it’s possible no one ever asks if
you want any post-war real estate you
can, by way of a bank, call your own. i
see a high-ceilinged walk-up, friends to bring
a bottle, carapace of books, nothing
to mow, a slip under the door to summon
the super and his wrench. i could have this
all wrong, your philosophy of belong.
maybe you do love her gardens but then,
maybe you are only rooted in your
vows, her sex. what to do with a bruised carcass
but pestle it under a grinding heel,
work the crushed seed until its essence
releases from this plot of ground, this story.
* * *
Face the Music
In 1951, Fred Astaire danced solo on the ceiling of a hotel room in the film, Royal Wedding. He wore dress pants, waistcoat, and a tuxedo shirt—a state of intimate undress, somehow, without his jacket and tie. In 1961, by the time my eldest brother, Bobby, was four years old, the film sequence was an incontrovertible fact, a thing that had come to be before him and was therefore even more real than the fact of himself. My brother was under the impression that my father had a pair of shoes that enabled him, too, to dance up the walls and upside down, because my father had told him so. He never had to prove it. They'd just watch the movie when it came on TV and Dad would say, "You know, I've got a pair of shoes like that up in my closet."
Remembering the regiment of shiny wingtips, held inanimate in their cedar shoe trees, it is easy to believe my brother believed one of the pairs to be an instrument of some limitless, magical adulthood he would one day inherit.
Born in 1925, my father came of age in Brooklyn, NY, in the Great Depression, and later breached adulthood as an infantryman and medic in Africa and Europe in WWII. Growing up, movies were accessible entertainment for the kid of a beat cop in the thirties. The Astaire films—for the dance numbers, yes, but also the cuff on a pair of chinos, the silk tie or bandana standing in for a belt, the cock of a fedora, the bouncy gait on a Manhattan street—these my father studied in the dark like sacred texts. By the time he went to war in 1943, my father was a scholar of the form, and Astaire his model for manhood.
I think of my father's love affair with the silver screen as narcotic, but I believe his devotion to the dancing of Fred Astaire to be transcendental, his reach for the ineffable. He was a writer all his life; words opened worlds for him, but they couldn't defy gravity.
Dad earned a bachelor's from City College and a masters in English from NYU on the GI Bill, and considered teaching. Instead, he became one of the post-WWII Mad Men of Madison Ave, starting, as the fable must, in the mailroom and working his way to Account Executive and Vice President, one of dozens, a Polish Catholic Bellow passing for Updike. When I picture my father in this era, I imagine him buying a newspaper or window shopping watchbands alongside Frank O'Hara, unknown to each other, both humming to the vibration of the subway under their feet, whistling to the same lunchtime tune of promise and prosperity in the honking taxis and clanging steel girders. There was glamour in getting a little drunk in the afternoon, evening yet rolled up like a magic carpet.
But the ‘70s were cruel, all promises unraveled. In 1970, I, the fifth of six, was hospitalized for meningitis, an outbreak that killed seven of eight infected children. The day I came home, clutching a shiny powder blue vinyl case with a get-well Dawn doll and wardrobe, my eldest brother went back into the hospital, out of remission from bone cancer. My mother’s “mother’s helper,” Mrs. Margaret Stewart, told me later that she’d prayed for my death, a kinder end than waking up a vegetable, she explained. I was four.
At twelve, waiting in an exam room with a bout of bronchial asthma, I riffled through my medical chart to find I’d lain in a coma for 29 days as a result of the meningitis. I’d been aware of the illness, and of my sole survivor-ship. I hadn't known about the coma.
“Shut that. That’s not for you to poke through,” my mother said.
I'd survived, and that was enough. Really, I'd slept through the entire ordeal. The burden had been on my parents, on my mother, on whose behalf all the whispered prayers had worked, not to hasten my death, as it turned out, but to save the family from the burden of perpetual suffering. I'd come to, after all, bright and whole. In memory I woke up alone, but also, as I so often would, to the sound of my mother's voice mid-story.
There were the other, typical tragedies: febrile seizures in the second oldest, and then in the youngest; a broken collarbone for the middle brother; my mother's mother's death, on the heels of my brother’s; and then her father's.
How did my parents navigate such fraught territory, after so auspicious a beginning—post-war Buicks and cocktail parties and Camelot? The answer’s in the editing. What made a good story took shape on our stage, at the dinner table. The rest hit the cutting room floor, got swept to the dark.
