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Overloaded

for Edward J. Hogan, Yelena (Olena) Lisovich, and Konstantin Lisovich

It would have sufficed
to say our names, the name

of the lake, of those
we leave behind.

Yes, we took
too much: lunch, each

other, the boy’s toy bunny,
the idea of traveling

the stretch we didn’t know
Thoreau called a wild-looking

sheet of water, a wilderness he
crossed, barely, with Penobscot guide

in an egg shell of birch vessel.
By now you’ve guessed

how this ends: the over-
turning, the numbing

churning. That the canoe
was overloaded, as the news-

paper states, is true, but
to say so makes us seem

more culpable than human:
who among the living

pushes off without
surplus, without the abundant

conviction of paddling back?

 

 

 


Download poem audio in .mp3 format.

Mayflower Heights

The house on the hill existed
before the hill. We built
the hill for a better view

of ourselves, Hopperesque,
from the flats. Beneath the house
(built on stilts) is a yellow bicycle,

a Schwinn, circa 1960, capable
of going up and downhill, which is
to say into the past and future.

The bike’s locked to a beam.
It’s a combination lock.
How long has it been?

If I try to recall, across all these
seasons, the series of numbers
needed to release that lock,

I’ll forget the other numbers
I’m keeping. Numbers are like
sheep, or we  think that because

we want to be shepherds.
5-19-5. There, you have it: the yellow
sun of the bicycle, the twenty-year-

old me pedaling beside the sea,
the salt-bright night, the hill, the winding
fire road, by bittersweet, overtaken.

 

 

 


Download poem audio in .mp3 format.

Peaches Occur

Peaches occur in a range
of colors not readily
described as peach.
It’s peachy to think this

isn’t the case, that peaches
resist the complication, say,
of apples, which come
with all that baggage. If

the peach could simply be
a peach, you wouldn’t see
the shy girl caressing
the fuzz as if it was

what it isn’t. It isn’t
easy hanging low, being
ripe for picking. Someone
bites into your prime time and

wham—an explosion, a cascade of home-
made cobbler, of sisters and brothers,
of peach brandy in tumblers, a mother,
a father, peach jam, peach pie, every

sweetness a peach can utter at the long-
gone kitchen table, in a summer
resurrected. The past occurs
in a range of shades not

readily described as past. Fulvous
describes the reddish-yellow
of some peaches, of some
singular and setting sun.

 

 

 


Download poem audio in .mp3 format.

The Imaginary Furrow I was Plowing

for Anna Schuleit Haber

The imaginary furrow I was plowing
was no less real than the invisible

ropes harnessed to the invisible
plow, nor less real than the heavens

and its beings watching me, nor the scarlet
and purple confetti wheeling out from me

into the imaginary furrow I was plowing.
I have always tilled the earth

of the imagined, beside my brethren
similarly yoked; this was my calling,

and never easy beneath the heaven’s
unblinking and the muted enthusiasm

of those who called me patient. They
called themselves, doctor, orderly, nurse,

my next of kin: those not harnessed
to the invisible, those not locked

into it, had no relation to me. I pitied
them, but there was little

time for pity, given my plow to guide,
given the essential furrow I seeded.

 

 

 


Andrea Cohen’s fourth poetry collection, Furs Not Mine, is forthcoming from Four Way Books. Other recent books include Kentucky Derby and Long Division. She directs The Blacksmith House Poetry Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Photo credit: lyzadanger via photopin cc

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