The origin of red ants…dandruff and itchy armpit. The origin of wine, as much the grape as the hindquarters of a roan stallion. They took his toys away and he wept, he railed. The origin of sharks…the fluttering moth and insomnia, or twitching of nervous left foot. As an adult, they built a wall between his hands and lover. Her black hair turned into an octopus. That was the origin of a pistol and obituary. The erasure of lizards with wing-spans like the red wood, a thunderbolt deep in the desert. The razing of cheap housing, linked to mushrooms and the thinning population of possums. The origin of mathematics: an eclipse, a legion of crabs covering the esplanade. After she died, he paused to hear the wind and voice of insects. He knew the ants were stitching a scripture of venom. The madmen sniffed and laughed. Its ending is its origin, he said, picking up a handful of mud to smudge a target in the center of his chest.
Why Desire Rhymes With Fire
A fragrance of strawberry pervades the city and syntax turns aquatic. Now wine pours blue and rinses mud from eyes buried in work-boots. This means a season of coitus. The couple flutters past the purple curtains of their window, and the great thumb and forefinger pins their flame-tinctured wings against the moon. Fireflies now inhabit caryatids. Lighthouse at the tip of cigarette. Sphinx holding a bouquet of roses and the mantra of the staircase and garret which brims over with the fragrance of fruit. The boy scribbled plum and sky against the white construction paper. Scribbled and the paper opened. Lianas, bewitched. A weather like syntax became humidity. Words proved to be water, and just as ambulatory. The boy was laughing. The jilted bride picked up the pillow with His name embroidered. She put the pillow to her ear. Heard an alarm-clock ring. The white gulls in the wind desired, then expired.
The origin of open windows…blue umbrellas and ribbons. The origin of delight…scissors, diorama of ant tunnels, zippers. Childhood remains something locked inside an empty DVD case. Adolescence sticks to one’s fingers and making art out of paste and construction paper results in a telepathy not different from ice floes or microorganisms feeding a lake the color red. As a boy, he loathed piano lessons. Crows perched on the staves, and his thumb resting on middle C ached for iguana rainfall and steam rising from asphalt. The music he heard, an origin of hibiscus, or panther. When his father died, he remembered his son’s birth. The skin, violet, flushed with redness. The origin of the death-rattle, infants bleating. When they took away his toys, he wept. He wanted the frigid dens of the deep. Ink spurting from startled octopi. The origin of kites: the weight of water. So much of street mutt originates from blue whale.
Tanka or Tonka
A tough choice, like betting on silkworms or the rambunctious crow. My uncle once rode my BMX bike into the deep-end of the swimming pool on a lark. He left it there, much to the chagrin of my mother. He died penniless and attached to a ventilator, for one can’t suck the oxygen from water. Cherry petals and the exuberance of spring still remind me of the worm, of dark waters where the ship-wrecked regard themselves in empty mirrors. I kept my toys outside, and the yellow tractors and trucks gathered sand in their axles. Yellow, the color of death, the color of old pages in a novel once read aboard hundreds of cross-continental jets. A barren rock. A missed tryst. The poetasters are painting ties and silk fans, but they know that toys rust. My father died last November, and I can’t recall a thing about the leaves, the weather, the drizzle that did or didn’t lick the asphalt black. I felt his death-rattle the way a spider detects a vibration on a silken thread. All of the calligraphy in this century can’t cleanse me of his gnarled grip.
Now the Verb reaches me via conduits and commixtures: fruit of silence breaking flower into scarlet, cartilage and nerve, tamarind, lemon, sulfur, the opened triptych of thighs whose center panel sweats midnight. In this velvet one can’t distinguish camembert from cabernet. Is that grease coagulating on the fields, redolent of garlic and mashed cilantro, or the blackest earth, indistinguishable from blood clotting, bull on hilltop, vinegar pouring on the valley? You Oh Verb rise from the tar. Heaven bubbles with stars and comets. I have levitated, float out the window among black roses, towards the hotel named after your toes. I am reading your hair and sniffing your accent of feverish fans and machetes. Rose of panties scrubbed with soap and left in the shower’s stall. Rose of haunted mansions torched centuries ago. Rose of expired postage stamps and kite caught in oak branches. Rose of Rosa, whose name rhymes with everything molten and mortgaged, like atoms, train station, molasses, ivory. Bells, clanging?
Anthony Seidman is a poet and translator from Los Angeles. His most recent collections are The Defining Crisis of Your Lifetime Is Utopia (Trainwreck Press) and Cosmic Weather (Spuyten Duyvil). His full-length translations include A Stab in the Dark (LARB Classics) by Facundo Bernal, and Confetti-Ash: Selected Poems by Salvador Novo (The Bitter Oleander). He has published translations, poetry, reviews, and essays in journals like New American Writing, Poetry International, Black Herald, Ambit, Modern Poetry in Translation, and in the anthologies Poetics for the More-Than-Human World (Dispatches Editions) and The Ecopoetry Anthology (Trinity University Press).