But how, actually, did they manage? My father would say, when he wanted to console my mother, he’d take her out for a steak and a drink. Nights after visiting hours at Sloan Kettering sitting at my eldest brother's bedside, they closed a lot of gin mills.
I know nothing about leaving your exhausted and emaciated eldest child in a hospital bed, sliding into a booth with a checkered tablecloth in midtown Manhattan, ordering a meal and drinks. I know nothing of the long drive home through the boroughs, bone-tired and hopeless, to a houseful of sleeping children.
I’ll never know about the absence of 29 days.
Silences, omissions. My father very rarely talked of his overseas experience of the war, his tour of duty, his absence. When he did speak, it was to entertain—an anecdote about strategic friendships with bigger, tougher GIs, or making do with Lucky Tiger aftershave in place of whisky. Nothing about the ropey four-inch scar from the shrapnel he took in the shoulder, nothing about the trench foot that made medieval weapons of his toenails, which had to be cut with an instrument like a bolt cutter for the rest of his life.
He never spoke to me of the 29 days I lay in a coma. I had gone away, and I had come back. Like him. If we didn’t talk about our absences, it was maybe because, for our own reasons, we couldn’t.
We knew things about one another, somehow: I know, though he never told me, that when he said he consoled my mother by taking her out for a steak and a cocktail, he also asked her to dance.
I know she loved to dance with him, even as she made the point that he was not a gifted dancer.
He was very romantic, your father, but truth be told…the most he could manage was the Brooklyn Shuffle.
The thing is, he’d never aspired to be a great dancer. His joy was borne of the fact of dance, as expressed in the magic of Fred Astaire: the evidence of human movement as art, the fulfilled promise of a body freed from the weight of the world, light as air, needing, wanting nothing, only air.
* * *
the movie star dances across the ceiling
and up the walls and your first born takes
it for fact, the movie being older
than he is and thereby more real. takes it
as true too that you have a pair of shoes
like fred’s in your closet, magical tokens
of the starlit adulthood he would
one day inherit, that you too watch glitter
from the moon where you hang everything.
mad man. twelve years on, grief would douse
your golden age in chaos but in nineteen sixty
the meaning of it all and all that will come
dances in a blue lens, projects upside down,
floats on a toddler’s astonished breath.
* * *
My father called me in the early evening of April 15th of 2000— something to tell me he was unable to do his taxes. His fingers were too swollen to hold the pencil.
His caginess around the filing of his taxes had become a family joke. One day the feds would be at the door, ha-ha. He laughed it off: he had a system. Indeed, beneath his orderly desk were MJB coffee cans packed tight with rolls of calculator paper, secured with rubber bands, labeled by year.
Secrets—my father was famous for them. Some were delicious to him, like the one a friend—best man at his wedding—kept for decades: two wives, two sets of children, the original ensconced in Connecticut, the bonus wife, in an apartment in the city. Most secrets, however, were strategic, or protective. The deepest dug, survivalist.
But age called him out. As for many, driving was the first skill to come into question. Very poorly sighted, legally blind in one eye since middle age, my father had never been a good driver (more dinner table humor—hilariously recountings of harrowing near-misses from the morning commute through Queens to Archbishop Molloy and St. Francis Prep, where my two brothers were each day delivered—miraculously!—unscathed before my father parked the Dodge Dart in Long Island City to catch the train into Manhattan:
…Dad took the right off Van Wyck so hard, kittens damn near rolled out the hole in the floor. Guy driving a truck gave us the finger and Dad told him he could go fuck himself, didn’t even drop his ash…
...at which point my mother, laughing, would warn the storyteller to watch his language at the table…kittens through the hole, not a metaphor—two of my father’s used blue sedans rusted out behind the passenger seat and hosted multiple litters…the half-inch ash-tipped filterless Camel as intrinsic to my father’s face as the bottom lip it was glued to.)
Mishaps escalated from fender dents to every left turn becoming a spin of the gun barrel. For the most part, however, and for a long time, my father held his secrets, as long as he held very still, something he was good at. Movement gave him away, but stillness, stillness kept his covert quarry safe. Eventually, he would deem it better to be judged deaf or senile than to reveal the true accounting of his losses.
Did he call me, or had I called him? It would make me feel so much better about making the decision to move my parents away from their Arizona home if I thought he’d been the one to call me. Because, I know, he had not wanted to move.
