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I Name

by Patty Seyburn

I name the shadow how dare you upstage me

the evening happy hostage

the succulents aren’t you something, quit your day job and pageant contestant

the silence Rose and Herman for my grandparents long/gone


I name my sometimes sorrow the Florida Keys so I can say, I feel stuck in the Florida keys today

this chair don’t leave me

my daughter a place I have never been and don’t know how to go

my son happy conqueror


I name the sun a worthwhile transaction

the conflict a diplomatic term

the palm frond why do you torture me so

Wednesday get me the hell out of here


I name my minivan Christiano Ronaldo

my pen how far away is far away

my cosmetic case when will you pick me up?

my journal five synonyms for empty


I name my bookshelf coffee table

my sorrow a pen

my candle optimism

my glasses go by no excuse


I name my mirror whatever you have to say to me today, do it quickly

my lipstick make me happy, hue

my pillow why can’t you stave off the weird dreams?

my dreams Steve though I know no Steve


I name my name changed at the border

My childhood home the cure for nostalgia

My beloved not Steve there is no Steve and never was

I name never a Thursday word


I name the word vertical blinds

sentences sheers

clarity don’t go far our table is almost ready

I name hope no vacation or sick days for you

What Flaubert Said

by Patty Seyburn

Stay away from stonefish

(they are ugly and deadly)

and sleep like the snail for three years.

If you need a substitute fingerprint,

consult with the koala.

For parenting lessons, consider the pigeon.

The barn owl is prone to divorce

and the male ends up with a less-attractive partner.

You can envy the axolotl

its ability to grow new body parts

but the real winner, the Turritopsis dohrnii

is immortal, transforming from

its medusa form back into polyps

when threatened. There is not a particle

of life that does not have

poetry in it.

Had My Parents Not Felt the Need to Assimilate

by Patty Seyburn

I might have been a Goldhirsch – golden stag in Yiddish

or a Morganstern – morning star in German –

beauty, beauty – is it the translations

or objects that glow?


Or shared a surname with Boris, been

a Pasternak – parsnip in assorted Slavic tongues,

from the Latin pastinaca. Then, when I read

Dr Zhivago, I would have felt a kinship

To the great love and tragedy.


I grew up with dozens of Shapiros – Freddie, Margot –

and never knew they were lovely in Aramaic –

Margot is lovely, but she did marry into the name.


I could have had a practical assignation:

Cooper for cabinet-maker, Sobol for fur trader,

Sokol for falconer, Zimmerman for carpenter,

Kleid for tailor or Haber for one who sold oats

in the vast Ashkenazi firmament. 


Kranz made wreaths, big in ancient Greece 

and prominent in Christian traditions so 

I’m not sure why we have a whole name 

devoted to them. I guess someone had to make them.


If I were a Blum, I would represent the flower –

a Mandel, the almond or someone living near

an almond tree. Perhaps a Feigenbaum – fig tree 

in Hebrew. Nature makes its presence known.


I have Stein cousins. Their ancestors might have

lived near a prominent stone or worked

their fingers to the bone as stonecutters.

Were I a Zingel – and I have never met one –


my clan would have lived near

the outermost wall of a castle,

the defensive wall, which doesn’t bode well

for survival in a battle. I have never met one.


Were I Freud, I would be an emblem of joy

except no one would believe it, as I would

be constantly interpreting their weird dreams

and making sexual assumptions.


No one would think how happy I make them. 

Of course, all these names would signal

that I am a Jew, in lieu of the name

my parents chose at the Canadian border,


when Henry Ford was everyone’s boss.

They selected an English name worn

by Jews and gentiles in Detroit.

We are not related to any of them


and though I choose not to pass, 

my name says, pass.

Ghost Flower

by Patty Seyburn

In search of an idyll

              a wander

en route to Maidenhair Falls via Hellhole Canyon

                                                      boulders and dry waterfalls.


                These are what they seem.


You may also find Mohavea Confertiflora

             a ghost flower

which looks just like Mentzelia Involucrate

                                                      Sand Blazing Star:

                                                      five bracts, five sepals, five cream yellow petals – 

             paper with a burned edge –

             an invitation – and serrated leaves.


             The Mohavea mimics the Mentzelia,

             does not want to be the Mentzelia.


The former enacts

             no exchange of goods and services,

produces no nectar to attract

                                                     unsuspecting bugs, who come 


                                                     to pollinate.


The savvy imposter relies on its looks. 

              Insects visit, fertilize and receive 

no reward. You could say the fake flora

                                                      provides beauty –

                                                      I do not think the tricked bugs 

              traveling through Little Surprise Canyon care

              about that, their short lives


              a study in survival

              but without consciousness perhaps


                                                                     it’s not so bad.


Patty Seyburn has published five collections of poems: Threshold Delivery (Finishing Line Press, 2019); Perfecta (What Books Press, Glass Table Collective, 2014); Hilarity, (New Issues Press, 2009), Mechanical Cluster (Ohio State University Press, 2002) and Diasporadic (Helicon Nine Editions, 1998). She has a Ph.D. from University of Houston, an MFA from UC-Irvine, and an MS and BS from Northwestern University. She is a proud professor at California State University, Long Beach. She likes the words “parabola” and “plum” in proximity to one another.

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