Bruce Cohen

The Alphabet of Vanishing

A. I found a fat wallet in a snowbank & thought about calling the owner.
B. A neologism should, if it doesn’t already, exist.
C. The excuse: the overcoat looked exactly like mine.
D. Subtext: a majority of newborns look alike.
E. I appreciate the fact there are cameras everywhere.
F. I would say this: the intoxicating disorientation after a nap when my father read
     the statistics on the backs of baseball cards to me.
G. He was still somewhat alive in his five o’clock shadow then.
H. Sometimes all I can do is hum along.
I. Deflation: the snowplow knocks the mailbox over.
J. Important inquiries on the walkup-conversation to the party: did you remember,
     sweetheart, the Pinot Noir & how long do we have to stay?
K. A moment of realization: I place a Styrofoam container (I lost my appetite after
     the fight & couldn’t finish my lasagna) on the roof of my car while fumbling for
     my keys & I drive off.
L. Question: is this better than leaving it on the table?
M. Repeat after me: an insatiable enigma equates to no question mark as desperate as
     I feel.
N. I joined in the funeral procession by simply flipping on my headlights thereby
circumventing the horrible traffic jam.
O. Inquiry: does this make me evil?
P. I order Szechuan take-out over the phone with a Chinese inflection thinking the
     salt & pepper squid will be prepared more authentically, spicy enough.
Q. And then there is the odd absurdity of renting shoes.
R. A bowling alley comes to mind. Proms. Weddings.
S. The attendant spraying the disinfectant inside the soles.
T. There are intertwined worlds, yes, but I prefer the one where no one is watching
     & the jukebox is operational, broken in a good way, so you don’t need coins.
U. What was the name of your first pet? I never had a pet. Well, let’s talk about that.
V. In the year I was born, Bird’s Eye introduced Fish Sticks.
W. In the year I was born Weldon Kees left his car running on the approach to the
     Golden Gate & vanished—suicide or incognito in Mexico, slumming in cantinas
     with lazy ceiling fans or consumed by parasites?
X. In the year I was born John Berryman began jotting notes for his Dream Songs
     And my father’s moment was when the pay phone was spewing out coins.
Y. And now there are cameras everywhere & we find it not impolite to insist
     strangers snap our pictures.
Z. There are intertwined worlds but I prefer the one where no one is.



Partners: A Diego Rivera Painting @ The Frank Lloyd Wright Falling Waters House

Our droopy human form is designed for flaws & failure:
                    Prefabricated in pairs:
Testicles, breasts, corneas, pinkies & a double set of pinch-able cheeks!
An internet stranger inquires if I’ll donate one of my kidneys.

Diego, each room has an anti-

Architectural view of the river
As the motion of the river has no concept the room’s value is the space
Between walls,

At such strange angles it prohibits
Peeping into the transparency of these windows one can only look

               Out from = a married man has a mistress,
The mistress, another lover.
(The imperfect masterpiece collides with the perfect forgery).

                    Yes Frank, you designed your house within the contours
Of the landscape so curtains were unnecessary.
                              No one will peer into your world,

Only out.

A true artist can only talk to no more
Than two people at once—

Not counting imaginary.

A little background: parents speak in their native tongues
Or Pig Latin or spell out abbreviated sentences
When they don’t want offspring to understand.

While I cannot speak Spanish, Diego, when I see your paintings I think in your Spanish.

If one clove of garlic improves the menudo, why not add two?
That we each have one heart only must have significance

But even the convoluted brain boasts two sides: cerebellum & cerebrum.
Where, then, shall intellect & intuition intersect?

Is falling in love really explained only by the creation
Of newly configured neuropath ways?

Siamese twins share one heart—
Cannot be separated without killing one.

                              It’s no wonder
People zombie around with the ghost-weight of a dead twin,
That everyone suspects he is secretly a twin.

Delusion is sometimes forgetting the paradoxical distinction

                                        Between what I say & what I think.
I never lie I always lie: yet only one can be
The lie. Yet both can be true, right Frank?

                         The intelligence quotient of a hummingbird
Is the absence of another hummingbird.

It must be a type of failure that we each only have one heart.


Bruce Cohen’s poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear, in The Antioch Review, The Harvard Review, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Plume & Prairie Schooner. He has published five volumes of poetry: Disloyal Yo-Yo (Dream Horse Press), which was awarded the 2007 Orphic Poetry Prize, Swerve (Black Lawrence Press), Placebo Junkies Conspiring with the Half-Asleep (Black Lawrence Press), and most recently, No Soap, Radio! (Black Lawrence Press), and Imminent Disappearances, Impossible Numbers & Panoramic X-Rays which was awarded the 2015 Green Rose Prize from New Issues Press.