Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 9
Spring 2014

[Three Poems]

Ron Salisbury

Entre Chien et Loup

(time at dusk, when a wolf
can be mistaken for a dog)
In the fall
night appears
when we’re not ready,
still have the crayons
out on the porch,
tamping the potting soil
around the dwarf lemon
on the balcony.
Not ready
for the light,
another day
to cartwheel away,
not ready
for another year
to cartwheel away
until we’ve rolled around
in its leaves again,
made the bedsprings
under the camp bed sing
once more. Are we ever
ready for night; greed,
we say, that’s us. Desire,
like a shag rug we remember
by the fire place. Want,
we negotiate,
not the night pushing in
with his scythe.


Severance Pay

Francis Abbott lost three on the right hand,
not the thumb or pointer finger. Lucky, because 
you got to keep your job if you still had two.  
They paid extra to work on the chipper, more than 
you could make anywhere else with a high school diploma 
in South Brewer, Maine, in the 1950s. The Eastern Paper Mill 
had the best jobs in the area, but the cost was high.  

Uncle Ed knew the foreman and two weeks after graduation 
I was on the line, pulp hook in one hand, feeding four foot chunks 
in the hopper, cotton balls in my ears. I helped pull Francis
out of the blades.  

At Benny’s Bar across the street, after the 4 PM shift change,
you’d find the chippers lifting a cold Narragansett with only 
two fingers, teasing a peanut out of a bag with the thumb. 
If you were crazy enough to work the line, you were old enough 
to sneak into Benny’s for a beer, no one questioned
the under-aged kid with a scraggly moustache.

The afternoon I caught the Greyhound bus to New York City,
I stopped in to say goodbye to the guys. They all understood
when someone wanted to leave while still whole. The lot of them,
on their stools saluting me as I left, one, two fingers
to their foreheads.


Not the First

The first kiss suffered from bad aim. 
I’m not sure about the second,  
but by the third, purpose and target 
were clear. Rachael Jack, 
who still hammers my dreams, 
taught me possibility, 
revealed how soft skin was, 
the tip of someone else’s tongue 
and the mechanics of a bra strap.  
Thirds are best, I think, 
they’re filled with experience 
not the raw spring of first leaps.    
The third marriage was best.
The third dog, with buckeye honey
eyes, knew when I needed a lick
on my hand. The third car,
an orange 69 Camaro, moon roof,
attracted, among others, 
Miss Desert Inn in Las Vegas.  
The third home 
had an oak spiral staircase
the third wife would slowly step
down with hand cuffs in her hand.
You take your firsts, filled
with the fumble of innocence
and I’ll wait for the third 
who has two tattoos, a flask 
of Bulleit bourbon and cash 
from the Harley she sold.


SHJ Issue 9
Spring 2014

Ron Salisbury

is a writer who has integrated his poetry with his business life for decades. Now, three wives deep, four children long, and assorted careers past, he continues to study, publish, and write in San Diego where he is a first-year student in the MFA program at San Diego State University.

Publications include: Eclipse, The Cape Reader, Serving House Journal, The San Diego Reader, Alaska Quarterly Review, Spitball, Soundings East, etc. Awards include: nomination for a Pushcart Prize, Semi-finalist for the Anthony Hecht Poetry Price (2012), and Honorable Mention in City Beat 101 (San Diego CityBeat’s Fiction 101 Contest).

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury