alligatorzine | zine
Anthony Seidman Ferryboats Delayed: Eight Prose Poems


You were born during a leaf-storm, as a result you’re adept at crossword puzzles. Mother made love to your father, and she dreamt of nail-clippers and running down a tunnel that tapered to a needle’s tip: this meant you would bully others. You already knew you shot blanks when your wife said she was pregnant. You were born during severe drought; hence, your preference for Dim sum and off-track betting. The man you consider as your father loved cigars and cognac. He was infertile as a result of the mumps during childhood; your mother later admitted to a tryst with the liquor-store clerk. You were born during spring…you can’t resist fur or burnt sienna. You were born during the oil-crisis, and debtors dunned you until your death at 53. The newlyweds thought a Vegas wedding was deliciously camp. She insisted they honeymoon in the wine-country. The night you were conceived Father had Super Bowl indigestion; you can’t stand the sound of whistles. So much of what we taste, wear, or fidget has more to do with gloves, daybreak, unopened boxes, than not sleeping with our mothers.

That Same Tune

Poem about three men in the same room. Or five men with bowler hats in the same literary salon and giant phonograph before them. Or poem about six women with blank eyes on the shore. None wear bathing-suits, for none have bodies. Only gauzy gush like waterfall beneath their faces. One woman discovers she is a shark. One man sits down on a stiff chair, another one walks towards the window, and he lights a cigar. Old recording crackles on the phonograph: could be jingle about shaving-lotion or dimensions of a ring orbiting Saturn. Another man siphons into medieval Bagdad. No civil strife, nor familial discord, will engender great poetry. But they can, at times. Especially if you have dead family members beneath the pink oleanders. Another woman laughs madly and finds herself on an assembly line, counting green bottles of beer. I woke up in the interrogation room, strapped to a metal chair. The mustache had yet to be waxed. Agent X and Strawberry complained about bathtubs and feral cats. In Helsinki or Bogota, the cats rouse a din when in heat, and the moon is deaf…perhaps even in cahoots.


It is good to shave off your hair once. To shine the shoes of those amputated from beneath the knees. To whisper sweet little nothings in the ear of a deaf man, or to sit in the back seat of a junked sedan and await your chauffeur. A can of sardines past its expiration date or the first cockroach returning days since your last fumigation, and the Tragedian waxes his mustache. Thus, place burnt matches, clean underwear and socks in your knapsack. Bring a flashlight. The alphabet is dark and deep, and you’ll need to bend beneath the stalactites. Surely beyond the traversal there’s a clean and well-lit pub. You’ll convince yourself to down an ale and swallow some shepherd’s pie. If no starched tablecloth flutters after the crossing, rest assured there’s a phantom, somewhere, awaiting your arrival. Look! There, perched on the branch of the black tree, the tremolo of five fingers waving, greeting you, deep within the torched orchards.

Ferryboat Delayed While Waiting For Instructions

Love, when popped, stains something awful. Love secreted with skill is “milked” for ink, anti-venom. Ideally, love prepares a feast. In the morning, a fragrant white beard exclaims he’s your bedfellow. Or were those crab-nebulae and quasars pounding inside your skull? Love, written in a font like pigeons or busted huaraches. The Two met at a flea market. The ferryboat was delayed. Islands everywhere, and metaphor equals sea-fare, or death, and sometimes desire. Friday means T-shirts as well, a cold beer and warding off the impending famine. He and They had 253 dollars together, and some matches. Both paid no attention to slatterns shrieking and pulling empty cans from the trash bin. Both had forgotten the tartness of the sea. Both possessed an oven in their gaze. Sometimes a couple bakes bread. Sticks together, eggshell to yolk. Sometimes, they part. One demonstrates mourning with spoonful of aspic.

Eye, Hear

I hear a geography in my breathing, jungle beneath each fingernail, vacant lot tart with dust and sunlight, reek of ink and syntax, so foundational, like milk or gladioli. Verb Oh Verb, no more jeremiads about shipwrecks and fallen towers; the odor of semen from old tomes alliterates with dark gardens and fertilizes the feverish sleep of virgins. Verb is growing roots. Strophe ovulates. Couplet perks her breasts. Because my lungs, a landscape. Because my eyes, two lagoons. Because my limbs, a tarantula.


You will die during a downpour because you cheated at cards and once opened a stranger’s mail. Your molars will ache before the fever peaks. You will die while skiing: sudden blizzard, pine tree. That was the coda to your avarice, and abandoning wife and her tumor. You will die in your sleep during a nightmare because you failed middle school algebra. Prior to turning off the light, you placed your sneakers by your bed in case of an earthquake, just like normal. You will die during an earthquake beneath a collapsing overpass because of plate tectonics, and not because you loathed Wagner. One by one, keys are placed in the lock until something clicks. Your hair will start thinning a few months before you dream of the owl. You will see an owl on the night you die. Your son who suffers from aphasia will miraculously mention an envelope and scrabble game. Telescopes, hourglasses, and umbrellas: items you should collect in preparation. As a child you loved watching your father while he honed the kitchen knives. You will die surrounded by your family because you trapped a moth inside a mason jar. You also cheated at cards and once opened a stranger’s mail.


Now the Verb reaches me via conduits and commixtures: fruit of silence breaking flower into scarlet, cartilage and nerve, tamarind, lemon, sulfur, the opened triptych of thighs whose center panel sweats midnight. In this velvet one can’t distinguish camembert from cabernet. Is that grease coagulating on the fields, redolent of garlic and mashed cilantro, or the blackest earth, indistinguishable from blood clotting, bull on hilltop, vinegar pouring on the valley? You Oh Verb rise from the tar. Heaven bubbles with stars and comets. I have levitated, float out the window among black roses, towards the hotel named after your toes. I am reading your hair and sniffing your accent of feverish fans and machetes. Rose of panties scrubbed with soap and left in the shower’s stall. Rose of haunted mansions torched centuries ago. Rose of expired postage stamps and kite caught in oak branches. Rose of Rosa, whose name rhymes with everything molten and mortgaged, like atoms, train station, molasses, ivory. Bells, clanging?

New Religion

When everything is revealed and we hold no grudges; when we speak frankly, and have no need to barter fear for fear; when we—meaning myself and my other self—dread not the blade, nor a man weeping, seated on his bed; when dogs cease howling at the dark, and a shot of tequila proves enough to stir our nerves before walking out the door painted red, and we uncover the key we always hid from our shame, and we no longer blame others nor our self, and we forgive our debts and no longer hedge our bets on the locked black box; when we finally discover for whom we voted, and the ghost in the mirror turns into a knowing grin, resigned, like the condemned mounting scaffold steps; when the wax seal has been broken and the proscription is unfolded, surely we will have reinserted barbed stinger into bee’s abdomen?

Anthony Seidman is a poet translator, born and raised in Los Angeles. The years he lived in Ciudad Juarez introduced him to contemporary poetry from the border region, as well as Latin American poetry. His most recent collections are The Defining Crisis of Your Lifetime is Utopia, a chapbook published by Trainwreck Press of Canada, and a translation of Rodolfo Hinostroza’s Contra Natura, to be released in early February from Cardboard House Press.
/ | © alligator 2022