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Poetry blog. This is a space to republish original poems and get them back into circulation, as well as for new observations.

 

The pink prosthesis replaces

a limb

that isn’t missing. 

Would you turn away

if the marks weren’t stamped

on the warm body?  This map

won’t help you discover

hidden treasure.

Bones rot

somewhere, bleached out,

unloved.

 

“Peg leg” becomes a term

of endearment.  What relief

to hobble home

to the red city where no one

says your name.  Such hush-hush

lets you spell out, eyes

close to the little hairs,

all the ticklish words, what

you couldn’t lose or give away,

the voices that made

you tremble.

 

Poetic Diversity (November 2013).

 

in yellow lines that won’t

dry into symbol, paint

 

over the appeal for justice, naked limbs

not otherwise obscene, than to service

 

an abstraction, advertising

frames trimmed

 

with false gold that enshrines a future

we shouldn’t touch, as if sealed

 

behind glass, while, headphones

jacked up, the dignified voice

 

guiding us through the white museum

intones, all virtue

 

lies in counting, counting

up to virtue, counting up because

 

a detail means corruption, each particular

only a blotch: but look

 

how peacefully

the little bodies line up in rows

 

Poetic Diversity (November 2013).

 

I was going to tell you the story of a friend who died, but he was not my friend. He wanted to write it in such a way that the grief was your own, your hand wiping his forehead with the soiled handkerchief, your tears the real ones.

 

He was terrified the lost message was not truly lost, a nightmare refusing to fade at the moment of waking. It was as if he had become human.

 

You were telling him a story about how the nightingales lost their hands. You said, peace is only the silence between statues. I said, no, peace is the flag of surrender, the place where they buried their dead.

 

It’s not fair to say he found them. You always knew what they were hiding, but you had to let someone else say it. Quite dirty, but you could see through.

 

The open windows, bright as oblivion. There was nothing more to cry about. He was going to tell you the story of the day I lost my voice. I felt no grief, because the nightmare ended.

 

It was as if you had died, your humanity the real one. There was nothing more to write about. I wanted to hold him, but I found I had no hands.

 

 HIV Here & Now (7 June 2015); Poetic Diversity (April 2013).

 

The male me, the one with

the bushy blond hair,

swaggers across the sidewalk, bopping to

his huge ear-pad headphones.

 

Self-satisfaction surrounds him

like a halo.

Anyone could see it.

It’s an automatic thumbs-up.

 

Just at the right moment,

my female side dances in, from  

the opposite direction,

her healthy chestnut tresses

bouncing to quite a different beat.

 

She’s American as the Sun Maid raisin girl,

a sweet fib

about backbreaking labor, oblivious

behind her own ear pads, a hymn

to joy.

 

The collision is destiny, the promise

that mutual attraction

of the approved sort

begins with arbitrary violence. 

 

Hey,

it’s a natural process, even if  

initially misunderstood:

“You got

your politics in my poetry!”

 

“You got your poetry

on my politics!”

Deus ex machina, a shop clerk in an apron

hands the indignant pair

a tasty compromise formation.

 

You go,

polyglycerol polyricinoleate! 

Let the dance begin, tertiary

butyl hydroquinone!

 

All this makes 1-800-SueU4Pain superfluous,

but

thank you for your concern.

Alas, it’s not the 80s anymore.

 

The tv, flat

as an underwear model’s abdomen,

has burnt through its toxins.

No pain, no gain.

 

Two great tastes that taste

great together: the bald propaganda

I couldn’t write, muscular, handsome,

so retro in his black Doc Martens,

 

and a pretty little peanut butter cup,

actually a prophecy, yes, an infinitely gentle,

infinitely suffering thing.

 

Creative Resistance (March 2014); The Good Men Project (October 2014).

 

No, it’s not pornography.

The suture hardly holds.

It sags like old glass.

 

Cut in half,

A smile becomes sellable.

 

No, not ghosts.

The laundry of the dead,

Listing in the wind.

 

Stains quiet in early light.

Among the eyeless dolls

And unpriced socks.

 

Hit with limbo,

The body grows damp.

 

No, call it a garden,

Where sallow flowers bloom

Like low wattage bulbs.

 

concīs (Winter 2016); Dark Sky Magazine (March 2010).

