Salt Marshes

by Janee Baugher

– after the photograph “Azerbaijan. Baku. Salt Marshes. 1997” by Reza

“One day, Armenian military men arrived at our door. Years later, the high principal that I was lives with his family in a slum in the outskirts of Baku and works all day to extract salt so as to feed the children…. my kids do not go to school any longer, and I cannot teach them anything. When I arrive back home at night after walking the long distance that separates me from the salt marshes, they are already asleep.”


In old Russia, the most important guest of the King and Queen
was seated nearest the salt canisters.
___Miles of coarse white.
___The blue-black sky behind him like an apology.
___A white cloth over his head to prevent sweat from tainting the salt.
Farbad’s hard drive into land, to prod out the needed.
All the extracting must amount to something.
___The shovel’s metal head stabs white,
___like how teachers coax goodness out.
___A salt marsh must surely shrink.
With blistered hands,
he works the mind into a fervor, works
the shovel’s long handle into a splinter.
___Those who have nothing to give
___are no different
___than those with something but with no means to give it.
He walks home, kisses the children good-night,
their little skulls open on the hinges.


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