I am here. You, there. I miss
you. I still want you and I cannot
figure out why. For the life of me,
I cannot imagine how the jailed clings to
her jailer. Why the least you could give
me served as sustenance. Body fat slipped
away, left muscle hanging on bone.
Skin lost tautness, sunk wrinkled on my belly.
I became a ghost of myself, withered and dying to eat,
but not hungry, wanting to sleep, but held awake.
My eyes scanned the dark for the possibility
of something left behind,
a hair, a flake of skin, your smell among
the tangled sheets where we lay always
as if putting our heads on the pillows
might commit you to more
than you were willing to give.
For the life of me, I cannot find a reason
to love you to want you to crave holding
you in a way so without reason it bends me
in half to ease the kicking anxiety
that races my heart for breath.
Finally, you simply stopped,
simply chose not to continue, a child walking
away from a game before its end, ruining
everything for everyone else.
TSTmpj: Relationships are probably the most serious "game" that any of us play. More like a sport where men and women hunt "game". What would you wish the reader of your poem to read in between the lines about how they might potentially approach their next relationship?
April Salzano: Adrienne Rich’s "Trying to Talk with a Man" is one of my favorite pieces dealing with relationships: "talking of the danger/as if it were not ourselves/as if we were testing anything else." The metaphor of testing bombs says it all. That was in 1971, though it seems humans have always struggled with communication, and the lack thereof is as classic a theme as love itself. What we are capable of doing to each other is astounding. Unfortunately, our modern methods of conversing seem to be breaking down our ability to communicate. Entire relationships are conducted via text message and the internet. While I believe in the inherent value of the written word, we are losing the ability to truly connect with one another. That message is embedded in my poem, the necessity for reciprocal honesty, as is the need to recognize the difference between being genuinely cared for and respected and simply functioning to validate the Other’s self-efficacy.
TSTmpj: Your technique is good, your enjambments are working well. What advice, as a college teacher, do you give to fledgling poets on technique?
April Salzano: Thank you. Beyond the most obvious advice to read more poetry, the advice I offer to poets is to recognize the distinction between author and speaker. Though we teach this to readers, it is as important to writers as a way to learn to experiment with voice. Even the confessional poets do not always function as the I of the poem. By assuming the voice (and thus perspective) of someone or something else, writers make available a whole new realm of experience and imagery, which adds dimension to their craft. Perhaps a more general bit of advice is to write. Constantly. Writing poetry is frequently misinterpreted as simply an act of expelling emotion, a catharsis. Technique not only outweighs "feelings," but it is what conveys them. Beginning writers often get that raw emotion on the page fairly easily, but need to experiment with form and style.
TSTmpj: Do you always use simple language in your poetry. Is there a place, do you feel, for more, for want of a better word, abstruse language?
April Salzano: My work often utilizes simple language but does not use language simply. I don’t want my readers to have to clutch the thesaurus while they read; I want them instead to understand the language and context first, and then go back and locate other possible meanings, to find duplicity. Plath was accused as being "Roget’s trollop" in her early work, but the language itself in Ariel is more accessible, the images sharper. Poets like Rich and Clifton allow the decoding to come from the image, metaphor, implication. Certainly there is a place for more, as you say, abstruse language. Some of my own poems might fall into this category, and many poets I admire utilize a style quite different from my own.
April Salzano teaches college writing in Pennsylvania and is working on her first collection of poetry.