 

Around my head the ghost face rolls,

unsteady halo, stolen gold,

radioactive discharge

burning off, all I could never

bring myself to bless. Lopsided man,

 

can you say or guess what fig leafs

your cold nakedness, the half-life

of quarter-loves, shadow figures

against the wall—all man, or

maybe doll? Who cannot touch

 

himself, whose pleading seems record

of an instrument that scrapes off crust

of sentiment, that wind-up talk:

I want to swallow you, I will

peel away your wings. The wet grin

 

slides into my undefended

mouth. Staccato laughter rings out:

hot spit flying into emptiness,

biohazard semen and piss.

This upbeat ballad played backwards,

 

phantom twin, an automaton

bruising out the numbers again,

x-ray trespass, you cannot see,

curse lipped in the mirror, warmer

brother—ultraviolet—almost me.

 

HIV Here & Now (20 November 2016).

 

Across ice fields, forks

malice, blue hand famishing,

unable to fist. Each thump

well-salted, holds stung

 

The coarse string. Strand

drifters, unbendable finger,

forward, ho! A string

of snow somewhere, bone

 

Bright circlets, latch

oyster dreams. Sand crack

infinity’s flush aperture.

That sequester galls.

 

Vagrant passengers squander

rondels from the sea. Call

overboard! Sure sinker,

your envoy stings. Weeds

 

Ooze no numb treasure.

Dank anchored chafe.

Unsanitary catch: wire basket

jellied, the blood libels sing.

 

Women’s Studies Quarterly 45:1&2 (Spring/Summer 2017): 190-191.

 

 

the blind spot

the secret of that con

centration grinding

until the scratches

or paint

strokes or pinpricks o

pen a space (it hurts)

 

won’t be words

won’t be clouds

 

he can’t contain his

face his

fingers poking

out of his mouth

of his eyes (please

don’t) his vagina

 

won’t take body

won’t hold soul

 

flesh-colored fingers  

hang down he’d say

seeing is not the

same as (fuck you)

touching

 

won’t cream

won’t bleed

 

blazes out of

art out of reach

of red (I can’t fucking

see) neon

flashing Johnny and

Johnny again

 

“Johnny in Lights.” Spoon River Poetry Review 42.1 (Summer 2017): 36-37.

 

When I was a boy, the confectioner of mixed feelings had not yet opened his shop, mice waiting to gnaw encrusted corners, the paying customers feeling a little dirty. Shadows were more distinct and irony, an unknown country.

When I was a boy, the fever washed in and out. Sometimes it sounded sad, like a seashell held to the ear. I knew, of course, the sea wasn’t really there, that I wasn’t drowning at all. What he whispered didn’t seem quite so,

“You will miss this when you grow up.” Not the sticky hand inside my shorts, nor the hush money, but a horizon where something lay waiting just for me, the lynxes at alphabet’s end.

When I was a boy was an analogue for “when I was a boy,” 45 I could play and play until I was nothing but scratches and pops. The fever broke. I couldn’t taste the dirt and sugar, just a green seasick I couldn’t throw up.

He told me the words, “when I was a boy,” are a prompt for nostalgia, as if the shadows could turn back into ghosts. Yesterday closed its eyes, and the sea has lost its echoes.

The Good Men Project (September 2017).

It’s not that no one will hear it. It’s not that her lips can’t move, or his eyes won’t close tight. All the lights stay on, as if the audition never ends.

Unable to catch himself in the mirror, he’s afraid no one sees him. In the next scene, lying in an open field, he waits for dawn to reveal the burn marks of his disappearance.

Her film is the silent one. She loops the cloth around her arm. After her mouth has moved, someone we don’t see puts on placards the words she didn’t say.

Switch the channel, please. The blood is flowing off-screen. There is a field in Iraq, in Gaza, an airfield near Kabul. There is red meat for the dinner table.

You can’t be too careful, with the camera recording. Tuck in your napkin. You might be the star. In this scene, you kiss him greedily. In the next, you drive a stake into her heart.

Two women kissing, and the film bombed. No, the field was bombed, my close-up taken. These gestures of solidarity have become clichéd, as though the blood meant nothing.

How many striking ways to drive home the same point. How to be dreamy always. How many air strikes. The scene is set. The extras are shooting up. All your lines will have to be improvised.

The Main Street Rag 23:2 (Spring 2018): 48; Creative Resistance (July 2017).