Featured Poet
Adam Merton Cooper

Heart and soul, the rotting dove
   I crave Medusa and her look of love
       Dogs (prose poem)
         Boredom or my son Henry
            Way too good to me (prose poem)
               Untitled ("Milk, like an egg, breaks")
           Impulsive (prose poem)
    Better to pray to your dead and slave ancestors
After we quit our jobs (song)

Heart and soul, the rotting dove

The waterlogged denizens of my ancient album
know nothing of soul, but shackles they know,
and rattling manacles they come,

with measled breath, on bended knee,
and whispering pleas through veils of lace,
insisting that I join them — now.

I awake, and they've left no trace.
Knuckles crackle and echo. The proud world
blinks at the sun, and signs the truce.

The waterlogged denizens of my ancient album
know nothing of heart, but heart they crave
as motor for their gasping loom.

This time, no pleas. They mean to have
their prize, scorn noon as they insist.
The truce is null, the rotting dove.

In the middle of each tattered chest
a gaping wound of ancient cold
drips water and blood, like Jesus Christ.

~ .

I crave Medusa and her look of love

Only a faint dream, only a satin wave,
shimmering at the edges, dredging lust.
I crave Medusa and her look of love,

of trust, of conjuring breath-air of the past,
her soft-eyed, brown-eyed guileless prophecy,
demand that she reduce frail blood to dust,

that she augment stale breath to memory;
Oh favor, fondle me! my feverish prayer
encompasses all my uncouth empathy

plays on the devilish currents of the air.
She connected points of common level.
She rose, affected, waited, slackened, bore

a barren child; I remember. Double
single points of equal level, all
this boiled down to blood (the body's metal),

pounded to dust (the soil's partner), and fall
fall fall like finedrops — it is only a faint dream,
only a satin wave.

~ .


Sometimes you are followed by a wasp. Sometimes, while stargazing,
you catch the reflection of the wasp in the glint, starshine on the
water, on water as life, and the wasp will likely be lurking there,
long and spindly, purposeful. And in certain weather, or under the
unwilled influence of certain sturdy gods, a wasp will draw itself
toward you like a belief, attach itself to you, saturate your
lifefield like a burning.

I decided to cross the ocean, in order, perhaps, to shake its blended
fires, or, perhaps to master them, and still, between cities which
breathe through their stones, I was warmed in the earlobe and the
scrotum, in all the wrong places.

My friend has turned a blind eye to my evil and my gasping, with
stable hands and feet, with insistence, and long before wasp spies
and surreptitious wasps. She has led me on occasional nights down the
brambled path of questions with obvious answers. Is it gonna get
harder as I get older? Is it gonna get colder before it gets hotter?
Is there a point where a wasp can puncture a man so that all his
traits leak out? Drain your responses, star-god, sky-god, but don't
drain me.

A confrontation with the wasp would strengthen me, infuse me with
nourishment that will be measured in smoke, though it's measured in
saliva now, in smoke and in steam. And that, by myself, I can parlay
into warmth, by myself; I mean, by myself, I can become warm, remain
warm, and never change, and never, never, and never change.

~ .

Boredom or my son Henry

The bored conductors began playing cards in the staff car, betting on
the rails and gambling them away. But Henry found interesting things
to look at out the window:


   Volkswagen Beetles (twenty-seven between Youngstown and
   Harrisburg, functioning and broken down),

   angelic voices pouring pastel color streams among the clouds,

   a mother giving birth in a field while the father poked at
   the ground with a stick a few yards away,

   and Three Mile Island, of course.

At twelve-thirty a burger sounded good. Henry was just a passenger,
but he wondered how the conductors could get bored when there was so
much — how anyone could get bored. For he in his twenty years had
observed many a bored boy and girl:

   the people who had stopped speaking to him in school,
   including some teachers, because he had so much to say and they

   the girls who'd gotten pregnant (so he'd overheard a couple
   of them say — the pregnant girls didn't talk to him) because their
   lives were boring;

