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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life

Six Poems
by Carmela Cohen ||
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Note: if you survive this first poem, you should have no problem with the rest! Baba-ganouj: eggplant pâté or salad.

     - CC.

Taken, Metaphorically

For some reason (failed car inspection),
her one-and-a-half ton body, her hatchback--
God forbid her body--
revs above his incredibly gullible head
unbelievably like
something that defies
a linguistic trick,
or perhaps a lopsided halo.

Mechanic in the pit below her silver Honda Civic
not unlike the conductor in the hole below the stage;
wrench is to mechanic as baton is to conductor as
in the theatre of semiconductors where her husband is off
writing programs that verify programs that verify . . .
long live the algorithm!
Behold: in her hand, a portfolio
of insurance paid and licenses, testament
to citizenry.
True: behind the junkyard olio,
an uncomposed web of representations:
bumper, jumper cable, clink of wrench,
impromptu spark of plug, ping of combustion,
hot air hissing from tire,
"Catalytic converter," the mechanic yells,
half-breaks the spell, uncovers her only steady conviction
through extra sensory perception
or how would he know she's floated
from Big Macs and Whoppers
to baba-ganouj in pita pockets,
from West to East to
nothing less than eclectic,
nevertheless, staging a play analogous
to, no doubt, someone else's,
(cue: take a mega-breath)

just the body left
unconvinced, catalectic--God bless
the mechanic well versed
in pyrotechnics--his mango mouth
exiting its stage of grease as if by treason
to be heard for one ripe reason--the smile--original
stimulus, that wet-lip, striptease sound--
into the pit of all pits:
out of pulp, white fiction of light,
out of darkness, red-tipped flare of his tongue
full-blown into the Mother of all pits--
whoa, hold on, don't self-detonate--
return forever
to his sleeveless, steelless, turbo shoulders,
bestowing something far from order,
yet getting closer to fixing
figure of speech to meaning;
his peel-me-away with skilled hands
and nothing mechanical in those, she thinks,
holding big things at once in the tip
of her standing-room-only mind,
while her heartvalve--
suddenly overtaken by a display
of emotion--beats out an aria
of arrhythmia, a meta-metamessage: "Ditch
your suspension system, lady--
analogy is dead!"

All You Have Been Told; All You Are Sure Of

Slow morning down
while it proves its point
scattering light blue.

Bend a ray
through this atrium dome;
follow the stucco rainbow over

to the Tel Aviv woman in fatigues
who gives you a box to be opened
only in time of need.

Do not be alarmed by what glares back
at you from the window: this monstrous
filter-face is yours for keeps.

Like sand trapped in chaotic state of glass,
you will mutate into this mask, shoot up
with savage, antidotal notions,

for as far as you can see yourself
projected into the new world

you will never surrender
your unenlightened self.

Human Presence

If she dared
she'd goad her told-you-so pinto
straight through the wadi
past the cattle and goats--
goats and cattle--
weighed down and alien
in burred coats;

balk at the shepherd boy--
the boy shepherd--
who patrols on his own
two feet; she'd tilt his straw brim,
grazed by vicious circle of sun,
meet orbits preoccupied with sleep.

By dilated night,
displace the centaur's shadow
with a bite-the-bullet,
towards the Palestinian village;

make her way,
if she dared,
with the moon's cartoon light
painlessly landing--
on this replayed planet.


You made it look so easy, Pappy.
Each time you raised the porron you went back
to the old country--burgundy down the bridge
of your nose to mouth, without spilling. "The sky
is bloodletting," you said.

Red wine in a line down your face--easy
for you to control. So was: where to go, what to eat,
"don't lick the knife," my hemline height, and forget
Billy Magee. Poor Billy Magee who dared come calling
at the door of the seven foot Basque.

Forget Billy Magee at the door with limp fingers; forget
the dance, camp, every single boy, and "forget having yankee
ketchup in this house." Remember Bloomer's Pool and the lifeguard
in the Speedo with Carl Lewis legs and how my nose bled.
You had to let him rescue me--you never learned to swim. Forget
those legs, or why my nose bled; remember my body letting go
against his as he swam me out of the deep end. And again

on Killington's slopes, a beaujolais line
in powder and the bigger-than-you patroller;
his arm strapped across my breasts as he skied me
down to first aid, while your face conceded--cherry flambé.
And I yelled, "I'm bloodletting, Pappy," as his arm touched
my breast--and you, you made it so easy.

*In Spanish, a flask with a long spout used for drinking wine.

Staying in Bed

This mind tucks me in
a cloud blanket

each day. I'm overcast,
can't articulate the paca paca

of my brain--a sleeptalking
mattress on a sleepwalking

frame. Set the sky loose
with a good morning

fuck; I'll remember

Transplanting the Sunflower

"You look so fine, I want to break
your heart and give you mine" Garbage, Version 2.0
This morning, I took a Bazooka wad
to my molar's filling; chewed with intent
conserved from sleep.

I hurled that metal sod
into the trash as I sprang up in bed.
Minutes later, I fell for the quaking
of my gums, the ache of growing
pains: a sunflower shooting up
through my cavity.

Imagine that, a sunflower rooted
in a white enamel pot,
hothoused in the microcosm
of my mouth.

Who's to say there's not enough
water? A saliva sprinkling system.
Photosynthesis? I scream: the sun
streams in.

In a month or so, that flower will tap
into the roof of my mouth--surely
this will tickle (how ticklish you are
under your armpits) and the pollen count
will skyrocket. I'll find it impossible
not to laugh, to wheeze, to become watery-

All of this I will invent
in a pathetic attempt to resource;
to keep from remembering
how you sneeze each time
the sun pools in your eyes

or when you get
turned on;

to desert, my love,
the image of your groin
between strange thighs.

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