Two Poems by Rob Cook

Rob Cook

My Bugs

O daddy long legs in the orchids and wisteria,
how you make my cock-cells swell!
O caterpillar cubs folded in the fern petals,
you are lovely as shoulders tied with ribbons
and valentine nettles!

That’s what she slipped into my ear
when I told her my life was ruined by insects.

“They said they liked me,
but my cricket kept farting
when girls came near.”

She said she could see them
doing pirouettes in my eyeballs,
my bugs waving bouquets of hearts-on-a-stem.

She asked if she could borrow one
after it reached the temperature
of a blood blossom or a yellow jacket’s rose
that the itchy summer remembered well.

I thought she was being romantic.

She was,
but when they made human faces at her
and began yodeling “Maneater”

she pointed to all the moles
on my body that were fed

and mourned like something recalcitrant
and repeated only in song
and said,
I’m turning off my nipples now
and swatted my body from the bed,
one birthmark,
two birthmarks, three
birthmarks or more
from the exaggerated, deep white bed.


He stands by his cardboard

(beneath the buzzing Gaseteria light)

“It’s me! Your favorite bum!”

and then

a subsequent grumbling
into his bible written again
with freezing alcohol,

the street interruptions of Con-Ed

(where a dog walked her owner
to electrocution)


“Mommy, is that man petting
his beard so it can sleep?”

to a wheelchair with its passout
face, some
arms and no legs

at the corner of Chrystie and Whole Foods,

the man digging from his own lips—

a fractured tongue?
a tooth trembling with coldness
of the tooth beside it, where nothing lives?
food he might’ve heard?

“Feed my coat,” he commands expensive
people passing the felt-up payphone.

Hours ago
a swarm of taxis
chewed the air to shouting
and pigeon gore

(what most call sunlight)

the twelve-hour sharing
of tyrannosaurus horns

separated not by traffic signals

but fossils timed to
telephone blinks

and a feral, repeated closing of the eyes

copied by those who collect
bags of cans and bottles

left at the curb as shelters
for pneumonia
and the woman who says
hello to everybody,

(and hello still a valuable word
in that season’s evacuated arson),

the woman gluing the wind back
together with canned
chicken rust,

cold as the one or two
surviving leaves

when they wince,

(trapping stray, sudden chasms
also used as food),

the bones of a tank top
scraped dry and floating
in a nearby puddle
of scrap light.

Rob Cook lives in New York City’s East Village. He is the author of six collections, including Asking my Liver for Forgiveness (Rain Mountain Press, 2015), Undermining of the Democratic Club (Spuyten Duyvil, 2014), Blueprints for a Genocide (Spuyten Duyvil, 2012), and Empire in the Shade of a Grass Blade (Bitter Oleander Press, 2013). Work has appeared in Asheville Poetry Review, Caliban, Fence, A cappella Zoo, Zoland Poetry, Tampa Review, Minnesota Review, Aufgabe, Caketrain, and Many Mountains Moving, among other publications.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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