David Salner

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Deep-Sea Rescue


For years, the sea washed away

childhood beatings, worse abuse,

pummeling him in a timeless


dream of risk. He discovered alcohol,

then drugs, because surrendering

was how he’d learned to swim from rips.


He lifeguarded summers, in the winter

he built homes. The hills above the sea

were full of hammering. Hawk-high,


he’d take a break and watch

the miles of silence, sunlight

weeping on endless crests, each one


a tiny breath. Closing his eyes,

he’d feel beneath this peacefulness

a mood in the waves, the worry


of a storm far out. He taught deep-sea rescue,

became an active member of AA,

but more than once we had to rush him


to an ER. Not easy, for him or us,

the saving of a savior. Entering treatment,

he repeated formulas that sometimes helped,


that he was not to blame

for whirlpools opening like the mouth

of someone crying, drowning.


The last time I saw him,

he was turning toward the sea, searching

for something lost, someone to bring back safe.


Midnight to 8


Midnight to 8 I spend with machines,

with their incessant hum, the hubbub and scrape,

the snip-snip, the whine of well-oiled tongues

that winds through the night. I listen to lathes

go round, to mills that peck at each part-piece

like hungry birds, to grinders whose bit-sized

teeth make ultra-fine dust, golden iotas

drawn toward heaven by the drone of a fan.


I nod to this music and think of you

on a steep hill overlooking Morgantown

where you dream all night in your factory

of sleep, creating with each sweet breath

a new instant. Breathing in, breathing out,

working all night, making each now right.

        return to poetry

David Salner's writing appears in Threepenny Review, Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, River Styx and many other magazines. His second book is Working Here (Rooster Hill Press, 2010), his third is forthcoming from Pond Road Press, and he is finishing a novel on the lives of the sandhogs who built the Holland Tunnel.  He has worked as an iron ore miner, steelworker, machinist, and librarian.