about the author

J Braxton Cooper is a 2004 graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His poems have appeared in Parthenon West, The Colorado Review, Babel Fruit, and Typo. He lives in Portland, OR, and teaches writing and literature.

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Handmade Boy

J Braxton Cooper

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I am the handmade boy
descended from the tribe
of counterfeit children
carved from the elements,
a piece of timber whittled to a torso,
limbs devised from driftwood.
Tangled in another’s will
I dance my clumsy dance
with wide eyes painted on my animated face
unblinking, crimson mouth unmoving
when the man speaks through me.
I am the master’s adolescent everlasting
the father’s voice concealed
behind the curtains of a donkey-cart tableau
personified in song.

Whereupon the master activates an arm
or articulates a leg he summons
the blessed virgin to his ballet.
I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
I go with a birdcage strapped upon my shoulders.
I go riding into the ambush with the rearguard
of Charlemagne.

In the eyes of actual children
I am the masked aboriginal.

In the midst of a confetti snowfall
the ultraviolet lights illuminate me.

I once glowed miraculously
as I danced upon the surface
of the flooded rice fields.

In the ancient times they buried
my ivory brethren in the tombs of kings.

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