February 12-18, 2007: LaDonna Witmer and Robert Elzy Cogswell

week of February 12-18, 2007

LaDonna Witmer and Robert Elzy Cogswell

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LaDonna Witmer

Bio (auto)

LaDonna Witmer lives in San Francisco, where she writes poetry about fog and other grey things She has published one book, “Shedding the Angel Skin”, and has a second, “The Secrets of Falling”, due out in April She spends an extraordinary amount of time creating cinepoems (cinematic poetry), because she believes that poetry and pictures were meant to move together You can see her collection of cinepoems at www.ladonnawitmer.com

The following work is Copyright © 2007, and owned by LaDonna Witmer and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Kiss & Fly

On the way to the airport
we speak of miscellany
and etcetera
in fits and starts.

I tell him Brandy
killed a man We
both shrug She’s not
a real girl anyway.

There is such a silence
before sunup
even on the freeway Cars creep along carefully

flashing caution-colored
yellows before crossing
the line Caffeine has not yet
been consumed

in appropriate quantities So this might just
all be a dream anyway,
thick and non-linear.

When I pull away from
the curb, his kiss
has barely left a mark I practice all

the usual hoodoo,
visualizing the crash,
the flames and lost limbs (It is the only way

to keep him safe )
Imagining the worst
prevents it from coming true Keeps me from

waking up When
I finally get home
I have no recollection
of how I got there.

Crash Protocol

When she finally goes down
she goes down hard.

The fall is long and complicated I put my head between my knees
and wait for the mask to drop.

(In case of water landings
your heart can be used
as a flotation device )

She sends up distress signals as she goes
just in case someone, anyone
is looking for a crash site.

Out the left side of the aircraft
you can see the mess she made
(Tell the children to close their eyes )

and on the right
all that remains of me.


At the airport, I barely recognize her She’s always smaller than you’d think.

And I used to say she was stronger
than she looks I used to say you could break her in half
unless she got to you first I used to say a lot of stupid things.

I am speechless now.

She drops her cigarette to the concrete curb
suffocates the red ash with her black Sambas She attempts a smile
that has no legs
it falls flat
on her face.

Everything she owns fits in two blue suitcases One large One small Stuffed with CDs and borrowed Levi jeans This is all that’s really left of her.

She shed the last of her sanity
somewhere over Idaho The flight path
is littered with little pinkish bits of her.

She hid the remains of her heart
in the trash by the food court at
Midway She flushed a capsule of
lukewarm illusions down the mile-high
toilet, the one closest to the cockpit She sprinkled
her last handful of hope like mythic breadcrumbs
up the ramp through Terminal 2 all the
way to Arrivals where I finally meet her.

I’d like to think she’s hidden a
dimebag of dreams somewhere on her
size three frame Sewn into the lining of her
jacket or shoved down inside her knee socks Somewhere safe and warm
so they’ll still be alive when she’s ready, later But I wouldn’t put money on it.

Believing the best can get you hurt.

Any asshole can tell she’s on the edge She’s on the verge She’s got all the makings
of a jumper But I fold her into the front seat,
strap her in, turn on the radio, and
merrily chauffer her away to her doom,
pointing out scenic sites along the way.

I am a suicide enabler.

In hindsight, I see it all go down again I see each mistake perfectly It’s like watching someone
drowning And you throw her a lifeline
and you throw her a rope And you throw and you throw
until your arms get tired And then you just stand there
and watch her sink
out of sight.

Robert Elzy Cogswell

Bio (auto)

Robert Elzy Cogswell is an Austin, Texas poet recently retired after forty years of librarianship In the 1980s he sneaked Central American Refugees past Border Patrol checkpoints in an underground railroad

He has poems forthcoming in Consciousness, Literature and the Arts, and has been published recently in Underground Voices, Lucidity, Lilliput Review, di-vêrsé-city, Farfelu, Pecan Press, and Ratherview Over the last year he was paid $150 for his poetry, more than he ever made when he was panhandling in the Lower East Side.

He believes that our DNA requires that we restore our sanity by occasionally sitting by a roaring fire or listening to surf

The following work is Copyright © 2007, and owned by Robert Elzy Cogswell and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Houston 1963

Odd for me to be there, being white The owner of the riding academy said
You oughtta be ashamed of yourself He would not speak directly to my black friends.

Had he possessed any subtlety at all
he could have shamed us all with welcome,
offered riding lessons then and there,
or our big chance to board
the horses we would never own We didn’t even carry enough change
to rent a mechanical pony ride
in a grocery store.

We predicated the whole action
on our certainty of rejection We were right about that

Free Clothing Store

Most days as I sort donated clothes
a routine hangs round my shoulders Then two capes appear, 
black velvet lined with eggshell silk,
costumes from some stage play Made for seven footers,
these robes are destined for royalty That is how I come to wander
up Second Avenue to Eighth Street,
lush regalia draped on my arm At Eighth I see them, 
half a block away They must be Dinka or Tutsi I hurry but they’re not moving She growls
I want you outta my life you mothahfuckah and he roars – Good riddance bitch
I tap him on his lower back
He hardly glances down
but still I ask – You want a robe?
Engaged and war-like in this street
of pimps and thieves, he ignores me With self-endangering insistence I talk on –
I don’t want money! These are free!
That wins a puzzled look He takes the largest robe
and throws it round his shoulders The man becomes a king Respectfully I nod toward the queen
“Here’s one for you too “
She tries it on – a perfect matching fit They reflect each other They admire each other Extending an invitation to a diplomatic ball
he raises his elbow toward her Anger forgotten, she accepts Solemnly, with benign nobility,
smiling down on the ordinary people, 
they stroll with grace up the Avenue

Hunting Near Brenham

Note: In my family, the name Lange rhymes with
the middle word in the phrase, “bingie bangie bong “

Lange’s house had ceilings
twice as high as what I knew in Houston The tongue-in-groove walls were dark,
originally by intention and finally
by generations of smoky air We always chopped wood for the old man, 
and his stove would bake us to well done In October Lange spread canvas sheets
under pecan trees to bring in the only crop
he could still produce
I was to stay close beside my father,
rifle slung under my arm In the frosted early morning
we would ease toward the woods,
and it felt like a long time
till squirrels would break the stillness
scrabbling for cover
Aim the .22, breathe in, hold steady,
and slowly squeeze the trigger I hit the middle of his back Instead of a furious nerve-generated
death dance through the leaves,
he lay where he fell, crippled, ruined,
looking steadfastly up into my eyes,
waiting with all the equanimity of reality.

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