Though Death May Cast Its Shadow
a basket brimming with fish
a grip of grapes
the warmth of bread baking
my tongue divides the waters
and the diluvials
quench the roots of an oak tree
My tongue spoken by another tongue
a pitch in a village patois
a verb that flicks like a fish
My tongue tougher than dust
a flick of lizard’s tail
scattering into prickly bush
My language riddled with cavities
cow skull bleached under the sun
and the gnats delirious
My teeth telling me to taste a verb
while that verb bakes
Sometimes the Overcoat steps out from behind the oak,
and hitchhikes alongside a highway blackened with rainwater.
Your doorbell rings.
He’s someone who has dice to toss,
a ring to appraise, a deed that requires
some tidying up—you know the type—
neither cardsharp nor assassin, but clever enough
to take advantage of a full cupboard
and some decent wine.
In a jiffy, the roof sinks;
your stock plunges like a circus acrobat into a bucket of water.
He was the shade spreading over the family photos.
All those years he slept under ponds
in forests where wolves hunt children bedazzled by breadcrumbs;
for decades, he crumpled, like gloves
left in the garden shed, but now he’s
in the kitchen steam, the cell phone vibrating
on its back like an overturned beetle,
the raised eyebrow of the bank teller who sees some
blip on the screen as she enters your deposit.
For a lifetime, he’s been ticking the interest you owe
on the loan you didn’t sign, the sin that never soaped your thighs,
the shattered goblet, the vow to fund
an armada that burned at bay. Or did it?
Scatter like squirrel, slip into crack like lizard, or flee like fugitive who can’t escape from wasps inside his skull. Run, plunging, headfirst, shoulder-deep into mud. Run, treading water, and splurging a frothy web behind you. Run inside your small apartment: first, towards the wall, then up it, across the ceiling, then back to where you started, then straight ahead to the wall, and so on. There’s a mouth opening wider behind you. The mouth trailing you, gaping, as swift as a shadow. Run like when your high school coach yelled Run! Run! Crash into yourself, catching up with projected self, and sprint past him, run for days, until you see him on horizon curving in your favor, and you run into him and he opens like a shadow before a cave’s entry, like a mouth, and you understand you are running inside, past teeth, over tongue, down throat, running into the dank heat and meat, where you have been running all along.
© Anthony Seidman
Anthony Seidman’s most recent collection of poetry is A Sleepless Man Sits Up In Bed, published by Eyewear Publishing, London, and Smooth Talking Dog, translations from the Spanish of Roberto Castillo Udiarte. He has recently published poems and translations in The Bitter Oleander, World Literature Today, Poetry International, Modern Poetry In Translation, Ambit, and Critica (University of Puebla, Mexico).