Lawrence Salander´s poems: Hard Time

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Lawrence Salander is a poet and artist. He was born in 1949. He was the owner of the famous New York City art gallery Salander-O`Reilly Galleries. But he was imprisoned for grand larceny which he confessed to for reasons that have nothing to do with his guilt or innocence. In reality, he was imprisoned for standing in the way of rich people getting richer by standing up for his beliefs. However, because of how the criminal justice system works in the United States, one can only find him labeled as a criminal when he is not. And this is the state of American democracy today. He served over 6 years in prison. Some of his poems are published here under the title Hard Time. – Editor

Introduction:

Lawrence Salander is a painter and poet who currently resides in New York State. He was the owner of The Salander-O`Reilly Galleries in New York City for approximately forty years. During that time, he was responsible for presenting over six hundred museum quality art exhibitions to the public. He is a much published writer on the subjects of art and philosophy. His paintings have been the subject of many one-person exhibitions and have been included in many group exhibitions over his forty plus year career as an artist. Salander’s work is owned by a number of museums including The Smithsonian American Art Museum. Salander-O`Reilly was named best art gallery in the world by The Robb Report in 2003. The poems published here were for the most part conceived during his six plus year incarceration within The New York State Department of Corrections. In addition to his poems, Salander painted over 6,500 works while in prison.

Preface for Hard Time by Larry Salander

Who among us has not experienced hard times? If you have not, then this collection of poems is not for you, except as a form of voyeurism. But for the rest of us these poems will resonant deeply as a fellow sufferer and survivor in this mysterious and sometimes unforgiving world.

There are hard times and there is Hard Time. This author has experienced both and with generosity of spirit has chosen to share with us his deep and personal thoughts on these brute aspects of life. As mere hard timers we can only imagine what Hard Time is like with the aid of these poems and reflections. Vicarious experience is not as vivid as lived experience, but with the gift of poetic language provided by our author coupled with our imaginations, provided by nature (or God, if you choose), our world can expand into plural lived lives. Seeing and feeling the world through the eyes of another is human empathy at its finest. Larry Salander opens up such a world for us to see and feel in exchange for a small investment of our time. We who value insight into the human condition would be unwise not to receive this gift with open arms and open minds.

Some themes are obvious, some are more subtle. I will note some of the more obvious ones that resonate with me. Your close reading will reveal the subtle themes that resonate with you.

A few excepts on these themes may entice you…

Existentialism:
I need to know what is on the other side
When the swirling stops and the vortex dies
And the maelstrom disappears… (The Lie).

No one is truly free when alive…. (The Lie).

One is reminded of Sartre’s pronouncement that “we are condemned to be free.” Do Salander and Sartre disagree? On some level yes, but not in the way that really matters. Freedom has many levels, and who knows how free we truly are in this life, but we can’t escape the responsibility that comes with apparent freedom. Even the incarcerated have freedom of thought. It was Viktor Frankl who observed that even a prisoner can “choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” in Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl lost his freedom in another era and in different circumstances from Salander, but insights about life from both of them are too valuable to be ignored.

Frankl and Salander persisted during their Hard Time, and emerged with wisdom for us all. They returned to the outside world and continued the Sisyphean task of pushing their boulders with newfound meaning.

For what can we know of truth?
But to keep searching
Like Ahab his whale… (The Lie)

Attitude is what matters.

Loneliness:
But the sun never shines
Behind these walls… (To Beauty and Wicked Woe)

My own war waged
In the dark places of my solitary soul
For alone I am… (Again)

Most die broken and unknown
Mozart rests in a common grave
A monument sits on Beethoven’s bones
Dostoevsky carried to his rest on
The shoulders of the people
Poor Vincent left the world alone… (Bone)

More people die of heartbreak
Than of all known disease
And I died a little more today
I bleed but there is no blood to see… (Clowns)

Loneliness too has it degrees. Who has not felt alone even when surrounded by others? But we usually have the option to seek solace in the company of those who understand us. Not so when confined and alone. These reflections of Salander awaken us to the glory of freedom and the ability we have to change our circumstances when lonely. Cherish that ability, he seems to say.

