Friday, October 24, 2014

I Wish I'd Written This

Winter is Coming
By Mark Salo

My aged mother
Struggles to stand
Now erect,
She smiles
Wit and grace
Still in her possession
She looks directly
Death is not her enemy

My old father
In the woods he loves
At peace with the silence
Fells the dying birch
To keep her warm

I watch unseen
As he trips among the tangle
In slow motion
He falls
The earth and he
Welcoming the other

For a moment…
He surrenders
Then pushes back
Against the ground
The earth will claim him
Soon enough
But not this day

In the old farmhouse
They dance in the kitchen

Winter is coming

This is not the terrifying 'Game of Thrones' winter, which many of us now think of when we encounter those words, 'winter is coming'.  This winter is inevitable too, but natural, and has not yet arrived although it's on the way.  The double meaning doesn't hammer you over the head, but it's clear enough. Yet this is predominantly a poem about love. I've lived the love of the aged, still taking care of each other as best they can, still expressing love in romantic ways — such as dancing in the kitchen. I love the tenderness portrayed here.

And I love the poet's affection for both parents, in particular the portrait of the father 'at peace with the silence' of his beloved woods, or surrendering to the earth for a moment after his fall before pushing against it.

There's a quiet music in this poem, and a sureness of tone. As a work of art, I think it's beautifully realised.  Winter is Coming was written for Mark's parents while they were still alive, and he later read it as part of the eulogy for his mother.

Knowing that I'm a poet, friends and acquaintances sometimes like to show me other people's poems, either to share their own pleasure in a find, or to see what I think of them. That's how I came to know of Mark Salo's poetry, when a neighbour said, 'Don't you think this is good?' Yes, I certainly did! And I immediately wanted to feature him here. 

He not only agreed — after looking at the things I like to include in these posts by way of human interest, he kindly supplied me with the following photo and biography: 

'Mark Salo was born in northern Minnesota and spent his early years living adjacent to the White Earth Indian Reservation (Ojibwa) where his mother was a teacher and his father a woodsman.  Mark went to a rural one room elementary school with sixteen students wherein his mother was the teacher and two siblings were classmates. He went to high school in Hibbing, Minnesota and joined the U.S. Marine Corp at age 18. 

'Mark spent his professional career as an advocate for women's health care and has lived in Washington State and San Diego, California in that capacity.  He is an alumni of the University of Washington in Seattle.

'In 2005, Salo retired to Queensland with his wife Dixie where they live with their daughter, her husband and two young granddaughters.

'Salo comes from a family of writers where poetry, letter writing and family essays are a way of communicating love, history and personal regard.  His maternal grandmother started it all.  She was a feminist, a teacher and a poet who once said that she would rather be caught stealing a pig than mispronouncing a word.

'Before settling down professionally, Salo worked as tradesman, airplane builder, tile setter and woodsman.  Before retiring he taught a course for several years at the University of California Extension on Roles, Responsibilities and Relationship in not-for-profit organizations.

'In his private capacity, Mark is a poet, essayist, luthier (guitar maker), American Civil War student, family genealogist/historian and a lover of old cars.   Most recently, Mark has settled into working with wood as an art form.'

What a full and creative life! 

Unfortunately I can't point you to books he has published or blogs he has created — because he hasn't.  This is what he told me about that:

'As for being published, I have had dozens of commentaries and guest editorials published in newspapers over the years but it is not in my nature to keep them.  My poetry is something I share with friends and family and I do not send my writing to publications.  Some of it gets around and I am asked to read poetry by friends who like what I write. What makes me feel good is that there are a few people who have a file drawer full of my essays and poetry...good enough for me.'

I wish some of those family members would persuade him to collect the poems into a book!

Meanwhile, I can share another piece with you here — brief but lovely. He describes it as, 

'a poem that I wrote before the death of my parents who died at 90 and 92. They were in love for the duration. I started writing a long poem but stopped at four lines. They framed it and put it on their living room wall.' 

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. A fantastic poet and and poem to feature. Thanks Rosemary!

  2. Oh, me, too. I wish I'd written this! But better yet, thank you, Rosemary, thank you, Mark for giving it us here.

  3. Thank you Rosemary for featuring this humble yet so talented poet. I enjoyed the poems so much and his respect for his parents. Since he won't publish a book, I'm especially glad you published hime here.

  4. Oh Rosemary, what a wonderful share! Such a tender love story - the first is visually stunning, just so beautiful. I can SEE the man in the woods, gently falling, and then the dancing in the kitchen. Sigh. The second poem is perfection in four lines which simply say it all. How wonderful that his parents had that testament on their living room wall. A very humble poet, but reading two of his poems inevitably makes one want to read more. Thanks for featuring this talented poet.

  5. Beautiful story you told us today, Rosemary...Story of Love, of giving and receiving, and how right it feels : 'earth will still remember' the names and their love will fall to cover the land with soft snow....ah ~ thanks

  6. What a touching poem this is, Rosemary! After having read this one poem, I would definitely read a book by this man.

  7. I greatly enjoyed the poem and learning about the author, Rosemary. I also second your wish concerning the publication of a book.

  8. yes, Rosemary, a wonderful share.

    words can be simple yet resounding


  9. A wonderful share Rosemary. This poem of profound meaning reminds me so much of how I feel about my mother, now ninety-one.

  10. There is a subtle difference between poet and writer and it is very evident in Mark's work and attitude towards his work. I am really happy to have read this post.

  11. As always, I am delighted that you all enjoyed the work of this poet. Thanks for saying so!


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