But I’d urged—after my father’s bypass surgery, after the removal of a kidney, after countless falls in the backyard—each one a story, a Shakespearean comedy ending in a little dance, wherein my mother, grateful as a spider with a fat housefly in her web, was quick with a beer or a gin and tonic for the neighbor who hoisted my father up after he hit his head or abraded a shin on a loose patio tile. The party continued, through my father’s physical demise, with nightly happy hours wherein the topic of conversation was where they might go when the time came—as if they were planning a second honeymoon, or discussing the making of a movie about themselves.
The move, when it happened, was grotesque. I snow-shoveled family snapshots, melted and fused, from steamer trunks into Hefty bags in my parents' Tempe garage in 110 degree heat. My mother wept inside, in the air conditioning, as my father, grey as an old tube sock, slept slumped in a chair in what had been the den, loose cables snaking the room. A macabre estate sale had left the previously meticulous carpet filthy and dotted with dead tree roaches, émigrés of the grapefruit and tangelo canopies. Their cats, neighborhood orphans adopted over the years, batted at the corpses, anticipating flutter.
Before dawn of the day of departure, on what would be one of the last direct flights from Phoenix to Redmond for several years to come, my mother woke me from a fitful sleep on the couch to drug and kennel the three cats. My parent’s electrician had agreed, a little bizarrely, to drive their Mercury Marquis to Oregon, but first he would drive us all to the airport. He kindly stayed to walk us through the ticket line, after which our two-wheelchair, three cat-kennel caravan was on its own.
At security, a TSA worker instructed me to remove each sedated cat so he could search the kennels. We held eye contact for a long moment. In my peripheral, my father sat in his chair, pale and unfocused, on the other side of the scanner, clutching his belt in his lap. I could hear my mother’s voice telling the story of their adventure even as it was unfolding, even as the edges of the story caught flame, probably to another TSA worker as the wand moved over her. I told my TSA worker he was welcomed to reach into the kennels himself and feel around. He peered into the mesh, reconsidered, and allowed me to wheel my mother, then return, dripping with sweat, to wheel my father and a yowling cat to the gate, our names ringing through the terminal over the loudspeaker:
Would passengers Robert Povey, Irene Povey and ***** ****** please come to Gate 26, your flight is boarded and ready for departure…
We pulled the elephant through the keyhole and transported ourselves and three decreasingly sedated cats from the Valley of the Sun to sunny Central Oregon, to a motel beloved to them from years of happy visits. They settled into their room with a balcony and a river view and a rosy plan to find a cozy new home. The next day, I got a call from my sister-in-law in New Jersey. My brother Bill had collapsed, liver failure.
He's on a waitlist for a transplant. Could you tell them?
I drove to their little dollhouse of a motel room and sat at the chrome-legged table, on which my mother had laid out a breakfast of grapefruit juice and bacon. Along with the aroma of coffee, the air was suffused with a whiff of the optimism I’d hoped for, but never expected—a sense of willingness, a resilience that somehow survived—no, generated—after the ordeal of the move. The heaviness that had been squeezing my mother into mania, that had been sitting on my father like a yoke, had lifted. Through the sliding glass doors, I saw two resident swans and their cygnets skimming the sun-glittered river.
Then I told them that their golden boy, their jewel, their smart, their funny son, the triumphant understudy to their beloved deceased eldest, was sick and dying at age 49. In that instant, with the speed of a camera shutter, I witnessed my father retreat. He didn't move from his chair—he didn’t move at all—but he vanished, utterly, from the room and its terrible moment. He blinked quickly several times, placed both his hands palms down on the cool, smooth table and spoke of my living brother in the past tense. Not a proclamation, just an ordinary phrase, conversational, unreflective of the devastating news I'd just delivered, wherein the verb tense he used for his son was was, not is.
I saw the fissure open, then, between absence and loss, saw my father run out of story, find himself at the unbreachable edge of what can, and can no longer, be borne. I watched from the other side as he slid out from under the weight, let himself go.
* * *
a man comes to your apartment to buy
your lionel trains. i’ve never seen them.
now i know there are two camps—lionel cars
and american flyers, opposing teams:
yankees or dodgers, blackjack or beemans
pick a side and go down bloody, that’s what
love looks like in the black and white movie
of your lonesome boyhood. i often wonder
how you come by those trains, if your atheist
old man set them running on the cold parlor
floor christmas morn, choo! choo! or maybe
you took them in trade—bag of marbles, your
bicycle. the train man offers four hundred.
you’d always known they were worth something.
