Frederick Seidel’s most recent book of poems, Widening Income Inequality, was published in February. (May 2016)

Near the New Whitney

In the Meatpacking District, Not far from the new Whitney, In a charming restaurant, I showed how charming I can be. I showed how blue my eyes can be. I showed I can be Dante first catching sight of Beatrice. The maître …

Me

The fellow talking to himself is me, Though I don’t know it. That’s to say, I see Him every morning shave and comb his hair And then lose track of him until he starts to care, Inflating sex dolls out of thin air In front …

Epithalamion for Stein and Stein

Two hummingbirds visit the privet, Flickering your eyes, drumming your heart, Here and gone before you blink. You walk airborne toward the start. Fifteen minutes’ drive to the beach and ocean, Ten to Long Beach and the bay. Jimmy the dog is …

Remembering Elaine’s

We drank our faces off until the sun arrived, Night after night, and most of us survived To waft outside to sunrise on Second Avenue, And felt a kind of Wordsworth wonderment—the morning new, The sidewalk fresh as morning dew—and us new, too.

France Now

I slide my swastika into your lubricious Place Clichy. I like my women horizontal and when they stand up vicious and Vichy. I want to jackboot rhythmically down your Champs-Élysées With my behind behind me taking selfies of the Grand Palais. Look at my arm raised …

The Bird on the Crocodile’s Back

The man can’t stay awake. He falls asleep. It’s noon, it’s afternoon, repeatedly he falls in deep, Seated at his desk or in an armchair, as if to try to write a poem meant A flash flood of sleep and drowning on Parnassus in his tent, …

Karl

In memory of Karl Miller (1931–2014) The trees are waving their arms around Like some ridiculous performance of modern dance. They look like ludicrous John Hollander raving about the excellence Of late Auden. Stop this nonsense! You’re not dancers! At Ninety-second and Broadway, I’m afraid that’s …

My First Wife

My first wife, and last! Nine lives ago, at least. Forty-five years ago divorced. Sleek sloop without a mast. The sleek sloop Happiness dismasted, Broken into sticks on the rocks. The best wife I have ever had, the …

Robespierre

Who wouldn’t like to have the power to kill
Friends and enemies at will and fill
The jails with people you don’t know or know
Only slightly from meeting them a year ago,
Maybe at an AA meeting, where they don’t even use last names.

Polio Days

Why did they send us to summer camp—were they being parental? Swimming pools—any gathering place—were considered plague central. Everywhere you went, billboards displayed the smiling faces March of Dimes kids offered up to go with their metal leg braces. Imagine being inside an iron …

Man in Slicker

A man is talking to himself again. He strolls down Broadway in the rain. He’s hidden in a slicker, so he’s yellow, obvious. A rainy day on Broadway looks like Auschwitz, more or less. He has a fancy accent so he isn’t Jewish, is he? …

‘This Book Has Heat’

Rachel Kushner at her house in Los Angeles, March 2013
A young woman from Reno, an artist (and motorcyclist), comes to New York and the Seventies downtown art scene, and is promptly dubbed “Reno” by one of the art scene people. That’s the starter motor for Rachel Kushner’s novel. Reno is intelligent. She is shy and bold. She is attractive.

Green Absinthe

For Joe Lelyveld and Janny Scott ’Twas brillig and as if I’d drunk Green absinthe the night before. The bed felt like an upper bunk Ten miles above the bedroom floor. Maybe it’s because I did, Maybe it’s because I …

Moto Poeta

In memory of Stephen A. Aaron (1936–2012)

You were the loudest of us all by far,
And the sweetest behind your fear,
Brilliant expositor of Arthur Miller and
  Shakespeare.
There you are at the beginning of your career Bellowing like a carny barker
In the Freshman Commons, selling tickets
  to some
HDC production with your tuba voice and
  bigger nose.…

Back Then

Negroes walking the white streets Was how it seemed on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. One morning in 1971 it began. I converted so to speak on the spot to the Ku Klux Klan. My big blue heartfelt eyes hid in a hood and white sheets, …

Midwinter

Midwinter murder is in my heart As I stand there on the curb in my opera pumps, Waiting for the car to come and the opera to start, Amid the Broadway homeless frozen clumps. Patent leather makes my shoes Easter eggs by Fabergé.

Midterm Election Results, 2010

My old buddy, my body! What happened to drive us apart? Think of our trips to Bologna. Think of our Ducati racebikes screaming. We drank hypersonic grappa. We got near the screaming Goyas. What’s blinding is Velázquez. We never left the …

Charlie

In memory of Charles P. Sifton (1935–2009) I remember the judge in a particular Light brown chalk-stripe suit In which he looked like a boy, Half hayseed, half long face, half wild horse on the plains, Half the poet Boris Pasternak with a banjo pick, …

One Last Kick for Dick

In memory of Richard Poirier (1925–2009) Old age is not for sissies but death is just disgusting. It’s a dog covering a bitch, looking so serious, looking ridiculous, thrusting. The EMS team forces a tube down your airway where blood is crusting. Imagine internal organs full of …

Evening Man

The man in bed with me this morning is myself, is me, The sort of same-sex marriage New York State allows. Both men believe in infidelity. Both wish they could annul their marriage vows. This afternoon I will become the Evening Man, Who does the things …

Our Gods

Older than us, but not by that much, men Just old enough to be uncircumcised, Episcopalians from the Golden Age Of schools who loved to lose gracefully and lead— Always there before us like a mirage, Until we tried to get closer, when they vanished, …

Homage to Cicero

Anything and everyone is life when two Radios tune to the news on different stations while A bass recorder pulses familiar sequences of sound waves, An old sad sweet song, live. A computer On stage listens to it all and does a print-out Of it …

Men and Woman

Her name I may or may not have made up, But not the memory, Sandy Moon with her lion’s mane astride A powerful motorcycle waiting to roar away, blipping The throttles, a roar, years before such a sight Was a commonplace, And women had …

1968

A football spirals through the oyster glow Of dawn dope and fog in L.A.’s Bel Air, punted perfectly. The foot That punted it is absolutely stoned. A rising starlet leans her head against the tire Of a replica Cord, A bonfire of red …

What One Must Contend With

There was a man without ability. He talked arrogance, secretly sick at heart. Imagine law school with his terrible stutter!— He gagged to be smooth. But he wasn’t good. Hadn’t he always planned to move on to writing? Which of course failed, how would it …