Two Poems

Frederick Seidel

February 30th

The speckled pigeon standing on the ledge
Outside the window is Jack Kennedy –
Standing on one leg and looking jerkily around
And staring straight into the room at me.

Ask not what your country can do for you –
Ask what you can do for your country.
Here’s how.
That wouldn’t be the way I’d do it.

I’m afraid you leave me no choice now.
The sequence begins with the grooves
Of the carving board
Filling with roast beef blood.

Everything keeps changing and we want it to,
But don’t want anything to change.
The pigeons fly back and forth
And look like they’re looking for something.

I went to sleep in Havana,
Turned over on my back in Saigon,
And woke up in Kabul,
With Baghdad as both air conditioner and down comforter.

The speckled pigeon standing on the ledge
Outside the window looks really a bit like me,
Me standing on one leg and looking jerkily around
And looking right into the room at me.

Unshaved men run Iran.
In consequence, Nixon with his five o’clock shadow
Rises from the grave to campaign.
His ghost can’t stop – even in broad daylight.

In certain neighbourhoods, you hear a victim singing,
Corazón, you’re chewing on my heart!
Don’t forget to spit the seeds out!
Rat-a-tat. Shot dead in the street.

The pigeon outside on the ledge
Came back from Iraq with PTSD.
It stands there, standing on one leg in speckled camouflage,
Staring in through the window at the VA therapist.

Everything keeps changing and we want it to,
But don’t want anything to change. Stet.
Everything keeps changing and we want it to,
But don’t want anything to change.

Every day I don’t die is February 30th,
And more sex is possible.
Flocks of pigeons are whirling around and flash white
In the sunlight like they know something.

Here’s what. Here’s who needs to be made up.
Here’s who I would do.
The make-up artist is hard at work in the Oval Office.
The fireplace fire is lit with the air-conditioning on full blast.

To Philip Roth, for His Eightieth

I’m Mussolini,
And the woman spread out on my enormous Duce desk looks teeny.
The desk becomes an altar, sacred.
The woman’s naked.

I call the woman teeny only because I need the rhyme.
The shock of naked looks huge on top of a desktop and the slime.
Duce! Duce! Duce! is what girls get wet with.
This one’s perhaps the wettest one’s ever met with.

Mussolini often did this,
Boots on, on the desk he worked at.
I’m sitting in my desk chair staring at IT and Oh she likes that.
She likes me staring at her box office.

Isn’t everything theatre? That’s what’s real.
I’ve got the face of an anteater
That sticks out like a penis to eat a meal.
I’m a chinless, cheater, wife-beater attending the theatre.

It has to be someone else’s wife.
Of course!
I live alone with my life.
One divorce for me was enough divorce.

I think of the late Joe Fox and his notion
That he couldn’t sleep without a woman in his bed.
He also loved the ocean
And published Philip Roth when filthy Philip first got read.

When pre-spring March snow soft-focuses the city,
And the trees express their branches like lungs showing off their bronchi,
And the lined-up carriage horses stomp their hooves and whiten patiently,
I stay chained to my desk, honky honking honky.