Unendurably Gentle From the upstairs Room, one could not tell Cloudy from clear Until the sun was Well up into the leafy Metacoloring limbs of resolute Trees; by that Time, a skein of noise had Cracked like a whip and lingered like Sustained applause, up Over the roof of the Room, quite invisible, in its Passage south--voices Of the atmosphere calling As, one suddenly Imagines, voices may Also call us from water or fire It is only later, while Digging shallow Trenches for spring Bulbs, that one looks Up over one's Shoulder to seek the butterfly casting That wavering Shadow and is surprised to see A single red leaf hovering On the wind Voiceless A handful of bulbs, Sunlight And the leaf-swept air Circadian Rhythm Receptive to a fault The mind composes an instantaneous response To the miscarriage of day in sunset Resolving in more sombre tones Even when full moonlight Casts trees' shadows on the grass In a graphic modulation of day The mind retains a tenacious night blindness Having wrung each key of light by day And only when, fumbling Sunrise measures its golden key against the mind's iron keyhole Is the miracle again transacted That renegotiates the channel to the possibility of delight The Party I finally flowered last night And I was splendid Each goer, detached from habitual comfort Was suspended, a single petal Quivering in prevailing breezes he could not command For long, beneath the soil I ramified, seeking light But humans resist so what they most desire Bursting at last from the soil Jewel and ginger and cinnamon and wine Into warm sunlight and frosty air I caught everyone by surprise Already now they recall me Like a kiss or a victory And their lives are altering To the motive of my memory Seeking a glimpse of the light Our Tuesday Off Heroes braving the hot breath of a monstrous afternoon We hurried from bakery to bakery seeking challah The new year was upon us We could almost see its huge hand rising behind us at the street's end But, though we were able to capture a few fresh bagels We failed to achieve even a sighting of our true prize The movie would not begin for two more hours There was no cool and quiet place to conspire over The Bostonians So we made a dash for the Five and Dime Woolworth's!! An old woman stood in the doorway looking out As if waiting for the afternoon to pounce The Lysol was an entire childhood in the air We were safely back in the Fifties Both of us reached up our hands to our parents, no longer above or behind us, instinctively We took to the energy hungry cold like icicles Emerging with large envelopes Sealing our secrets in them to mail to our friends, our contacts far off Now, even under the hot haunches of the day, we feel breezes Stop in for ice cream Forget the laws and businesses of the weekday world Our Tuesday off Like an envelope all to itself Filled with its tiny enchantments And labelled with our address Islands I have been sitting back in my comfortable chair Talking to you now for years Often pleasantly about my love of nature Trying to bring to life for you my experience Then sometimes I have sat forward and told you confidentially about a secret Or smiled widely and launched into a rendition of a new idea or discovery Finishing, hands in the air, at the edge of my seat I have told you stories that have been told many times before And stories of my own invention I have taken you on my travels And discussed with you my triumphs and anger My love and pain You have sat in your chair and I have sat in mine We have never coupled Not even in my imagination (have we in yours?) You have never spoken If we are lovers, it is love platonic If we are friends, we are pen pals Or telepathic travelers in different solar systems And I have been dominant or perhaps alone My desire to speak having led me into such large silences I can never know you Can never participate in your dominance, in your secret certainties I could not, even if I were to sit in the same room with you Not only with your image as you have sat with mine But with you bodily With all the sensual complications that that entails If I were to question you and question you Far into many consecutive nights Piecing together your memories and motivations Your speculations and certainties Were I not to interrupt To interject my views or implicate or exonerate myself And were I able to overcome your evasions and inflations Still I could not ever know you Without becoming you Though I might write your biography With great accuracy and sensitivity I cannot love what you have loved Or fear what you have feared I can never see that moonlit night on the terrace in Florence As you did when it really happened I didn't even know you then O many and many a year ago, as you might say I can only cherish my own approximation of your longing Suspecting that your blood probably whispers in a