“1937.” A Poem by Frederick Seidel

From the Collection “So What”

June 25, 2024  By Frederick Seidel


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It’s always about to rain except
When it’s already raining, like now.
They go from the pub to the cinema through the rain,
To the newsreel and the Disney cartoon,
With tickets that are half-price

One day a week in the afternoon.
It was the Basque city of Guernica last week,
Weeping under airplanes dropping bombs.
Walt Disney is not Picasso,
But his art is gloriously sunny,

But Mickey Mouse has already said
The poems of Lorca will never be funny.
Disney, the century’s genius, makes amends.
Only he can make butterflies
And hurricanes make friends.

D. H. Lawrence is a kamikaze
Burning up the sky
On his way to bite
England explosively and die.
He has bad English teeth

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That are sharp as a shark
And a burning brain
That sings like a lark.
Silkworms eat mulberry leaves to feed
Rainer Maria Rilke the silk he needs

To address the angelic orders.
Even the enormous angels
Dismount from the sublime, dismount
From Pegasus, the horse with wings,
And instead of wine, sip brine.

The nostrils of the T. S. Eliot crocodile
Lurk just above the surface of the river Nile.
His periscope is two nostrils that watch like eyes.
His snout stays submerged
In water bitter as bile.

Kisses of passion grunt like electroshock
And cause convulsions and rigor mortis
And sexually join together
Two hard-shelled hunchbacks,
Each shaped like a tortoise.

They’re Eliot, they’re Lawrence,
Each honking on and on, on his moral high horse.
If Lawrence caught her,
Lawrence would slaughter
Emily Dickinson, Eliot’s daughter.

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Some will get sick and some will die
But that is not the reason why
A small plane
Tows an advertisement
For a nearby bar and restaurant

Through the sky
Above the beach at Gibson Lane.
It is the opposite of insane.
Everybody knows Pete the pilot.
It’s his plane,

Which he crashes without harm now and again.
Black marvelous waves, white August,
Is the summer song of Gibson Beach.
There’s a skywriting plane crossing the sun
With a marriage proposal from someone for someone.


So What: Poems - Seidel, Frederick

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Excerpted from So What: Poems by Frederick Seidel. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright © 2024 by Frederick Seidel. All rights reserved.

Frederick Seidel
Frederick Seidel
Frederick Seidel has been hailed as “the poet of a new contemporary form” (Dan Chiasson, The New York Review of Books) and “the most frightening American poet ever” (Calvin Bedient, Boston Review). The poems in Frederick Seidel Selected Poems span more than five decades and provide readers with some of Seidel’s most powerful work. Frederick Seidel’s many books of poems include Peaches Goes It Alone, The Cosmos Trilogy, Ooga-Booga, Poems 1959–2009, Nice Weather, and Widening Income Inequality, all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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