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.

The Partridge Part 1

IMG_4132On the Poetry Editors and Poets list on LinkedIn, there is an ongoing discussion on what exactly is stream of consciousness and how is it used in poetry. One poster has called for members to post examples of stream of consciousness poetry. Here is my contribution. It is a poem I wrote when I was in graduate school and entered in a competition for graduate student poetry. It won honorable mention.

The Partridge, Parts I & II
A Riddle and Proposed Solution
By
Joseph Saling

Poetry has become incestuous.
Conversation with a friend,  May 18, 1981

 Donald E. Carr points out that the sense impressions of one-celled animals are not edited for the brain. “This is philosophically interesting in a rather mournful way, since it means that only the simplest animals perceive the universe as it is”.
Annie Dillard, 
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Icarus fell because he believed
one could soar too high.
In my yard, flowers
restore a sense of order to chaotic days.
In my house, the books scream at me
from many rooms.  I’ve lost all power
to see or know or dream
of Michelangelo, of works that aren’t
and never could be.  In my yard
foremost resides a sense of order.
You know who I am.  Look down.
You’ll find me trampled under foot.

The quail exploded
from the weeds and pheasants stretched
their necks and lifted
their bodies in flight.
We made fires in the cleared fields.

Mowers cut the air
with noise. In the yard
I come and go, dreaming of
Michelangelo.
My hand smells of gas,
sweats on the vibrating chrome,
lifts to take a beer.

There’s never silence,
even when the work is done;
freeways never cease.

They grumble like gods’ stomachs
taking Modern Communion.

In a theater, as in Plato’s cave,
shadows flicker on the wall.  Here there are
no truck sounds, no incessant pounding, no
backing machines with warning whistles;
only frozen iotas from the past
that pass into our future.  Celluloid sound
walls that block the roar from Boeings crying
as the sky, molecule by molecule,
is swiftly subdued.  That was 43,
and none of us was eager to go.

One crazy one night
shot off his own toe while we
waited for the boats.
We all envied him
being the only sane one.

Television light,
pulsating energy, strokes
the blades of a fan,
causes it to slow,
even reverse direction.

Now there is no noise;
the sound’s erased them
all, even the memory
of crickets, only
an electric whine
and voices almost human
on mid summer nights.

You weren’t there to see.
My Lai
’s only a match flame.
We built other fires
.

You could pass your fingers through
the fan, it moves so slowly.

You know who I am.  The one on the bus
with the misshapen head.  The one who
embarrassed you with too loud talk.
It’s my eyes that you refuse
to look into, so mine teach you nothing.
You see me talk to myself, and sigh
to get off.  In all this world
there’s only idiots who see what is.

Visions are easy.
I saw the lighted tree once
in October blaze.
I saw a boy fall
reaching to pick an apple.

No one buried him.
He fell and was drowned.
I heard his parent warn him
that that would happen,
and he believed it.
No quail were left in the field.
We’d created yard.

Mowers cut the air.
In my yard I come and go.
I trample flowers,

and in them find a dead bird
my cat has brought home to share.

 © Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 1981, 2014

Advent Dance

Here’s something from A Matter of Mind to remember the holidays by.

The Advent Dance

Yesterday with the tree planted in its stand,
the tinsel being all that was left to do,
and the Celtic music filling the room
with the richness of its Irish brogue,
we danced, father and daughter, a jig.

And as I reached up to drape the branches
in their silver shimmer and felt the pain
make its way across my arm and chest,
I knew the last thing I would say would be
I’m glad we danced.

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

On your way out? Here’s a poet worth taking note of. Her name’s Colleen Abel. You really should check out her two poems in the Wintere 2014 issue of The Cincinnati Review.