Tuesday, August 31, 2010

About and About: A Farewell to Brian Salchert


Brian Salchert, a friend and poet whose intelligence, humility, and grace endeared him to many in the blogosphere, passed away this morning at the James River Care Center in Springfield, Missouri. He was sixty-nine. Brian had lived in the care center since last September, after falling in his home and breaking his hip in mid-August. He did not regain the use of his legs and was confined to a wheelchair. Brian was a voracious reader and a knowledgeable participant in online poetic affairs. He will be missed.

I’m indebted to Brian’s sister, Jean, for keeping me up to date this past year. Brian did not give up. He wrote privately to some of us to send his regards; he worked hard to get better; his mind was alert until the end.


Brian’s poem, “About and About,” posted May 29, 2009, in his blog,
The Ghost in the Dumpster:

My whole life, Lord. My whole life.
. . .
. . .

It's amazing I've accomplished
what I have accomplished:
I, so often on edge.

Before me is a poem:
maybe seven/ versions of it.
I do not like any of them.

And yet, I want to
salvage it. . . . Why?
. . .

Such highs and lows today.
Earlier, spurred by what
I had been reading,

I drifted into wondering
if there is such a thing
as a perfect poem,

if it even matters--the words
in it, and their order--
given that the constant changes

in authors and audiences
inevitably change whatever
symbols constitute an artifact.

Oh, O Westron Wind
came to me as a candidate
for acceptable perfection,

and of course similar others
pass through shadows about and
about, their pleasures pleasing.

Still, none is perfect,
and it seems to me
near perfection resonates

with a more lasting force.
So, what's to be done? As I forgive,
forgive the sins of Brian (Baj).


Courtesy of Jean Salchert

Brian A. Salchert, 69, passed away on Monday, August 30, 2010 in Springfield, Missouri.

He was born in Fond du Lac, WI on January 16, 1941 and graduated from St. Mary’s Springs Academy in 1959. He received a Masters of Fine Arts Degree from Iowa State University.

He was employed as an English Professor at Eastern Illinois University and Wisconsin State University in Oshkosh, WI. When layoff of many teachers happened, Brian became a night audit at various hotels; a job he continued until his illness that gradually took away his bodily strength, but not the spirit of his mind. Through all these years he continued to write poetry. When he could not drive he settled for communication through the internet becoming a blogger. This way he kept in touch with the world news and the world of literature.

Brian is survived by his sisters Priscilla Burnett of Springfield, Mo and Sister Jean Salchert of Mobile, AL; his brother James Salchert of Madison, WI; and a niece, and three nephews, and 12 grandnieces and grandnephews. Brian was preceded in death by his ever faithful wife of 37 years, Janice Binnebose.

Brian Salchert will be laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery in Fond du Lac; date and time to be announced.

Photo of Brian Salchert courtesy of Jean Salchert


Courtesy of Jean Salchert

April 17, 2011 — I have decided to have my brother, Brian’s burial on Thursday, July 14 at 1:30 p.m. at Calvary Cemetery in Fond du Lac, Wi. I am planning the prayer service trying to use some of what my brother wrote. I will also e-mail the newspaper to put in a little clip about it for the people Brian knew in FdL. I hope this timing is good for you. I know some of you will not be able to attend, but thought you would like to know what is happening.


Sister Jean

Living Color

Living Color
August 31, 2010

[click to enlarge]

8.31.2010 #2
8.31.2010 #1 (drawing, recent links)

Canvas 84

“Canvas 84”
August 30, 2010

[click to enlarge]

Recently Linked: My thanks to Linh Dinh for linking to yesterday’s entry about the passing of Brian Salchert from his blog, Detainees, where he also included words by Brian. Thanks, also, to Ron Silliman, for posting word of Brian’s death.

In the Forum: If the a offends thee, pluck it out.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What we desire

What we desire most at the flower show,
what we sniff like sex among the bleeding stems,
is the rapid, painless death of what we know.

What we seek in color we find in sound;
what we grieve in scent is a bell to wounds
and walls that crumble, yet hold fast still.

