Rebecca Seiferle

The Ripped-Out Seam Sheep Meadow Press, 1993
    1986 National Writers’ Union Prize
    1990 Writer’s Exchange Award: Poets & Writers
    1991 Bogin Memorial Award: Poetry Society of America
    1994 Finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize
by Rebecca Seiferle

The Ripped-Out Seam

I will never stitch back together
the horned toad that I halved with a shovel.
All summer, in my mind, holding itself upright,
trying to balance its torso
between its front legs, the toad has tried
to drag itself forward, to escape
the agonized coils of its own
entrails spilling out of the gaping absence
of its lower body. No
meaning I can think of, no matter how deft
of hand, can knit the pale
distended bowels, or reconnect
the webbed feet’s chaotic twitching
to the brain that lunged, leapt,
propelled them forward.

I was excavating a pit for the children to play in
with their fleets of miniature cars and must have
scooped the legs from the body in one motion.
When I lifted the shovel and saw the flayed skin
resting in the blade, I thought
the thighs’ cavities, bloodless
and filled with dirt, were the ancient remains
of a cat’s nightly predations, or the relic
of a hiberation from which
the horned toad never awoke, but then
I saw the upper half, alive, sitting at the edge
of the heaped earth where it, too,
had been tossed.

What shocked me was how perfect
the unwounded half of the body was:
the eyes’ stunned gold,
the jaw’s tiny teeth, the spine’s
prickled barbs, the crimson gills’
breeding color, the throat’s throbbing rhythm,
the head and forelimbs trying to go on, to continue,
while the lower half had been interrupted
in the emptying out
of the blue and yellow guts,
the soft pulp of the liver and lungs.

That was June, now it’s the end of August
and in my mind, I am still carrying
the still living torso behind a tree
where I hit it with a shovel,
fracture the skull,
so it will no longer suffer
what I have done to it. Again and again
the creature drags itself forward,
tries to reunite the two halves
of what it is, to heal
the wound it keeps dragging behind.

Only in the ripped-out seams
of body, of mind, do we resemble each other . . .
rendered together,
the horned lizard and the human figure
drawn in black on the white surface
of every vessel that the Acoma people paint
and sell to tourists. They shrug
if anyone asks what the meaning is
of this design, of that one, at the idea
that everything must mean something
other than it is.
Copyright © 1993. Rebecca Seiferle. All Rights Reserved.

“To raise the ghost of Eliot...Seiferle has what he described as characteristic of the Renaissance but missing in the poetry of the modern age: ‘unified sensibility.’ Hers is a world where everything matters; she writes about dismemberment out of a sense of wholeness betrayed, of connectedness outraged. One expression of that wholeness is her capaciousness of imagination, the vast historical and geological scope of its landscapes of concern, the proportion that scale restores. Stanley Moss of The Sheep Meadow Press is to be complimented for his decision to present Seiferle’s work in a double volume—154 pages of poetry. In a time when poetry books come thin, short of pages and sparsely populated with words (and sometimes scant on thought as well) the amplitude of this book is welcome proof of another possibility.” — Eleanor Wilner writing for Prairie Schooner, Fall 1994.

“Rebecca Seiferle’s passionate work seems to begin in pain and separation and to yearn from there towards union, towards spiritual fulfillment. The poems vary widely in subject matter, from childhood travel poems, to abstract meditations...but their pervasive setting is New Mexico, its farm animals and wild animals and landscapes. Here, in ‘The New World’ Seiferle’s yearning finds the theme of Native American pottery discovered on rambles with her daughter, the dream dig that might put it back together... Her voice is intimate, imaginative. And since the world is as it is, and Seiferle is too good a poet for sentimental solutions, we have these repeated wounds and the poetry.— Poetry Flash, April 1994.

“Rich in particularity and in her engagement with these particulars, Rebecca Seiferle’s eye does not blink or turn away from the horrible. Rather, the details of a maimed creature she has bludgeoned ‘so it will no longer suffer’ are included in her vision of personal responsibility and a world she has chosen to love as it is. Her voice is mythic while unassumingly candid, narrative while energized with mythic images and a lyrical ear.— Jacaranda Review, 1994

“In keeping with their Southwestern locale, Seiferle’s poems have a natural, prosey gait well suited to limning images of sunwashed pueblos and ancient tribal rituals. But this matter-of-fact directness also powerfully complements the poet’s fascination with the violence underlying daily life, the sundering of bodies and souls from their ordinary, expected place in the scheme of things. While Seiferle has an unsettling tendency to see the skull beneath the skin, to imagine ‘it must be unbearable/to enter the eyes of God and see everywhere/the perishing,’ she also has a way with small vivid details, a ‘hand-carved and brightly painted santo is/ nailed into his niche, as if, otherwise/ he might come down dancing’ ; patterned shards of poetry ‘scored/ by a haphazard geometry’ or wildflowers ‘dusting/ the mesas with the cobalt electricity of their petals.’ These are thoughtful, textured poems by a poet who is able to fuse the intellectual with the visceral. Recommended for collections of contemporary poetry.— Library Journal, July 1993.

“Her voice and vision are everywhere!— Ray Gonzalez, for the 1994 Paterson Poetry Prize, for which The Ripped-Out Seam was a finalist.

“Seiferle is a fine poet and surely worthy of a collection...And Sheep Meadow Press has produced another beautifully printed book. Poems that...are wonderful...‘In the Kidding Pen,’ ‘Buddha Seesaw,’ ‘Unidentified Flowers,’ and a long poem, ‘Twelve Theorems of Desire.’ Seiferle is a poet to watch.— Choice, January 1994.

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