   the folks at college who drank every night saying There's not
   much else to do here at Akron —
but they were wrong! they were
   misconceiving their environs! for on the twelfth of every month was
   there not the Akron seer? The Akron seer? The short, slight,
   bederbyed fellow who stood on a different street corner in town from
   ten-thirty to twelve-thirty and, without much prompting, prophesied?
   It was worth buying that used car, that old Nova, to experience the
   thrill of throwing down one's homework and rushing off in a random
   chase after prophecy through the Akron grid, two hours of mad
   barely legal driving, sharp eyes, And one of these months I will find
   him, Henry vowed. Akron is not big but it isn't small either;

   and especially his fellow history students, who seem like
   sculptures, no pastel drawings in their stonefaced hebetude, yawning,
   anticipating only Budweiser, while Henry had already conquered the
   world twice in class:

      once, in thirteen twenty, having brought advanced technology to
      Mali, he ran a railroad north to the Strait of Gibraltar (as the Berbers
      and Arabs wondered what he was up to), with regular daily burger
      breaks for the workers at twelve-thirty (as the Berbers and Arabs
      wondered what he was up to), and a ferry into Spain, and so
      forth, and before anyone got over his bewilderment they were
      witnessing unprecedentedly rapid troop transport, and forget it!
      forget it! —

      and again just last week

and they claimed boredom, they and their hangovers and their std's.
Well, it was no concern of his, no concern of his.

Henry died on a train heading back to Akron from a visit to his
grandparents in Philadelphia in a freak and gruesome poker chip
accident about a year later without ever having seen the Akron seer,
but I saw him one night last week in Massillon, and said Hey aren't
you supposed to be in Akron?
'cause it was eleven o'clock. He replied
impatiently It's the twenty-eighth.  Want a beer? I offered. Yeah,
said he, shaking the table vigorously, so I got up and brought
back a couple of beers and he pushed his off the table onto a twelve
inch high mound of wet glass. I edged in a little closer and said in
hushed tones So, er, clue me in, sport, y'know? all the while jabbing
his shoulder Y'know? Y'know? Fess up! And he winced every time I
jabbed him, relented, rose, cleared his throat, and declaimed:

O make a fire where fires were not and singe each unsinged patch of
skin a heart is a diamond ah Henry Henry my son my son

And this black cloud we have named father shall kiss our mother under
her arms no more unchain his legs and weep he floats off into the
deep of galactic anonymity ah Henry Henry my son my son

And laws governing small mammals (such as wombats and tarsiers) and
interstate trucking will be rewritten mindful of rheumatic joints and
speed limits and harmony will result as marsupials prosper in all
climes and displace billboards as rural nuisances and harmony will
result as truckers feel free to take wing to escape conscientious
state troopers and bring citrus to the north and tubers to the south
cactus to the east and big hair to the west lo these many and many
years and the deity will appear in a pat of butter and will go
unnoticed lo these many and ah Henry Henry my son my son

~ .

Way too good to me

No one notices. I could preach about the way the tea brews, but who
would listen? These are difficult times, one requires stronger stuff:
cigarettes and bullets; poetry and lies; milkteeth, milkweed,

If I were you, I would pack it in right now, and stop myself
learning about illusory circumstances: family happiness, a good job,
reupholstering the furniture. It won't happen to you. You're too
surly. Your boots are too long. Why, just the other day I suggested
Ezekiel as the man to redo Elaine's floors, and she could barely
contain her laughter. Next you'll have me ask ol' Longboots to
reupholster grandma's davenport.
I smiled, but I had to light a
cigarette. Since when do you smoke? Since I began setting
ambitious weekly drinking goals and meeting them. Since I took her
bony elbow in the eye — the "last straw," she said — and,
after quickly choking down voiceless alarm, smiled and countered,
Thank you luv can I have another? Was it the snow? Or was
two-cats-in-the-yard never in the gaseous red stars for us? Can I have
another? Can I have another?

Pour milk in your tea, fine, but I require stronger stuff. Cigarettes.
And bullets.

~ .

Untitled ("Milk, like an egg, breaks")

Milk, like an egg, breaks the moment
you unfurl it, and curls its innards
down joy's widemouthed drain;
it's sweet like honey or a vulva
teeming in a surfeit of expect
when broke broke (keep it whole?);
you are, by will of time, tamer
than the wind, as tame as pressure
when you, with a wink, snap milk-
shell and let the white whorl
savor languid sorcery through your skin;
a nerve will send a missive to your brain
which no name deserves.

~ .


