FINGER BECKONING THE PALLID WOMAN FROM MEXICALII. Everything you need from me resides in this, my left index finger cells in their aquatic forests marrow in white armor and the tenacity of gristle or dark birds of blood flitting from trees of twilight and flocking to my chest everything you wish to know about me composes the index finger on my left hand skin is the least interesting part the nail’s a more faithful simulacrum of my character,--stubborn always growing and with the vain aspiration of doing so after death pliable yet victim to the teeth of anxiety my nails bequeath those shards planted between sofa cushions or jutting from the carpet like shards of ancient pottery scattered on the savannah and which others disparage as clippings everything I offer you could be extracted from my left index finger or my left hand that needs to caress the swell of your buttocks or my right hand that after a few dark cold Cerveza Cucapás in a Mexicali diner brushed against your left hand and squeezed gently your arm and here in these lines I ache a heartcrush everything I could offer you is condensed in my left index finger and could teeter from it like rose petal errant and windswept or everything could dangle from it like red velvet ribbon and bronze key (and imagine the shelter my chest could provide when pressed against your breasts and imagine my lips would linger in the sundrench and plaza of your belly) I offer you no ambergris or ingot of gold or cargo of Egyptian cotton only sudden gusts and opened doors a sinking ship and fortuitous isle glistening in the distance or some new anti-venom injected into the victim gasping II. And like that Argentine Tiresias dreaming in the outlaw suburbs of a Buenos Aires crepuscular with yellow roses bribing a woman with the danger of defeat failing to snare her cool and dark laughter in his net of his words and who offered nicotine iodione garden labyrinths and looking-glasses and the muscular cosmos of Thracian lances burning towers knife duels on the pampas so do I, Nylsa, offer you this disheveled bed in a ruinous section of North Hollywood abounding with cheap liquor and smokestacks a fistful of ice aspirin and beer to soothe the workday because here blood-black oil of insomnia runneth over from my pen I offer you a hundred registers of shame bottle shards and sweat on pillow balconies ablaze beneath the chalky tyranny of the moon when I awaken at midnight dressed like minotaur donning top hat at the intersection of San Fernando Blvd and Bedlam I offer you photos of yourself one of you wandering fields of sunflower diesel adolescence another in which you drift in sirocco photo of you in Guadalajara driving your green Beetle and you downshift and chitter across a vast avenue photo of you blue-pale as iceberg after squabble with the man you loved in the only manner one should: frankly, and without quarter photos of you that were never taken nor will ever develop in the darkroom of my ink I offer you the chaparral foothills of my parched city of brush fires and maracas of rattlesnakes I offer you herds of Pentecostal churches and the hysteria of tambourines and sweating matrons with the shriek and strain of hosanna in neon I offer you the empty bar where I navigate through these lines while a mustache sobs jukebox ballads and a goldfish circles in tequila bottle surveyed only by you I even offer you this night littered with pills razors keyholes opening to sweltering motel rooms where lovers lie abed while I writhe in a darkness insomnia has sown with thorns if anything I offer you the other Nylsa I have carved from air without knowing the dark secrets locked inside your deafening still and nightingale-eluding bedroom. III. And the less I know about you the more I can add less I see you the more you flicker like pennons scarlet and standards of blue in the gusts of this poem and you arise on dais of words where the algebra of sparrow chatter and rustle of leaves caress you muscles of poem strain little when in the presence of flesh yet they flex and sweat when your absence rings like moist finger circling the mouth of crystal goblet I invent you so that I can behold you: pale violet wash of twilight where you sat on park bench awaiting rain or the song you hum when you’re alone brushing your hair those moments I carve from words which never coincided with your pulse & breasts heaving as you dash up the tower of 24 landings which clock-hands stack daily so that I hear the clicking your heels across the white marble floor of this page (the heels you wear when evening erects a palace and you cross the hall to red velvet throne before tapestry illustrating duchess & attendant lord in rose garden and galleon in distant approach) better to struggle in this poem than to sleep beside you with my arm resting over your shoulder better the fire I seek the shower of sparks the thunder the You only I grasp words sparking into full blaze phantom from forest red shuddering beyond the combusting forever IV. And yet suppose a metaphor is dangerous like the ticking of a time bomb or blade at the throat of ram and sparks