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Bruce Cohen
Published: Sat Jul 1 2006
Art: Paul TheriaultEver New (detail), 2022, acrylic and found paper on scavenged wood
From a Childhood

They have removed my shoelaces
Though I am not in jail nor is anyone
Afraid I might commit suicide.

Progressively I resemble an abstract child
Relearning to speak after a seizure in
A department store on the last shopping

Day. It is not part of the cashier’s job
Description to save my life. I am sleeping
On top of the blankets in a cheap motel

With my shoes laced & glasses still on.
I am just a boy coming home late and
My mother is waiting on the stoop;

I can tell even from this dusky distance
Her worry will turn to a slapping-screaming
Rage once she realizes I am safe. Funny

How emotions are quick-change artists.
I count my hidden money several times
A day, though not for miserly reasons.

My fingers are cramped & sore from
Writing in the margins of those
Mysterious standardized tests whose

Results are never shared with us.
My calluses are stained deep gray
From pencil lead. I have never written

What I actually thought and intend not
To do so my entire life. My parents
Are having a cocktail party; most of

The guests are already tipsy, laughing
And gulping canned smoked oysters on
Tiny orange crackers. Everyone has piled

Their coats on the guest bed: mink stoles,
Long woolen overcoats, puffy imitation
Jackets. I climb on the heap and every one

Has a different odor, not all unpleasant.
When adults visit I become invisible, which
I like, especially when I crawl under

The dining room table & examine the ladies’
Nylons & witness the men’s wandering
Hands. I eavesdrop on their conversations,

Which should not be confused with family
Secrets I should not repeat to anyone and all
Their beautiful complications that remain unlaced.

Bruce Cohen’s most recent books are No Soap, Radio! (Black Lawrence Press, 2015) and Imminent Disappearances, Impossible Numbers & Panoramic X-Rays (New Issues Press, 2016), which was awarded the Green Rose Prize. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Antioch Review, The Gettysburg Review, The New Yorker, AGNI, Ploughshares, Poetry Daily, The Georgia Review, Harvard Review, and Poetry, as well as being featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. He is also the author of Disloyal Yo-Yo (Dream Horse Press, 2009), which was awarded the 2007 Orphic Poetry Prize, Swerve (Black Lawrence, 2010); and Placebo Junkies Conspiring With The Half-Asleep (Black Lawrence, 2012). (updated 10/2017)

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