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

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.

 

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.)

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?

 

 

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.

Comets

Comet Hale Bopp

Comet Hale Bopp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the next few weeks, if it doesn’t destroy itself and the sun doesn’t burn it up, Comet ISON just may put on one hell of a show. Enthusiasts have already called it a “comet of the century” and dubbed it a “Great Comet.” Within just a few days, this very small space rock — only about three miles across — will slingshot around the sun, traveling at .2 the speed of light and passing within 730,000 miles of the sun’s surface. Using only gravity as a propellant, it will dance across our sky with a show that, if the predictions are even remotely accurate, will dazzle, amaze, and stay with you for a very long time.

Perhaps you’re already watching. Some people who rise early enough — at least an hour before dawn — and have a clear view of the lower eastern sky and have been tracking the comet with the aid of binoculars or a telescope have already formed a bond with this visitor from the outer reaches of our solar system. I know I’ve seen several comets in my life. But the one I most clearly remember and feel connected to is Hale-Bopp, the Great Comet  of 1997 that followed me half way around the world.

Hale-Bopp

We saw the comet Hale-Bopp stand still
Above the ocean at Ka’anapali Beach,
Just like the crow we saw one morning rise
In Boston, a black knight errant, holding still
Against the wind, and flapping its wings to stay
In place while others watched then rode the wind
Up through the sky — first one, then three, while the first
Held still, then dipped, then rose along their arc.

Again in Atlanta, we saw Hale-Bopp
And watched its tail that arced above Stone Mountain,
As stony as the frieze on the mountain’s face,
The infamous past held lifeless there until
A laser called it back and thundering hooves
Like in a page from Faulkner roared inside
The head of a thousand Hightowers then died
When floodlights splashed against the granite wall.

I once saw black Ogunquit sea birds skate
Across the water’s surface with their wings
Outstretched and necks pushed forward like a horse
Gaining speed to rise up from the waves,
A white spray arcing from their tails beneath
The granite cliffs and slate New England sky.

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

Our encounter with the visitor from afar, may be closer than we think.

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.