Jessica Cogar

The River is Beautiful but Which River are We Talking About

previously published in Oxidant|Engine

Ohio’s third season is deconstruction    as in:     what is being built will never be built       as

in:  Ohio asks for my trust and I give it frequently     trust that spills          I ask Ohio what to do

when a spill becomes a flow and it says leave me

Do you know that the Iroquois call the Ohio river         a creek       that continuously spills/gives
I learn after that fact                          river is for things like     the Mississippi
                         that the Grand River is not big enough for its name


                            that Ohio doesn’t even own most of its river.

The Hockhocking is not a river either          bottle/gourd spill-flow that sings its beginning
I fail to the learn the song of waterfall           I ask Ohio to sing it again and it says we call it the
                                                                                             Hocking now, the maps you’re reading are


And what of the river that oozes rather than flows        where one does not drown but decay
                  I ask Ohio what to do when a flow becomes an ooze and it says            Burn  

The crooked jawbone was river enough to burn      Cuyahoga cried and Ohio looked away, no need
                                                                                                     to commemorate a second burning.

I stand in the river of many fish and its water says     take     there is plenty   I ask this river what to

call it and it says Home     as in: always enough            as in: no invitation necessary.   I go back to

this river in winter and summer        there are signs that warn against eating its fish


the river says              trust me

                        the river feeds Ohio’s gods just fine           I am one of the beautiful river people     it

does not matter which river I came from

Dreamscape with Birds, with Childbirth

previously published in Arcturus Magazine

A man fires a round into the rafters, drops a sparrow’s body into my shopping cart. Body, commodity — what price would you pay for a sparrow’s body split by a bullet too large? Another into my purse, remembered to open his wings when he lost his footing — buy one get one free. “Ma’am we’ve closed the store to collect these birds, you’re the only one in here. You’re the only one.” But my mother is here with me, here in the way the wind visits places and — “put these back,” she says, gesturing to the birds, “you’re having a baby, after all.” I climb into the shopping cart to protect their bodies with my own. I bend at the hip with ease. When I tell her I will not have this baby, I call my mother by her first name.


“What are you having?” asks the man with the rifle at the end of the isle. My mother pushes the shopping cart forward. I hold the birds to the man with the rifle. I’m telling him to look at what he’s done, pitting the bullets from the feathered bodies. “Twins!” To my mother: “right this way.” I tell my mother I can’t breathe and she reminds me again, to quit smoking. This hospital is no place for your attitude! “Where’s the father of the baby?” A gunshot. Everything is happening to me here, the man in the rifle is searching for a fault in my spine’s design — just a second, you’re going to feel so much better after this kicks in — my mother, telling me “everything will change once you hold the baby in your arms.” Breech, cesarean, remember your work — don’t hold your breath, don’t take it for granted — breathe (Latin: spiritus).


I cough a sparrow into my hands. She preens her tail. The man with the rifle fires again, splits the glass window from its frame.

Red Hour, Red Kitchen

previously published in Arcturus Magazine

This kitchen, empty again of your body but not the excitement of your return, filled also by the thick steam rising from resting bowls. It obscures my reflection in the window but sharpens your voice — you tell me I’m late for breakfast but I’ve already eaten the clock, swallowed the hands and the numbers. This kitchen is no place for a meal — electric, breathing. Witness. This kitchen belongs to neither of us; a faucet drips, keeps time. This kitchen holds its tongue while it watches a spoon drop, watches you open my mouth with your thumb. You know the answer that you’re looking for — a white moth rises from my throat, you catch it between your teeth. I risk my tongue to take it back, taste the way electricity can make a loose wire live — if this kitchen had hands, it would pick up the spoon, cut the steam, it would help me. We make a bed from a matchbox, you position me in front of the window, wipe the fog from the glass with the scarf at your neck. Our reflection: you releasing the moth at my bare shoulder. It walks to my ear and says what you are afraid to: color all of this

red, so red that there are no other colors; all this and the silverware. All this red, and you: you have been sitting next to me your entire life, but you have never bothered to learn my name.

Dreamscape with Smeared Lipstick

previously published in Crab Fat Magazine

I smear the lipstick from your mouth with my thumb, hold your jaw steady and ask, “how do you 

say ‘girl with the honest eyes’ in French? What’s the word for ‘wet chamomile pressed against a 

porcelain cup’—” Glass marbles fall to the floor, clicking against the tile and each other, like your 

fingernails would sound ticking against the Formica, if you had any.

Everything is happening to me here, in this kitchen that is now a car, and the first voice I hear isn’t 

my own; it’s you, telling me to believe in the moon but to keep it simple. I am seeds in translucent 

amber; I am tied neatly to a beam in the ceiling, suspended in a peroxide dream.

Can I undress you here, or are you afraid the light from the other room might see the white of your 

smile? There’s a wrinkle in your sweater on the small of your back. This I can fix. It was only a dream, you said. You will not fake anything with me. I am not wearing my seatbelt. The water is


Jessica Cogar is an Ohio native who recently earned her MA in Creative Writing from Ohio University. Her work has appeared in Oxidant|Engine, small po[r]tions, Crab Fat, and elsewhere. Recently, she was a finalist for the Arcturus Magazine's 2017 Swati Award in Poetry sponsored by the Chicago Review of Books. She is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Mississippi, where she teaches Creative Writing and Literature.