Poetry by Chloë Ester K. Cook

January 26, 2019
Peach in front of a light blue background
Art by Kirsten Hemrich

Surface Tension


Last night I dreamt we were married, our children sprinkled through the yard

like tulips. I know you don’t believe in people creating other people, but my mother


was so hard on me; I want to make a child to wrap in cashmere, kiss

their stomach, bathe in pearls. To your parents you were a rock


skipped across a lake, a wish that bloomed into a boy smooth as a banister, tender

as clay. To my mother I will always be slightly too rounded, too sinkable.


Remember the summer I spent working in the hospital, catching babies

as they rang into the room like bells? Their bodies were prayers


in my hands, warm lives still blue at the corners as I lifted them

to their mother’s chests to cut each free of the other. To see a child


curled and cradled so was a sort of beating for me, a folding and unfolding of

the hollowness that drums in my throat when I think of my mother, how she almost


ripped me from her, and how I was pregnant once, too, and the child ripped itself

from me, introducing itself through death. Did it know? Did my mother


sing through my blood like a siren, lure the thing to slip

down my body’s soft tunnels and into the world as a small red stain?


What kind of stone will I be to my children? Will I drag them

to the bottom of the lake?






I shaved my head on a Friday, seven days

after I said stop

and was stifled by tongue.

My mother says

I am too feminist— she doesn’t know about

his fingers, believes I want only to steal

the eyes of rooms and the words

of strangers. Baby girl, she says,

you were so beautiful.


We drive to the orchard,

pull velvet globes from

branches. My eyes follow

the plucking — my mother’s teeth

splitting furred flesh, stretching

it, bleeding its sweet. It startles

me, this death — though

noosed from birth, mouths

are their ending.


My friends say I am so brave —

they take pictures of the sun

melting on my skull. Walking home

from the bar I feel safe, like a boy —

I can vomit alone now. I can open

my apartment door, fold to knees

and then elbows, press my cheek

to the carpet’s dust. My fingers

stroking the down above my ears,

I can call my mother, and desperate,

whisper I needed to feel

the parts of me that no one touched.



Self-Portrait with the Dining Room Table                                              


A glaring rectangle - four sides,

four chairs, three full.


It sleeps there, crooked,

in the dining room. I hit my head

on its edge when I was three,

running toward a man’s silhouette,

light streaming in through the door

he was pulling behind him.


Year after year in that house made of brick,

my sister sat across from me.

We would wag our holly tongues like dogs

as our mother bowed her head in prayer.

Our bodies a trinity,

fatherless and feminine.


The last year I believed in the tooth fairy,

I had dinner at a friend’s house.

Her family’s table could barely hold five.

We sat in a crowded patchwork of chairs,

our elbows touching.

The tablecloth fluttered

by the open window.


Days later, our mother drove us

to the town where we were born, chiding us

when we drew faces on the fogged windows.

So instead we created stories

about the passing passengers,

colouring them in with names and homes

and things that made them happy.


We arrived at noon, stepping

onto a porch littered with his projects –

a broken record player, a charcoal portrait

of his face overlaid with an owl’s.  

We knocked twice, and waited.

I looked into his dining room,

and the table, covered in ragged canvases and cigarettes,

had one wooden chair that leaned.

I could see my eyes looking back at me,

the window closed.


By Chloë Ester K. Cook

Chloë Ester K. Cook, a Charlottesville native, graduated from the University of Virginia in 2018 with a degree in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is currently taking one of two gap years to allow for the pursuit of her passions, which include songwriting, road cycling, and poetry. Her debut album, Linen, will be released in April 2019, and she is currently finishing her manuscript of poems dwelling on trauma, loss, love, and its absence.  





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