Cooper Wilhelm

p o e t r y

Hybrid Moments
“If you want to scream, scream with me,
moments like this never last.”

—The Misfits


A beehive breathing free inside their rib cage;
a tree planted on their face
as if all their lies had grown up
into something to be proud of;
everybody wants

the same thing some days.
The point of fruit is not to waste it, no matter how
it might arise, whatever entropy it stacked to mold a body.

Every day a thing I wrote exists
does it take a whisper’s worth of dust and sift it
from the tiptop of the pit where my body will turn to snakes
and rhizomes, moss tendrils caked in the unmarrowed,
nameless chalk that was fingerbone, that was leg?

You catch more deer with salt than you do with sweetness.

Sometimes I think about what Stalin said, that one day
history would blow the garbage off his grave
like a mother’s spit will cleanse the schmutz from off a child’s face
with a bright, bright Kleenex,

and make him anonymous again. God—
to be your own answer. I should not
have kids.

At the rehearsal dinner,
the groom’s mother praises the Korean War
Memorial, someone explains a haunted house
they lived in. Everywhere the dust
is rising. Let’s take
a break from this, let us change
our face.

Vulture Bees are a family of bees that make honey out of meat and these are their names:

TRI       -        GO      -        NA
CRAS    -        SI        -       PES

TRI       -         GO     -        NA
HY         -        PO     -        GE       -     A
HY         -        PO     -        GE       -     A

TRI        -        GO     -       NA
NEC       -        RO     -      PHA     -     GA

TRI        -        GO      -     NA
HY         -        PO      -     GE        -     A
RO         -        BUST  -     I           -     OR


When I die please nurture vulture bees and make
a lion’s skull of me, my brain a syrup soft and sweet,
impossible to rinse off anything it touches.

A friend, a mystic, says part of me was murdered
long ago, a witch, a woman split
from rib to pelvis in a rite,

and that that part of me is still mad about it.
It’s so hard to burn
the silence off that settles with each year
like morning mist. I want to reach into the silt and darkness
up to the shoulder unsure of what I’ll find
and if in sweeping over flint chips
and razor tesserae from the shells of ancient mollusks
my fingers lock in mirror fingers,
I could lever them up at least enough
to get a name.   

TRI     -    GO   -    NA
CRAS  -    SI    -     PES

The way that missiles whine
they might as well be angel trumpets,
leaving smoke funnels the shape of thorns, the shape of bugle chips,

                                                                   smoke as heavy on the face as mourning mist.

From the family,

                                                                                            (I had to look it up)


the petals of the angel trumpet have been used to call across the arc
of time so the ghosts of great grandparents
could bring living kids in line,
and to comfort those who would be buried
alive next to their dead husbands or dead Kings, like a silent
swallowed lullaby.


The world takes care of planting flowers but you should do it anyway.

TRI     -    GO    -   NA
HY      -    PO    -   GE     -   A
HY      -    PO    -   GE     -   A

Joke was: honey was just bee meat
and dogs whose faces swelled from eating bees
were just puffed up with great joy of eating
bees which is to eat the gushy scent of summer flowers,
a meadow’s whole kaleidoscope in a little buzzy grape, a laugh tear’s worth

of juice. Joke was: the hives were free of death
protected by their ceaseless effort, by their dealing
with intrusions from people wanting things
to make their eating better, because eating is a thing
you have to do, so you might as well make it bright enough
to split your chest in half like a big rock struck by lightning
from which a naked true love hero will be born, might as well
make it too much for you to bear alone.

Sometimes when you stare into the trees
you realize you’ve been making eye contact with a deer
and in that instant see it leap away.
It doesn’t know it’s you.
This happened to me on the big bright day
we visited the insane asylum on Staten Island
that the forest, long abandoned, had reclaimed,
and which everyone said was haunted.
Sometimes getting abandoned in bright sunshine
is something we have to do.
Sometimes our whole lives are something we have
to do and we can’t do
and the can’t do of it is the real thing
we have to do. It’s fine if you feel like no one
can forgive you enough for it to stick
It’s normal to feel like you can’t ever get away.

Where is my face looking? Is it still at the dinner?
Who is here with me in this dark place?
Each witch I used to be maybe said this poem
to no one in a field, the air almost a rain,
and less of it made sense to them
than it does to me, the way it doesn’t all yet make sense.

