2018-2019 FINALIST, COG POETRY AWARDS

There Is No What Happened

Jared Hayley

                                             

World imposes world. The Russian dolls nest

]in a book-shaped box on a rotating shelf

in a ghost town. Feelings like encyclopedic acetates

 

peel your amped nervous system, blazing blue over

 

brown organs, to the pink musculature.

A new sense like a lamp, then like one unplugged.

How many more layers can you live?

 

Lymphatically, circulatory, skeletal?

 

Wrestle your ex-co-conspirator’s mediocre

abstract painting into the alley and swing that kerosene

in your mind, remembering when you really did.

 

String them out, the flickering sequences,

 

strung out, hung over a history of angry

synapses. If you must have a past, grieve

by scooping up some coarse cork shavings and shaking

 

them stoically over any spill of burned, blacked oil,

 

long leaked, long pooled from ten engines' reaches.

Repeat a ritual you want hope to understand.

Kneel to see the little mound soak black, live life.

Halogen Dusk

Jared Hayley

                                             

How can so much whole-hog come out

of the ground each day and just sit there

pretending it is good at pretending,

drying its gruesome membrane wings?

 

I try nightly to make it out

though the tremolo won’t pass

the universe between window and blind.

Past tense, sun blare, black peal, to-do.

 

With no repeat performance scheduled,

the clangor of great scenes dies down

like a pendulum on a struck stage

striking feeding-back microphones.

 

More weight is what it needs, this

or that incapacitates me. More light,

more heat, it will lose. The abrupt

is rampant: mouths, dead ends, the Leonids.

Vignette Before a Yarn

Jared Hayley

                                             

The skull of cloud-cover blends its washwater

hues like a sentence whose verbs have been whited out.

 

The silver-haired groundskeeper, wool cap in hand,

sweats and avoids his own maze-craze shoe prints

 

through the weather-pocked, mumble-mouthed tombstones.

Not a sound, trees branch against the backs of billboards,

 

against any remembrance but the traffic’s cogent theme.

A wind lows someone’s tired beat near. Shovel

 

scrape, apparition, shadow of falling gravel.

Now let me tell you something.

Inventory of an Experience

Jared Hayley

                                             

Shaking off the cold

coming down of night’s

imitation absence,

I entered the pine wood

room. Clusters of photographs

hung from rafters, not the walls:

disarticulated human remains

on green hills. One window drew

the eye to the end of the room

and the dark river it framed.

In the river below a fool

wearing my clothes writhing

in a swarm of bank weeds rescued

himself and staggered past.

A literature of crows amassed outside

in a metalepsis or maybe a contagion

of clacking. The door of a sound.

Ready to confess, I stood

with my back to the wall.

An insect god, the hundred white eyes

of the backs of the photographs

stared at me in a hungry way.

Erasure not unlike the aura 

that precedes the headache

and the mercy. One more time,

the river, the bank, the weeds.

 
 
 
 

Mannequin Disposed

Jared Hayley

                                             

Oh, plastic statue of youth, smooth, naked as news, cast

down, you lazy soot-brick airshaft guard, ankle and wrist

 

ended, geek posed, twee, too awkward for interment,

your twelve-foot military fence has broken open

 

a bottle of rotgut and wears a garland

of shimmering, ravaged audio tape.

 

Such a patient conductor: boiler, sump pump,

pipe spasms. Incensed hiss. Delirium tremens.

 

It’s true, each essence escapes from its conduit.

The sky in razor wire. Painted window. Sucking

 

drain. Gagging hose. Communication cable. Drug

tool. Light with no switch. Things we live between.

White Wall Phase

Jared Hayley

                                             

Because it is akin to tending the fire

to stare at the spackle and plaster cracks

and the blunt instruments of lightfastness and fade,

 

because the turgid pine sapling

 

unsocketed its serum-sticky needles

in slow self-immolation, soon after

I nailed it to its spot on the wall,

 

because it took two days to knife

 

the staples free from sheetrock without tearing

the magazine clippings’ countless corners

and hold on to some sanity at least,

 

because gone at last was the obsessive

 

collage that for years had swallowed all wall

and ceiling, leaving only the window and rug,

because once things really got going in that room,

 

they took and took just to take.

 

Sure, mirror-balls probably rotate slowly

in my old loves’ new loves’ rooms,

but here, panes of sun scan for life

 

across the blank calendar of my arctic,

 

lighting every pinhole hovel,

clearing out the old, untold interiors

so the room’s ribs might feel some warmth

 

and know their own skin again.

 

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