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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The Pearl Earring by Debora Greger

Perhaps it was glass, a little globe 
coated inside with a film of fish scales 
by some clever, vulpine Venetian. 
The young woman who wore it,

her mouth open to speak - 
was she about to tell us that? 
No, she looked across the room 
in that house in The Hague.

She looked clear through us, 
to where there hung a view of Delft, 
the only place she’d ever been. 
She’d never seen a real pearl.

Every brick in the old town wall 
had been blurred until beautiful, 
monument to nothing more lasting 
than mud. How many colors

to convince us each brick existed? 
The wall was painted deep in shadow, 
under the only Dutch mountains there were, 
the wet dark clouds of history.

Would she say Vermeer had cheated 
and moved a church steeple? It wasn’t 
the pink but a gray green that gave 
the lie of life to her cheek.

Not far from the Mauritshuis 
was a bookstore where you could buy 
a teapot decorated with judges’ robes. 
And, a little farther on, the courts

where the latest war criminal 
claimed he knew nothing. Or, if he did, 
he’d had no influence. And, besides, 
all the charges against him were lies.

Published in Salmagundi #141/142 (Winter- Spring 2004)

Image:  The Girl With A Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer.

Bus Ride South by Lorrie Goldensohn

The slight jar, the lurch forward from a high 
position above the ground - it feels 
like riding a camel. The driver is switching gears. 
I see the top of a tree from a downslope 
as the hillflank unfolds within our forward movement - 
the tree exploding outward, 
like the head of a young woman, 
proud, confident, issuing up to the pavement 
from the mouth of a subway station, 
the flowers of the kerchief her slim arms lift to tie, 
the uncurling leaves of this tree.

Behind me a baby plays with mouth and throat, 
ah, ah, aaarghh, eeeeyaii - 
the pats and tappings of her busy tongue, 
a little curl of spittle on her chin, 
language wet within her.

Should there be more? 
Elision, expansion, and succulence. 
A coming-to-be so impossibly daring and full of joy -

In the square of my window 
the clouds break apart like fresh bread.

In the towns, 
magnolia already browns at the edges, 
littering in a gone circle at the foot of the trees 
where the red petals of the tulip, blown, 
arch back from their centers like teased hair.

In the bad dream, I go on a journey 
in which I can never retrace my steps

The longing to turn back unslaked, unslakeable; 
What I have seen is what I have seen, 
it is not returned to me, a parcel, 
the book of sayings, slices, 
perpetually gliding away from me, 
the trail of a long skirt on the pavement, 
a woman turning the corner, out of sight - 
each apparent repetition of my life 
fresh error, a different insolvency! And then 
the elusive future: all

the familiar estrangements, 
the interlocking, is, is, and never persuasively 
will be: a tenuous new 
melting forever within the aging jaw. 
On the bridge I can look 
all the way down to the floor of the Hudson. 
Below the bus wheels 
I can feel the plank of water, its ripples 
barely ruffling an immense and flatly hopeful surface. 
As if breath had to gasp upward. 
Off to my right, blue violet, the mountains surge…

To the fish the floor’s the ceiling. 
In the lower depths of their volume, 
the crumpled river bottom goes on folding 
and unfolding beneath us, keeping 
its homemade secrets, daring us to describe them.

The Makers by Howard Nemerov

Who can remember back to the first poets, 
The greatest ones, greater even than Orpheus? 
No one has ever remembered that far back 
Or now considers, among the artifacts 
And bones and cantilevered inference 
The past is made of, those first and greatest poets, 
So lofty and disdainful of renown 
They left us not a name to know them by.

They were the ones that in whatever tongue 
Worded the world, that were the first to say 
Star, water, stone, that said the visible 
And made it bring invisibles to view 
In wind and time and change, and in the mind 
Itself that minded the hitherto idiot world 
And spoke the speechless world and sang the towers 
Of the city into the astonished sky.

They were the first great listeners, attuned 
To interval, relationship and scale, 
The first to say above, beneath, beyond, 
Conjurors with love, death, sleep, with bread and wine, 
Who having uttered vanished from the world 
Leaving no memory but the marvelous 
Magical elements, the breathing shapes 
And stops of breath we build our Babels of.

Published in Salmagundi # 31/32, 10th Anniversary Issue (Fall 1975- Winter 1976)

Another Easter Poem by Esta Spalding

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In the morning 2 roses in 
a thin ceramic vase by the bed 
as in that childhood story 
twin sisters - Rose Red & 
Rose White - who were pricked & 
bled & fell asleep in glass coffins 
later waking to twin husbands

A new frog in D’s tank has laid eggs long strings 
of jelly with little black eyes 
none of the captive frogs will fertilize - 
such is life behind glass

Walking the beach at the tip of the peninsula 
I notice the nudists have erected 
a dazzling tinfoil amphitheatre 
that will fortify their tans

like shadows on a sundial 
each hour they move their bodies a few degrees 
clockwise -

Telling this at Easter dinner 
I am chastized by a nudist friend 
They don Ί want you gawking

The rules so complicated 
2nd degree burns on my wrist 
lifting the scalding pan of tofu-chicken 
from the oven

Conversation turns to the man with full use 
of his legs who entered the wheelchair race 
took third place & then was disqualified

Everyone outraged at God or the judges 
maybe not in the sky anymore

this morning twin roses unfurled 
above our sleeping heads -

Published in Salmagundi #130/131 (Spring- Summer 2001)

Painting:  Roses in a Vase (1910-1917) by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Ars Poetica by Timothy Liu

image

Childhood begins with your first good line - 
a spider waiting for its kill, 
                                       moon-blind moths 
turned back into a blood cocoon. How to feed 
such appetite 
                            trapped in its solarium of air- 
eight-eyed and benign in a jar full of holes? 
Let Jesus wait 
                             as Lazarus did in the tomb, 
childhood like that row of mummies we saw 
at the Rosicrucian Museum - 
                                            the one undone 
charred to the bone, its bed of linen wraps 
our future 
                 as each of us assumed the shape 
of a hieroglyph inside the walls of that model 
cobwebbed crypt 
                               more real than any Bible 
story we knew by heart - hands touching 
those ruins 
                       when no one else was looking.

Published in Salmagundi #123 (Summer 1999)

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.

imageimage

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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