Douglas Cole (Western Voices 2020)

Exclusive: Western Voices, 2020: Edited by Scott Thomas Outlar
Bio: Douglas Cole has published six collections of poetry and a novella. His work has appeared and is forthcoming in anthologies and journals such as The Chicago Quarterly Review, The Atlanta ReviewChiron, Louisiana Literature, The Galway Review, The Coe Review and Slipstream. He has been nominated for a Pushcart and Best of the Net, and received the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry. His website is He was born in Seattle, Washington, grew up in Berkeley California, went to college in England and eventually finished a BA in Literature at San Diego State University and a Master's in Creative Writing at Western Washington University. He lives and writes and teaches in Seattle, Washington. 

Infinite Gaze 

Darkness swallows the city down to its diamond feet and black snakeskin streets, infinite eyes looking in, and where the theoretical equations of a black hole meet the very real chest-flattening exhale as the spirit rises like a slug crawling out of its shell, I go into the magic bookstore, I think I’ve driven past it before, and those aisles and that smell of centuries, the story of Rome and the view from all sides, I find that one perfect volume, slim, the only work by this obscure poet, and there on page fourteen…either the noose or the window, and a commercial jingle, That’s no way to go! Elves and incense and ghosts. You see, I pull back the page on this bright blue day and read the fine print and shoot through the semiotic gap to tweak your beard and thumb my nose, here, the day squandered without plunder and sliding away, the ship never boarded wandering invisible seas portless and quarantined, cities empty this pious morn of squabbles on empire building and slow contemplated games of chess, a doorway here I slip through more lightly than that woman on First Avenue tapping you for change.

The Beauty of the World

Death drinks ouzo in a booth alone.
Death checks names in a ledger book.
Death punches A2 on the jukebox
and plays a Buddy Holly song.
Death caresses your Christmas tree.
Death rides the bus and sits in back,
clearly whispering but incorrectly
twenty lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy.
Death floats down the alleyway
in smoke from a neighbor’s chimney.
Death drains off your boozy eggnog.
Death hovers in the wings
and lurks in the back yard.
Death watches your every move.
Death sends his regards in a dream,
in a cough, in a sleepless night,
in a phone call, a piece of mail,
a light bulb you tap that goes on.


I’m strolling across the Marymoor grass, high as a kite, and that music,
oh, it got me through some hairy post-party drives out of Oakland,
loading docks lit up like a gangster movie set in the predawn twilight,
with razor eyes and a chippy mind, and I’m listening to your New York
infant shadows calling from rooftops, moon like a coconspirator,
and you know when we leap from one tenement to another, covering that distance you have to hold your breath to get the right buoyancy, and now
I’m sending your message through heating ducts and dream parades
and random strangers who turn from other conversations and say,
Light out for the territories! Or, What are you looking at! I can’t resist
the joke, going into that condemned black box high-rise and hit in the chest
by the sledgehammer wrecking ball with a trickster clown at the levers,
and the irony is not lost on me as I shoot from a canon I stuffed
with cigarettes and steaks, but see, the view is incredible from here!

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