Area Code 212: Poems

Area Code 212: Poems

by Frederick Seidel

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Area Code 212 is the journey's end in ice and flames of Seidel's brilliant Cosmos Poems trilogy. Reversing the order and outlook of Dante's Divine Comedy, Seidel's three-book series begins in the heavens (with The Cosmos Poems) and then descends steeply--through the Purgatory of Life on Earth, the second volume--to at last arrive at home, in Manhattan, with its famous area code.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466879768
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 09/02/2014
Series: The Cosmos Trilogy , #3
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 80
File size: 138 KB

About the Author

Frederick Seidel's previous books of poems include Final Solutions; Sunrise, winner of the Lamont Prize and the 1980 National Book Critics Circle Award; These Days; Poems, 1959-1979; My Tokyo; Going Fast; The Cosmos Poems, and Life on Earth.

Frederick Seidel's books of poems include Final Solutions; Sunrise, winner of the Lamont Prize and the 1980 National Book Critics Circle Award; These Days; My Tokyo; Going Fast; The Cosmos Poems; Life on Earth; Ooga-Booga; and Poems 1959-2009.

Read an Excerpt

Area Code 212

By Frederick Seidel

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2002 Frederick Seidel
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-7976-8



    I DO

    I do
    Standing still.
    I do in my head.
    I do everything to keep active.

    Everything is excellent.
    I do pablum. I do doo-doo. I do heroic deeds.
    I do due

    I do heroic deeds. I don't move.
    I do love
    The sky above
    Which is black.

    I do white gloves at the dances,
    But I don't dance with the fascists.
    I do beat and smash their stupid wishes.
    I take you to be my.

    The river is turning into
    A place to drown.
    The road lay down
    In front of the car.

    Everything in hell was
    Talking English long ago.
    I mean English.
    I mean fruit bowl. I mean upper crust. I mean, really!

    The ocean swings back into view in inland St. Louis.
    The time is then.
    My headmaster's exotic psychotic wife goes completely
    Round the bend and maintains

    The Mississippi is down there and up here
    Is Berchtesgaden. I am shooting up on this.
    Breast milk leaks from the insertion point.
    His wife — my bride — wanders around the campus saying I do.



    Decapitated, he looks much the same,
    The same homeless mind.
    He watches a starving man
    Eating his hiccups

    Because he has nothing else to eat
    In front of the mirror that is
    Brushing his teeth.
    Then he goes to bed headless. Then

    He hears his wife get out of their bed
    And lock the bathroom door
    That they never lock.
    Both of them are drunk.

    He sleeps with his eyes shut in the dark
    For a few minutes and then he gets up.
    But he doesn't get up.
    She comes back to bed.

    She says I am so afraid.
    She says I feel cold.
    He asks her what she has done.
    He makes her stand up and walk. He calls 911.

    He will go to the theater
    Of the locking of the bathroom door, hiccup
    Click, and how he stayed in bed
    For the rest of his life.

    He remembers something else.
    That he did get up. He stood
    Outside the door.
    He went back to a bed

    Even more terrible than the loyal eyes
    Of a dog about to be euthanized.
    Than the efforts of a racehorse
    Who will have to be shot to rise.



    Think of the most disgusting thing you can think of.
    It is beautiful in its way.
    It has two legs.
    It has a head of hair.

    It goes downtown.
    It goes into an art gallery.
    It pulls out a gun.
    It kills its friend.

    Never mind how much money they made.
    Start thinking about what matters.
    The MV Agusta motorcycle
    Is the most beautiful.

    I Do was one.
    The Bathroom Door was another.
    I Do was one.
    Pulled out a gun and fired.

    It was point-blank.
    It died instantly.
    The fragment was Sappho.
    You can imagine how beautiful.

    The person is walking
    Ahead of you on the sidewalk.
    You see its back but its face
    Is facing you as it walks away.

    As if the neck were
    Broken, but the face is calm.
    The name of the face you
    Face is the United Nations.

    It is a lovely Picasso walking away
    On a broken neck and looking straight ahead back.
    First came the seen, then thus the palpable
    Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell.



    Who is this face as little
    As a leaf,
    The neck a stem?
    The furnace waits.

    Someone is happening
    To someone. Someone is
    Alive and enters

    Her lips are full.
    The mouth is open.
    The living room is full
    Of mahogany and art.

    The serpent concentrates its gaze until the serpent is
    A sumo wrestler agile as a dragonfly,
    A furnace eating only good
    To stay big.

    The girl is a delicate
    The beautiful face
    Is a leaf.

    The dragonfly
    Practices touch-and-go landings
    At the little airport, landing to take off,
    See-through with heartbeats.

    The serpent is not a serpent
    But a lyre.
    It asks to play.
    It asks the girl to let a dragon fly.

    Someone is sailing clay pigeons
    And blowing them apart perfectly.
    Someone is kissing
    The other.



    I think you do
    But it frightens you.
    I have the guns
    In the car.

    I wanted to save
    Someone and
    The rest. It will happen.
    I will take you hostage.

    Also I wasn't
    Going to fall in love
    But when you're fleeing
    You're flying.

    Someone had to take
    My blindfold off for me to
    Just take off. I turn the key in your ignition.
    Contact! The propeller flickers.

    We are taking off to
    Have another

    For the road. Burn the birth certificates.
    Run the roadblock.
    All the whirling lights
    On the roofs of their cars.

    They're going to check
    The trunk and find our bodies.
    I won't.
    We jump out firing.

    I am already in you.
    I am rafting down your bloodstream.
    That is already over.
    I have entered.



