Two Poems


Once she was a speed bump.
Now a pothole.

She doesn’t recall the erosion 
from a woman who stopped traffic

to sunken mess.  A disintegration  
that’ll take a crew a summer to fill

with temporary sand and gravel,
an asphalt patch over the heart.

She’s surface now, bumpy road
but forgotten danger, well-traveled.

This is how an infrastructure
collapses, one crack unnoticed,

then a two-lane bulges and like  
that, the whole damn city an abyss

spilling into herself, no escape
from the archeology of abuse,

the crumble of a precarious life.

The Point at Which Crying Causes Alarm

It is March in Wisconsin and melting, fast.
An enormous season of snow and sub-zero
suddenly flipped like a giant sea turtle
unable to escape its own heavy shell.

A ten foot pile of snow collapses in on itself
like a high-rise, detonated,
the snow fort with the kid buried halfway but alive,  a mitten
and a stripe of snotty scarf exposed, his parents, pulling.
Every spring there’s at least one idiot with a red truck
that goes through the ice, but this year it’s a water ballet
of bobbing red fenders and shanties and someone—
do you see him?—is bobbing.  And someone will surely drown,

for even the basement walls are seeping,
the concrete floors are weeping, the houses are acreep
with black slush and the stink of mildew fills whole cities now,
and one entire lake collapses from the stench and drench          
as if the earth herself is overwrought with grief 
at the sudden deep of this.
It’s the burden of her cycles, that time come unbearably early;
she can’t help but rage and melt to pieces,
she can’t help but take in bodies and wash them back.

—Cathryn Cofell, Appleton, WI