Loss and Regret:
Money will not buy my lassie back
Nor will it make her well
What is art in the face of life
When my daughter lives in hell? … (Joyce in Zurich)

I am stuck behind these walls
Crying tears of blood
Mourning my damnation knowing
I brought it on myself… (The Way it Is and Was)

A Sunken Place indeed. Those who have no regrets are rare…or dishonest. Did Sisyphus regret his offense to the gods? Most certainly he must have…but what now to do? The boulder is there to be pushed and to do otherwise is to give up all hope. Frankl experienced that lack of hope among his fellow prisoners…and no doubt so did Salander. But they both pushed through the adversity and created lives of meaning. And when the going gets tough, so should we, inspired by their experience and survival.

Social Commentary:
Twenty-four-seven news
Profits made in babies blood…
And as long as we permit
The good die young again… (Again)

But anyway it seems clear
America wants its poets dead… (Dead Poets)

The poor own almost nothing
Sometimes barely what they need
The middle class a little more
But neither have the piece of mind
They believe they were working for…
Now the rich own everything
And they still want more… (The Way it Is and Was)

You don’t need my comments on our social environment…just check in with the 24-7 set…and saturate yourself. Salander artfully expresses the dismay that many of us feel.

Hope:
For we can never know our destinations
Much less the way to get there
The air is filled with sounds of love
If only we would hear them… (To Beauty and Wicked Woe)

The best we can ever hope to do
Is to love and to create… (Dead Poets)

It is as if I was put here to see
If life on earth was still a possibility…
There is some little more life in me… (Speaking of the Soul)

Salander has “entered here, but not given up hope” and neither should we who have not suffered the extremes of the Dante or the Salander journey.

I recommend this volume of wisdom and art. It will focus your thinking about the important things in life in a way that only an artist like Salander is capable of provoking. Read it and know that you are not alone, in your suffering nor your hope.

Len Mitchell
Pace University
Philosophy and Religious Studies

 

 

 

Hard Time
(Poems and Appropriations)

By Lawrence Salander

 

The Lie

The vortex counterclockwise swirled the maelstrom
A hole in the sea
Like Ishmael I watched all which was lost to me
I was saved condemned to mourn
Death would have been a mercy
Prevented this at least
I mean the pain

Entombed
Its been years since I’ve been locked away in here
Where no one cares to see the cruelty
The suffering which results from being buried alive

Made to watch my loved ones lives unfold
Like some kind of TV show imagined
For it is dark in here and difficult to see
And anyway to die for love is beautiful

There are secrets which cannot be revealed to anyone
And that leads to loneliness
But love needs no understanding
I mean the kind which must be put into words

We strive for our beliefs
Contentment is nothing but a kind of sleep
A sign of death
Birth is no beginning though
As death is not an end
At least for those who are not afraid
But I fear those things I can’t ignore
Or laugh away

I need to know what is on the other side
When the swirling stops and the vortex dies
And the maelstrom disappears
When I have earned my rest like good Starbuck did
On the oceans soft sandy bed

We are but dust a speck among the stars
In the galaxies freedom finally found
And time is obsolete
Death is life but no one really dies

So what is there on earth to fear
And pain is but a point of view
Which comes from how we deal with one another
But dust feels no pain
Seekers have the time to long

When the pictures stop
And in the peace and in the silence the questions end
We know at last the great simplicity
Discover what we thought we knew
There is only change

So let us laugh at death like Lazarus
For each one brings an end to a cycle of suffering
Born to die and gratefully

But never to death
The rest is slavery
No one is truly free when alive
O how we strive to find a bit of it
And short of that create our own illusions

A carnival ride
Each life a work of fiction
For what can we know of truth?
But to keep searching
Like Ahab his whale
A convolution
An obsession unattainable
A fucking lie

2014/2017

 

To Beauty and Wicked Woe

The truth is in the questioning
The art is asking why
To feel
To reorder sensation
To beautify

Art unfelt is better off unmade
Certain truths are hard to take
And better left unsaid

Quality is all there is and comes only in believing
The imagination spotless
Seeking to break the bonds of the way it is
Improvision is but another word for dancing
And dancing one can get away with anything
Though dreamed before each dream we dream is new

And all ideas become our own
(Even the ones we steal)
When passed through our own hearts and souls honestly
Its only man who perverts man’s sanity
With his so called reason and vanity
Though every heart has its own desire
They share the language of love
Oh you young give up your need for explanation!
For all you will ever hear are lies anyway
The mystery is the thing
To love the journey flying blind
To be forever free

