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Driving around on the Roof

When I was little I hit & claimed I was a girl.
I quoted lines from old cartoons I didn't understand
to little or no effect.  "Put out that light,"
"Don't you believe it," etc.  I thought about driving,
but didn't know how when you're in a car
& "Bridge over Troubled Water" comes on, no-one speaks—
then we act like it wasn't because of the song.

I bet there's lots of stuff like that I still don't know.
But don't laugh—I still know more than most people.
Ask me something.  Good question.  It all started,
like most bad ideas, with a train going by a playground.
Images of beaches & you don't remember where they are,
it'll make you stop walking from time to time,
& all those people you never saw again, they're

either doing okay, or got murdered, or something.
People with my name creep me out—but wouldn't it rule
if there was a hot chick named Chris Cook & I banged her?
People who have something you want just like being mean,
whereas people who are like you want to kill you.
My father's mother helped teach me to like knowing things—
she'd always say, "You see?  I learned something new today."

                                    —Chris O. Cook, from To Lose & to Pretend

Copyright 2008 Brooklyn Arts Press, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.


Velveteen Intestine

The flirtatiously smug empath with the bob near the papasan

took her time in late Summer comparing my soul to the age

when she'd wrap, to the light of one unshaded lamp, herself

in garbage sacks, pretending they were leather.

Parties are like involuntary debates over belief in talent.

It's time I started dealing with the fact I won't be famous.

When you see me, apologize. I'll apologize back.

Faith is the easiest thing in the world

not to have, so cut it out already. Get to the point

where the language eclipses the grating like rising dough;

where the Poem is a grey cat that acts like it wants to be petted

but doesn't. Gangster-flip an oversized coin skewed guilt & shame.

Skim it down your culture like a dimmed Hall of Fishes.

Wait for it to once-around & back up your spine.

Girls imagine wearing things & boys imagine touching them,

only most things aren't being touched most of the time.

When Edna Millay was 24 she cut herself with a stage

knife somehow over the heart in Synge's Deirdre of the Sorrows,

then later became like a story someone tells about how

there used to be a rosebush in some certain place.


                          —Chris O. Cook, from To Lose & to Pretend


Copyright 2008 Brooklyn Arts Press, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.


Admirable Fooling

There are more Good Nerds in the world than Evil Nerds,

& that's why Evil will one morning lie buried

like broken toy guns beneath snow & sawdust.

I can get away with the word heartbreaking

because I used to cut myself making paper wizard hats

with a whoop-jug, before passing through the hedgerows

to seek out the other gifted children.

The first was Rufus, deadliest on the seaboard with a crayon

but only if you cooperated. He had a real record player.

The last was also Rufus. He retired undefeated

to a mysterious island. Every Sunday

he sends a few jokes I never get. If the world were my dream

people would worship waterslides & chill with rhinos.

You wanna die? Simple. Put on a Star

Wars movie & do a shot every time something comes

across as a double entendre. I want to know

how old you have to be to start calling people "son,"

because the world isn't anyone's dream.

Whenever it's a month, I'm amazed it's that month

& it's, like, always a month.

Oh World, are you onto something or on something?

Oh World, if you've got questions, we've got dancers!

World, the thing about a whoop-jug is,

we're bound to brim it with what we love.

Oh & World… when I save you, there'll be this one part

where I jump a bridge in a speedboat. It's gonna be so cool.

                                    —Chris O. Cook, from To Lose & to Pretend

Copyright 2008 Brooklyn Arts Press, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.



There's nothing new to say about being alone
until you find a new way of being alone,
in which case, you're not.  A cliché is a cross
between a medal and a bug in your mouth.
I've a stitch from booking after fake boy pain.

I knew this guy who was obsessed with Elvis
because Elvis bit off one of his legs in 1976.
He told me, "Some things best take the shapes of jokes
but aren't lies."  I told him if a girl has a tattoo
it means she takes it in the butt.  He said, Dammit.

Poems are the jokes you don't laugh at until Heaven
would be a good line if there were such a place,
like how there was this one field with a big tower
with a flashing red light, where girls in sweaters liked
to sing & run fast.  Sometimes there was a moon.

The Poetess with the watercolor mouth to whom
I sometimes write e-mails full of facts about animals
has a poem called "There Is No Such Thing As Skill."
I forced 100 random people to write poems
with that title, & some were way better than others.

Many of the poems were elegies about turning 30.
I called it new & silly.  They said, "In all fairness,
it never meant failure before."  I said Dammit.
I pretended to leave the room.  People who pretend
to leave the room sometimes yell "I'm done."

                                    —Chris O. Cook, from To Lose & to Pretend

Copyright 2008 Brooklyn Arts Press, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.