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National Poetry Month Spotlight: Julia Cohen

PANIC AT MY WILDERNESS
Wildlife wraps
around my scarf as
tires on the road
explode like crows
I’m trying to get
in front of those
backs of heads
Are they holding signs
or giant spoons?
Rows indicate the wait
Don’t panic at my wilderness
Who are you if you
lie about your dreams?
The dent
in an over-ripe melon?
I’ll never go below
ground, just be absorbed
by it
Spider-fractures on glass
mean no pristine alliance
Though when I sleep, fill the
empty parts of the door

Q: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on the day you wrote the above poem?

A: I started collecting lines for this poem at the end of the summer, when I was traveling by Uhaul from New York to Colorado with my partner. We kept passing fragments of blown-up truck tires, and every time I thought they were crows or ravens that had been killed. I think during this trip we also discussed where we’d like our physical bodies to go after we die. My partner loved the idea of donating his body to a body farm where as I was pro organ donation and then cremation, so the line “I’ll never go below ground…” probably generated from that conversation. I wrote the poem, though, this fall in Denver. I was reading Sophocles’ Philoctetes and there is this great line “do not fear me and panic at my wilderness, no” and when I read that, I knew a poem would pull together with this phrase.

Q: What is the last book you’ve read that made you want to grab a pen and write?

A: That would be Julie Doxsee’s Objects for a Fog Death (Black Ocean, 2010). She knows how to turn nouns into verbs, and I continually go back to her books when I’m working on a poem with concise lines, because somehow her short lines turn into eerie tendrals.

Q: What is the most sublime meal you’ve ever eaten?

A: I don’t know. But almost every Friday my partner makes a delicious tofu-scramble for brunch, with spinach, carrots, tumeric, and garlic amongst other ingredients. I peel the garlic. I look forward to it all week long.

Julia Cohen is the author of nine chapbooks, most recently For the H in Ghost, published by Brave Men Press. Her full-length collection of poems, Triggermoon Triggermoon, was a finalist for the St. Lawrence Book Award and is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in September 2010.