For we can never know our destinations
Much less the way to get there
The air is filled with sounds of love
If only we would hear them
But I fear the pain which comes with feeling
Or is it not feeling that I fear?
I think mostly of the used-to-be’s
And those things in which I trusted so
Are circled in black irony and wicked woe

Once I was on easy terms with dying
But standing in the sun made it difficult to think of death
But the sun never shines
Behind these walls
And the reaper man the antagonist again
O lord I miss my dead
And all their lively suffering

2013/2017

 

Different Languages

Its hard enough to understand one’s own soul
Much less the transpiring’s of another human heart
Try to explain the inexplicable
If you have the time to waste
And even if one could make sense of it all
So much would be lost in the translation

For speaking and feeling
Are very different languages
Like when Mozart wrote the music down
A holy degradation
A magnificent shame
Like Vincent painting love through his pain

Some of us take life for free
Others pay their way by making beauty
Trying will make a man feel more than worthless
Muffle the disquiet of his vanity
A final failing
A losing
A mystery

2013/2017

 

The Dark Side of the Moon

Against the dark blue violet hills
The still pond reflects the cosmos
The wild ones in the woods surrounding
Raise their voices to the night
The coyotes sing their songs of death
The giant crane prehistoric stands
Starlight silhouetted in that wat’ry Milky-way

I howl at the moon on nights like this
It’s mating season in the wild
But still my calls go unanswered
Like my passions and my prayers

Mismatched words a means of lying
Another man invites his ruin
It’s only when the yearning ends
That one may find peace of mind again
I write this on the dark side of the moon

Old and cold and in all ways lost
Weary to the bone
Death brings much beauty
Puts an end to pain

So celebrate instead of feeling
Blow up the trumpet to the moon
Pray for all your sins (and mine)
‘Round about the time to meet the reaper
To put my battered heart to rest

2013/2017

 

The Edge of the World

The huge waves blown up by
North begotten gales crashed
But just before
As they reached their highest heights
And their white crest spit wild waters

The sad songs of the sea made sacred music
Water hymns
Lamentations of the countless souls resting
In the depths below

And the wicked winds blew up the sand to dervishes
A music of eternal woe that pierced my heart
As it would any persons who could feel

The edge of the world has never been
A place for metaphors
Like those who would make life a happy game
There is mad beauty in these songs of heartbreak
The greatest poets filled with woe

2013/2017

 

Joyce in Zurich

The great man’s coat kept the cold at bay
Like the sky an icy and glorious gray
While his heart froze hard for his loved ones pain

He begged God to make his own
As he sat and cried as fathers will
In the snow
And in the freezing rain

Money will not buy my lassie back
Nor will it make her well
What is art in the face of life
When my daughter lives in hell?

Fuck all my genius
Its only art is all
But my wife cried herself to sleep again
In our bed near the pitted wall

I would talk to God
If I remembered how
Beg and plead and pray
Too many years have come and gone
Since I was last on bended knee

A long way from the sacrecy
A long time since a choirboy
No longer a young artist
No longer a Dubliner
Ulysses travels round the known world
I’m stuck in guilt
And a father’s love

My life
My art
My soul
Mean nothing now
Nothing much at all if they ever did
When it was warm
Before the fall
Before we came to Zurich

2012/2017

 

Again

Distraught hellhounds howl
While lunatics laugh in a sea of blood
The grotesque party hard
As Satan’s soldiers stoke the fires of
Outrageous fortune and insanity
For those of us who dwell here in hell
Satan’s sounds carry across starry spaces
Heard only by the few
Deranged enough to listen
Like some kind of primal knowledge
Or instinct

Which comes with low intentions
My own war waged
In the dark places of my solitary soul
For alone I am
And scared shitless too
So I listen for the party music
The devil spins

Maniacs slaughter children
With weapons profit born
And the fat cat chiefs celebrate
The bloated bottom line

All the time pretending
To mourn the massacre
From which they gained so much
In the killing of the innocent

Sorry is not good enough
An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth
While we turn to God to understand
They worship their own of green paper

Enlistees console sit
Sweaty palms stroke their hard and stiff sticks of joy
Drone pilots maneuvering
Without learning how to fly

