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  • Strange Death and Tragic Afterlife, and: Anti-Heroic Couplets, Written By Himself, and: Ballad of the Poet-Intellectual
  • Anthony Carlton Cooke (bio)

Strange Death and Tragic Afterlife


Edith, or, whomever: here, I commit queries, miss, for you, with sincerity

Here, just, in time: please call me. Please read me.

  “You hear me? You there? Are you breathing?”

Edith, or, what matters most: whichever way you revive me, kissed by steep weather,

Yours, in just such times. Breathe me, please, blow me up.

   “You hear me? Are you there? You breathing?”

Edith, or, else: humbled, unjustified, I appeal for scrap marginalia:

Justify me; please push me. Please pump me

back ’round.   Your open-throated OR—loosens —locked, mulled, lungfuls early in the day   . . . nearly.



  of the litter they said, tossed unwantables   at me: liquefied ice cream (with excrement in’t)   ad-faced periodicals—adverts announcing   some auction or other,

     and so I was, heard a

IhearfourhunnertcanIgetafourtenIhearfourtencanIgetfourtwentyfourtwentytothemaninpinstripesfourtwentycanIgetfourthirtyfourthirtyfourthirtygoingoncefourthirtygoingtwicefourthirtyfourthirtyfourthirty and WHUP so I was SOLD to the man, the barker’s high bidder.

     So this is the Other Side? Jordan’d promised otherwise. Not hell’s Bacon Pan Eternal; not heaven’s temp’rate zone time share Margaritaville, either.

    Yes, this is the Other Side: cotton field clouds, tobacco field’s smoked hams, world of new, strange creatures with unlimited power. This—! This is the Other Side:

a narcoleptic, diasporic nightmare. [End Page 701]


       “Think I will call you /jɑb/.”   You mean /Job/.      “No, I mean /jɑb/,

as in I have one hell of a job for you. As in the only reason your consciousness is still around. As in why you are here, in Death, instead of shuttled on to Oblivion.”

    He chortled, his flickering death’s head—more hackneyed than any sword and sorcery tale ever told!—puffed on a churchwarden pipe. Hick’ry smoked flatus boomed in my face.

  Damn this clearance sale of a world.

IV       My massa, Mr. August King, by name, set me to my task on Aegean Farms, his property. Whether it was the stiffness of his rifle barrel, his whip’s

metric reach, the mind-numbing, domesticating variability of devices in his torture shed (all imported from Gilles de Rais et Fils Appareil Mécanique, Macheoul),

or what, is beyond my recollection; but I can say with certainty, this: I did not disappoint. I sponged battery cages, spoon-fed slop, milked udders, sowed and reaped for millennia upon

millennia, but mainly I clean my massa’s cattle stables. There, I scoop heifer-hail, mop up bovine-lightnin’. I scrub the mildewed pail of the stratosphere, wear rubber gloves to spit-shine belts of

Van Allen bells the cattle wear.

V Tall order for an immortal: nevertheless, I toil. After all, my collar is inscribed with this: Corpus Corporis Retineo, Mens Mentis Capio. Well, what else can I do, or say?

Yes, the dead do sweat, know fatigue in its brashest moods. Yet, we go on, laboring in our sleep. Still, in my dreams: as a cow fortunate enough to need putting down, I am slaughtered, sirloined, flanked, foreribbed, chucked,

silver-and-top-sided, brisketized. Bid ta-ta, my remains rubbed, marinated, I am served to the pot-bellied pantheon alongside fresh-squeezed nectar. Inside wet bowels, I smile. Raw, I rebel, forcing gods to mortal positions.

But this is a dream. Just a dream. I, dead, live on. [End Page 702]

Anti-Heroic Couplets, Written By Himself

It’s   so a body can’t tell which is worse: Casual Wear, in want of our size, or this banana-peel republic, reworked: Still!

  shopped while shopping for Yes We Can shirts.

Ballad of the Poet-Intellectual

Capital cities’ citizens   march us to open ditches’ edge. Joints snapped, that we may not write,   mouths gagged ’gainst any speeches,

they corralled professors with shock   jocks, egg heads with senators, pundits with poets, clinic docs   with human rights infringers

and so on. I am among them.   As intellectual, poet, I am one of those cursed “know-it   -alls” they herded, bound, condemned

to trek, trudge, through the public sphere   at gun-point. Still, I overhear in my mind’s...


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pp. 701-704
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