“Slept Through” – Poetry by Cooper Wilhelm

My Eyes in the Time of Apparition - August Natterer, 1913
My Eyes in the Time of Apparition – August Natterer, 1913

“Slept Through” is just one of two sizzling & surreal poems by Cooper Wilhelm in our Fall 2016 issue.

{ X }

I am talking to the ghost of Mary Oliver
about what to get the kids
I don’t have
for Christmas
while leaning on the sink,
and although I could not repeat a word of what we said to you
because maybe it was just the form of talking
and maybe there are some secrets
my brain will keep,
in talking about it to you now I suddenly remember a wooden dock,
warm pond water, the cracked
yellow toenails of my uncle who is dead.
Which is to say my uncle who is gone, which is
to say my uncle
who never
existed, which is
to say
my uncle who is gone.

My uncle who never existed
lives on in phrases like
A long important poop,
in the cloying distinction between like and such as;
in the distinction between such as and such that;
in the distinction between a pay check and one gasp of air
in a long belt of gasps;
in the distinction between comfort and the cunning
self-deception that keeps you
from meeting the eyes that stare you
down from the inevitable disappointment of your dreams.

Enough distraction.

Three ropes tethered the neck and wrists of my uncle to a tree stump,
while his brothers pulled at his ankles as at fishing nets
trying to heal his back.

Kids only understand the medicine of pain,
how a new success of suffering gets
it over with;
the splinter dug out with a needle,
from the hand held out as if to test the rain,
as if to receive a coin under
whose sharp skin sleeps
a lightless room of chocolate.

{ X }

Wilhelm_SantaCOOPER WILHELM was born in Portland, Maine, a city which took the phoenix as its symbol in recognition of its penchant for burning down. Klaatu Verata Nikto, his microchapbook about necromancy, Whitman, and breakups, is available from Ghost City Press. He sends poems on postcards to strangers he looks up in phonebooks at PoetryAndStrangers.com and hosts Into the Dark, a talk show about witchcraft, on Radio Free Brooklyn. He lives in Brooklyn, and tweets @CooperWilhelm.

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