Elizabeth Cohen

 

Photo by: Alison Lent

 

(USA)

 

 

 

Aftermath
 

in the latter days, the devastation was feathered

by the delicate embrace of smoke

 

the voices of the survivors arrived like blown kisses

there was a sense

 

of a softening

or maybe we were just used to it all

 

someone said that there was bread

at the supermarket on Upper Front Street

 

someone else said no, it was all gone

there were the aubades of children, whimpering

 

the operatic sighings of the elderly, who wore the beautiful woven

blankets of their sorrow

 

someone said the corona of the sun had untethered

a storm of electromagnetic waves

 

someone else said they saw a field of sunflowers

davening

 

In the latter days, water was warmer, the air

was warmer, the planet was warm and weary of us

 

after the earthquake, the flood,

after the flood, the wildfire

 

after the wildfire, the fund-raising rock festival

and the hurricanes, one and two and three

 

later, came the polar winters

 

and food harvested by the child-armies

in the hills. They were told they were the future

 

which they were not sure they believed

 

 

 

Borscht

 

caraway, paprika, cumin, fresh dill

in short, empty in the whole spice rack

 

black pepper and garlic, allspice, thyme

pluck the garden clean of root vegetables

 

a dozen beets

then gently shake in a century of running

 

the blood color of a fresh pogram

add in sunlight, glazing the mist around graves

 

add in the sound of a thousand kaddishes

chanted in moonlight

 

add in vinegar

because vinegar has a history

 

in your mother’s kitchen, she was fussy about vinegar

apple, not wine, not balsamic, not peach

 

add in the look on your father’s face

as he tipped the first spoonful

 

into his mouth

which is the look of five hundred years

 

of soup descending onto his lips

serve hot or cold

 

it doesn’t matter really

it is the taste of the earth that everything grew in it

 

that matters

the teensy drop of sour cream on top

 

and fresh chopped parsley

tasting of the wind that rifled its locks

 

then taste the way your parents loved each other

for half a century, bitter and sweet

 

 

 

Amniocentesis

 

what was it they were searching for

in those waters

 

a psalm, a portent, a proof-in-the pudding

 

it was their special take on tea leaves

they were so certain

 

it would reveal

just what we needed to know

 

but in the end the needle

wrote its own prophecy

 

what I would give

to go back to that day

 

I would consult the stars

a curandera

 

a forest witch

anyone but the woman in that sterile

 

gown, washing, washing, washing

her hands

 

as if she could wash

off the blood of my unborn child

 

he that she had not yet killed

he that I planned to feed kumquats and bouillabaisse

 

and a lifetime of chocolate chip cookies

made just the way he would like them

 

chewy or flat and crisp –

it was to be his choice

 

they said the odds were .5 to one percent

that this could happen

 

guess we just had some terrible .5 percent luck

which was lucky for Ava

 

conceived in his shadowy wake

my bright beauty

 

no needle needed

to reveal she would be perfect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

BIO

 

Elizabeth Cohen is associate professor of English at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh where she serves as the editor of Saranac Review.
She is the author of The Family on Beartown Road, a NYT Notable Book of the year; The Hypothetical Girl, a collection of short stories, and five books pf poetry, including, most recently, Bird Light (2016) and the forthcoming volume, The Patron Saint of Cauliflower.

 

 

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