James Cochran's Poems



Desecration Day


The day they 

stormed the capitol

in Washington D.C.

my car was stolen

in Charleston W.V.


Key left carelessly in console,

practice born of a lifetime

of privilege, a trust that 

bad things would never happen 

to me, even when they did.


Phone call from gruff state trooper,

refers to city police as “asphalt walkers”

speaks of trap houses, car has been

recovered, mostly intact,

up a muddy holler.


We go to pick up the car,

old feller who towed it

full of tales of trouble makers

and arsonists, wears a ball cap

that says: “Jesus is my boss”.


The car is a mud caked mess,

all contents have been removed,

smells of smoke and desperation,

empty wrappers on floorboards

tell of cigarettes and raisinettes,

a somehow childish combination.


The next day,

a thorough cleaning of the car

to make it mine again.


I think of the mob at the capitol,

smashed glass, stolen lecterns,

piss and shit on carpets,

boots on desks

and five people dead.


I wonder what kind of 

cleaning it will take 

to remove these stains.


Hanging Rock


Some nights you might sleep poorly in paradise.


You might arise before dawn,

abandoning all pretext of slumber,

and fix coffee in windblown cabin.

Set off down trail through strangely 

warm November morning anyway…


through leaves that crunch

and rustle so loud as to make

conversation impossible.


As passing clouds obscure the sun

So passing thoughts or distraction

obscure the radiance of the day.


Along the trail edge through 

second growth saplings, improbably,

a lone monarch butterfly.


Then suddenly, under a 

power line right of way, amongst 

mundane briars and thistle…


a last goldenrod lightning strike

crowded with orchard bees

intent on gathering last drops

of November nectar.


West Virginia Gazetteer


Rainy morning, last day of November,

Gazetteer open on my lap,

illuminated by the harsh white

of the Verilux® Happy Light

which mysteriously arrived

by mail yesterday.


My eyes alight on Sun Hill.

Then my blind fingers trace

the smooth topography lines

from Wyoming County into 

Raleigh, tracing Trace Ridge,

working up the Devil’s Backbone

to Odd.


Along the river past 

Witcher and Belle.


Following the toll road

to Pax and Prosperity.


Then Crab Orchard,

Big Stick, Hotcoal.


Somewhere between 

Bud and Amigo

I am in Blackeagle.


I recall a childhood game

of spinning globe with 

eyes closed,

index finger 

lightly poised.


“Where will I go when I grow up?”

Pressed flesh stops revolution,

indicating some exotic place

or other, or sometimes

close enough to my 

precise location.

“I’ll be right here!”

I say.


Now, instead of a globe

it is a book I hold,

still full of places 

I have never been,

And some I’ll never know.


Still I feel the accumulated 

magic of all those toponyms:

Bloomingrose, Comfort,

Bentree, Pond Gap,

Posey, and Redbird,

Skinned Poplar Gap.


Arbitrary and profound,

they anchor me to the map

and the map itself overlays

the land, a gas station palimpsest,

a bridge between

childhood possibility

and the stasis of adulthood.


Praise To Spring Chickens


Praise to spring chickens, 

aged into fall pullets,

still yet to lay an egg.


I sit with them again

on my high breezy October hill,

serenaded by the whoosh of leaves

like the sound of the surf.


Praise to the fierce Summer Sun

that ripened tomatoes and okra

and melons, but now has waned,

replaced by a weaker version of itself,

although a few tomatoes still cling

to their vines...no frost yet.


Praise to the plastic which was gone

from the greenhouse all summer long.

Now it has been put back on,

and once again I have that small shelter

to be both  outside and inside at once,

or, inside out. I'll be sheltered from the chilly

October rains that are sure to come soon.


Epilogue:

If you hold too tight

you can strangle a thing.

If you let out to much string

to a kite, it can be grabbed 

by the sky and taken away.

If we hold each other just right

we can spiral dance together

while the seasons and years,

the stars and moon, 

the sun and clouds 

and rain whirl by.


To be one who believes 

he can make clouds appear in the sky.

To be one who knows 

he has flown too high,

and feels the wax

melting from his wings

and the dark sea draw close.

To be All at Once,

All at One,

All One,

Alone.


Dry January


I.


to be like the box turtle,

constantly contained 

in rigid carapace,

opened and closed

at will, always at home.


to be like the lawnmower

run till empty at end of season,

no fuel gelling in brittle lines,

awaiting fresh gas in spring.


head abuzz with black tea and hunger,

sobriety forcing acceptance that

(THIS) really (IS) all there is…

dropped crutches and foresaken

calories leave me crawling along 

frigid pavement down to essence:

a good sunset, a safe child, a soft dog.


II.


the yellow blooms of winter jasmine

spill over crumbling retaining wall

as coal cars roll by, full of affliction.


I grub in cold January mud,

tear through English Ivy,

bloodied hands pressing 

lemon yellow wire into earth.

“invisible” fence but only if 

you bury it, will project subtle 

electricity to contain 

my precious mutt.


sunlight hits rain drops

glisten on cut end of vine

moving in breeze

flashes of light

like pulsing star.


III.


I’ll be the wind chime inspector

who wanders through dark streets

cataloguing random progressions

and possessing their vibration

but only till the wind dies down.


because poetry is like alcohol

it soothes, it burns, distracts,

brings into focus, a whisper,

a scream, a giggle, an amen.


and next thing I know I’m

leaving the bookstore with 

my brown bag of poems,

ready to twist the top off.


Comments

immensely enjoyed reading these evocative, well-crafted poems

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