L. A. SEIDENSTICKER


Born in Oakland, California (USA), L. A. Seidensticker remains a northern
California resident, hunkered down in an off-road quarter of Sonoma
County with a husband, assorted children, a vineyard and a stake in a
veterinary practice. She has been published variously, if not impressively.






Book Marks at Early Chapters

Bare foot, I trail Camel smoke room to room. My locally famous
father-in-law, button-ed at the collar, rumples his moon wild hair
with draftsman's fingers: long and blue, they are made to hold
cruel as well as delicate instruments. Though if they do, it is
privately: no one as yet has cried aloud. Evidently transmitting

what has been ordained, he mumbles around a Salem.
Through predator's eyes surveys the news, Vietnam in flames,
Vietnam's broad rivers drawn turn by turn down
into the mandrake root of the jungle, on the watch
of the last mastodon, who shifts his haired feet, tightens himself,
a contracting pupil in the shrinking eye of its own extinction.

My Republican father-in-law, head of the local draft board,
banks on witless compliance: it's a sound bet I'll come adrift
from a husband traded to war. The ground of conflict
shifts of course. Where I live now unrelenting rain rises to cover roads,
leaves school rooms lightless in the midst of shallow seas. White egrets
stroke upwards into trees and sway among the branches,

bridal madonnas supplicating the ghost of the sun. I have walked
in the rain to the river. In its pocked-mirror surface, still
the shore trees reflect in colors of tea and tobacco, the edges
of their living shapes lapping almost into speech. A gunshot dog
is draped across barbed wire: from December through May
high water courses through the dead hair.






Great Uncles

Great uncles take you where the earth falls off.
They bring you with your sack of dry bread
to the edge of the lagoon. Black swans sail,

soft-chime their chambered, silver hearts. They
breast the grassy verge but cannot lift and fly.
Through apricot arches of the Palace to the cold,

deep bay is no more than two breaths. Three beats
over the water to the Golden Gate. The Pacific
shudders and streams as the sun comes into it.

Great uncles do not speak. They carry a stick.
It is for walking in the forests of the park,
and in case of dogs they do not love. Great uncles

knew your grandmother when she was just a girl
and green. They stood with their sticks
and looked out over the mercury water
as the boys sailed gone to war.






September in a Northern Latitude

Every home dream-drunk, no smoke
from any chimney, the road has come undone
on its underworld; a half-audible crank and drone
of machinery, taps on walls, even the placement of beams,

the foraging, until in daybreak's watered milk
the houses sink through fog, down
- - - beneath the footsteps of Gavle's mild thousands,
their pale eyes, discrete sox and emoried nails.

Sieved by lindens, Gavle's rusted-iron light drifts
through the window of the yellow-haired crone,
her sequined dress bluer than the oceanic ceiling that shifts
leagues above the bleached eyes of the drowned.

She hurls a chair leg into shadows that rustle behind her
like burned books falling to ash. In the view down a well
it isn't the descent that dismays, but the green
and bitter cold. The Vasa ship

founders at launch, to rise three hundred years later:
Baltic sea water and rosaries of blind, fingerless cockles
stream her hull, she groans the rinds, seeds and stones
of last appeals from vanished men, and of the women

taken down with their tears and linens and the cinders
of their cooking fires. Bright unaccustomed air shudders
the ship now bone by black bone, creaks her spine

and cracks the mast. My great uncle, when I was six
took me to the LaBrea tar pits. Bottomless, he told me.
These holes go down forever, girly.






En Route

Fishing boats sown across the fertile bay
like visual aids for war games.
Fishing: angled rods, tethered by a line
aslant to the tension of a lightless
center-of-the-world

which holds a boat against flat water,
fishermen in place on water,
which
though it constitutes
so much of blood and bone and flesh
is not what we're intended for.

Iron sky, the sun too huge and strange
to think about. At anchor several dozen
mothballed battleships from World War II,
closed down upon their rusted passageways
and empty holds. In the quarters and galley

a weary mumbling pitched too low for human ears.
Turrets and guns, each shell the weight of a Volkswagen.
As explosives go, is this a little or a lot? We are crossing

the water en route to a crab feed. Our boat's shadow
falls mute and elongated across the fitful bay-bottom,
across the drunken-old-salt oarring of crabs
forward.



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