Poem of the Week | December 12, 2016

This week, we are excited to offer a new poem by Bruce Cohen. Cohen’s poems have appeared in such literary journals as AGNI, The Georgia Review, The Harvard Review, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Poetry, and The Southern Review. They have also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day. He has published five volumes of poetry. His most recent manuscript, Imminent Disappearances, Impossible Numbers & Panoramic X-Rays, was awarded the 2015 Green Rose Prize from New Issues Press and was published in 2016.

Author’s note:

It has always electric-nerved my funny bone that a good deal of art (think Jackson Pollock and abstract expressionism), cuisine (wine and cheese, of course), and medical breakthroughs (penicillin comes to mind) must have been discovered by mere accident, sort of like found-poems. If you keep your eyes glued to the world, art is everywhere. This was the obvious exploration within this poem.




A peasant stashes a cistern of grapes in a cave
              On the outskirts of what is now
      Alsace because her stag looks haggard & she has no more
Carrots in her satchel—she dies, or forgets about it.


                  A pre-pubescent boy, who’d fall in love with her if they’d ever
Met, comes upon this strangely out-of-context
                      Container while hunting for Long-Tongued Nectar Bats,
           Runs his fingers along Paleolithic cave etchings,


Sexually explores the juice with his own curious tongue & discovers wine,
                        Anoints himself initial enologist. I’d love to be


The kind of man who hears the violins in trees.
                In Umbria, a woman ritualistically milks her Valdichiana
& because the day threatens to be an inferno, places the ceramic jug


At the bottom of a well, forgets about it, or dies.
                                  An angelic shepherd boy, maybe sketched by an ancestor
Of Giotto, who only wants to moisten his lips, comes upon this accidental nourishment
                                        That evolved into veined blue cheese.


A new human pleasure through arbitrary science often reveals itself by chance, mistake.
                           If Robert Frost’s secretary were more accomplished
           At shorthand & hadn’t had a knock-down with her boyfriend haunting
Her that morning, she might not have mistyped (repeated) the penultimate line:


And miles to go before I sleep,
In error, to Mr. Frost’s delight.
                                     Antonio Stradivari
Considered the particular properties of spruce, willow & maple
           That might produce, at the proper curved angles,
                                    The most amazingly crafted intangible tangible violin—


He must have sensed the innate musicality in the graceful decline
                                             Of each autumn leaf temporarily defying
Gravity like Degas’ faceless ballerinas.


No human ever imagined this instrument until that moment
                          Because most men neglect to recognize violins in trees.
      Antonio doubted himself the way Picasso shuffled shirtless


Onto a vacant beach—weeks after vacationers had returned to their industrious
                       Lives, & picked up a bleached whalebone


                        & started drawing lazy squiggles, imperfect circles, exaggerated
Faces of angels in the wet sand that had become a re-virgin natural canvas
                    From the previous night’s moon-guided waves.


                                                                   The beach had, of course,
Became one enormous, wave-erased masterpiece as every maple,
                           Spruce & willow had become a finite violin.


                           A horse running through a pasture in snow
Gave Antonio
      The idea of how only a wild horse’s tail that lived in the most frigid part
Of Mongolia could contribute pitch to the ideal bow,


                How the violin’s varnish had to be a conglomeration
          Of gum Arabic, duck egg whites & local honey, how ultimately, the bow
     Would insist that its horse, the gallop & grace, would ingrain
The dendrochronology of the music.


                Sometimes one creates for others—sometimes one must—for
                         The beautifully undisturbed self. The insomniac in me wanders
The house, flips on lights, then off, swigs water directly from the spigot,
             Opens the screen door to confirm no one else exists


& considers stars.
       Some nights my arms & legs attach themselves to an imagined torso.
                     —I would love to be the kind of man
Who visualizes violins instead of trees, instead of being a man
                    Huffing up stairs with a flashlight looking for fresh batteries.


             My idea of an orderly house is setting baits of fresh cheese
                         In mousetraps. My concept of sharing a properly aged Bordeaux
Is pouring two glasses for myself. The night prostitutes itself


                                   Pretending to find me fascinating—a charming introvert.
         The whore’s currency, crumpled on the end table,
Remains untouched by human hands, flutters out the window


     & reunites with a sonata of autumn leaves which
                        I aspire to re-glue to their original limbs. I call this impossibility
Amazement. And—the surprising irony of aging—my evolved
       Spiritualism ferments & curdles into Patience—the say-little & pay attention.