Pour libations to gods from the ear of the cup; don’t craft their images to wear on your fingers. Make any sacrifice barefoot. Put your right shoe on first, eschew public roads. Remember, planets do not love you – they are vehicles of divine vengeance: only the moon and sun can be trusted. Marvel at silence, try to be silent for five years and if all else fails, recall the tetraktys – the first four numbers, which when added together, equal ten, the perfect digits – the harmony, believed Pythagoras (“chief of the charlatans,” eye-rolled Heraclitus) in which the Sirens sing.
Whatever you do, don’t eat vicia fava – the pale broad bean may act as receptacle for the soul. You’d be a consumer of souls and that’s no way to live.
Some claim the mild legume an aphrodisiac and you know how the boss frowns on all things carnal. You need no degree in philosophy to see how it resembles the testicles.
As for that rude black freckle it bears – you can’t tell me that’s not the prefect of omens. Who needs democracy? One man, one bean – light or dark – one vote: that’s no way to run
a nation-state. They are hard to digest, hinder concentration – please, it’s tough enough to wade through the oracle’s elliptical comments. Poor bean, conscripted as container of sex, spirit and luck,
minding its business, predestined to mean.
Yesterday, a man named Stephen Alternative wed a nice girl with the last name, Smith.
She became Barbara Alternative.
What would it be like to be forever the other?
My name remained my own.
I know – don’t tell me – it’s my father’s name. I am still steeped in the patriarchy yeah yeah yeah and worse, a named shortened from endless Eastern European glottal syllabics for what shtetl from which we hailed or what blue-collar profession my ancestors performed with such integrity to satisfy the homogeny police.
Tell me again, with a sharp stick: I should have chosen a new name in some uncorrupted language but I stuck with the status quo because Latin holds up well, over time.
I thought everyone would do this.
I meant to fit in.
I have a lot of dinner parties and try to invite people not like me, not like each other.
No one has a very good time, but no one leaves early, out of fear they will be the subject of chortling.
At home in bed, they think glad thoughts about the course of their lives and when they turn off the lights and the moon turns on, they say aloud, Hello, Nothingness, Where Have You Been Hiding?
Unsightly root crop, durable tuber unburdened by beauty’s chores I like mine baked with crisp skin washed up on Irish shores from the Spanish Armada’s wrecked galleons –
“the devil’s plant” in France – to eat one, a sin – member of the deadly nightshade family – remember them? that bella- donna felled Marcus Antonius’ troops.
I prefer mine mashed You, pocked, amorphous shaped, are the most pedestrian, plainest Jane of staples, ardently endorsed by Antoine Augustine Parmentier
(humble servant of the 16th Louis) who believed the mass of French peasants I like mine small and roasted should love it as he did, long-imprisoned by ill-tempered
Prussians during Wars enduring Seven Years: ah, the stamina of pain. But what are looks and dates, 7,000-year-old spud, patata, pomme de terre –
translatable and edible until you’re green and poisonous – most of us embitter after salad days. Desiree, Amandine fried I think the world of you
Maris Piper, Kerr’s Pink pancake, gnocchi, au gratin Mona Lisa, Yellow Finn, Fingerling Sussbury Gambit, who’d not take a chance on your survival, you have made your way
into the new world, upended the supremacy of rice and grain – what would the Peruvian gang say now? I like mine shredded, browned and
served between a poached egg and buttered toast on the democracy of a clean plate. May we all maintain such dignity in the face of slander, myriad eyes
on and upon us, bathed in dirt from birth – no easy berth, yours – sideman, second fiddle – how few of us valued at what we’re worth – what exactly are we worth? Pureed with leeks
and butter into a soup Oh Russett Burbank – the greatest of your bountiful gifts, itself, is bounty – fill, sate, satisfy, I fear it’s more than I will be or do.
-- Patty Seyburn has published three books of poems: Hilarity (New Issues Press, 2009), Mechanical Cluster (Ohio State University Press, 2002) and Diasporadic (Helicon Nine Editions, 1998). Her poems are currently in Boston Review, DIAGRAM and Hotel Amerika. She is an Associate Professor at California State University, Long Beach and co-editor of POOL: A Journal of Poetry (www.poolpoetry.com). She recently won a 2011 Pushcart Prize for her poem, “The Case for Free Will,” published in Arroyo Literary Review.