Signs by Cathleen Cohen

Signs

This year we lost an oak
to illness that withered the grasses,
leeched sap from trunks in amber drops
until the yard was bleached of green,
deep sienna and crimson

like lifeblood. Lantern flies feast,
wilt the willow our neighbors planted
when their daughter was born.
And we’ve had storms, dark,
out of season, changing

how we watch the sky
for signs. All this freedom
was given, choices
in how to live.
Is landscape enacting

old stories, old lessons
that we’ve forgotten—
plagues, storming waters,
viruses, emerald borers
in the ash trees?

Our neighbors wrap willow branches
with nets and tape
to trap swarming nymphs.
So fragile. We must rush
to help them.

by Cathleen Cohen

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Editor’s Note: This poem’s clear imagery is a perfect metaphor for the world’s grim uncertainty, yet still the last few lines remind us how to be human despite our misgivings.

This Vast by Cathleen Cohen

This Vast

On a shaking train, I am free
to settle my eyes on the momentary –
blood red leaf piles, sun-toned mums,
soft edged whisking sky,
flashing cinders.

My granddaughter faltered, seized
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .but
came back to herself.

Later, we rocked;
she singing, I poised to spring
like grandmother rabbit from a children’s book.

Now, rocking, rocking, I head home,
whispering to a voiceless God
who paints us landscapes
that empty and fill.

And I recall myself, years back,
feverish, tethered to an oxygen tent,
reaching to faces through plastic walls,
through billowing, foggy, slow breath,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .my first
glimpse beneath the veil.

Paralysis lasted only days.
Now, a lopsided vestigial grin.

How grateful,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .how grateful I am
to ride this train
admire this landscape, sharp and cool,
this vast breathing

by Cathleen Cohen

Editor’s Note: Some moments in life are so overwhelming it’s almost impossible to describe them, but this poem comes close.