* * *
Can You Hear Me Now?
A year or two before they left Arizona, my father, a committed Republican who spoke with the easy misogyny of conservative rhetoric, turned to me after dinner and said, "You know, that Hillary Clinton is a smart woman." A benign statement, surely—but this from a man who worshiped William Buckley, twice voted for Nixon, delighted at the presidency of Ronald Reagan, and told his own daughter, a writer, that there hadn’t been a decent woman writer since Edith Wharton.
In a few years, I would come to see his Clinton comment as my first sign that he was entering a corridor of detachment. He'd survived a quadruple bypass, lived with prostate cancer, and relinquished a kidney. He was not yet dying, but was preparing, almost certainly unconsciously, to do so. More and more, I saw him absent himself, to return with a quiet observation, or a question, in place of a snappy bon mot. Before being fitted for hearing aids, these absences could be, and often were, taken for senility. It is possible they were symptoms of the disease.
Some of this traveling away from consensual reality, though, differed from the picture of generic senility I carried in my head. As his mind unberthed, lesser secrets bobbed to the surface, hoarded anecdotes that failed to shore up the persona he’d fashioned for himself.
Dreams took on more interest for him. More accurately, I think he began to question the line between waking and dreaming. He described a recurring event wherein he woke up to see a friendly pack of dogs at the foot of the bed. Sometimes he’d get up and let them out, set a bowl of water on the patio. He told me he was pretty sure it was a dream,
…but, you know, the dogs seem real enough.
Maybe it no longer mattered, how he was seen, when I was the only one looking. Or maybe it mattered very much: I came to think of these departures and re-entries, these show-and-tells, not as a change in my father, nor a depreciation, but as a channel through which he could reveal himself.
One day we sat in a puddle of sunshine inside the sliding glass door of his apartment, going through his beloved VHS movie collection. He was considering which precious, poorly recorded tape should go to whom, despite the fact that nobody had a VHS player anymore.
He closed his eyes, and his head fell to his chest. In a minute or two, he looked up and told me a story about a picnic my mother and he shared in Bermuda, on their honeymoon. The kitchen crew from the cruise ship packed a basket lunch of sandwiches, fruit, and a half bottle of champagne, and the glamorous couple, carefree in Madras plaid shorts and a Hermes scarf, took off on a motor scooter around the coastline. Before they made for the ship again, my father tossed the Granny Smiths in the basket to a couple of local kids on the road who'd never seen an apple. A colonial moment, for sure, well in keeping with his Anglophilia, except for the look in my father's eye as he told the story: a memory not of his own generosity, but of lack. Theirs, his.
In these last years, I came to think of my father's legendary Republicanism—dogma he’d pushed across the dinner table like a croupier, and against which I variously leaned, pushed, and raged—as a bizarre and elaborate script. His aspirations to gentility had always skewed more screwball comedy than English drawing room, and the suit always hung a little funny on him: Marx Brothers, not Brooks Bros.
* * *
you are not at Buchenwald, not at dachau
grow fungal instead in the trenches
of italy soldier, medic armistice
finds you at nineteen kicking out bits
of shrapnel, trying to scar witness before
banquets of atrocity you do not see
the skeletons walk through the gates of mauthausen
but later stand by your jewish buddy’s side
as soft-spoken men turn him away
from the knickerbocker club the west
chester doesn’t care as long as you
keep to code, whites only once you’re in
the valley of the sun you never get a decent
bagel no rye bread something with the water
* * *
One of my mother’s favorite movies was High Society, with Grace Kelly, a 1956 musical version of the play, The Philadelphia Story. In it, a socialite is courted by her charming ex-husband on the eve of her wedding to another man. There’re a lot of references to sailing. My father had Madison Avenue colleagues who skippered skiffs on the weekends from their private docks on Long Island. We had a secondhand Sunfish we strapped to the roof of the station wagon on trips to a rented cabin on The Great Sacandaga, New York's Largest Reservoir.
Never a fan of the beach—or boats—once, each season right before we headed back to Queens, he’d push off from the rocky shore, climb unsteadily into the footwell, lower his rear end onto the fiberglass, push down on the centerboard, and wrap the mainsheet line around his hand. Nothing blocked our view of the little vessel as its sail went slack, then suddenly full, Dad worked the tiller like a scrub brush, ducking just in time to save his head from a come-around of the boom, only to lose his balance and slip into the drink. Every summer, he lost a shoe to the lake.
