January 16-22, 2023: Poetry from Martin Gottlieb Cohen and Ron Riekki with Sharmila Voorakkara

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martin gottlieb cohen

martin gottlieb cohen was born in the South Bronx somewhere on Simpson Street, went to a Yeshiva on Manhattan’s East Broadway and Canal Street, and then lived in the South of Brooklyn, the South of Long Island, The Southern Tier of Upstate New York, The South of Manhattan, and finally South Jersey in Egg Harbor.

The following work is Copyright © 2023, and owned by martin gottlieb cohen and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


how I love you

on a snow-covered acorn
the cold of this wildness

Ron Riekki and Sharmila Voorakkara

These are collaborative poems written between:
Ron Riekki’s books include Blood/Not Blood Then the Gates (Middle West Press, poetry), My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press, hybrid), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle, nonfiction), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press, fiction).  Right now, he is listening to Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. Visit Ron on the web here.
Sharmila Voorakkara received her MFA from the University of Virginia. Her first collection of poems, Fire Wheel, was published by the University of Akron Press.  She lives in Austin, Texas.

The following work is Copyright © 2023, and owned by Ron Riekki and Sharmila Voorakkara and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

[When I worked security,]

When I worked security, I didn’t work
security.  It was more like a keel-hauling,
a hell-calling, a heal-killing, a headhunting,
an endless hurricane of emptyhanded hitch-
hiking . . . When I worked the long bank of
phones selling time shares, I prayed that I’d get
a night of ring outs, of nobody home, people who

wouldn’t let me into their lives, wouldn’t let me
listen in on the quiet of the kitchen walls, the sink,
the basket of delicates set on the washing machine,
that I wouldn’t drop in to Topeka, have some guy tell
me about his daughter who went missing; someone would
always mistake me for a psychic, or a loved one. I’m not loved—
what—are you kidding me? Not at this wage . . . When I worked

in the military, it was more like a tribunal, a hollowed-out first aid
kit, a howl, a towel-thrown-in, a strangulation, an I-quit-but-can’t.
A piss-filled rant. A crippled giant. I’m disabled and defiant. I’m
ignorant. I’m ex-enlisted and bent. They took ¼ of my body that now
lies on a slant on this floored mattress in an abandoned building where
I can barely pay rent. My roommate made a joke about jobs and blow jobs,
………………………………………………………………………..but I can’t remember how it went.


The Sober Boat

translated by Ron Riekki
from the original poem by Sharmila Voorakkara,
written in Tamil
(or vice versa)

The drunken boat tries to sober up, but it fails, so it gets more drunk.
It also gets more boat.  The uncle tries to sober up by drinking more.
The day tries to sober up, but it fails, so it gets more drunk too.
It also gets more day.  And it hates going to work.  It hates

every morning.  The birdcall ties my hands like a hostage.
The caged bird is dead.  Now you’re a man and so they say
it is OK to kill you during war.  And there is always a war.
You can’t say this.  It’s the Trespassing signs that are trespassing.


I Want You to Remember This Poem Forever (and Then You Can Forget It)

there are different things, for me to wear,
folded neatly on a chair.  There are things I have to hear.

I hate the heat, and they set it out for me on the table.  Here, put this on
she says. And she doesn’t explain how I’m supposed to wear it, or what I’m supposed

to kill.  I hate bus stops and busses and stopping.  My grandfather says, “All of the prisons
are filled with men, so make sure that you hide any fury you have, or sadness,

because it is a crime to have an emotion in this country” and then he
is killed at an explosion in the mines and they find two of his fingers,

bring them to my grandmother on a napkin the color of the north and
she picks them up and places them in her mouth like fangs.

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