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Poems by Richard Seltzer

Mist that Rises

The river breaks to channels,

the channels to jets of racing water

broken by rock after black rock

to droplets flying in formation

past the edge of the earth

suspended

their plummeting

jostling, joining, streaming,

and breaking again to droplets in the wind

sideways, rising, swirling

meeting other droplets

rising from the pounding depth

and drops of falling rain formed from the rising mist.

There is no shadow in this valley of death

where all is mist

and nothing is remembered,

where everything that falls must rise

and fall again

as mist

on the camera lens.

(written January, 1998, at Victoria Falls, on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe)


The Way of the Web   

Who owns the Internet? -- No one.

Who controls the Internet? -- No one.

Where is the Internet? -- Everywhere.

Can you understand all and penetrate all with the click of a mouse?

To produce things and to make them well,

but not to sell them,

rather to give them away freely to all,

and by giving to become known and valued;

To act, but not to rely on one's own ability,

to build on the works and lessons of others,

and to let others do likewise --

this is called the Way of the Web.

The best is like water.

Water benefits all things and does not compete with them.

Water dissolves barriers.

Water reaches out and covers the earth.

This is called the Way of the Web.

[written 1995, intended as epigraph for the book The Way of the Web]


Finnegan Died

(On the occasion of the closing of Thee Coffee House, San Angelo, Texas, and the assemblage of its' nostalgic friends, 1970.)

Finnegan died,

as people do every once in a while,

so they held a funeral, an Irish funeral,

and relatives and old friends who hadn't seen him for months or years all gathered,

and it being winter, they held the picnic inside by candlelight;

and everybody had such a good time

that Grandpa promised to die next year so they could have another good time just like it,

and Grandma volunteered for the next year,

then all the aunts and uncles and cousins and third cousins and friends,

till they had two centuries all booked up,

and some pessimist in the crowd complained that he probably wouldn't live long enough for them to celebrate his funeral,

and one of the aunts complained that hers was scheduled after one of the cousins, and she wasn't going to play second fiddle to any mere cousin;

so Finnegan got up out of his coffin and told them to stop their squabbling --

they'd just open up a coffeehouse,

and every week they'd close it again,

and if people died, well, they could do it when they felt like it, in no particular order;

but everybody could get together anyway, once or twice a week,

and celebrate the funeral of the coffeehouse.

[published in Colorado North Review 32/1&2, p. 137]


The View from Beacon Hill

Black Church spires

married in sunset silhouette --

Muscovite

power

of darkness --

(and no film in the camera).

[published in Colorado North Review 32/1&2, p. 138]


Brief Reprieve

Beneath the pound of the rain

and the rush of the tides,

a gentle peace abides,

a weary ease.

A thrush chirps softly,

calmly through the thunder;

a worm crawls from under

the burden of earth.

It's a reverential hush:

liquid peace pours from heaven,

as God snores

in weary ease.

published in The Calhoun Literary Magazine, May, 1966; also published in Colorado North Review 32/1&2]


On the Invasion of Cambodia, May 5, 1970

In May the bombs blossom.

The sweet aroma of gas fills the air.

The sing-song

Mekong

May song

me

doe

ray

me lie

me down to sleep,

and pray the Lord

(what else can one

two

three

four,

right face

the press of the crowd, shouting, mad

men giving orders

on the borders of insanity,

a neutral nation

at least officially,

but everyone knows

thyself

is an archaic term

in jail

waiting for trial,

by hook or by crook,

we'll pull this impotent giant

to a hard

line on

and on and on and

onward, Christian

humility

in defense of freedom is no

situation

comedy

featuring

Nixon, Mitchell, Agnew,

and a fourth horseman of the Apocalypse

to be announced,

so stay tuned

to looney tunes,

on most of our network stations,

brought to you by,

bye

happiness

is a warm gun,

in the age of hilarious,

who cannot wash away our sins

with a flood

of tear

gas,

for there was a limited supply

of war,

one day

in May

the bombs blossom.

