Kentucky Derby
Andrea Cohen
You remember Jell-O, don't you? At Morrison's Cafeteria, it

    came in yellow, green and bright
    red squares, like sawed blocks
    of ice that couldn't sit still.

And adultery, where the wife knows

    that if she's getting kicked
    a little less, someone else
    is getting hers

which is "a blessing / and a curse."

Or perhaps, on how to fudge a train ticket --- at least for a woman --- the trick is "handing the ticket to the conductor while / staring long and hard at his loins, as if these were / the homeland you loved and were leaving forever."

Cohen's themes range all over --- the Assiniboine tribe of Montana (selling sinfully good-smelling sticky buns in airports), a friend who has just committed suicide, a three-legged race, Piggly Wiggly coupons, and an artist friend who chopped herself up with a chain-saw.

The element that makes these poems better than the mass we get here in the weekly mail are the sharp twists and turns ... where Cohen moves odd things off into unexpected territory. A wedding where the bride and groom "live happily un-after." An Easter egg hunt where you "hide from the eggs." Bodily tremors that will find relief in places "prone to earthquakes." A visit to the Iowa State Fair with "a cow fashioned of butter." With its "butter eyes"

    It saw
    my butter soul. I could
    have wept, or spread myself,
    for nobody across dry toast.

It is absurd --- or absurdist --- and melancholy. But it works.

The publisher lists eighteen literary magazines that published the poems that appear here, including Poetry, The Hudson Review, The Cincinnati Review, Orion, and Salamander. Cohen is different, and good, and deserves your rapt attention.

--- Lolita Lark
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