by Bruce Cohen
Suppose only those with the most highly evolved sense
Of humor would be spared a death sentence. It’s taken you
A lifetime to realize you’re not demented you just can’t help
Yourself from chuckling at news others categorize as catastrophic.
Well, hair styles really have changed. Just remember the black
& white photos of parallel water fountains, a sign above one:
Whites Only. Disgusted, you still throw the majority of your
Uneaten lunch in large receptacles, scatter the crust of white bread
For immigrant pigeons. Crocus pop up their heads on a premature
Warm winter day only to be shocked back into the ground by spring
Snow. Talk about your purely innocent optimistic faith every year.
Someday the crocus might wise up & not show for the actual spring,
Assuming it’s a season in blackface sporting a fake moustache
& a clever alias. Suppose, just suppose, you walk to the playground
& the rusty swings & dented slide & the mud-puddle with broken
Glass at the bottom still contained happy children.
The monkey bars have become so geometrically complicated—
At what age were you too petrified to hang upside down anymore?
Suppose endless nights with bruised friends, money vanishing
In the street, a pack of well-wishers rushing toward you,
Their autograph books fired in your direction though you have no name,
Flashbulbs going insane, were erased & the world returned to grey—
Hunched men in overcoats, women with no make-up reading
Novels about another world, drinking cups of sugarless air.
Are you the kind of person who introduces yourself or is introduced?
The conclusions that have been leaving graffiti on the subways
Are not so very pretty. A man with glass eyes,
A hair weave, prosthetic arms & legs, erectile dysfunction
Medication, bleached skin, a box in his throat so he can talk
Sounds so mechanically inhuman it makes you uncomfortable;
Since you are the kind of person who shies always from introductions
Why wouldn’t you purchase the wig made from real human hair?
Bruce Cohen is director of The Counseling Program for Intercollegiate Athletes at the University of Connecticut. His poems have appeared in various literary publications, including The Georgia Review, Harvard Review, The Indiana Review, The Ohio Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, and Quarterly West. He recently was a recipient of an individual artist grant from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts & Tourism. (4/2008)