Frederick Seidel

Frederick Seidel’s latest collection is Peaches Goes It Alone.

Poem: ‘Moto Poeta’

Frederick Seidel, 1 August 2019

Now and again, I feel a throb Passing through my body like a sob, Which is both painless and of no consequence, Like a wave washing up on a beach, But which feels like or prompts the thought It may be the beginning of a stroke,

But probably it is just the irregular heartbeat Of atrial fibrillation (AFib) Or starting up a reluctant motorcycle. The word throb makes it sound As if it had to do...

Poem: ‘The Blue Suit’

Frederick Seidel, 7 June 2018

Richard Anderson, master Savile Row tailor, Opens the eleventh-floor hotel room door Wearing a new suit so blue It makes me smile, Something no suit has been able to do for quite a while. Welcome to room 1111 at the Carlyle.

When earlier in the morning Richard crossed the street To the pharmacy opposite, A stranger coming out of Zitomer’s cried out, ‘My God, that suit is

Every time I sleep I leave a stain. When I wake up, I climb out of a drain And step into my feet and it is plain That when I walk away I leave a lane Of garbage on the carpet in the train.

Francisco Franco (El Caudillo) pokes his head up from the drain Where he’s been hiding with Saddam Hussein. He waterboards the peasants with champagne. Now maybe they’ll vote to give this...

Poem: ‘In Late December’

Frederick Seidel, 15 December 2016

For Mitzi Angel

The man using the pay phone on Wall Street, His back to you, is using it as a urinal, And urinating – only logical! Our degradation is complete.

The young woman, a crazy smile pickled in brine, Cross-legged on the sidewalk in a T-shirt that says TOMORROW, Holds a sign telling her sad story. She’s reading a paperback of Lolita, stealthily, behind the sign.


Poem: ‘Trump for President!’

Frederick Seidel, 30 June 2016

A perfect week for digging up the block. If you care, you repair The infrastructure or it will despair. Bear with the noise! We aren’t made of air.Tyrannosaurus rex on tires, gorging horribly, Fucks the street in bursts and jerks. The operator riding it bucks and charges forward And resumes his hippopotamus mouthfuls.

The scene’s a slaughterhouse With dead meat screaming....

Poem: ‘Worst When It’s Poetry’

Frederick Seidel, 5 May 2016

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...

Poem: ‘America’

Frederick Seidel, 4 February 2016

Hemingway and Wallace Stevens got in a fight, Drunken fisticuffs in Paris over who was right. En garde! Put up your dukes! Then one of them suddenly pukes. The moon turned into the sun overnight.

Pound isn’t on Mount Rushmore yet. Support to put Pound there is hard to get. Add Ezra Pound to Mount Rushmore! Add his face to the other presidents! Let South Dakota hear his antique

A man with the bulging belly of the rich man of his tribe, Older than middle-aged, and of course with many wives, Possibly the tribal chief but possibly a tribal scribe Who eats and drinks a lot and abundantly thrives, Walks through Central Park to get to the Met, And, after, over to Madison, destination Sant’ Ambroeus, A restaurant whose name rhymes with enjoy us, To meet and eat...

Poem: ‘Down below Riverside Park’

Frederick Seidel, 7 May 2015

Down below Riverside Park, On the river side of the West Side Highway, I walked along the bicycle path The Hudson flows past hugely, Across the way from New Jersey.

And on the other side of the river, The New Jersey side, full of ugly, I saw miserable architecture, I saw the efforts to make something, I saw somethings that were nothing.

On a stroll near Gracie Mansion Along the walkway...

The motorcycle looks somewhat dated but is indisputably an angel. Like an electric chair before the current goes on. Like an electric chair before the switch is thrown. You’ve eaten your last meal, the priest has left the room. The motorcycle between your legs is an angel Revving its desmodromic basso profondo into a scream. It’s Massimo Tamburini’s great 1994 Ducati 916...

Poem: ‘To Stop the World from Ending’

Frederick Seidel, 11 September 2014

A man sits counting the floor tiles of the bathroom floor, Counts silently left to right, then right to left, while pressure mounts, And while, in urgently increasing amounts, His sphincter speaks up like a kazoo and starts to snore.

