Poems of the Week – Frederick Seidel




I spend most of my time not dying.
That’s what living is for.
I climb on a motorcycle.
I climb on a cloud and rain.
I climb on a woman I love.
I repeat my themes.

Here I am in Bologna again.
Here I go again.
Here I go again, getting happier and happier.
I climb on a log
Torpedoing toward the falls.
Basically, it sticks out of me.

At the factory,
The racer being made for me
Is not ready, but is getting deadly.
I am here to see it being born.
It is snowing in Milan, the TV says.
They close one airport, then both.

The Lord is my shepherd and the Director of Superbike Racing.
He buzzes me through three layers of security
To the innermost secret sanctum of the racing department
Where I will breathe my last.
Trains are delayed.
The Florence sky is falling snow.

Tonight Bologna is fog.
This afternoon, there it was,
With all the mechanics who are making it around it.
It stood on a sort of altar.
I stood in a sort of fog,
Taking digital photographs of my death.


A Fresh Stick of Chewing Gum

A pink stick of gum unwrapped from the foil,
That you hold between your fingers on the way home from dance class,
And you look at its pink. But you know what.
I like your brain. Your pink. It’s sweet.

My brain is the wrinkles of the ocean on a ball of tar
Instead of being sweet pink like yours.
It could be the nicotine. It could be the Johnnie Walker Black.
Mine thought too many cigarettes for too many years.

My brain is the size of the largest living thing, mais ous, a blue wale,
Blue instead of pink like yours.
It’s what I’ve done
To make it huge that made it huge.

The violent sweetness in the air is the pink rain
Which continues achingly almost to fall.
This is the closest it has come.
This can’t go on.

Twenty-six years old is not childhood.
You are not trying to stop smoking.
You smoke and drink
And still it is pink.

The answer is you can drink and smoke
Too much at twenty-six,
And stink of cigarettes,
And stand outside on the sidewalk outside the bar to have a cigarette,

As the law now requires, and it is paradise,
And be the most beautiful girl in the world,
And be moral,
And vibrate into blank.


The Owl You Heard

The owl you heard hooting
In the middle of the night wasn’t me.
It was an owl.
Or maybe you were
So asleep you didn’t even here it.
The sprinklers on their timer, programmed to come on
At such a strangely late hour in life
For watering a garden,
Refreshed your sleep four thousand miles away by
Hissing sweetly,
Deepening the smell of green in Eden.
You heard the summer chirr of insects.
You heard a sky of stars.
You didn’t know it, fast asleep at dawn in Paris.
You didn’t hear a thing.
You heard me calling.
I am no longer human.


* all poems from Ooga-Booga, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006.

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