Listening to Trees


The Wind Woman

Awakened tree spirits

Creaking ancient tales

Of bygone days lost to memory

When silence was robed

In the majesty of Mother Earth.

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2015

breathing trees

Honoring Ancestors


“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh-

Through the hot blast

Of summers long past

I had to run fast

Before little inner me

Was a lost memory.

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2014

Grey Shadow


In the dim light

Of the near future

Grey shadow

Adds dimension

To solidity

That was always


Though perception

Wasn’t yet born

Into the moment

Called now

A breath brought it

Into existence.

Or was it 

The thought

That preluded it?

Ah, there was something,

Something in-between

An emotion or feeling

That attached itself

To thought before

And then came 

The smile

Or rather, the breath

An easing into being

A sigh of gratitude

For grey shadow

Outlining the form

All around

Giving definition

To what is

While what was

Blends into darker


Of demure memory.

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2014

*Artist: Polina (smokepaint)

What does Love Do?


“We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.” 

~Maya Angelou~

*Photo by Eva Creel, Found on

Ravings of Pure Endearment


When I first came to the old city of Dubrovnik it was hard to distinguish reality from the stage. The more I wondered around the more one became intertwined with the other. Shakespeare once wrote in As You Like It“All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”, but I had never experienced it as I did in this medieval village.  Life had a story like quality, but even so reality jolted it into action leaving an impression that still hasn’t faded even to this present moment.


I met Niko Kovac at the Gradska Kavana (city cafe) located near the town hall. He was an endearing individual who was a principal actor in the Dubrovnik theatre over many years. We sat there amongst touristic voices and clattering coffee cups while he rambled from topic to topic. Ironically emotions from the previous night’s stroll dissolved into Niko’s vibrant tales and sketches not much different than satisfying hunger pangs at a thoroughly enjoyable meal.


The cobblestone was slightly wet, so I made a comment about the weather, and he replied, “It was mildly raining, but not with the Bura wind which blows you into the wall so that you can’t walk in it. It is a very special kind of wind on the Adriatic coast.” My curiosity grew towards the significance of the wind and rock since there was so much mention of them amongst those living along the seaboard. They were so vital that without them there was no existence.


The comment was made that Dubrovnik had such a feeling of theatre somehow, and so Niko began to describe his own feeling. “For me theatre started just outside my window. Can you imagine a five-year-old boy looking down at the market place in the morning? Looking at the villagers who came to set up their booths and sell salad, milk, and cheese…not speaking quietly, but calling you to buy here or there…their cacophonous voices, a kind of music. That is theatre.” Niko was born of parents who met in Dubrovnik and went on to have four children.


“They would start the summer festival with a play by Marin Drzic (Croatian playwright). Every market, fortress, and vacant area became the open stage for tragedies such as Sophocles (Greek) to comedies by Dubrovnik writers, Belgrade writers, English, French and other international writers. There’s opera and ballet. The festival was always in July and August. It lasted for 45 nights. Rambo Amadeus composed a piece for a ballet last summer. There were 25 ballerinas all from Belgrade. It was a marvellous performance.”

Image“Sometimes when I’m  performing in the fortress I come down to the cafe when I don’t have a second act. I come down in costume to have a drink, but I have to pass all the young couples kissing so I go tip-toe, or I start to whistle so they know I’m coming.”

“I’ve been acting here in the Dubrovnik theatre my whole life, but I will mention a name I adore. I met Ljuba Tadic, who was one of the most famous actors in the former Yugoslavia, here in 1990 at the Gradska Kavana with his colleague’s right before the war. He said, ‘Something will happen that I will be very ashamed of…’ He never returned to Dubrovnik again. I met him in Zagreb six months before he passed away. I loved that man, he knew what was going to happen. The people who started the war knew it was going to happen and many suffered.”


“There was an earthquake in the late 1970s’, during the communist era, when the roof of the house where I was born collapsed. It was part of the big earthquake in Montenegro. No one was allowed to publish any photographs of the disaster because of the tourists. There was a journalist who published a picture of my damaged roof in a newspaper, but he was punished. Now the city won’t give me back the house because they need it for offices. My old room is where the office of finance is located ironically. My apartment now is at the bottom of the stairs that lead into a terrace of the Jesuit Church. It was on that stair where we performed the play Romeo and Juliet. I was born there, and I’ve lived here all my life. I love the people and the stone. We have a saying here in Dubrovnik, ‘The stone may be hard, but I love him.’ ”

Niko came to be a dear friend, and with this poem I hope his legacy continues…


Niko, pure soul,

I call to you

You must not grieve

I live within you,

Send all love

Touching the imagination.

These are not dead.

I must not tell you,

You understand

Through the stone and sea

There is no shame in you.

The heart that beats,

Will beat on

These visions

Cannot be twisted.

You have understood

Being a human….

From the beginning

Looking down

From the place

Of your birth.


Niko, consciousness and life

Have ever been,

Part of man

From deep within his soul

In contrast,

Light and darkness


Niko, pure soul,

You have embraced fear.

Courage is your monument

Although it is of no importance

For you have placed

No such value on the external.

So, son of light

Breathe and rest,

Do not grieve

Words won’t only echo,

But will thrive

Theater shares the essence

Of man’s soul.

It will carry on



© Salem Islas-Madlo 2009


In memory of Niko Kovac † October 11, 2009


The Wild Flesh

Image(artist Johannes Stotter)

“In the systems of body work such as Feldenkrais method, Ayurveda, and others, the body is understood variously as six senses, not five. The body uses its skin and deeper fascia and flesh to record all that goes on around it. Like the Rosetta stone, for those who know how to read it, the body is a living record of life given, life taken, life hoped for, life healed. It is valued for its articulate ability to register immediate reaction, to feel profoundly, to sense ahead.

Image(photo from

The body is a multilingual being. It speaks through its color and its temperature, the flush of recognition, the glow of love, the ash of pain, the heat of arousal, the coldness of nonconviction. It speaks through its constant tiny dance, sometimes swaying, sometimes a-jitter, sometimes trembling. It speaks through the leaping of the heart, the falling of the spirit, the pit at the center, and rising hope.


The body remembers, the bones remember, the joints remember, even the little finger remembers. Memory is lodged in pictures and feelings in the cells themselves. Like a sponge filled with water, anywhere the flesh is pressed, wrung, even touched lightly, a memory may flow out in a stream.

Image(Photo found on

To confine the beauty and value of the body to anything less than this magnificence is to force the body to live without its rightful spirit, its rightful form, its right to exultation. To be thought ugly or unacceptable because one’s beauty is outside the current fashion is deeply wounding to the natural joy that belongs to the wild nature.”

-Clarissa Pinkola Estes-


A Play on Words


Since I can remember
It’s been a play on words
From my lips to yours or theirs
Language leaving legends
Letters strung together
Bringing life,light,loneliness,love
Madness or magic


On the minds of men like memory
Riding on trains of time
Ricocheting echoes of voices
Haunting sleepy solitudes
Or gurgling laughter 
Rolling into heroic oceans of humor

Ghosts of mother’s happy guilt
To father’s fairytale fame
Recalling this play on words
Of doubtful dreams
Drinking and driving
Into our consciousness.  

© 2009 Salem Islas-Madlo