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

A Simple Question

In all seriousness, I’m curious. And I have a question that I invite astronomers, physicists, or mathematicians, none of which I am — beyond that of a lay person’s dabbling, — to answer. By way of preface, I watched a number of you tube explanations of an expanding universe in hopes of finding an answer to the question I’m about to ask. Some were  fascinating, some were boring. But two different approaches to explaining what scientists think we know, while effectively demonstrating expansion, clearly illustrated the nature of the problem the question addresses.

The expansion of the universe is at the heart of the inquiry. One of the explanations invites us to consider the universe as a balloon. Dots on the balloon represent the galaxies. As the air fills the balloon, it expands and the dots move farther and farther apart. The other explanation, which I like better because it illustrates the same principle in a more realistic, complex way, compares the universe to a loaf of raisin bread baking in the oven. As the bread rises, the raisins separate and move farther apart throughout the loaf.

So now to the question. We know for a fact that galaxies collide. The Hubble Space Telescope, named for the astronomer who gave us the concept of an expanding universe, has captured images of it  happening.

 

The collisions are dramatic, chaotic, beautiful, frightening, and at the heart of both endings and beginnings. We also know by witnessing the phenomenon of the red shift that the universe is not only expanding but doing so at a continuously increasing rate. All of which brings us to the question.

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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.

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 —

 

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.

 

Jason at Sunrise Service

Sunrise

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.)

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

Piano Bar Blues

Here’s a little something from A Matter of Mind for Friday night.

Piano Bar Blues

(1)

I’m just a man
like anyone else. I can

Blue Jay

Blue Jay (Photo credit: steveburt1947)

command
respect when I place
myself at the keyboard, face
bathed in blue light.
I do alright.

Not like Mary.
Fell in love with a fairy
used to come in all the time.
His name was Harry.
He’d sit here at the piano making eyes
at all the guys.
Mary never got wise.

(2)

You know
one thing I know
is you
can’t kiss away the blues.

Not the real blues.

Not the hollow note
deep in your throat
kind of blues
that wake you in the middle of the night
because the silence gets so loud
you can hear starlight
fall.

(3)

It’s a job.
Last week some slob
laid fifty bucks beside me.
Forget what you see,
he said. I’m not here.
My wife wouldn’t understand.
All I did was hold her hand,
not like I planned
it or anything. So I fanned
his fantasy for a while,
played My Funny Valentine and with style
closed my eyes tight.
I said, I don’t see nobody tonight.

They go away.
Next day
my wife,
who’s best friends with his old lady May,
asks how’d it go.
Real slow,
I say.
Didn’t see a soul I know.

(4)

I tell people who come in all the time
you can’t kiss away the blues,
not those lonely in a crowd blues.
Those caged bird
wicker domed
watching from a swinging perch
blues.

The kind that weigh
you down even when the door is open
because you get so hungry
not even love
can fill you up.

(5)

You know when I saw you two come in
I felt sick
like I was watching someone commit
sin.
A no win
situation,
like when you begin
a set
and get
an undeniable urge to piss.

Maybe I shouldn’t say this.
After all I see a lot of dirt.
I’ve watched a lot of men chase a skirt.
Jesus, I don’t mean that.
It’s just when you’ve sat
where I’ve sat,

you get tired
of watching friends choose
the place you gotta be to play the blues.

(4)

No,
There’s no way.
You can try,
but you’re gonna lose
because there’s no way
you can kiss away
those blues.

© Joseph Saling and The New Word Mechanic, 2004, 2013.

Now I think I need to hear a little Ray Charles before we go.