[written May,1970 in New Haven, CT]


Things Are War or Less the Same

may

next spring

not be

silent

majority

of housewives use Dove

so gentle to the hands

of this callous

calley

assed

the president for mercy

and the president said, "Oh, pardon me,"

and kept his peace,

for peace is a precious thing

and shouldn't be given away lightly,

it's just common sense

input

in-

sens-

itivity

experiment

in mob psychology,

incense

to burn

baby

burn

mother

but side-burns shall not extend below the middle of the ear

and thine eyes shall see the gory

newsreel

and unreal

reeling

in this atomic age

of unfishinable

streams

of consciousness

expanding

war

or less

the same,

moralless,

insane

[written May 1971, Boston and Saratoga]


Saturday Night

Six days shalt thou labor,

till the long thin week becomes a broad

and work is forgotten.

For all our Saturdays have lighted fools their way to drunken beds,

that our accidents may be fruitful and fill the earth.

So we multiply allusions and illusions

and therein clothe our works and days,

for the joy of unbuttoning,

unzipping, and pulling off

to see

what we always knew was there.

[published in the Calhoun Literary Magazine, May 1966]


Ensemble

il errait dans la rue

tout seul, perdu

du brouillard dedans, dehors

rien que les mains dans les poches

rien que le coeur dans la tete

il ne cherchait rien partout

elle errait dans la rue

toute seule, perdue

du brouillard dedans, dehors

rien que les mains dans les poches

rien que le coeur dans la tete

elle ne cherchait rien partout

ils se sont rencontrs

ils flanent dans les rues ensemble

clart dedans dehors

rien que le monde dans les poches

rien que l'autre dans la tete

ils cherchent demain ensemble

[written December, 1964 in Brussels and February, 1965 in Brentwood, Essex; published in The Calhoun Literary Magazine, May 1966]


On Hearing Voznesenski

I heard a gong

and again a gong,

resounding long --

the sound of a hammer on a loose-held shield of bronze

They say the way he spoke

moved those who knew not

what he said.

He with the hammer,

me with the shield,

the short and bloodless battle left a long loud gong,

clear and strong.

The bronze still

quivers in my grasp.

(published in Yale Literary Magazine, Jan. 1967]


Tree Trip

tree leaves

its accustomed home near the ground

stretches forth

leaves

to the sun

[written Jan. 28,1971 in Brookline and Cambridge, MA]


Rosetta Stone

reddish stone

or only so at sunset

on snowy sand

with gull tracks

and other markings

indecipherable

with the rosetta

stone

or only so at sunset

[written Feb. 7, 1971 in Allston, MA]


To Mary and Her Sister from Southampton

she looked so sweet

the way she crossed her feet

on the soft seat in the corner.

the flair of the curl in her hair,

of the pair of curls of the pair of girls

on the soft seat in the corner

was oh so right for such a night

so hard to resist, to desist

when they begged to be kissed,

with the flair of their hair

and the cross of their feet

on the soft seat in the corner

[written July, 1965 in the Irish Sea between Fishguard and Cork]


Human Race

black track

blue sky

the gun raised high

it's all a question of...

to soar with the shot

to the end

of the wind

to the bend

of the track

with the sun

at your back

at your side

in your eyes

with your spikes

in the ground

in the grit

in the sound

of the guy

at your back

at your side

and the dust

in your eye

in the stretch

and the fire

in your throat

at the line

as you jog

to a stop

to rest

in the cool, cool grass

it was all a question of...

[written spring 1965 in Brentwood, Essex, England; published in Greenwood, Brentwood School, summer 1965; also published in The Calhoun Literary Magazine, May 1966]


To a Teacher from Tournai met in Lille

J'y suis arriv

tout a fait etranger,

je venais de Calais,

le vent m'y poussait.

Poussiere, fum,

pierres, acier,

paves, chantiers,

pleine de gens, d'industrie,

peu de vent, de vie;

de beaut

il n'y avait pas,

sauf toi.

Mais tu as apparu

sur murs, sur rues,

muses, fumee,

chantiers, acier,

je n'y vois que toi.

