{ Sea Above, Sun Below – George Salis }

Sea Above, Sun Below
George Salis
River Boat Books, 2019


In prose that avoids borrowing by way of returning, author George Salis summons verse from those revivals held by the plotless dead and places flowers on the shared grave of gimmick and novelty while shading the pallbearer’s hushed reverence for those beings who pray on land to those on earth. This work, however, is not niche nor is it pastiche, is not fragment nor is it patchwork, is not replacement nor is it erasure. Says our narrator and says his, to herself: If she is invisible, then none will know her only trick is to disappear. As such, whether allowing influence to create a trapdoor so that said trapdoor can be moved, or allowing beauty to jump rope in a dream might it forget itself as the encoder of sickness, this making of myth as Salis has it clayed is a transplanted salvage that employs observance locally as both a form of self-care and as a parachute that opens later and later over those separating their visions into the near and the far. Sea Above, Sun Below is a second coming of demoted wanderers and is made of the starstuff needed to extend the life that doom guarantees.


reflection by Barton Smock


book is here:

{ publications by former contributors }

Rebecca Kokitus, Velvet Offering (APEP Publications):

Velvet Offering


work at {isacoustic*}:


Darren C Demaree, Nude Male With Echo (8th House Publishing):


work at {isacoustic*}:


David Spicer, Tribe of Two (Seven Circle Press):


work at {isacoustic*}:


Mela Blust, Skeleton Parade (APEP Publications):

Skeleton Parade


work at {isacoustic*}:


George Salis, Sea Above, Sun Below (River Boat Books):


work at {isacoustic*}:


person George Salis, one poem

George Salis has sold stories to The Dark, Black Dandy, Zizzle Magazine, and elsewhere. He has taught in Bulgaria, China, and Poland. He is currently working on a maximalist novel titled Morphological Echoes. www.GeorgeSalis.com


An Echo Echoes Pharaohs

An echo, not the first, metamorphosed by way
of physical ripripples up
from the table of a lost supper.

The caustic causes?
Kamikaze in WW3.
Below, a comical boy who entered through the exit of a tablecloth cave, invaginated.
Enema of venomous nebula.
Above, the mold-man-cloud’s maw opens in feverish famine.
Bivalve drowned in sodium.

All is cause
before cause
after cause.
Sidereal flaws.

Crawling between the feet and legs of evaporated attendees
the cawing boy bumps his brain on table’s bottom.

Echoes, not the last, traversing a metempsychotic byway
of incorporeal underundulations down
from the bleat of last respite:

Spoon in glass stained by purple parfait
wandering peasant woman in search of her face
stunted tower of Babel.

An egg hardboiled till fossilization atop broken bread
crestfallen peasant woman’s sister eyeing callused palms
chip off the ol’ rock of Gibraltar.

A cluster of wine-darkened grapes
supine beggar contemplating levitation
immaculate wall built for the purpose of
measuring its own

The horizon a soiled glass
of settled oil in liquid gold,
delineating no thing.

Pharaohs, not the first nor the last, continue beyond
inexplicable vision in superposition.

upon Einstein’s cross.
All is loss
before loss
after loss.


An ekphrastic poem based on Dalí’s Morphological Echo (1936).


a review by George Salis of R. Keith’s ~ Airy Nothings ~

Airy Nothings, by R. Keith, Dink Press (2018)

~review by George Salis~

In the beginning of R. Keith’s Airy Nothings, with the opening poem “Dummy Letters,” the reader is ejected into a void of subliminal word associations strung together by velocity and ethereal filaments: “luminescent limb/ logically numb […] womb conscience/ ascend champagne […] chemist techniques/ chlorine hymns […] pneumonia ghost/ whether knot […] psychic columns/ kneel chaos.” The common dark matter here is that which is invisible to the ears, but not to the eyes. As Keith explains in the acknowledgments, the poem contains words with at least one silent letter. It’s a list that would make a hyper-dimensional Italo Calvino drool (while also scratching his head).

