9-8-2020

Tim Seibles

COMPOSITE

 

Your weight

 

on one foot, then

the other,

 

walking—

 

that taste of baked

bread so bright

your mouth is born

 

again. December:

 

a coin,

cold circle

in your hand—

each

 

of us    made

from two people:

 

your body,

an angel’s

 

tambourine—

the self, something

 

like lamplight

 

on a slush-covered

street: can

 

someone else

 

see what I mean?

Does everybody

 

hear that slight

ringing

NO COMPLAINTS BLUES VILLANELLE

 

All this stuff happened before I got here

Cars clog the highways; our taxes build tanks

I’m not complaining, just can’t see it clear

 

I look in the mirror and the face seems sincere

Turn to the future, but it seems to have shrank

I’m not complaining, just can’t see it clear

 

Just one of those days that happens every year

I ain’t in the news—hard not to give thanks

Alotta shit happened before I got here

 

You walk into church and try not to sneer

Just want a prayer you can take to the bank

You’re not complaining.  God knows it ain’t clear

 

Who’s to say that I couldn’t be queer?

When you fill out the forms, do you fit in the blanks?

I’m not complaining; I wish it was clear

 

You’ll catch me chillin’ at the bar with a beer

What’s not to like when the Right closes ranks?

They got it all wrong before I got here

 

When you go to the movies, the monsters are clear,

But back in the world they run all the banks

Alotta stuff happened before we got here

 

Sometimes this shit     gets a little severe

Can’t blame the folks who use dope to get tranked

 

Who set this in motion before we got here?

It’s just a question—just wish it was clear

 

THE HILTS

 

Second Session​

   

     The see-saw, I remember—

          my big brother stranding me

                up in the air: the

                    bright green willow, red

                         ants running the trunk.

                              Sunday school.  This was  

                         

                                   behind the church. Japanese

                                        beetles were eating the roses. 

                                            I wore a fake tie clipped to my

                                                 stiff, white shirt.

 

 

Having ushered you into the who-knows-what that waited in the world,

having seen your face before that first hard glint hacked your eyes,

 

when they look at you late in life, do your parents find anything familiar?

 

 

 

Sometimes I think

I see myself.  Am I on TV?—

 

getting

a sandwich,

starting the car,

calling somebody,

calling back—

bizzy.

 

After awhile, the sun looks

over its shoulder.  Every day,

 

in this window,

a mannequin

turns his

perfectly

trained

face

 

                                                 

                       The self is real, right?—this who-you-are, this

                       soft wheel: these chronic recollections—

 

                       Does it feel like a trick?    This thing

 

                        you’ve become: some dream re-running

                        in your veins, what you     believe,

 

                        the way you walk—some sign

                        of a life-long shove: your mind,

 

                        a shy animal, force-fed, skinned

 

       

 

                                               In the video

 

                                               before the

                                               police came,

                                               Tamir Rice

                                               was a kid

 

                                               playing a-

                                               lone in a

                                               park near

                                               the gazebo.

 

 

I used to do that.

I’d have my football with me, a water-gun in my pocket,

maybe some Sugar Babies.

 

 

                                                  Before the

                                                  uniform

                                                  opened

                                                  fire,

                                                

                                                 do you

                                                 think that

                                                 boy had

                                                 any idea

                                               

                                                 his story

                                                 was al-

                                                 ready

                                                 written?

                                             

 

Afternoons I would sit in the basement building houses with Lego.

Laundry hung from the pipes and when someone

opened the door, the draft made the shirts

move like ghosts.

 

 

The bones beneath my face—my mother’s cheeks, my father’s tough

brow.  How they’ve added up in me: my brother and I, their lengthening shadows. 

 

Late at night, I find myself thinking like a man overboard, like someone up to his neck:

you find yourself

trapped at a certain age,

 

try to move     try to gnaw through your leg:

whatever it takes—

                                                                       reason against reason against

 

                                                                                     everything else—

 

 

 

Lots of days I’m in this coffee shop,

writing to make a case for the beauty that begins and ends

with us.

 

In the parking lot, there’s this guy yelling

at everything     no one else

can see.  His

 

pants are wrecked, his ragged afro,

mostly gray.  He does

 

not see himself     being

seen. He does not

                  

                    know where he has gone.                                                           

 

“Death hides in the world

 

so we disguise ourselves”

 

                                                  / if we can.

 

 

 

Born the year of Emmett Till, as if a country could itself be a kind of

 

knife, I have lived with some hate    like a blade eased in and withdrawn carefully.  This is the slow way.  Your heart

 

fractured like a skull     but your face seems the same, the streets look just like streets and 

 

look how the day burns down while you reach for a different history—time filling the air     like sunset

 

 

Will this

happen again?—

 

the whole thing

a circle:  us

 

walking around and around

touching the fence:

 

mean religions, dumb schools—

 

us     the lab animals

ruined over and over—

 

this senseless sweat,

these unslept nights, the self

swollen like a sprain.

-from One Turn Around the Sun, Etruscan Press 2019, selected by Fall 2020 PoemoftheWeek.com Guest Editor Angela Narcisco Torres

© 2016 by Tim Seibles. Published 2017 by Etruscan Press
All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher:
 

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Born in Philadelphia in 1955, Tim Seibles has received fellowships from both the Provincetown Fine Arts Center and The National Endowment for the Arts. He also won the Open Voice Award from the 63rd Street Y in New York City. His book of poems Fast Animal (Etruscan Press, 2012) was named a finalist for a National Book Award and received the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. Seibles was also awarded the triennial Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize for Fast Animal. On July 15, 2016, Seibles was named poet laureate of Virginia by Governor Terry McAuliffe. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals including Indiana Review, Black Renaissance Noire, Huizache, Cortland Review, Ploughshares Massachusetts Review and Beloit Poetry Journal. His poem, “Allison Wolff,” was anthologized in Best American Poetry 2010. Seibles lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where he is a member of the English Department and MFA in writing faculty of Old Dominion University. He is a teaching board member of the Muse Writers Workshop. He also teaches part-time for the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA in Writing Program, a low-residency program which features writers from all over the country. A highly active ambassador for poetry, he presents his work nationally and internationally at universities, high schools, cultural centers, and literary festivals. He has been a featured author in the Vancouver International Writers Festival in Vancouver, Canada, in the Calabash Festival in Treasure Beach, Jamaica, and in the Poesia en Voz Alto Festival in Mexico City.