Quelle belle ville

qu'est Lille.

[written April 1965 in Lille; published in Greenwood, Brentwood School, Essex, summer 1965]


The Land of Frost and Sandburg

I come from the land of Frost and Sandburg

The land of mountains and cities:

The land that shaped the people

And the people that reshaped the land:

A living organism,

A giant striding toward tomorrow.

I come from the new generation;

I dwell in tomorrow:

When tubes and paper shape minds

And minds reshape tubes and paper:

A maze-trapped mouse

Wondering where he started, where he's going.

[written Feb., 1965 in Brentwood, Essex, England; published in Cyclotron, summer 1965]


Journey to the West

In a hither, thither dither; rushing, shoving, pushing,

Dancing with the mob to the tune of horns, engines, brakes

I chanced upon Avernus in a department store.

The path indeed was easy on a downward escalator

An assembly-line inferno built to suit the population.

There in the emptiness of light-saturated air

Manufactured breezes smothered in sweaty mobs,

Mammon turned housewives into demons with magic slashes of price.

From this helter-skelter swelter the exit too was easy.

Glad to leave, yet swelled with pride, from Inferno I returned.

Here illumed from every angle, piles of bones, complex stuffed,

Lack the reassuring shadows of by-gone days.

It was just a lower circle.

In a hither thither dither; rushing, shoving, pushing,

Dancing with the mob to the tune of horns, engines, brakes,

Silently we praise and thank creators of confusion, divinities of diversion,

All sweet saviors from thought.

[written spring 1964 in Plymouth, NH; published in Flame, 1965]


Up There On LSD

on the sofa, squatting yoga-like

with protruding eyes

small empty island in seas of white

a Ben Gunn, marooned within himself

he hypnotized

or rather spoke with such contagious intensity

that all stared fixedly till the room swam

and he seemed to have a halo

for he had seen God,

or so he said,

and the way he said...

he was a Hebrew prophet

with foaming mouth and wild unworldly eyes

proclaiming the doom of Babylon and Nineveh

the curse of Israel

and a fate worse than death for the unbeliever.

he was a modern American prophet

endorsing the five-dollar God-cube,

the divine peep show

instant Zen,

the all-purpose household...

his eyes could see the essence of the soul

and speak with spirit

or so he said

and he had wandered through the city streets

staring wildly at strangers' eyes

seeing here a glimmer

there an impenetrable darkness,

stopping once to converse with a new-born infant.

he had the power...

but he couldn't see the soul without his glasses.

[written 1965, New Haven, CT]

----------------------------------------------------------------------

The Story of the Trojan War

Here is some unintentionally humorous verse written in 1956, inspired by the heroic couplets of Pope's translation of the Iliad, supplemented with some stories from The Trojan War by Olivia Coolidge.  Richard Seltzer

Theme:

Valiantly they died, and nobly they fought,
Immortal fame forever they sought.
The Greeks went forth in a terrible flood,
To fight the warriors of Trojan blood.

Part 1: The Building of the Trojan Walls

Laomedon the noble king,
To the earth many sons did bring.
The eldest, Bucolion by name,
Though a bastard by an unknown dame.
Next came Tithonus the handsome and shy,
Whom Eos did spot from o'er the sky.
She snatched him up to be his bride,
O'er the sky they did glide.
Podarces the handsome, swift, and young,
To Laodmedon's wife was next sprung.
The next she bore to the earth renown'd,
Was Clytius, the handsomest around.
Next came the noble Lampus, brave and sly.
And Hicetaon the meek and shy.

