Anthony Seidman

Three poems from 'That Beast in the Mirror' (2022)

Photo of Anthony Seidman by Jim Cardenas.
Photo of Anthony Seidman by Jim Cardenas.

Poem at 100 M.P.H


When the engine growls,

when lane markers shoot

laser-white, and desert blurs

over windshield, dust,

cacti, sagebrush torched by

decades of drought, and the

mountains are waves that

splash when light travels

at the velocity of sleep,

you will lose your breath

a minute too slow as Interstate

blasts thru heat, tarpaulin,

rubber and coolants; you will

witness boxcars roll back-

wards into daylight, toy

motels flash above clouds where

no vulture circles, and sand

and wind beyond yesterday where

you’ve already arrived.



Coatlicue, whose name means “Serpent Skirt”


Keeper of bone-keys

unlock my

ribs, and reveal

red spider spinning her web.


Angel of hallucinogens, mistress

of anesthesia, venom’s

courtesan, castrate me, eat my

foam, slit afternoon from my wrists.


Lady of sulfur,

stir my heat

that I may hatch eggs

of a salamander.


Lady of clay

shatter my pitchers.


Lady of thirst

hone your blade.


Lady of stone,

noon has erupted, tart with dust.


Three slatterns wait

in the temple atrium;

their breasts are pendant, and they

unleash this rain of milk


as I enter you so that

we become the girl

who bled her father from every phallus,

whose dancing makes

the poet write afire

the priest skin the cadaver,


and man sweat his birth anew.




for Heller Levinson


The nitrogen-bloated float of the Portuguese-Man-of-War is wind-pushed over currents

while sea water laps against it; like the pebble & silk threshold of the trapdoor spider, the float cloaks hunger — the dangling medusae skewer fish with the exaction of a Maya prince perforating his foreskin with maguey thorn.


While that float bobs, & rubs against wavelets, a noise is emitted: a squeak like sneaker-

soles stepping across a tile floor, dentist’s hook scraping plaque from tooth enamel, gums bleeding     a squish-squeak     fork beating eggs in a glass bowl, nails on chalkboard, asthmatic cackle     an old VW Beetle heard several blocks off, shifting gears:


                                    a noise only the Portuguese-Man-of-War can emit and

           which is done (even if not by will)


                                        to transmit its own to be





Olivier Messiaen, in raptures braiding his plasma with the frozen flecks of ammonia gyring

in the rings of Saturn, stellar combustions spluttering in the left incisor of Catholic paroxysm, he heard that cobalt methane mist of the Ghost in the querulous chatter of birds, & spent years transcribing

thrush     dove      seagull      crow’s caw        swallow


in order to reproduce

           the vowel from the burning bush, the pizzicato

           plicking across proscenium into the womb & Womb, the

           wood the nail the squall … 

                                                        eli, eli, etc.





If rhythm is patterned pitch, and Bedouin sang verse in meter derived from Camel-trot;

if the iamb mimicked the pause

                                                        & clang of

            (as the blacksmith turned the fiery rod, then struck),

           the hammer, the anvil;

if parallelism & catalogues spinning the flames of Ezekiel are a mnemonic device, —


when will I exact a rhythm doubling the thrum of tires on asphalt,

the lurch

and churring of an engine in traffic, radio tuned to static?




                                                        The female tarantula

clacks her fangs rapidly


sucks in grasshopper, innards

           mushed in her stew of digestive enzymes,

thorax doubled-pierced, antennae twitching.


                                                        The female tarantula

produces that sound before mating,

(noise, like sand poured out of hourglass);

the smaller male’s appendage hairs bristle with the vibrations, the

pitch, the call to mate, his

pedipalps gorged with sperm

from pent-up rivers aching within

his book-lungs heaving     urging

the mounting     the wrestle     & his own underbelly eviscerated

in cannibal-glut …


for the female now

chockfull of fertilized eggs

                                                  lacks protein.




                        That is

the muezzin intones, the trumpet

starts its fanfare, Armstrong’s West-End Blues,

now Coltrane’s reed vibrates with induction’s milk, bones shivering the

isolate specks of helium & dust in the vast interstellar spaces;

yip of the coyote, wind rustles sage brush, cats yowl

in heat like babes in hot shacks stewing with urine & car oil; now

the liturgy of the slaughtered ewe, the

coiled snake rattles, forked tongue sniffing heat, the chained

dog barks at night as chill glistens the air, & the galaxies

erupt in hydrogen webs                expand

           cosmic clouds shaped like cream poured into water

and meteor showers with a     plip       plip  plip       plip


                       into the atmosphere …

and a cricket rubs its wings,

           awash in its own particular music




Anthony Seidman is a poet translator from Los Angeles. His full-length translations include such classics of Mexican border literature as Smooth-Talking Dog (Deep Vellum) by Roberto Castillo Udiarte and A Stab in the Dark (LARB Classics) by Facundo Bernal. Cardboard House Press has recently released his translation of Contra Natura by Peruvian poet Rodolfo Hinostroza, a collection long considered to be a key contribution to twentieth-century Spanish-language poetry. Seidman’s most recent collections of poetry include Cosmic Weather (Spuyten Duyvil) and The Defining Crisis of Your Lifetime is Utopia (Trainwreck Press). His poems, reviews, translations, short fiction, and articles have been published in such journals as New American Writing, Ambit, Caesura, Bitter Oleander, Modern Poetry in Translation, Poetry International, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Crítica (Puebla, Mexico), as well as other journals in Argentina and Chile. 

The poems in this selection were culled from That Beast in the Mirror, a bilingual collection of Seidman’s work, recently published by Black Herald Press (Chartres-London) with translations into French by poet Blandine Longre.

Paul Stubbs (coeditor at Black Herald Press) writes: Attempting to reverse what Antonin Artaud called ‘this hideous imprisonment of poetry by language,’ American poet Anthony Seidman seeks to uncage language by always exposing it to his own regenerative and expansive vision.  […] Hence Seidman’s sometimes surreal, mythical, or Corsoesque approach appears almost cannibalistic in its need to eat meaning right down to the metaphorical bone.

And Will Alexander: These poems stun the senses by means of nomadic icons spiralling out of the ether, dialectically shifting between gravity and the cosmos. This collection is not unlike a magnetic solar wind that shifts the reader’s sensibility into a transcendent mist.