different key in your vessels than mine in mine That you may have held a starfish in your hand when you were three years old That makes your washcloth so comfortable to hold now when you stand under the shower (but, of course, you may not have--even you cannot recall) With every moment of your life contained in every otherLike a country I can never be born in Or a death I cannot enter into unless I mean to become it You sit before me Suddenly vivid and glowing A living reminder That you can never be me That my words (and even I myself) have all along been artifacts Something already fixed Like a chair or a claypot Or anything else that can be perverted or ennobled By its uses A commodity merely No longer me Or of me But passed from me to you Yours now really Because we are so different, you and I Sitting in our separate chairs Recognizing that nothing but our two individual annihilations can make us one Note to a Physical Therapist Your face showed no regret And so though you may pick berries or flowers or squash I can see now that you will never pick any weeds from my mind's garden Will never set eyes on it Not though you cultivate, spray, and caress every muscle in my body Not though you hold my head heavy with gratitude against you You left me, again, with the initiative A fine professional stance And I hold it like a watermelon (round shouldered) Silenced by its unwieldiness Pondering your recent enthusiasm for my comfort Was it to modalities, a new challenge, public relations that you sacrificed your leisure To science then and comfort Or was I right at first--shall we say art and kindness Perhaps no one will ever know You seem to be agreeable If I divert my life before you To observe it as it runs past And make desultory comment What I meant was You might find it, a three-day hike into the forest If you thought it worth such seeking Not pain but beauty At journey's end I should best have taken my cue from you Admitted nothing I thought I saw or felt Gone on in my own professional stance And let the moment slip Like an ambassador, shall we say, to Denmark "What matter if there are a few less invitations to dinner And we meet a refusal to vote with us on one or two insignificant issues This estrangement had to occur anyway sooner or later We are different peoples" And so, the moment has passed I thank you professionally For your great courtesy Yes, and kindness May you always know health, confidence, and joy Fly, Bee The fly On all fours Has a dog's thorax But such flexible wires for arms Wires she rubs together As if paring them For flight She moves with the clamor and decisiveness Of youth Barreling through summer Flailing demoniacally around everything that stirs The yellow jacket moves with the poise of a greater age Insinuating her deep amber into the very meshes of autumn Brushing aside the sand on the cement with her restrained flight Hanging about the aging blackberries and currants Walking upon those fine hairy legs The quiet confidence of slow flight And the low hum of contentment Resonate among the turning leaves As a cello among violins An other dangerous voice In a membrane no larger than a berry Perhaps the very seed of winter Striped and still and chanting The Reluctance of Roses There is no question And I answer it every day Wondering at my cleverness Or sometimes at my ineptitude As my own real roses The ones I planted late this spring Settle in me as in silt As I cut them on a bias Display them in vases Arrange them with wild flowering grasses With fern and chicory and black-eyed susan The old roses of my imagination Roses of ballad and argument Are softened, mollified I hold them, sobbing, to my chest Scratching with their thorns like frightened cats Until they are comforted They are again the answer To no question Just flowers growing on a little bush
Alan Cohen/Poet first/Then PCMD, teacher, manager/Living a full varied life
To optimize time and influence/Deferred publication, wrote/Average 3 poems a month/For 60 years/Beginning now to share some of my discoveries/Poems Published: Our Twentieth Century’s Greatest Poems, The Beast in a Cage of Words, “The New England Journal of Medicine,” “Praxis Magazine,” “Literary Yard,” “The Road Not Taken,” “The Wild Word,” “Cabildo Quarterly,” “In Parenthesis”/Poems Pending: “Adelaide Literary Magazine,” “The Blue Nib,” “North Dakota Quarterly,” “Aberration Labyrinth,” “Front Porch Review,” “Monterey Poetry Review,” “Ephemeral Elegies,” “Anti-Heroin Chic,” “Spadina Literary Review,” “Ink Sweat and Tears,” “Down in the Dirt”/ Honorable Mention, Ninth Annual Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest/Letters to the Editor: Poetry Magazine/Married to Anita 40 years/in Eugene, OR these past 10.
This is his first feature on The Fictional Café.
It was an emotional and intellectual pleasure to read your poetry, Alan.