Six miles later, working at his desk, the man Nears Antarctica and the palm-tree beach, And reaches for a hand to hold, a harbour he can’t reach. The man...

Poem: ‘Morning and Melancholia’

Frederick Seidel, 17 April 2014

Mr X, a bureaucrat at the UN Secretariat, who, with his wife and child, Lived in a collapsing Gatsby mansion in Oyster Bay My wife and I rented half of for that summer, depended for everything On Shantilal, the sweet houseboy with a shy moustache Who did everything with a smile:

Plumbing, painting, roof repair, keeping immaculate the long white gravel drive, Electrician, cook, butler,...

Three Poems

Frederick Seidel, 12 September 2013

A Problem with the Landing Gear

Cars travelling the other way On the other side of the double yellow dividing line Carry people you don’t know and never will. The woman on the other side of the bed reading a book Is likewise going somewhere else.

You are and you aren’t yours. It’s like you’re on the other side of the road From yourself in your car. You’re on the...

Two Poems

Frederick Seidel, 11 April 2013

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...

Poem: ‘The Lovely Redhead’

Frederick Seidel, 30 August 2012

In the coloured section of St Louis, back When life was white and black, I’m skimming the modest rooftops in a stolen black Cadillac, Which happens to be my father’s, and I fly too high, And wake up in my bed this morning wondering why I’m an old white man in bed in 2012 in Manhattan Not next to a lovely redhead whose skin is satin. Pardon me if I grab the remote before I...

Poem: ‘Track Bike’

Frederick Seidel, 19 July 2012

The bicycle messenger who nearly knocked you over Was me trying to. That was me circling Columbus Circle On a track bike, the kind with one gear and no brakes.Look out! No brakes with a message! I flashed around the velodrome Of my life, clinging to your steeply banked curves, And discovered the New World.

It’s as if your body were itself a person And the person wasn’t you....

Poem: ‘Rome’

Frederick Seidel, 1 December 2011

I impersonate myself and here I am, Prick pointing at the moon, teeth sunk into your calf. I ought to warn the concrete that my passion dooms the dam. The poem I’m writing looks up at me and starts to laugh.

Summer! Of course you are! You are my miracle! Just now we were in Rome. I have to be in Rome with you to be so lyrical – Or else it’s noon Alaska-time, the Auschwitz...

Poem: ‘Egypt Angel’

Frederick Seidel, 8 September 2011

I’m not on your side, whichever side you’re on. My enthusiasm for Nasser is long gone. Hail, Hosni Mubarak, and farewell! There’s the old dictator dolt On TV, a contraption of dyed hair and hair gel. Angels in revolt Fill Tahrir Square. The angel Gabriel blows his horn To announce to the reborn, You’ve been born! And Koranically commands, Recite!Here are the things...

Poem: ‘London’

Frederick Seidel, 11 March 2010

The woman who’s dying is trying to lose her life. It’s a great adventure For everyone trying to help her. Actually, death avoids her, doesn’t want to hurt her.

So to speak, opens her hand and gently takes away the knife Everyone well-meaning wants her to use on herself. There is no knife, of course. And she’s too weak.

If you’re too ill, the clinic near Zurich...

Poem: ‘Then All the Empty Shall Be Full’

Frederick Seidel, 11 February 2010

I see you in the morning and I see you in the evening. That doesn’t stop the other things. The shorebirds and the shellfish make merry in the giant oil spill. The fire drill bell rings and rings and rings. Not everyone who wants to will. I see you in the morning and I see you in the evening.

It’s back to school. And, in our district, it is time to vote. It’s time to...

Poem: ‘Istanbul’

Frederick Seidel, 6 August 2009

Stray dogs with a red plastic tag in one ear Have been licensed By the city to be safe and allowed to live in the street, So they wander around, or more likely just lie there, Healthy, checked by a city vet, without a care. They’re red-tagged Turks and they’re an elite. You walk past them in the street. They’re bums, they’re the homeless, not educated. It’s...

Poem: ‘Lisbon’

Frederick Seidel, 26 February 2009

Quite frankly, nothing much happens. You walk downhill all day From the fascistically monumental Four Seasons Ritz Hotel. I have to say, I’ve had a pleasant stay. My Junior Suite makes me feel like Mussolini, it is huge. I think of the edifice as Salazar in stone. Salazar’s slogan for Portugal was ‘Proudly Alone’, My kind of dictator. He wanted a grand hotel in Lisbon...

