Tang, by Bruce Cohen

If I do not witness these leaves turning orange, who will?

I stir myself:
I like to think

Of myself as a reincarnated Poet from the Tang Dynasty,
Dehydrated orange drink
Astronauts gulped orbiting this planet
That became a fun ‘60’s breakfast staple,

The bitter tang of a car’s squealing tires as it peels out,
Any distinguishing characteristic that provides special individuality.

Isn’t it a very personal moment when each of us
Recognizes we are failing,
That we’re incomplete, outdated perhaps,
& need something new to make us valid,

Sobbing on the mudroom floor,
Praying hands through a broken screen door,
Begging the aftermath of someone to come back,

Or watching our planet grow
Smaller below us
That we discover it is
Impossible
To ever become
One hundred percent reconstituted?

I am not where I am right now, in this autumn.

My mind is not what it used to be either.
There is no more just-add water.

None of us can prove our previous lives.

I mean pervious: I meant disprove:


About this Poem:

Lately I have been worried and depressed over the fact that my poetic voice was becoming stale, my persona and language too familiar, and, quite simply, I was bored with myself. In order to shake myself out of my funk I started reading some translations of the more obscure ancient Chinese poets to trigger or shock myself into some alien sensibility: paradoxically, I aspired to be un-American while remaining nostalgic, and because I rarely include ‘nature’ in my poems I wanted to throw a colorful leaf into the mix. ‘Tang’ became one of those odd poetic experiments that wiggled the old me out of the new.”

—Bruce Cohen

For Transtromer, by Norman Dubie

In the cold heavy rain, through
its poor lens,
a woman
who might be a man
writes with a can of blue paint
large numbers
on the sides of beached whales—

even on the small one who is still
living, heaving
there next to its darkening mother
where the very air is a turnstile…

I’m certain this woman is moved
as anyone would be—
her disciplines,

a warranted gift to us,
to business, government
and our military,

and still she exhibits care and patience
this further
talent for counting,

counting…