After a career divided between working in the arts and working for newspapers, I have arrived at a point where I can spend more time on my own creative work. While I’ve always written and published poetry, I’ve certainly never been as prolific before, and it has never been my primary pursuit before. These days, I live part of the year in Woodstock, New York, and part of the year in a magical pueblo in Mexico.
The Persistence of Ashes
In fact, it is the roses that remain.
They enter the house all summer long,
and longer. I place them on the mantle beside the urn
where they will expend their pinks and reds petitioning
what gods they know for the persistence of your ashes.
And they will weep petals across the hearth.
The roses were planted fifty years ago or more, a neighbor said,
by a woman who went about, as people do, growing flowers
and growing old, until there was nothing left but roses to testify
that she had ever been. And we set out to make a home amid the thorns
and petals of her life. We nested in the oak-lined rooms that remembered
all her moods and all her movements, but only briefly. And you
took it upon yourself to nourish those roses,
perhaps in hopes of sanctifying a transitory life
followed seamlessly by ash and bone.
Originally published in Riverine: An Anthology of Hudson Valley Writers.
If fifty thousand candles can be
the waxy, whispered remains of dead boys
in a cold, November rain,
then Kilby might wrap this night
in chords seized from an acoustic guitar,
as if melody waits unformed
somewhere near the Ellipse,
as if harmony can settle the score
and not swell unexpectedly
forty years from now when a blood-red BMW
points up the 101,
If a drunk and stumbling bum can insist
against the 2 a.m. terrors of Arlington Cemetery
that we imbibe his history
and heft an icy, dented mortar shell
made slick by the Potomac mist,
then Salzmann might write a poem
to reduce or enlarge
this rainy night of America's soul,
as if cadences tried out on the Mall
can settle into lines
that won't overstay their welcome
and float back insistently
forty years from now when promises and poems
are petals scratched from stubborn soils,
Originally published in Afterthoughts.
©2015 Kenneth Salzmann