Three Poems by Allison Cobb

by: Allison Cobb

Allison Cobb’s poems proceed with a meditative caution, calling out the soporific forgetfulness that constantly threatens our desire to remain awake. In doing so, they breach the tissue-thin membrane between faith and blindness. Reeling from the darkness we see in the world, we fight against the same brutality in our own hearts: “We keep our lights up all year,” but also “You will break.” The only hope seems to be our unfettered attention: “It’s okay, we are aware/ that we are breathing in the space that held your life.”


All the dark

All the dark
this darkest, shortest day, the dark
eroding even the thin light that makes it
through the low grey cap of clouds, the water
pouring down, the dark-winged crows the dark
electric lines so ugly crossing dark limbed trees.
We keep our lights up all year long. We never
turn them off, they fade and disappear inside
the sun like all the other stars, at night
they show themselves again reflected through
the glass a thin, mundane cascade of light
strung across the porch—too soft to scare
intruders we don’t care we let the shadows
leak up from the corners the whole house—it’s
full of holes and what wants in will come.
Faith, the ghost, some nights
in dead of sleep, flips on the bedroom light,
on and off and on and off a message to our sleeping heads
in the ghost of her own bed. I treat her like a child,
or like a dog that only knows to soothe the stings
of its desires—the deepest to be held inside
awareness by another living creature—to be reflected
through the glass of someone else. Yes, I say
we see you, know you’re here. It’s okay, we are aware
that we are breathing in the space that held your life.
She goes away. Or no, of course, she just goes
silent for a while and we forget and fall back
into sleep.

+++++The sea creatures
depended on the dark
or on the light
+++++to be revealed behind that glass
that looked like just another room but in the right light,
+++++I mean dark, the sharks
came forth—grey and light and striped—and in
the shadows hung the hulking shapes of whales
some just a grayish blurredness but the orcas—
killers—stood out for their colors, darkness
darker than the all-surrounding grey—one had a
trunk—a white and fleshy tube stretched down to suck
up all the drifted helpless life. Look
said Jen, the orca’s dewlap—you almost
never see that. It made sense to have that
word there, silly as it is, a loose and flapping
piece, that elephants are also whales and lizards, that the people
in the rooms—children playing—leaked through the reflection
of the ocean with its massive moving creatures growing fainter—Faith
+++++flipping on the dark and not the light. So we gave up
as it grew light, or maybe more full dark, we gave
up looking for the layers bleeding through the brutal light
growing brighter and more flat. We woke up
+++++or went back to sleep, forgot the ocean’s
inner reach, the formless flesh, the childhood
shriek that calls up ghost and beast, forgot
that look that seeks without sleep, that depends
+++++on no light. We forgot
and came back to only life.


Dear broken

bowl dear
broken bone dear
broken, broken, broken. Here
is where all the cracks
come to life
and point
at your thoughts—crack
of ass hiding that
bud I want
to touch with
my wet mouth, crack
of joke, crack
of whip peeling off flesh, earth
opened up, tectonic
fault—the secret
center of yourself: You
will break. You
will break and break
before life: not like
waves, nor like
light. Not to persist,
not to expand
into the brightest
of fires. You will break
like an accident—
metal and tires—
blood and oil
kissing on the corpse-hard
surface made for worship
of machines built of thought
of escape—the single
prayer of every breath.
Nope. You won’t
make any sense, no story
will be made
of your fate.
You will break. That’s it.
And that will be the start.


Would want

How gladly I would
++++++++++douse this
want—a word
++++++++++++++++is not a ship—a bird is not
++++++++++++++++++++++++++a pair of shoes—the fish
on the hook has its world—the squirrel
++++++++++++++++spun by the tire—the crow
that eats to keep its scrap
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++of darkness intact—I
have to weave my strands of night
+++++into the light of the face I wish
++++++++++++++++++++++would look back—the dirty
daylight glass—the clump
of feather and flesh—the mark
++++++++++++of my claws on your heart—every
++++++++++++++++++++++river I would drink—the photograph
of how I lit myself on fire purely for pleasure
++++++++++++++++and would never speak to say
sorry for that. I got what I
thought I would want


Allison Cobb is the author of Born2 (Chax Press) about her hometown of Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Green-Wood (Factory School) about a nineteenth-century cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. The New York Times called Green-Wood “a gorgeous, subtle, idiosyncratic gem.” Cobb’s work combines history, nonfiction narrative and poetry to address issues of landscape, politics, and ecology. She is a 2015 Djerassi Resident Artist; a 2014 Playa Resident Artist; received a 2011 Individual Artist Fellowship award from the Oregon Arts Commission; and was a 2009 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow. She works for the Environmental Defense Fund. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she co-curates The Switch reading series.

0 replies on “Three Poems by Allison Cobb”