Rob Cook


She drinks to blanch the shadows
from another stone.
How deep is her drink?
Is it deep as snow marching
to the wood snipe’s house?
“I drink so they can endure
a child’s bedroom moving through the Chinese forest,”
she says, not yet distant as the trapped thorns.
“I drink so I can return to that room without sleep,”
she says, one grape farther,
the pebbles shivering on the wrecked
floor of her next bottle of blackouts.
Each sip knows less about her life
than the last, but the bottle remembers everything.
She laughs and wakes what thrives
in those bright xenoliths. She laughs
and does not ask how many stones were lost.


The child, understood
by the wine’s rape-drained bottle,
searches his mother’s
leaden irises for the tracks of lamp growers
who graze at these depths.
But the grapes
(copied from Paris when it was
dark or missing)
cannot retrieve the woman
from either a snail’s stairwell
or the troubled color of her eyes.


A school empties its devoured children.
(Or one child chopped into
a hundred children.)
You said it didn’t matter,
and that learning was still possible.
The tracks of a wounded snowman
lead to a hospital lost in a black bear’s
hibernation. There’s no other way
to describe the temperatures
at which the students survive
the snow’s accurate readings,
and book after book of nothing but claw marks,
the window brick not yet blocking the sun,
the children chasing faint noises,
(what lurks in your tiredness),
from the coats that can be counted
and read to in the kiln’s pencil-scratched floodlight.


On the 17th floor of a homeless man’s cadaver:

an overtime nurse's dirge
as the hospital sheet has its way with you.

The pillow left behind by the patient who lived two months in this cardboard room winces when you touch it.

                “I didn’t read the Bible much before I passed out the last time,” he said.

The nurses chirp demonically in the hallway.

“The guy was looking for his lungs on the floor,” one of them says.

                              The food here leaks from the TV in throbbing blind trickles
                              and tastes like the meat of a slaughtered latrine.

                              “It’s FDA approved. It will not make you sicker,” the dietician says,
                              though she does not know
                              where the doctors hid the hospital last night,

                              and the nurses will not force the television
                              to close its eyes so you can see
                              how deep it is already snowing.

“Do the cracks in the wall lead anywhere?” you asked Ray after he punched it many times and stood there waiting for a door to open.

“The night sweats did this to me,” he said. “What was your name again?”

               You stare at something for a long millisecond
               in which the skulls of a violet on a faraway hill dim into heartbeat range.

“What was it—Bhodan? Sung Tin Pau? Klaus? Something like that?”

               “No, it’s Rob. Robert. Bob for short.”

The intravenous line devoured his body, if not the gown he was dissolving from.

                              “We need to know everything that was put inside you, either by you
                              or someone else, and not only while you were awake,” the doctor
                              says, ignoring your fear of sleep.

                              The doctors talk like this because I’m not here anymore, you tell yourself,
                              staring at the wall, the yellow one, where at least it is morning.

Rob Cook lives in New York City’s East Village. He is the author of six collections, including 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, Many Mountains Moving, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Colorado Review, Bomb (online), Sugar House Review, Mudfish, Pleiades, Versal, Weave, Wisconsin Review, Ur Vox, Heavy Feather Review, Phantom Drift, Osiris, etc.
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