with all this rain on the skylight
like the sound of advice
like a holiday that elongates each hour
But for the loss of orchards, how
no one enjoys pears anymore. I eat the passing
of spring crops. I like to call it a barnburner.
Quietly. In a voice that cannot get sick.
There are faces in the trees
because I want them
the way I wish my key in hand
when imagining you as you
leave. You said you forgot how to read
& the road crackles open like bread
& is this even leaving?
Such zigzagging of the interior.
The body in the mind. Each pear
replaced by a sick comet.
The questions I ask seem small,
about how these marks on my shoulder
relate to a species of insects. Or, whether
the eggs boiled for a full six minutes.
It’s not clear if this is the Age of Aquiline
Strictures; no books can agree.
I can see what you were saying now.
I think a lot about a century of cloud cover
& halos, sun dogs, spokes, dusky
methods of lighting through.
Here’s your absence. The trees disappear
neither fallen, nor covered
by fruit bats. That is, you have left me
by other means. You have a barn pinned
to your voice. A tonal
evacuation, snakeskin filled with marbles.
So many trees shaking at those passengers
buckled in like a picnic. Saying now that
the inside of an avocado rind
is the curved surface of loss. Crop rotations
are how we convince ourselves
we can come back.
Other days, I depopulate the planet by dinnertime
replace everyone with parakeets
if there are enough in supply
& watch them green the already-green bushes.
I cannot entirely foresee all the problems
this’ll solve & the problems it’ll create.
I wipe my hands on denim thighs, look
at the dirt under my nails & feel good about it.
Yes, your majesty, I say to the pines.
Yet my loyalties are far-reaching. They squirm
inside an apple core, lap at the base of the radio.
They lean toward where the feelings come from.
Applejax, outlets, desire, your ear perching on
the banister of childhood.
I’ll never correct your posture, which is
a color we need, like mixing two slushees together
at the 7/11. We crack sunflower seeds
between our teeth & try not to think
about the beaks of baby hummingbirds.
Other days keep quiet, a search-horse out
for riders, riders loosed from horses,
on all fours, stretching out more & more
like the horizon. All days are a litany of lost items
I forgot I loved. I forgot today
I was supposed to have coffee with you & you
I forgot to love. To hold gently by the hair
the green of your parakeet.
Sometimes, the husk of loyalty
keeps me in milky formation. Why is
orange the unspoken asexual color?
Why was your epaulette the center
of a feather? I try to repopulate
the world with its own mismatched parts—
plunk a bog down on the dining table,
jam those candy bars
into the hollow of a tree. Take off your
denim jacket, I’ll stitch desire along the seam.
I have no monster trucks
to speak of. Every lady
should have at least two
parked in her yard. A lady is
to abide by many presuppositions
like a yard. This makes me
no lady. I am no one
to speak of.
February. When all the truck rallies
dig up the lilac's frozen motor.
I massage oil into the kitchen's wallpaper.
I eat everything in pairs. Two eggs, two Oreos.
My feelings shift like a ramshackle
roof. I speak of imperfect wings, how
I could pack off to Deerfield, any state.
This keeps Gravedigger off my mattress.
This keeps me intact, the shells inside
a lamp. I'll bring a couple options &
a curling iron. I'll leave a trail of books
of glass beads of carburetors. Summers are
for ladies. You can find me
with a flashlight under the sheets. You cannot
find me. Here, in a theory of wrenches
& handshakes. Tall grass & a lawnmower
I’ll never let you rev. As February melts
into a glass of iced tea. This map is a feeling of
water flooding out from under the bathroom door.
A spark plug retraced to my blue tarp yard, footprints
at each corner. To stay indoors is no longer
a rally of bulbs. A gentle voice is no longer a track
torn in dirt. To look pale is no longer an option.
Ladies hike. Dazzle in Umbro shorts.
Once, a lady told me not to bury anything
across state lines. Right arm holding
the steering wheel, left arm tanning in the theory
of your afternoon. My lungs shaped
like a pair of shovels.
I only know some of your fears: heat
rash, public bathing, anything winter, Chicago
pot holes. Trouble is
the bees, these bodies, a lack of
clothing to go around the neck. I try very hard
to stay calm, to tighten the straps
of my bathing suit. We only see
time through our own bodies.
Science wags its shiny head at us
& we do very little with preemptive anythings.
Meanwhile your exes index
your best advice. Send their kiddos
to language camp, cannonball recovery:
cheap tall boys sweat to quit the sunset.
Insect pinups taped to wooden bunk-beds.
I want to recommend we benchmark
empathy instead of buzz cuts. Or how
many notebooks we filled with cream
& curiosity. I can’t argue against loss.
You still have nothing
to wear, nothing mournful for the next
no-show dinner—a fear
we revive each holiday when
you forget to
toast all those lost to the dedication page.
Disrobe anxiety from careful planning
& there you have it, a cove of blue towels
or a sugartrail all the way up
up that chimney.
I see things that make you
happy: boats on dresses, bargains
you can discuss with your father. There is plenty
of movement that corrals fear
under the coffee table or
into the carcass of a just-quit job.
While I can’t argue with distance,
my body tells me how long
I’ve known you.
It’s hard to imagine
the clothing we once wore
& small hands around the neck.
Facts splinter like bobby pins
across the floor, Independence
Day. I said, You look tired.
I only know science, not Cutty Sark,
not what to say about your silence
at bus stops. I left dollar bills
vacationing in place of conversation,
I put on low-cut sensibility &
move a tree up two slights of stairs.
We ignore how others create faith
from rules. We know the movement
that’s looked for in us.
We were complimented on how well
we mourned & then we weren’t.
Julia Cohen's most recent book is a collection of lyric essays, I Was Not Born (Noemi Press, 2014). Her other books are Collateral Light (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2014) and Triggermoon Triggermoon (Black Lawrence Press, 2011). She also translates Danish poetry and lives in Chicago.
Abby Hagler is a poet and nonfiction writer living in Chicago. She's from a farm in Nebraska.
Also, f*ck Trump and Pence.
Photograph by Christie MacLean