Poem of the Week | January 09, 2017

This week, we are excited to offer a new poem by Colby Cotton. Cotton is from a small town in upstate New York. He is currently an MFA candidate at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he has held the Fred Chappell Fellowship in Poetry. His work appears or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter and The Adroit Journal.
Author’s note:

Claudia Emerson lived in my apartment when she was a graduate student at UNC Greensboro. I’m told that when she sent her students to study here, they would call my landlord asking to live in this place, and it’s been passed on in the program ever since. Though I didn’t know Claudia, many of my teachers did, and it means a lot to me that I’m able to live here.

When I moved in, I was without electricity for three days. I was clearing away what the last tenant had left behind when the power came on. I thought about how many other poets and writers have lived in this apartment. I thought about how many more there will be, and what place I have in that line. And this poem came out.


Self-Portrait, Drawn on a Bedroom Window


Leaves pull across my forehead
when I sleep. Two sets of eyes, extra
legs and more toes than I know what


to do with. Cigarette smoke can climb
my stepstool spine. The snap peas
and hyacinths I’ve admired


in the garden now grow freely
down my shirtsleeves. I have a reason
for insomnia, for horizon lines,


my knowledge of airliners—whole flocks
of geese to clean from my teeth.
I hold the sun like a fiery dime.


Paint and horseflies keep me up
at night. The mere thought of it—
how anything could be a part of


my cracked membrane
and what rattles against the house
is beyond me. I’m free to exist in two


places at once, in my body
and in the icy slide of the moon.
There are joggers like fine-


toothed combs through my grassy hair,
my eyes permanently open
to the leathery path of bats, the tree roots:


a divine knitting through my ribcage.
Here, I’ll never die,
here to stay long after I’m gone.