City of Grief

Vijay Seshadri

No one needs an explanationhere for what happened."It happened" is the explanation.No one here belongs to arace, an empire, a nation,only to this unmappable,landlocked, film-noir citysituated in eternity.They live by night here.The time here is local time.The crime is local crime.The girl with the nameshe stole from her dead sister,the dead man in the lakeknow that things areforever the same.Sameness is their essence.Nothing here is sinisterbecause nothing is at stake.Everything is null and voidof depth, of resonance,not real but celluloid.Yesterday was yesterday,today is today, andno one cares whyone becomes the other—no one but the private eyethat is, the gumshoe, thebird dog standing in for us,our body double, our fedora-sporting, anachronistic,obsolete consciousness,who is always tortured bywhat he can't understand,who hires himselfto investigate himself,who cooks his dinner for oneand tries to think throughwhat can't be thought through.The black wine is aerating.The pasta is limp and waitingto be sauced and tossed.There is a clue to find.There is an innocenceto establish and an anguish inhim he needs to destroybefore it destroys him, ananguish so pure it almostfeels like joy.

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Vijay Seshadri’s new book of poems is That Was Now, This Is Then (Graywolf, 2020).​ His work has been widely published and anthologized and recognized with a number of honors, among them the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the Literature Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

“The essence of Seshadri’s writing is conversation, and that conversation is coiling and liquid, not diffident. Seshadri is fluent in an unusually wide range of forms — he ranges here from rhymed quatrains to fat blocks of prose — and his voice is typically chatty, probing, importuning, self-mocking. . . . He’s a poet who mesmerizes not by stillness but by zigs and zags.”
The New York Times Book Review

“[Vijay Seshadri’s] intellectually nimble new collection . . . reads like a warning to readers in ways real and emotional. . . . It has such power and unease, you may leave it feeling less alone.”
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