Cathryn Cofell | 3 poems

Objects In The Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear
              inspired by Xu Bing’s Background Story

As in the blue fish fleeing capture 
       is blue Wal-Mart 
As in the lost lake or dry plantation 
       is cornhusk or hemp 
As in telephone poles or dead trees or crosses 
       are toothpicks or t-pins
As in the rose finch foraging for yellow grub 
       is sugar paper and pen

As if pulling away becomes this gutless worm
As if a bend of light becomes this red bird chained
As if leaning in becomes the captor’s fist and squeezing
As if a fist becomes a fearful woman 

As in her pigment in lieu of light 
       is accidental 
As if she can only change a view by looking through
As in everything she reflects 
       is abandoned
As if she becoming shadow changes not one thing. 

— first appeared at

The Day She Stopped Talking

A car without brakes and brick wall.

No, a car petering out of gas, 
dashboard pump lit like a lighthouse and refusing 
to pull into the Git n Split
though he repeatedly said
honey, you are running on empty 
“                 “                          “.

The girlfriends noticed at once, how could they not?
Bunco night the lone chatter of dice and stirred ice.

When she opened her mouth 
bees instead tumbled out, stingers torn 
from some, the others stumbling-Raid drunk.

The chasm between hearing and being heard?
Evel Knieval’s last jump. 

No more alphabet soup; she is the restaurant 
of broth, 1000 ways to live through a straw.

Song was hardest;
Some days it burbled up before 
back down she stomached it—  
rollin,’ rollin,’ rollin’ on the river— 


She understood the speak of maples:
the bleeding tips, the grasping twigs,
the fluttering, the floating, the fall.

If she were the namer of things, 
epiphany would be a blood-orange streamer.

— first published in Bramble

How The Shyness Unfolds

I want to say it's a banana or a potato 
being peeled, the slow curl and reveal, 
but such a bland yellow thing.

I want to say it's a shirt from a drawer, 
a billow of purple and Bounce, 
but it's sweat and crumple in a pile. 

I want to say it's a virgin's fantasy first,  
soft hall light and Harlequin, 
tender and gasp as they keen and grasp.

I say tender but mean tinder: 
a birch tree stripped of its bark,
doused with lighter fluid, flame exposed.

I say exposed but mean explode: 
a shrapnel of four-martinis, 
a face reflected as pale and abhor.

When I say abhor I mean whore,
for FICA and retirement, 
food and rent.

When I say rent I mean rend.
When I say rend I mean rend.

— first published in Steam Ticket

Cat_Cofell_1Cathryn Cofell of Appleton is the author of Sister Satellite (Cowfeather Press) and six chapbooks. With Obvious Dog, she performs her poetry set to music on Lip. She’s the winner of a Lorine Niedecker Poetry Award and the WI People & Ideas Prize for Poetry, among others. Cofell is a tire(d)(less) advocate for the arts, helping to launch and/or promote the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission and the Poet Laureate Endowment Fund, the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (WFOP), the WFOP Chapbook Prize, Verse Wisconsin, the Fox Cities Book Festival and the long-standing (though oft-renamed) Appleton poetry reading series.

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