May 10-16, 2021: Poetry from James Cochran and Lesléa Newman

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James Cochran

James Cochran is a proudly Appalachian writer, transplanted from the soil of Southeastern Ohio to the hilly streets of Charleston, West Virginia. He embraces the practice of mindfulness through writing, and writing through mindfulness, and enjoys listening to the neighbor’s wind chimes.

The following work is Copyright © 2021, and owned by James Cochran and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

December Fires

I.
In winter I can feel life’s edge,
glimpse naked topography
of ridgelines, hidden
during other months.

A sense of mortality,
winter’s hibernation
is a rehearsal for
death, or peace.

II.
100 crows fly overhead
through snow filled sky,
more than I have ever seen.

I text my friends to ask
“What does it mean?”
“Murder” one replies…

Says another:
“They just murdered my friend,
Shot him in a drive-by.
Bobby says he’s dead.
Bobby says he wasn’t
doing any dirt.”

III.
The wheel of the year
turns slowly in December.
Embrace the darkness.

Evening time we sit
around octagon
cinderblock firepit.

Talk about jobs and tools and holidays,
good news, sorrow, and brotherhood.

Face of clock in flames.
Minute hand reduced to ash.
All we have is now.

Lesléa Newman

Lesléa Newman is the author of 75 books for readers of all ages including the double memoir-in-verse, I Carry My Mother and I Wish My Fatherthe novel-in-verse, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard; and the children’s books Sparkle Boy and Heather Has Two Mommies. She has received poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, an Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award Honor, a Robinson Jeffers Tor House Poetry Honor two National Jewish Book Awards and the Massachusetts Book award. From 2008 – 2010, she served as the poet laureate of Northampton, MA. Currently, she teaches at Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing. Visit Lesléa on the web here.

The following work is Copyright © 2021, and owned by Lesléa Newman and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

My Father is Moving Out

of the house he shared with my mother
for more than 50 years and every damn
day I find a new way to break

his broken heart. “Dad.” I place
a plate of French toast with sugar
free syrup in front of him to sweeten

this morning’s bitter pill. “I’m going
to clean out Mom’s closet today.”
My father lowers the Sports section

of the New York Times and scrapes
back his chair. “I’ll do it,” he says,
dashing up the stairs before

I can sip my last slurp of coffee.
“Wait for me,” I yell as if he were
a child about to step into traffic

then race upstairs to find him
standing in my mother’s musty, dusty
boudoir, staring at her closet

door which hasn’t been opened once
in the last four years. “Dad, maybe
you should let me do this,” I say

but he doesn’t move, so I reach
past him and swing the door wide.
Instantly we are assaulted by her smell,

a mixture of Chesterfield Kings,
Arid Extra Dry, Chanel No. Five, and
Aqua Net still clinging to a lifetime

 

of dresses, blouses, skirts, shirts,
slacks, slips, shoes, scarves, gloves,
hats, pocketbooks and pantyhose.

My father staggers backwards, catching
himself in the doorjamb, and when I pull
out the first item—a polyester leopard

print number my mother wore when
she waltzed into the surprise party
my father threw for their 60th anniversary,

the look of shock on his face breaks
my broken heart. It’s as if he is just
now realizing that she is gone

for good. “Dad,” I take him by the arm.
“Why don’t you go downstairs?
The Yankees are playing.” I blast the TV

and set him up with a jar of Planters
peanuts and a can of Diet Coke, then
drag myself back to the task at hand.

Where to begin? I gaze at stripes, plaids,
polka dots, paisleys, lace, sequins, and
sparkles. I run my hands along silk, velvet,

velour, cotton, leather, suede and wool.
I make my way to the back of the closet
and come face to face with six hanging

shoe bags, each one with sixteen pockets.
Ninety-six pairs of size six shoes, all once
slipped onto my mother’s dainty feet.

Here are the pink silk pumps dyed to match
the evening gown she wore to her eldest
nephew’s Bar Mitzvah in 1952. Here are

the gold lamé, kitten-heeled flip-flops
she wore to the beauty parlor for her
monthly pedicures. Here are a pair

of red patent leather stilettos that showed
off her shapely calves. And here are
the boxy navy blue sneakers she had

to wear after the cancer bloated
her feet into Cinderella step-sister
monstrosities. I toss shoe after shoe

after shoe into cardboard boxes,
thud thud thud like the clumps of dirt
we dumped on top of her plain pine coffin

such a long and short time ago.
Afternoon melts into evening,
the Yankees lose, and the clothes

that still hold my mother’s DNA fill
fifty bags that fill the living room.
The next morning I lug everything outside

to wait for Big Brothers/Big Sisters
to haul it all away. At exactly 6:30
my father emerges to fetch

the morning papers, sees me,
and halts as his right hand flies
up to shield his eyes from the sun

as if he is saluting the rows of clothes
that line the driveway from garage
to curb. Together we stand guard

over my mother’s garments
until a driver pulls up his truck
and chucks everything into the back.

My father signs on the dotted line
and pockets the tax receipt he is given.
It takes all of five minutes

and then the truck disappears
and I lead my father back inside
the house which is no longer a home.