Anthony Seidman

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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
           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 
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 
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. 
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
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
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. 
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.