local_library The Argument

by Rebecca Seiferle

Published in Issue No. 52 ~ September, 2001

from Bitters

I cannot believe in the saccharine

comforter, the eyewash of light,

                                  that All,

regardless of will or desire, suffocate in heaven’s wing.

Even in my father’s decrepit Saint James,

stolen from one of his many wives,

its binding flaking away from having been read too much,

                      I find no word

of that vague realm.

                                 Our Father

                                 who art in Heaven, etc.

Only the divine roosts

at those altitudes, like rookeries

of angels on an unscalable cliff,

                                 and what’s left to us

is the body at some unsettled date,

rising to everlasting

                                  and on

and on and on and on.

So where did it come from,

this plump realm of cherubs, where

an aged Jehovah’s Witness who always

wanted to play the piano insists

she’ll be playing “Clair de Lune”?

The priest at the funeral will speak of nothing else

but those wings waiting, hung upon their hooks, tailored suits

in a clothing store we never expected

to afford. O dim realm,

I do not think

the dead are in heaven. My brother

who killed himself on Sunday

is not today caught up in an angel’s wing.

Nor would he have wanted to be.

I sit with him in the swamp each morning, by the sad fact

of his torn and discarded flesh;

neither of us says anything. It’s all too clear–

the light of the body

is all we know

of paradise.

account_box More About

Rebecca Seiferle is the Editor/Publisher of The Drunken Boat. Her third poetry collection, Bitters, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon this Fall. Poems from the collection have appeared or are forthcoming in Partisan Review, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, etc. Rebecca's last book, The Music We Dance To (Sheep Meadow 1999) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. The title poem won the Hemley Award from the Poetry Society of America, and another poem was published in Best American Poetry 2000. Her first book, The Ripped-Out Seam, won the Writers' Exchange Award and the Bogin Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her translation of Vallejo's Trilce was the only finalist for the 1992 PenWest Translation Award.