Poem of the Week | July 13, 2010

This week, we feature an unpublished poem by Bruce Cohen. Cohen’s poems have appeared in literary periodicals such as The Georgia Review, Ecotone, Ploughshares, Poetry, Prairie Schooner & The Southern Review, as well as being featured on Poetry Daily & Verse Daily. He has published two collections of poems, Swerve (Black Lawrence Press), and Disloyal Yo-Yo, (Dream Horse Press), which was awarded the 2007 Orphic Poetry Prize.

Obviously, we are bombarded, inundated and, at times, overwhelmed by the influx of information, most of which has no bearing on our lives. This poem is a sort of contemporary moment while flipping through a magazine, watching the tube, cruising the internet and looking out into my backyard, after a tree had fallen, after a nightmarish jet-delay return home. The rapidity of information became the litany and music of the poem. And, oh yes, a little self-confrontation thrown in for good measures.

The World Haywire

During the socio-eco-race riots, street thugs & drag queens looted big
Screens & cash registers from the flaming Montgomery Ward-film at
Automatic sprinkler systems ejaculated & sirens unleashed.  Brick
By piggy-brick banks dismantled.  Depression era ghosts hawked
Magritte apples & invisible pencils while checking their Blackberries.

Now suicidal day-traders hustle pomegranate-flavored vitamin water,
Day-old sushi & Co-Q 10 anti-oxidant protein bars dressed in Hare Krishna
Garb at the airports.  American children are signing up for Thai sex slave
Summer camp.  Carefully consider the loss of children as tax deductions
Before investing.  Past performanceis no guarantee of future results.

Cardboard damsels might give you the silent treatment for decades,
Incriminating pics in their panty drawers & swabs from wrinkled shirts
Presidentially covered in sperm & unfamiliar perfume.  They jerry-rig your
Brakes so they snap in a snowstorm.  They only want to Ka-ching on your
So, under the guise of “being accommodating” you imagine staging your

Death, like virgin snow in the shape of a foreign car in the long-term
Airport lot.  In the sky, actual stars start to infiltrate imitation ones.  At
Beds move a little farther apart.  This is foreshadowing the domestic ice
This is the past saying pay up bitch-this is why zippers are always
Cashmere, why bill collectors call you by your first name, why sour nurses

Giggle at the flap in the back of your hospital gown, why speeding tickets
Multiply in your glove compartment, why you’re always the one being
Over by a cop who contends your driver’s license photo is not you, even
Though you admit your life is smoothed over with plastic surgery-how
The world is a raw deal, gravity being more than just a theory, whole

Cities shrinking into souvenir snow globes, shaken then dropped in airport
Gift shops, this is why dry cleaners let your clothes pass by on the carousel
Of garments you can’t afford to pay the ransom on-why every streetlight
Is out, why they consider converting an entire generation into a single
Notice how among all the trees and buildings one tree is in fact missing.