Treasures For Heaven



Forgive me, Angels,

You had only wings, I poems

That entered me as a man

Enters the house

Of unwavering light

Thick as labyrinths

Coming apart at the bottom

Where all that could be I left for you.



Through the enduring memory

Of the present

I walk past the blue hells of


Graffiti handcuffs

That no matter how sublime

Bring greatness to the empire

For naught.



Soon I come to the confluence

Of spring & forever, but

I’ve no one to share a happy moment

Save a vague voice calling

But I’m thinking of no one special

Round the entire

Ghoulish star field

As it begins again to shift.



I give you emotional radio

Live from the galaxies

Of Mercy that linger

So near

Our understanding each other

Like a woman

Who always rises late

& love that comes without bounds.



In your voice is an immensity

Greater than near-death

Along a stretch of cactus-dotted

Power plants where

We met on the corner

Of love-at-first-sight

With its violin wrapped tight

In the cool silk of your arms.



I heard things

Only star dust hears––

The tiny white eyes

Of garden shadows,

The stillness of clotheslines under February’s moon,

The sadness

Of empty baskets

Having seen too much.



Wolves circle the gold mosque, then

Disappear like old Chinatown

Record stores in Philadelphia

As I see eternity in myself

As a patchwork of mirrors

Presented at the War Crimes Convention

Where the jailer loved to watch you

Roll down your nylons.



How old is the light

At the core of yourself––

Does it go back to Yeou

Teaching men to break branches

In a freight car of the slain

Where the heat of your breath

Is more delicate than

A world filled with lies?



I slipped into a theater

To get out of the

Thousand sheets of rain

But the movie didn’t touch me

& just hearing the actors’ words

Turned my cheeks pale

Because no one can tell me

Where you are.



There were boarded up windows,

& factories of corpses &

Ninety miles out of town

I can still hear the endless weeping

Of mourners at the gate where

No one has to ask why

The angels stopped

Lighting themselves on fire.



So much has changed

In so little time

& yet I still crave the sight of you

Dancing in the park

With the sun

Coming out again

From the stormy weather

Of the joy we shared.



Your father died.

You got your period,

& then someone began counterfeiting

The scripture

Of imaginary sounds

While me & Renata just talked quiet

In the dark, hardly

Listening to the Boxing Gandhis.



Excessive numbers of human beings

Draw the impenetrable luck

Of nonstop violence

& we are no different

Within the secret devouring hatreds

Cloaked by the golden

Lonely orange sieve

Of lust & slaughter.



Somewhere over the rainbow

The genocide films disappeared.

Enormous forgiveness

Is available to anyone.

Over there senators

Meet in closed session.

Here we made love on a white couch––

Snowflakes melting as they touched your skin.



Who can say they are

As hated as the earth?

You circle the prairie

Just over the grass

Crying out

If there’s anyone in the entire universe

Who cares if you

Live or die.



As the boundaries that separate us

Continue to evolve,

Numberless shaman gather

At the Cave of Magic

Where the long chain of the future

Only a brief period ago

Wrapped around this gentle

& effortless love.



What is it

That brings the first bells of frost––

Is it sunlight on the back of your neck

As you pass through the giant pines

Dead & Wanted somewhere else,

Never complete,

Only lost in a today no words can




Don't be confused about closure––

Most people

Consider it as real

As pneumonia

Or red bats flying

Into the golden light of October

Chased by the loneliness of dying love’s

Inexhaustive pleasure.



Suddenly riveted to the desire

To believe in yourself,

The ice grows thick

On the stairs of elation

Where the wounds

Of seclusion

Turn you away from those

Who meant so much.



Shrouded conductor

Never says a word

As everyone turns into other beings

Before pulling into the yards of heaven

Where Martin Luther King

Greets one after another with a question

About what it was

They were trying to get away from.




I run my hand over your

Windy asylum

Of skulls

Blurred in the green forgetfulness

Of a once

Passionate identity

With the least & the lowest.



I have poured out

My heart

Until I am sick

From skywriting

On the cliffs at the end

Of the sorrow that comes with

Knowing there wasn’t really anything

I didn’t have that you didn’t too.



The angels ride down

On lightning fast motorcycles

& whisper into the ears

Of the filmmaker & his lovers

Of the terrible pain

That is the faith in authenticity

Of somebody who dies

Without having experienced it.



Storm upon storm

Fell on the possibilities between us

As the orange-haired tracker

Followed the Rio Grande

Where the furrowed light

Through the wild apple leaves

Hid the intimate

Painted buntings.



I have two-thirds ESP

& the other third

Works the graveyard shift

On the all night show

Where the next caller won’t say

Anything about

The day she

Went to the only place left to go.



I was standing

At the crossroads

Where her next world met mine

Feeling no need to answer

For the ways

Others would misconstrue

The cause of

A death at low tide.



