Kay Cosgrove (Featured Poet)

One Experience Hair Modeling

The secret, I've gathered, to a really killer blow-dry
is a combination of good lift and precision.

The stylist wants all hair off the face.
The stylist wants to challenge gravity.

The stylist wants to say something
about beauty and living with intention, that

little acknowledged contrapposto of hair and heart.
She knows well that to get the hair straight

you have to start at the root:
pull it hard, harder, up and away

from the skull. "Stand behind the model,
pull everything back to the center of her head."

It's the center we're after. Even if it hurts.
In her makeup choice the stylist is baroque.

Her necklace weighs her down.
She eats a clementine with excessive slowness.

I'm reminded of something my friend said a few days ago:
"At a certain point beautiful women stop noticing being noticed

when they enter a room." As if she's a reincarnation
of the Council of Trent, the stylist wants her ideas

on beauty to be understood. Easy. And I'm eager to learn.
With good posture, I sit in the center of my chair, I lift my chin.

I do not wince when she pulls my hair
to test my fortitude.

Train Ride

Two more stops and I'm back in Brooklyn.
Back to the same idiosyncrasies
and inconsistencies in fashion, the conversation
of two kids I purposefully overhear because
I hate their haircuts.
Today is not a good day: everything
dirty and over-used in this place, and I
feel nearly disgust even at myself
in the reflection of the window as we
speed along underwater with our driver
Charon, taking us from the living
world and we can't stop him.
My last existing thought is the hope
they won't bury me in the striped dress.

In the Damascus Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For all I know,
this room once belonged
in a home, and that smoke
was not just an illusion.
For all I know,
two people, our height,
slept soundly here until dawn.
There are mirrors upon mirrors upon mirrors
but no one looks back. For all I know,
there was the bride with the beautiful feet.
The bride knew virgins. She knew
how to, in the morning light,
the gold filigree bedpost and a smoking
cigarette abandoned in its tray.
She knew your polished doors,
the heaviest corner of your robe,
your sandals and your weapons and your kaleidoscopes.

What do you keep inside your ornate box? Air?
Neither…honey nor the honeybee, for all she knows.

Why Not?

My two-year-old daughter collects change she finds around the house.

Clutching the coins in her sweaty, fat, little hand as she reaches with
     the other

for me to help her ascend the stair. We are moving, slowly, toward her

I know without her saying—she can't say—but the muscle memory of
     seeing quarters, slipping

them into the slit in the ceramic bank on her dresser is as rote for me
     as it is for her. I encourage

sameness. I encourage saving, encourage taking what might not be
     yours but is lying there

waiting to be claimed. Why not her? Why not live like you expect to be
     the one

thought of, pined for, prized, won? She should know she's worth a few
     coins, at least.


Difficult to move past the line
drawn in the sand. After our time
in Costa Rica, how marriage really does
blend two bodies, and afterwards
leaves us with decisions about which
to invite for dinner. To see both sides
is a betrayal but to walk by the other
by chance on Saturday night, to not
notice how the physical world
didn't die—that's a real ending.


Jawn, my students say, is anything—
any person, any place, any thing
you need it to be. It's a word
they love, a word I would never use.

There's this word in Italian that I can't pronounce,
a word for that mark left on the table
by a cold glass.
"Before I die" are some of the words

on a sign in Jersey City I read from the car
on my way to dinner to meet the new girlfriend
of a divorced friend. I was one day
pregnant. I guess I should have kept reading.

One Friday my students and I listened together.
A man in the recording said, "It's going to be a doom."
A student in the room said, "I don't want this to end."
I guess I lost all my innocence.

I guess I still want
to be cool, a word
that feels good
in my mouth, bad in my ears.


Kay Cosgrove's manuscript has been named a finalist for the Field Poetry Prize, the St. Lawrence Book Award, and the Larry Levis Prize at Four Way Books. Her work has appeared in the Southern Review, the Massachusetts Review, and Prairie Schooner, among other journals. She teaches at St. Joseph's University as a Visiting Professor of English. For more information, visit kaycosgrove.com.

32 Poems
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