Two Poems by Andrea Cohen


Off the Table

You ran off with the man
who delivered the ping
pong table. But not that day.
You waited. You left the table,
but took the paddles and the balls
and I don’t want to know all
you did with them but I’m wondering
what a delivery man has that I
lack. A truck, a manifest, a Manifest
Destiny that includes you? You
insisted we call the game table tennis,
as if Wimbledon, grassless, had been
shrunken down and covered with plywood.
I would have liked to have liked
the game better. You liked saying
one-love, two-love. You must have
been thinking of the delivery man
when you said it because it sounded
different from when you said love
to me, as in, Love, pass the pastrami.
Deli meats lost their appeal to you.
I guess you were in training, though I
don’t want to know what happened
on that table or under it. I’m not keeping
score and no scoreboard registers that
sort of triumph or loss. You got the paddles,
and net and the white ball bouncing like in
on-screen sing-alongs. What was
our song? I think it was So Long, which
I took for goodbye, though maybe, singing
it, you meant life is long. Did I tell you
I folded the table in half and pushed it
against the wall? I’m practicing pinging
and ponging without paddles or balls
or a net. It’s different, a going through
the notion of making do. I like to play
at the end of the day, dusk entering
like a tentative partner or opponent–
I don’t know which, but either way,
it’s a kind of shadow play to which
one gets accustomed and which,
love, isn’t altogether without pleasure.


In dead reckoning, I get––
if I get––to my destination
by calculating present position
against where I was. Where
was I? There’s a past me
who won’t budge & a future
I’m trying to navigate toward. Will
my terminus be there without me?
I’m thinking of the gala wedding
the groom’s motorcycle, speeding,
never reaches. Speed, wheel
diameter, direction of currents,
are all important variables to consider,
as are winds and altitude, if
flying, or wave force, if sailing.
It’s good to know whether you’re
in the air, adrift, or on dry land. I
am most certainly defined by some
form of transport, by vectors, by
the errors that snowball over
distance traveled. Snow is beginning
to cover my window. My manual
for dead reckoning says nothing
about beauty or surprise, but the snow
squalling impossibly into August
reminds me to ask: can you see,
in the fog I’m bound for, a way
to leave your radiance on?


About the Author:

Andrea Cohen is an American poet. Her most recent books are Kentucky Derby (2011) and Long Division (2009), both from Salmon Poetry. Her fourth book, Furs Not Mine, is forthcoming from Four Way Books. She directs the Writers House at Merrimack College and the Blacksmith House Poetry Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts.