An international quarterly founded in 1965 featuring fiction, poetry, and memoir by some of the world's best writers along with fresh essays, columns and reviews on literature, art, and politics. 

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From a New Place by Mary Jo Bang

for Catherine Scherer

"I’ll go to Santiago 
in a coach of black water” 
- Federico Garcia Lorca

In answer to your question: Yes, 
time does go faster here. 
The light above the Hudson changes 
with a scintillating rapidity. 
Such a display, I am told, 
can cause seizures in the susceptible few. 
Dogs do well though, chasing 
their ever-changing shadows 
and squirrels quickly learn to sit 
open-mouthed beneath a tree 
while November shakes acorns 
and the season earns its name.

With cats, however, it’s an entirely 
different story. My own Emily 
has found a suitcase which smells 
of that place we most recently left. 
She’s wrapped herself around it 
in the dark corner of a closet,
waiting to be returned. I check the mirror 
each morning to assure myself 
that it is not I who hovers there.

Thank you for the note from Lorca. 
We have those same black water coaches here. 
When it rains the herringbone pattern 
of the red brick fills and obliterates 
the sense of space. This can be confusing. 
Just yesterday I wrongly connected 
two people in the laundromat - a man 
reading a newspaper and a woman 
folding clothes. I myself avoid 
the washers with the small windows. 
I want no one here to see the worn, 
the ragged, the missing.

Published in Salmagundi #108 (Fall 1995)

"No matter what, nobody can take away the dances you’ve already had."

-Gabriel García Márquez

The Papa and Mama Dance by Anne Sexton

Taking into consideration all your loveliness 
why can’t you burn your bootsoles and your 
draft card? How can you sit there saying yes 
to war? You’ll be a pauper when you die, sore 
boy. Dead, while I still live at our address. 
Oh my brother, why do you keep making plans 
when I am at seizures of hearts and hands. 
Come dance the dance, the Papa-Mama dance; 
bring costumes from the suitcase pasted Ile de France, 
The S.S. Grvpsholm. Papa’s London Harness case 
he took abroad and kept in our attic laced 
with old leather straps for storage and his 
scholar’s robes, black licorice - that metamorphosis 
with its crimson hood. Remember we played costume . . 
bride black and black, black, black the groom?

Taking into consideration all your loveliness, 
the mad hours where once we danced on the sofa 
screaming Papa, Papa, Papa. Me in my dress, 
my nun’s habit and you black as a hammer, a bourgeois 
priest who kept leaping and leaping and leaping. 
Oh brother, Mr. Gunman, why were you weeping, 
inventing curses for your sister’s pink, pink ear? 
Taking aim and then, as usual, being sincere, 
saying something dangerous, something egg-spotted 
like I love you, ignoring the room where we danced, 
ignoring the gin that could get us honestly potted, 
and crying Mama, Mama, Mama, that old romance: 
I tell you the dances we had were really enough, 
your hands on my breast and all that sort of stuff.

Remember the yellow leaves that October day 
when we married the tree hut and I didn’t go away? 
Now I sit here burying the attic and all of your 
loveliness. If I jump on the sofa you just sit 
in the corner and then you just bang on the door. 
YOU WON’T REMEMBER! Yes, Mr. Gunman, that’s it! 
Isn’t the attic familiar? Doesn’t the season 
trample your mind? War, you say. War, you reason. 
Please, Mr. Gunman, dance once more, commenting 
on costumes, holding them to your breast, lamenting 
our black love and putting on that Papa dress. 
Papa and Mama did so. Can we do less?

Published in Salmagundi #9 (Spring 1969)

To The Phoenix by Robert Pinsky

Dark herald, self-conceived in the desert waste, 
What yang or yin enfolds your enigma best?

Memory, whose wing of fire displaces the past - 
Or the present, brooding in its ashen nest?

Singing in the flames of Hell, triumphant Christ 
Harrowing with Being the Nihil of the Beast -

Or, one foot lifted, one foot planted in dust, 
Lord Shiva dancing, hammer in his fist?

You are the emblem of emigrants who crossed 
Ocean and continent on their long flight West,

And Entropy’s immobile image: chaste 
And labile, fluent at rest and saved when lost.

Is time your circle that never comes to rest, 
Or the long flight of an arrow Brahma released?

Shakespeare appoints the swan your funeral priest, 
The dove your spouse, at rites that you outlast -

Your true counterpart is Speech, the profane ghost: 
The quick boy brandishing his lightning-burst.

Published in Salmagundi #124/125 (Fall 1999- Winter 2000)

Excerpt “Seamus Heaney: An Interview” Conducted by Randy Brandes.


RB: With your recent birthday (your 49th),  you are entering  what Mac­ Neice called “the middle stretch.” Do you feel you are at a pivotal point in your work?

SH: Ever since  I published a book,  I have felt at a pivotal point. Publi­cation is rather like pushing the boat out; then the boat/book turns into a melting ice floe and you have to conjure a second boat which again turns into  a  melting  floe  under your feet.  All  the stepping  stones  that you conjure disappear  under the water behind you. So the condition of being on a moving stair that gets you only as far as you are is constant. But like everyone else, I have the sense of two special moments, in your 30s, and then some where later down the line-in your 40s or 50s; in fact,  you have to start three times. First, you start to write and that’s one initiation, the sine qua non of the other two, obviously.

