Rob Cook


it was hard to
remember what grew
from where the
teething spades
chewed howington
closer to the ground,
but through that
blood loss,
one could see it
into foot churches
against the mid-thigh

in the scrutiny
of a dog
mauling a leaf
that fell from the moon,
said to cook the leg
it screamed—
enduring its own
trapped gristle, he said
you can taste
where that voice
doesn’t end.

crushing his hands,
which he confused
for cigarettes,
or crab spines,
fake john said
that was where he
buried the bible
he didn’t trust.

his liver looked
like a floating,
mostly dead thing
in the tap yellow tarn
when suzie
denied the account-
ability of last

“i loved her,
dying as she was
from the cold summer,”
he said, beginning
with the eyes,
“those hang-
nails in the head
where every
thing stays.”

tolek said
not to write
again until the page
smelled of each
liver after it
surrendered to the
rage blowing in
from the bourbon
of tom caufield
while he ranted against
collin’s weakest shadow,
“always lifted
with limp ambition
from the same
roses and walnuts.”

And nothing winced
when he swept up
the spleens of spilled
shot glass sponges,
and covered in sweat
that no longer

i once
the wind on that
planet with a self
that sometimes
healed, but whose
vital signs had not
been harmed
or whispered to
at night
or not-night
in my deep room
where the stillness
at the window
and the typewriter
was always
begging as it was
to tell its lies.

a yellow week later,
dragged from the hospital
by the holes between dogs,
the liver lay scared by it
self in the snow
and when it could not
crawl any farther than the reach
of its eyes it started to swell
with the same traps of wind
that distanced the trees
and it was cold
as the place where a wolf
was missing,
and that is where
the leaves taken from a crow
watch from way back
in the moon
pressed to the ground,
the sky still a shallow place
where only the most pain
ful part of a dog
can breathe.

i bled from
a rat’s liver
on a night of
and trash-can

it didn’t
matter that
the rats only
used my night
for warmth,

a boy muzzled
in the margarine ooze
of his eyes
at what he saw
in my sleep
near the farthest
record bin,

trying to scratch
away a damaged
shadow digging

from someone else’s
night left

deep inside.

how long have you
had that liver line,
the doctor asked,
pointing out
the little bit of night
on my forehead
that i couldn’t wipe
away. i told him
i tasted it
in my voice
where i stashed the rest
of my body and in my
blankets that shook
from a flank
and stomach
tenderness. i told
him i saw it on
every wall,
a spider or a bit
of subway tile
to the ground
where the fear
in my side
always begins.

in the tap
water hospital
a syringe weeps
where the slither
of a doctor’s gaze
and the cold sweat nurse
refuses to collect your
liver, now
scattered on the floor
reached by the wincing
of the hall light
when the screams
of the man burning in his
bed fall
for one false
moment—how long
it takes a voice to dry
during the sleep
allowed this far.

when the liver
leaked into his mattress
(soaked in phone calls
to the forest)
and did not

walkuski pulled
the night from his
weak side

(a knife instead
of tylenol)

with the darkening
of the prayer

and said,

“how else am i
going to keep
jesus from harm?”

hungry for
a lower heaven
he rises
at first light

(an ache in the curtains)

only to destroy
his shadow’s done.

tonight louie said
suzie pissed away
the last of her liver
because it still
wouldn’t suckle
her fatty cries
of smirnoff coelacanths.

“summer was such
a sticky place,” he said,
“and it was always
2am in suzie’s contact
lenses when she looked
away from me.”

the walls of his room
knew nothing about each other,
the way his legs
ignored what could still
be seen from the forehead’s
receding heavens.

suzie said she had
his child last night,
he told me,
but it was just the last
of her liver soaking her bed

as that swollen sponge
of nights gone missing
breathed from a shank
louie might have lost
when it stayed intact
and close to the panted way
she kept forgetting him
because the bruises on her body
were almost awake.

the bear cub
saw the pancreas
by itself under
the blood-dry

and because
it needed
a place to rest,
the cub nuzzled
that tiny
piece of pain
and slept there
until the sky was
done dreaming

and then woke inside
a boy whose illness
had been mapped
from the moss
to the floor of his
night light.

“i want the bear
that no one can find
to have a bed
of its own,” he told
his dandelion mother
and his dandelion father

who could see
how the wind hurt
when he felt the first
shy light picking through
his clothes
and couldn’t get
the cries in his pillow
to move.

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