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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, January 19, 2016.
About this Poem 

“‘Of Shock’ is from a new series of poems I am writing that invoke and intervene with dictionary definitions, poems that start with abstractions and then go somewhere else, poems that reverse my usual impulse to begin with an image. I love working on these poems because they force me back to the materiality of language and return me to the childhood pleasure in words, while at the same time helping me to work with subject matter that otherwise lies buried.”
—Nicole Cooley

Of Shock

Sudden blow   bundle of grain   a surprise   a heap of sheaves
          meaning trade

with the Dutch

A thick mass of your hair on the brush   in the pillow   in my

When an electric current passes through all or part of the body

How I wish to collide violently with myself

To throw troops into confusion by charging at them

The shock of cold water    the shock of wedding cake shoved in
          my mouth

Stuttering heartbeat felt by a hand on the chest wall

A knife in a light socket

Pile or stack of unthreshed corn

And what is myself without you

Push your hair into my mouth

Will you collide violently with me

Will you be a decision inflicted upon my body

A bundle    unthreshed and untethered

The shock of

Jar   impact   collapse

Flash of my white nightgown in our dark yard

Copyright © 2016 by Nicole Cooley. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2016 by Nicole Cooley. Used with permission of the author.

Nicole Cooley. Photo credit: Victor Balaban.

Nicole Cooley

Nicole Cooley's first book of poetry, Resurrection (Louisiana State University Press, 1996), was chosen by Cynthia Macdonald to receive the 1995 Walt Whitman Award.

by this poet


Not the butterfly wing, the semiprecious stones,
          the shard of mirror,

not the cabinet of curiosities built with secret drawers
          to reveal and conceal its contents,

but the batture, the rope swing, the rusted barge
          sunk at the water’s edge

or the park’s

From the window the river rinses 
the dark. I twist 
the wedding beads around my neck. I’ve lost
my ring, silver and antique, bought from the night market
in the other world across
the ocean, color of dull lead,
color of the pan I scrub and burn
in the sink.


Catullus wrote, I hate and love, and he