Nicole Cooley

May 8, 2015 Cooley Nicole

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 grew up in New Orleans and is the  author of six book of poems, most recently Of Marriage (Alice James Books 2018) and Girl after Girl after Girl (LSU Press 2017), as well as the forthcoming collection Mother Water Ash (LSU Press 2024). Her poems have appeared most recently in Poetry, DIODE, and Scoundrel Time. She is the director of the MFA program in creative writing and literary translation at Queens College, City University of New York.