I have seen wondrous images ghost their way
toward a representation of truth or something
like it while they bathed in trays filled with what
might have been black magic and tiny drops
of time passing. I have seen the merest traces
of light prophesy darkening shadows
beneath the safelight and I have tasted
the slow teasing impressions gathering
in the chemistry like revelations. I have
watched and waited and in the waiting
have remembered that this is the way
revelation always comes to me—not
in pixelated flashes of insight but in
nine zones of emerging detail
witnessed under a dim red glow.
by Kenneth Salzmann, first published in Third Wednesday.
Editor’s note: The careful enjambment keeps the reader engaged with unexpected choices that forces rereading, lest one miss a revelation—this poem’s central theme.
When the Plum Tree Blossomed
No one saw the plum tree this year ease
into its cloak of springtime blossoms
in the same week the forsythia
proclaimed the sun, in the same week
the hospital demanded all the living
we could muster. No one watched new buds
prepare for lace in the ironic promise
of fruit that will not come in later spring.
There was a year when plums formed and
dropped from this isolated, barren tree
despite the certainties of borrowed science,
and there have been years spent far from
the hospital and far from ironic promises
of a spring that never stops arriving,
each time to blossom and bear fruit against
familiar probabilities. No one saw the plum
tree come into full bloom this year;
even so, it remains our godly gift
to watch over it while each petal falls
and each tender leaf searches for its shape.
by Kenneth Salzmann, first published in Cyclamens and Swords.
Editor’s note: The repetition of word and imagery in this poem emphasizes the relentless nature of life and death and our place in this cycle. The last line is perfectly sad.