Elizabeth Cohen


Photo by: Alison Lent







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



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






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






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












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.



Articles similaires