Susan Cohen

 

 

 

 

(USA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round in Memory of the Children of Minamisanriku*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Minamisanriku was a Japanese village washed away by tsunami on March 11, 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Year I Read
Anne Frank’s Diary

 
She is my shadow, made of ash
no soap or time will ever wash
away. She shares my observant stare.
Did she have the same trouble with her hair?
She’s my age in her last photograph.

I’m thirteen, shy as my buds of breasts,
that year my best friend chooses to confess
I’m the only Jew her mom can bear.
She’s my shadow,

see how tight she clings –first black dress,
soot twin. Why else would my friend ask, not
meaning much: how many of you are there?
As if I’m me and others, too. That year
a new girl sits with me in class:
she’s my shadow.

 

 

 

Anne Frank

 

 

 

 

 

 

Viewing Guernica in Madrid

 
Their kindergarten teacher could be telling them
this imaginary horse
was not in Picasso’s early drawings.
In the Spanish I cannot understand,
maybe he says once upon a market day in Guernica
the world collapsed around whole families
whose luck ran out, or did not,

from a burning building.
Maybe he mentions German pilots
high above the town, who were imagining
what would happen in that instant
when their dropped bombs stopped whistling,
while down below, a horse
was incapable of imagining

how to gallop out from under
the sky’s sudden piercing rain.
When the teacher points to the wall behind him,
his class rapt, surely he explains they’re lucky
to sit cross-legged before a masterpiece,
a painting people come from far away to see.
And I, who am one of those people,

look past the heads of tiny children to the painting
that takes the whole wall, and see it’s not
Picasso’s wailing woman trailing into ghostliness,
infant slack and cooling in her arms,
and not the bull with its bayonet horns
that makes this an object of devotion,
but the horse’s gaping terror,

the horse’s tongue razored sharp by pain,
the horse’s leg severed and strewn,
and most of all, its dumb dying scream
still open to us decades later and so pure
in black and white –
as animal terror can be pure–
because a horse could never understand

(cont’d)
the human imagination, no matter how long
you talked to it, how clear your diction
and enthusiastic your voice,
how careful and small your words.
I wonder if their teacher’s telling them
Guernica started out in color,
but color would have added nothing.

 

 

 

Guernica

 

 

 

Televised

 
She belongs to the tribe of children,
knows its ritual dances in the sprinkler,
its chants, its scrutiny of ants.

Scrunches beach sand with her toes,
hates wasps, stares at other girls and boys,
the language of their stances.

She navigates by scents – her mother’s soft
perfume, her pillow’s soapy warmth –
in her pink pajamas safe-as-houses.

On TV tonight an apartment building stands
one wall gone, a jungle gym of rubble.
She could reach into a room,

play dollhouse with a couch, a crib,
an orphaned yellow curtain.
She could draw the building’s naked look.

Two windows deadpan without glass.
The faces of her parents
when they don’t want her to ask.

 

 

 

“The Year I Read Anne Frank’s Diary” and “Round in Memory of the Children of Minamisanriku” from THROAT SINGING by Susan Cohen, published by Cherry Grove Collections, Cincinnati, OH, 2012. Reprinted by permission. “Viewing Guernica in Madrid” originally appeared in the Atlanta Review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bio:

Susan Cohen is an award-winning poet and journalist who lives in Berkeley, California. She was a newspaper reporter, professor at the University of California Graduate School of Journalism, and contributing writer to the Washington Post Magazine before spending a year on a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University, where she divided her time between studying bioethics and poetry. Since then, she’s authored two poetry chapbooks; a full-length book of poems, Throat Singing (Cherry Grove Collections; 2012); and co-authored Normal at Any Cost; Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry’s Quest to Manipulate Height (Tarcher/Penguin; 2009).

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