Bio Note: Born and raised in Coney Island, I'm a Coney Island patriot. And a squash racquets fanatic. My headstone is to read, "One More Game?" I am the author of Collected Poems 1954-2004 (Schocken Books 2004) and Usable Truths: Aphorisms & Observations (Waywiser Press 2019). My reading of "Seeing Red" can be found on the "Library Congress 1982" and "Anderson 2015" tracks of: Irving Feldman readings.
1 Twice a week, fantastic and compelled, Betty Davis in her latest film, beyond the half-drawn window shade, voice ablaze, she yanked a suitcase off the bed, unloosed the death ray of a drop-dead stare, the parting gusts of her furious red head. "You'll see!" she screamed and slammed the door. So? So nothing. She crept back in and cried and fell asleep and slept. A lion was on the landing, a mouse was in the marrow inching. Cornered, she poked at the burning eyes, she spat at them, she hissed. Fury and Misery. The lion leaped and tore her thighs, mice were gnawing in her feet. A restless girl, a rotten period. "Feh! She talks like a mocky." So, my sisters while we lie and peep across the airshaft. Then I, like the summer dawn's ambitious sun --- eager to shine and burning to please, pink with preference --- ignite my gift for scorn in the absence of understanding. (Let them be praised! these red-haired sisters, they taught my senses' prosperous bride the famine arts of transcendence: bitching, snobbery, condescension. Their smell, the pale juvenile nighties, the bloodlettings of their reddened fingernails on passionate mornings --- damp and idleness and tempers and kicking in the tangled sheet --- brought me to a woman's country of warmth, disorder, and cruelty, biting envies and a smoldering shame, so that I don't know yet if my mockery is defending a privilege or a pain.) My act is idiot approval that stings her sleep.I am the little devil spurred to spank those cheeks and roust her from bed, nerves afire with sarcasm and applause. 2 One day, I think, driven as always, she got to the door and didn't stop, set off with her squat delirious suitcase to wow America, or marry --- like an absentminded salesman, his dirty wash in the sample case, and they want it! they buy! Who needs talent, with such despair? What else is America for! Bad news, bad breath, bad manners, the grievous suitcase marches on, prophesying from every corner. "Betrayal!" it screams and snaps itself shut. What a start in life! those scraps of rumpled underwear and clothes, sloppy habits, bad teeth, a roaring tongue, a crummy job and worse marriage. 3 Straddling your freckled shoulders, riding high and sly in 'sixty-nine, smiling (no less!) and sentimental, each time I shift gears, underfoot I feel your wronged hysteria revving in the block. What have they done to your gut? Cracked moon, homeless ginger cat, I want to take off on you, pilgrims to nowhere, streaking toward skid row and failure like the vast frontier. My young heels drum excitedly on your tits. At midnight you awake and cry, My pride is injured, my soul is empty, my heart is broken, my womb has died. O my brother, avenge me! Rising beyond the pane, red and pale, feverish, gaunt, burnt crust but raw dough, you grip your satchel and leap through the window into the middle of the Great Depression, your eyes endowed with total misunderstanding. 4 Would it be too fatuous of me and too late, too squeamish, too phony, too perfectly American, touching three small fingers to my brim, to say across thirty feet of foul airshaft, thirty years of life, "Help you with your bags, Red?"
©2022 Irving Feldman
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