Poetry from Douglas Cole

Slipping Through the Zones


Douglas Cole

Douglas Cole

I make my way through security

by having nothing at all

so x-ray me to the codes

even those are forgeries


I hide behind pillars of Guanine

guards can’t see among the caravans

as young Adens trick you into chains

thinking I’ll go here and I’ll go there

leaves chattering about their lottery numbers

as wind blows them down the street


Miescher has declared this a no fly zone

and with Frank and James it doesn’t take

a Holmes to unlock that crick in the neck

as a radiant fury waiting to be born


so I cruise the ergodic outposts

where a congregation of vapors sigh

against all likelihood and odds

laying gifts at the infant feet

in story of triumph disguised as defeat


Thought Experiment


I am painting the door

to the garden

and I am reading

Orizaba Blues beneath

The Buddha fountain

tending a stomach ulcer

and my tai chi den tien

glowing from the black

hole of several decisions

which means I am

in the basement

refining the invisible hand

reclining on waters of the deep

waking even when I sleep





At the breath’s edge

spirit left the body

to commune with exploding

pinpoint light arriving

opening eyes in the universe


black-winged agents placed

a diamond in my head

to carry back into the world


I began full of force and fury

among blue waves of warm fire

flowing in their ocean-making


but ink is a fuse in a burning door

and each word etches away

what the diamond has to say



Fast Awake


I am reaching for the amethyst

center of the sea

trying to name every tree

on the peninsula

but in the back of my mind

I’m still worried about money

and calculating if I don’t eat

I can save enough for school

how many pounds must I shed

to clear the cobwebs of hunger

while the dog scratches at the door

with that deep-woods look

room consumed by drinking rounds

crows collecting as time shifts

and I am back in this brackish

current between a falling apple

and a puff of smoke

so I ripple my way

and sometimes come up for air

sometimes eat the earth

with eyes like meteors

burning in a green bay




Siren Song


on a ferry ride from there to here

a sea current spiked by whitecaps

we slide parallel to the island

so close you could almost touch it

and I imagine jumping over rail

ice cold into water like a needle

with a dream body striking west

through sunlit magical whirlpools

an undeniable desire to swim on


on the island we find the trail

and hike up out of the creek bed

and up and over green slopes

trail mucked up from heavy rains

and catch ourselves in open blue

stinging nettles and fern hollows

ascending as the trail switch-backs

on climbing legs powered by pollen

through thistle groves to the bluffs


and shed the weight of all worry

a lifetime of shadowy scenes

with evening settling on cliffs

that shudder from incoming tides

our forms under trees beaten back

by storms coming off the straight

bull kelp drifting in the ocean below

bell buoy ringing this way this way

in the singing wind and waves



The Morphic Field  Hotel


rough-hewn logs embedded in gray mud

shaker roof green-layered with moss

a deck o’er-looking the west cove

and a slip of blue land cutting into the sea

the deep dream buttery night moon rising

its tail of white fire glowing on the waves

as the old ghosts wander in the bone mist

rubbing hands together by a warm fire

as other stately bodies carry ancient faces

that appear in windows and look out

their names on lists in yellow ledger pages

fluttering as the wind sweeps through

and sparks fly up from the chimney

flaring then diving into men with bent backs

carving trails from the beach to the spring

where frogs just under the surface of pools

fill the air with their night warbles

and the wind slides through Madrona trees

lifting limbs with the first feelers of spring


stuck in a 1938 Brown University Yearbook

I find Frank Foster the smarmy student president

a cruel general and corporate henchman

tax-paying fire-builder in plaid jacket and flap hat

out at the water’s edge fishing at dawn

not a sound from the world but an occasional loon

then ducks rising with the light

and here’s Paul Welch we used to call Lantern Jaw

Forbes and Robert Reigler arrested on Bankers Row

and happy Marvin Carton we called The Maestro

Leonard Carpenter the lawyer of Buckingham

and many more who went to war

athletes and scholars caught in a book

on a cabin shelf over an Underwood

typewriter with a dry ink ribbon


a frontier stone fireplace glowing with heat


We float in rooms

on a cliff over the sea

the equation for wind

the never ending waves

in the air in the water

in our blood in our dreams

staring centuries

into the heart of fire


A couple went out one night for a walk

down along the beach and were caught

when the tide came surging back in

cutting them off and trapping them

in a cove against a sandstone cliff wall

at first they tried to climb up the rocks

but the waves yanked them out

where they struggled looking back

at the room where they left a fire going


He came to the end of the world

overlooking the sea with one intention

to kill the body or kill the self

so lined the floor with bottles and drank

lit a fire that burned hot and high

drew deep fueling wind into the room

through windows and a wide open door

filling the fireplace so the fire seethed

and a spark shot free and caught the rug

ember-burning as it crept and glowed

to the room edge and slipped up the walls

as the dry-grass curtains caught fire

and the man danced in the orange black

feathers of wind-engorged flame

looking through pages in an old yearbook

as if he might find a familiar face


spectral people on the lawn

gentle glowing constellations

dancing and smoking in the gazeebo

walking down to the beach

rowing into the cove and the sky

in cyclical rotation of soul lights

coming and going and flowing minds

one there with a hand on a doorknob

hotel throbbing halls full of laughter

river stone fireplace chugging away

guests book reading in leather chairs

as the night arrives swirling down

with heavy world-swallowing clouds

rain and wind and nothing out there

nothing but black night sight snuffed out

a fist closing the world shrunk down

these rooms and the fireplace snapping

lamp lights occasionally flickering

sound of the ocean vicious and menacing

sparks from the chimney floating up

like soul rockets afterburning then gone

the ghost hotel hoves in the middle of it

the spiral punching whip-cracking wind

slithering through windows and doors