    Root canal is talking
    To the opposite —
    Twenty-three years old,
    With eyes like very dilated

    Dewdrops sideways.
    Age is visiting
    The other side of the moon,
    When the moon was young.

    Wow, to see the side
    That never faces the earth is cool,
    And kiss newborn skin
    That you could eat off of.

    A clean twenty-three-year-old
    Heart is tourism
    For the senator
    Visiting the strange.

    You fly there, then get out and walk.
    The space shot lands
    And he gets out and flies and then on foot.
    He is looking at her tits.

    The future will not last.
    It is coming towards her
    On safari
    To watch the ancient king of the savannah roar and mate

    Despite a root
    Canal spang in the middle.
    Nothing will.
    Not even root canal. Revive his satrapy.

    He is rowing down a canal
    Of Royal Palms on either side
    And the ocean is near. The oil spill is near
    Enough for her to hear it greasing the shore.



    Phineas has turned
    To face the quiet Phoebe to
    Touch her cheek.
    Phineas, who is tender but not meek,

    And certainly is not weak,
    Is also not named Phineas.
    The name is art.
    Phineas turns to touch her tenderly,

    But the cab runs over a
    Pocked-moon stretch of Brooklyn roadway
    And his hand is knocked
    Into being a brute.

    What is the pH of New York?
    PH is
    Singing to PH,
    Date palm to date palm.

    The dunes in every
    Direction tower.
    Their color is octoroon
    In Manhattan at dawn.

    That is the color
    Of the heart they share
    Which is an oasis
    Where one can pause

    Before going out to die
    In the dunes,
    Strangling without water
    And without a gun

    To shoot at night at the stars.
    For the moment, they sing.
    The saddle has no camel under it.
    They know.



    Venus is getting
    Finally, she is
    The size of a mouse.

    A fully developed young woman
    That size
    Makes it difficult
    To caress her breasts.

    The curly wire
    To a Secret Service agent's ear
    Ends in a plug actually bigger
    Than her derrière.

    What a magnificent goddess!
    And enormous — when
    She stands on the back of your hand
    With her glorious assets!

    Her steatopygous ass
    Sticks straight out — a Hottentot harvest moon!
    Her breasts are prodigious.
    Her ass is steatopygous.

    Her head is
    Classically small.
    Her eyes and her mouth
    Are equally oceans and drops from a dropper.

    Venus shrank down
    To go to Harvard, and got a tiny degree.
    Her Junoesque figure
    Is the size of a sea horse.

    Mr. Universe
    Is in love,
    But how will he get in?
    Venus, goddess, tell him how!



    I'm having a certain amount of difficulty
    Because I am finding it hard.
    It is all uphill.
    I wake up tired.

    It is downhill from here.
    The Emancipation Proclamation won't change that.
    Evidently there have been irregularities apparently.
    It is time to get out.

    I am going to go public with this
    Beautiful big breasts and a penis
    Military-industrial complex.
    I live in the infield with other connoisseurs

    Behind the bars of the gate to the circuit,
    Sniffing burning racing oil till I'm high.
    On the other side of the gate is the start/finish,
    And the red meat of the racebikes raving to race.

    I'm not from anywhere. I'm from my head.
    That's where I didn't grow up
    And went to school.
    Oh, I am totally vile and beautiful!

    A military-industrial complex with soul!
    Nigra sum sed formosa.
    I am black but comely,
    O ye daughters of Jerusalem:

    Therefore has the king loved me, and brought me into his
    Chambers. For, lo, the winter is past,
    The rain is over and gone:
    Rise up, my love, my fair one,

    And come away.
    Tomorrow I set sail for the bottom, never to return.
    The master cabin has its own head — which I'm from.
    I'm from my head.



    That was the song he found himself singing.
    He heard a splash before he hit the concrete.
    There was no water in the pool.
    He couldn't stop himself in time.

    One day, while he was waiting for the light to change,
    And suddenly it began to rain,
    And all at once the sun came out,
    He saw a rainbow of blood.

    He was so excited.
    That he dove off
    The diving board without a thought.

    There was no water in the pool.
    He heard a splash
    Just before he hit the concrete.
    Gosh —

    From good in bed
    To as good as dead!
    You smell the rain before it comes.
    You smell the clean cool pierce the heat.

    He has the air-conditioning on
    But keeps the car windows open driving back to town.
    It is the story of his life.
    He smells the rain before it falls.

    It was the middle of the night
    In 212, the Area Code of love.
    The poem he was writing put
    Its arms around his neck.

    Why write a poem?
    There isn't any rain in hell
    So why keep opening an umbrella?
    That was the song he found himself singing.


Excerpted from Area Code 212 by Frederick Seidel. Copyright © 2002 Frederick Seidel. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
I. I Do,
II. The Bathroom Door,
III. Downtown,
IV. The Serpent,
V. Getaway,
VI. Nothing Will,
VII. pH,
VIII. Venus,
IX. Nigra Sum,
X. Rain in Hell,
XI. Dido with Dildo,
XII. January,
XIII. February,
XIV. In Cap Ferrat,
XV. March,
XVI. Easter,
XVII. April,
XIX. Venus Wants Jesus,
XX. MV Agusta Rally, Cascina Costa, Italy,
XXI. June,
XXII. June Allyson and Mae West,
XXIII. July,
XXIV. Hugh Jeremy Chisholm,
XXV. August,
XXVI. September,
XXVII. The Tenth Month,
XXIX. October,
XXX. November,
XXXI. God Exploding,
XXXII. The War of the Worlds,
XXXIII. December,
Also by Frederick Seidel,

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