Bruce Cohen

The Uncanny
January 12, 2015 Cohen Bruce

The Uncanny


Suppose a rational man

Rations himself into an irrational man.

Construct his lifelike representation.

Take a snapshot of this pseudo-rational

Manikin.  Paint an impressionistic

Portrait of the snapshot—speckles galore.

Now click a digital photo of the painting.

Let it go viral.  With a fishing knife

Kill the man.  With a sledgehammer,

Smash the manikin.  Strike a strike-anywhere

Match to the original photograph.  Gash, not slash,

The painting with the bloody fishing knife.

The math, primarily subtraction, is subtext.

Imagine squirt-gunning hydrochloric acid

On a handsome face.  You are left with disfigurement,

The simultaneous mortality & immortality of the man

& his final image has a life void of the original

So transforms.  Is it no longer real or just art?

Notice a homeless soul sleeping over a sewer grate

In a cobalt sub-zero sleeping bag, his head

Covered—his entire un-showered body zipped in.

You see the shape of his human form

& can only assume it is a man.

It could be a woman you suppose & maybe it is not

Even a person.  You wonder if the man is

Not sleeping but dead: overdose or overexposed?

You come to realize which is different

From discovery—the sleeping bag is not a sleeping

Bag but a bronze sculpture painted speckled-blue

With a human-shaped-bulge apparently

Inside a sleeping bag. The title:

This is Not A Man Sleeping Inside a Sleeping Bag.

You are curious about the mosquito on the wall.

Is it part of the exhibit?

If you stare long enough

You can detect it is not an actual mosquito.

You think you hear buzzing.  You do hear buzzing.

A continuous film of nothing

But raindrops on gray pavement

Is ten thousand black & white still

Photographs of organic eggs frying in butter.

The elevator is miniature (five inches high)

& the female watchman

(This is her part-time gig; she’s a Community

College student) says wouldn’t it be

Awesome if we could fit inside.

Which miniature floor would it drop us off on?

Ten thousand Asian children hand paint

Pebbles to resemble sunflower seeds.

A man dumps ten thousand imitation seeds

On the museum floor & on his hands

& knees selects the most pristine,

Only a loose fistful, & places them in a hermetically

Sealed hand blown glass jar.  His knees ache

In that way knees indent when you crawl

Over pebbles.  Turquoise toilets & sinks,

Avocado kitchen appliances from the 1970’s

With matching wallpaper & rotary wall phones.

The phone never rings but as soon as you

Step outside the phone rings.

Is it your lack or presence or a manikin that has not been smashed

Calling?  Is it me or is it just me you ask.

Do all people actually die?

Is the mosquito transporting your hemoglobin,

A liquid segment of you, to another part of the globe?

The man sleeping in his sleeping

Bag doesn’t seem to stir but dreaming

People often don’t unless

They are involved in a nightmare.

Are you involved in a nightmare?

Of course there are microscopic

Elevators in our minds that don’t stop

On every floor.  Of course as much

As we don’t label them, 13th   floors exist.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could

Defy our perception of the unlucky?

You chipmunk-stuff this abundance

Of sunflower seeds & spit the shells.

You’re outside so it’s okay.

You’re inside & nobody is watching so it’s okay.

Switch: molar cracking.  Switch back.

They are infinitely salty & you have convinced yourself

You are not thirsty, floating 32 days on a life raft,

32 entire days, after your aircraft has been shot down,

Invisible sharks circling, more an oval.

Each maimed beauty more beautiful than the original.

There is an actual fishing knife

& real fish skeletons & candy seagulls, the life raft deflating

So slowly you don’t notice the rational air escaping.

Bruce Cohen has published five volumes of poetry. His most recent, Imminent Disappearances, Impossible Numbers & Panoramic X-Rays, was awarded the 2015 Green Rose Prize (New Issues Press). His poems have appeared in many literary periodicals including AGNI, The Gettysburg Review, The Harvard Review, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Poetry & The Southern Review.