There is a small room in a blue house

“The art of Frida Kahlo is a ribbon wrapped about a bomb.”
–Andre Breton

 

There is a small room in a blue house
where memory is the scent of dahlias,
the sound of green silk kissing steel.

The cruelty of the corset.
The strength of an insistent palette.
Reflections of impossible realities.

The garden still remembers
hummingbird and caracara
plotting revolutions.

In Tehuantépic the women
hold fast to heritage and power;
the colonists are coming still.

What is irretrievably broken
might be finely wrapped
in the fabric of Mexico.

On a small bed in a small room
in a blue house, a death mask
a mirror    a rose.

(Originally published in California Quarterly)

 

Tango Lessons

for James Tipton

Step slow slow quick quick
slow
through a lifetime
of swivels and turns
and graceful cortés.

Embrace your partner
sensuously
as you wished to embrace
life itself, wrapping your arms
around a space between
the firm grasp of certainty
and the loose elegance
of letting go.
Step slow slow
quick quick
slow toward
the final tanda.

Death—the poet of love said
edging unto the dance floor—
comes in a dream
wears a miniskirt
and teaches the dying
to tango.

(Originally published in Home Planet News Online)

 

From the Copper Canyon Train

And in the end the Tarahumara are starshine.

Souls spent, the ancestors take their places
in the night sky capping the Copper Canyon,
looking down on their people who are running
still, fast and forever, up and along impossible
canyon walls.

Like the stars, we look, too. We imagine we see
the intricate striations that tell the stories of the
ancient rocks, imagine that we’ve seen the secretive,
unknowable people who escaped to the canyons
centuries ago, eluding conquistadores, sidestepping
missionaries and miners and slavers and us, to find refuge
beneath incomprehensible ledges, to hoard what
mysteries they know deep inside the unfathomable
Barrancas del Cobre caves.

Like the Tarahumara glimpsed cliffside from the canyon’s rim
or selling baskets and violins in the marketplace,
we have known impenetrable walls and endless trails
and deepest ravines, or so we tell ourselves. What we
don’t say is that we fear that these people we call primitive—
who might run one hundred stony, barefoot miles in a day
to fete Father Sun and Mother Moon with music
and peyote and dance—might be winning the race.

(Originally published in Chiron Review)

 

The Last Jazz Fan

for David Peirce

The last Jazz fan slipped
from the world one night
like the amorphous
notes of a trumpet solo
at closing time. Some say
reedy melodies hovered
above him like nimbus clouds
at the exact moment rhythm
left the room. Explosive riffs
be-bopped across the sky
when the last jazz fan
returned to stardust,
and clarinets cooled
the darkness. Some say
it is the silent spaces between
that describe the song,
but some say the spaces
might expand until
they swallow the song
and silence is certain.

(Originally published in Chronogram)

 

Kenneth Salzmann is a writer and poet and longtime resident of the Albany area, where he worked at The Arts Center of the Capital Region and its predecessor, the RCCA, with responsibility for literary programming and a bunch of administrative stuff. His poems appear in numerous journals and anthologies, including the Chiron Review, California Quarterly, Rattle, Comstock Review, and Chronogram. He currently lives much of the year in Mexico. His most recent book, The Last Jazz Fan and Other Poems, is available at http://tiny.cc/lastjazzfan.