RB: Are you drawing  here on the Wordsworthian format you mention in your TLS  piece on Plath?

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Alcohol and Syllables by Gonzalo Rojas and Ben Belitt

The first word is: open for me, I come 
out of the cold, give me writing 
to burn away emphasis and free me, today 
on the verge of the sleepwalker’s ladder, 
at the 26th turn, precisely, 
of this fight to the finish with death

Because time works in me now, transfigured 
to matter, because I divine in the air 
that bears my veins upward that the flight is not mine 
but another’s, a saggitarian animal abroad in the streets, 
alcohol and syllables

celebrating the birthday of bedlam in the worst syntax 
of December, foreseeing all things in 
the mirrorless doorframe, the love 
and the vertigo, the simultaneous state 
of being everywhere always: 
                                          Is there a God 
in this breaking of vessels, or a world 
about to explode?

Published in Salmagundi #82/83 (Spring- Summer 1989)

We Could Say This Evening is Like Any Evening by Suzanne Owens

but the saplings, bush and grass inch closer 
every season. Trees towering up the hill

lean down and speak their aphorisms now. 
No need to measure one leafs discolor,

a haze, the height of corn. This shift 
in earth and air we fear has brought us

to each other. We’ll close the windows; 
winter birds will gather on the feeder.

At night the cats won’t sit beside the door 
waiting to go out and hunt; in fact, today I woke

to find them both: the black one curved 
against my stomach, the white one draped

upon my hip like arms. The nakedness past 
loss, the body’s lapse, the monumental winds,

some seven days. We will listen to the night sky 
begin its dreadful grind into a new command.

In May I wasn’t dreaming crickets and cicadas 
hauling up long evenings from the wet lands.

Young people filled the empty chairs with rites…. 
Fecundity consumes. Who’d think that our reward

is knowing this? Milkweed stiffens, body-husks 
reverse their genuflections, burst, convert themselves.

Published in Salmagundi #126/127 (Spring-Summer 2000)

The Rhubarb King by Sharon Chmielarz

The rhubarb king sits in the garden, 
resting under the arms of a hackthorn,

that ancient tree, while the court photographer- 
my sister, his daughter- snaps him there.

His curved-handled cane leans 
like a good dog against his leg.

His cap is slanted, his cheeks shaved, 
his moustache- once fine and black, sleek

and mean- has turned into an old king’s 
cowcatcher. His eyes, guarded, defying,

run to blue, as if his kingdom was not 
always as bountiful or beautiful as wanted,

not as smashing as the rhubarb stalks 
he grips, like nightsticks, giant, leaf-topped

scepters on his left and right, clubs that 
furl into heart-shapes; toxic, oil-tough

with ruffled edges. Like the kingdom 
I ran from.

In the window behind this instant, 
among suncatchers and a row of snakeplants

withering in crockery, I see the ethereal 
form in the palace, the rhubarb queen.

I can make out a wing, her chest, 
her garlanded head. She’s

peering past the king as if calling, 
calling for her hands. His are there, brown,

strong. How is she to make something 
sweet of his kingdom, without hands?

And hers were dear, very dear and deft. 
My sister, long after the king’s death,

sends me this photo. I take it upon myself 
to write the caption: All history is myth.

Published in Salmagundi #139/140 (Summer- Fall 2003)

"I Wish It Would Rain" the song referred to by poet Reginald Shepherd in our most recent poem post of the day, "While the Temptations Are Singing ‘I Wish It Would Rain’"

(Source: Spotify)

While The Temptations Are Singing “I Wish It Would Rain” by Reginald Shepherd

Steal all you can from the gods, 
chloroplasts are sipping sunlight 
through green elliptic leaves 
from a sky sown with stars that can’t 
be seen right now, except for that one, vacant 
incidental wind’s escorting light 
across the street of lunchtime traffic 
jams, a world of worshipped injury 
and hour-long delays due to an accident 
in the express lane. Step over 
bees in the parking lot swarming 
across a glaze of spilled soda 
on asphalt, step over these crumpled 
and smeared headlines. The particular 
can burn up, noon streets 
are paved with water, a distortion 
in the visual field. Waxy live oak leaves 
insist propose, propose, while one dissents 
dispose; rustle restively. We don’t know what 
that dream is for, we don’t know when 
the heat will break, some clouds will huddle, 
mutter, snap, and spill, pour out the poor 
in torrents, with only bones to break their fall. 
(Their lives are brackish water, pour 
it out.) Look, one has landed in the median 
on Nine Mile Road, less colorful 
than the flowering crepe myrtle 
bushes, holding up a cardboard sign: I’m a 
war vet, discarded evidence
of empire, the shadow the present 
casts. Pull down the visor, shut down 
the glare (don’t stare). “Thus gods 
and anti-gods conspired against them.” 
The hours ask Are you a wheel or are you 
a spoke?, hubcaps flash their 
chrome blurs and flourishes, wheel past 
him, green light, turn here. Hunger says 
cheeseburgers two for one today, says will work 
for any change. So this 
is history, one thing damning 
another, hurrying past the speed limit 
through Car City, Fun City next right, 
not the same road at all.

Published in Salmagundi #150/151 (Spring-Summer 2006)

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