Mark Salerno was born in New York City in 1956. From 1993 to 1999, he edited Arshile: A Magazine of the Arts, published in Los Angeles. Arshile quickly gained recognition as one of the most influential and innovative small press magazines of its time, and presented a wide array of poetry, fiction, drama, essay, review, and interview. Arshile also featured original cover art by such artists as Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning and Wayne Thiebaud, and inside art by Yoko Ono, Roy Dowell and Emerson Woelffer.
Mark Salerno is the author of Hate, So One Could Have and Odalisque. His book entitled Method was a Finalist in the National Poetry Series. He is also the recipient of a Fund for Poetry award. John Ashbery has called Mark Salerno “brilliant … an original.”
This selection of poems is from a manuscript entitled Entertainment Tonight.
Assignment In Two Parts
Look in any
a story for
you find there.
(Just look at him
looking back, the brow
lifted, the evil grin.
made one up
Gone To Reno
for R. Stephen Posey
Look back if you must say
what seems right forget
trying to figure everything
out you were young you
were in love you believed some
stupid bullshit or other some-
thing to get you both through but
how could you know there
were bugs in the system it
all blew up in your face
and people got destroyed
no matter they keep walking
around on this old earth so
opaque so nervously chatty
just sit yourself down
right here all afternoon or
walk out in the sun past
people buildings traffic
out beyond the signposts the
front gate beyond anything you
could have held onto once.
What things you long to grasp
over the vacant space of years
you can only hold now in the mind.
Who was there, face of a hurt lover
perhaps, now dim and blurred.
That particular, old talk, fragments of an
echoing voice, never enough said.
It’s all gone past, no matter now
the regrets, the lost and stupid dreams.
Try to keep your dignity. Put it away
somewhere, in a locked box. Or,
if you must, send up a flare, a token
salute, in memory of your feelings.
Do the poet thing. Name some words.
Arrived finally at being alone
now wives departed friends sick
or dead or just broke somewhere
family what ones are left gone to an
address you can’t locate alone
on your chair feeling old body
joints ache teeth ache eyes
blur numb fingers reach out for
whatever a pen an old photo of
someone a tulip in a single-stem
vase what does it mean to have
arrived alone in worn-out body
too late to touch too far gone
except the mind a language
furious in its compass.
A list of days a few days
a history and a collection
of articles one thinks of
as one’s estate pretty words
left in a language of places
what could be said of simple care
could be said of the numerous human
fierce and stirring emotions for
instance all those people pursued
their pleasures or mere obsession
came to fill not a few of our days
and what about the missing they
had favorite flowers too
so much tender regard
and their common really
very plain faces it will take two
memories to hold it all.
There were things I said I’ll never
say again. I said them to you. To
say them, I thought that’s what you
wanted. What could be said. I said
them in order to make you happy.
I had fears, I was afraid to say things,
things you perhaps most needed
to hear from me. I was wrong. I’m sorry.
You say something now. Go ahead. Let’s let saying
set things right for us. Say I wasn’t wrong.