Congratulations to NDQ contributor David Salaner for the publication of his most recent volume of poems, The Stillness of Certain Valleys, from Broadstone Books.
A trio of his poems appeared win NDQ 86.1/2 and “Wyoming Pastoral” and part of a “Dream of Quitting Time” also appear in his new book.
To give you a taste of his work, which I find both compelling, political, and socially aware, below are his poems “Wyoming Pastoral” and “An Old Man Who Believed in Math”.
If you like these poems, consider buying a copy of the book here, and please remember that NDQ relies on our outstanding contributors, editors, and subscribers to thrive. Please consider submitting to NDQ, subscribing, or downloading our previous volume. For some content from NDQ 86.1/2, click here, and for a preview of 86.3/4, click here.
We sit by his van in folding chairs. I don’t know
a word of Quechua, he doesn’t know any English,
so we drink Coors Light in the silence.
I admire the over-under for coyotes. A breeze
ruffles the new grass. The cherry stock gleams.
I don’t have to ask why he came to Wyoming
to herd sheep, or what country in the Andes
he hails from—those aren’t mysteries for a day
like this—but how good the afternoon smells,
how the air sighing over the damp spring turf
is enough. Around men like us, before nightfall,
memories hover in the mute air, bemusing us.
And I realize that what I’ve been listening to
isn’t a breath of silence but the draining away
of the music on his stereo, the wistful chorus
fading out, a tremble of seeds in a dried gourd.
A song about love, or absence, or for all I know,
a drinking song, reminding me of Harold, who doesn’t
drink, and of his love for Sara and her death, which left
all of us bereft. I think back to the shepherd who came
from so far to herd sheep browsing near nightfall.
How the light clings to those forests of wool
so they glow among deepening shadows.
How the air swells with a savor so sweet
it would have broken Harold’s heart.
An Old Man Who Believed in Math
Archimedes works by the breakers
writing formulas in the sand, stands back
to admire his work. The surf comes in from Africa,
wave after wave, swirling around his ankles.
A Roman soldier interrupts this scene
as if he, also, has something to prove.
“In the name of The Empire—
erase those formulas!”
The old man refuses. “Only the sea
can erase my formulas.” So the soldier
buries his sword in the mathematician
and feels much better, triumphal, even,
for serving The Indispensable Nation.
Centuries pass, and the Empire crumbles.
It was more of a herald than cause and effect.
But still, an old man who believed in math
defied a Roman soldier on the beach.