The Eloquent Insufficiency of Poems

—James Woods, The New Yorker


They may begin with a stutter and a pause—

the interruption grows,

reality first distends then explodes

in silence, like a spider’s web struck on purpose

by a trowel.


The sun isn’t better seen

by the shredding of the filmic screen

but the heat I feel more intently is like a burn

rubbed sore

because pain is such a pleasure.


In a delicate moment

the beautiful web is sundered, over-revised and gone;

you search for but can’t find

its worm-like thread on the ground

where the earth is turning the color of excrement.



The Free Market


What shall we eat—high carb or low carb?

I want to tell you something you already know

but don’t know how to say—

the uncommon speech of the everyday, always a new routine.

Science is so imperfect and cancer in our gut so common.

Here’s the pitchman selling his speech

his thoughts like a harvest of grain,

each stalk a new solution, each harvest the same.

The MRI says it all, our shrunken lobes paddling in CSF

like poisoned fish, unnaturally thin and swimming out of habit.

We will die on the coasts swelling with melted frost

one limb at a time, charity floating away on a raft

of good intentions. You speak and I hear the cant of can’t,

how hopelessness echoes from shore to shore.

It’s late in the day; the orange sun seduces the sailor

with its adjusted color and a heat hotter than hot

spelling frost. The commentaries you read and trust

are cold eyed. The damsel in distress at the countertop pulls on

a chemise that will make her thinner, even serene

and the would-be boyfriend thinks her a queen, not rot.

I’m standing against all advice, to make it new or do it again—

life caught in the net or, if literary, trapped in the seine.

We are baking lies like Christmas pies and eating them

like a drug. The Greeks fell for ambrosia not heroin.


by Michael Salcman


MICHAEL SALCMAN, poet, physician and art historian, was chair of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland. Recent poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Hopkins Review, The Hudson Review, New Letters, Ontario Review, and Rhino. Poetry books include The Clock Made of Confetti, nominated for The Poet’s Prize, and The Enemy of Good Is Better (Orchises, 2011); Poetry in Medicine, his anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors and diseases has just been published (Persea Books, 2015).


Listed at Duotrope
Listed with Poets & Writers
CLMP Member
List with Art Deadline
Follow us on MagCloud