ruffling framed movie posters on the wall

with stars who swept in like magic beings

come to live among us sleeping in rooms

thinking and dreaming and reading

titles on book spines in the upper alcove

looking through windows by the black stove

reaching with hands like this one

I extend to you from a yearbook

typing out letters with an Underwood relic

about hiking through hill trail grass

through trees with that wind-twisted shape

even stones lying flat on the ground

wind from the straight flowing up

scoring the clouds with a parting cut

sun bolts appearing that light the world

and green shimmer over the snakeskin road

and the pools and ponds where we dive in

feeling the clean cold black water depths

sliver thread falling from a sun coin above

as we rise and step out perfectly renewed

walk the shore through the Madrona trees

each an individual flame of eternity

and it takes eternity to read it all

as mind that writes the world keeps writing

and mind that reads the world keeps reading

and a thought like that’ll make a person

stop in mid-step and regard at the horizon

seeing everything furiously happening

white mountain peaks dissolving in distance

as we back dive into Big Dipper and Gemini

The Bear scrolling over us night into day

night into mysterious green hills

hotel windows glittering like diamonds

as I read the life of John Keats

he is hiking over the chilly moors

in a storm like this one out of the north

talons of wind clawing out spring

he reads every grove stone river and gull

a young man alive walking

the magical landscape rain soaked

to the skin in love with the cold

because he is on fire inside

with passionate ideas of beauty

so that water steams off of him now

as he hikes and eventually comes to

a little hotel overlooking a cove

where he climbs the grand stairs

and pushes the door open and enters

a front room with desk and couch

and leather chairs and big fire going

in a black river rock hearth so

he takes a room and sits at a table

lights a candle and begins to write





The Kiss of Life


You see

when you wake up and can’t remember

if you cleared out the flower beds

or swept up the walkways

or repaired the sage garden arrow pond

and black stone twin-fish fountain

sky breaking open behind white clouds

as she says that shell is a horsehead

incoming wind is raven stealing the sun

while on main street I’m peddling booklets

and saying maybe this will cure

the madman and his distortion box

red waves in his eyes when he claims

the mayor’s wife is running the frog club

down the stone stairs in a secret grotto

where silence bounces back transformed

by crystals green as cat’s eyes in a cave

a woman dances slow in the moonlight

holding a blue star globe in her hands

like a glittering thought in the void

so put another mark on the chalkboard

for this one good kiss today


The Star


you see I’m trying to get

away from the booze hound

in the Mexican cantina

under these festive chili lights

like it was Christmas in July

like a heat spell that foretells

the end of the world

and launching off the planet

with a tear in the eye

and a hopeful woman floating

in her silver zero gravity suit

and that star just a number

where our great great grand

children will begin again

life with the same mix of

tragedy and vice and loneliness

and occasional tenderness

and a glass of green fantasy

but even here they come up

with those faces of broken

blood vessels like sculptures

rough-hewn from a raw scream

saying I left my distortion box

out there in the rain and now

it’s picking up signals from old

Soviet Union cold war days

prairie wind and mile on mile of

empty road rolling right back

where the needle goes in

and the nurse explains this may

make you a little dizzy

and she’s right and what a glorious

sea it is and that rickety dock

I dive from into liquid sky

to swim out through the sun’s eye

into clouds of unknowing where

I see the great architecture of

crystalline light bridges that

I realize I’m only making up

as I look through a manhole

cover in the ground in the

city of the dead that trembles

with a breath and shatters

as I’m sucked back into

Langley by the sea

Island spirit floating

in the never never mist

where when the desperate reach

that point of exhaustion

the last of the fuel burned

the lights gone out and the final

relative buried in the common grave

I’m out here and take nothing

but what fits in these pockets

with the screen door open

and wind like a ghost rushing in

walking out through empty streets

and every step feeling like now

I’ve made it so I’ll start again

realizing wait a minute wait a minute

as those steps circle back to town

over and over with less

to return to but the Bulldog

over the bay with the last

fishing boat beached and listing

dry on the sand and armies of

crabs none too happy with the way

the water’s been clouding down

march up over the pylons

growing bigger as they come

their claws flashing like swords

as they descend on the homes

and click cut pluck up

sleeping people and snap

timbers in apocalyptic devastation

ha                      that’s one

to wake up from in a daze

saying what a doozy

to an empty room on a gray day

dressing slowly as a good citizen

filling a lunch box with an apple

and a sandwich wrapped in wax paper

and heading up the old road

under the mill smoke piling up

with tin hat crane operators

and massive movement of earth

as I pass the gate and stand among

the red spirits of the yawning

excavation pit while the whole

scene vanishes with a voice narrating

weather trends and ship lanes

and drinking songs and memories

old lays and things thought gone

you’d never believe were true

and making it up as we go
I’ve published four poetry collections and have another forthcoming this year called The Gold tooth in the Crooked Smile of God, My work appears in anthologies such as Best New Writing, Bully Anthology , and Coming Off The Line (published through Mainstreet Rag)as well as journals such as The Chicago Quarterly Review, Owen Wister Review, Slipstream, Red Rock Review, and Midwest Quarterly. More is available online in The Adirondack Review, Ithaca Lit, Talking Writing, as well as recorded stories in Bound Off and The Baltimore Review.

I’ve been nominated for two Pushcarts and a Best of the Web. I received the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry; the Best of Poetry Award from Clapboard House; and First Prize in the “Picture Worth 500 Words” from Tattoo Highway.” Interviews and publication links can be found at douglastcole.com.