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Two Poems by Henri Cole

MECHANICAL SOFT

Walking yesterday in the cold bright air,
I encountered fifteen horses marching
in a phalanx down the avenue. Long before
they were visible, I heard their shoes striking
the pavement, as language is sometimes audible
before sense arrives. I loved how the wind played
with their long brushed tails. Though in a faraway
place, I was not a stranger. Mother is dying,
you see, and proximity to this death makes me
nostalgic for the French language. I am not
a typical son, I suppose, valuing happiness,
even while spooning mechanically soft pears—
like light vanishing—into the body whose tissue
once dissolved to create breast milk for me.

LAUGHING MONSTER

Some people take and some people get took,”
my father used to say, and I just ignored him.
After all, he’d wake up and take a swig with his juice.
Years later, I watch you emerge from the bathroom,
having inhaled your fix, and wonder what it feels like—
the mild euphoria, the expression of power on your face,
the burst of relaxation—a little mirror to mull over
the question “Who am I and why?” Lunging forward
to assume the positions so imprecise to our natures,
hunting the elusive laughing monster of contentment—
my lips numb from yours (it numbs u if it’s real,
it numbs ur throat and nose, and it numbs u inside
if u put it in there)—slovenly, degraded, vain,
I wonder if I am the taker or being took?

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