Tobi Cogswell: Two Poems

SLS – Tobi Cogswell began kindergarten in Dallas. Even though it was many years ago, she still remembers her first dog was a “Heinz 57” named Sam Finkelstein the Third Rifkin. She remembers a family outing to the zoo where a lion peed on her best friend Betsy who lived down the street, and eating chicken fried steak at the Surrey, in a shopping center where a Wil Wrights was freestanding in a corner of the parking lot. Today she has good friends in Texas, and is pleased to see at least one of them in an earlier issue of this journal.

The Corner of Desolation and Waste
 
Rundown like the toothless gums
of an apple doll left under a tree
last Christmas and missed until
Easter, the Veteran’s Hall stands,
a gray bunker of square brick, some
of the windows blocked off, no sign
of life and no cars outside…the men
who come here to ruminate and
reminisce are the old ones; only
their baseball caps or the odd patch
on a jacket gives you an idea of
what they would talk about –

if the words that populated their
nightmares would come forth to
the living in daylight and heal them.

The only time I saw my grandfather
without his walker was when he
hobbled his way to the counter
to get coffee, probably made during
the very same war he was in, with
powdered creamer that stayed stuck
to the stick like unbrushed teeth.
He’d smile and chat on the way,
methodically turn the black to
skin-colored beige with the focus
of a neurosurgeon, then chat
on the way back, to fall into
his favorite chair, sip and think,
until I helped him home for supper.

I came most days for a while to visit.  My
grandfather was always in the same
chair.  I never had to scan the sadness
or smell that peculiar smell of old
for very long.  And when we’d go home
until tomorrow, we’d think without words
that we both hoped the same men
would be there, because to think
any other way would be so horrible,
you might as well be back in the war.

Hitching a Ride on the Bunsen Burner Train

Fat girls here have taken the best chairs.
She’s left to look up the baggy shorts of a guy
who has nothing to say for himself
or his habits.  Welcome to second period
Science, where pray God something
gets blown up and gives them smoke
and flames to cheer about.  To talk
about seated ‘round family tables for years.

Her mother burned up some girl’s
dress when she was in school.  Begging
to get in this class, she will probably get
a fail notice at the quarter end.  She’s
heading the wrong way to Reno
and science has nothing to do with it,
unless you calculate the probability
that blonde hair and blue eyeshadow

equals chaps and a bikini top at the Lazy
Eight bar, where any cowboy who isn’t
too drunk to look up can look right down
those tops in the mirrored ceiling, decide
who has hidden jewelry he’d like to explore
further, with fingers of the hand not juggling
keys to make a fast getaway when the kid
in the other room starts hollering for morning.

It’s just six degrees of separation between
then and now, between Bunsen burners
and Flaming Green Lizards, between baggy
shorts on the creep with acne and drunken
outlaws with wandering eyes.   Maybe
those fat girls had the right formula after all,
sit and stay, fetch the longnecks from
the washtub and don’t pierce nothing!