Laomedon dreamed every night,
Of having a valiant fight,
and having a citadel strong,
Tall and wide and very long.
By night he dreamed, by day he prayed,
In the temple e'er he stayed.
Apollo the noble heard his prayer,
And answered it with much care.
Poseidon also heard his call,
And helped him build the sturdy wall.
Aecus helped the noble pair,
To build the wall with much care.
Pergamus they named the citadel great,
And in it there were many a gate.
Dardan and Toien and Scaian the great,
Tymbria and Helias and Chetas sedate.
Antenorides joined the band,
And e'er it viewed the Trojan sand.
Around adjoining Dardan, Pergamus went,
Capys awed [???]  the walls the gods sent.
Capys son Anchises, handsome like a dove,
Married Aphrodite, goddess of love.
The whole town was over joyed,
But they were annoyed,
By a serpent (Poseidon sent0.
For while their gaiety was spent,
They forgot a promise to Poseidon the kind,
(Though he had an evil mind.)
Hesione the serpent did demand,
(The serpent who hovered o'er ;the land.)
Laomedon the worried, Laomedon the wise,
Tears did pour o'er his eyes.
Heracles the noble, Heracles the brave,
Heracles the valiant, did the maden save.
Now Laomedon the kind
Did of glories sing.
But Laomedon did forget another thing,
Which started a seige against the king.
Heracles at the head
Put many a Trojan to bed.
Telamon also was there.
They made a most vicious pair.
After a while Troy did fall.
And Laomedon answered death's call.
Astyoche, Telephus did take,
A handsome pair they did make.
Telamon, Hesione did assing
For they are of the same kind.
Podarces by Heracles was taken.
For many a day he thought he was forsaken,
Then Hesione came to aid the handsome.
Podarces did she ransom
And she changed his name to Priam,
Which name he kept the rest of time.

How the War Started

O'er the seas a ship does ride,
Carrying a most beautiful bride.
Oh what a fair and beautiful dame,
Helen of Sparta was her name.
Her husband is Pais by name,
Prince of Troy, with farflung fame.
Menelaus, her lawful spouse,
Is searching all over his house,
For the bride Paris stole away,
On that dreadfully awful day.
To Agamemnon he rushes,
After his hair he brushes.

While Paris sails o'er the seas,
With a most favorable breeze,
Sorrow does Agamemnon take,
and war preparations does he make.
But Odysseus advises against it.
He says first in counsel must they sit.
Menelaus and Odysseus, an honorable pair,
Sail for Troy with a favorable air.
O'er the sea the good ship rides,
O'er the sea on the gentle tides.
They sail and sail o'er the sea,
Till the Phrygian shore they can see.
In counsel they met,
But an answer they could not get.
The impatient sons said, "Go to war!"
Priam their father felt very sore.
The two returned home once more,
Not to bury the hatchet but prepare for war.
The ships gathered at Aulus, 1186 in number
To start the war which would make many slumber.

Laomedia and Protesilaus

For Troyland now the ship depart
The siege of Troy now to start.
The son of Iphiclus, or of Jason,
To the Phyrgian shore now does hasten.
His wife, Protesilaus must leave,
In a fit, I do perceive.
He says good-bye to his wife and the soil.
Oh, if he only knew his future toil!
Leaving Laomedeia, his new-found wife,
And heading right into the thick of the strife.
Podarces, his brother, also is there.
It seems he has not a single care.
Protesilaus turns and looks ahead.
He knew not he soon would be dead.
At Aulus now the ships do gather.
The foamy tide makes a nice white lather.
At home, Laomedeia worries.
Her clean white horse she now curries.
At her husband's statue she gazes.
Sometimes it looks alive, in hazes.
Meanwhile the race for Troy ahs begun
And at home, tales of glory are being sung.
The Trojans on the shore, the Greeks in the sea,
What horrors can Protesilaus foresee!
Thinks he, "The foremost man shall die,
If only that valiant man could be I."
No captain has courage to land on the shore,
For fear that his homeland he'll see no more.
So Protesilaus goes forward and alnds.
The Trojan Army around him it bands.
Then the same words do they cry,
"Death to the foremost man, says I."
Hector jumps forward, with a leap,
And lays Protesilaus in a heap.
In Greece, you could hear Laomedeia say,
"I will see you soon, dear spouse, if I man."
The gods do answer her pitiful prayer.
But, after she sees him, she is in despair.
She will not eat; she will not drink,
And soon to Hades she does sink.
There they are together again,
Far from Troy, where he had lain.

