Poetry by Michael Salcman

July 8th, 2011

 

 

 

 

THE PENCIL OF NATURE

 

 

 

 

Imagine Talbot walking into a museum today-
how his eyes would pop at a toy fork
stuck in a cardboard refrigerator
or a towering hotel lobby,
its plaza digitally erased of people
and its colors pumped up
beyond the real; would he recognize his invention
as a portrait of a believable world?
He’d probably turn away
from the images we mistake as candid shots,
disasters staged
in suburban gardens and streets
where unspeakable acts are carried out
on young women,
their twisted limbs tossed like croutons
on a bed of bright green leaves,
and those auto accidents and fires
constructed as plays or single frame movies.
Much better to console himself
with those early moon shots
taken over the pyramids by Nadar
or a balloonist’s view of Notre Dame,
the rooftops of neighboring houses as black
as oil paint spread on glass plates.
Talbot’s handmaid of science has disappeared with film
a short century after corsets and bustiers
Eton collars and spats did, gone
like our slide rules, the typewriter, decorum itself.
Myself, I don’t think I’d come back
if they get rid of paper.

 

 

 

 

OF WANTING THERE IS NO END

 

 

–for Arshile Gorky (1904-1948)

 

In two self-portraits made from memory
he sits on his mother’s knee decades after
the Ottoman Turks starved her to death.
He came to America to forget and married Agnes
who gave him a family; he painted all the time-

but never them. Imagine that last year and a half
when the studio burned down and he lost his work:
he had to shit in a bag after the cancer in his colon,
he broke his neck and paralyzed his arm in a car wreck,
and Matta, that Chilean wretch, was screwing his wife.

Vostanik Adoyan lied about everything he could:
his name, his age, his nationality. He was so deranged
he wanted to be Russian instead of Armenian,
wanted to be brave like Achilles and crack wise
like Maxim Gorky. He wanted, wanted, wanted.

So he went to the barn in back and scrawled in chalk
“Farewell my beloveds” on a box and hanged himself-
the one good hand on a lamp cord, his eyes feasting
on fiery plants, upright cocks and lobster claws
in combat; and saw at last it was more than enough.

 

 

 

 

 

About Michael Salcman

Michael Salcman is a physician, brain scientist and art critic. He was chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore.

His poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Hopkins Review, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, Ontario Review, and New York Quarterly.

He is the author of four chapbooks and two collections: The Clock Made of Confetti (Orchises Press), nominated for The Poet’s Prize and a Finalist for the Towson University Prize in Literature, and The Enemy of Good Is Better, just published by Orchises.

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In this Issue

Art by Russell Dupont
Twenty-eight poets contribute 37 poems to the Jerry Jazz Musician Fall Poetry Collection, living proof that the energy and spirit of jazz is alive — and quite well.

Short Fiction

Photo/CC0 Public Doman
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #52 — “Random Blonde,” by Zandra Renwick

Interview

photo by Michael Lionstar
In a wide-ranging interview, Nate Chinen, former New York Times jazz critic and currently the director of editorial content for WBGO (Jazz) Radio, talks about his book Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century,, described by Herbie Hancock as a “fascinating read” that shows Chinen’s “firm support of the music

Great Encounters

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition, Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Jazz History Quiz #132

photo of Dizzy Gillespie by Brian McMillen
This legendary saxophonist has worked with Lionel Hampton, Johnny Hodges, Dizzy Gillespie (pictured), Art Blakey, and Art Farmer, and has become known as much for his compositions as the greatness of his horn playing, having written standards like “I Remember Clifford,” “Killer Joe,” and “Along Came Betty.” Who is he?

Essay

photo of Esbjorn Svensson Trio/Pkobel/Creative Commons
“The Trio That Should Have Reshaped Jazz” — an essay by Scott Archer Jones

Photography

Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light” — photos (and stories) of Mal Waldron, Jackie McLean and Joe Henderson

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

"Jazz Samba"/Verve Records
In this edition, excerpted from Michael Jarrett's Pressed For All Time, legendary producer Creed Taylor remembers the 1962 Stan Getz recording, Jazz Samba

Interview

Photographer Carol Friedman
In an entertaining conversation that also features a large volume of her famous photography, Carol Friedman discusses her lifelong work of distinction in the world of jazz photography

Art

"Dreaming of Bird at Billy Bergs" - by Charles Ingham
“Charles Ingham’s Jazz Narratives” — a continuing series

Humor

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
"Every Soul is a Circus," by Dig Wayne

Interview

photo by Francis Wolff, courtesy of Mosaic Records
Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

Short Fiction

photo/Creative Commons CC0.
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, contributes a humorous short story, "Father Kniest: Jazz Priest"

In the Previous Issue

photo of Sullivan Fortner by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive