Two Poems

Frederick Seidel

A Dimpled Cloud

Cold drool on his chin, warm drool in his lap, a sigh,
The bitterness of too many cigarettes
On his breath: portrait of the autist
Asleep in the arms of his armchair, age thirteen,
Dizzily starting to wake just as the sun
Is setting. The room is already dark while outside
Rosewater streams from a broken yolk of blood.

All he has to do to sleep is open
A book; but the wet dream is new, as if
The pressure of De Bello Gallico
And Willa Cather face down on his fly,
Spread wide, one clasping the other from behind,
Had added confusion to confusion, like looking
For your glasses with your glasses on,

A mystically clear, unknowing trance of being ...
And then you feel them – like that, his first wet dream
Seated in a chair, though not his first.
Mr Hobbs, the Latin master with
A Roman nose he’s always blowing, who keeps
His gooey handkerchief tucked in his jacket sleeve,
Pulls his hanky out, and fades away.

French, English, math, history: masters one
By one arrive, start to do what they do
In life, some oddity, some thing they do,
Then vanish. The darkness of the room grows brighter
The darker it gets outside, because of the moonlight.
O adolescence! darkness of a hole
The silver moonlight fills to overflowing!

If only he could be von Schrader or
Deloges, a beautiful athlete or a complete
Shit. God, von Schrader lazily shagging flies,
The beautiful flat trajectory of his throw.
Instead of seeking power, being it!
Tomorrow Deloges will lead the school in prayer,
Not that the autist would want to take his place.

Naked boys are yelling and snapping wet towels
At each other in the locker room,
Like a big swordfighting scene from The Three Musketeers,
Parry and thrust, roars of laughter and rage,
Lush Turkish steam billowing from the showers.
The showers hiss, the air is silver fox.
Hot breath, flashes of swords, the ravishing fur! –

Swashbuckling boys brandishing their towels!
Depression, aggression, elation – and acne cream –
The eco-system of a boy his age.
He combs his wet hair straight, he hates his curls,
He checks his pimples. Only the biggest ones show,
Or rather the ointment on them caked like mud,
Supposedly skin-colour, invisible; dabs

Of peanut butter that have dried to fossils,
That even a shower won’t wash away, like flaws
Of character expressed by their concealment –
Secrets holding up signs – O adolescence!
O silence not really hidden by the words,
Which are not true, the words, the words, the words –
Unless you scrub, will not wash away.

But how sweetly they strive to outreach these shortcomings,
These boys who call each other by their last names,
Copying older boys and masters – it’s why
He isn’t wearing his glasses, though he can’t see.
That fiend Deloges notices but says nothing.
Butting rams, each looks at the other sincerely,
And doesn’t look away, blue eyes that lie.

He follows his astigmatism toward
The schoolbuses lined up to take everyone home,
But which are empty still, which have that smiling,
Sweet-natured blur of the retarded, oafs
In clothes too small, too wrong, too red and white,
And painfully eager to please a sadist so cruel
He wouldn’t even hurt a masochist.

The sadistic eye of the autist shapes the world
Into a sort of, call it innocence,
Ready to be wronged, ready to
Be tortured into power and beauty, into
Words his phonographic memory
Will store on silence like particles of oil
On water – the rainbow of polarity

Which made this poem. I put my glasses on,
And shut my eyes. O adolescence, sing!
All the bus windows are open because it’s warm.
I blindly face a breeze almost too sweet
To bear. I hear a hazy drone and float –
A dimpled cloud – above the poor white and poorer
Black neighbourhoods which surround the small airfield.

That Fall

The body on the bed is made of china,
Shiny china vagina and pubic hair.
The glassy smoothness of a woman’s body!
I stand outside the open door and stare.

I watch the shark glide by ... it comes and goes –
Must constantly keep moving or it will drown.
The mouth slit in the formless fetal nose
Gives it that empty look – it looks unborn;

It comes into the room up to the bed
Just like a dog. The smell of burning leaves,
Rose bittersweetness rising from the red,
Is what I see. I must be twelve. That fall.