“Maxim Shuffles,” as the poem’s title suggests, is a rearrangement of proverbs. There’s a translucence in which the reader wades through a mental estuary of the familiar and the surreal: “Lightning is thicker than water…Fact is stranger than an ill bird that fouls its own nest…Silence is the soul of wit…He who is absent is in the eye of the beholder….” Keith dismantles heard phrases, language itself, and rebuilds it all into something original. In this case, a palimpsest: cliché advice beneath mind-tingling lies (or are they not their own forms of truth?).

With “Hearsay Photos” (“slowly. other bacteria. the breeze even and opaque. a derisive glance. is to discover a new sea. mounted on your verbal star. awake with lips full of sand.”) “Hypnagogia,” and others, Keith is “refusing language,” or performing its autopsy, or suturing our collective subconscious to our conscious mind, one is never certain.

An ostensible response to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, “Capture” is a poem born of erasure, using the manual of a security camera, with much of the punctuation left intact, suspended in white space, like floaters in the vitreous of our eyeballs, particles of light and shade.

The title poem is printed vertically and thus read from the bottom of the page to the top, something the typographical maniac Mark Z. Danielewski would appreciate as he either bent his neck like an injured owl or turned the book in semi-revolution, eventually reading the collection’s final words: “covet, the star of its own tragedy” The vertical text flanked by its only punctuation, two pairs of slashes delineating a plummeting fall.

In A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss explains that with empty space, when everything is taken out, there still exists a seething energy in which virtual particles spontaneously pop into and out of existence. In this vein, Airy Nothings coalesces the primordial, fermenting an infant universe, which is not to suggest undevelopment, rather the eschewing of the effects of physics’ laws and English’s dictates. Like the deity that wasn’t there, Keith creates originality from the cliché, art from the banal, something from nothing. Ultimately, Airy Nothings is the dictionary to nonexistence, illuminating that which cannot be illuminated and leaving us with blind visions.


Airy Nothings is available here:



Reviewer George Salis is a Swiss-American writer. He is the recipient of the Sullivan Award for Fiction, the Ann Morris Prize for Fiction, and the Davidson Award for Integrity in Journalism. His fiction is featured in The Dark, Black Dandy, The Missing Slate, CultureCult Magazine, NILVX: A Book of Magic, Quail Bell Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine, and elsewhere. His criticism has appeared in Atticus Review and The Tishman Review, and his science article on the mechanics of natural evil appeared in Skeptic. He is the author of the novel Sea Above, Sun Below. He has taught in Bulgaria, China, and Poland.

a review of Heather Minette’s Half Light, by George Salis

How to describe Heather Minette’s Half Light? Half-asleep, “half-awake,” half-empty, “half-asking,” half-full, “half-note,” half-life, “half-moon,” half-dark, “half-light.” Each poem is a sparse vignette (in both meanings of the word), mostly colloquial in tone and expertly half-finished in a way that allows for a cosmos of unremembrances to enclose every stanza, navigated by a vague meditation.

Across these pages, Minette is mourning memory and remembering mourning. For example, in “Christmas ’88,” while the narrator watches a VHS of Christmas past with her brother, noting that the family members in the video are changed or deceased or both, she is struck with a spasm that causes her to knock her brother’s wine glass onto the rug and “I watch the kidney-shaped stain fade from purple to gray/ and I will it to settle,/ so that if I lose him like the others,/ there will be tangible history/ of this night/—a memory recorded.” Mistakes, imperfections, even ugliness itself, can serve as reminders of the past, which is wont to become fonder with the exponential avalanche of hours, days, years, lifetimes. Or, more accurately, the looming of our future return to earth’s soil. Eventually the future becomes the present, then irrevocably the past, a seemingly obvious phenomenon that is all too easily forgotten in the immediate focal point of the quotidian. Yet it can all spiral, crisscross, and tangle.