Poem: ‘France for Boys’

Frederick Seidel, 21 July 2005

There wasn’t anyone to thank. Two hours from Paris in a field. The car was burning in a ditch. Of course, the young star of the movie can’t be killed off so early.

He felt he had to get off the train when he saw the station sign Charleville – Without knowing why – but something had happened there. Rimbaud explodes with too good, With the terrible happiness of light.


Poem: ‘A White Tiger’

Frederick Seidel, 4 March 2004

The golden light is white. It is the colour of moonlight in the middle of the night If you suddenly wake and you are a child In the forest and the wild Animals all around you are sleeping. You are in your bed and you are weeping For no reason. It is because it is tiger season. The big-game hunters’ guns are banging. The corpse of a real beauty is hanging From a tree in the darkness,...

Poem: ‘Gethsemane’

Frederick Seidel, 22 January 1987

My life. I live with it. I look at it. My spied on, with malice.

It’s my wife. It’s my husband. It sleeps with me. I wake with it. It doesn’t matter.

If I’m unfaithful – if I drank too much – It’s me. It’s mine. It’s all legal. I smell the back of my hand, And like the smell.

Twenty-five years ago when I was still alive. I was twenty-five....

Poem: ‘Morphine’

Frederick Seidel, 6 November 1986

In memory of Jane Canfield

‘The speed of light is not the limit. We Are free. We glide. Our superluminous Velocity will take us far. For us, The superluminous is only the Beginning of our birth. How born we are. Compared to how we started. Vast, oh vast. A lifetime as the measure couldn’t last, The nearest destinations were too far: A billion years to reach the one inside You if...

Poem: ‘On Wings of Song’

Frederick Seidel, 8 May 1986

I could only dream, I could never draw, In Art with the terrifying Mrs Jaspar Whom I would have done anything to please. Aquiline and aloof in the land of the button nose, her smile Made her seem a witch, my goddess, Too cool, too cold. She was my muse Because she hardly spoke a word.

We used to pronounce her name to rhyme with Casbah, Mimicking her fahncy Locust Valley lockjaw. Say Christ...

Poem: ‘The Blue-Eyed Doe’

Frederick Seidel, 19 January 1984

I look at Broadway in the bitter cold, The centre strip benches empty like today, And see St Louis. I am often old Enough to leave my childhood, but I stay.

A winter sky as total as repression Above a street the colour of the sky; A sky the same gray as a deep depression; A boulevard the colour of a sigh:

Where Waterman and Union met was the Apartment building I’m regressing to. My key...

Two Poems

Frederick Seidel, 3 March 1983

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...

Poem: ‘Empire’

Frederick Seidel, 4 June 1981

The endangered bald eagle is soaring Away from extinction, according to the evening news – Good news after the news, after The stocking masks and the blindfolds, Contorted and disfigured nature in the dying days of oil. What a surprise happy ending for the half hour. Eagles airlift above the timberline – cut to Their chicks nesting in the rocks.

The TV anchorman who predigests it...

Poem: ‘Scotland’

Frederick Seidel, 5 June 1980

A stag lifts his nostrils to the morning In the crosshairs of the scope of love, And smells what the gun calls Scotland and falls. The meat of geology raw is Scotland: Stone Age hours of stalking, passionate aim for the heart, Bleak dazzling weather of the bare and green. Old men in kilts, their beards are lobster-red. Red pubic hair of virgins white as cows. Omega under Alpha, rock hymen, fog penis – The unshaved glow of her underarms is the sky Of prehistory or after the sun expands.

A popular clip on YouTube shows a local news reporter trying to interview a costume-shop owner who’d been charged with cyberstalking. The woman is dressed as a giant rabbit and refuses to...

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Two Americas and a Scotland

Nicholas Everett, 27 September 1990

Whether in person or in print, self-consciousness is unsettling. Self-conscious writers, like self-conscious speakers, can’t help betraying that they’re more concerned with their...

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Venisti tandem

Denis Donoghue, 7 February 1985

A year or two ago, Geoffrey Hartman urged literary critics to declare their independence. They should not regard criticism as an activity secondary to the literature it addressed, but as an art...

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