Michael Salcman


It's not the first time the child feels water
wrinkling his toes and kneecaps,
the sunlight refracted by red bathing trunks
and blue and orange water wings,
in the mountains above Durango,
his father teasing him about possible sharks,
his mother inflated with wistfulness.

It's not the first time the child floats out
and extends his fingers, ears half-stopped,
the turret of his head surveying
the shallow end of the pool with goggled eyes
as he listens to his heart beat time
and his mother looks on and worries,
smoothing her belly with golden arms,
in memory carrying him still.

It's not the first time I remember the wish
to float like a child in a sheltered pool
protected from slanting shadows,
my body hosed down with maternal hormones,
a steady stream of condiments,
until stopped by the sound of mother's breathing,
its rhythm almost hiding the imprint
of God's sub-aqueous eye.

Michael Salcman served as chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. Special Lecturer in the Osher Institute at Towson University, he lectures widely on art and the brain, including The Knowledge Network of The New York Times. His recent poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, Hopkins Review, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, Ontario Review, Raritan, and New York Quarterly. Featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily and All Things Considered, his work has received five nominations for a Pushcart Prize. He is the author of four chapbooks and two collections, The Clock Made of Confetti (Orchises, 2007), nominated for The Poets' Prize in 2009 and a Finalist for The Towson University Prize in Literature, and The Enemy of Good Is Better (Orchises, 2011). His anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors and diseases is forthcoming. "The Horse Tamer" originally appeared in Cadence of Hooves: A Celebration of Horses (Yarroway Mountain Press, 2008).

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