Tim Seibles--Headshot by Jennifer Fish_ 4Z1B6714.jpg

Tim Seibles

Initially, each of these poems began with an opening line that seemed to come from out of nowhere. From that point, I began to write what seemed to come next -- whatever felt organic to that first utterance.

As always, my revision process involves slow but steady editing and adding to the poem's body. Clarity is the thing I'm after; I tell my students all the time "it doesn't matter how brilliant an idea is if it can't be understood." So, after the first rush of words, I try to figure out what the essential news of the poem is.

Then, the process becomes one of searching for fresh language and clearing away all that is merely muttering and stuttering. Ideally, one is left with something readable and memorable.


Photo credit: Jennifer Fish

< draft > 



< draft >


and yet,

the poem remains
unafraid: a black Pegasus
tattooed on its
bare chest.

Do whatever you want!
the poem taunts, as people
steady the scaffold
and test the noose.

It’s dawn.
The poem’s been
awake for hours
wondering why

it has to be
this way, when once
there was song
and so much promise.

Do your worst,
the poem laughs, flexing
its pecs so the black wings
flap and the poem begins

to rise, begins
to see itself
far above the mob,
far from all the trouble—

objective, detached—
like a coffee shop:
citizens coming

with no dirty looks,
no axes to grind,
just wanting

something to propel them
into the relentless
day    with clear sight
and a thumping heart.

Just get your coffee
and get out!
the poem shouts

the sun leering now,
elbowing the clouds.

< revision > 


Brothaz in gangs, man, they don’ see no other way.
--Jeff Bryant

Hey, DJ--run that back

 Days when I think I might
live forever: sunlight standing on the corner,
brim bent to one side, nothing

to remember—
the breeze changing shape: one leaf, then
another    a whole branch smiling.

What I want to say
is this: you do not have
to die—you do    not

have to die    with your eyes
broken and blood burning
your fists.  Brothaz,

today    is a door,
the hour, still open.

Though the trap has been set,
though the graves

keep calling, we do not have to listen.

after all these years, Time
still lives down around the way
across from the schoolyard,

waiting for everybody
to come over: the plates are hot,
the bass is bangin’—the DJ

won’t, d-d-don’t stop.
Untie your hands.

Turn up your heart.