Poetry from Michael Cooper

Man from Shells

-after Gaston Bachelard and Bly


Image by Francisco Antunes via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.


Temporal Man juts from the conch blows

sour notes of command with a light flakey coat

over fish mail

sour notes of command with a light flakey coat


his Pygmy

paring knife—the crosshatch on the

pig’s rump a snare of beauty

a spiral cut

with the passive spite of the ammonites

he centaurs from the buckskin lair—exposed now his command

module floating

well behind him Sheppard pulls down his glare shield

like a third eyelid

like a blindfolded

lobster freshet in the water

the temperature rises and all that heat from the cement reflects

not love but the industry of Love and looking

over the shoulder

coyly one hand invites the other to spin in

space—two terns

and an ocean—a cortex lying on its back between them before into

the garlic

butter and down.


we writhe from the hair in our horns—rise from the home, the spike, the body a mask the lash of this whipline self.

These things voiced—a falling tower crushes—we so permeable that act carefree: are powerful

Your breath starts at your feet and out through the mouth piece and the air outside you and inside you collapses to a single always moving medium.  We speak with the dead columns of soldiers slumping back from the Russian steppes and no leader among them.  The rags around their feet are our stomachs and the flags they wave our children.  These teeth in your pocket, whose are they?  When you are cold in the morning do you remember winter desert as mother?  What was this first nest, but the night, the absence of security: the threat of falling is what keeps the warbler’s voice flying.  The leaves turn to face the sun, everything but us remembers.


What fed you to them.  What hung you like lost sheets on the barbed wire, what grail did you drink the gas from that spilt you from your container.  Are you milk.  Who robbed you from the udder—what unsheathed you and left you on the snow tracing bloodlines in the tundra.  No-one followed your trail, no ambush was sprung.  That mirror—shrugged

if this is so unpopular why does the marrow drink it so?

The words feel from someone’s mouth but it was not theirs—the mouth or words: there is nothing like ownership here,   there is no account to hold it.  The Xero matches the sight image of a human and squeezes lightly, breathout fogging, not knowing when the bolt carrier will slam forward, and then—as if by ritual—the machine cycles and the decimal place is shifted—at a very small cost.  Centrefire.

Imagine Napoleon on the prow, early on, when still Holderlin’s hero, imagine him without a war, at a desk.  Imagine his scribbling and his formations.  You don’t need to imagine what you live.


The 360 degree windshield—we leapfrog neighborhoods from green to green sign love and misery blurring in vinyl sheets and street lights measuring time by the strobed trees running from whatever is chasing us—time measures the overturned ketchup bottle waiting for the knife to ring in its mouth—broken glass and rocksalt entering our skin.  The cartridges you hand loaded in your uncles choke, everything slide action thru the projects stubble beards of stubborn ply board and drywall that grab for the thick plastic sheets stapled over a home’s mouth—this freeway isn’t long enough, 230 years of vineyard underneath her arms Maria runs hands through the thistles singing crickets leap in all directions the headless tomcat sings sleeping and ½ mile away his jawbone in a Bobcat’s tread, the Blackfoot herding Walmarts over the cliff.

Michael Cooper is an inland empire poet, PoetrIE member, MFA student, Veteran, and father of two great sons: Markus & Jonathan.  His work is in Tin Cannon, The Pacific Review, The Chaffey Review, The Camel Saloon, Split Lip, and other fine (but wild) publications.

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