David Rowe

David Rowe





To get out of its way
& let the word have its say;
to allow salamander,
with its ballistic tongue,
to speak as it were
for itself…


ssssSeethes forth from between
parted lip-flesh the steam,
the humid heat,
to hiss the wheel, the salamandala, into motion.


Sa: natural exhalation
made conscious mantra
via the Tibetan lama’s
art & concentration;
seed syllable born ready to spill
& to spell its semen-antics.




Sal: first step of the blessed meanderer,
samana en desultory route to salvation;
Philosophic salt, it aggravates
our thirst for experience, which is to say: heartbreak.


Saltatory salmon of wisdom which
puts fire in the poet’s belly,
the Promethean liver, iron-rich
& ever nourishing the birdsoul.
Then again, the homeopathic salve, salicylic acid,
flame-fighting febrifuge.


Sala: inside-out “Alas,” sigh
of affirmation-in-spite
-of-everything, a solemn cry
of mercy realized as grand merci,
universal love chosen as armor
by the jilted paramour.
Maya’s cherry which secretly
bears the stone-seed of Buddhahood,


Salam/Shalom-Ander: a benediction: “Peace-to-Man;”
passionate man of peace
amidst passion’s holocaust,
Word on the cross, Word in the manger.




Salome: ekstatic maenad, tender
-hearted wetnurse & blood-crazed render,
strip-dancing the shamanic mandate,
at each of hell’s seven almond-shaped gates
shedding a veil until she’s translated
to the Muses’ Mount Helicon
having made vulnerability
her most venerable ability,
having forged her foibles into fables,
beheading the ego—“Sauft alle mit einander”
& thereby midwifing the death-in-life/life-in-death cycle.


Soolam: black stone which proves pristine dream pillow & golden
ladder to heaven & back.
Sal ammonica: piss & dung of pilgrims’ camels
refined into life-promoting fertilizer, rebel’s
& reveler’s explosives, smelling salts to awaken consciousness.
Sacred/Taboo Untouchable, Outcast destined to cast out our sins & demons.


A la the dervish performing his turning (sema),
the salamander is the genius of emptiness (sama)
generating wings & taking flight (samara), finding
purchase in the doorway of King
Solomon’s Temple.




I am
I am that
I am that I am.
The highest cause of everything is living
within the thing itself,
verdant word as wheel & whirler of the wheel,
Dharma-chakra come full circle back to mysterious “S,”
death-tree shading Zeus’ birth-cave, amphibious
alphabetic agent both of hissing demise & of plurality:

Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz





(the fire wears
black armor)
a slow-burning stove
between the jaws
-marble or brick-
of the chimney it is
an ecstatic tortoise, a crouched
Japanese warrior:
whatever it is, martyrdom
is repose
impassive under torture


ancient name of fire
and ancient
antidote to fire
flayed sole of the foot
on hot coals
amianthus amante amianthus


in the abstract city between
dizzy geometries
-glass cement stone iron-
formidable chimeras appear
raised up by calculus
multiplies by profit
by the side of the anonymous wall
sudden poppy


Yellow claw a scrawl
of red letters on a
wall of salt
Claw of sunlight
on a heap of bones


fallen star
in the endlessness of bloodstained opal
beneath eyelids of quartz
lost girl
in tunnels of onyx
in the circles of basalt
buried seed
grain of energy
in the marrow of granite


Salamander, you who lay dynamite in iron’s
black and blue breast
you explode like a sun
you open yourself like a wound
you speak
as a fountain speaks


blade of wheat
daughter of fire
spirit of fire
condensation of blood
sublimation of blood
evaporation of blood


Salamander of air
the rock is flame
the flame is smoke
red vapor
straight-rising prayer
lofty word of praise
of fire on the head of the psalm
scarlet queen
(and girl with purple stockings
running disheveled through the woods)


Salamander, you are
silent, the
black consoler of sulfur tears
(One wet summer I heard
the vibration of your
cylindrical tail
between loose tiles of a
dead-calm moonlit patio)


Caucasian salamander
in the rock’s
cindery shoulder appears
and disappears
a brief black tongue
flecked with saffron


Black and brilliant creature
the moss
you devour
diminutive herald of the rain-shower
familiar spirit of the lightning
(Internal fecundation
oviparious reproduction
the young live in the water
once adult they swim sluggishly)


Hanging bridge between eras
bridge of cold blood
axis of movement
(The changes in the alpine species
the most slender of all
take place in the mother’s womb
Of all the tiny eggs no more than two mature
and until they hatch
the embryos are nourished on a broth
composed of the doughy mass of their aborted brother-eggs)


The Spanish Salamander
black and red mountaineer


The sun nailed to the sky’s center does not throb
does not breathe
life does not commence without blood
without the embers of sacrifice
the wheel of days does not revolve
Xolotl refuses to consume himself
he hid himself in the corn but they found him
he hid himself in the maguey but they found him
he fell into the water and became the fish axolotl
the Double-Being
‘and then they killed him’
Movement began, the world was set in motion
the procession of dates and names
Xolotl the dog, guide to Hell
he who dug up the bones of the fathers
he who cooked the bones in a pot
he who lit the fire of the years
the maker of men
Xolotl the penitent
the burst eye that weeps for us
larva of the butterfly
double of the Star
other face of the Lord of Dawn
Xolotl the axolotl


solar arrow
lamp of the moon
column of noonday
name of woman
scales of night
(The infinite weight of light
a half-drachm on your eyelashes)


black flame
you yourself in the sun
the moon
turning for ever around you
pomegranate that bursts itself open each night
fixed star on the brow of the sky
and beat of the sea and the stilled light
open mind above the
to-and-fro of the sea


The star-lizard, salamandria
saurian scarcely eight centimeters long
lives in crevices and is the color of dust


Salamander of earth and water
green stone in the mouth of the dead
stone of incarnation
stone of fire
sweat of the earth
salt flaming and scorching
salt of destruction and
mask of lime that consumes the face


Salamander of air and fire
wasp’s nest of suns
red word of beginning


The salamander
a lizard
her tongue ends in a dart
her tail ends in a dart
She is unhissable         She is unsayable
she rests upon hot coals
queens it over firebrands
If she carves herself in the flame
she burns her monument
Fire is her passion, her patience


Salamander                    Salamater

Translated by Denise Levertov