No matter how often we meet

You never see me

Turn my face

Towards the happiness that lingers

Among the black trees

As we kiss

In the cool green-plum light

Of Mt. Diablo.



Sometimes I sit by the phone

Idly waiting for a call

Without moving a muscle.

Other times,

I place 100 candles in a circle

& just lie on the floor

Watching chrysanthemum blossoms

On the ceiling.



Every distress

Vanishes in the expanse

Of two-letter words cut into three

On the path of blank insights

Where you view my former life

Numbering the moments

Of incrustation

Laid upon my soul.



When you are sick

& your lover

Cannot see you as you are,

It’s worse

If you leave

Knowing you awakened love

With death’s high call,

When love alone best opens love’s eyes.



I wanted to be sure to reach you,

So I brought these cheap hats of Fate

Without the speed & power

Which is the armor of the world,

But still I am often dejected

By arcane desolations that well up

From the grave

That lives inside everything.



Then, I tremble

Down backstreets,

Climbing up the girders of planets

Past the brothels

Where painters paint

The million cycles

& still the terrible feeling returns––

I’ve accomplished nothing.



Listening to the surf,

Hair blowing across your face,

You saw only

Footprints into the sea

That followed one another like violets

Along mad rivers

Deciding again & again

To love.



Your notebook was washed ashore,

But it was hardly

The last change

In the first realm of paradise

Where Love

Dreams of the way Beauty

In all her languages says

The work of the world is peace.




We took off our clothes

As the human shields

Were killed in their sleep

Till I was swept away

On a raft of bones

That fed the ongoing flames of demolished




I grieve the chaos

Of the deceased in their smeared make-up

Of slit throats

Where in mid-sentence

I repent the monsters

Of unlicensed nihilism

Because I am from the massacre

& I am the massacre.



The smell

Of burning tires

Comes through the window

Near the bodies

Roped in moonbeams

Of unity

Where they were separated

From time––often & without fail.



I’ve always been enchanted

By the persimmon tree

That requires

So many years to bear fruit

Even as you wipe away

The hysterical pleasures

Of self-conscious bitterness

From the eternal circle of your heart.



Humanitarian disaster

Everywhere I turn

Reminds me of someone else

I’ll never know.

There’s a tin cup on my table––

You left it here, maybe you left it for me.

I take it out to catch the tears that harmlessly fall

Thinking they’ve damaged the earth.



The station is so eerie––

Even the janitor leaning on his broom

Gives me the creeps as he hands me

The letter I thought I read

When I looked inside &

Asked myself once more how I got

These hundreds of thousands

Of years of feeling.



There’s the

Colossal serenity between words

That rearranges decay

Inside the minds of murderers

It easily divines

As we smile in a language

Of hobos placing their secret mark

Upon the doors of the generous.



Factories of death

Do not just happen

As nations

Stumble over the brambled anchors

Of momentary concealment

Where we infinitely revere

The ever-valid grace

Holding our love the whole night long.



You often talked with me

About the spaces

Between breaths as far richer than wealth &

So I looked there for you––

Hoping to see, touch & hear

All that is born

Like a poem

That once read is never found again.



At Crystal Pass

Where I wait for you

Flowers call out

To their gypsy lovers

That their tedious acceptance of praise

For one’s state of mind

Is as ridiculous as

Having two feet.



A low-lit copper aura

Falls around the body

Like a deeply personal celibacy vow

Competing against

The calculus of ovulation

As you search in vain

Knocking on every door but the one

In which you don’t exist.



What’s wrong with doubt?

It has its own music

Which rolls in from the sea

As sincere as the lack of an erection or

Coal fires burning

Underground through the lonely centuries

Of our conversations that are often filled with

Nothing but quotes from Neil Young.



The music of fear is intimate

& repeatable, as useful

As magnetic keycards

To the temple of vast

Groundless Vajra Shoahs

Spilling from the cracked cup

Of the whole of death

Into which we evaporate.



Why would I seek my refuge in

Sandstone rock & sky that moves with the

Melancholy history of snow

Casting its net

For the fallen light within the sea

If not for such a true love as you

Which to the angels

Seems like torment.



Of Mind’s regressions––

Peering out

& moaning with

Unspeakable dignity

From behind the bars

Of this accidental “me”––

I can draw them for you clearly

With these untroubled eyes.



Without reins or halter

You switch horses at full gallop

As riders have for centuries crossing

El Paseo de la Muerte

Where the floorboards of heaven

Creak with the boot heels

Of my restless tears

Since you’ve been gone.



In the headwaters

Of Lethe

Whirl the mountain

Of rainbows

That cover the madness

Of generations in love

With the first taste of




Rescued from

Endless wrapping-up

I exalt the transitory

With dreams of lasting significance,

At peace

With leaving the best

to offer up as

Treasures for heaven.