Each bouquet portrays the human race;
how well we’ve failed is a triumph blessed
by pleading blooms sustained in glass.

(first publication)

“What we desire” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: the long and short of it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Canvases 79, 80, 81, 82, and 83. Quite often, we work our way toward something without knowing what it is.

[click to enlarge]

[click to enlarge]

[click to enlarge]

[click to enlarge]

[click to enlarge]

Words that gently rock

Words that gently rock the boat, beyond and out of sleep, from lungs of gulls beneath gray skies.

                              — Sunday morning, early, reading Proust, Vol. 1, Page 434

Saturday, August 28, 2010


“Canvas 76”
August 26, 2010

[click to enlarge]

“Canvas 77”
August 27, 2010

[click to enlarge]

“Canvas 78”
August 27, 2010

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: how real, the craving for an imagined habit.

Friday, August 27, 2010

When a certain cloud appears

When a certain cloud appears,
and it seems your life has been lived

in preparation for its arrival,
only to find it gone just as soon,

and then another, and another,
and death is all around,

in the sun and the way it beckons autumn,
its plaintive light upon your shoes —

when, of a certain time,
like a candle that won’t go out,
or a window that reveals
what it can’t explain,
or won’t,

and what you remember
in the name of what you feel,

taken as breath as breath is taken away,
in the same sense senseless, and still
corrupt, virgin, perfectly insane —

when, in a way familiar yet unreal
as any childhood, pain, or sound,
as thorn in any soul, as gospel, as river,
as mortal cry or blow will prove

what is rejected seduces,
what is expected fails,
what is neglected grows,
what is sung heals

what the slightest touch will show,

and vain reflexive need is an image of itself
looking backward in a mirror,

is grief, is loss, is miracle —

you set it down,
you let it go.

(first publication)

“When a certain cloud appears” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Canvas 75

“Canvas 75”
August 25, 2010

[click to enlarge]


In the Forum: imagined imagining.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When the need to sing outweighs the need to say

When the need to sing outweighs the need to say,
When there’s no clear message to bear,
When the secrets are in and settled to dust,
Settled to rain, to footprints that lead away,
And are consigned to pages in my own dead hand,
What better day to dance with demons?

You unborn and you who wait, what new sorrow do you bring?
What triumph to tell? What past gray selves heaped upon the blaze?

Or do you come in emptiness as deep as my own,
And which, by its clever-sweet design, is full?

You want answers. I have none. I have fields and I have sun;
I have graveyards and I have clouds; but these are yours as well.

Except by the light of souls, I see no difference
Between those deemed wise and those called fools.
One holds a torch, the other smiles.
And yet a word from both can save us all.

Ask a child. He will know. Ask the river or ask the road.
Ask a daughter, or a son. Ask the eyes of one you love.

I stand by night and all its glory. But day’s a veil I adore;
And faith, where there is none; glad pilgrims; those who mourn.

Except by the light of souls, I see no difference, none at all,
In the blackness down a well of living water,
Where to fall is everything we need, one upon the other,
And to call out is the speed of silence to open arms.

But no one asks who’s content to know, nor troubles.
In the distance, angels light upon the broken rocks, and furies;
The surf is up. A bell tolls. It’s time to go.

(first publication)

“When the need to sing outweighs the need to say” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: imaginary cigarettes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Carnival Days

For a dime, the seller transferred a bunch of hot air balloons to my hand. Overhead, I could see the riders in their baskets. They were dressed to the nines and drinking champagne. I walked them home by common string, wondering how they’d fit through the door. I fiddled at the latch and felt at the frame; there must be a secret somewhere. Then came a shout, and the walls fell away. Sunlight and dust; bright-golden leaves. The string gave a tug. I set them all free. And that was the end of their dream of me.

