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James Cole's Poems


Advice to a Bachelor in Imitation

The man who lives alone oft suffers from a raw throat—

it is his screaming in material vacuum that keeps the neighbors

near their phones and runs off the delivery men with their electric collars

But if coffee filters still work, and pesticides keep out tired skids,

then I see no need to criticize, for I too have felt feral in netless nail biting

when I have gone, unobserved, through human contracts low and lucid

Rising, spent wisps kept from candle wick, anger like access as accent

is change, though you wouldn’t know it if you saw it, because seeing

is half the television equation, the rest is burning, like toast, for the binge

through shower caverns of spurious dreams, we make due with dewiness

snoring against tides and hours, until I am fortune like metal shavings

giving way to shine, and you are brought down from hurting, a small Barabas


she who is emerging, 

shardless thing of footprints

which towers at heights higher than

flexes accretion in feats primeval

     wriggled free of loamy bed—

mightier than willing, 

deadlier than done

her venom suppressed until

 all atoned moments

demist, dripped glass affixed

in clear caress

   but too easily the feeling

severed, first numb, tilted

then knowing swift partition

a three-legged scuttle

    familiar limb gone,

           and with it the net of nerves

      felt and feeling, elicit,

spent, potential—

            like a salamander removed


it is as easy as lying, or playing the pipe,

it’s tight thunder passing one sound for another,

only sourcing sweetness with its proper stops

I would play on myself, I would govern these

interruptions and delude the growth until each note

shrills higher than any human hearing can bear

I might fall into deaf sense or dreaming furrow,

know each time of day as doubtless as any 

blind man in an glass room full of sun

and when I find my assurance, I will not need words,

because the indulgence of one is the atrophy

of the other, a submission no one can ever truly read

there’s no shame in the divide, but I wrote a letter

to the Editor anyway and asked when I should expect 

his rejection and the next day my cat died

as if life hasn’t lived since Bobbie Hooke first

gazed into the cloister maze of scum, the cells

becoming quanta, quickly forgetting what is meant

and what it means to seem akin, I have two hands

but I can’t stress their function, so I turn into mosquito,

sending pioneering protozoa directly to your brain

and maybe when I’m happy I won’t have to keep

making these mirrored things, inside, I find myself

one shore away from the error of my Atlantic

outside, I am trying to think of a word that rhymes

with espresso, and all the while, beneath the beam,

the mystery is betrayed, colors cut, cells are dying


In a motion basso profundo,

hand held in slow sign of benediction,

I cut the iron star into bare space

above our wedding bed and, yes,

the sex was better because of it

but now that these cold months

have turned to corrugation, thighs

like damp juts in dripping understory,

I struggle to dispose of all our

emptied water bottles

Wouldn’t you like to find a place

off loft cliffs like fractured stems

in soaring spaces, where everything

climbs by stairs and far pools 

spray from every slat we hew

in ruddy earth

there is a mountain there, like sleeping

you, iron star folded down its middle,

canyon napes, shoulder summits,

and tunnels, I’m told, to satisfy 

our alchemy, an end whose bending 

bars collapse with elbow buttresses

we were given tongues that we

may tell of metal’s telling, enunciate

our furnaced elements, cut out the ritual

and see, pooling on clothes between

deep rolling ichor, which we’ll gather

in hollow vessels to make our quicksilver

Pardon me 

Pardon me, my pathogen is clapping books of verse.

I’d like to thank it, but, barring error, I suspect I should 

feel out its brailty first.

And yes, I’m out of bounds with its illness,

from bank queues to scaffold seams sequestered

at this cable city’s edge.

I have found its trace in a thousand divided slides,

a thousand eye slices deli-cut and paraded in conga

across a transparent stage.

It sparks in new world colors, flowless boreal sumptuals 

bled with maple’s sweet dissection, fields of bloom and vice,

blood and price tags flapping.

I will take a dose, and let my bile sort out the rest

I will feel its serrations graze, its broadheads stick,

I will pull the arrow out with my teeth.


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