rising from the altar train hurtling down tracks without brakes dermonecrotic venom of the sea wasp black sedan in driveway at midnight or something inconsequential bills of foreign currency no longer in circulation bread crumb on tabletop hair swept across barbershop floor stamp that was licked yet never used neon blinking in the vacancy of a desert night or a surprise box like the golden one wherein there fits a bronze wind-up owl or the black blood of insomnia or every plaza and twilight I associate with the color vermilion and that by linking these things to your name I obscure you until you dissolve like water into water so that by invoking you I lose you I lose the Nylsa the woman who truly is a pallid woman from Mexicali and I open a poem and possess you the way a child possesses earth by eating soil before the earth possess the child when he turns into an old man I possess you not by touch but by stabbing the heat and watching blueness stream from the wounds V. So I scorch your flesh with words until the wind scatters it I shear your hair with words your hair you brush in a bedroom twilight has painted scarlet body part by body part inch by inch I dissolve you the way the executor of a will reads aloud the division of property and goods… to my favorite letter of the alphabet to the letter S as sinuous as your hips I leave your hips to my other beloved letters O and V I leave them the silver ring that glitters on your left index finger and the blue wash-cloth you hang on the knob for hot water I leave your breasts to that word “galleon” and all of the isles I convey with words and as to your thighs which will never open and accommodate my hips I leave them to a globe of vowels and sugar your fingertips I leave to the comets that flash in their cuticles a goat alive and flicking across the field will receive your heart your lips are left to a small ocean rocking in a painting I prop against a stone bench the mystery of fluids churning and bubbling in your bladder in your kidneys in your veins will be left to that magical word “arriviste” most of all your breath your breath of words which will never sizzle in my ear when we can’t sleep and you’re thirsty your breath of our one evening together talking books and travels and love and drinking dark beer in a diner called Manuet’s your breath of birthday cakes and boxes wrapped with elaborate bows your breath of a hundred suitors and champagne frothing into a hundred goblets your breath tangled in the bone fires and the green wires sprouting from the rattling engine of your Volkswagen Beetle your breath across the silence of the moon and the creaking gears of the constellations your breath of cool clay still pliable and buckets of blue paint your breath of lonely zombie movies in drive-in theaters whose clientele consists of tumbleweed coyotes and the junkyard cowboys of every border-town your breath of vapor rising from taco stands and the sweating cook hacks at cow-head meat on wood block and scoops at onion grease with scalding tortilla your breath as vast the smoke curling from village chimneys glimpsed from a snow crag although your breath is for hot temperatures when dogs doze in the shade your breath of heat-wave and sand-storms your breath of summer vacation and the endless drive into the green tropics your breath of finger exercises on an upright piano in a parlor cluttered with books your breath of 2/4 time signature and trills and gold epaulets of a Turkish March your breath of brittle photographs and unwashed dishes in a quiet kitchen where this man could sit in ease at table and write about your breath the Ruah which escapes my grasp the way a metaphor eludes a birdcage the way the moon eludes the leaping waves until all words unravel at the terminus… forever a man writing about a man who is writing about a pallid woman from Mexicali named Nylsa whose breath revives the spirit fluttering through this poem. VI. Nylsa I have done it again writing you when there is no open lattice for me no basket heaping with fresh towels and tart wine left at your door and I am here staring at a locked red door and smoke rises from this landscape which once blazed yet the ground beneath me has etiolated fine dust of cool burnt white and the words flicker the candlewick eats at the wax the way the metaphor swallows allusion after allusion until the verb is exhausted so that silence may reign and like sea-spume and currents gushing into the split hull of a galleon the water rising and rising until the cargo of gold ingots and silver tobacco and rum slosh and spin and eventually pour out into the squall, I discern the darkness rising around me the silence sealing over my lips until I close my eyes to dream you anew and breathe you like a sailor breathes in water.
Anthony Seidman's poetry and translations have recently appeared in World Literature Today, Nimrod, The Bitter Oleander, Skidrow Penthouse, Slipstream, The Black Herald, and in the anthology The Ecopoetry Anthology (Trinity University Press). His collection, Where Thirsts Intersect, is still available from The Bitter Oleander Press.