Bruce Cohen’s poems and essays have appeared in AGNI, The Georgia Review, The Harvard Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Prairie Schooner & The Southern Review as well as being featured on Poetry Daily & Verse Daily. He has published three volumes of poetry: Disloyal Yo-Yo (Dream Horse Press), which was awarded the 2007 Orphic Poetry Prize, Swerve (Black Lawrence Press) and Placebo Junkies Conspiring with the Half-Asleep (Black Lawrence Press). A new collection, No Soap, Radio, is forthcoming in 2015. A recipient of an individual artist grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, he joined the Creative Writing faculty at the University of Connecticut in 2012.
The Czar of Hartford
For breakfast I engaged in a blinking contest with my fried eggs;
By afternoon I was playing chicken with commuter trains that acted
Like homing pigeons back to Hartford; tonight I'll race through
The Projects flashing my high beams. People seem to arrive in two
Varieties: all talk or all ears. When young no one has dibs on the world—
In the blink of an eye pigeon-populated properties are boarded up,
But I hold out real hope of being alive again sometime when my ticker
& brain will be properly synchronized so that the wind won't play
Keep-away with a hat that keeps getting exchanged from an after-Christmas sale.
We rarely admit how For Rent we humans are.
Insurance agents are leaping out office windows at exactly five minutes
Before five, their parachutes made of obsolete policies. Shy men flap
Their arms thinking they might grow feathers & fly a little before they crash.
Last night I purchased an exquisite vintage port that requires a good
Two decades of cellaring. Perhaps, someday maybe, my sons will
Toast me. Maybe God is even crueler than we think & has simply
Dangled us in this isolating world—as the live bait.
The easiest thing for any man to do is counterfeit his own currency—
The hardest part being brash enough to circulate it in public.
Monk Dom Perignon is said to have exclaimed, when he discovered champagne,
I am tasting stars! God thought temperate weather a splendid idea, that's why most
Psychopaths reside in Tucson. I bumped into Cosmo (I forget his real name) checking
Out of the flea motel—I wouldn't have recognized him if he hadn't told me he was
Cosmo. But let's not play games: God inserted a speck of Cosmo in each of us.
Apparently he woke up in the same crumpled outfit he wore the night before—
A high wire night with no net, with no parachute of skin—reeking of urine
& stagnant whiskey, achy from a bedbug infested box spring he passed out on.
Only a man like Cosmo can redefine cosmopolitan, the Cosmos. Joy junkie.
Whore hoarder. Combustible women limbo under the motel door, shimmy over
Ransoms, pound on windows from fire escapes. Blindfolded in a warm pool
We arm-splash through life. Someone peed in the pool. Marco. Polo. Marco.
The cityscape that exacerbates the landscape outside this motel is reminiscent
Of discolored bricks spray painted with talking blackbirds & pink elephants
Interrupted by a semi-official inquiry, an open-handed knock. An alarm clock
Impersonates a cigarette machine in the lobby, a medicated man spirals above
A chair in the middle of the room, half-naked, wearing an upside down silk tie,
No furniture except the bed—the smell of burnt pancakes from a diner down
The street. The fire department omniscient. You don't have to be a brain surgeon
To know we're all fugitives from our own lives, giddy on hotel beds with bank-heisted
Loot, our skin turning color, a strange shade of orange, from the time-delay exploding
Dye that makes the money un-spend-able—we are, now, entirely, dark orange.
Room Service! Dial 9 for room service—lobster steamed in fresh churned butter, my
Weight, please, in Beluga caviar (Cosmo is much thinner, as are all alter egos).
In the next room anorexic manikins pose in my favorite alluring gestures, some faux
Serious, some with fingers comically plugging orifices, smoking in bed like twenties
Starlets. Marco. Polo. Cosmo avoided Viet Nam & its hangover by enlisting for a hitch
In a monastery (not Perignon's) after watching every episode of Kung Fu, even
The confusing, trippy last season after too much acid was equitably ingested by actors
& writers alike in the hope that prime time could ease human suffering, erase
The rehearsed answers of beauty pageant contestants. Cosmo has an odd spin on beauty:
One can see snapshots of Jayne Mansfield's decapitated head, one has watched numerous
Times Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, one is insane from smoke detectors with dead
Batteries. The fire engine has been summoned. One spends the majority of heart-ticks
Privately, in public, like frogs croaking, amphibians in the dark—on the high wire
Star-filled night when one kisses other humans; one is between evolutions, in the
Polliwog stage, a lonely tadpole. Researchers have isolated the gene that causes women
To turn hysterical at amusement parks. If Cosmo were to take his blind-folded eye off
His offspring next thing one knows one's drinking milk straight from the carton with
A mug shot of one's love muffin plastered above a "last seen" date. We are, in all
Actuality, kidnapped, abducted, from our own lives by aliens. One does not have to be
A genius to look through a hole in any chain link fence to witness something one
Shouldn't testify to. But when one tries to describe it, it fritters away, like champagne
Bubbles, stars traveling down a throat, like a monk scrambling to the cellar in response
To exploding bottles, an enological commotion. We are all famous in our little circles
For our mythological mishaps, our accidental discoveries, indiscretions, women tossing
Flat champagne in our faces, slamming doors open—slamming doors just for the effect,
Before emphasizing that this conversation is. Not. Over. Motherfucker.