John Cotter



Hitching a Ride On the Fire Engine Back to My House

The snow falls down on mirrors spaced along
My childhood lawn, where I squint through smoke
To see my mother snapping pictures -- right action,
right motivation, right time of year -- see here
she says, exposing the film, you never lived.





You're Sleeping I'm Dreaming You're Sleeping

I read a book with a character almost exactly
like you and confused her with you originally,
and later especially. I glossed little differences—
the way you crack ice with your heel isn’t how
she would have waited for my arm, shivered.
I was confused: I woke with one of you and dreamed
the other, and I'm still not sure who I reached for.
I hid the book when you came over. It had a pink
cover and dark silhouette half turned toward me
or some browser, like you had a bad
thought in your head to shake out.

Only now you're gone I try to peal
you separate, remember you real. Like,
it would have been you, not her who could steal
half my drink without my seeing, you talking
the whole while, your wide eyes open.
And it would have been her who told me
about the kids back then, how cruel they were,
and she would have shouted and hollered me
down when I stormed out on Sunday, and you
would have been who I found when I ducked
into the nearest bar, looking for someone alone,
and she would have warned me about you.