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Branch Water
     For Naomi Wallace

It’s what you mix
with bourbon, which is 

what gets blended with  
ups and downs or those 

still evenings when you 
wait for the stillness

to get stirred up.
Branch water doesn’t

come from a tree, 
but from a branch

of the river. It’s
a river you go down

once, with or without
a paddle, companion,

or compass, with
or without water.


Abandoned House

Finally, a place
I felt at home—
a stone’s throw
from your home,
and so much I
could throw:
abandoned knives,
banjo unstrung,
the bland piano.
Abandoned houses
are full of what
was, and up
in the attic,
a few spent bees
in the windowsill
still pulse their last
urgency—having given
up on flowers.


Q & A

            after Zaqtan

You may ask eleven questions.
Demanding one answer would be foolish, if not unjust.

Justice stood before the shaving mirror.
Orphaned, he was, with no one to show him how to hold the razor.

The razor had been smuggled into a birthday cake.
Cakes had been outlawed, and births, and days.

The days resembled each other.
In the line-up, they all seemed guilty.

Guilty or innocent? the justice was asked.
How could a river let eleven brothers drown one sister?  


Andrea Cohen’s fourth collection, Furs Not Mine, is just out from Four Way Books. New poems are out or forthcoming in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Plume, upstreet, and elsewhere. She directs the Blacksmith House Poetry Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Writers House at Merrimack College.