Worst When It’s Poetry

Frederick Seidel

Here’s a naked fellow dressed up in some clothes,
Arrogantly flaunting what he actually loathes –
The Savile Row swagger and the nonchalant pose!
He’s who he isn’t and he makes sure it shows.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
I’m thinking, what would mother do?
And what would Kafka if he knew?
Emily Dickinson was Nobody, too!

I’d say the day looks like there’s nothing new.
It’s simply someone the sky is talking to.
Sprinklers on Central Park’s Great Lawn are hissing mist,
A smell simply too delicious to exist.

Sweet, sweet, sweet! You drown in it, I’ve drowned.
The currents undersea wave our hearts around.
You’ll be so happy that I’m cured of snoring and now I snore
No more.

There’s an Emily I met downtown recently.
Dante’s Beatrice suddenly appeared to me!
I don’t know her last name.
Dante famously never was the same.

A maiden I don’t know transfigured me
In one brief moment for eternity.
From one brief meeting with someone so young,
Dante was translated to a higher sphere and left our days of dung.

It’s my opinion my friend Michael Hofmann is a wizard.
Every page of German, Hofmann eats a gizzard,
Translates the untranslatable
Words, words, words.

Worst when it’s poetry –
But even Joseph Roth’s Radetzkymarsch.
Mandelstam could absolutely not be –
Then Clarence Brown and Merwin came along and did.

I’m thinking green, but the English-speaking sky is blue.
I tell you what I’m going to do.
They tell me what they’re going to do.
Here’s what my words will do today.

The words are at the other end.
I’ll have to drive.
I’ll take the car.
It isn’t far. That’s where they are.