by Sean Singer

A Significant Poem

Let me see what is in the cold harp
Of your heart, and its red bracelet.

If there is a compass turning
Or an arrow points its wheel
To your cherry motion,
There must be a sea of sad things,
Of a basin tasting your skin,
The light movements of anemones
And palpable consequences.

And the motions are dark as a salesgirl,
And their aromatic mocha,

Instead of tender words,
Which are thin paper lanterns with animal candles.

Poem with Groucho Marx Refrains

If you have been transformed by the fire,
you have been like many; yet there are more traps.
There are women in linen skirts, filled with blossoms
or parts of blossoms, in enlarging gardens.
A man is only as young as the woman he feels.

An owl, yellow as a ladder, is hinged to the night.
Where is the place he carried from Paris
like artificial fruit? Seeing through maple dark
he dives into a fieldmouse, just poised in sweet opera.
Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.

So powerful was her presence I understood the meaning of forms.
A form only listens to the bed, or to the light-green saucer.
I give grief away; far too many belong to that.
And I will make sacrifices to feel that again,
soft as Vermont in the throat of a bird.
Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others.

O you tender wood platform, with a microphone
strange as the figurehead on a ship.
Or some chairs unfolded and enjoying peoples' legs.
Although empty now, these seats have observed much.
People hold tightly to habits, and their buckets collect the sap.
I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it.


for Rebecca

The worst part is when I think
I heard his voice…

or white wallpaper—raw air
that smells of coffee beans.

Once I invented a room
with silver skin—

translucent, tin moon for
we are here alone

and it seems, almost—
he wishes I were an onion,

so I can feel his thumb
peel my layers.


There is something of a fascist in me.
In me, punching & steaming, gray smoke
Whips from the edges. Most of it like a bruised
Fruit. Others like that, hunched underneath the grave man.
He's in charge of all the dials, the murmurs & silt.
One turn of the crank-such preserved marshaling.
He is handsome, stiff, baroque. The morse of his voice
Is a pattern. The line of force in a bird skull.
The concussion and fissure. He craves efficiency,
Dilution of a whale carcass on a shore, washed about
Then rain-hewn, decreasing until it is only a simple
White harp on the shore. This man demands things
In his glossed hat, boots & snarl. He covets women
With blue eyes. Why is that? All of them now,
Pale as termites. Doubly sad, bold crease in his ordered landscape.
He is in charge of what? Nightmares, ghouls,
Handsome creatures. Once, brown fur and black
Eyes were humped over a frau, thriving, grouped
In darkness. He is a bulldozer, his unspeakable tool.
Ice-shod, sneering, he is a shattered oak. He directs
Other voices under the black hat: Old to the left,
Strong to the right. Fingers along the neck of
The beautiful slave. She tears at his shirt.
Names sewn under his skin.

The Fine Satin of the Eureka Brass Band





Your hurts are iridescent sea slugs.
You wear those reticent pink fringes.
Coils of light warm my face.
Something lopes easily through the trees.
Your voice is the radiator steam.
Orange bodies of earth float to my nose
and I taste you, a thunderstorm of sullen red.
Touch the paved hole of their noise
which more than I can, moves
by the Ebony Lounge
infused with faith & thin tuxedos.
They weren't that thin,
The music in 1961 was not austere
or clusters of silver like fish on ice.
This song is a jointure, as the half-cow girl
eating feta cheese
knew she was heavenly all night.
Whatever the self describes describes the self.
The green water of loss was like that day.
There is a sole sapling with its Irish perfumes.
One moment, my arms were the vessels & solar leaves.
Strange Singer stood on the shore,
where foam will draw his prints into the full harbor.
One man's tercentenary umbrella in a warm glove.
I love the parade, its brass grasping.
Vita brevis, ars longa.
at last, dogs eat their breakfasts,
at last, the river of the brass band moves, everything tender,
dark muscle contractions under the sun-peach waves.

Sean Singer's poems have appeared in Pleiades and are forthcoming in Callaloo. He was a waiter at Breadloaf and won an Academy of American Poets Prize. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.