house where she was living when she died is the same house she’d bought with my father 54 years before. It was the first house they’d bought since before I was born, and, for all I know, it was the only house either of them had ever owned. My father died in 1999, and for the 19 years following his death, she lived by herself in that house.

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First Communion

When I was seven, I was hit by a car. It was early March, the month of St. Patrick and of my special day, the feast of Saint Joseph. The accident is significant to me because that’s where my chain of memories begins. Before that, all I have is a collection of vignettes any one of which could be a memory, the residue of a story someone else has told me, or the imprint of an imaginary episode. When I rifle through them I sometimes feel I can order them chronologically. But they don’t connect to one another the way the memories do beginning with coming to while lying in the middle of the street one block from home with a mosaic of faces I didn’t know hovering above me.

I called for my mother and she answered even though I couldn’t see her. She said, “Your OK. Just lie still. You’re going to be all right.” She stayed with me all the way to the hospital. I know because I could feel her hand holding mine, and I could hear her talking, but for some reason I couldn’t see her. Continue reading

Fireflies Redux

The Bacon Review was an online literary journal published from 2011 to 2016. Its editors Jason Barry and Eric Westerlind were a delight to read as well as to write for, and their commitment to good writing and to the writers they published is evident in the effort they made to preserve the work in an archive that’s easily accessible and well worth the time to peruse.

In July of 2013, they published my short story “Fireflies,” which you can find (all but the conclusion) in the archive. Or, you can read it here. But if you do, please don’t forget to click through to the archive and spend time with work worth reading.

Fireflies

First Published in The Bacon Review (on line) July 2013
(c) Copyright Joseph Saling 2013, 2018

Mary Ann, with autumn hair and eyes the rarest green. Mary Ann feeds the pigeons in the school court yard and prays at early mass with the nuns. Mary Ann teasing, running with my hat in her hand, throws it into a rose bush in front of the convent.

“Ouch! Stop that Jason! You’re pulling my hair!”

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Recall

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Hey, I’m sorry I didn’t answer when you called on the day after my birthday to congratulate me for getting through another year. But I was busy. See. It was my night to make the dinner, but I’d forgotten where the kitchen was. So I had to remember this whole series of mental exercises the therapist gave me so I wouldn’t get lost if I couldn’t remember where I was going. And I did get through them and found myself at the end standing outside of Publix Grocery Store. So first I was mad, but then… Continue reading

The Telling

Before I get to poetry, I want to pose another question particularly for two groups: Actors and real people.

The other day, I saw an add on TV for Chevrolet and the awards they’ve won. As the add opened, The following appeared on screen laid over a group entering the set:

Real people not actors.

I know a few actors. Several, in fact, who are not only good at acting but are very good friends. It never occurred to me to ask them if they were real people. I just took it for granted. Now I wonder what they would have said to me.

Have any of you out there who have actors for friends or who just know some actors well enough to talk to them ever asked if they were real people? (We’ll assume they are real something — but it’s the people thing we need to know.) What did they say?

Now for the poem. “The Telling” was originally published in Aberration Labyrinth February 1, 2014. Continue reading

At the Frick

It’s been a while, but I can’t not post anymore. Please take a moment to visit the Bacopa Literary Review Editors’ Blog and read the post for today put up by Mary Bast, the Bacopa Literary Review Editor-in-Chief. My story “Eva” was published in the 2016 issue and was the 2016 Fiction Runner-up Prize Winner. Mary’s been very gracious and generous in her comments to me about the story, and now she’s taken them public. I know it’s not nice to boast, but I feel very honored to have a blog post about my work that starts with the mention of Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), Alice Walker (The Color Purple), Russell Banks (The Sweet Hereafter) and  Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale ).  And then while you’re there, don’t just look at today’s post. Spend some time looking around. It will be time well spent.

And now for something different…

The pigeons in the picture are not  at the Frick. They’re part of a fountain at a former convent that now houses a school of art in San Antonio. The Frick is an art museum in New York. The poem below is a repost from a few years back.

At the Frick

In the museum, the bronze statuary,
Small enough to be held in hand, excites
You. The artist’s craft, his love of form both
Transparent, his hand invisible, his soul,
Poured like liquid stone, became these figures,
And we become the air through which they move.

Yet in a poem, I could give you more
Than these perfect bodies. I could give you
All of their warmth, all of their hue, and more.
I can give you the sun in a blue room,
Balconies with no way down, salt-laced rhythms
Of tides, sea birds unreachable. But still
I can never see nor feel in the cold
Dead bronze the things you see, the things you feel.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2015, 2017 Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

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.

About the Muse

 

Contemplation

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)

Encounter

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.

 

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.