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Jen Kohan

jen kohan reading©2011


Blanketed in bedtime stories and happily ever afters,
Warm feet stroke cool sheets pulled up to the chinny chin chin
and find a way to stillness.
Pixies dust eyelid pockets,
Lips smack for sugarplums.
Potty visited,
Ears drunk on lullaby,
Tips of fingers curled.

Slumbering children work hard
in tiny shifts, punching in and out,
A force of sleepers in footed uniforms,
Tools of the trade: nook, blanket, fuzzy lamb
A fleeced union, bound together
by a code to resist the work,
Argue for extra tales
Negotiate glasses of water.
Reluctantly, they settle in,
Allowing a tuck and kiss.
The legion fuels the night
Clocking hours to keep the hickory in a dickory dock.

Some, deep in a graveyard shift,
thrash against the tide of unsweetened dreams,
absorb the shock of gray-faced boogeymen
who creep in through open windows.
The defenders, tossed in terror,
press cheek to pillow, hair matted and slick,
mouth agape,
arms thrown out, nearly crucified.

Some cry themselves to sleep
by voices
lost to memory.

Limited Time Only

When I talk to my own mother
She assures me it’s nothing I should feel obligated to undertake
She makes it sound like a lot of hassle,
The constant revolutions around the center of children
The giving up of self for a child
A human animal birthed, from her flesh,
She explains that one can certainly lead a fulfilling life without it.
I’m not sure how she knows that.

I’ve taught and taken care of
Nurtured and soothed
Paid for and fed
Many other animals.
Human or otherwise.

I’ve also
Held a cool washcloth to a feverish forehead
Cradled bruised arms,
Wiped tears and snot,
All my own.

Listened to my own bloody screaming
Circling from my throat to my ears.

But all the girls I know
Cannot seem to tell me enough
How the mommy club has changed them.
And how.

But all the self I know,
Flushed red with warning,
Cannot seem to rage and cry enough
the mommy club would annihilate me.

Cover Your Ears and Close Your Eyes

Her ears rang with the children’s screams.
They ran circles around her.
The boy ate his corn like a typewriter,
The girl like a wheel.
She wanted to put her hand over their mouths
Hard, until their little eyes widened with fear.

If they were cats, she would clutch the
Scruff of fur
Swing them wide
Above her head.
Two propellers
Double dutch ropes.

But she refrained.
Her own screams long spent.