Three Poems by Allison Cobb

by Allison Cobb

Allison Cobb uses her own subjectivity to access the universal experience of not being from around here and yet recognizing this place as home. Her work confronts but never accuses, questions deeply, and offers a hard won but necessarily fleeting solace. 

los alamos


That’s the poem

This is the story.
It takes only moments
to tell, fewer to know, though more
than all time to become
a blind advertisement
for the wild over god
taking everyone’s breaths
and making them work
to the death—a whip,
a whip and childbirth.
No. I meant to tell
this tale—in the dream
my dog fit into a thimble,
his was dog, now bird
now dog and all
the other animals rubbed it
to share the virus
of godness—that is the power
to barely exist. To not
collect meat
in a glass. Whatever
part of your body hurts.
Right now, I mean. There.
That’s the poem.

For love

I was born
because of love
inside a weapons lab.
The End
Bridge connects
the town, the little
boxes lit along
the cliffs. For love
the men awake
and cross
the bridge to labor
on their bombs
for love. For love
becomes a body
in the world. And fear.
A fear comes with it
to the world, a cry
in air burst first
from lungs. And grief,
the instant born,
the shape of what
will come, the shape
of what they’d seen. Become
then students of
the sun, to will that
fire here to burn. The bomb
makers always burned
with so much love—the father
pillars of my child self
in church who prayed
the sun to earth
to burn up
for love. For love
formed fear.
For grief.

The things you loved

I lived to haunt you. To ask
you to hold this oldest
piece of human
DNA beneath
your tongue—it’s shit
dug up from wave-
cut caves in the Summer
Lake basin of Oregon,
with red fox, wolf, coyote—animals they
ate or later came to pee
on their remains. Hold this and think
the thing you love
the most what you most want
inside you, mixed in
with your excrement in fifteen
thousand years when someone
digs it up. Think
the thing you loved so much
you conjured it in labs to live
inside the flesh of every animal to saturate
your own well-fatted flanks, king
of all the creatures. So these
must be the names for things you loved
so much you peed on all the earth
and all its living things which you then ate
to concentrate its thickest dose inside
your pearl-white fat and rearrange your
DNA and gene expression: aldrin, dieldrin, DDT,
mirex, toxaphene, and TCDD. Heptachlor, hexa
-chlorobenzene, and the PCBs nestled in your
genes with you and chlordecone and the hexa
-chlorocyclohexanes. All
the things you loved.


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.

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