Inglorious and ignorant
Following the orders of the old men evil ones
Who fight in their unguarded chambers for profit only
Then justify their barbarities
In the name of God and
Their now failed country
Corrupted and putrefied

Coin lust
Twenty-four-seven news
Profits made in babies blood
They make killings in the slaughter rings
The masses blame the crazy ones
Purposely distracted
And as long as we permit
The good die young again

The rich man sups with gilded spoons
Sleeps on Satan’s satin sheets
Honored citizen of our society
A criminal disgrace

2012/2017

 

Bone

Fratello waits while Nero fishes
The fire-lakes of hell
Crack the whips of thunder
Let loose

The ‘lectric eels of Calderon
I wait amidst the temples unafraid
And I am filled with wonder

There are reasons why nature makes
Some hearts as hard as bone
It is a cold and stormy winter in my soul
For there has been a great love lost

A loss too hard to take
Too much hurt will turn the human heart to stone
Titian died a rich and famous man

Most die broken and unknown
Mozart rests in a common grave
A monument sits on Beethoven’s bones
Dostoevsky carried to his rest on
The shoulders of the people
Poor Vincent left the world alone

The love they craved from the world
So deserved
Came too late

The artist must understand
To be free to make the art they make
Is all they should expect
And all they should demand
And finding lasting love
And burning with intensity
Should be all of his necessities

A billion of your fellow men or more
May know your name
They may pay King’s ransoms for your work
But the approbation of the world stands for nothing
If you do not please yourself

And anyway
Art is no democracy
Too may of our most famous men are fools and Philistines and jerks

Should you work hard
To learn to see
And if you are pure enough in heart
You may yet please the one who matters most
Besides yourself

For if it is good enough
No matter what the people say
Whatever you make will be left here in this world
Long after the unsighted billions fly away

2014/2017

 

Dead Poets

Castaways from the truth
Caruso’s of dissembling
A society of liars are
The rule of the day

That poison kills the poets here
As they sing themselves
In and out of madness

Lullabies to calm their souls
Or so they think
But if reason is the furthest point from instinct
Then the reasonable are mad

And if gladness is the furthest point form sorrow
Then in the end too much of it
Can make the joyous sad
And too much change too soon is more

Than the human heart can take
We are taught all that we
Are supposed to know
But we know nothing of what we need to

The best we can ever hope to do
Is to love and to create
But anyway it seems clear
America wants its poets dead

And the poor bastards
Give them what they want
When they cause themselves to cease to be
And even then

They do it with
A flourish of creativity
Like Crane jumping off a ship at sea
And Berryman leaping off that bridge
Or Hemmingway
Who with his gun
Blew himself away

2014/2017

 

Speaking of the Soul

Years in a cage
These are grim gorilla days
And bananas are scarce

So I live on soy
And when I have it tuna fish
It is as if I was put here to see
If life on earth was still a possibility

And it’s looking very grim from where I sit

I have been tried
And I have failed with flying colors
But it isn’t over until it is
And the fat lady has yet to sing
There is some little more life in me

And I suppose I must wait to see
What it may bring
Why is it people seem to need
To hurt one another?

When it is so easy
To make them glow
Thin of soul wanting heart
Craving money
Embracing greed
Jonesing out on the need for speed
At enormous cost to all of us
In the wholesale loss of quality

So take your math and shove it
I am speaking of the soul!
Nourish it if you have it still
Their technology will destroy

The human heart
The math they know is just enough
For them to count their money
But one plus one rarely equals two

No matter what you have been taught in school
They stultify with the internet
Like Disneyland
They deal in false imaginings

And they make you pay
To be exposed to their propaganda
In the movies
And on T.V.
In Florida
And in L.A.

And that rat-fuck-big-eared rodent Mickey
Is just another stinking vermin louse
A Hitler Youth
There is a certain kind of death
In their animations

Call me mad if you must
But I have never been so sane
Or saw the truth more clearly
It also saddens me

Some hearts like my own I guess
Were meant to spend their days
Overcoming melancholy
Always searching for something to feel good about
But you know things are not going well
When the best that can be said is
“It could be worse”

But that is to be expected
When it is the unattainable you seek
I sail the seas of misery and of frustration
Which seem to have no end

Until the winds of woe
Blow us to the shores of death
To begin another longer journey
We are moving too damn close
To the end of art
In other words the end of the world

