Poet's brains prove to be useful!
6 poems by Ira Cohen
Imagine Jean Cocteau
Imagine Jean Cocteau in the lobby
holding a torch
Imagine a trained dog act,
a Rock and Roll Band
Imagine I am Curly of the Three Stooges
disguised as Wm Shakespeare
Imagine that I'm the cousin of the Mayor
of New York or the King of Nepal
(I didn't say Napoleon!)
Imagine what it is like to be in the glare
of hot lights when you are longing for dark
Imagine the Ghost Patrol, the Tribal
Imagine an elephant playing a harmonica
or someone weighing out bones on the edge
of the desert in Afghanistan
Imagine that these poems are recorded moments
of temporary sanity
Imagine that the clock was just turned back --
or forwards -- a hundred years instead of an hour
Let us pretend that we have no place to go,
that we are here in the Cosmic Hotel,
that our bags are packed & that we have one hour
to checkout time
Imagine whatever you will but know that it is not
imagination but experience which makes poetry,
and that behind every image,
behind every word there is something
I am trying to tell you,
something that really happened.
An Act of Jeopardy
for Garcia Lorca
A star of blood you fell
from the point of the hypodermic
singing of fabulous beasts &
spitting out the sex of vowels
Your poems explode in the mouth
like torrents of sperm on a night
full of zebras & bootheels
Your ghost still cruses the river-
fronts of midnight assignations
in a world of dead sailors carrying
armfuls of flowers in search of
your unmarked grave
Your body no sanctuary for bees,
Death was your lover in a rain of
broken obelisks & rotting orchids
In the tangled rose of a single heartbeat
I offer you the shadow of a double
two heads held together at the bridge
of the nose by a nail of opium
in the long night's dreaming
& memory of water poured between
In my mailbox I find a letter from
a dead man & know that for every
one is taken away
Yet subtraction is only a special form of
addition and implies a world of hidden
intentions below a horizon of lips
thin as your fingernail sprouting
mysteries in the earth �
The ace of spades dealt from the bottom
of the deck severs the hand which
retrieves it & the eyes of Beauty
sewn together peer over a black lace fan
in the vulgar sunlight of a Spanish
morning without horses
The Belt of Orion is loosened
before you as you remove the silver
fingerstalls from your mummy hands &
kneel to plunder the nightsky in a shower of
(Somewhere under a blanket someone weeps
for a lover.)
Peace to your soul
& to your empty shoes
in the dark closets of
kings with no feet!!!
From The Moroccan Journal - 1987
My heart feels like an uncut diamond
Though it is still the same, it is not the same
Someone speaks of a bridge to be built from Tangier
to Algeciras or is it Gibraltar?
"Yes & then a highway to the stars or more likely
an elevator to the Underworld," says Yellow Turban
To White Jellaba as the exhaust fumes from the bus
engulf them, leaving behind not even a single
Is that Mel Clay in a white jacket turning the corner?
No, it is a figment of my imagination escaped from the
Is that Ian Sommerville walking backwards up the street
as if pulled by a giant magnet?
No, that is Wm. Burroughs making electricity
from dead cats.
Is that Tatiana glistening on Maxiton?
No, that is the sun dancing in the sugar bowl.
Is that Marc Schelfer wavering on the cliffedge?
No, it is a promontory in the wind of time
about to fall in the sea.
Is that Beethoven's 9th Symphony being played
up the street?
No, it is the sound of the breadwagons
rumbling over cobblestones
Is that George Andrews with two girls in hand
looking for bread?
No, it is an unidentified flying object about to land.
Is that One-eyed Mose hanging by his heels?
No, that is the hanged man inventing the Taro.
Are the dead really so fascinated by lovemaking?
Yes, that is how they travel.
Is that Irving in short pants looking for trouble?
No, that's me unable to stop thinking.
Is that Kenneth Halliwell looking for Joe Orton?
Is that Jane Bowles looking for Sherifa, Rosalind looking
for her baby, Alfred searching for his lost hair?
Is that the wig of it all, the patched robe of my brain,
the wind talking to itself?
Brion is dead and Yacoubi is dead, and I am a not unhappy
ghost remembering everything, the warp & woof of memories,
her yellow slip, her shaved cunt, her idiot child.
