She Named This Drawing for Me by Cathleen Cohen

She Named This Drawing for Me

For Tilda

She drove a block to my backyard, having lost
her zest for weighty easels and oils.
Chemo drained her

so she brought a thin pad and array
of micron pens, said she was reclaiming
her old practice of making artists’ books,

which her daughter glued together
with archival paper. Pale as paper,
she perched on a bench

and mapped the landscape:
overgrown hedge and trellis,
empty of clematis.

Such elegant blue lines.
She wasn’t sure if her strength
would last all afternoon.

I asked how she knew
where to start her compositions.
Plucking green from her bouquet of pens,

she said… one spot
that catches the eye,
that’s pleasing.

This thermos on the picnic table,
this bright woven carry-all
shouting to be orange.

That day, she stayed
only an hour and now
I own this drawing,

filled with grace and elegant lines,
with everything we said
and didn’t say.

*

Cathleen Cohen was the 2019 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, PA. A painter and teacher, she founded the We the Poets program at ArtWell, an arts education non-profit in Philadelphia (www.theartwell.org). Her poems appear in Apiary, Baltimore Review, Cagibi, East Coast Ink, North of Oxford, Passager, One Art Poetry, Philadelphia Stories, Rockvale Review, Rogue Agent, Camera Obscura (Moonstone Press, 2017) and Etching the Ghost (Atmosphere Press, 2021).

After a Mass Shooting by Cathleen Cohen

After a Mass Shooting

Frantic. No names
have been released, you scour

the air for electrical flow
between loved ones. No

spirits touch your face.
How much pain

can a day contain
until the vessel bursts?

No telling how many fell,
their days, like grass.

You pace and pray
for resource

until he calls, his voice
assuring he wasn’t there

in that moment.
But things tilt.

Wounds arrive so often
they can’t be bandaged

or peeled off
like days on a desk calendar,

paper squares let loose.
So many were felled,

their days, like grass.
Winds pass through

but this place won’t forget.
This is not a psalm.

*

Cathleen Cohen was the 2019 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, PA. A painter and teacher, she founded the We the Poets program at ArtWell, an arts education non-profit in Philadelphia (www.theartwell.org). Her poems appear in Apiary, Baltimore Review, Cagibi, East Coast Ink, North of Oxford, Passager, One Art Poetry, Philadelphia Stories, Rockvale Review, Rogue Agent, Camera Obscura (Moonstone Press, 2017) and Etching the Ghost (Atmosphere Press, 2021).

Space by Cathleen Cohen

Space

My son planes planks
then checks for splinters.
He’s building a desk with old factory salvage,
boards that once supported

machines, grime, men’s weight
for so long that now
they’re as yellow as egg yolks
flecked with red.

He used to drift through parties
when young, leave the table
to search for carved mantles,
crown moldings, curlicues and corbels.

I’d find him
stroking the grain, the artistry.
Now I bring sandwiches,
sit near the scant warmth

of his plug-in heater
and consider the view:
panorama, a mosaic
of high-rises and rooftops,

windows like tiles reflecting
soft movements of humans.
I used to have
my own studio space.

I’d paint abstracts
and hold day long conversations
with crimson and ultra blue,
make marks with charcoal sticks,

catch lyrics. To paint portraits,
I invite souls in
to sit near the windows
so they could feel a little freer.

*

Cathleen Cohen was the 2019 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, PA. A painter and teacher, she founded the We the Poets program at ArtWell, an arts education non-profit in Philadelphia (www.theartwell.org). Her poems appear in journals such as Apiary, Baltimore Review, Cagibi, East Coast Ink, 6ix, North of Oxford, One Art, Passager, Philadelphia Stories, Rockvale Review and Rogue Agent. Camera Obscura (chapbook, Moonstone Press), appeared in 2017 and Etching the Ghost (Atmosphere Press), is forthcoming in 2021. She received the Interfaith Relations Award from the Montgomery County PA Human Rights Commission and the Public Service Award from National Association of Poetry Therapy. Her paintings are on view at Cerulean Arts Gallery (www.ceruleanarts.com).

Plein Air by Cathleen Cohen

Plein Air

I hover in the folds,
uncap paints, brush
swirls of membranous time.

Losses get caught
in the net, hard little seeds.

Last month four of my loved ones died.
Few want to hear
so I stand at corners and paint.

People don’t mind
painters at easels, almost
part of the landscape ourselves.
Shadows sweep across lawns.

A man in a red mask
approaches with his son, also masked.
They stand at safe distance and don’t

ask questions.
Soon they move off, bumping shoulders.

I’m not spying, really,
just sketching with brushstrokes and line,
just trying to piece the landscape together.

*

Previously appeared in Cagibi

*

Cathleen Cohen was the 2019 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, PA. A painter and teacher, she founded the We the Poets program at ArtWell, an arts education non-profit in Philadelphia (www.theartwell.org). Her poems appear in Apiary, Baltimore Review, Cagibi, East Coast Ink, 6ix, North of Oxford, Passager, Philadelphia Stories, Rockvale Review, Rogue Agent, Camera Obscura (Moonstone Press, 2017) and Etching the Ghost (Atmosphere Press, forthcoming 2021). She received the Interfaith Relations Award from the Montgomery County PA Human Rights Commission and the Public Service Award from National Association of Poetry Therapy. Her artwork is on view at Cerulean Arts Gallery (www.ceruleanarts.com).