Julia Cole

She quit her job, made a change, took a break,
but she’ll be back, with her voice like yours
and her thousand private names for you
that make your own name sound false
if she calls it, a flagged deer’s tail, a shout.

Last time she left she sent you a postcard
of Richter’s Betty, a blond girl in red
looking behind her. You saw a message
in the image but couldn’t decide: was
she pausing in Prague to look back at you,

or were you what she’d turned from? She came back.
Now she’s looking around again to see
what she might do. You’ve looked her in the eye
all this time, trying to be part of her
solution. You’re waiting for a sign.



She thinks of the desert summer followed
by the cracked sky’s falling, the flagged flowers

on her head. Faced daily with the faucet’s splash,
hot steam off dishes, her memory fades.

This is how the change begins. This kitchen
reminds me of the baking sun
, she says.

It’s a matter of accepting more, and who
wouldn’t rather be soft? But how to yield

when you disdained yielding, defined yourself
that way? Maybe beauty will be the new defense.

Maybe sipping at the sink will turn spikes
to pliant leaves. The cactus shifts in her pot,

shows her most succulent face. As soon
as she soaks up more sun she will begin.



I was in Los Angeles watching
blooms fall from a jacaranda tree.
I had just learned what to call
a jacaranda tree. My block
was purple overhead,
but mostly underfoot.

I wanted to record it,
the end of blooming.
I left myself a message.
My voice was tight,
unused to addressing me.
Then I got on a plane.

I emerge in New York today,
red-eyed, crumpled but intact,
and find a message waiting.
First I don’t recognize my voice,
I’ve never heard myself
from so far away. I say:

Even on the ground they hold
their shape, buoyant, coiled.
So far they’ve lost only
how the tree defined them.

It’s me, calling to say
there’s more to lose—good news.


Julia Cole’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Diner, Rattapallax, 7 Carmine, Washington Square Review, and Women’s Review of Books. You can read more of her work in Issue 2 of Mot Juste, 7 Carmine, and The New Hampsire Review. She holds an M.F.A. in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Los Angeles.


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