Grasping at the Cord

Pocked by mussel fossils mocked by graffiti

the coral limestone slab at ruin center wryly

reveals the betrayals impregnations and undulations

of empire—the heavy lifting that briefly vaulted historical time

from its raw parent, pulled taut the wandering strands

and deified our game of life and death

At the center of the slab is the mask of the boss

brandishing staff or whip of office

brow pronounced with circumspection

or slack with placid awe anchoring memory

Mute face opaque with the madness

to murder and to mollify in conscious service

to the umbilicus that annexes afternoon anxieties

to the melodrama of the night skies

A crown wreath mask overshadows that face—

itself a mechanism for the divine to breathe

in our compromised atmosphere

Shielded and shielding he handles the cord

ties its numbered knots weaves it among

the dead and never-dead—intimate

with its unreliability but never daring

to imagine its futility

Empty Armor

To pass under an arch and under a yoke

are not so different

To pass under and to understand

are not so different

Floodlights pour milk on the monument

Achilles’ shriek arrives in the hiss of traffic

On the arch, a soldier feeds his dead friend

Empty legionnaire armor on cornices

of august buildings confers on all who pass

the blessing of men who lived marched

died never asked what it was all about

It reminds like a cylinder seal

impressing the eyes of the boulevard

and reassures us of the war

we step from nothingness for

assuming our armor and being assumed

into a posture to encounter strangers

and act like we belong

Invades Every Zone

When was the planet snared

in this vast narrative of unfinished business?
What sun sang it?
What nebula of jostling stars enlisted us so?

Police lights ricochet off cobbles

and annihilate the last delineation

between visual beauty and pollution

In theremin bus-brake squeal

smell of stale smoke in a wool coat

doorway squint of a tired restaurant worker

and light sweat of a long autumn stroll

the religious mysteries recast as political controversies

recast as market crises recast as sexual tensions

recast as religious mysteries

to the beat of a frightened bird’s heart

And everyone has some kind of money in the game

Scallop shells on bank, chapel doorways

hiccup The visible is pollution

in the dying downtown of an old smithereen factory

where men once melted to pocket combs

for the gaudy godhood of one unlikely boy

for gunny-gray highway that gathers as it discards

the smaller towns’ million minor fortunes

and hushes hugely past caverns and taverns

dug to hide from the ruthlessness

of wealth and poverty alike

where regents and recidivists recede

down a trail of discarded disguises

to a place understood only as death

A commerce truly INVADES EVERY ZONE

as the inscription over the bank lobby read—the one

the security guard asked me not to photograph


Colin Dodds is a writer with several novels and books of poetry to his name. He grew up in Massachusetts and lived in California briefly, before finishing his education in New York City. Since then, he’s made his living as a journalist, editor, copywriter and video producer. Over the last seven years, his writing has appeared in more than three hundred publications, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Anthology, and praised by luminaries including David Berman and Norman Mailer. His poetry collection Spokes of an Uneven Wheel was published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company in 2018. Colin also writes screenplays, has directed a short film, and built a twelve-foot-high pyramid out of PVC pipe, plywood and zip ties. One time, he rode his bicycle a hundred miles in a day. He lives in New York City, with his wife and daughter. You can find more of his work at