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
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.
by Patty Seyburn
In search of an idyll
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
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.