Shoeless and soaked, he'd never admit the regatta was rigged. In the story my father wrote and performed for himself, Ronnie Reagan was perfectly cast, and even though it was a crew that wouldn't have him as a member, Republicans wore the suit best.
* * *
My father’s and my last bonding opportunities came with his visits to the audiologist to get and maintain hearing aids, which were a very long time coming, forestalled by seen-on-TV gadgets and gizmos mail ordered from the backs of AARP magazines and Dr. Leonard's catalogues. His hearing had been deteriorating for decades. When my kids were little and we visited Arizona, he watched TV late at night at noise levels usually only experienced on tarmacs. In the apartment in Bend, my mother continued the habit of talking to his back, screaming when he didn't respond, his deafness an insult, deliberate. What was deliberate was his resistance; but eventually, we took him to a real doctor, who fit him for real hearing aids.
He liked our check-ins at the hearing place, talking to the kind, blonde female audiologist about Canada and hockey. He was more cautious around the Asian-looking male doctor, though he attempted conversation, saying he remembered the office building when it had been a hopping Mexican restaurant with a good bar. I'm pretty sure he asked the doctor where the good Chinese takeout was in town.
I lied to my brother about how much the hearing aids cost, the unspoken argument being, At this point, is it worth it? And, in truth, results were mixed. Dad’s hearing unquestionably improved, and he’d been almost totally deaf. Behavior I had taken for dementia seemed hearing-loss related, suddenly. More than once, though, I went to his apartment to fish one or both of his hearing aids out from under the stove after he “accidentally” left them where a cat could take a swipe at them.
“I can’t get them right, anyway, they’re too noisy,” he’d say, as I wiped the greasy dust from the little devices. I could hear, then, how he missed his deafness.
After hearing aid checkups, he and I went to I-Hop. We'd drink a lot of coffee, maybe two pitchers of thin, industrial brew. Ever curious, he'd pick up each of the syrup dispensers in the rack, read the labels, scan the tabletop ads for Honored Citizen specials. We could sit in silence. Sometimes he'd say something that he’d had rolling around for a while, like, I think I've got enough money for another 3-5 years, or, Your mother's kind of a suspicious person, and, You know, I think your mother is a little afraid of you.
What did my father fear? In post-op anesthesia hallucinations he feared his WWII enemies, he feared nurses he took for spies. He feared failing my mother.
* * *
she is born in the year of the crash
but you are true issue of the depression
madison ave gig, a republican
trophy wife it is the gestures that call
you out—coffee tins of nails, drawerfuls
of rubber bands, your careful, clueless book
keeping you hoard tennis balls until
half of them bounce like rocks, say they are fine,
good for serving against a backboard
i hate the game but for you one sun sweaty
day we are leaving just as a boisterous
group of special needs kids spill onto
the public courts
you toss them a bunch of balls,
yellow-clean and bright buoyant, the good ones
* * *
She insisted, through the years, that my father had a best-selling book in him, but did he ever really want to write one? He wrote copy for a living. He wrote a lifetime of poems to my mother. He sidestepped glory, but valued praise from his colleagues. He was tickled when someone compared him to the fictional Colombo, the rumpled-yet-brilliant detective from TV, the one everyone underestimated until the end. He and Peter Faulk's character had the same slightly wild hair, the same way of waving a cigar.
Not writing a book when one could have written a book seems almost a detail, if one is invested strongly enough in persona. If he just set his mind to it!, my mother would lament, as if the splendid thing existed and needed only the briefest tug to be extracted, like the tender, sweet meat from a lobster tail.
When I tell my mother I can't pop over because I'm working—writing—she blows air through her teeth; I can hear the fine spray of spit hit the receiver. And that's the paid weekday work, the stuff I do for other people, the work she grudgingly respects because it comes with a check. She has no patience if I tell her I'm doing creative work, which, incongruously, doesn't prevent her from wanting to know when she can read my book(s). I believe she might think the creative stuff just appears, like elfin footwear, whilst we sleep.
