What’s on Your Mind?

(c) Joseph Saling 2020

I said I was coming back, and here I am. Thanks to all of you who’ve been patient enough to look in from time to time and not give up. Thanks also to those who have prodded me. And, yes, I did need it. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say. It’s rather that I couldn’t say it. My mind just keeps getting in my way.

I was talking to Sandy about what smart TVs do for us in terms of what we watch and how we watch it. What I didn’t know was that my mind was going to shut me down. Big Little Lies starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and loads of other actors with names we’d recognize in instant, was the example I wanted to use. And in particular, I wanted to talk about Nicole Kidman’s performance. And BINGO. Her name wasn’t there.

And it wasn’t just her name. I was going to use the name of her husband and costar in Eyes Wide Shut — Tom Cruise, of course — to help me get her name back. But guess what, his name was gone too. I could name multiple movies we’d seen him in. I could talk about the focus on Scientology. But it was no use because both names were gone, and with them was the point I was going to make about watching smart TV.

The bottom line was I’m getting older and it’s doing bad things to my mind. I told my therapist about the incident and about how often it happens over and over. I know who these people are, but I’ve got no way to talk about them because my memory won’t give me a chance.

My therapist (whom I trust immensely) said I could see a neurologist, but odds were I’d ace all the tests. I talked to my regular doctor who echoed my therapist and told me I’d have no problem acing the tests. But she said it wouldn’t hurt to see the neurologist and that she’d refer me.

I saw him. He was young, but knowledgeable and charismatic. He told me I was not losing my mental capacity. It was just that as we get older, our mind starts to store and access memories in different ways, and there were things I could do to offset the changes. So I’m trying.

But forgetting things (including “what did I want that just made walk into the kitchen”) is not the only problem. We work out things we want to say in our mind before we actually reach for words. At least, it seems that way. But when things we ponder don’t yield themselves to words that convey what we are feeling, it becomes extremely difficult to talk about them. So here I am.

The poem below — “A Matter of Mind” — is the title poem of my book published in 2004. It can explain at least how it feels not to be able to express what you may desperately want to say.

A Matter of Mind

I had no way to tell you because words
made it a matter of mind. But that morning
two hawks in circle dance cried above me
as I longed for their wings, wished to grow wings.

Pictures, perhaps, but I was no painter
who could catch the crow flapping above mowed fields.
Nor was I a musician to make music
like the music of gulls rocked by the wind.

The mind would not do.  That night I heard owls
& felt bones of mice under foot while I let
my cigarette burn itself out, wishing
only to extinguish the mind that raced
through thought after thought like a mockingbird
caught in a web of meaningless melody.
 (c) copyright 2004 and 2020 by Joseph Saling 

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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Getting On

Yeats was a golden doodle who died too soon. A member of the family, my daughter called her Sister and told her daughters Yeats was their aunt. It was meant to be fun, but it was also befitting. She was the third member of our household — Sandy, Joe, Yeats. She completed us.

She was born, as close as we can tell, December 8, 2008. She died September 20, 2018. Nine years 9 months. Too soon. She is missed, but she will always be a part of who we are.

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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

Butterfly

First, you’ve got to clear your head. Because your head just keeps saying things that aren’t true. Well they are true most of the times you’re saying them. But sometimes like last Wednesday, they aren’t true. That was the day I saw the biggest, most beautiful butterfly I’d ever seen….

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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.

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?

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.