November 27, 2022

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The New York School Diaspora (Part 39): C.T. Salazar [by Angela Ball]

3 min read


there is even a human shimmering beneath the rose quartz clouds

like a bride his hatchet a bouquet that I’m waiting for

so that his tears may transform pearl pain and his flag

of the unfolding twilight, the telephone wires make a strange harp

over our heads and if we weren’t here who

would root across the sky and speak a little anxiously

the idea that light has a tendency to go on

like my father on his motorcycle, maybe I spent too much

Time to listen to the distant rain on the roofs of people who like it

kill each other believing it’s not too late for me

To make this about the love of the man in the field and his farm truck

Even now I hear his voice like a cross between a lark and a lemon

this crooked intimacy, how the last train mixes its smoke with the dawn

and the cattle bed around the Chevy that takes it

as one of her own light sinkers, unable to ring and helpless to touch

–CT Salazar

Headless hitchhiking by John the Baptist

This poem was written grappling with the strange and surreal violence that comes with a loved one suffering from a rapidly developing Alzheimer’s disease – CT Salazar

CT Salazar is a Latin American poet and librarian from Mississippi. His debut collection, Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking (Acre Books 2022), was a 2023 Theodore Roethke Memorial Award nominee finalist. His poetry has recently appeared in the West Branch, Gulf Coast, Denver Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere.

The New York School Diaspora (Part 39): C.T. Salazar

CT Salazar’s “Forgive Yourself for Seeing it Wrong” is a poem of disputes and unions, of doubtful and confirmed precision, of the renting of the heavens. It begins with surprising and lovely “rose quartz clouds,” a man (a peasant) who looks amazingly like a “bride,” his hatchet (violent, indispensable agricultural tool) “a bouquet of flowers,” while the poet-speaker waits for “his tears become pearls”. – another unexpected transformation. Where are the tears coming from? As so often in this poem, we believe that such a man of hard work would have her, “Pain and raise his flag of the unfolding twilight.” As we know, it’s a world of little-acknowledged sadness where, in another amazing image, “the telephone wires make a strange harp above our heads.” People speak to each other, unseen and unheard, untouched by the throbbing solitude here, a solitude that makes the poet’s lonely voice coupled with a reader-engaging ‘we’ ‘speak from heaven’ but ‘rooted and a little afraid/ before the idea that light tends to go on…’ Suddenly, for the first time, the ethereal conjures up the personal: ‘like my father on his motorcycle.’ We have to think twice before we’re told, ‘Maybe I have too much / Time spent listening to the distant rain on the rooftops of people possibly / Killing each other” – what a revealing invocation of romance and its I think Salazar can be compared to Ashbery in his radically contradictory meditations that give us Surprise from one way of thinking to another and often return, falling between ordinary life and a brilliant transcendence navigate denz.

After more thought, the poem turns again: “and believed it is not too late for me / to make this about love” [beat beat beat] – should we believe that it is “too late” now? The poem is reduced to its simplest scene: “The man in the field and his farm truck”. But then it crashes into memory: “Even now I hear his voice so lark and lemon” (we taste that voice), “that crooked intimacy”, a style of affection that emerges in his war of words. CT Salazar’s moving poem ends in a powerful blend of involuntary, mistaken, and thwarted intimacies that could be the story of our lives, recounting “how the last train mixes its smoke with the dawn / and takes the beast bed below around the Chevy / how one of her own lights sinking, unable to chime and helpless to touch’ – the cattle’s acceptance is as oddly moving as that of Elizabeth Bishop’s famous elk when she (‘It’s a she!’) sits on the ‘hot bonnet’ of the traveling coach “sniffs”.

The last three words, ‘helpless to touch’, shine between light and the poet and us – sad and glad to be included in this poem as it transcends comprehension.


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