The body in the suitcase is
getting tired of being undiscovered.
It wants to become famous
as its murderer has promised.
It wants to show
its fingerprints and features
and offer clues for solving.
It does not like this cramped death,
its suitcase surroundings.
It wants to rejoice in vengeance,
to have its funeral and mourners.
It wants to come to light in the
eyes of justice.
It wants to prove itself
not guilty—just the victim.
(first pub. in Attention Please, 1978)
I am on an unfamiliar street,
in someone else’s town. The landmarks
seem the same, but where is my house?
I thought I could stay
and recapture what I knew : there—
that street sign—changing as I look at it.
Now a car reels backward down the street.
A bottle flies out the window,
breaks at my feet, a drunken laugh—
my mother’s face in a gash
of window light. But she is younger than I am.
I am old and full of dream-shadows.
The broken glass has become
a slippery path
of sharp stones glinting in a stream.
I am wading across it
through glitters that snap at my feet.
I am cut, my thin blood flowing out of me.
I hear children’s voices taunting.
I pick up my suitcase, stuffed full of glass,
and turn in another wrong direction.
HOUSE, GROWING OLD
he knows the house
knows all its rooms and
what the creakings mean
within the walls
he has been
under the house
crawling around in
the damp earth
helping it brace itself
fixing its water pipes
and looking for
a leak slides down
the corner of a room
all night rain
now he is crawling around
in the attic
wiring and insulation
calling: house house
are you all right
is there anything I can
do for you
(first pub. in The Wormwood Review, 1973)
These passages… dim-lit hallways…
narrow stairs… I have known them before.
Some of them were Home Places. Some
were places of leaving. They all had fears.
Someone stole light bulbs. Someone listened
to comings and goings.
Between the walls of adjoining bathrooms,
someone poked holes, someone peered.
Rooms were small then;
memory does not contain much of them.
Memory blurs with reasons of its own.
How did I come to be me?
So many came through my life. Spoke words.
Sat on chairs. Were important—
then were gone. The stairways were
the worst. I could not be quiet enough.
I had to pass under the window…
try not to breathe…
Mother carried the suitcase
quiet against her body…
Even now I tell secrets instead of…
Even now I tell… even now I…
have no words, though I am wrapped
in layers of poems—
poems that puzzle,
poems that I stuff back in the rooms.
I am under the eardrums of the radio.
I sleep under the loud ceiling light.
Mother returns to shout through
to take me away again.
Where are we going this time, Mother?
THE PIERRE HOTEL, NEW YORK, 1946
(from GOING FAST—Frederick Seidel)
Once again I pack up my grief in a tired suitcase
and lug it forward, inch by heavy inch, over the
wet sidewalk toward a curb which always stops me.
Why go further . . .
the question I always ask
though I have no question mark.
This is not
a formal question,
only a weary repetition.
The grief is all I have left . . .
my only possession;
it is what I need for the next experience.
I tell it to be patient,
there is another room for rent.
I will let it out there to share the view with me.
Wrapped in slumber.
Transparent and intangible.
Body going through a pane of glass.
Becoming ghost of sleep.
Return-prayers on echo.
Sound become soundless.
Portal of light.
Why is this important?
Answers turn away.
Answers are not important.
Variegated light breaks upon glass.
Only the delusions.
Hope for nothing.
Nothing hopes back.
Cry ‘save me’ and be saved.
Hark to the moan in the attic.
Creep up the ladder or stair.
Find what is making
the frightening old thing there.