Settlers by Jamie Cooper

So much depends on the soles of my shoes




on these misshapen intervals,




the alternating days of training and of rest,




that I can no longer tell the difference between practice




and the real deal,




out there under the candied lights,


can no longer tell if I am as common as I often feel.




It is something of a solace then that I can go unregarded


on the streets of my homeland,


an ordinary citizen weaving through the throngs




of other ordinary citizens,




a minor aspect of the shifting mass,




‘the crush of humanity’ as it’s sometimes called.




Like the planet Earth, I imagine I have the aura of opalescence,




and in this breeds the slow silk of Budapest.


So much for the forces that chastise us into an indistinguishable panoply.


If there is one thing we can surmise from the true green air and its abundance




It is to call this condition critical,




to advance a theory about the theatricality of sickness




the boiled whites, the feeding tubes, the blips




and bleeps of the heart machine,




its green neon mountains and crevasses.




Under awnings, under apses, under dark pavilions,




under ordinary eaves,




the monster was his sickness or vice versa,




it grew inside him like a vine,


wrapping itself around his bones






until it wrung the last drop of calcium light.


From the long inventory of his illness


a few standout stanzas:




the night he paused mid-dream to document the absence of his pain


like an empty socket, the negative space of a gaping wound




like a collapsed star,




he mourned the lack of clean, Windexed surfaces,


mourned the ancient gleam of light on water.



Jamie Cooper is a 2004 graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His work has appeared in TYPO, the Colorado Review, Parthenon West, and elsewhere. He teaches English and writes about the NBA for UPROXX Sports. He lives in Portland, OR.