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What to Give Her

First Place Winner: Wisconsin People & Ideas Poetry Contest 2009

No makeup or mirrors, nothing that reflects,
no TV screens, no tinted glass, no tin.
No clinging clothes or cameras,
no photos or frames,
no possibility of any shape, trapped.
No trappings of any kind,
no pedicure, no perfect pearl,
no clutch of orchids.
Not one thing for a kitchen—paring knives,
Pyrex bowls, decorator plates—no gift
to grace a plate, to place an appetite
on red alert, nothing that smells
of cinnamon or cherry, wet laundry on a line—
too many fresh skeletons, too thin that wind.
No erotica, no memoir, no thriller that kills
the ugly girl first. No words then, no sound,
no appeal to the senses,
not the bow-legged song of crickets,
not the hug of ribs or rolls—no two women
can touch and come away the better.

I settle on a watch.  I give my friend time,
the one gift that is not about her image,
the gift to hold closest to her pulse—
each anorexic tick, each uncontrolled curve
of a minute that she must learn to fill.
But when she puts it on I see this, too,
is wrong, the way it spins so freely
on her impossibly small wrist,
how the band is like a bangle of bones,
how she wants only to be bone.

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Contributors

Cathryn Cofell’s poems appear in six chapbooks and two full-length collections, including Stick Figure with Skirt, which won the 2019 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Her poems have been set to music on Lip, with Obvious Dog, and in concrete as part of the Appleton Sidewalk Poetry Project.

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