The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Michael Salcman

Paper Cuts

Today a friend called who'd just read
my poems about you and said
she didn't know how sexy I was.
She talked about their frank accessibility
and how direct I was in morphing
your body into bluebells and buck thorn.

It stabbed me to hear such praise
just days after you've gone
without a proper good-bye or caress.
Apropos of something I forget,
Braque said one can't live in a state
of paroxysm forever.

But we soldiered on:
there we stand in an old photographic print
caught in the sun, faded and foxed
like two tourists in a cardboard poster
our faces posed in the holes
cut out for our heads
still dreaming of transport.

Soon enough we were debating
what it meant to be wed
in voices and words that came
from outside ourselves
like psychotic emanations.

These are old tropes for an ancient subject
my friend and I often debate—
the death of painting, even of love.
It's all video now, forty years without
a masterpiece, and bits off the street
scattered about in lofts and museums
and white walled rooms.

Love's a lot like art, nothing to worry about
until beauty rears its ugly head
and tears your theories from your heart.

The Vicar
                                      —in memory of Updike

It was much too cold to snow the day we got the news:
the old vicar had died; not a sound
rose skywards from the trees, their barren pews
half-shorn, the rabbits gone to ground.

A tall attentive bird,
with ruddy face and shock of parson white,
he kept unblinking eyes upon the world
and bookish sermons flowing day and night.

And I was the sort of tender boy he said he built them for,
my happy hours spent, a hand upon the spines:
all those small-town woes, with covers blown and torn,
and pages thumbed from use, the record of our times.

Though unappointed at the end, the vicar might have chosen
an icy day like this to leave, silent, sunlit, frozen.

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