Poetry Niche – August 2023

Kenneth Salzmann—or just Ken, moved to Ajijic in 2014, from New York’s Capital Region and Hudson Valley, following careers in nonprofit administration and journalism. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies throughout North America, and in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Kenneth Salzmann

Another Gray Afternoon in Guernica

Not even the startling red of anguish
pooling in the streets of the ancient
market town, and not even the raw green
silent screams of the women, and not the cerulean
certainty of April skies capping the afternoon
can ever pierce the gray reality.

Gray is the color of death dropping
from the sky in early spring, and the last
color left on the artist’s palette after the bombs
have drained the world of other hues.

I can’t remember how many
gray afternoons I spent in the
very heart of Guernica on a bench
in the museum on 53rd Street,
not daring to breathe while wondering
when the red would begin to flow
from those wounds and wondering
when it would finally stop.


In the poet’s garden

In the poet’s garden one summer evening
in June rows of leafy enjambments stop
at the edge of a lush planting of blossoming

trochees and alongside the muted petals
of shade-loving tercets while a simile like a snake
slithers through a bed of perennial metaphors

that spread outward and over the fern
hill to kiss tidy plots where amphibrachs
are draping a trellis and underfoot

anapests are sprouting and iambs abound.
In the poet’s garden rhymes climb pink
spondees at the foot of a synecdoche

of rhythm and hyperbole. Metonomies
now grow where once only concrete was.


Lane change

for Sandi

She’ll take the keys
without discussion; he’ll be content,
unquestioning in the passenger seat.

The first mapmaker, while clearly lacking
the global view, was persuaded nonetheless
by elongated blots approximating where he
d been

She’ll navigate little-known landscapes, accelerate
past exit ramps, breathe easily, exhale
minor mysteries, drive on.
She’ll drive on, passing
roadside signs, indecipherable
and that’s okay.

Early cartographers were defeated by perspective;
we map madly now, measuring continents and
gardens and galaxies and the shortfalls of the soul.
But for all of that and science, who can fix a point
and say,
I am there or was or will be?”

She’ll take the keys,
without discussion.


Mort Gordon, 94

Mort’s Deli offered all the usual

fare, of course—enticing us

drawing us in after school

(or instead of it)

with briny half-sour pickles

bobbing in a barrel

pastrami dripped across

rock-crusted ryes

salami and eggs


a Reuben a Rachel

the impatient prodding

from harried workers

behind the counter

and something more

a third place a hideaway

chicken soup

a refuge.

In those days we knew it all

but we couldn’t have known how


come back like a schmear

when we chance upon

the obituary of the man

who never said

but may have known

the ways we came of age

fifty years ago

in that booth

at the back.

One Day in Oswiecim*


It hasn’t changed. The serene

green countryside reaches

toward a cloudless sky, and this

land could be your land.


The oldest woman in town

trembles a bit remembering

an unsettling glow lighting

her childhood, but this

town could be your town.


There’s a playground now

on the peaceful street

where ghosts were born

and legends linger, and this

street could be your street.


The women in farmhouses

and tidy village homes kept

the curtains drawn so the

children wouldn’t see, but this

home could be your home.


The world comes in buses now.

Tourists stagger through history,

pausing to catch their breath,

inhaling reassurance that this

history will not be their history.


It hasn’t changed. The serene

green countryside reaches

toward a cloudless sky, and this

land may be your land.

*A small city in Poland, better known by its German name, Auschwitz.


Tango Lessons

 For Jim Tipton

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

Embrace your partner
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.


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 Tehuantepec 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.


The Last Jazz Fan

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.

For more information about Lake Chapala visit: chapala.com

Mel Goldberg
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