Winter 2009

Table of Contents - Vol. V, No. 4


Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Reviews   

Tobi Cogswell


Landlady #1

It’s a particular shade of pink
carbon dated with years
of stale coffee and cigarette smoke.
It’s a pink that invites shuffling,
television in the background
and old ledgers on the plastic-covered
kitchen table.

Somewhere in the blue sequins
of the flickering across her eyes
she hates her reduction to light bulbs
and plungers, and “you’re two
days late, when am I going
to get my check?” It sounds
like the old days.

It sounds like women she hears
on the bus, and she was one
of them once. Christ,
three kids and a cell phone
but no money for milk.
The butcher saves bones
for her watery soup. How does
a life become so small?

23 one-bedrooms stacked
like empty blocks and hers,
number 24, vacant
as a ghost ship in moonlight.
Nothing but the crossword
and furled calendar
to keep her counsel, her hands
dusted with time and words.


Landlady #8

She looks like a thrift shop
in a town of old women.
She has cats. More than three.
She sets her table for breakfast
every day, as if for unseen boarders,
never drinks from the carton,
wears ballet slippers always,
even to sleep.

She has dolls in original boxes,
hasn’t had a date in 22 years,
owns not a single garment
of anything silk, her Jockeys
for Women white with blue
jonquils that only she sees.
She thinks “dress up” is something
you do for the doctor.

Matching her eye shadow to her sweater
you’d swear she’s what happens
to small town cheerleaders when
life gluts them with regret, the way
her parents treated her and she’s
used to it, the impudence of
not-cold-enough tap water,
flowers that fade in a day.

It’s a sour and sad building
for lost souls and sheared-off
dreams. She navigates
between litter box and laundry,
checks the days off until Sunday,
prays for the villain on Telemundo
to come knocking, to beg for
sweet skin and hot tea

but she will not find him
in the market, her cart holds
not one luxury, nor condiment,
nor berries ripe with sun
to tempt him. She believes
he sends kisses but they are lost.
She unpacks her groceries,
changes the channel.


A Lesbian Named Virginia Stole My Chair

She said she’s not a regular here
but she slid right into my chair as
if she were born there.

Jack and Coke in one hand,
a fingerful of frosting on her
other index finger,

she sipped and fed the frosting
to Tammi while listening to
a bad Blues singer wail about

right and wrong. Wrong was
her ass in my chair. But there never
was a sweeter kiss than

that frosting kiss, and when they left,
I felt as shriveled as the dried-up roses
forgotten on their table, waiting by the window.


© Tobi Cogswell



Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Reviews   

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