Get back to work, Cooper.


                                                                                            “Thank you, Cooper’s brain.”

There’s much to do; you’ll be dead someday.

                                                                                            “Thank you, I know,

                                                                                                                     I can’t not know, thank you,
                                                                                                                thank you, Cooper’s brain.”
“You die, too.”

lmao, Cooper, says Cooper’s brain, same


Joke was: when Adam named every beast
and that wicked sound became
their life in absence. Come Saint John’s Night,
(pronounced Sin Gin’s) and the darkness of the hills
would peep into you with the glowing eyes of bone fires
lit with the white frames of all the animals that had died that year
to ask that they would be the last and spring’s only hunger
would be in bees babbling through the wheat and sheep’s
alfalfa, casting flowers with their gratitude.

The alchemical marriage of sun motes and Miyazaki soot
to make from dust pure gold,
would Edna St. Vincent have thought them apollonian clockwork
until she saw them bump into the screen a dozen times,
those little crossroads ghosts, sweet Saint Peters, the lost bones
on which all homes are built. What is my church
but a place to be afraid in, what is anything without
these little gods of gold we will not outlive
for all our robots.

Around that time, no, later,
Brooklyn’s oldest cherry factory let its syrup seep
into the ground and up from poisoned Brooklyn
swelled an exhalation of red bees,
a murmured burst vessel of bees, a spurt that said investigate
and the EPA or whoever found the children of the factory
had made it to a warehouse for white mounds
of electric sweet cocaine when the owner died
and let it drift to them. When I’m dead, please remember
to tell the bees my name. Tell someone a story.

TRI       -    GO     -    NA
NEC      -    RO     -    PHA   -   GA

Nothing can stop death, Dear Camerado,
not even the truest love of all,

which is the love of the people.
But when the people see me, when the people buy this book,
I will become rich and beautiful and still alive again
no matter how dead I may have become, how worthy of blame.
No longer one of those animals
that is extinct and not extinct in equal measure.

Part of me has to be alive, believe
I mean to say, has to believe
that all the dead go down into their graves
alive and waiting
to be called.

A nice thing you can do if you have time is bathe
headstones with water and a little honey.
I read the bugs that come will carry
away with them the sorrow of the dead.
Bees used to be who you told
someone in the family was lost
because they cared or because
they’d alert the other dead, but still
come back to us.


           -                          -
           -                          -
           -                          -
           -                          -               -
           -                          -               -

           -                          -
           -                          -               -
           -                          -               -
           -                          -
           -                          -               -


As we leave the restaurant, the solar panels
           -                          -
by the parking lot have all turned upwards in the dark,
           -                          -
beseeching light from silence the way most psalms
            -                    -                   -

the eternal heart
for praise and safety and revenge.

A hot gust sweeps the pollen off the cars. The world keeps changing like a phrase repeated
and repeated, the soup descending to the temperature of the room, the bowl of figs alive
with - insects. On a beach in Queens - hands and thighs - from paupers’ graves
on Hart Island wāsh up to hail the peoplē walking dogs. Still no one wants to claim tḫem.

No one pays for ghosts, they have no sponsor.
Every solid thing that air can pass through lives again,
warm as fresh bread in a haunted house.

“Little bee, our lord is dead;
leave me not in my distress.”

I’m not saying we should give the dead their customs office
I’m saying think of why we scream in the movies
when we look inside a coffin and see bones.
Think of how it must feel to lose your life
and then get screamed at.

Better to be the moon
better to rise a face of bone
and get howled at by things that love us
but don’t know how to bring us down to them.

Don’t say you’ll let me go
when I can’t resist the pulling away.
Don’t say to me you’ll let me go
when there’s nowhere else to be.

These fears are the safest place I’ll ever be.
These fears will never leave me.

TRI     -    GO       -     NA
HY      -    PO       -     GE      -    A
RO      -    BUST   -     I         -    OR

While we’re all here, while night’s still just a bit
at bay, it’s all a poet can ever do:

Say here’s what I will say:
I love you, and I am afraid,
I love you, if you want
to scream, scream with me.


Cooper Wilhelm is a communist and a witch and the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Swine Song, a limited edition chapbook from Business Bear Press. More at and on Twitter @CooperWilhelm