When you go

I wish you


Of what’s ahead, but

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night

& lie in bed, terrified & alone,

Just as I did as a little child

Contemplating in horror being dead forever.



Sometimes you come back

In the light of dawn

& finality

Greets me with intimate details

Of the relentless suffering

That gives rise

To the place

Where the wisest can’t enter.



Like water running uphill

You appeared to me

Wearing that red wool dress

I’d seen you in years before

As we strolled the highlands

Overlooking the sky

Beyond the sweetgrass of gain

& the roseways of loss.




My ecology book

I wrote these

Mannish requiems to God

To help me face

My jadedness

With naked honesty &

A joy like no other.



When I told you my theory

about Kerouac’s

Use of the long dash

To parallel the breakdown

Of the American Family

In the mid-twentieth century––

You said,

“There is no one to save.”



Even you

Leaning on sad phone booth at Fifth

Across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Where someone pasted

A message that read

“Gorgeous Models

Drop their undies for you!!!”––

Even you & I are one



& Crazy Horse

Looking over everywhere

We turn––nothing but scorched earth

In all directions––

Lost hunting grounds, lost youth––

Still, the tiniest tributary


History’s mainstream.



In the land

Of dead souls

I desired the loveliness

Which has yet to come into the world

& the future which belongs

To those who believe

In the beauty

Of their dreams.



Angels, my Poem

Never sleeps––

It watches over the planet

The way a graveyard

Watches over music,

The way loss watches over war,

The way failure

Watches over the living.



I wander the heavens

So that I may learn in my own lifetime

What the heart is, what it feels

As the ten spaceships land

Near the arch at Big Sur

With those who never came back

& all those who did

But were never the same.



Walk me out in the morning dew

My king-size girl.

Saw me in half––

I’ll wiggle my toes

As geese do,

Sleeping in their dark-masked communes,

& looking back

At ice-covered ponds.



Extreme days––

Where to forget is inexcusable

& to remember

Often unbearable––

I wish you tranquility

As you walk away

In your powder blue leggings, garters,

& see-through mini-skirt.



Buffalo thundering

At the speed of darkness––

Your hooves are to my ears

The sweet woe of

Mariachi bands playing on Venus

As the ghost dance of my Poem seeps

Like plutonium slowly

Through the groundwater.



Every kindness

Is a little death

In the divine’s image &

The smell of chocolate & mangos

& ashes covers everything,

But who stops water from boiling

Without dousing

The fire beneath it?



I pity the feminine for its

Entangled wounds

& the masculine for its sadness of armies

Beyond comprehension.

Every chain but one

You have broken yourself

& that one, too,

You alone must break.



With no power

To awaken others,

I think of you falling short

At the end.

How deep is the reservoir

Of balance, how free,

When the whole country

Is a military camp?



What is it you want––

The clouds rain saxophones on

The flowers of doubt

That lead

Through tall nettles

To the medicine wheel

Of everything

Around them grown to words.



When I look within you

I see miracles without end

In the refuge camps

Of all that has happened,

Building the light

From its mortality

Until you accept the reality

Of the love you bring forth.



What does your name mean––

“If love is good,

From whennes cometh my woo?”

Too soon everything

We have known

Is washed away

Leaving nothing of ourselves

Among the ten thousand peaks.



Out of the gloom,

I hear you talking like

A mind reader

Sitting on a velvet moon

Where the obstinance of love

Has its own mountains

Which we climb in shoes made from

The leathery skin of rosehips in winter.



I enter the vast palace of clouds

That so effortlessly

Rains upon

The pillows

Of specialized knowledge

Without knowing who

Came looking

At this empty-handed mind.



The stones are weary

With their own



As you film me

Drawing with your lipstick

On all the cheap paintings

In this supreme hotel.



Many bury

Kinsmen in an ugly cease-fire.

Others try to escape

From the life that they had––but the

Atrocities follow

Like compassion & openness

Freeing you from distraction,

Creating generosity.



As the families arrive,

The gold-toothed undertaker

Turns off his

Hearing aids

That bleed

In the light of the blue-grey snow

As he covers her body

In full sight of the peacekeepers.



Around the planet

Tales float of a soldier

Who almost clubbed

A young student

During a political


If not for the sound

Of one chanting Om.



Why do we hide

Our weaknesses

Like hangmen writing elegant postcards

With ink made of urine

In the emergency rooms of memory

As doctors weigh the fingers of

Deadmen sitting in chairs

With shiny yellow badges?



No concepts

To appease the disappearing fetus

Of the muses

In their aquamarine


& skeletal litanies

That hang in the balance

& cannot retreat forever.



