on one foot, then
that taste of baked
bread so bright
your mouth is born
in your hand—
of us made
from two people:
the self, something
on a slush-covered
see what I mean?
hear that slight
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 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?—
starting the car,
After awhile, the sun looks
over its shoulder. Every day,
in this window,
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
was a kid
lone in a
I used to do that.
I’d have my football with me, a water-gun in my pocket,
maybe some Sugar Babies.
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
Lots of days I’m in this coffee shop,
writing to make a case for the beauty that begins and ends
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
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:
84 West South Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766
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.