Four Poems by Andrea Cohen
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?
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.
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.
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.
Birch bark canoe photo courtesy Oldways by Don Gardner.