Two poems by Emily Cousins

untitled for emily cousins poetry
Untitled, by Joyce Polance

Retrograde

we peel eyes open from the slits they’ve become we watch
the ceiling blink one fan of lashes the other move tongues
around half-open mouths thirsty children we watch the ceiling
stare the sheen of white paint shuffle limbs across cheap cotton
we watch the ceiling heave breath out of our lungs aim for the sky

how long has it been like this you ask I try to remember to reply
somewhere above our heads Mercury parts the sky like a bauble
dragged from a ripple-less boat stops doubles back on itself

we heave our limbs toward the sky shuffle breath into lungs
lie on cotton sheen of paint stare at our mouths thirsty
children stare like thirsty children move tongues half
open mouths blink

watch the ceiling watch the ceiling watch the ceiling

To Have Bitten Off Matter

from T.S. Eliot

Night comes down down
burst like spring you say burst burst
to bite off more than we can chew
toss a blanket from the bed lie
awake and wait to linger
in the chambers of the sea
the tide of memory so long since
feeling the ocean to have bitten off
matter with a smile come listlessness
death like a deadline perhaps
in the garden of my body I will grow
something ugly breathe in
the atmosphere of juliet’s tomb
prepare things to be left unsaid
all of this I have saved this for you
give up the world give up the secret
to have bitten off more than I can
chew to squeeze the universe into a ball
odds and ends flicker flicker spark
watch the ceiling think about the skies
and then the world comes back
stretched tight dissolved memory
faded light of every street lamp
pulse of space at dusk shake shake
memory as the mind deserts the body
used and spent to have bitten off matter
with a smile to squeeze the universe
into a ball bounced cross and cross
across the brain here I am something
occurring in time in an unknown time
a dry time waiting for rain I am
a dull ache and a head full of spaces
to be eaten to be divided to be drunk like
vacant kites weave the wind I have no
ghosts but those I name and what of forgiveness
with the tunnels of history just under us
is the memory of passion still strong think
neither fear nor courage saves us
say we have not reached conclusion—
when I will stiffen in a rented house
yet to lose passion slowly without terror
then again why should I keep it
in a wilderness of mirrors
what will the spider do
fractured atoms flung across the void gulls
against the wind white petals after rain
thoughts in a dry brain in a dry season
and the trees about me let them too be dry and
leafless and behind me make all a desolation
make all a rebirth used and spent then burst like
spring to bite off matter squeeze the universe
a ball a ball bounced across the brain

Author: Emily Cousins

Emily J. Cousins lives, teaches, and writes in Denver, CO. Her poems have appeared in, or are forthcoming from, Denver Quarterly, The Laurel Review, The Offbeat, Bombay Gin, The Maine Review, and elsewhere.