Self Portrait in the Backyard as Mother

Tulip-bellied, fists full of weeds, the baby shuffles over the wet grass,
the baby stumbles like a drunk
toward me, the baby wants to roll on top of me,
climb back inside my body but what about
the times I want her gone, want my body to myself,
want only to believe in my own useless wanting?


Self-Portrait Composed of Lines from Marina Tsvetaeva’s Notebook Entry 1940

To the dacha, meeting with S who is sick.
Gradually pain in my heart.
I live without documents
My loneliness. Dishwasher and tears.
The overtone—the overtone of everything—is terror.
A hundred times a day to the cellar.
When can I write/?
I am afraid of everything. Eyes. darkness, footsteps. and most of all—of myself…

For a year I have been trying on death.

(from The Death of a Poet: The Last Days of Marina Tsvetaeva. Irma Kudrova)


Self-Portrait as Playroom Toy Box

Star face of a pinwheel snapped off.

Shrinky Dinks melting into moon bowls in the oven.

Marbles jumbled in a box like baby teeth—the ache of it, a mouth filled with glass?

I’m not talking about dolls or a doll face or a head taken from a body.

Or the outgrown. Or the never-grown. Or the never.

The ache of it?

The pinwheel’s five points. The bowl made of skin.

Sew me up. Shut me up. Stitch me together with loose, looped yarn

so I can hold them tight.


Nicole Cooley’s fourth book of poems, Milk Dress, was co-winner of the Kinereth Gensler Award. Other awards include The Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets for her first book, Resurrection, a Discovery/The NationAward, and the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America. She is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Queens College-City University of New York where she directs the new MFA program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation.

Issue #47 May 2015
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