Brian Lee Cook's Poetry

Dirt, Uintah Basin, Utah

the nude ground pushes
it all, harrows cement—slow,
the way granite hardens.
soil dressed in weeds (spinning
like polished stones) grinds
the concrete sky. dust strips

yellow dashes from roads, peels
brown from fence posts until
the world is grey. but dirt also
tussles against musk thistle,
houndstongue—parched, but
still digging with venomous
tendrils, stabbing
down for blood-life through
mud crack scars.

millenia ago, this land—
once green—crashed against
itself, piled up, buckled,
folded. like Ouroboros, earth
devoured itself. i feel

that hunger, the ground's pulse
pushing again, together, pushing
against it all.


Crystalline spritzer, shots
of Appalachian air—
white water rafting
down my larynx. I forgot
how to breathe down
in Second City, atmosphere buzzed
with laughter and liquor. Strap
that mask on, Doctor John,
I'm cartwheels for days.
Twist my eye. Ride
my hurricane.


water skeeters skate
astride quivering ripples.
in the creek next to Grandfather's
house, leaves twirl in eddies,

snag the bank. here, Uncle
Shane saw (through opiate
eyes) a canyon of water,
a bottomless dive—until the bottom

broke his neck. here, Father
splashed as a child, drank
from his hands. later, he saw
the dead sheep

upstream—bloated, leaking.
and I dip
my own feet in.
dirt worms through naked toes.



A gem, that mane—
like crystalized light,
feline spectrum. I believed
in Jesus, but that lion danced,
light billowing out. I'd never seen
the grace of prisms prance through black velvet,
night unable to consume his glow—
translucent fur streaked
with magenta and


The cougar presses his boxed
nose against mine, eyes
engulfed by charcoal envelopes,
bronze irises transfixed.
For a moment, I am Toho,
sharing whiskers, fur.
We both look northward through
the soul-lit night.


buckets perched
on office desks catch
rain, drips drowned
by clicking
keyboards, lamplight
cast on spreadsheets piled
akimbo—quotas, graphs, bold
numbers saying, "You
did good, kiddo."

at home,
fingers tap
keys, screen

blinds shut
out the snuffed
sky. tomorrow,
a bright-eyed night
might strike.

When I First Sit Down in Dr. Conover's American History Class

Carvings in a desk
Sink into the wood—pictures of
Small stick men, the words
"Burn in hell" etched below.

Maybe the same kid
Came back each day, scratched
Out another image,
To keep proving he existed,

Just like the soldier
Who scrawled "Kilroy was here"
On a ship hull, sparking
Others to carve and recarve

The phrase on walls in German
Cities, into trees
On Japanese shores
To prove, prove

There is no line
Where carving ends
And the carver
Begins. Once I saw etches

In black desert varnish
Along the edge of mountains.
I had a rope tied
Around my waste to keep

From falling. I saw
The carving of a pregnant
Goat, a large one with
A smaller one inside

Its stomach. I imagined
A nervous boy, thousands of years ago,
Sitting on the edge of the cliff
With a flint knife in one hand,

Carving pictures into the stone wall.
Once I looked around, carefully, before
Tracing my own initials in wet cement.
Years later, they're still visible.