Concerned about My Heart

Ralph Salisbury

four minutes between last breath, to be shaped into word or not, and what Dad lived — I see his screwdriver– as small as the pencils which scrawled on barn walls the time between matings and gun to drive wild dogs from the new-born– I see this tool, this shaping of steel as shiny as strings which Dad– his glory his banjo — strummed for woman after woman until he married more complexity than any man can foresee– I see this not only humble but small to the point of inconsequentiality implement he gave to me in appreciation of my having grown to be more than one mouth too many to be fed and to grow until, the vast crowd in my chest applauding no more, my own song will grow still.

Ralph Salisbury ((926 – 2017 was the author of 11 books of poems, 3 books of short fiction, and the prize-winning memoir So Far, So Good. He grew up hunting and trapping, for meat and pelts, and working on his Iowa family’s farm, which had no electricity or running water. He received his MFA from the University of Iowa, where he studied with Robert Lowell and R.V. Cassill. His many awards include a Rockefeller Foundation Residency in Bellagio, Italy; three Fulbright professorships to Germany; a research Fulbright Award to Norway; and an Amparts (USIS) lectureship in India. Retiring as Emeritus Professor from the University of Oregon, he was Editor of Northwest Review from 1965-1968.