Matthew Cooperman

Gaseous Ode

Poetry readings are pretty cool
but the format’s all wrong, unquestioned, say
you are a performer, you must use your time
wisely, verve & salt, we are not clowns, this
is a pageant of dignity, true confessions,
we are all clowns quite recent in human history,
some notion, perhaps, wrought from the academy
that all representational poets should stay home and write
how a blue jay could possibly land on a porch
each day anew, a new metaphor tattooed on its flank
caw caw, not everyone, I mean, is breathing deeply
as Ethel Merman, the awkward fumbling human
figure and voice, it’s a good messenger, senses
merge in the strange O chasm of the throat, a voice
in which I write this at my grandfather’s house
in green Vermont, a lake, first frost, the enemy wheezing
a kind of perfunctoriness, shortness of breath, and thank
goodness I am ranting now, for it’s the clichés that kill
the dream, the bird, the blue brain, or I will read two
or three more and then I’ll end, I had a boyfriend who
used to read newspapers at readings, very newsy,
facts going down like a red fire truck answering a flood
but no thrall, no inhale admission—I am sad in the
abstract and angry in the real, reading this thread
alone, was his name Kenny Goldsmith?
I too dislike it and it’s not difficult reading to the
emotionally impaired, another literary tote bag gleaned
from the Loom of Poetry, we don’t have to balkanize
or swoon for abstraction, naming the font’s frosty
glow in white space breaks your heart, so lonely
to publish any screed, you mentioned Rilke earlier,
your comments make me laugh, and laughing’s
good in the rarified comedic register of performance,
I’m in one now—Das Poetry! Das Poetry!—its unfurling
white flag of the person, let’s call her Vanessa, can we
get the real person from the literal breath, who needs a
secret sharer, there’s an O really home when the conversation lifts, for a face
I ask Emily Dickinson, but sometimes my ass
is a hat, she didn’t even read in public but she sang, a breathing’s
brood of bird work, I’m all alone at the winter podium,
my voice fails me again and again—respiration—
it’s everyone’s problem

Mother Ode

A, and, heir, address, what isn’t one of your subjects

You, who have given me

subjects, writing sunlight, just now

through the cracked window, falling prismatically
on the recognized days of my arms—they are

your arms in the warm morning air—the intuited body of creases
a riverine channel caught
in the corner of your eyes

and the real sedge-pocketed wetlands, grassy hills, fertile
down low a stand
of egrets—alone but together—scattered
over the marsh

All this, an image, the pictures we have
made together, walking the spongy ground, and You too

just now imagining your Mother, first flash or glimmer
of face
or breast, emanation of safety,
home, smell

from the actual marsh. It is Bair Island in my world
a home, or the estuarial Pescadero
where I place it, an Actual, how you have saved
this real thing, dear Mother, made a difference


What is it to make same and make different?

What is it to make a difference?

What Progress from a thug’s life, or a TV addled life?
I watch 60 Minutes and hear Morley Safer down the hall…
It is vaguely the 70s in what I am saying

This too is one of your subjects

Free Speech, Literacy, quilting, Mothers Against War,
happenings, marches, chants and hugs,
I am in a gym, somewhere in Oakland,
we are there to protest Vietnam,
we are painting placards, reds
and greens, the
foggy undertones outside and in a
scratchy wool—

a sweater you have made me


The earth is hot tonight with all of its angers, the human need
a small part of destruction, an enduring sign
for the sentence of odes, devotions
that kill, come out of the mouth

And it’s cool, cold, freezing again in a foreign car or a small house
on a large lake—Tahoe, George, Geneva, winter, a Suisse affect
of people we knew then
who I dream about now,
one of your subjects



What does the poem do as an effrontery to hydrogen?

What much, mulch, burn / not burn down the house or marsh?

What will the burn down be in the loss of Mother?

