PF detail from Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Beach Scene, Guernsey (Children by the Sea in Guernsey) - 1883;


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May 2009


Rebecca Seiferle is the author of four exceptional poetry collections, two translations of César Vallejo, and the founding editor of the online poetry journal, The Drunken Boat. She taught English and creative writing for a number of years at San Juan College and was recently the poet-in-residence at Brandeis University. In 2004 she was awarded a poetry fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. Her work has appeared in countless journals and in over twenty anthologies including The Best American Poetry 2000.  She has been the recipient of numerous major literary awards, and a three time Pulitzer nominee. Please visit our Showcase to read more about this remarkable poet.

Goya: Los Desastres de la Guerra | Two Versions of Bear Canyon | In an Age of Propositions


Goya: Los Desastres de la Guerra

The fevered corpse, writing “Nada”
on a white slate, could be anyone,
an apocalyptic Everyman,
holding his own gravestone between his fingers,
his flesh dissolving into
the black ink, the finished figures.

spitting out fluid, dying,
but still struggling to kill, generic
as the women dragged off
toward a dark multitude of faces
while a baby tossed against the wall
cries in a single puddle of light.

But individual. More individual
than any hero, like Agostina de Aragon,
who, finding the artillery silenced,
stood, precariously, upon the corpses
of the Spanish dead and, taking aim, lifted
a torch between two darknesses
to fire the cannon again.

Yet we recognize these people, their faces
dusted with fear and mortar. How they go on,
for years, for centuries—a white handkerchief
pressed to one’s nose—searching for a loved one,
the one body, in a field of remains, or clutching
like all the world, a single shoe
found at the edge of a common grave.

From: The Ripped-Out Seam, The Sheep Meadow Press, 1993

                                            Click to enlarge Rebecca Seiferle's text/images


Two Versions of Bear Canyon

standing beside her, as she sits on a rock beneath
the quietest of skies, the stars paused like the punctum

in night's wrist, my hand touches her shoulder, my thumb
traces the edges of bone beneath her pale and velvet--there

where her skin is naked to the air, as we both somehow are
naked here, cleansed, as if bathed in the living water that pours

without measure from the black stone of the mountain, the body
so present, along the southward horizon, the palpable form

of the earth dreaming--wondering how she can feel the feeling
in me, if it flows like water through fingertips and cells, as something,

whatever it is. . . inexhaustible.  .  . flows around and within
and out of the space in which we stand, so two

most human animals, beneath these clouds whose light
feathers the dark space behind them, so

in inexhaustible love,  this space, so empty, is devoid
of nothing. It holds within its untiring hand, the constellated

pinpoints of light, the clouds with their plumes of breath,
the stretch of the road toward the southward horizon, where a sign

marks the end of the road for any travel other than travel
that goes on by foot, and the mountains themselves, whose body

in my gaze is soft, malleable, a kind of visual embrace, as if
I were held in the arms of the earth, as I hold her in the arms

of the embrace of my breath and my being, and does
it flow through the air, around and within, this boundariless

feeling, and does she feels how it wells up in me, so full of
the darkest, sweetest, most living, water, how the deepest

layers in me have opened like the rock shivering along
its mineral vein, to open into this space, ever flowering

night of my desire for her, where I so feel the feeling in me
that it's the body of the mountains and the sky and stars

and even the few stars of the Great Bear that has dipped
behind the sharp edge of a peak, so present

this love for her, it wells up in me
and fills up my lip, like the bite of a kiss, an anointing

of some more living coal of desire, as if she were a world
that she holds me within, a space so orchard

it is devoid of nothing, quiet as the pulse in her delirious wrist.


When the road ends, I am standing beside
her, as she shadows a rock
beneath the sky where a bear pulses the dark with starfire, 

those seven  stars scooping out the darkness

in ancient night's wrist:
my hand touches her shoulder, my thumb
traces the edges of bone beneath her pale and velvet; there,

on the shoulder of the bear, a cup,or the farrowing of the plough;

her skin is naked to the air, as we both somehow are naked here,
divesting ourselves of our private stories,
the flayed skin of our myths.

how Calissto, a servant of Artemis,
lay down with Zeus when he tricked her, appearing in the form of Artemis.

Along the southward horizon, the palpable form
of dreaming and wonder flows through fingertips and cells,

So she lay down,

as something, whatever it is, so gardened and honeyed, flows
around and within the space in which we breathe, so two

she thought,

most naked animals, beneath these clouds whose light
feathers the dark--limitless and ever pouring forth--

the Earth was young,

so devoid of nothing, it holds
in  its inexhaustible hand:

playing the bear

the constellated
pinpoints of light, the clouds, the plumes of our breath,

with a goddess. She thought

the stretch of the road toward the south horizon, the sign
that marks the end of any travel other than travel that goes on by foot,

the wind was singing

the mountains themselves, as if the deepest geological layers
of the body had opened, the black rock, slivering

and threw them into the sky:

its mineraled vein, to pour forth its dark sweet water.
Animals move through the body of the mountains and the sky,

the asterism,  and there it lay shattered—

and the constellations are shedding their stories
like two undressing to their bright skins.

the recognizable form of the less discernible—

How the present wells up
and fills my lip, like the bite of a kiss: this world

who almost slew her with an arrow,

we hold each other within,  oh space so orcharded
it is devoid of nothing, alive as the pulse in my delirious wrist.

until she heard the wind singing:

When the earth holds us, it holds us like this.


In an Age of Propositions

Are they petals or are they tongues, blue-
not-purple, purple-not-blue, these irises, some shade

of ultraviolet only a bee could name
in the halo of the prismatic, as you name

me, caught in, caught by your arms, even
in the cold light of the porch arguing

with the night that last night had fallen
between us, but so certain, so erect in your stalks,

not abashed, not downcast, but protecting
those inflorescences, from me, from you, from our depredations

in the names of the words that correspond
to what we think we mean

in all those laws we carry within us.
Are they tongues or are they petals, purple-

not-blue, blue-not-purple; the first
flower I ever knew, blooming

around the edging of my grandmother's house
where the ancient foundations gave way

and crumpled into the fertile loam.
I was following the woman who was following me,

that messenger I only sensed murmuring
outside that ancient house of mothers and fathers

as it revolved in space. I was a child, eye to eye
with those flowers, the inner rings of an occluded spot,

a flat colored circular membrane suspended
vertically in the aqueous humor of the eye.

In your eyes, stars and oceans, oceans
and stars, I forget everything but being that meadow,

whose senses correspond to the Greek, Iris
who displayed as her sign the rainbow, these gay,

and yes, I mean it, gay flags, the 7th of the asteroids,
that orbit in which the mind uplifted, directed, upright, to exalt, to restore,

and what I murmur to you in the sweetness
beyond any word,  comes back, marries me,

marries us, on another day where somewhere another vox populi is voting
to keep us from raising

the outrageous color of flesh, bearded or unbearded,
yet we do rise, perennial, persistent,

in a room which is erected of flowers
for no other reason than you gave them to me.

Francisco Goya Third of May”                                      
“Text/Image 5” and “Text/Image 6” by Rebecca Seiferle 
Vincent Van Gogh “Irises”