Brian A. Salmons

Orphan Negative

after Hugh McKean’s Man Looking Over Wall (c. 1960)

Cornelius from the Goldfaced Series by Tjaarke Maas

You were a word that would not sit so ceased
to exist. But who will hold me dearly? What does
that make me now that you are not? If you
could see me, you would not give any shits.

I am an orphan negative and nothing
holds as long as I exist in this
new world under the blue, astride the white.
It’s there. Or maybe it’s here and even now

sometimes my thoughts will slip into
a single track and disappear. Some clap,
as if this were a magic show, as if
I’m compensated standing under blue

atop the whitened parapet of doubt.
The plan was not to sit outside
until the sky transformed into a roof
and walls emerged from my mistakes at night.

We are the proof, you and who, that truth
for one does not translate the sky
from blue to other blues for another. Truth
is there—alive—but not for me to see.

Obliquity is my truth! Shit yes, and it preached
in my pants, in my shirt, in my tie, in my eyes, in my heart,
in my brain, a word I cannot say for fear
I’d lose my soul in a wager so full of shit

I’d need a second ass. My soul is weak,
so why’d I want to give a chance to less?—
To hold the sublimity of Sappho’s fragments
but never have it. It was never there.

I’ll throw the dice over this wall along
with my eyes and maybe my pants. Whoever I am,
I never planned to be myself. I think
I’ve done enough. I never was the oar

you needed for your canoe. And now my hand
is empty save for the sterling space I cup
atop this wall, a home for floral angels
if they’ll have it. Oh, I’m so lost, on high,

still sitting on the balcony at the beach
hotel imagining the balm of eons.
The hardly-hedgerows quietly pine for me.
Why does anguish find the wingless words?

If you think I’ll jump, keep your shit
together. I wish to snap the rebar, to tear
the stucco, understand rebirth. To know
that just around the corner is shadowed rest,

to see, when my imagination blinks,
that sunless heaven nestled in native hell.


About the writer:
Brian A. Salmons is a poet and translator from Orlando, Florida. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Eyedrum Periodically, Non Binary Review, Memoir Mixtapes, Ekphrastic Review, Sunlight Press, Poets Reading the News, The Light Ekphrastic, Eratio (e . ra/tio), and others, including anthologies from Yellow Jacket Press and TL;DR Press.

Image: Cornelius from the Goldfaced Series by Tjaarke Maas (1974-2004). Mixed techniques on wood board. 32 x 24 inches. 2003. By free license.