American Life in Poetry: Column 014


Often everyday experiences provide poets
with inspiration. Here Georgiana Cohen
observes a woman looking out her window
and compares the woman to the sunset. The
woman's "slumped" chin, the fence that
separates them, and the "beached" cars set
the poem's tone; this is clearly not a
celebration of the neighborhood. Yet by
turning to clouds, sky, and breath, Cohen
underscores the scene's fragile grace.

Old Woman in a Housecoat

An old woman in
a floor-length housecoat
has become sunset
to me, west-facing.
Turquoise, sage, or rose,
she leans out of her
second floor window,
chin slumped in her palm,
and gazes at the
fenced property line
between us, the cars
beached in the driveway,
the creeping slide of
light across shingles.
When the window shuts,
dusk becomes blush and
bruises, projected
on vinyl siding.
Housecoats breathe across
the sky like frail clouds.

Reprinted from "Cream City Review," 2004,
by permission of the author, a writer and
journalist living in Boston. Â Poem
copyright 2004 by Georgiana Cohen.
This weekly column is supported by The Poetry
Foundation, The Library of Congress, and
the Department of English at the University
of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not
accept unsolicited poetry.