A human sign is a mother sign, attachment, ductile love,
a human need as apostrophe, breathing
itself, to be recognized, a Subject


These aggregates grow at the bottom of the ocean

I say this because I went sailing with my mother

She of the sea, in a driving reach, firm hand on the tiller
coming about, or with a cup of wine, wine inked
by moonlight, the quality of objects birthed on water

We are birthed by care or carelessness, circumstance
and Money, but always Mothers

where the mouth is, where the care is, the breast
cupping it back, even to a thug’s life

Water breaks: everyone starts out innocent
and with a Mother

A person first unrecognized pinkish need

an elbow’s covert, a little too much
oxygen, foliates of time and space
tentacled to Mother, this this this is my Ode

positInkSpash131210.small                                 positInkSpash131210.small

An immense loneliness clinging to my shirt, the Futurity

of your Absence, stitchery in its indigo

a continental drift, race and trade and labor, the endless
stream of mothers, largess of what’s given
and received, never never never enough


Sidereal—I hear the word and you are standing

in a grove of redwoods, ours, our memory

with stars and potting trowels, alkaline rot of the darkening
backyard, Deneb, Altair, and you come forward

toggling your blue eye with seeing night,
the perennials, one
of your subjects


So the image suffices, briefly, that You are a conjured planting

an Earth somewhere, a Good Mother, something living
that will outlive the dead, a photo passed
in sunlight that addresses me personally
in the turning world

Air, address, say it will suffice, I am dangling, a prism

alive in the Mother Ode

Laughing Man

When I woke this morning I was a laughing man. Not someone
waking up from a dream of laughing, or the watching of a man
laughing suddenly awake, but a real laughing man. I will try

to explain it was rich with others, others laughing,
but they have run away in my dream. The dream itself
was sudden and tan–there was a gathering, a party of people

at ends, “fuck you, I love you!” and “one more verse!,” and I will
never see you again. This was a threshold and O, just so interesting.
There were places to go, lives, people paying, gasoline, college, beer.

But there was a visitor and he had come to the room of my dream
and brought his girl, who could be his wife, maybe his daughter and she
was tall, a strawberry blond, with deep laughter lines as if she

had been with him laughing for a very long time. “The visitor speaks
whenever he arrives,” he cautioned the room, the world, our eyes,
to brush the dust slowly from the chair, the red chair she was to sit on—

“don’t sift dust into her eyes, her eyes, fair and blue are very sensitive.”
He was not laughing, he had seen a cloud darken, what to darken
one’s sight, to lose sight of why blindness or fate or a poem arrives—

and a sudden man in denim who could not explain why anything laughs.
What a dream! A long winter rushes up to pause the explanation,
the explanation which is not what we wish for. Whose dream?

Sunlight dreaming, and so someone asked how to write a poem
with everything in it—”a beautiful abundance?,” she asked, and he
and the woman, and another man suddenly “Yes’d!” in triple unison,

—and they ran away into the woods like a pedaling sunshine
into green, light spread around, comical, denim, a kind of haiku
with six legs that appeared to love life very well. Anything

can happen in a dream, a beautiful abundance, or a laughing man
leaving a party, and into the woods, where there is more laughter
than darkness, and people will follow.

Years pass in the dream. I waited for years to say “you have
answered all of my questions which were not known as questions”
for there they go running away into the summer woods.

I will get up from this table and follow the sunshine
and denim of a tribe of people living variously outside.
I will make a pact with the present to not use the future

as a problem about missing the sun. And I will leave,
I have left an old and grading life, and it’s a sunshine to be out
in the world of laughter when there is so much pain.

Fair dreamer, there is no generation that knows and does
not know. There is no conveyor belt to happiness and sleep
though we would dream deeply to get there.

We go on and on in our lives not remembering the laughter
of children. Not the idea but our own bright guttural laugh
missing for centuries. From us and to us—

my daughter rises every morning like the visitor from a dream
but she is real. She knows where to go for the sunshine
of this blue planet, and the games that will make her laugh. I

am running after her broken free

Matthew Cooperman is the author of, most recently, NOS (disorder, not otherwise specified), w/Aby Kaupang, (Futurepoem, 2018), as well as Spool, winner of the New Measure Prize (Free Verse Editions, 2016), Disorder 299.00, w/Aby Kaupang, (Essay Press 2016), the text + image collaboration Imago for the Fallen World, w/Marius Lehene (Jaded Ibis, 2013), Still: of the Earth as the Ark which Does Not Move (Counterpath, 2011) and other books. A Poetry Editor for Colorado Review, and Professor at Colorado State University, he lives in Fort Collins with his wife, the poet Aby Kaupang, and their two children.
This entry was posted in Poetry and tagged , by Posit Editor. Bookmark the permalink.

About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.