you are in the diode archives fall 2009



Now Baby or Never

After an episodic half-life of high balls & shredded nerves, his hands arthritic tremors—
My poetry superhero slouches at the podium & cannot lift the water-glass to his parched
Lips, the audience polite, pretending to not notice embryonic gunk caked on the corners
Of his mouth, not to mention armpit gin-stains.  Ice cubes rattling the glass seem to be
Wired to a Marshall amp—the whispering gaggle of creative writing students, attending
For extra credit, are acoustic, but the microphone samples Hendrix feedback.  I wish
Most days to place the world on vibrate, squelch all conversations, switch TV’s
To permanent mute.  People-people, people—do you really need to express every random
Thought?  I, for one, only repeat stuff important to me, which my wife finds particularly
Annoying.  When my team suffers an injustice by the zebra-ed authorities I scream
Outrage & plead to those washed-up-ex-player-color-guys & my wife insists it is I who
Am crazy.  Normal people don’t shout obscenities at their flat screens she points out. 
Her definition of sanity steals a nap in her secret room I can’t locate.  If I tilt the abstract
Family portrait just so the wall moves, but I’m afraid to go in.  The students at my hero’s
Book-signing are thrilled when I pick up the tab—those free-loaders swigging the last
Drops of Gigondas from a year they don’t recognize as good.  Even the pretty waitress,
Who I over tip, has a Jones for us to come back again.  Soon.  She’s very clear & specific
About that.  I pretend to not see the man at the next booth whose nose is deformed &
Bluish, like poor-circulation cottage cheese, or a clay duck left on a radiator, a boxer’s
Oxidized cauliflower ear, transplanted, very Picasso.  I don’t doubt his wife once thought
Him a hot potato.  Wedding photos must exist that validate my theory of his historic
Beauty.  Maybe love is just being very polite, pretending to not see the people we love
As they are now, ignoring how they shuffle around the house in their stained boxers,
Searching for their secret rooms, wiping, at the bistro, delicate butter-based French
Sauces from their lips, which aren’t too chapped, with shirt sleeves over starched from
The dry leaner.  Some days it takes a Herculean effort to grunt Good Morning before
Ingesting that first cup of bitter coffee.  When I am alone I want company.  When
Surrounded at the after-reading party I can’t wait to get home, space out in front of the
Flat screen, fondle my alphabetized wine collection, check my email, check my email . . .
I thought I’d be a little wiser by now, a little more of a world-participant.  But my passive
Anger is a backseat driver who just won’t shut up.  Driving home from the reading
I’m stuck behind some idiot on his cell leaving his random thoughts on voice mail,
Oblivious to the light changing green.  As a law biding citizen I’m obligated to blast my
Horn just as some maniac tries to beat his light, almost killing me & my wife, convincing
Himself later it was yellow, not red, officer.  At the bar my hero bummed a smoke, lit
His match, but his hand shook so asymmetrically I grabbed his wrist & guided that flame
That still exists between us to his jittery tobacco stick.  Maybe life is our ability to make
Adjustments to compensate for our inadequacies & love’s measured by our capacity
To overlook, make up a story if necessary, rearrange truth the way Picasso reassembled
Faces, based upon how we envision ourselves, listening intently in the human auditorium.


The Good Ship Lollipop

Walk don’t run along the slippery edges of the pool & don’t
Swim too soon after eating unrefrigerated tuna sandwiches.
Don’t push in line—we know your life is involuntarily jackknifing
But only one person on the diving board at a time & no back flips.
Refrain from holding your siblings’ heads under water for more
Than a few weeks & don’t dive in the deep end with fallible
Inflatable fables if you are not a certified independent swimmer
& have a blow-up buddy.  Perfect the dead man’s float before
Mastering the dog paddle which might seem sort of backwards—
Counterintuitive—not to mention ominous.  Respond immediately
To the life guard’s whistle & return to your beach blanket
When there are shark sightings.  What!—the pool has matured
Into an ocean!  How French Noir!  How progressive!  Wear
Flip-flops while collecting Sand Dollars so you don’t slice
Your feet on jagged horseshoe crabs or get stung by poisonous
Jelly fish.  Evidence suggests something larger than ourselves
Does exist: a whale carcass washed ashore.  Not to jump ship
Per se but who understands women who bury us alive in the sand— 
Women so desperate to escape they douse themselves in kerosene
& tease themselves by striking matches before strolling out on the cliffs
& jumping without bungee cords or parachutes or functioning wings? 
It was much more civilized when gals smeared sun block on
The parts of our bodies sticking out of the sand & painted lipstick on
Our protesting lips & drew an extra eye where our brains should be.  


Bruce Cohen’s work has appeared in a variety of journals, including AGNI Online, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and TriQuarterly.  His poems have also been featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily.  A recipient of an individual artist grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, he has two collections of poems, Disloyal Yo-Yo (Dream Horse Press), which was awarded the 2007 Orphic Poetry Prize, and Swerve (forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press).