The Beginning of the War

After gaining Trojan soil,
Then begins the ten year toil.
Two sons of Priam in the beginning fall:
One is short, and the other is tall.
The war wages on and on and on,
Till almost half the armies are gone.
Ennomus, the Mysian, by Achilles is fell
Amphimachus by Achilles is sent to hell.
Troilus, the noble son of Priam,
Is killed by Achilles for no know crime.
Cycnus, by Achilles is sent to his grave.
Poseidon, his father, him cannot save.
The Greeks the war soon does bore.
They're bored with the Trojans and the war.
Aeneas the noble Achilles does chase,
Nor does Aneneas turn his face.
To Lyrnessus he goes for his own sake.
But the city of Lyrnessus Achilles does take.
Aeneas does just runa nd run
Toward the land of the setting sun.
NExt, to Thebe Achilles flies.
And by him Eetion, the king, soon dies.
Tenedos and Lesbos, the great,
Scyros and Pedasus sedate,
These islands and cities do Achilles capture,
and, with them, the Lelegae he fells with rapture.
Lycaon, the son of the honorable Priam,
Achilles captures beside a vine.
The war wages on for year after year.
It seems that Troy has ne'er a fear.

Pollux and Castor

Oh, I have a horrible story to tell,
Of how Castor and Pollux, the noble twins fell.
After Achilles (who had much fame),
Had captured Isos and Antiphus, the tame,
Not many ore Trojans to battle came,
Unless the fools wanted the same.
Castor, the horseman, was an honorable man.
He was tall and handsome, with a slight tan.
Pollux, the boxer, in Troy was well-known.
He could throw a spear as far as one could be thrown.
These two made an inseparable pair.
They were merry and gay, and hadn't a care.
These twins, to Helen made noble brothers.
Just those, that's all, there were no others.
In peace the two were very gallant.
In war, the two were very valiant.
When Menelaus asked for a hand,
Pollux and Castor joined his band.
They fought and fought with all their might,
E'en when the war was very tight.
Oh, waht fate, what horrible fate,
Oh, what fate the twins did hate?
Oh, what yearning, what terrible yearning,
Inside their hearts forever was burning?
Soldiers theyw atned to be fromt he start,
Even when they were pushed inside a cart.
The Trojans came forth, in a tremendous flood
To kill the men of Helen's boold.
After a while Cast'rs heart did stop,
And to the cold ground he did drop.
Pollux, still witht he Trojans did cope,
While for his brother he did mope.
Pollux was caught off his guard, they say,
And, if it is so, for it he did pay.
For the two in Hades met,
While Helen on earth about them did fret.
Their bodies got hte burial they needed;
Their life on earth forever completed.

The End of Achilles

The Trojans, in danger, losing their prowess
Ask Amazon help to gain success.
Penthesilea is their queen.
To the Trojans she seems like a dream.
Proudly they march into the war.
Valiantly they head right for the core.
Menippus, Clonie does kill.
Great in war is his skill.
Clonie now does Podarces fell.
Penthesilea is mad, it is easy to tell.
Podarces by Penthesilea falls.
Quickly he goes to Hades stalls.
Penthesilea by Achilles is next slain.
The Amazons a Greek victory do not detain.
Achilles, his tears he cannot keep.
Her death into his heart does seep.
Thersides mocks him,a dn talks once too much,
For Achillles' sword his heart does touch.
Now the Trojans for home do run
Because of Peleus' most valiant son.
Next does Memnon come to their aid
While Trojan hopes do slowly fade.
Antilochus, the noble, in his path does stand,
Gallnatly and valiantly on Trojan land.
But his actions are in vain,
For by Memnon he is slain.
Memnon now by Achilles is fell,
Of glories never more to tell.
Achilles marches, a Greek victory to make,
Or even maybe Troy to take.
He marches forward to the Scaen gate,
Forever he is tempting fate.
Paris, the coward, now draws his bow,
The grapes of wrath now to sow.
In his heal the arrow does land.
Achilles wavers, then hits the sand.
The Trojans, now their glories great,
All because of his awful fate.
The Greeks they run in utter defeat.
The Greeks they run in disorderly retreat.

