February 2009

Seth Michelson


Seth Michelson's most recent chapbook, Kaddish for my Unborn Son, is forthcoming from Pudding House Publications, and his translation of the book of poetry, El ghetto, by Argentine poet Tamara Kamenszain, is forthcoming from Syracuse University Press.

Dad's Loudmouth Soup    

Sore back, busted hip, a pimple in my left ear,
headache, toothache, scabbed up
knuckles from dry winter skin, plus
GERD, a lazy eye, double-vision, thrice
broken wrists, rage towards my mother,
anxiety, and a stone-dumb brother to boot.
Not to mention the scorched mess
in Iraq, Kashmir, Sudan,
Somalia, New Orleans, and Gitmo, too.
All of this, days smeared with violence,
piles up: heavy, each loss
a car crushed at the junkyard of oblivion,
then stacked in sad towers, the reek
of motor oil, spilt gasoline, the reek
of stale beer and cigarettes
when the party's over and on come the lights:
to your living room, trashed, regret
and vomit clogging your nose,
plugging the arteries of your spirit,
and you, my son, born into this,
soon to bear it, heave forward:
a horse born with notched shoulders
to fit the harness and plow, endure the whip.



Ghostly Matters    

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Only the war was real for her.

Only his pistol-hard body.

Only its starched green uniform,
pants dropped
to spit-shined boots.

Only his gin-breath,

his grunting
over her pinned-down body.

Only the gasp of his finish,
the hard slap to end it.


Only his jacket remains.

Only its epaulets like nooses,
swinging in the ceaseless dream,
swinging for thirty years.

Thirty years,

and now thirty feet from her:

a homeless man begs for change,

his green jacket a remnant
ghosting up from the coup.

Thirty years and this jacket.

Thirty years, and she still tastes him.

Thirty years and only thrusts and more years, the jacket:

the smell of wet wool, his sweaty face,

the blaze of gin,
and the cold concrete floor
beneath her back, unyielding.



Seth Michelson: Poetry
Copyright ©2009 The Cortland Review Issue 42The Cortland Review