(first publication)

“Canvas 74”
August 23, 2010

[click to enlarge]

“Carnival Days” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

In the Forum: Hog Butcher for the World / Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, / Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler, / Stormy, husky, brawling, / City of the Big Cigarettes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Axe for the Frozen Sea

From Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading (Viking, 1996), another book I’m enjoying at the moment:

“Altogether,” Kakfa wrote in 1904 to his friend Oskar Pollak, “I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow on the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we’d be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.”

In the Forum: Just a silly syllable longer.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Do not go gentle into that good night

It’s amazing how different I feel after being away from the computer for awhile, and how much I enjoyed being without it. I suffered no withdrawal. Rather, I eased into a period of intense reading that refreshed me in mind and spirit, and inspired me in ways that only books and reading can. At the same time, the sudden change in my daily pattern made me feel, also, that I was rehearsing for my death — that time when, in all likelihood, I will no longer write, or even feel the need to do so; that time when I will sit, finally, and read to my heart’s content in a silent world of my own bright imagining.

As luck would have it, on the very day my computer went down, I received another shipment of books from the generous poet Gerry Boyd. Back in June, you might recall, Gerry kindly sent me around fifty titles. The new shipment was more than double that amount, ringing in at around 120 books, a fair portion of which contain poetry and criticism. Also included are wonderful novels, biographies, plays, and anthologies. This picture reveals only the tip of the iceberg:

[click to enlarge]

I quickly devoured John Malcolm Brinnin’s Dylan Thomas in America, in which the author recounts the great poet’s reading tours in America in the early 1950s and his tragic last years. Since then, among other things, I’ve been reading aloud my son’s copy of Thomas’s Selected Poems, the edition released by New Directions in 2003. The poems are so musical, they really must be read aloud. For me, they ring like a prophet’s lament.

While the bulk of my time was spent reading, much was also spent thinking — but not in the form of writing, as I usually do. I did purchase three new back-to-school notebooks that were on sale for fifteen cents, but I hardly used them. Instead, I just let my mind drift, as if thoughts were clouds.

The first time I checked email on my son’s computer, I learned that an old family friend my mother’s age had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Healthy, he simply went out like a light.

The second time I checked email, I learned that another old friend from our hometown had forgotten how to walk and is now in a small nursing home about a mile from where we used live. Contrary to his generous character, he has also become belligerent and unreasonable. I also learned that his wife has advanced lung cancer and that her grandchildren take turns spending the night with her.

That same day, I learned that another poet friend, who has battled serious health problems for the past year, has been struggling of late, to the point that his doctor was unsure he would pull through. But I’ve heard since that his condition has stabilized somewhat. Through his sister, he was even able to send his regards.

Here is a drawing I made on August 8, and my last to date:

“Canvas 73”

[click to enlarge]

Do you like it? Is it silly? Appalling? Does it communicate anything at all?

It’s funny — I feel I have so much more to say. And yet, at the moment, I’m far more interested in what you have to say. That’s something I’ve really missed. Your thoughts. Our exchanges.

Note: As I typed that last sentence, an email arrived saying my sick poet-friend had another seizure yesterday, and that his last hospital stay “took everything out of him.” He stays at a care home; they aren’t taking him to the hospital this time.

In the Forum: Howl cigarettes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Think, Therefore I Might Be

How strange, the shattered silence....

According to UPS tracking, the new mother board that is to replace my not-so-old-but-defective one, is in Oregon. Whether it arrives today or tomorrow remains to be seen. And then there’s the small matter of its installation, and hoping it all fires up correctly. Until then, I’m confined to checking my email every couple of days or so at my son’s house, which is across town, and not exactly convenient, since there is also a stretch of summer road work in between.

Oh, how I suffer....

At the moment, there’s a blue-jay pecking on the gutter outside the window.

Thanks to each and every one of you who have written, commented, and visited. I feel like a fish that hurries to the glass when someone enters the room, only to find I cannot speak.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Computer Woes

I’m writing this note at my son’s house, on his computer. Shortly after I posted yesterday’s entry, mine went down. We’re still in the diagnostic stage, but it looks fairly serious, so there’s a good chance I’ll be offline for a few days....

