|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 hetells you he's got your twins'
graduations he's got some newtheories his back pocket has
back pockets who's your tailor
you ask and he just laughs he hasyour 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 storiesabout remission like you
wouldn't believe he's got somethingfor nausea and pain and numbness and tingling in your extremities
but you both know there's alwaysa 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 pocket
In Zone Three
no one thanks us for our servicewe have accumulated no
points no perks we have no
right to upgrade no hope
of extra leg space or complimentaryanything 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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You must not ever stop being whimsical.
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