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Sample Poems by Greg Kosmicki

12 Below, Morning

Coming out the door this morning I heard the bird
I can’t remember the name for
that makes the plaintive
two-note call
that one time I called up my friend Jack
and whistled the notes over the phone
to him and he said
“Oh, that’s a—”
but I can’t remember now
what he’d said.
I’ll have to call Jack.
The call sounds like
sor-row, sor-row.
Or maybe it’s joy-ful, joy-ful.
It may even be may-be, may-be.
Though truly we don’t know
what a bird means when it sings
any more than we know
what the earth is thinking
when it brings us this weather.
Though you can guess.
And the name we call this bird—
I’ll have to call my friend Jack—
means nothing to that bird.
It could be a Cow-headed Tuffle-throat
or a Big-beaked Grossinger’s Cat-caller—
what does it know about our names
for it? It probably has a name
it calls itself, if it can think
like that. Who knows?
I’ll have to call my friend Jack.
Jack out in Boulder who loves birds
I think more than he loves himself.
And why did his folks name him Jack?
You could say they didn’t know Jack
at the time, but still, his name
fits him somehow,
and this is what I heard
this morning.


Tearing Down a Building

I was thinking about the past, how fragile
memories can be, and I remembered
a couple years ago in downtown Omaha
they were tearing down a building
so nondescript a Sixties thing
I can’t even really remember now what it looked like
except it was brown, flat-sided, and about
20 stories high. It was to make way
for the new First National Bank building,
forty-two stories.
I went into the Kinko’s
across the street from what was left of the building—
I think it was called “The Doctor’s Building”—
and I looked up at the space of blue sky
a nice square chunk of it
that in a few years no one
in this building would ever
see again. I made my copies,
came back out and took
a couple pictures—twisted pipe and conduit
like arteries or bones hanging every which way,
the whole east side of the building
torn off like somebody blindsided by a truck—
stairs going nowhere, green wall,
pink wall, green wall, some pictures in frames,
doorways opened to nothing. I didn’t pay much
attention to this building before, but
now that it’s standing there like a prizefighter,
dazed, doped, mangled, it seemed somehow
to be, I don’t know, human almost.

Maybe because it’s the work of so many hands,
so many mouths fed building it,
or just the knowledge that it’s so tough
to put anything together, or
the way a building can be anthropomorphic
when it’s hurt, because they are human places
no matter how ugly they are, and we know
what goes on inside of them.
Part of the landscape, a constant
your mind has of a place
it has to tear down and rebuild
every time a building goes down and another
goes up. Something to do with
loss, losing things, that pain, destruction,
tearing down instead of building up,
throwing out instead of re-using,
the sorrow you feel when you see someone throw out
an old coat, a washing machine, a pair of shoes.
Maybe that building coming down reminded me
of my death somehow, ugly as it was, even
though I knew something more beautiful
was going to rise in its place.



I woke up this morning having slept in late and no one
I know has been killed or sniped at or blown to bits

I went outside the sun was high up in the morning sky
and it made everything bright and cheery and the air was
warm though
it is the 14th of October and the leaves are falling all over the place
like big green and yellow snowflakes driven by the wind

My wife bought me some beer the other day and I still
have a couple of them left in the fridge

I can hear my daughter’s voice as she talks on her phone upstairs
in her room and I can hear at the same time the cars go by
in the street making that car-going-by-in-the-street sound

It’s cold enough outside that I had to get under a couple blankets
to sit here and warm my hands and arms before I could start
to write
but still not cold enough to turn on the furnace

I started a fire last night in the fireplace and tonight can still
smell the good burnt wood smell of the fire and that makes me
think of a long poem I wrote some years ago about fireplaces
that one friend who is a very good poet liked a lot and one friend
who is
a very good poet didn’t like at all

Dropped off some manuscripts and a book of poems at the house
of a friend and she e-mailed me back with the first poem
in the book
about red foxes, among other things

Cold comes and the wind blows and we still go on
we’re hardy descendants of people who stayed here some of us
European, some of us African, some of us from Asia some from
right here who have never left

Because these are things to praise let us praise them

Afternoon Nap

I had a wedding to go to this afternoon
but I thought I’d grab a quick snooze
so I put Brautigan down and took
my reading glasses off. Laid
the book and glasses on my chest,
like when they bury you.
Pulled the recliner handle and laid out
the recliner as close to flat
as it will go. Don’t know
why I do that—when I’m lying flat
I choke and wake up. But it’s October 18th,
an incredible warm air day. Air
that caresses you like the touch
of your lover. Warm earth smells
of fall— rotted leaves yellow;
mown grass green. Car booms by
with that super bass that sounds
like thunder from far away
just before a storm.
Cricket or two, hesitant. People’s
voices as they walk by.
Quiet of darkness and I drift.
I’m dragging this dead guy.
I understand somehow I’ve got to drag him
all the rest of my life
but we’re out in the garden,
it’s very peaceful and I don’t care—
it’s only the dead guy’s spirit—
it’s not so heavy.
I begin to enjoy dragging him
and when I start to wake up
his body becomes lighter, it turns
into light. I pull him
inside myself where I know
I will carry him
but I do not know who he is
nor why he has died
nor why I must carry him,
but when I wake up
he is glowing like one of those luminous toys
kids play with in the dark
and the bright afternoon
living room is shining out of me.
I get up and walk
from my nap exactly
as if I were the only man.