Journey into Poetry: Zack Saloom

My first attempts to write poetry ended the same—with me propped up in an iron bed at the old family farmhouse as I counted thirty-four college-ruled lines on a recycled blank page. Unaided by the chewed-to-bits pen in my hand, I felt utter defeat. An invisible rival conquered me for weeks, each time I tried to unravel the paradox of writing a poem.

Armed with a finance degree, I tackled poetry like an equation to be solved. I wrote a checklist of skills I thought necessary to create a verse and compared them to my own abilities. On paper, I listed familiar poetic devices such as simile and metaphor, imagery and symbols, meter and rhyme. My artistic repertoire lacked nothing, and yet, I sat on a notebook-strewn bed at the mercy of an empty page.

A breakthrough occurred at an unlikely place, a desk in my father’s office as I paid stacks of bills. I calculated an incantation of numbers and fell into a trance-like state where I daydreamed a poem about a paperweight with wings. Not a prizewinner (or even publishable) but one I liked. It began: “Fly, fly paperweight / off the desk and away / from the calculator and numbers.”

The words resonated with me because I understood that I was the weight with wings—bogged down by a lifelong fear of change and the dark (I still sleep with a light on!). I had the ability to escape an office job I hated, but I wouldn’t. The metaphor’s wings proved useless in my real life, and the poem ended with a “thump.” Paperweight and poet plunged into darkness—the place I have always feared.

Once there, I found a person much darker and sadder than I ever knew. But I also discovered that exploration plus self-examination equals a silhouette of truth. So I’ve returned to the inner regions to fill notebooks with words, in my struggle to solve—through poetry—the unworkable puzzle of being alive…

Waiting on a bed with etched flowers,
I smell lavender sleep on your pillowcase.
And uncover a reason to dream.

Photo by peasap. Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Zachary Saloom.


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  1. L. L. Barkat says

    Maureen! :) I thought of you when I read that line.

    I love the honesty of this piece. The struggle into poetry. And I’m curious, Zack, what made you decide to try poetry in the first place. Especially since you seemed to feel outside of it.

  2. Jenny Fickey says

    I’m excited to see where your journey will take you. I hope to get to read along as your words continue take flight.

  3. says

    @LL, I too was struck by the honesty of Zack’s piece. And one of my favorite lines, Zack, is the “unworkable puzzle of being alive.” I think too many folks try to sum up life or give it closure in various ways–try to figure out the “unfigure-able.” Thanks for that reminder as well as this insight into a powerful and ongoing and hopefully beautiful journey into poetry for you.

  4. says

    That line, “unworkable puzzle of being alive”, seems the essence of poetry and writing. Writing has been a way to discover and say why my life is so often unworkable. My first imaginative writing projects were without plot or resolution, but journeys of discovery nonetheless. After years I’m beginning to understand what it is that I have to say. In the interim, making a living turned out to have a plot and tentative resolution. Had anybody, other than writing instructors, read my early work, they would have wasted their time and given me the illusion of success. The movie, Poseidon Adventure, is a metaphor; the world is upside down, so way out and up is down.

  5. Shelton Frigg says

    Haha, I’m so glad I found this. I lack the courage and talent to write poetry myself, but I’m an insatiable reader. Much poetry, especially as of late, I find quite superficial and self-indulgent. It’s great to see such a frank and honest piece on writing poetry.

    I’m not sure if you’re still in finance, but I personally think you should stick with words instead of numbers!

  6. Zack says

    Thank you all for the wonderful comments. It is nice to know that sometimes the struggle actually pays off. 😀

  7. Tania Runyan says

    Zack, that was beautiful. I love the phrase “weight with wings.” Don’t all poets feel like that from time to time? We tend to be sensitive creatures who can get weighted down with the intensities if the world. Yet the wings of our words help us fly. . .

  8. Ashley Gary says

    Zack, you have such an amazing talent and way with words. Your writing has a wonderful flow and an ability to grab my attention and leave me wanting more. Your honesty and your personality shine through, and I can’t wait to read more. I’m very proud of you!

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