By the time the killers got there, we were gone.
The pipes knock in this house at night
the muscles cooling down one would assume, something about its bones
being on the outside. It makes you certain it’s a giant
black lace-weaver spider tapping,
telling everyone with her last strength she’s done
and it’s time for her children
to carry her away in the silk sheets
of their bellies.
It’s odd to me when people say they made a lot of money
selling stocks the way
you’d say you made a year of corn where there wasn’t any
using only a quantity of weather, a long kite string of dirt.
The money was already somewhere, you just sang a song
and it left who it was with
the way a husband leaves a wife
or a good dog leaves a hunter
who will not make it through the night.
Is it cyanide or gangrene
that’s supposed to smell like bitter almonds?
Even then, I haven’t smelt the almonds
so no help there.
Nature is a terrible place, rife with cannibals.
Tadpoles circling ponds looking for fresh pollywogs
to snatch up in their keratin beaks,
the slightest difference making someone something
you can eat.
Acorn woodpeckers will care for each other’s eggs,
even in the same nest. All birds have such dumb and evil eyes,
who could trust them to do anything for anyone.
But here is a certain kind of kindness.
Of course, this only happens if they lay eggs on the same day,
otherwise one will eat the child of the other.
Something about equal advantage, no head starts.
Or maybe they just can’t tell which is which
and won’t risk it, heartless, yes, but by that token
not as prone to spite as we are.
Some birds just steal coins and pretty rocks.
The reason I think people loved
Ronald Reagan was because he got shot
in a case of mistaken identity, John Jr. thinking Iris Steensma
was someone you could give a gift to.
Reagan lowered corporate taxes because he was against taxes
but also introduced the idea of charging income tax
on social security benefits.
Sometimes when I’m trying to sleep and being diligent
I think about the way almighty god will leave a hunter
who will not make it through the night.
Somewhere between cattle and slaves
ants raise aphids. Wasps raid each other’s nests
for food in the form of wasps.
No one I know will ever retire, we’ll just grind
until the spiders cut us loose.
But maybe one day I will sit with money spread across the table
like tea knocked from my hand
and wonder if this is what bitter almonds smell like.
The Miracle of the Cloaca
Time is a just coping mechanism
humans have employed for centuries.
What a clock tells you is no realer than religion
or the Truth and no one should be mad at you
for the hope your brain feels in holding
out its hands to you offering ways for you to make your life
make sense. One finger every minute. Start
again. Wake up
with teeth marks up and down your arms
and you wouldn’t think you’d made them, but that’s time.
A woman at work for the creditors has called me 17 times
and made me feel loved
and the one time I picked up she told me time had congealed
like crust bulking up your eyelashes when you wake up
but in this case the muck of time had formed a thicker mantle on existing debt.
Most times, though, I don’t pick up. It’s just nice, and really quite enough,
to know she’s thinking of me.
I’d like to ask her if it’s narcissistic to fall
in love with the taste of your own blood,
needing the damage enough to craft a window into yourself
from a cut on the roof of your mouth.
This feels like staying safe, settling for the old known wound.
But this is also time, or an antidote to time;
I’m not sure yet, it can be hard to read myself.
When I go to work I try to leave myself asleep in bed
whispering oh please do not wake up
oh god please do not wake up.
But God is just a silent shape of time.
The murderers are coming to fix the sink.
A baby in the retirement home has just graduated college.
If you decide a wound is coming, nothing else will be enough.
A better cure is to tell yourself you know
that time can be a party people throw without you
that you forget by staring at your cat
as she sits dry and wide awake in the sink that will be broken
and stares at nothing, which could be the ghosts
of unborn children, or future accidents, or time.
Prayer to Dagon
"And they put his armour in the house of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon."
Hail merciless Dagon who gulps
cities like seawater and filters out the flesh!
Harsh Dagon! Rugged Dagon!
Dagon the self-starter! Self-made Dagon
who has never laid and never was an egg Dagon!
Dagon the unencumbered!
Dagon who fears no tax who does not get called about his student loans!
Dagon the Unclean!
Dagon of the lost deposit!
Dagon the free!
Summon us, O Dagon, from this place!
Quench our fretting over skin things
that could be cancer or an ingrown hair!
Maybe it’s an infection! Dagon!
Dagon who does not get cheated on by a nice person you really can’t be mad at because I mean we all have weaknesses and things haven’t been perfect and it’s not like they did it specifically to hurt me!
Dagon who will not be made to sleep on the couch by circumstance!
Dagon I am getting off track!
Beloved Dagon! Nourishing Dagon!
Dagon of the picked-up check!
Dagon of the cash-back bonus!
Dagon the untamed! Dagon of the skull throne!
Dagon the trampler of people who wait three weeks to cash your rent check so you forget about it and it bounces!
Dagon of the smokeless stove! Dagon of the cheap hot wings!
Dagon I am so goddamned tired!
Dagon nothing ever fits, and when I lift weights I just get fat!
Dagon I am getting off track!
Dagon I am always getting off track!
Dagon scan our retinae into the database of your chosen ones!
Dagon quaff us into your nostrils and set us free as ash!
Two Poems that are the Same Poem
He tamed a crab with scissors and a stone
but then didn’t eat it or cloth it or anything.
What a dickish rube your great uncle was
even if he brought us here from famine.
Forget him, son. I’ve gotten to the final pills
in Grandma’s advent calendar.
Forget all of us.
You’ll look better in your jeans,
riding right out of the lean years.
If you think of the crustaceans in a city’s tap water
as pets or rather people
who pass through you briefly
you’ll start to think of conversations as a home.
Even selling bagels
or asking someone at the hardware store
why your turnips haven’t grown past pitted knobs of cartilage
that split into black flowers in the cupboard
mimicking the dark you’ve left them to.
You’ll maybe breathe less clearly
for the spores you’re either killing
or giving a soft warm purse
in which to root.
Lungs like silk
Heart like cream
Your urologist calls just to talk.
What are you thinking about?
So many lullabies.
The spirit of America is a thin white soup
pushing every morning’s chest out like a blister.
After the tea is made, I pour the excess hot water
—as if such a thing as too much hot water could exist
in any time other than now—
to sterilize the sponge.
Steam abandons the sponge.
Once cooled, it will not stay clean.
Cooper Wilhelm's work has appeared or is forthcoming from Rust + Moth; Moth; Reality Beach; Flapper House; The Adirondack Review; Vanilla Sex Magazine; Yes, Poetry; Arc; The Mackinac; and elsewhere. His microchapbook on necromancy, Whitman, and breakups, Klaatu Verata Nikto, came out from Ghost City Press last summer and his first full-length collection, DUMBHEART/STUPIDFACE, will be coming out this fall from Siren Songs. He also has an as-of-yet untitled chapbook about pigs coming out this fall from Business Bear Press. He writes poems on postcards and mail them to strangers he looks up in phonebooks at PoetryAndStrangers.com, and hosts Into the Dark, a talk show about witchcraft, on Radio Free Brooklyn.