Andrea Cohen

Spinning the Bottle

It was always
an empty bottle.

We were always
the dark.

Ardor is still
random and dizzy

and someone turns
the lights on

and the room
without the bottle

keeps spinning.




What Ray Finney did
at Savannah Steel I
never knew. He gave
me magnets stamped
with the company name–
emerald shafts the color
of money but better
than cash: they had
heft and picked things
up: gem clips, fountain
pens, costume jewelry. You
had to be careful where you
left them, my mother said:
a magnet could make a wrist-
watch stop. It was a trick, I
thought, like giving a child
a cherry from a sweet
Rob Roy. Nobody had told
me yet that days are all
temporary, and the afternoon
Ray Finney wasn’t playing
dead in our backyard, I
held a magnet above him,
someone said, like a magic
wand or blunt instrument. I
never knew what he was
doing in our house, why
my mother pulled the drapes
tight, mid-day, what happened
to time, how I could not fix it.




There was a swinging bridge
above a ravine. It connected

us to fear. It was constructed
of rope and oak and not

looking down. We held on
to the plausibility of falling,

but always reached some
other side. I have a swinging

now inside me, like
buildings engineered

for high winds and quakes—
to sway—and carry on.




He held
a match

up to see
which way

the dark
was going.



Musical Chairs

The chairs don’t actually
sing or play instruments.

The soundtrack is always
pre-recorded. It always sounds

like this: always, always,
a little tinny and sing-songy,

and then it stops and some-
one gasps and someone

whose lap you began
in has vanished.



Flight Pattern

I was five when I found
the head of the wren

by the road. I was older
when I found its wing.

By then, it was impossible
to piece even the idea

of a bird back together.



Andrea Cohen most recent poetry collections are Everything and Nightshade. A new collection, The Sorrow Apartments, will be out in 2024.