The End of the War

Thetis now does come up from the sea,
The body of her dead son, AChilles, to see.
His things she gathers here and there,
And stacks them in one pile, with care.
Says she, "To the strongest his armor shall I give,
Made byt he gods who forever shall live."
Ajax reches forth his hand,
As he views the sandy land.
But objection comes from Odysseus, the wise.
He says that Ajax, the Greater, lies.
Agamemnon calls on a Trojan captive.
Says he, "Odysseus is more acative."
Ajax, in fury, does retreat.
It's the first imte he's ever met defeat.
Brother Teucer is not there, but fighting the war.
Ajax sits down, feeling very sore.
Suicide does he commit
For he goes into a fit.

The war raded on and on and on.
Every day it started at dawn.
Eurypylus, the Trojans do call.
By him many a greet did fall.
Machaon, of the victiomns is one,
A man who never had a son.
The Greeks retreat in due despair;
For the Trojans, the war is going fair.
The Greeks call upon Odysseus for aid,
But at this request Odysseus does fade.
To the son of Achilles Odysseus does go,
To ask him to fight the Trojan foe.
Pyrrhus does come; Eurypylus does he kill.
And many other Trojans do their graves fill.
next Philoctetes to fight Troy is brought.
Glory and victory were what he sought.
Paris falls by his hand,
And is buried in the sand.
Helenus by Odysseus is taken,
For by the Trojans he was forsaken.
Deiphobus next does Helen marry
After Paris' death, she did not tarry.

Then one gloomy night, Odysseus and Diomed
To capture the Palladium they try to succeed.
First Odysseus into Troy does creep
To find information while Trojans all sleep.
To Helen, the beautiful he goes
And from her lips informaiton flows.
And not long after this secret deal
The famous Palladium do they steal.
Gallantly and valiantly the Greeks did fight
But still their victory was not in sight.
BAttle after battle was won or lost.
Forever the coin of death was tossed.
The Greeks could neither win nor lose.
'Twas up to the fates the outcome to choose.

The Fall of Troy

There lies Troy, still as a tomb,
The fortress of an awful doom.
And there, too, lies the Trojan pain
Where many a Greek and Trojan have lain.
Tory, in sadness, there she lies.
Why was it that so many must die?
Is it that they can't finish their task?
But what is this the Greeks do leave?
A wooden horse, I do perceive.
Now the Trojans from their slumber do wake,
And look at the leaving Greeks do take.
They runa nd run to tell the king.
What joyous news to him they bring.
"The Greeks are gone, the war will cease.
Now again we are at peace!"
Priam through the crowd does leap,
Though his honor he does keep.
The priests don't think the Greeks are gone,
But even their doubts don't last for long.
Some farmers a Grecian, Sinon, do bring.
They take him to their aging king.
He told the king many a lie.
Then he finished with a sigh.
Thinking him the real McCoy
They drag the horse into Troy.
But that for them was a fatal mistake,
For as a result the Greeks Troy do take.

The Return

From Troy the Grecian ships repair.
Their homesick passengers they bear.
Weak and sick from the toil of war,
Many warriors go to the sea's cool floor.
Athena doth averge her pride
By sending forth a terrible tide.
And Ajax almost does get drowned,
But Poseidon hears his crying sound.
Poseideon does him save
From a wet and dreary grave.
But Poseidon does Ajax mock
So Ajax joins the drowning flock.

Idomeneus to Crete does sail,
Escaping the storm's fierce blowing gale.
Odysseus in the storm is caught.
How bravely by him his home is sought.
Vainly he tries his men to save,
But home to Ithaca goes Odysseus, the brave.
Then the storm Menelaus seizes,
But toward his home he finally breezes.
Agamemnon fights the storm through the night
Unitl his homeland is in sight.
Though from the wicked storm he did steal,
His wife, Clytemnestra's knife he does feel.
To home Philoctetes does return.
He was noble, brave, and stern.

And, thus, after ten hard years of toil
The Grecians returned to their native soil.

 


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