Dream shuttle makes me exist everywhere at once.
The blind beggars led by children keep coming.
"They all have many houses in the Casbah,"
chant the unbelievers sucking on sugar.
Words keep coming back like Bezezel for tits, Lictcheen for oranges, like Mina, like Fatima, like Driss Berrada
dropping his trousers for an injection in the middle
of his shop.
The trunk is full of old sepia postcards,
barebreasted girls smoking hookahs etcetera.
We speak of the cataplana, the mist which obscures
even the cielo you cannot even see the hand in front
of your face.
We embrace, he says he thought of me only yesterday,
he says there are always nine such men who look like us
in the world and that we are the tenth.
We speak of the gold filets in the sky over Moulay Absalom.
The garbage men in rubber boots go thru the Socco pushing
wheeled drums of collected garbage.
An unveiled woman wobbles out of a taxi and heads home
Paul couldn�t believe that was a Karma Street,
but I will never forget it.
And Billy Batman, who made the best hash in the world,
he dropped a loaded pistol in Kabul, shot himself in the balls,
took some heroin and lay down to die.
Now I must get up from my table in the allnight Café Central.
No more Dr. Nadal, no more window with red crosses & red
The water thrown from buckets runs across the café floors
& over the sidewalks & I drop a dirham into the hand
of a blind beggar singing in the dark on the American stairs
From Anais Nin�s A Spy in the House of Love�"The women wear
fireflies in their hair, but the fireflies stop shining when
they go to sleep so now and then the women had to rub the fire-
flies to keep them awake."
Let�s take a silver train underground
to the back streets of Atlantis
thru the corrugated iron roots &
then to the peak itself, to the
saddle of the last ridge past strewn
finally meandering thru cascading snow
wearing miner�s hats on the perpendicular
dark night &
going up to the edge of the Southern Cross
where we reach at last the pure white
glistening glaciers &
begin to chant over bones in rags
Armless in the sticky substance how could
they ever have had a chance?
Permission will not be required
only poems of blood offered to
the memory of TREE
It is not ice which is eternal
but the fury of the absolute
separating the void from the spirit
uplifting like life when it is used
that is, Radical Love -- & again, we
are reduced to living beings
Caught by the instant
we are taken away
We live in the imprint of the flame
& we are helmeted within the internal
where the ray begins its passage
across the indignant sky
Vain clouds uncaring in a tangle of
culminate in the hermaphroditic mirror
of the epileptic dancer
And during sleep
the light is joined
to the light
It is all a matter of getting up
and then to abandon the pain
It is there that the journey beings
in the self generated flame of
The main line running counter
to the triangle comprising the
MAELSTROM, the DOLDROMS & the
SARGASSO SEA where sleeping Atlanteans
this line, this battlefield of the ages,
crosses the divide of my most wandering
We will all have to go
if we want to reappear
in the rhythm of the ritual
It�s the wheel of fools spinning
over my bed
If I put my left foot first
they will find a way to call me
by that name
on drunken walls
in the negative palace
just before taking eave
of my senses
the white powder dissolves
in the sunlight
& making noise like a peacock
he hops on one foot up the mountain.
Song to Nothing
And surely we will die without memory
coming to cold in the shadow of space
& if it isn�t too late
for the star to love you
spraying the sky w/ whispers
attuned to galaxies hungry for flame
And if the tongue of night sings
of Albino winos
till the morning light shafts
then surely we will die tonight
faceless at the White
sharing the smoke
w/ ancient shapes in future garb
and you stand somewhere there
on the other side
feeding on the pain of dreamlessness
Wherefrom the misty morning of
& the unresisting need to destroy?
Samael, Samael, I beg it may be forgiven
that they may be driven
out of the black into the white
Only let the dazzle remain
for gamblers to surprise,
the strategic diamond, the throne
of compressed bone
in the unshored dark
where only light can forgive
& your mind is singed
Embers of echoes in the vastness
disguise the yearning to burn
in arrogant displays of feeling�
Running wild these beasts will feast
on the newborn kind
for surely we will die tonight
unless we learn to ignore
what the others live for
on the other side of morning
& the Skin of Nothing left by the same
masks the faceless wanderer
O let it happen,
this weird to discover
the shape of Beauty in everything
for surely we will die tonight
whether we will or whether we
O Samael, forgive the dreamer
forgive the dream
The Song of Nothing is your lullabye.