One of the narrator’s earliest pre-mourning memories, or half-mourning, is realizing in  “Sand Mermaids” (half-human, half-fish) that her artistic mother is not a god, as the vantage of early childhood makes parents seem, but impermanent “like the spring flowers/ that wither in the summer heat,/ the papier-mâché faces that fall from tall bookshelves,/ the glass dishes that break on tile floors,/ and the sand mermaids that wash away/ in the morning tide…” With this, Minette allows us to peer at her peering into the ethereal river of instance and flux, as Marcus Aurelius noted across time, near the beginning of the common era.

As it is with her mother, so it is with her father at an unspecified time probably later in life. At her father’s best friend’s funeral, the narrator of “A Silent Promise” describes how her father transforms grief into humor and “the heavy air unfolds with laughter.” Yet, while walking to the car, she makes a promise to herself regarding her father’s inevitable funeral, or perhaps the world as whole, “When you can’t be there, we’ll still laugh./ I swear to God I’ll make them laugh.” Like sex, humor can ward off death, or at least ameliorate it.

There are recurrences of glass, flowers, rooms and their walls, some wine (half-full, half-empty), some cigarettes (half-ash, half-paper), orchestrated and enwrapped in melancholy, for in these faded word-photographs the reader’s irises catch flashes and exposures of mortality in its varied but unified forms. Sometimes definite, as with the “infant graves/ of Parker Cemetery” in “Small Hand,” sometimes indefinite, as with the woman of  “Portrait of a Gypsy,” in which the narrator explains that the woman’s “left arm cradled her empty stomach.” It’s a simple image that evokes complex insinuations: the famine of the destitute, the hollowness of a dead or aborted or missing child, the pain of some internal illness. It’s the peripheral that can create “an abyss that sings….” Lulling, distracting, communicating in a familiar yet esoteric tongue.

It’s not a mystery as to why the word ‘oblivion,’ which comes from the Latin for ‘forget,’ is associated with both the sleep of consciousness and the sleep of sleep, Hypnos and Thanatos. “If I had the courage/ I’d ask you to remember….” The mere act of remembering, or evoking it in someone else, is an act of courage, for it temporarily defies the Sleep, taunts it even.

And when we cease to remember, we cease in part to exist, neuron by neuron. The narrator’s friend in “Cindy Sue Moved to the Country” “talks with her hands/ like her father,/ the left in a circular motion/ above her head,/ willing into existence/ a forgotten word.” I first read the last word as ‘world,’ only to reread and realize that it was, in fact, ‘word.’ I believe this mental Freudian slip is indicative of a truth that is one and the same: the world exists in words (as well as in ancient images), and vice versa. And Cindy Sue’s forgotten word is ostensibly never remembered by either of them, only remembered, if at all, as a void.

And the void takes varied forms, too. Echoing Nietzsche, Minette describes in “Flo, Texas” “a sky that doesn’t end,/ that exists to gaze back,/ to remind you that you came from somewhere,/ that your history is no one’s/ history but your own.” Our histories coalesce to form History, the former perhaps too small, the latter too large. We must bridge the gap, the void, the abyss, with expression, with art and words, with remembrance both singular and collective.

In “Returning Home from Adam’s Funeral,” the narrator puts away the occasion’s black dress in the back of her closet, where it will remain buried, for even if she washed it and wore it in a foreign country, she still “would wear the sadness.” If this book were clothing, you’d wear it, too. For all the sadness, Half Light is full-hearted.


review by George Salis


George Salis is a Swiss-American writer. He is the recipient of the Sullivan Award for Fiction, the Ann Morris Prize for Fiction, and the Davidson Award for Integrity in Journalism. His fiction is featured in The Dark, Black Dandy, The Missing Slate, CultureCult Magazine, NILVX: A Book of Magic, Quail Bell Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine, and elsewhere. His criticism has appeared in Atticus Review and The Tishman Review, and his science article on the mechanics of natural evil appeared in Skeptic. He is the author of the novel Sea Above, Sun Below. He has taught in Bulgaria, China, and Poland.


Half Light is available here: