“Smoke” by Wyn Cooper

Wyn Cooper


The lens that zooms in’s
out of focus, no discernable
shapes, just shades of colors
that waver and pulse

until an image is half-disclosed,
then revolved in its frame,
then revealed:

a beating heart
suspended in smoke. 



What red rivers run there,
what canyons do they carve,
what dark stone’s exposed
when the blood stops flowing?



my first teacher told me. 



My father? He only hit me twice.    
He knew—I knew—I deserved more.

He was helpless to change me,
though not as helpless as when
he was younger, when he was hit harder.



They put a stent in his arm on his sixty-sixth birthday, dark tunnel through which to wash toxins from blood. He told me to touch the stent, which was warm and felt like it had its own pulse. “It’s my pussy,” he said. 



He grew tired of blood
going in and out.
He grew tired of everything.

Without the machine,
his body would fill with poison.
He would drown in himself.



“Light this for me, buddy,” 
he said the last day,
handing me an Old Gold,
the cheap brand he’d smoked
since the Depression.

I could hear the morphine screaming
in his veins, could feel it in my own.
I focused on our blood.
I lit his cigarette.

His smoke curled up to the ceiling
of what had been my bedroom.
Then it was gone.

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021


Wyn Cooper: “I never pick a subject and set out to write a poem about it, but I had written so many embarrassingly bad poems about my father over the years that I finally made an exception. Rather than write a straight narrative or lyric or prose poem, I was able to combine the three by dividing it into sections. My father couldn’t be understood by viewing him from a single perspective, so it seemed appropriate that the poem shouldn’t attempt to do that either.” (web)

Wyn Cooper was the guest on Rattlecast #98! Watch it here …

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