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Thursday, 18 June 2015

POET OF THE MONTH #29: Tim Seibles


TIM SEIBLES, c. 2010






SLOW DANCE


Some days I can go nearly an hour
without thinking of the taste
of your mouth.  Right now, I’m at school
watching teenagers fidget through a test.
Outside, the sky is smoky and streets are wet
and two grackles step lightly in yellow grass.

Two weeks ago in Atlantic City
I stood on the boardwalk
and looked out across the water ––
the railing was cool, broken shells
dappled the beach –– I had been
playing the slot machines
and lost all but a dollar.  I
tried to picture you in Paris,
learning the sound of your new country
where, at that moment, it was already night.

I thought maybe you’d be out
walking with the street lights
glossing your lips, with your eyes
deep as this field of water.
Maybe someone was looking at you
as you paused under the awning
of a bakery where the smell
of newly risen bread buttered the air.

I remember those suede boots
you wore to the party last December,
your clipped hair, your long arms
like the necks of swans.  I remember
how seeing the shape of your mouth
that first time, I kept staring
until my blood turned to rain.

Some things take root
in the brain and just don’t
let go.  We went to
a movie once –– I think
it was 'The Dead' –– and
near the end a woman
told a story about a boy
who used to sing:  how, at 17,
she loved him, how that
same year he died.  She
remembered late one night
looking out to the garden
and he was there calling her
with only the slow sound
in his eyes.

Missing someone is like hearing
a name sung quietly from somewhere
behind you.  Even after you know
no one is there, you keep looking back
until on a silver afternoon like this
you find yourself breathing just enough
to make a small dent in the air.

Just now a student, an ivory-colored girl
whose nose crinkles when she laughs, asked me
if she could 'go to the bathroom,'
and suddenly I knew I was old enough
to never ask that question again.

When I look back across my life,
I always see the schoolyard ––
monkey-bars, gray asphalt, and one huge tree ––
where I played the summer days into rags.
I didn’t love anybody yet, except maybe 
my parents who I loved mainly when they
left me alone.  I used to have wet dreams
about a girl named Diane.  She was a little
older than me.  I wanted to kiss her so bad
that just walking past her house
I would trip over nothing but the chance

that she’d be on the porch.  Sometimes
she’d wear these cut-off jeans, and
a scar shaped like an acorn shone
above her knee.  In some dreams I would
barely touch it, then explode. 

Once in real life, at a party on Sharpnack Street
I asked her to dance a slow one with me.
The Delfonics were singing I’ll never
hear the bells and, scared nearly blind,
I pulled her into the sleepy rhythm
where my body tried to explain.
But half-a-minute deep into the song
she broke my nervous grip and walked away ––
she could tell I didn’t know
what to do with my feet.  I wonder
where she is now, and all those people
who saw me standing there
with the music filling my hands.

Woman, I miss you, and some afternoons
it’s all right.  I think of that lemon drink
you used to make and the stories ––
about your grandmother, about the bees
that covered your house in Africa, the nights
of gunfire, and the massing of giant frogs
in the rain.  I think about the first time
I put my arm around your shoulder.  I think
of couscous and white tuna, that one lamp
blinking on and off by itself, and those plums
that would brood for days on the kitchen counter.

I remember holding you against the sink,
with the sun soaking the window, the soft call
of your hips, and the intricate flickers
of thought chiming your eyes.  Your mouth,
like a Saturday.  I remember your
long thighs, how they
opened on the sofa, and the pulse
of your cry when you came, and
sometimes I miss you
the way someone drowning
remembers the air.

I think about these students
in class this afternoon, itching
through this hour, their bodies new
to puberty, their brains streaked
with grammar –– probably none of them
in love, how they listen to my voice
and believe my steady, adult face,
how they wish the school day would
hurry past, so they could start
spending their free time again, how
none of them really understands
what the clock is always teaching
about the way things disappear.


(? 2004)





The Poet:  The following biographical statement appears on THE POETRY FOUNDATION website.  [It is re-posted here for information purposes only and, like the poem re-posted above, remains its author's exclusive copyright-protected intellectual property.]

Poet Tim Seibles was born and raised in Philadelphia. He earned a BA at Southern Methodist University and an MFA at Vermont College of Norwich University.

Seibles approaches themes of racial tension, class conflict, and intimacy from several directions at once in poems with plainspoken yet fast-turning language. In a 2010 statement he shared in
From the Fishouse, Seibles states, 'I think poetry, if it’s going to be really engaging and engaged, has to be able to come at the issues of our lives from all kinds of angles and all kinds of ways: loudly and quietly, angrily and soothingly, with comedy and with dead seriousness Our lives are worth every risk, every manner of approach.'

Seibles is the author of several collections of poetry, including
Body Moves (1988), Hurdy-Gurdy (1992), Hammerlock (1999), Buffalo Head Solos (2004), and Fast Animal (2012), which won the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize and was nominated for a 2012 National Book Award. His work has also been featured in the anthologies In Search of Color Everywhere: A Collection of African American Poetry (1994, edited by E. Ethelbert Miller and Terrance Cummings), Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (2009, edited by Camille Dungy), and Best American Poetry (2010, edited by Amy Gerstler).

Seibles’ honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, as well as an Open Voice Award from the National Writers Voice Project. In 2013 he received the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for poetry. He has taught at Old Dominion University, the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program, and at Cave Canem.

Seibles lives in Norfolk, Virginia. 



Click HERE to read another poem by TIM SEIBLES on THE POETRY FOUNDATION website.

You might also enjoy: 
POET OF THE MONTH #25: Josephine Miles
POET OF THE MONTH #20: Anna Swirzczynska 
POET OF THE MONTH #8: Mohammed Bennis

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