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grim reaper

I see your movement flashing like a knife,
Reeling my senses, drunk upon the hues
Of motion, the eternal rainbow wheel…
–Claude McKay

Claude was referring specifically to the hustling city of Barcelona, mostly because
he’d just abandoned the Harlem Renaissance & his friends wouldn’t talk to him anymore. This is not a problem for Tim Seibles. He manages to keep both ambidextrous hands flexed upon an operating lever that activates & deactivates a bicameral fog-machine. Fast Animal—the poet’s seventh collection—is poetry that accomplishes the following laundry list (plus whatever numbered attributes you choose to affix after purchasing & camping out with the work many times over):

1. Seibles hijacks classic forms to croon Blues.

I’ll let the powerful odes “Ode to My Hands”, “Ode to Sleep”, and “Ode to This for That” speak for themselves—to retain the hoodoo. There are also villanelles aplenty,
one in each of four sections:

I once rode the cosmos in a suit stitched in plaid
The Earth was my space ship and me, the rough crew
The big light was nice; but the nightside was bad
–from “Mad Poets Villanelle”

The teams, the games, the superstars—the happy fans all shout!
I sang inside the Spider’s house pretending to be free
We bumble all around this place and then they take us out
–from “Punching Villanelle for the W, 2005”

2. Seibles trash-talks Maturation,

which is basically like roasting the Grim Reaper. Waking up daily is an attempt to embody & embolden what are essentially the organic shells of our spent beings. It’s no easy task. It’s likely our hardest task. While most of us never acknowledge exactly how weird & difficult this resuscitation is, Fast Animal is filled with such things:

my own life: the bending

of a man into something
else: did I change? Are you

changed?
–from “Familiar”

Let’s stop talking
about God. Try to shut-up
about heaven: some of our friends
who should be alive are no longer alive.
Moment by moment death moves
And memory doesn’t remember,

not for long: even today–even
having said
this, even knowing that
someone is stealing
our lives—I still
had lunch.
–from “Faith”

3. Seibles takes a magnifying glass to Race.

The cufflink pair Racism & Ignorance should disrobe more evidently in the universal coat closet. Fast Animal plays a large role in permanently pressing that tuxedo.

The monsters that murdered
Emmett Till—were they everywhere?
I didn’t know…
Occasionally,

History offers a reprieve, everything
leading up to a particular moment
suddenly declared a mistrial:
so I’m a black boy suddenly

walking the Jenkintown streets
with a white girl—so ridiculously
conspicuous we must’ve been
invisible.
–from “Allison Wolff”

4. Seibles is interested in human beings’ daily miscommunication & uncelebrated resemblance to Animals.

Well, it’s true.

5. Seibles pines for lost, found & as yet undiscovered Love.

In this life, most of us are lucky to encounter the solitary one-who-got-away.
Counting “Allison Wolff” above, tack on “Delores Jepps”, “Donna James”, add a verse about best friend “Terry Moore” then another about big brother, Big Brah, Tom the Bomb. Seibles not only misses everybody he’s ever encountered, he finally gets to say & do everything he meant to at the time. His poems of memory are not unlike finding overalls in an attic, digging in a pocket & pulling out a still-edible candy that’s no longer manufactured.