The Route Of The Dead Man

for David Cope


Poetic Genius, traveling with the adepts

On roads gods find none upon which to strew flowers,

Come with me to the final checkpoint of Golden America never to return

And I will take you to the immeasurable

Thousand paged wheel

Of your own poor gentle flesh.


Innumerable worlds, I will show you betony,

The solitary breathing of a shawl,

Unaccountable movements of rock across sand

& the under-exposed street choir of anything incalculable

As are the weeds rippling like candlelight

With nothing overhead.


I understand the havoc of this, your frantic dimension.

The world is uncensorable––

Never the same turquoise hunger

Demanding ashes and light,

Always the same immense regions of fictitious states

Dissolving the last impulse of self-preservation.


The weak cannot fall lower than the lowest nation.

The mighty only remind us of damaged sanctuary.

Gaunt with revelations,

Not one atom of acceptance or fault remains.

Nothing is continuous, unyielding

In the uncomfortable warehouse of redbrick time.


Looking out at moonlit waves,

The light that shone in your eyes will come back again

Or it’s just gone or it never was, as we never know the hour

When Death comes like a suit without a man.

All we know is whenever you ask Death a question,

He just raises a finger to his purple lips.


Shame and desire ride through the crooked mist

Of things exactly as they are––

As inextricable as a supernova,

Unafraid as a girl who only dates on national television––

Each one nestled in the spaceless surrender

That obliterates restraint.


Who began when you began––

Was it she who wanders across fog cold Denver

With legs collapsed by despair, cruelly divided into two.

There are unavoidable movements,

Completely outside coercion.

Maybe bad timing is everything.


Costumed actors watch banks of monitors

Rolling hazy videos of dictators playing cards.

The sickly-sweet smell of drying laundry wafting out

Vents into the air makes me think of

Black Hawk helicopters defecating phalluses

On the clotheslines of the innocent.


Presume not what confines you in another’s loss

Or fair beyond measure, how deformity makes you fair.

Despondence is natural, but it shouldn’t take up any more than

One in every ten thousand thoughts––

Everything is in vain if it doesn’t challenge the notion

Of “intrinsic depravity.”


Sometimes your statements silence everyone, even

Wanda wiggling out of her sweater in the yellow night.

Sometimes your speak about a little job in Truth or Consequences

& a reoccurring dream

That we’re invaded by beings from another planet

Who’ve come only for one reason––the poets.


The ocean in itself is drowned in vast promises of lost dreams.

The earnest sincerity of Arabs makes me wish for a love

Before the god of Love was born.

In the distance I see people walking around

The wide valley of the painted world,

But when I arrive, only skeletons litter the ground.


You didn’t need to be here in a previous life––

Before these colors held the war-shattered cities together

With giant plastic letters large enough to contain all the inconsistencies

Of liberty & liberty deficits

And all that is violently tranquil

In the cancel of limits.


Underneath this outward confidence & iniquity

You steal in, as natural as the endless streets of sailored ports

On the long hill of the sun, destroying the pitfalls & delights

Of each complete understanding escaping pronouncements

That would only belittle the

Profundity of human experience.


From here there is only a series of dark virtues

And amulets to shield you against the rapid steps of illness,

As if in the presence of the smallest deer in the world,

Unknown to the Council of Wrathful Peace

And the precise declarations of

Perfect lost impurity read by instinct.


It is not from fear or incompetence

That miraculous writings spring forth

From every corner of the globe with a subject

So remote as to be universally without barrier.

Praise does not apply

To the forest no ax has thinned.


We live in a medium of tambourine codes,

Swallowing armies of survival with no vote at all.

Ghosts leave us the gift of forgetfulness the way my dad

Doesn’t remember he thought Elvis was retarded.

It’s a long time since you fell in love for the first time––

A mirror’s no mirror at all.


“I just don’t feel it here,” she said,

Hand on her breast, her speech so hard

As she sat down at the table with the moon in the window.

He felt like a magician in a nightmare,

Standing in the path of total destruction––

Who must move quickly, but cannot move.


What sovereignty calls infernal in hell is medicine––

Dispensing with surfaces to reveal what was hid.

The green vagina of coming & going knows no balance or discrepancy.

Who left you solemnly to dwell in this sea of astonish,

Gobbling dregs till the millions of bodies

In the newsreel ends?


Grace, disgrace––these are nothing more than the

High-low pink palace of that unfair fair which doth counterfeit excel.

In tender embassy, the poet too perishes alone,

Grieving for the entire interexistent collapse

Of devourers devouring

All but their chains.


You cannot own deception––

It washes off like charcoal in the rain.

Our corrosive selves are uninhibited

By the struggles of pervasive attachment––

But their electricity is just the

Unfinished business of death melting away.


With clear unsparing mind,

The chrysalis of shattered breaks into a rainbow,

Luminous in the dismal deep,

Woven with the light of some once once,

The heart of once, stopped like a light

Before the earth, before the beginning.


Hands folded, each in each, you caress the mirage

Of this subdued shape & draw it down to the indefinite

Sky filled with double negatives

Seen in a normal room

Pretending to be a normal people

Spending their time making projections.


It is an ordinary day in the alchemy domain.

A loud bell drowns out aggression.

Forgiveness chants bless the martyr’s cause

And somewhere, Unknown Counterpart, under the canopy of

Happiness consisting of this great strange dream, the lamas are coming

To revive everyone.


Outside the town of La Vita,

Blades of grass shudder with tarantula lightning.

Were you genuine in deed, giving a whole lifetime teachings away?

The wounded immortal preys on the destroyer of environments

With killer robots

Spewing poisonous black smoke.


“Who I am” she said, “is more than a couple of rib joints

That haunt me still.”

