by Rochelle S. Cohen
Winter of My Soul
For my husband Rex Sexton
I live in the Artic now
on an ice floe that drifts
aimlessly on the still,
cold sea of my existence,
the enormity of bergs
and glaciers dwarfed by the
sorrow of your absence.
I search for a sign from you,
a crimson corona, a fata morgana.
But these illusions are hidden
by the dense fog in my mind,
which obscures my vision
and muffles any sound
I try to construe as your voice.
Intruders, like immense shards
of glaciers crashing into the sea,
unnerve my precarious peace.
Famished artic fox stalking for
morsels from my fragile psyche
disrupt my futile pursuit of
even a mirage of your being.
I am like a polar bear hanging on
to a melting ice raft, exhausted.
I lie in wait, hoping for salvation
in the memory, not of grand events,
but of those inadvertent gestures,
ordinary then, but extraordinary
now without you.
Stopover in Stavanger
I flew from Amsterdam to Bergen, Norway
with a stopover in Stavanger.
I descended the steps down to the tarmac
and looked up at the night sky.
I took flight again, not yet to Bergen, but to
endless space studded with shimmering stars,
illuminating the stark, white snow below.
Now, thirty-eight years later, I stare at your
final painting, white, faceless figures floating
in a starlit, black universe. Is this a message
for me, a hidden map to know where you are?
Time is fluid outside of earth’s reality. I’ll go
back to that tarmac. Stargazing in Stavanger,
I will find you.
The Sound of Silence
The sorcerer sun waves its beams of light
And we hear the snow slowly vanishing
A creak of crumbling snow falling off branches
A squish of slush under plodding rubber boots
A splash of a puddle plunged in a failing leap
But, another kind of snow does not melt
Above the snow line lies perpetual snow
Hushed in the Himalayas, Andes and Alps
Despite its peaks reaching for the warmth
Of solar rays too frail for the frigid challenge
My heart is encrusted in everlasting snow
Muted forever defying the passage of time
And the deceptive heat of the winter sun
For me missing you
There is no mourning thaw
“He gave her wings, she gave him roots”
Was eulogized when I said good-bye to you
An unlikely pair opined both sides of the aisle
She, steeped in scientific method, earthbound
He, improvisational with paint, soaring and
Flying aloft in the firmament
He was a kite on a gusty spring afternoon
The restless atmosphere tossing his tortured
Mind and soul into a turbulence translated
Into a menagerie of inimitable flying forms
The canvas being the only pull of gravity
That forced them down to solid ground
She took his hand and they became the kite
Double Diamond floating in the spring breeze
In an illusion of a center diamond within its rim
Without him, the kite is forced down by the
Mundane chatter of the earthborn on terra firma
Kite flying, I’ll be into the wind climbing back to you
“A Steambath For Your Troubles”
Based on the title of the painting by the Czech painter Solc
The summer air holds its heavy humidity
as I sit sweat-soaked in expectant waiting
for the foreboding rumble, the harbinger
of the cloudburst promising to cleanse
my inconsolable soul of this stifling sorrow.
The downpour quenches the oppressive heat
and quells the chaotic turbulence within while
a cool summer breeze offers a restoring respite
until the threat of imminent inner storms
hover on the horizon again.
By the Light of the Moon
(A Brazilian Legend)
From the marriage of Amazonian maidens
with the resplendent, celestial, silver Moon,
the glimmering stars
Impassioned with the handsome Moon,
and the promise of living by his side as a star,
the maiden Naia climbed the highest mountains
to be close to her beloved. But, even at the peaks,
outspreading her arms, she could not reach him.
Naia ceased her search and became despondent.
One glorious night, she approached the river,
looked within, and saw the reflection of the Moon!
Naia had no doubt it was an invitation for love
by the Moon, himself, who eluded her embrace.
She eagerly threw herself in the river,
diving deep in a futile search for the
distant Moon until she disappeared forever.
The Moon felt responsible for the tragedy.
He thought the maiden deserved recompense
to live forever and, in a gesture of gratitude,
the Moon transformed her into a unique flower
of great magnitude, the majestic Vitória-Régia.
With its intoxicating perfume, floating on water,
it only opens its petals in the radiance of moonlight,
just as my heart fills in the glow of memories of you.
We slid eight blocks down State Street
on the slick, icy sidewalks of Chicago
me, skidding and slipping in high heels,
like a beginner stumbling at an ice rink
hilarious as I hung on to your arm,
heading to the oh so posh Pump Room
for the alluring atmosphere and warmth
of potent drinks and steamy torch songs.
We entered another time and place,
a world of the thirties, forties and fifties,
glamorous film stars, politicos and literati,
framed in black and whites on the walls.
We’d pick our favorites, Bogie and Bacall,
Wagner and Wood, Gertrude Lawrence,
John Steinbeck and, maybe, a Queen or two.
You could almost hear the feverish Peggy Lee
singing her torrid trope if you tried hard enough.
Waiters in bejeweled turbans delivered drinks,
your warmed cognac in a ballooned snifter, mine
a Brazilian bomb concoction of coffee liqueurs.
The seductive singer leaned on the grand piano
and we listened to the sultry strains of lost love.
We sat by the window and, adorning our view,
snowflakes danced then disappeared, each one
a momentary miracle, just as you were to me
on that cold Chicago
Autumn Leaves Underfoot
medley of hues of autumn’s magnum opus,
summer’s swan song, crunch underneath new shoes.
She leaves behind the sidewalk’s chalked, but faded,
squares from hopscotch, a game of chance and skill,
and aims straight for her undiscovered self, sitting
behind a wooden desk, second row, fifth seat, as in
that first grade class picture, fresh, smiling, hands
beneath the desk, pretty dress, anticipation in her eyes.
New black and white composition book in hand,
a tabula rasa, she awaits her own lines to be filled in.
Or, did fate already write her story as she
guilelessly glides toward a destiny in waiting?
When our own autumn arrives, we contemplate
our life’s game of hopscotch. Where the pebble landed,
how well we hopped through the course. Crisp autumn
winds swirl the lingering leaves over the pastel court.
There’s no turning back.
Bio for Rochelle S. Cohen
Rochelle S. Cohen is presently Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was the recipient of the 2008 College of Medicine at Chicago Distinguished Faculty Award. She is a neuroscientist with publications in synaptic structure and biochemistry and hormonal effects on brain and behavior. Rochelle is presently studying the Brazilian Portuguese language. Her love of marine biology is reflected in her present endeavor of writing a book of poetry about marine life and science. She was married to the writer and artist Rex Sexton.
these poems were published in: The Avocet, PoetsWest
and Lone Stars.