Patty Seyburn


                                                                  Jylian Gustlin

                                                                 Jylian Gustlin

To Navy

 

You live in the free state

of not quite. Not black, not bright—

your hex triplet number—four 0s, one eight,

 

then another 0—

your label first manifested two

centuries ago, the requisite dye, indigo,

 

uniform though other shades

proximal—Regimental, Space Cadet.

In the military (U.S. and Canada) black fades

 

to navy—you are the hue

after a wash or thousand and fabric settles

into the in-between of deep, dark blue.

 

What color flatters better?

Where found in the phenomenal? Perhaps

near ocean floor, where water is wetter

 

though light finds no door

and in its dearth, onyx or pitch or jet.

Aristotle said Horror

 

Vacui—it all gets filled, and named,

one color veers into another, presence to absence,

morning to mourning, claimed.


Molly Picon Moment

 

Our rabbi emeritus commented on Bach and Steely Dan,

and I said, wanting him to know I had been listening

all those high holiday sermons, I thought you were more

of a Goat’s Head Soup guy, which I also could have said

to my former teacher, for whom I feel similar reverence

and was pleased I had the gumption (chutzpah, yes)

to say anything to him at all. Anything. He was pleased.

Well, yes, that’s true. Score one for the congregant.

My teacher and his wife took me to their favorite fish

restaurant in Los Alamitos, and we had a lovely time.

Relationships change, though I cannot imagine greater

intimacy with the rebbe than that moment when I said,

I remember something about you that you said to all

of us, and used it to make a connection between myself

and you. I know we should not revere people—a strange

word, from Latin for fear, to stand in awe of, so perhaps

it is not quite right, here, (fear and awe already have

a marker on them) but I would not mind others wanting

from me a certain quality of respect, and my students

probably get a little scared when I rant on about words.

I have listened to “Goat’s Head Soup,” which some critics

loved and some hated, recorded in Jamaica because

Keith Richards had been kicked out of nine countries

and was bored with Switzerland. Indulgent and moody,

dark, just the sort of music a rabbi and poet might like

and I have said more than once, Mick Jagger is probably

the sexiest man in the world, which distances him from

the men discussed here, but I imagine the three of them

could have a solid conversation, and for various reasons

I would be silent but pleased, having made such a shiddach.


Time Certain

 

I have descended into burial cities

and stepped in a furtive fashion

 

to avoid skull water, fallen for

taleteller, upstream, crewcut

 

(always the compound fellows),

marveled at the minute knots

 

tied between each pearl (tested

against my thinning front tooth),

 

purchased a Turban Squash,

an Oca, a head of Romanesco

 

with its Fibonacci pattern, sliced

and diced a Salsify and Samphire,

 

chewed on many a grooved ferrule,

pinched my purlicue to rid myself

 

of the tenanted ache in my temples,

asked for what I desire, pretended

 

I do not desire, turned “desire”

into a jamais vu with a bad case

 

of semantic satiation, collected

box tents and agraffes—enough

 

liquid stars and pies for a lifetime.

What have you done? What have

 

you done? (Inquiry? Accusation?

This, then that?) I have 99 problems.

 

For and on the record (think LP)

(I told you this would be over soon),

 

you, spontaneous and calendared,

in short-term and long-run, you

 

my bracket, parsing my space

into deserving parts of speech,

 

my gem, my toothsome parsley

stem, are not even one of them.


Patty Seyburn has published four books of poems: Perfecta (What Books Press, 2014), Hilarity (New Issues Press, 2009), Mechanical Cluster (Ohio State University Press, 2002) and Diasporadic (Helicon Nine Editions, 1998). She is an Associate Professor at California State University, Long Beach and co-editor of POOL: A Journal of Poetry (www.poolpoetry.com). Currently, her favorite words are “cruller” and “compote.”