Selected Poems | Daniel Bourne

Another Ode to Jello

“We have detected that you do not have the free Adobe Flash Player installed. The JELL-O Recipe Database requires Adobe Flash Player version 8 or higher.”

—(a message from my computer)

Already we knew that consciousness resides in motion, even the slow change
From nameless protein chain to a bright green lime mold, the peaches suspended

Ghost-like in the snowglobe before it is shaken and the feeders
Do what feeders do, and the destruction of yet another golden age takes place.

But who would have predicted so many of the early computers
Despaired of solving the Jello puzzle, the way in which pixels rearrange their barbs

To create not just color but the colloidal suspension of color, when
At any given moment its hue cannot be sustained and then the whole structure

Comes crashing down on our unsuspecting heads, the entire bottle emptying at once
The way our emotions gush forth when we see on television our favorite character

Can die so quickly in one episode or the documentary on PBS
Where they hose down the floor on which the now-dead animals were always fed.

Loaves and fishes? Mere water into wine? No, the miracle of sugar, lard, and plasma
Transformed into the most beautiful and deletable of gels!

Self-portrait with Planet Attached

I. Danger Construction Area

Get out of the way, Poet’s Head. Stop talking, Poet’s Head.

The bulldozer won’t go otherwise. The bulldozer won’t go.

Diesel trucks and bobcat forklifts. Mud and a portable toilet, luminous

as the skin on a frog in the Amazon. Your uncle the axle grease

keeps wanting to fight the rust.

A squirrel climbs over your hair, Poet’s Head. You don’t want to brush it off.


II. The Story of the Window:

There was a window, see. Don’t contradict me. I was there.

But Poet Head wouldn’t get his stupid poet’s head out of the way in time.

No one could see the window, and so no one could agree with me.

But who can disagree when someone says hey there’s a window?


III. Poet’s Head

Get your head around this.

The polar bear swims in search of ice.  This is not just an image.

If the pond outside Bashō’s frog can no longer support frogs

think of the pond inside Basho’s frog.

The jackhammers barking up and down the small street.

The open windows like the eyes of dead cats.
But who else but you

would be looking at dead cats anyway?—

Those of a Certain Persuasion Believe

(after Hilary Putnam, “Philosophy and Our Mental Life”)

in resurrection of the flesh, which completely bypasses
the need for a vehicle. Car payments

a thing of the past. Lug nuts immaterial. The rear view mirror
with its shiny velvet dice

a type of epistemological onanism.
Lot’s wife turned to salt

just trying to back out of a cluttered garage.

If the soul can do things that violate
the laws of physics

how can it remain pure?
The very thought of eternal life

a jading of the virgin. The more modest forms of magic
dab a damp scarf to their forehead,

pretend not to see
each thorn of the crown

burrow into skin. And do we know
if the performer vanishing

into the fancy box on stage
is really as safe as we think, just

smoking a well-deserved cigarette
somewhere off in the darkness of folding wings?

Daniel Bourne’s collections of poetry include The Household Gods (Cleveland State, 1995) and Where No One Spoke the Language (CustomWords, 2006), and his poems have been in such journals as Field, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Guernica, Salmagundi, Pleiades, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, Plume, and Conduit. He teaches in English and Environmental Studies at The College of Wooster, where he edits Artful Dodge, a magazine of American fiction, poetry, and essay with a special interest in translation. Over the years he has also lived in Poland quite frequently, including during Martial Law in 1982-83 and on a Fulbright fellowship (1985-87) for work on the translation of younger Polish poets. To learn more, visit