The liberation theologists laid a trap for me and my sister when we
were quite small. In the math textbook, there was a word problem about
Third World debt reduction. First my sister was tripped up, then I, a
year later.

Last year my sister ran into some difficulty when, with her two girls,
she was forced to leave her husband, but she seems to be pulling
things together these days.

As for me, my suicidal impulses are coming under control, and the
nightmares about the slave ship don't occur nearly as often.

~ .


The temperance drum and all it slays about
careens in delicate destruction-slope
on down. Chameleons turn colors to stick out,

apologizes toughen spines elope
I care to need your cares unspun unfurled
cocklike defiant of the sibyl-pope

I care to want your wants unspoke ungirled
unwheezed; you're summered scorched and singed:—
why want? when want inevitably back-hurled

unto an already full heart full-dinged,
when want unsulliedly ill-spoke
has overtaken pancreas, has binged

on liver, ribs
                  Lick then the cracked and broke
entropic tip that has already bruised
the saw, the diamond drill; already croke

the stucco'd center of the shelf where used
storebought cassettes have warped the wood.
You're upright, true, but tunes on which you've mused

hold no enticements. In a pinch you could
embrace the temperance your sickly forebears
once clung so tightly to; perhaps you should

amber your sloshy self inside the lairs
of moderation that your southern cousins
learned to breathe, ensancted in their prayers.

Perhaps grandsire dark popelets in their dozens
whiterobed remind the faithful of your shroud
white linen, mildew-seized, and flies, their buzzings

approaching silence while their wingbeats, loud,
irregular, discreet, a thundercloud.

~ .

Better to pray to your dead and slave ancestors

Until the worst hits
the realization the field is going to seed, an unmannered epitome,
a beige rock-hewn city under an automaton sun

declare: a slave-marked city; dancing countryside & manor

Until the worst hits
an isle of calm which is mislaid gambling debts,
grousing who risked whose else's trousers,
guessing the value of aqua that comes up next

declare: a slave marks a city how? He perishes under it.

Until the worst hits with its arsenal of noisy blades &
substantiated condemnations,
secure by dusk the gate behind you,
pause to listen to the sound
wolves breathe stale bread's waft in.

~ .

After we quit our jobs

We snuck right in to Caligula's vineyard,
guilty as sin, reeking of lovemaking and
pot—this is an
idea of a good time!

Ever since I stopped slaving at the stinkpit,
my heart belongs to Bacchus, my body to
Mary, to Jane, and to

who have lifted a vein from my arm,
who have swallowed a bone of my foot,
who have joined me in a good time,
good time!

Threatened with spears of our imagination,
countering with jeers, our soles are purpling! This is
an idea
of a good time!

Ever since you forgot how to say yes sir,
you have not stepped in dogshit; it's been over a
year, my bold

who have lifted a vein from my arm,
who have swallowed a bone of my foot,
who have joined me in a good time,
good time!

~ . ~

[Wherever he appears, Adam Merton Cooper brings rare light—and a commonplace lampshade which he uses now as bushel, now as buffoonery. Classically educated and naturally, humorously astute, the obvious poetic talent that distinguishes also apparently chagrins him. His scant publication credits (Mobius, Medicinal Purposes, Big City Lit, Taverner's Koan) are evidence of his reluctance to hazard the recognition due him, yet he has won multiple awards at Lyric Recovery™ sessions in New York and in Paris since 1996, whenever coaxed into participating. Dismissive of his intellect, he engages in reverse Rimbaldic rebellion, shunning peerage with the cream for fellowship with the bread and butter. As elegantly easy-going as his predecessor was churlish, he finds broad welcome everywhere. He has performed his songs, solo and with his band, the Spaceheaters, at Tramps Café and Freddy's Back Room in NYC.Thus, while making unique, if infrequent, public contributions to poetry, he has also added his share to what some might call the vast diversity of sameness in club music. —Eds.]

Cooper is the co-editor of A Student's Guide to African American Genealogy (Oryx Press, 1995). A trained cartographer, he created maps for Harbors and High Seas: An Atlas and Geographical Guide to the Aubrey-Maturin Novels of Patrick O'Brian. Originally from Philadelphia, a long-time resident of Brooklyn, he plans to relocate later this year to the Bay Area.