Photo of Anthony Seidman by Jim Cardenas
Poem at 100 M.P.H
When the engine growls,
when lane markers shoot
laser-white, and desert blurs
over windshield, dust,
cacti, sagebrush torched by
decades of drought, and the
mountains are waves that
splash when light travels
at the velocity of sleep,
you will lose your breath
a minute too slow as Interstate
blasts thru heat, tarpaulin,
rubber and coolants; you will
witness boxcars roll back-
wards into daylight, toy
motels flash above clouds where
no vulture circles, and sand
and wind beyond yesterday where
you’ve already arrived.
Coatlicue, whose name means “Serpent Skirt”
Keeper of bone-keys
ribs, and reveal
red spider spinning her web.
Angel of hallucinogens, mistress
of anesthesia, venom’s
courtesan, castrate me, eat my
foam, slit afternoon from my wrists.
Lady of sulfur,
stir my heat
that I may hatch eggs
of a salamander.
Lady of clay
shatter my pitchers.
Lady of thirst
hone your blade.
Lady of stone,
noon has erupted, tart with dust.
Three slatterns wait
in the temple atrium;
their breasts are pendant, and they
unleash this rain of milk
as I enter you so that
we become the girl
who bled her father from every phallus,
whose dancing makes
the poet write afire
the priest skin the cadaver,
and man sweat his birth anew.
for Heller Levinson
The nitrogen-bloated float of the Portuguese-Man-of-War is wind-pushed over currents
while sea water laps against it; like the pebble & silk threshold of the trapdoor spider, the float cloaks hunger—the dangling medusae skewer fish with the exaction of a Maya prince perforating his foreskin with maguey thorn.
While that float bobs, & rubs against wavelets, a noise is emitted: a squeak like sneaker-
soles stepping across a tile floor, dentist’s hook scraping plaque from tooth enamel, gums bleeding a squish-squeak fork beating eggs in a glass bowl, nails on chalkboard, asthmatic cackle an old VW Beetle heard several blocks off, shifting gears:
a noise only the Portuguese-Man-of-War can emit and
which is done (even if not by will)
to transmit its own to be
Olivier Messiaen, in raptures braiding his plasma with the frozen flecks of ammonia gyring
in the rings of Saturn, stellar combustions spluttering in the left incisor of Catholic paroxysm, he heard that cobalt methane mist of the Ghost in the querulous chatter of birds, & spent years transcribing
thrush dove seagull crow’s caw swallow
in order to reproduce
the vowel from the burning bush, the pizzicato
plicking across proscenium into the womb & Womb, the
wood the nail the squall…
eli, eli, etc.
If rhythm is patterned pitch, and Bedouin sang verse in meter derived from Camel-trot;
if the iamb mimicked the pause
& clang of
(as the blacksmith turned the fiery rod, then struck),
the hammer, the anvil;
if parallelism & catalogues spinning the flames of Ezekiel are a mnemonic device,–
when will I exact a rhythm doubling the thrum of tires on asphalt,
and churring of an engine in traffic, radio tuned to static?
The female tarantula
clacks her fangs rapidly
sucks in grasshopper, innards
mushed in her stew of digestive enzymes,
thorax doubled-pierced, antennae twitching.
The female tarantula
produces that sound before mating,
(noise, like sand poured out of hourglass);
the smaller male’s appendage hairs bristle with the vibrations, the
pitch, the call to mate, his
pedipalps gorged with sperm
from pent-up rivers aching within
his book-lungs heaving urging
the mounting the wrestle & his own underbelly eviscerated
for the female now
chockfull of fertilized eggs
the muezzin intones, the trumpet
starts its fanfare, Armstrong’s West-End Blues,
now Coltrane’s reed vibrates with induction’s milk, bones shivering the
isolate specks of helium & dust in the vast interstellar spaces;
yip of the coyote, wind rustles sage brush, cats yowl
in heat like babes in hot shacks stewing with urine & car oil; now
the liturgy of the slaughtered ewe, the
coiled snake rattles, forked tongue sniffing heat, the chained
dog barks at night as chill glistens the air, & the galaxies
erupt in hydrogen webs expand
cosmic clouds shaped like cream poured into water
and meteor showers with a plip plip plip plip
into the atmosphere...
and a cricket rubs its wings,
awash in its own particular music
AUTHOR’S & EDITOR’S NOTES
Anthony Seidman is a poet translator from Los Angeles. His full-length translations include such classics of Mexican border literature as Smooth-Talking Dog (Deep Vellum) by Roberto Castillo Udiarte and A Stab in the Dark (LARB Classics) by Facundo Bernal. Cardboard House Press has recently released his translation of Contra Natura by Peruvian poet Rodolfo Hinostroza, a collection long considered to be a key contribution to 20th century Spanish-language poetry. Seidman’s most recent collections of poetry include Cosmic Weather (Spuyten Duyvil) and The Defining Crisis of Your Lifetime is Utopia (Trainwreck Press). His poems, reviews, translations, short fiction, and articles have been published in such journals as New American Writing, Ambit, Caesura, Bitter Oleander, Modern Poetry in Translation, Poetry International, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Crítica (Puebla, Mexico), as well as other journals in Argentina and Chile.
The poems in this selection were culled from That Beast in the Mirror, a bilingual collection of Seidman’s work, recently published by Black Herald Press (Chartres-London) with translations into French by poet Blandine Longre.
Paul Stubbs (co-editor at Black Herald Press) writes: Attempting to reverse what Antonin Artaud called ‘this hideous imprisonment of poetry by language’, American poet Anthony Seidman seeks to uncage language by always exposing it to his own regenerative and expansive vision. […] Hence Seidman’s sometimes surreal, mythical, or Corsoesque approach appears almost cannibalistic in its need to eat meaning right down to the metaphorical bone.
And Will Alexander: These poems stun the senses by means of nomadic icons spiralling out of the ether, dialectically shifting between gravity and the cosmos. This collection is not unlike a magnetic solar wind that shifts the reader’s sensibility into a transcendent mist.