“Dante’s Beatrice” by Frederick Seidel (2006)

I ride a racer to erase her.
Bent over like a hunchback.
Racing leathers now include a hump
That protects the poet’s spine and neck.
I wring the thing out, two hundred miles an hour.
I am a mink on a mink ranch determined not
To die inside its valuable fur, inside my racesuit.

I bought the racer
To replace her.
It became my slave and I its.
All it lacked was tits.
All it lacked
Between its wheels was hair.
I don’t care.
We do it anyway.

The starter-caddy spins its raving little wheel
Against the Superbike’s elevated fat black
Rear soft-compound tire.
Remember: racer
Down for second gear instead of up!
Release the clutch—the engine fires.
I am off for my warm-up lap on a factory racer
Because I can’t face her.

I ride my racer to erase her.
I ride in armor to
Three hundred nineteen kilometers an hour.
I am a mink on a mink ranch about
To die inside its valuable fur,
Inside my leathers.
She scoops me out to make a coat for her.
She buttons up a me of sort warm blur.

Is this the face that launched
A thousand slave ships?
The world is just outstanding.
My slavery never wavers.
I use the word “slavers”
To mean both “drools”
And, changing the pronunciation, “trades in slaves.”
I consider myself most of these.

Mark Peploe and I used to sit around
Cafés in Florence grading
Muses’ noses.
Hers hooks like Gauguin’s,
His silent huge hooked hawk prow.
I am the cactus. You are the hyena.
I am the crash, you the fireball of Jet-A . . .
Only to turn catastrophe into dawn.


From “Poems 1959-2009” Frederick Seidel

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