Thunderbirds fly over the scalping ceremony,

Blowing out the hurricane lamp of tomorrows that begin with goodbye,

Upending jesters in their courts of fate

& vanquishing selves once thought real.


In the back room of the Peppermint West, Loraine smells

old paperbacks of

Flaubert & a few minutes later, having sex with her ex on the toilet,

She theorizes that Agent Smith was an emanation

Of the feminine & that the blue flowers

In the shadow of his last nonexistent-I rekindled

Memories of taking judo and chicken feet in a Chinatown window.


On an eve young at heart, ponds glisten in morning light––

Each stranger than the people filling you with the inexplicable

Feeling of having lived every single life,

Even as the headless ahead-headed invisible blur

That made it all happen

Moves on unmade––erasing the mental erase.


It was then I went to pay a visit to my fellow province.

All her soldiers were in ruins.

My first thought was uh-oh––

The province elite has attacked the shamans.

I sent hundreds of messages to allies for help

& to the regent for an explanation of her actions.


She had none. I message her again with my ICQ.

I’m thinking we got a deal.

Everything’s going fine but then I’m getting it good.

Enough is enough. The war is on and this time

I’m thinking hell no,

I’m not gonna bow down.


With a cameo appearance by Sayamatara

Using a pile of stolen fight-rap CDs to enlighten her foes, 

The 3000-year-old commander, Nagisa, commandeers

A 15-mile wide flying saucer to attack the giant geometric

Alien girl Iczer-1just as volcanoes explode

In the streets of Los Angeles.


In seconds, Southern California turns into a smoldering

Lava-blasted paradise of kitty litter boxes,

But Nagisa finds out that the antimodularist Iczer-1 is

Without opening for comparison, outside

Formulation and doctrine

& able to change opportunely in a flash.


Meanwhile, I’m getting hit pretty bad

When she messages back, “The route of the dead man

Is labor & mourning in leadened shadows

Of specters divided by rage &

Broken into slivers

That feed the burning rain of samsara in reverse.”


That’s why I wished this audience, Mortuary America,

Because you could have been sitting full-lotus naked in the sun

Instead of marveling at the dignity of idiot hypocrisy

Carefully loaded on this gnashing earth,

Leaving no footprints as you cover vast distances

Enclosed in your maniacally quartered mundane shell.


If people do not understand

That all around them lay human slavery,

The weight of their plutonium scripture will shatter their bones––

Myriad iron afflictions upon them will seal dreadful woes

Happier dead than exposed to the

Persistent honey of vanished inseparables.


For we are like the sweetness of throbbing stars,

The hope children must see when they lay in their little beds

As veiled angels, milling around generations

Of bleak unpleasant faces, performing

Cosmic disobedience

On the steps of the globe.


The preponderance of unsaid things is always greater

Than what is said of the delicious sundown orange looming presence

Of that which is untouched self-sacrifice––

And what of “insane infinity?” Try meter vs. meter,

Redwood vs. redwood, all forms of chaos working as one 

Vs. all forms of chaos working as one.


As energy scouts hunt down dismembered phantoms

Holding frightened mouths in their arms,

Black phosphorus fills the room with the scent of emery

Drifting higher than the solemn circuits of blue spring

So that the mourning earth can once again dream

It is dreaming if it dreams of birds.


“Moderates & extremists, believers & nonbelievers,

Diplomats & warriors, footmen & kings––

¿Que quieres de , mi vida, que quieres de ?”

As it is written in The Blue Cliff Record––

“Everything is the seamless monument. Therein is gold.”

“It is simply the place the whole world has never concealed.”


When I wrote these words, I wanted to see the form of the unwritten

Voices of others so I could feel the sanctity of these

Sensations of maggots moving in the body––

Your requiem to the men & women

You let go of on trails trailing off to the

One hundred thousand lifetimes from now.


It is a beautiful thing to watch a massive nonviolent protest.

Without center or circumference,

Without possession of any nature whatsoever.

A huge peaceful gathering is a public symbol of the indivisible act

Of friendliness and compassion for all beings

In whatever way will influence them.


Noble Traveler––tramp between worlds,

Beneath the moving shade of trees

I came to in a pool of rose-colored letters.

Only the sound of the river is different than before––

Before it sounded like laughter to me. Now it sounds like

Weeping that stupefies both gods and demons.


As huckleberry winds prowl autumn creeks

Where mountaintops of leaves fall like stitches of ink

Wiped on the inside of a blouse,

I look back on what were syllables exterminated

& see in the worst only the despised substance

Of the divine show.


We live in a time of digital colonialism &

World civil servants thinking Threat: “fanatical terror groups,”

Threat: the dominant attitude industry,

Threat: searching for however brief periods of blankness,

Threat: invade, occupy, pillage––from the West Bank to the World Bank,

Threat: was that really a “real” picture?


And all along the row of dismal refineries, Doom––

In his pimp’n get-up––encounters a future version of himself

That is more metal than man, but Doom also remembers

Growing old and because of this

Doom says, Asato ma sad gamaya––

“Lead me from the unreal to the real.”


On the earth scene, each thought unfulfilled is a symbol of unreality.

Each thought fulfilled is a symbol of reality.

But everybody offers to the world

Unreality and reality in a unique manner.

Manifest or unmanifest is of no consequence––

Reality and unreality have no role of their own.


Over there, in the center of a flower-covered grove,

Enchanted people behind me I see.

Over there, in the center of a flower-covered grove,

These enchanted people before me I am seeing.

In flower fawn’s flower dust, the enchanted people are all around me.

Never again I, will I on this earth, I, around will I be walking.



15 October - 26 November 2003



[Published in Quien Sabe Mountain:

Poems 1998-2004. © 2004 by Jim Cohn.]




Quien Sabe Mountain
(MAP Publications, 2004)