The lights of your eyes

Take hold of my emotions &

Cure me like a pregnant woman

Vomiting into her purse

When I return &

Every single thing is the whole

& I feel your love-rays on

This, the most brilliant of days.



I look for you through

Heatwaves of Eros

& roiling cities

With red ragged burden-carriers


& then drooping

Over the spinning turntables

Of your green brassiere.



The Soul of evolution

Is the end of powerlessness


Rising through the words

Of those who lay down their lives

Till I came face to face with

Black-shawled Demeter––

The Celestial who couldn’t be driven out.



In the turquoise sky

Of shimmering hexagrams,

I burst out of the Cosmos

To live within the center of all things

At the throne

Of green twilight

Dancing across wet fields of mint

Till peace grips the world.



Throughout your life

Who is the thief? Who’s been robbed?

Mysterious to others,

A mystery to yourself,

Pleasure & spirit

Take hold of you

With a scarecrow’s devotion

Till your elaborate plans are all too late.



On the night

When such a vertigo

Came to my heart

I felt nearly suffocated––

Rest assure this

Breathing corpse

At that moment

Thought of nothing but you.



A poet’s life

Includes antigravity techniques

For living without

Strain or compulsion.

Why continue

So influenced by others––

The more you followed

The more lost you became.



Don’t be mislead

As I was.

Again & again

Beliefs are destroyed

Till one day like me you ask yourself

“How many hours

Has ‘Jim Cohn’ caused me

To forget my loneliness?”



In the millennial cafe

Full of bums & saints,

A great shadow

Hovers like a meteor of third eyes

For the great wandering troubadours

Packing their alphabets

Into old rickety suitcases

As they depart the scene.



I see myself gasping

In vanity’s flame

To find myself

Among the most sorrowful dead––

Buried with their bullet holes & names

On crumpled pieces of paper

Stuffed inside

Clear plastic bottles.



Of one million families

Ruined by the heavy toll,

Only a hundred endured.

If I was President

I’d paint the White House black––

Then I would write on its wall

The fruits of their crackdowns

Will also prove illusory.



Talk about a system

Of government––

Who pursues the happiness?

Who contains this suffering?

Then I met Love, whose

Appearance spoke such grief

She called me by name

& gave my heart new delight.



In the depth of night

I saw the ages

Of hidden things

That had first appeared to me

Beneath the veils of

Her dress––cool as a spring breeze

Blowing across the greatness

Of my own limitations.



Loyalty & pride––

There’s a mansion

With many rooms for sale

& the smell of

All the loves

That did not last

As you leapt up screaming

At the faded clowns.



To the ghosts of my mind

No more real than

The child

Who dreams of being beaten

While sleeping

In its lover’s arms––

When will you demonstrate

True understanding?



Ghost––Whoever asks, “When

Did you know everything is love?”

It was the night

Among the dakinis in their T-shirts

& brown cowboy boots

Listening to the skipping needle

& wondering

What lonely death I am to die.



Life is sad

& haunted by beings

That once parted

From nowhere to nowhere

Ask to whom

Can I open

My heart

& begin to live?



Here is what I left out––



Nor written,

But with all the energy

Of the public soul

At the private wall

Of the world.



In the fiery storm

At the center of the heart

She fought to reach him

& there he knew

the imprisonment

Love might impose &

With it a freedom

Nothing to do with prisons.



What is soon washed away

Yet dwells amidst the

Forbidden waves?

I felt what my body would not be again

Touch me for the last time

& heard cries

Mingled with the tiny shells

& petals of roses rolling into the sea.



I must confess

To living in a less spacious age

Than yours, but

The snow falls equally

Covering the forgotten

& great whose fame

The world won’t let

Willingly die.



I admire your life

As if it were the

Split-trunk pine of Takekuma––

Cut by the governor,

A new one planted, cut,

Replanted in the same spot

& still it grows in the beautiful shape

Of the original.



I enter with ease

Into the spirit of the times

Where the midnight sun

Does not decease or disturb

The irrelevant completeness

Of the frightened wanderer

At the hour of death

When he soars into flight.



No regrets, though I wish

I’d been able to write the laughter of women.

The wild river of laughter––

My whole life,

Immersed in this laughter.

The laughter of women––

Who can hope to reply

To such exquisite songs?



Those who commit

The most ungodly acts

Still do so with the assurance of the feeling

That nothing will be done.

This is why we have chosen to appear

Through the madrone blossoms

Willing to give our lives

So that others might live.



Face to face,

The mind in its holy vacuum,

I have passed many seasons,

My endless phrases

Addressed to no one––

Like the light dust

Falling upon your shoulders

As you ride past Jupiter hot springs.



11-17 January 1999

Revised 27 June 1999



[Published in Quien Sabe Mountain: Poems 1998-2004.

© 2004 by Jim Cohn.]




Quien Sabe Mountain
(MAP Publications, 2004)