Daniel Saalfeld

Two poems from Daniel Saalfeld’s Sweet Teeth

followed by a note on the author

West Side Story

From stroking his sensitive chords,
the old harpist paused in the penthouse restaurant
and asked me, as I passed by with a tray of drinks,

“You like my music?” I nodded and said “Oui”
in this Croatian-owned French affair.
His lips curled upward as his left hand

slid from a coral pant pocket
to generate heaven with his gin-and-tonic hand
for the old New Yorkers dining on soufflés

prepared by the Swiss-schooled Algerian chef.
It was that O.J. summer. Over beef cubes
given me after I’d folded napkins

and placed silverware around plates,
the owner kept calling the Juice a pussy,
saying he should’ve been a man

and taken his life on that freeway
while one of the burly waiters
kept yelling, “They should cut off his balls.”

Before these crude views were voiced,
my jet from the West had banked gently left
in early April over Jersey,

showing me the whole rawboned borough
in whose acidic bowels
I’d fuel my cells with fine fats.



Sweet Tooth

Like the Barolo I drink, the leather chairs
down the stairs are dark. The waitress’s hair

also is dark and styled in a silky bun
atop her head. Before I order,

she holds up each cellophane-wrapped cut
with her milky hands whose long fingers,

crowned with carmine nails, treat the meat
with velvet care. She then shows me the potato,

the asparagus, the onion. Mahogany
surrounds this fantasy as her burgundy lips

bend. I cut my filet mignon with a knife
that could kill me after I’m stuffed with beef,

caramelized onions, and sautéed mushrooms.
But I won’t polish off myself

when raspberry-topped chocolate cake
lacquered with thin mud awaits.



Sweet Tooth first appeared in Tar River Poetry.

Daniel Saalfeld received his B.A. in English and History from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Before receiving his M.F.A. from American University, he studied French at the University of Burgundy. A Fulbright Scholar recipient, he lectured on modern and contemporary poetry and creative writing in Russia. He lives in Washington, D.C. and teaches at the University of Maryland. His poems have appeared in many journals, including The Hopkins Review, The Southeast Review, The Seattle Review, Cimarron Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Tar River Poetry, The South Carolina Review, South Dakota Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Poet Lore, and The Pinch.