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Seven Poems

Invisible Commute

And in late spring
the makings of sun
writhe with their rumor.
White flowered angular branches
and the smell of sewage
up through a grating.
The air conditioners
roar dully from the windows
but no lilacs yet.
Mosquitoes lift to their hard buds
like small shadows.
The hot wind pours by unconcerned.
Bees are born from the ryegrass
fumed of gasoline. Because it is this way
we will eventually leave
to watch the waste of planes
take up the sun’s glow and streetlights
blot the sheen of suburban darkness.
To be remembered as lives
we cannot speak of as our own. A season
of some trees’ white petals
wash into the boom with a drowned skunk
an office chair that squeaks when you lean back, in it
beer and pesticide cans.
The laughter of things as they escaped
the names we had given them.


Index for Insomnia

No promise
of anything central. Another dog
among the town’s trees. Sour buzzing
in service entrances. Cicadas
breaking the emptiness of late afternoon.
The light runs purple
to the war memorial pool. Too early in the season
to be filled
or have its weeds trimmed. So we look at trees
dismembered or in full flower
and drown
under their indifferent fragrance. It’s like that
in your dazzled half-sleepy eyes. Nothing
has really happened to me not happiness
or the quicklime stars that fall now
on the chain-link fence
around the park. We know night
is more lovable than day. It has something to do
with honesty or the silence
that rolls in through the holes
in our collective disguise. Making all
the small things—fruits, stained and scrunched up mattresses,
spare tires, company jackets kept in plastic bags in the attic—
into themselves. So that in dreams
we come back to ourselves a stranger.



The blank, blossoming machinery
of summer lost
around you: the poppy oil clouds, hot rain under tires,
the wet dog that barks once
when streetlights splash it with light. Guesswork
has been taken out
of all their faces there. Flush of lemon in oblivion.
The flush of rose. Hot July moon alone above trees
in the wreckage of their flowers. This language is learned
the way light at the edge of a parking lot in summer is learned. There
is something final about the glittering pavement
in my heart.


Antisocial Contract

All summer the geese eat moonlight
that lines the streets
like sugar.
Our view of stars
the view from falling behind.
A ceiling fan and a rebroadcast tennis match
just before dawn. Dreams
emitting from a supermarket
they’ve confused for a galaxy.
Dawn clear like scotch tape
moves up
into the still new-seeming leaves against
frosted glass of the bank.
A person watches TV to remember God or
to forget everything but the container of what’s forgotten
like draining all the water from a backyard pool.
Your heart is a red taillight
shouting on the long fast Massachusetts highway.
The sun pushes the day
through a supermarket cart
discarded next to the town baseball field.


No Weather Days

The rose brick buildings
wet with sunlight
like lighter fluid.
Air from an adjustable height fan
shines spiraling in your eyes
like the bodies of swimmers
swimming aimlessly
toward some distant unperceived shore.
The grass has that sandpapered look
and by it you know it is no longer summer.
Your eyes press the red sun
into a quiet form of war headlines.
The trees are faded-out green
and droop like shoelaces
balanced at the end of the pool.
Swimmers thrown deathward
into the blue tin. Could not remember
what threw them.


Difficult Freedom

In getting to know you
and something of how unknowable it all is—
the clean-washed flowers by the supermarket,
the white-hot roads going
somewhere late in the evening—
people defined by
what I never was
begin their new lives.
So it is time for forgetting
as light sinks into the sidewalk
the day passes over fitful trees shining bluely
from a recliner chair I think of your closed mouth.
Clouds look like the design on a balloon that has gone soft
and the neighbor’s TV flashes white
on the black undersides of leaves.
The sky is back of a photograph of snow
blown in a window
that was mine so briefly
I never knew it.
A pasture or the detail of a firing squad on the back of a nickel.
Your face is cool sky past the Sheraton
that bears the night air purple above the streetlights.
You are everything that hasn’t died of its falsity.


A Contradiction in Time

Stars fall on the window
I wish you were with me
like the jet planes
or radio towers. The blinking lights indicators
of nothing. Turn the red
and black
colors of love. Every night
I am a tourist. It is my own death
I see. A red light
blinking all our years. Fixed
at a right angle to the stars. A cross. The gesture is
to not have anything that
can be taken from you.


Cameron Cocking is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and his work has appeared in Public Poetry and The Otherside. He received the 2023 Daniel and Merrily Glosband Fellowship, selected by Mónica de la Torre, and was named a finalist for the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize in 2021.