If my heart were made of bread
I would wait at least one moment
before breaking the sunrise --
The Arm of the Dorje
Sunyata � Song to the Winter Sun
There was much wind
but I new not how to call it,
a roomful of strangers,
how familiar the feeling,
how cold it must be � barefoot
at the fountain when the sun goes down,
how the brown people love the blond baby
The white horse which looks out
from the wall suggests a journey
I once might have taken,
a covered memory reeking of sulphur
Words, they can go anywhere,
can they tell me where I come from,
the name of my planet,
the empty space which was my home?
The condemned murderer longs for
a firing squad, knows
where to put the shadows
you keep inside �
Between hands there are worlds
of ashes & thunder,
silent collisions of meaning,
the utter sugar of nights
taken for granted
They say the sun rises every day,
that sleep is incidental
I say myself
& so I look for your face at dawn
rising over my grief, over
the twice told terrain, violet w/ciphers,
Suffused w/ yr eternal smile
I would offer my flesh to your tiger,
turn your stone wheels w/ my water
Longing for the peaks the stars say
it will be clear
Let us meet in the sky then
till we come closer down here.
The Day of the Basilisk � The Wayfarer�s Song
It started in the dark room
thinking that night had fallen at dawn
Then arising we glued red eyes
into the dry sockets of a dead bird
its belly full of dirty cotton
Then across the paddies & out of
where familiar figures of Kleist &
rise from the road in eddies of dust
The voice of the Changeling names the day,
the day of the Basilisk, usurped
from the tyrant�s quest to know
how not to maim the Gilded Hind of
Licchavi sirens shortchanged of a renaissance
spread out cracked wooden arms,
split skulls of haunting beauty, smiling
Mud murtis made by nature distract
Goethean comments fearful of what is hidden
while the delicate head of Mahadev
whittled by the wind
still seals the lingam in the ancient temple
We look with Mudusa�s eyes
at the first born fruits,
the full breasts of the river
where there is no infidelity �
The golden larva w/ the royal face of Narayan,
hold it by its tail & call it by its name
Narayan, Narayan it will dance for you & shake its head,
it lives only on air �we do not know if
it is alive or if it is dead, so gilded
The face of Vishnu etches a dream of
ancient seas tinted w/ fallen light
Your face is everywhere
Your glory rings out over the peaks
capped w/ flame
Your shadow is enclosed within your shadow
You watch yourself falling
While falling you watch yourself looking down
You want to pick up the Tamang corpse
no one will touch
You call the children of darkness,
refute the wasted years of salt
poured into furrows
You see the thread needled to the hem of Night
betrayed by the shinbone of Day
where the fear is burned away
You look w/ basilisk eyes
turning the day to stone,
touched & transfigured
by the human, by the changing,
by the eternal, the always repeating
Insomnia On Duke Ellington Boulevard July 14, Breakfast w/myself at the Olympia Diner, 106th & B�way
Fell asleep around 4 AM
w/ the TV on
Van Heflin & Barbara Stanwyck
enter my disturbed sleep
Sometimes the only way out
is to die, but happily
someone else escapes,
takes to the road, goes on
I�m up at seven, go to the post office.,
send two Cuban alligators
the read Gabriel�s column in NEWSDAY
about the real meaning of the closet,
feel nauseous, order a hardboiled egg
which come w/out a shell
mashed in a cup
Is my heart, too, yearning
for its dying hour?
Please bring me one order
of cool snow!
If I could remember just a fraction
of what I said on the telephone
If he could take his clothes off
and sit on the banks of the Ganga
If she could see the profile of Caliban
in the smoke over the oilfieds
If we could just take off & go to Madagascar
If they would stop killing each other
and wake up tomorrow morning
w/ a new vision
I would stick my head in a printing press
and you could read tomorrow�s paper today:
Read all about it
Poets� brains prove to be useful!
P.S. Sometimes when I pick up my pen
it leaks gold all over the tablecloth.
This is a cooperative presentation by
Big Bridge and
Light and Dust Mobile Anthology of Poetry