The Black Box – Poetry by Michael Salcman

Theodoros Stamos – Olympia Sun-Box

Dozens of unopened locks sit
in a plastic crate at the gym
with little hope of reclamation:
no owners and no known combinations.
Each month the black box fills up,
gets emptied and receives new tokens
of how memory wars with distraction,
the unopened locks bullet-proof signs
of life in an owner’s mind turned away
for a moment, perhaps constrained
by a honey-do: a quart of milk, of wine,
a wolf hound needing its shots at the vet.
Other moments were darker ruminations,
plans for a pub crawl in Canton,
a secret tryst or some conciliatory gift
to assuage the guilt of coming out.
And me?
I was thinking of Thomas Jefferson
watching the Shenandoah River fall
through the open vent of its mountains,
of how peace might flood a continent
or infect a poem. That’s when I lost my lock.


About the Poet

MICHAEL SALCMAN: poet, physician and art historian, was chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. Poems appear in Arts & Letters, Hopkins Review, The Hudson Review, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, Poet Lore and Solstice. Books include The Clock Made of Confetti  (Orchises, 2007), The Enemy of Good is Better (Orchises, 2011), Poetry in Medicine, his popular anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors, patients, illness & healing (Persea Books, 2015), A Prague Spring, Before & After (2016), winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize from Evening Street Press, and Shades & Graces, forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil (2020), winner of the inaugural Daniel Hoffman Legacy Book Prize.

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