Poem By Vijay Seshadri


You'd have to be as crazy as Dante to get those down,
the infernal hatreds.
Shoot them. Shoot them where they live
and then skip town.

Or stay and re-engineer
the decrepit social contraption
to distill the 200-proof
elixir of fear

and torture the...the what
from the what? And didn't I promise,
under threat of self-intubation,
not to envision this

corridor, coal-tar black,
that narrows down and in
to a shattering claustrophobia attack
before opening out

to the lake of frozen shit
where the gruesome figure is discerned?
Turn around, go home.
Just to look at it is to become it.


He was chronically out of work, why we don't know.
She was the second born of a set
of estranged identical twins. They met,
hooked up, and moved in with her mother,
who managed a motel on Skyline Drive.
But always it was the other,
the firstborn, the bad twin, the runaway,
he imagined in the shadow
of the "Vacancy" sign
or watching through the window
below the dripping eaves
while they made love or slept.
The body is relaxed and at rest,
the mind is relaxed in its nest,
so the self that is and is not
itself rises and leaves
to peek over the horizon, where it sees
all its psychokinetic possibilities
resolving into shapely fictions.
She was brave, nurturing, kind.
She was evil. She was out of her mind.
She was a junkie trading sex for a fix,
a chief executive, an aviatrix.
She was an angel
to the blinded and the lamed,
the less-than-upright, the infra dig.
And she was even a failure.
She went to L.A. to make it big
and crept back home injured and ashamed.


They put him in jail, why we don't know.
They stamped him "Postponed."
But he didn't mind.
The screws were almost kind.
He had leisure to get his muscles toned,

mental space to regret his crimes,
and when he wasn't fabricating license plates
he was free
to remember the beauty
that not once but a thousand times

escaped him forever, and escapes me, too:
ghosts of a mist drifting
across the face of the stars,
Jupiter triangulating
with the crescent moon and Mars,
prismatic fracturings in a drop of dew...


There's drought on the mountain.
Wildfires scour the hills.
So the mammal crawls down the desiccated rills
searching for the fountain,

which it finds, believe it or not,
or sort of finds. A thin silver sliver
rises from an underground river
and makes a few of the hot

rocks steam and the pebbles hiss.
Soon the mammal will drink,
but it has first
to stop and think
its reflexive, impeccable thought:
that thinking comes down to this—
mystery, longing, thirst.

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Other poems of SESHADRI

Three Persons

That slow person you left behind when, finally,
you mastered the world, and scaled the heights you now command,
where is he while you
walk around the shaved lawn in your plus fours,

Life of Savage

I've been excited about him as an individual.
I've met him as a person, emerging from his own shadow.
Indeed it is remarkable.
Indeed it is to be remarked of my friend Savage that

Bright Copper Kettles

Dead friends coming back to life, dead family,
speaking languages living and dead, their minds retentive,
their five senses intact, their footprints like a butterfly's,
mercy shining from their comprehensive faces—

Imaginary Number

The mountain that remains when the universe is destroyed
is not big and is not small.
Big and small are


The house collapsed and I was crushed under the rubble,
pulverized, but here I am,
walking around as if I were alive — 

the swain,
with an oxeye daisy in my buttonhole,
the bitter voluptuary, never satisfied,
the three-legged dog,
the giant under the tiny parasol at
the Fontaine-de-Vaucluse,
the only Abyssinian in the choir of the
Abyssinian Baptist Church.

(Somebody must have done a self-portrait of me.)

Just amazing. I think I could wrap my arms all the way around
the 24,901-miles-circumferenced Earth.