Monday, August 9, 2010

At the Bus Stop with Gustave Doré

Inspiration: Don Quixote, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Paradise Lost,
The Raven...

Gustave Doré
by Felix Nadar, Paris 1855-1859

[click to enlarge]

Gustave Doré. At first I thought he was Da Vinci, then Tolstoy, and then there was this guy I remember at the university who never bathed, sort of a Rasputin-looking character with long yellow teeth and bags under his eyes that were large enough and loose enough to hide a quarter. The first thing he said to me — Doré, not Rasputin — was that he could feel energy surging in the landscape, and that in the unfortunate absence of food, this energy was enough to sustain him for as long as a month, after which time the body in its profound wisdom set aside the petty contradictions of the universe and sought gainful employment. This meant setting up a small table on a street corner, or in a park under a nice shady tree if the weather was too warm, and offering his services as a portrait artist. Being such a prodigious talent, work was easy to come by. Word of his accomplishments rapidly spread, and it was soon discovered that Doré was great fun at parties. The women swooned, the men listened to him boast, journalists wrote about him, royalty courted him, he devoured enormous quantities of food and champagne, and then he awakened with a throbbing headache several days later in a ditch.

“At the Bus Stop with Gustave Doré” (opening paragraph)
From Songs and Letters, originally published May 5, 2005

In the Forum: canine symphonies.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Another old friend...

Fyodor Dostoevsky

[click to enlarge]

I am a ridiculous man. They call me a madman now. That would be a distinct rise in my social position were it not that they still regard me as being as ridiculous as ever. But that does not make me angry any more. They are all dear to me now even while they laugh at me — yes, even then they are for some reason particularly dear to me. I shouldn’t have minded laughing with them — not at myself, of course, but because I love them — had I not felt so sad as I looked at them. I feel sad because they do not know the truth, whereas I know it. Oh, how hard it is to be the only man to know the truth! But they won’t understand that. No, they will not understand.

“The Dream of a Ridiculous Man” (opening paragraph)
Translated by David Magarshack

In the Forum: To be or not to be: it’s the law.

Friday, August 6, 2010


August 3, 2010

[click to enlarge]

In the Forum: Ichi, ni, san, chi, go and Esperanto estimates.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

An Old Friend

Guy de Maupassant
August 5, 1850 – July 6, 1893

[click to enlarge]

8.5.2010 #2
8.5.2010 #1 (quote)


Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves, and not anything else, and by the immobility of our conception of them.

Remembrance of Things Past, Swann’s Way, Page 5

In the Forum: fromage.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Self-Portrait on an August Afternoon

Self-Portrait on an August Afternoon
August 4, 2010

[click to enlarge]


8.4.2010 #3
8.4.2010 #2 (drawing and link)
8.4.2010 #1 (excerpt from One Hand Clapping)


Home? It’s everywhere and nowhere, son. Like this road we’re on.

August 4, 2010

For Laura Tedeschi

[click to enlarge]


8.4.2010 #2
8.4.2010 #1 (excerpt from One Hand Clapping)


During the summer of 2004, my youngest son, then in high school, worked six ten-hour days a week on a nearby farm that grows irises. I made his breakfast at five every morning and then drove him to work before six. This is the sound of One Hand Clapping on the seventh day of August that year, written as soon as I’d returned from our early morning ride:

The big news, the exciting news, is that I made pancakes two times this week, thus ending our pre-dawn scrambled egg marathon. They were heavenly. And making them is an emotional experience, because it takes me back to when my father made pancakes for me when I was seventeen and working at the packing house. As I watch them cook, spatula in hand, it is as if he is standing there beside me. Aren’t those ready to turn? I was just going to turn them. It looks like they’re ready. I’m turning them now. There. See? Perfect. How many would you like? Four? I could eat twice that many. Eight it is, then. Sit down. There’s the paper. Don’t you want some coffee? No. I’m going now. Going? What’s your hurry? I can’t stay. You know that. No. Wait. Don’t leave. I’m going.... Oh, God damn it all.... an eruption of wings, footsteps in the dust, a falling star, light shining on a drop of dew. Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye for now. And good morning to you, dear son. Here are your pancakes. Eat them and rejoice. Eat them, and be aware of the spirit in this room.... Ah, grief. My old friend. You have found me once again. I see you are well. Sit with me, then, and we’ll talk awhile.

