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For what is a poem but a hazardous attempt at self-understanding: it is the deepest part of autobiography. --Robert Penn Warren

His Back Pocket & Other Poems

--by Mick Cochrane, Jan 27, 2022

Mick Cochrane is a professor of English and a longtime teller of stories. His published works include novels, short stories, essays, and poetry. His work is compelling, candid, and cuts straight to the heart of what it means to be human, what it means to experience love, loss, limitation, and transcendence. What follows is a selection of three of his poems. -- DailyGood Editors


My Mother's Wooden Spoon


I keep it in a clear tub, neatly labeled

“Childhood,” my mother’s wooden spoon, darkened

now with age, like a vintage baseball bat.

She spent her last months crippled by MS, ankles

grotesquely swollen, her heart and kidneys

failing, confined to an adjustable

medical chair provided by the county,

positioned in our shabby dining room.

I helped my sister do what needed to be done.

There was an oxygen machine, a catheter

bag, compression socks, bottles of pills.

That spoon was always in her hand.

She used it to work the controls on her chair,

or point at what she wanted brought to her.

When she needed us, she banged it on the arm

of the chair. I could hear it, even in my bedroom,

writing an essay, listening to music,

trying to forget who and where I was,

and I didn’t always come right away.

When my sister tried to read to her

some lines from Khalil Gibran, parents

and children, archers and arrows, my mother

pointed that spoon like a weapon, silenced

what she didn’t want to hear.

On the night before she died, her brother

sat at her side, flown in from Nashville

because he had a feeling. Charlie

leaned in to kiss her one last time and

she touched him on the shoulder with that spoon,

her hand a crippled claw now, something regal

about her, clutching her battered wooden scepter.

Someday my sons will have to take the lid off.

What’s this? they’ll wonder. Who saves a wooden

spoon? Keep or toss. They’ll need to decide.


His Back Pocket

for Dr. Joseph Leach, Minnesota Oncology


Don't worry he always says I've got

something else in my back pocket

he's got clinical trials he's got

off-label he's got stuff from Sloan

Kettering he's got what Lance

Armstrong juiced his team with

he's got more milestones he

tells you he's got your twins'

graduations he's got some new

theories his back pocket has

back pockets who's your tailor

you ask and he just laughs he has

your next birthday he's got Gamma

Knife and gene therapy and some

cocktail the Mayo Brothers don't

know about yet he's such a modest

magician he's got your trip

to California he's got stories

about remission like you

wouldn't believe he's got something

for nausea and pain and numbness

and tingling in your extremities

but you both know there's always

a last thing even in the deepest

pocket "time is an ocean"

you know what he's got

to show you "but it ends at the shore"

not today but soon you can see its outlines

almost feel the weight of the last

thing he will produce from his back



In Zone Three


no one thanks us for our service

we have accumulated no

points no perks we have no


right to upgrade no hope

of extra leg space or complimentary

anything it doesn't matter what indignity


our poorly packed luggage suffers to make

it fit we are nobodies red-eyed

sleepless lumps of coffee fear


we wear cargo shorts and Crocs

we are the army of the un-

fashionable we are a-stylish we


take no selfies because

we don't want to know we are

flustered by TSA and pet


the wrong dogs we belong

on a bus but we are here please

forgive us our sorry state


our heartache is too sudden

so this one time we must

find a way to fly


For more inspiration, join a circle with Mick Cochrane this Saturday. For anyone with a story to tell, questions abound: What do I say? What form shall it take? Who is my audience? And once written, why and how to send it in to the world? Saturday's circle is an opportunity to hear Mick talk about his work and share insights about his writing process. You can RSVP for the circle here. 


Mick Cochrane is a teller of stories who writes novels, short stories, essays, and poetry which have appeared in literary magazines. He has published 4 novels and is a professor of English at Canisius College in Buffalo NY. His award winning books include Flesh Wounds, published by Nan Talese/Doubleday, Sport, published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s, The Girl Who Threw Butterflies and Fitz. His published essays are on Raymond Carver, Bob Dylan, baseball literature, and the art of biography.          


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