A dearth of time and space to write was not my father’s issue. One of my mother's retirement complaints was that he spent too much time at his desk. What did he do? He labeled coffee cans to hold receipts, rubber bands, nails, staples, and many, many bottles of glue. He typed phone number directories on his Royal typewriter, and then laminated them with contact paper. He filled crossword puzzles, rewrapped tennis grips with gauze athletic tape. He labeled the spines of his VHS tapes with orange duct tape and black Sharpie. He read, he sat quietly.
Maybe my father didn't write a book because he didn't want to. Or maybe he was leery of leaking his secrets.
* * *
you leave the best hospital in new york
abandon the bedside of your eldest
boy, exhausted and emaciated
from chemo, from radiation you take
your wife’s arm and walk her to the nearest
chop house or red sauce place order up
an old fashioned, strip steak, rare, baked potato
you ask her to dance you can only manage
the brooklyn shuffle, according to her
but what would a turn around the checkerboard
tablecloths mean before driving back
to the boroughs, to the creaking leaking house
unpaid for and full of sleeping children
each with their own terrible surprises
* * *
He’d chosen his disciplines early: he was a sublime tennis player and wrote excellent, often beautiful copy. For most any other task, he took shortcuts of his own design. When my father "paneled" a room in our ever-dilapidating converted rooming house in Queens, he skipped the part where you measure twice, affix the pieces of faux grain laminate on the wall with special adhesive, and finish with actual "finishing" tacks, and simply mounted the panels by pounding huge, black 1/4 inch nails in a random pattern into the drywall, sinking one into a stud by accident, if at all. He glued everything else, though, first with Elmer's, and later, with Gorilla Glue. He was known to apply black Sharpie to the chipped table legs of an antique leather-topped coffee table, and green spray paint to patches of grass yellowed with dog pee. Handyman-wise, he made his own way.
His attempts at home improvement make for some of the richest family lore, because he was, in the re-telling, so charmingly bad at it. If the toilets continued to run, if the breakers still blew, the stories helped to cement his identity as an urbanite, too city for the suburbs, reluctant homeowner at best.
Many of his more catastrophic heating and plumbing events were due, of course, to lack of money when we were growing up in New York. But a part of him grew to like the caretaking, much later, when it wasn't essential—he tinkered whole afternoons in their house and garden in Arizona. He never developed a talent for it, but he never desisted, either, mounting and hanging prints of the masters in dollar store frames, separating garbage before it was mandated to do so, and hanging magnetic knife strips at toddler level well into his eighties. With no call for expertise and no pressure to perform, he was free to experiment.
In the last years of my father's life, he made art, constructing small sculptures from popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, cutouts of Jesus and the Virgin from my mother's Catholic Charities solicitations, happy face stickers, pictures of cats, and yes, glue. A little Peter Blake, a little Eduardo Paolozzi: 100 percent Bob Povey. I love these sculptures, little things he pieced together while sitting with coffee at the kitchen table. He didn't draw your attention to them. He didn’t give them away.
I can't remember a single conversation with my father about our feelings, but I knew something of him—not through the words, the reams and reams of flat black-on-white text, particular and puzzling, that pulled at us both, nor by the lacquer-slick competitive speech that dominated our field and focus.
I knew my father in the saturated silences, I knew him by his dreams.
He died without a priest to hear his confession. He died in a softly lit room under a warm quilt, with his wife at his bedside. It was a clean, quiet, comfortable space, anonymous as a hotel. He slipped from the room with a tasteful rattle, a bare whisper, revealing nothing more than had already been said.
* * *
hospice comes, and she wants oxygen,
saline to go with the morphine drip—
hears but will not understand aspirate
you are moved to the cozy hospice, no-
thing sterile, lamplight a real quilt, velvet
way to say there’s no more can be done
your death is quick and—you would have liked this
—just like the movies, a tasteful rattling,
then silence you are months pitching your pills
in the potted plants when the dog is in agony
i speak low but cannot make myself
hold his heavy head in my lap i
watch your beautiful hands forgive each
other their trespasses wait for my kiss
Irene Cooper’s books include Committal, poet-friendly spy-fy about family (V.A. Press, 2020) & the poetry collection, spare change (FLP, 2021). A finalist for the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry, her writings appear in Denver Quarterly, The Feminist Wire, phoebe, The Rumpus, streetcake, Witness, & elsewhere. Irene teaches in community and supports AIC-directed writing opportunities at a regional prison. She lives with her people and Maggie in Oregon.
Find more information and work at Irene Cooper's website.
Editorial Art by Dilara Sümbül