One Hand Clapping

In the Forum: understanding that I understand that I don’t understand.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bob Arnold: Sanndrøymd (Dream Come True)

Dream Come True

by Bob Arnold

English-Norwegian Bilingual Edition
Translated by Lars Amund Vaage
Illustrated by Laurie Clark


Exclusive Signed Cloth Edition
60 pages

[click to enlarge]

I ordered this collection of brief gems just before I emptied my wallet for Madame de Sévigné’s letters. I’m glad I did. On dark days, Bob’s poems call us back into the light, just as these, his


          How clever to be so
          Beautiful—to have us
          Move them into the light

In its simplicity and simple, sturdy construction, this is a beautiful book, one I’ll leave out for unsuspecting visitors.

8.3.2010 #2
8.3.2010 #1 (coffee in Vienna)

A Primitive Blend: Coffee in Vienna

Coffee, anyone? We’re all invited to join the gifted artist, Laura Tedeschi, at the Tiroler-hof coffeehouse in Vienna.... Thank you, Laura!

In the Forum: powdered, stifled, and stuffed.

Monday, August 2, 2010

One Man’s Treasure: The Painting of You

Excerpts from a wonderful letter about The Painting of You from Paul Donohoe, shared here with his kind permission:

I read it cover to cover in one sitting. At first I made notes: passages that struck me, lines from poems I liked, or ideas that resonated. Then I stopped doing that, realising that I was doing a great disservice to a great work of art — and heart....

So I won’t go on about what lines inspired me or what ideas resonated. All I will say is that this work is so full of truth and love....

It is a true work of art, William, and one you should be proud of. I consider it a true gift that I have had the opportunity to read it, to share your experience....

I have a couple of shelves in my office for my “treasures.” Your book is sitting there now. I am proud to know you.

Thank you, Paul!

The Painting of You

8.2.2010 #2
8.2.2010 #1 (drawing)

Canvas 72

“Canvas 72”
August 1, 2010

[click to enlarge]

Selected Drawings in Pixel,
Pencil & Pen

by William Michaelian

Blurb (2010)

In the Forum: Pope’s “stolen” letters.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Remembrance of Things Present

Yes, I’m now in possession of the fourteen-volume 1862-1868 edition of Madame de Sévigné’s letters*. I need only learn French. I paid forty dollars for the set — a ridiculously low price, despite the fact that the covers are not original. For who knows how many years, the letters were part of the Marylhurst College Library collection in Oswego, Oregon. A year or so ago, the books turned up at the Friends bookstore at our local public library. They were priced at sixty dollars until recently, when the person in charge decided they had been sitting there long enough and lowered them to forty. Naturally, I took that as I sign and brought them home. I just looked in my wallet — one lizard, one fence post, a piece of barbed wire, and a tumbleweed. No more book-buying for a good long while now. No nothing, in fact.

I read online, probably on Wikipedia but I might be mistaken, that Madame de Sévigné’s letters are referred to in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past as favorite reading material of the narrator’s grandmother.

Remembrance of Things Past — thanks to my son, I now have both volumes of the 1934 Modern Library edition translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. I had the first volume, and he had the second. When we were at Powell’s Books recently, we found a set containing both volumes, so he bought it and gave me the book he already had. And then he had a shocking idea: he said we should read all of it — the whole thing, both volumes. The first volume contains 1,141 pages; the second contains 1,124 — a mere 2,265 pages.

We begin that project today.

* Madame de Sévigné (1626-1696) wrote a lot of letters.

Recently Linked: My thanks to Annie Wyndham for linking to yesterday’s poem, this will be, from this early morning roundup in her fine blog, Jottings of an Ameriquebeckian.

In the Forum: philosophical treatises, steamy love notes, musings on the weather.