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Spring/Summer 2006, Volume 22.3

Poetry

Robert CoopermanPhoto of Robert Cooperman.


Robert Cooperman's latest collection, Petitions for Immortality: Scenes From the Life of John Keats, was published by Higganum Hill Books. Main Street Rag Press has reissued a full-length version of A Tale of the Grateful Dead. Cooperman's recent work has appeared in Slant and Concho River Review. Other work by Robert Cooperman published in Weber Studies can be seen at: Vol. 15.2.

 

The Crow in the Driveway

Nothing literary about this crow,
just a bird reeking
with the sweet stink of death.
When I bend with the shovel
I'll toss into the dumpster,
along with the leaf bag,

the carcass seems to wink
its last carrion amusement
at my expense, feathers ruffling
in the redolent breeze,
its beak the nib
of an Elizabethan miser's quill,
its talons curled as if to strike
through waves of putrefaction.

Shaking my head
as if after a nightmare,
I hurl the bag into the dumpster
like a grenade, then scour
and scrub for what seems hours.

Only afterwards does it occur
to me how, if not beautiful,
that crow once was,
then at least how boisterous,
and though its head had grayed,
gone wispy as the chin of a crone,

poets might have compared
its tail feathers to the midnight tresses
of a Sioux maiden renowned
for the fluttering, soaring wings
her long, luxurious hair made
when she danced and danced
for the man she loved.

 

The Ghost of Brutus Hawkins, After John Sprockett Avenges His Murder: Gold Creek, Colorado Territory

Now that DeLacey and his back shooters
are dead—the latter killed by John Sprockett
and paid for by my darling Jezebel—
I feel a lightness that never ballooned me
when I was yoked to Georgia's slave-soil
or even the gold camps of the High Colorado.
Saint Peter beckons, as dark as me,
and better looking: with my prizefighter's
doorknob nose. And I'll bet Jesus
ain't no yellow haired, smirking angel,

but big and black, with a carpenter's
calloused hands that can pound centurions,
or caress the head of a baby asleep
on a pine comb pillow, like what I slept on
in Slave Times, before I met lilywhite Jezzy
in the whore business, though it ate
at my innards to keep women bed-prisoners.

Mostly, it was bad customers I beat on,
though some flightless doves shrieked
from blows that never landed: to watch me
pound the white men I did enjoy smashing,
for thinking their skin color gave them leave
to swagger like congressmen and cougars.

Maybe it ain't Heaven for me, and besides,
I like the company of this ghost-gal Chocolate,
who died in her birth blood in this alley.
Why, that wild whore scared DeLacey into Hell
even before Sprockett could stab him.

And I got to look after Jezzy's interests,
though all I can do is worry; but love is worry.
Up there, I'd forget what I'm worrying about.

 

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