after Robert Desnos


I could’ve been reading on a streetcorner anywhere.

Begging at an exit ramp, broke down at a toll booth gate.

Could of been selling encyclopedias to a rattlesnake,

     life insurance in a morgue

As I looked out on the audience that wasn’t there.

I cannot describe the chance performance I gave that night.


My audience was not made up of people I could see

Nor was I reading simply to the non-existing audience

     separate from the audience that wasn’t there.

Nothing from my books had power over them––

Not that I had ever lost the devouring love to write.

A million words––nothing could pull us apart.


Mortality’s blue shroud was not distracting.

Looking beyond, where the ones I love do not answer,

     You saw me naked among walking dead mummies

And nobody stood aching on the steps of an erroneous vacuum.

Nobody wants to be remembered for anything else

     on this tortured earth except love.


13 April 1995


Spoken word version from Walking thru Hell Gazing at Flowers.

Copyright © 1996 by Jim Cohn.

Text from The Dance Of Yellow Lightning Over The Ridge (Writers & Books Publications).

Copyright © 1998 by Jim Cohn.