© 2017 by Shizue Seigel. San Francisco, CA

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raw does not bleed

No visible damage

 

Raw does not bleed

is not red except in our imagination

in actual fact, no one even noticed.

 

Feeling flayed, frozen in the headlights

pinned in public by private humiliations

apparently everyone is laughing

 

Flies do not lay eggs in our sores

They belong to someone else’s trash

in actual fact, no one even noticed.

 

It’s only the insides that suppurate

Silently leaking behind the gauze.

apparently everyone is laughing

 

We’d better smile too.

We made a better world.

Now enjoy it.

in actual fact, no one even noticed.

Apparently everyone is laughing.

 

Published in Whirlwind Magazine, No. 6 Fall 2015

https://issuu.com/whirlwindreview/docs/whirlwind_issue6

_________________

One Woman’s Hell… A Gentrifier’s Lament

wrinkles and cellulite

rats and roaches

a boring Saturday night

downsizing and outsourcing

muggers and rapists

bad hair, bad breath

acne, underarm hair

My terror is as real as yours.

 

It keeps me much to busy

to consider poverty famine war

sickness old age and death.

 

It justifies whatever measures necessary

to sanitize, eradicate

decry and deny.

 

My house is a war zone.

How can I care about anything else!

My kitchen a bombed-out hell

awaiting new marble countertops

and a Subzero freezer.

Living on take-out for months

has been no picnic,

let me tell you.

 

I don't have time

to read the news any more.

I don't have time to care

about Syria and Sudan

or even another body

found on Potrero Hill.

Anonymous brown skin

in a too-tight leather outfit

breasts spilled out

like golden apples.

Nappy head wrapped

in an African scarf.

 

She went down to Capp St

to sell her body for money to feed her kids.

My husband goes to the whore zone—

to get away from me.

 

Published in Poor Magazine on-line Sept 2015

_________________

Souvenirs of New Orleans Ten Years Later                    

 

Exactly how many layers of exploitation have fertilized the Mississippi mud?

How many bribes and/or death threats paid for your Garden District mansions?

In the Delta, poverty is palpable—first in incarcerations, last in schools.

In a nearby town, a huge plastic gorilla guards a lawn, knuckles to the ground, butt upraised,

in the position you like to keep the dark and muscular. Outside the historical museum,

you brag in my yellow face, secure in your pink skin and white shirt:

“Growing sugar cane is like printing money! The price is guaranteed by the government,

so even if I don't plant any cane, I still get a check.

But the people ’round here (code for black) they don’t like to work.

That’s why we have to bring in the Meskins. Now, they’re good hard workers.”

I don’t ask if they are legal. I don't ask how hard HE works.

And I don’t ask if his subsidies were preserved

by cutting back food stamps in the last farm bill.

I'm an Asian spy, here to visit the concentration camp where my family spent four years.

I don't waste my breath on you who can't hear me.

 

But I’ll report back to sunny California, “Don't bring your tourist dollars here.

Look for the lies; peek through the cracks

in the shiny veneer, warping from damp and rot.”

 

How many generations of tradition justify the way you treat people?

How many millions do you spend on your Mardi Gras float,

your purple, green and gold costumes and souvenir cups.

How many pounds of beads do you toss out like lagniappe to the masses?

Beads, made from plastic, that is, petrochemicals—the oil and gas you suck from the land

that you stole from illiterate Cajuns and Houma Indians

who just wanted to keep trapping and fishing in the old ways.

How much do you make from the alligator hunters who pay $10 an egg times

forty eggs to a nest and a hundred nests per acre in marshlands eaten away by oil canals?

How many millions do you extract from Naw'olins

by renovating drowned shotgun shacks for artsy newcomers eager to sip from

the honeysuckle wine while displacing the very people who gave New Orleans its soul.

While you prudently moved your corporate offices to Houston,-----

the town hollows out into a Disneyworld of conventioneers and tourists,

artistes and do-gooders, arriving just in time for the next flood.

Because it WILL come to this land drowning from global warming and corruption.

 

And yet, the sinking land is feverish with hope and determination

and the remnants of people who believe deep in their souls

that love and family trump money.

If they go down, they will go down singing!

 

Published in Whirlwind Magazine 5, Summer 2015.

https://issuu.com/whirlwindreview/docs/whirlwind__5

the good wife

 

1. the good wife

Too much time

in the kitchen

serving tea

washing dishes.

 

Too many people to thank,

arrangements to make.

People everywhere

So much to do.

No time to mourn,

no time to think.

 

No time

to sit on the floor

and cry.

 

2. looking good

 

How could she be dead

and not even notice.

Was it sudden

or a long slow smothering?

Was there a funeral?

a tombstone somewhere

marking what she could have been?

 

How did it happen?

Was it in high school

when she was desperate to belong?

In second grade when the teacher

pierced her with her eyes?

Or maybe even earlier

when she cried in my crib

and no one came.

3. old-fashioned girl

 

“Is this how you s’posed to do it?”

“I’m not sure I know how...”

“You go first;

I’d do it wrong anyway.”

 

Hesitant and yielding,

gentle flutter of downcast eyes.

Inside resentment builds,

drop by bitter drop.

Inside the wild bitch screams.

 

She's a good cheering section

if someone else plans the game.

A good worker

if someone tells her what to do

She gives great support

if someone dictates the structure.

 

But when it’s her own scheme

How quick she is to destroy it

before someone else does.

 

4. fever breaks

 

Now when she hears someone

weeping in the night

She knows it’s her

calling to herself.

 

Drawn by the stars

She stands by the window

And lets the breeze take her

Her fears rustle down to her feet

like last year’s leaves.

 

As winter breaks,

the tender fronds of a new day

unfurl in the mulch

of yesterday’s regrets.

 

5. they never found a body

 

Did she jump?

]Or was she pushed?

Nobody asked; she never said.

Now that she’s gone

we’ll never know.

 

Did she run to

or away?

Did she die

or did she live?

The guards say she didn’t make it

but how do we know

from inside?

 

Did she have the courage to flee

Did she give up too soon?

Maybe it wasn’t the bitter end;

But a better beginning.

 

Some say desertion;

I say liberation.

Shizue Seigel

Selected Poems

Photos by Shizue Seigel