In spite of all the sacrifice
And all the pain
And all the love spent in making art
Attempting to make the world more beautiful

2014/2017

 

Clowns

Your whispered silences
Are by far the louder of
The whisperings and the raging waves
Louder than the howling tempest winds
The stormy booming breaking seas

Your silent screams are killing me
Tormented by society
I have greatly aged
Countless tears have damned my troubled eyes
I am sinking slowly dying
Suffering so
But it’s nothing like the pain of losing you

More people die of heartbreak
Than of all known disease
And I died a little more today
I bleed but there is no blood to see
And the strength once proudly possessed by me
Ebbs like all tides away
And the hell-fires burn
And the wicked woe
But the promise remains
“All sins will be forgiven”
In the Holy light

The prophets are discredited
By those who now pull the strings
Even through the prophets see with crystal clarity
Ridiculed for their sanity
While the moneymen sell their lies as true

When facts point to conspiracy
They label them lunatic imaginings
The prophets God’s own chosen ones
Are turned into clowns

And the jails are really filled
With the innocent
Some of whom have been a long time down
Some of whom sit on death row
Privacy is pirated
By the so called Patriots
When they tell you something is
You can bet that it is not
Like when they tell you the thirteenth is the fourteenth floor
When they say one plus one is two
Here is the point of this entire thing to wit:
No matter what the risk
Never stop questioning

Shout freedom from the darkest places
Like here where I am shouting from
Blow up that joyous horn
For Mickey Mouse is finally dead
Goose-stepping with his creator Walt
In Disneyland
Another name for hell

We are free to live our dreams now
On the wings of our own imaginings
That cartoon rodent rat-fuck fascist mouse
Has been exterminated at last

2014/2017

 

Lean

Between the tick and tock
The now and then
The lines at which the colors change
The space between the music
The meaning of a dream

The empty spaces more profound
Than those things they make the space around
The sound of silence
The color gray

We must listen hard to hear
The words they never say
To dance to the music they will never play
To see that which cannot be seen

To understand those things that can’t be known
To overcome the pain
At last perhaps to be
Truly free

We must wrestle with the dark
To stave off endless night
Stay awake long enough to find
The wise and learned way
To join the struggle for the higher
And to bleed

But blood shed in violence
Will not just dry and disappear
It will have its retribution!
And the cycle never ends
I mean
This cycle of shit

Who can stand the murder of the children?
It is treachery that passes for the truth
In this society today

And I may have missed my chance to stop the outrage
But I am still alive to try again
And every voice raised in earnest prayer
Adds weight to the Holy lean
To take us from the lower to the higher

2014/2017

 

The Way it Is and Was

The mad houses filled with sane men now
The prisons with the righteous
And treachery is the way it rolls
When the people’s God is green

The poor own almost nothing
Sometimes barely what they need
The middle class a little more
But neither have the piece of mind
They believe they were working for

Torn between their bosses and the union men
Like a piece of taffy
Now the rich own everything
And they still want more

Their greed clothed in colors
Red white and blue
They sell their souls
And our souls too
In the media they own

So our poor men fight and die
In the rich mans wars of greed
And however these things turn out
Many are left suffering

But the rich men always win and get
Exactly what they need
In this country now
The buck means more than life

I am stuck behind these walls
Crying tears of blood
Mourning my damnation knowing
I brought it on myself

They think I have been rendered mute
Passed the point of caring
If justice ever lived at all
It is a long time dead

But I remember those who fought
To bring the light
Theo paid his brother’s rent
Mozart lays in a common grave

2013/2017

 

Between Us

As crazy as I know it sounds
I think I heard the voice of God today
Before the sun rose in my jail cell
While I was making art in his name

It sounded like I would imagine
Blood flowing from the heart would sound
But magnified
Or a lion’s raspy roar
Or the kind of noise water makes

When it breaks or falls
I painted not knowing consciously what I was doing
I was blind and free
All soul

The sound was gorgeous
Maybe like an eagle hears
Soaring in the mountain air
I was weightless
I was floating
Part of it
No longer only me
A kind of energy
And it was very beautiful

Like the paintings that came through
The brushes in my hand
But whomever made these pictures
I swear it was not me
An empty vessel
A tool of ecstasy

I wanted you to know
But lets keep all this between us

2013/2017

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