Three Poems by Henri Cole

From Blizzard

September 8, 2020  By Henri Cole

“Keep Me”

I found a necktie on the street, a handmade
silk tie from an Italian designer. Keep me,
it pleaded from the trash. There’s probably
a story it could tell me of calamity days long ago.
Then yesterday, tying a Windsor knot around
my neck, I heard voices, Why have you got
that old tie on? Suddenly, Mason, Roy, Jimmy,
and Miguel were pulling at my arms, like it was
the ’80s again, a darksome decade, with another
hard-right president. My lips were not yet content
with stillness. We were on our way home
from a nightclub. I adore you, Miguel moaned,
but have to return now. Remember
death ends a life, not a relationship.


“epivir, d4t, crixivan”

The new disease came, but not without warning.
The drugs were a toxic combo that kept the sick going
another year. I loved how you talked in your sleep
about free will. Your clothes smelled, but the blood
levels were normal. Now I have seen the sun god:
this is what I thought when I first saw you—the face,
the bearing—but perfection of form meant nothing
to you, and we were all just souls carrying around
a corpse. I smoked cannabis while the government slept.
Drug companies held parties in Arizona and Florida.
The profit motive always thrives. To those who didn’t
sell well in the bars, it felt like Revenge of the Nerds.
Goaded by your hand, I wrote poems, an essence
squeezed out of this matter, memory now.


“Ginger and Sorrow”

My skin is the cover of my body.
It keeps me bound to my surroundings.
It is the leather over my spine.
It is the silk over the corneas of my eyes.
Where I am hairless, at the lips and groin,
there is pinkness and vulnerability.
Despite a protective covering of horny skin,
there is no such problem with my fingers,
whose ridges and grooves are so gratifying
to both the lover and the criminologist.
I think perhaps the entire history
of me is here—viper of memory,
stab of regret, red light of oblivion.
Hell would be living without them.


blizzard, henri cole

Excerpted from Blizzard by Henri Cole. Copyright © 2020. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.

Henri Cole
Henri Cole
Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1956. He has published over half a dozen previous collections of poetry, including Touch and Pierce the Skin; a memoir, Orphic Paris; and has received many awards for his work, including the Jackson Poetry Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award, the Rome Prize, the Berlin Prize, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and the Award of Merit Medal in Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches at Claremont McKenna College.

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