The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Michael Salcman
Other People's Poetry
At some point, I read two to three books a day,
stuffing my brains full
until my ears bled music, my eyes itched
with visions and my hands trembled
with each new vowel. It got so bad
I forgot things I'd known for years,
useful things, like the small bones of the hand,
Italian Baroque composers,
the novels of Turgenev,
and the ages of my children.
Finally, some ballplayers from the '50s
It seemed there was a storage problem—
not enough DNA or coiled protein
or neural dendrites stuck by other dendrites
until they screamed, each neuron in my brain
festooned with other people's voices.
Enveloped in the shroud of their music
I found myself lost, cut off from my own
syllables, a captive of their consonants,
a prisoner of the territory.
To save myself I began to steal
(but only from the best).
At first, I took the small furniture of their sentences—
you know, a caesura,
a pair of parallel clauses, a sweet assonance,
verb. Soon enough, I progressed to grand larceny,
the occasional metaphor or simile.
When they put me away at last
I'd just finished Stopping by the Woods, good
but not the best thing I have written,
it doesn't seem to go especially well
with my Cantos, but it's musicality
and restful nature have helped me here,
listening to the tintinnabulation of the bells
outside the window of my cell, arrested
by (for) (in) a bout of poetry.
Watching Buffalo Bob
I'm on the floor, my back
on a child-sized mat, my eyes
at rest on the white mahogany
TV set we bought the year before
my sinister leg buckled and bent
from the virus.
Mother kneads polio's stiffness
from my knee, milks my calf
and ankle, pushes me to push.
My big toe moves a little:
she glows at our success,
and a line of wet forms above her lip—
the afterbirth of effort. I give
her a smile; it's all I have at five.
Copyright 2006-2012 by Cook Communication