Patty Seyburn

Against Weltschmerz

Today I am relying on the 7 Greeks for solace.
The 7 Greeks, and leftovers: broccoli, soggy
chopped salad and half an avocado. A serpentine
gesture of olive oil and three drips of soy sauce.
This is delicious. My husband says he dated
a girl who said “Dee-lish!” in high school and
this made me love him more. I hope she is
thriving. Archilochus is a favorite. And I think
Diogenes and I would have spent many hours
at Sid’s bar on old Newport Boulevard, in Costa
Mesa, before pest inspectors rightly closed it.
“I have come to debase the coinage,” he wrote.
If you do not find that funny, we probably
have no basis for friendship. That is not a threat.
I am not the only friend out there, and we each
offer a different range of trills and bird-songs.
You know I am fond of the common loon.
Its eerie aria not for everyone. Archilochus
disapproves of Thracian up-dos and claims
the fox’s eleventythree tricks don’t compare
with the hedgehog’s one trick. I like hedgehogs,
the Greeks and leftovers. On this day,
I believe the world-weariness will fade,
much as dew fades. I am also fond of dew,
how it is reliable and ephemeral, all at once.


The gas-gauge arrow, my current amour
as I fill and refill in one of two cars –
which side? I glance; it tells.

Perhaps pairing the octagon to stop –
shape to idea, that took a mind
capable of “deep work” – trending

term for being able to sustain
attention. Adam insists he thought of
pump toothpaste before the marketers –

Julie says, sushi earrings, a brief fling
in urban markets. Whoever thought
of putting a small cabin with pretend

doors and windows inside a fishbowl –
I like how you think. As for marriage –
it must have been novel, at first –

we choose to stay together? Human
practice devised by some king
posing as divinely chosen,

history says, to create family alliances.
Somewhere farther back, though, after Lucy,
after homo habilis, homo erectus,

after the Neanderthals – some homo
sapiens came up with a plan, predating
Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” – perhaps

the most persuasive argument. I do not
wish I had invented the practice – utility
not the measure of a man, Plato says,

it’s what we do with power. Short of a cure
for disease, I would rather have invented
the ladle, enabling the distribution of soup

with minimal fuss, and perhaps the vase
so you can bring flowers inside
to admire them whenever you like.

My Hamartia

will be more flaw than error
which critics quibble over since
we can’t ask Aristotle for a point
of clarification like in Robert’s Rules
of Order, and my flaw may not be
considered tragic though it has
given me and mine some grief.
Though Greek in name, my hamartia
bears some resemblance to the pre-
Hellenic leader of my faith — mister
strike a rock instead of asking it for water —
though that is only a pretext for why
Moses could not cross over into
the promised land — he remembered
being a slave and remembered being
a master and neither would suit
this new pursuit of justice
and righteousness, treacherous terrain.
Not all memory is useful. My promised
land is one of memory, with small baskets
of Danish and a kidney shaped
pool with two high dives that I
would try on the last day of vacation,
to my brother’s frustration.
I am not high-born, royal or noble
(catsup on eggs, bit nails, poor posture,
ant instead of aunt, worship of coupon)
as many who suffer the hamartian fate
though Gatsby was an imposter
and Victor Frankenstein’s means
would not seem the issue — more
the wanting to be God problem.
I, too, want to be God, think I may
be God, though I don’t wear the robe
well, being capricious, occasionally
lazy and overly fond of those who
laugh with me. Also, I find immanence
elusive. Shakespeare’s band of protagonists
are flawed soup to nuts but we don’t
have much in common—even Shylock
and I don’t see eye to eye despite
splitting an order of manna in the desert.
Our just desserts: isn’t that at the heart
of hamartia? Wherever you go, there
you are and you eat what you get or
you eat what you catch? My fatal flaw
is like a cliched answer to the interview
question: what are your weaknesses?
I work too hard stay too late don’t
leave until the project’s done but spun
to look pleasantly obsessive. My hamartia
wants Achilles’ metaphor because it’s all
purpose—any given day your error
can be that heel and it absolves you —
after all you were dipped by your mother
to protect you — she needed somewhere
to grip but since sandals were in fashion,
there was exposure. My hamartia comes
from archery — the arrow that misses
the bullseye— but when missed consistently,
one must consider the source: a bow
that never quite fit the hand and an arrow
inserted improperly that almost
by accident, on occasion, gets to the heart
of the matter. My hamartia is not knowing
whether it’s better to forget or remember
and so when each begins to happen
I am miserable. Moses laughs at my hamartia.
I tell him it’s not nice to laugh at
other’s suffering. Your indecision
blights you like locusts on crops,
he says, plagues his best source of
figurative language. If everyone starves,
don’t look at me. You are not so
nice for someone stuck in the desert,
I mumble with all my heart.

To My Daughter: a prophecy

77 betrayers will stand by the road
but your guardian angel is hot
like men from Marvel’s Chris vault
enough to make the stranger’s eye distraught
and all the short words that take a long time to say
like fail
will become soothing lozenges or better yet
chaise longues at the pool when you fell
asleep on me, your ear (nicely formed from your father’s side)
to my heart. I did provide your decisive chin
that ends your face as if to say, enough,
, the same tone my mother spoke Yiddish
reserved for those in the know.
She would know what to do
with sadness
but I was not grateful enough for her to live
so long. That’s the truth
I have to live

I tend to love what murmurs
and words with spit in them like ferkakte
and words with a hill to ride over
like crepusculo
and spatulas because they flip things over
so you can see the other side
and know there is another side.
My strongest features are my philtrum
(from Greek for love charm – it makes me
a mammal) and
my fovea – “that small depression
in the retina where visual acuity is highest” –
other than that, I can’t see for shit
so it’s funny that I offer you visions –
mine, usually jeremiads.
My accessories are yours; yours better.
Your hair has aventurescence.
My mother said, pull back your hair from your

Shayna punim
She was right
I am right
You and I will look back and say
You and I will look back and say

Do you think I have a crystal ball?
Do you think the tarot explain their poses
for me?
I have but a soupspoon of instincts,
have received death phone calls
with no inkling of anything amiss –
Hello? I singsong – have shown up
to find affairs rearranged, vaults padlocked
and weeping and prevailing winds
no clue. My parched palms host broken paths – I think
I have exceeded their drifts.
You with two braids cradling your head
like scales of justice –
they keep you balanced between
mercy and righteousness – no cruelty –
you know I am fond of cruller and compote,
words whose origins declare
we have drunk foreign libations

But thou, my babe
don’t forget to pack
your abacus – so many simple,
ancient calculations – how much
one loves, has loved, will love

best verb to conjugate
a verb is a verb is a verb
Down the road, dead leaves crackle
in a contraband blaze
only five percent contained but the right direction.
I tend to love the lesser doxologies,
can only devote so much time
to praise – I have children to raise.
Your guardian angel’s cheekbones
slice the night in two, reserve
the latter half for clemency
while birds hurl themselves into our clerestory
windows – they are so clean.
Remember days that begin with your peace lily
proffering a white bloom streaked with green
and your small globe that loves light
revolving slowly, not
needing to be told.

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 is a proud professor at California State University, Long Beach.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.