Fast Animal // Tim Seibles


One of the best books I’ve read recently has been Fast Animal by Tim Seibles, a 2012 National Book Award Finalist. Seibles, one of America’s foremost African-American poets has given the world a collection of tight, elegant, and honest poems about growing up: themes of innocence, memory, (un)knowing run throughout. Additionally, Fast Animal includes multiple villanelles (including one titled “Mad Poets Villanelle”!). The villanelle is a hard form to love, in my opinion, but Seibles wins me over with his warmth and conversational language.

Below are two of my favorite poems from the book:


4 A.M. (Tim Seibles)


I caught the last great caravan of clouds.

City night. Sky like the inside of a skillet


and bright as ghosts, they crossed – not slowly

but unhurried – as if remembering the way


by feel, the way you might touch the wall

of a dark hall at a friend’s house late, moving


toward the back porch where you heard the Junebugs

unbuttoning their brass jackets. September.


September: another good summer gone and me

another season older with these streets


wet from a small storm that woke me

to see silver clouds drawn along the sky.


But before that   I had been dreaming: a box

of bottles on the back seat of a car, sunlight


sassing the windshield. A hitchhiker

wearing the bluest baseball cap


you ever saw. I guess I had been

driving and somehow money


was involved, but neither of us knew

how much. We knew the police


were hiding in the church. “But look

how it is,” he aid, “The road,
I mean, and wide,” and the wind stuttered

in the spidery weeds while the asphalt stirred


like a dark sheet under which someone

sleeping had turned over and then,


it was a river    much wider than a road,

with the air barely brushing the trees


the way you might touch the hair of someone

you loved once, stumbling into her


beneath the marquee after a movie. It was

hard smiling the brief embrace, seeing her walk


away, because her walk was the reason

you had tried to meet her five Junes ago-


her smiling voice, the almost sleepy grace

in her gait: you remember scolding yourself


for wanting again: you already believed

she would pass through you life -


which she did – like the good season

of a late hour, like a brightness


opening the dark by feel,

the way a blindfolded boy looks


for his friends in his unlit basement –

the quiet so thick he begins to think


they are gone completely     which, in face,

they are: having one by one


slipped out the back door

where, after some giggles,



they catch the sunset

rubbing brass into their blue jackets


and decide    to just go home

while he traces the walls,


the dusty sofa, the smooth plank

of the ironing board, not knowing his hands


would eventually find the differences

between what moves, what stays and what


was never really there at all.


Love Poem (Tim Seibles)

for Renee


Something like soft light, something

like shadows:


This silence, this

pause before the machines

begin again:


earlier than dawn, almost

awake              consciouness remembering


consciouness – itself a dream       near the surface

of things – always invisible, the ghost


moving me around:


Hello, it seems to say,

be with me,     but I’m

not sure.


Alone and not alone, all day

I move around, my heart knocking

against itself.


I think about the perfect agreement

between our bodies, the alliance of hips –


paradise. Our veins

mapped together for awhile:


We have traveled so much

for the territory between us

and still there is a long, long way.


Is this what love is?


On my own, I talk to people.

I turn the same corners with my blood

awake in its maze.




I keep trying to say,

but that’s not what I mean.

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