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Summer 2000, Volume 18.0



Dennis Salehphoto of Dennis Saleh.

Dennis Saleh's most recent book of poems won the first chapbook competition from Willamette River Books:
This Is Not Surrealism. A new collection of his poems will be published by Quicksilver in 2000: Rhymses' Book. Other poetry, prose, and artwork appear widely, in such magazines as ArtLife, Artword Quarterly, Happy, Pacific Coast Journal, and Pearl.



A few times each morning
the sand and plants and distant edge
lift themselves to the daily wind,
as though a train passed,
or a vessel, in a last farewell.
You can see everything agree
it is nothing, and settle back into itself,
from the tips of scrub branches
down through the stems into soil,
agree it is nothing. Another day.
There is a flat stretch of sameness
between things, the fade of color
at noon, the distances leading
equally to nothing, the dying,
and the different bands of heat.
Only the slits in things look out
into it, chapped surfaces of rock,
thin folds in leather lizard skin,
thin, shadowed lines in wood
where the grain is gone, split open.
Eyes gone, or covered all day
at the stark pulse of sky
and heat that force down into
the ground blues, sand reds,
faint greens bunched in places.
The traces of color pass down
through the soil into the deep mix
of shadows below, where they rest,
like sun at the end of day.
The sky is white, and then red,

remembering, like a burn.
Insects curl tight in shell skeletons,
buds of sand join into new rocks,
little toy deaths tick down.
More desert comes from the few
things that happen, agreed most
things should end, it all comes back,
the same stretches and pause
of heat, the moments of breath,
and shadow, and sand.


Déjà Vu

It is January. It is January.
Month of déjà vu.
All the blue sky was sky before.
Even the air is an echo.
The days count to seven.
The sea more like grey than ever.
The last week carries
an extra name in its pocket.
Evening is a blind date
that can't stay late,
the moon a coin of taxi fare
you say goodnight to.


Max Ernst, Sedona
Arizona, 1942

This could be where God
created the world
The canvas is still blank
and torn in places
Or this could be
its end
Stone forests
as mad as any war
Stolid eruptions
in reddened crags
Charred horizon
A cyclops sky
What is more real
is what is gone
What is left
is the imagination
Spikey unlikely things
that must grow on
the extravagances
of sunspots
Stalks of cactus brushes
in rock crevasses
Ribbed arms of cactus
that halt the sky
Or are prisoners
surrendering to the sun
Or hands thrusting up
from buried agonies
I am seeing the desert
as assemblage
Mosaics Flagstone
The melange of colored sands
Even the swastikas
sprinkled over
Indian pieces
are the sun I am told
I am painting a
turquoise Zuni bird
and preparing
a silver frottage
of the moon rubbed
desert night


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