Chanukah The Second Day,
Or How Did Our Poems Get to be On Being (it wasn’t easy)

One day my husband who has tinnitus
always ringing in his ears always
no one knows how to stop ear ringing
he sleeps with headphones and listens because
listening often overcomes ringing
one day my husband heard Naomi Rachel Remen
writer and doctor tell a completely wonderful story
with one of those VOICES and when I woke up
he played it for me. The story was about
what life is what matters, and then,
who she was. Who she was took precedence.
I listened to her story Over and Over.
I even wrote her a letter.
Maybe On Being
where she belonged was where
I belonged too. Not that I want to
Belong Anywhere. Not really.
I wanted my poems to belong.
My poems are happiest
with Matthew Septimus’s pictures.
He shows what I can’t and what he shows
is often linked to my words.
I am not a collaborative type. Neither is Matthew.
So we worked well together for years.
Trying to show what holiness looks like
photographing holiness in a record store
under the subway with my poet friend
Pedro Pietri he called himself El Reverendo
people who are for ordinary reasons
extraordinary. He photographed mailboxes
and old men and all the miraculous odd beauty that he sees
over and over and I wrote poems and poems.
A few years ago I thought we should be on On Being.
I wrote a letter a pitch
even though pitch is a word like blog
and tweet that is intrinsically problematic.
Like everything else, it took years
and then some months and then today
Peter was googling On Being Just to See
and there was Matthew’s picture,
and my poem.

Yesterday a Friend a Very Good Friend Said

Yesterday a Friend a Very Good Friend Said

Esther what are you going to do
With all your poems?
Where will you put them?
How Will they All Add Up
What Will They Say When They Do?

When I was a little girl a very little girl
my grandmother lived with us
before my Uncle Alex drove up to our door
then drove her to LA.
We were at 43 Jackson Street
Ansonia Connecticut and then we moved
oddly enough to 43 Holbrook Street
also in Ansonia Connecticut it was not
intentional or unconscious either and my grandmother
I thought she was wise because she was old
she was much younger than I am now
my grandmother said to me
I was around seven you have a lot of poems,
so many poems in your room
you never have to do anything with all those poems
because they are poems.
But now, because of life speeding up
and because I live in New York City
Upper West Side in particular and because
Of Homeland and The Good Wife and Anti-Social Media
and because of books and ebooks and because of ambition
and NPR and the finite nature of life and because I am
a Jew not a Buddhist though I often wish
it were otherwise and because I do not meditate
when my friend
said to me What Will I Do With All These Poems
I said I Will Have a TV show or a podcast
or I will paint them or make a book or two
or turn them into shower curtains or poem wall paper
or make an audible app or maybe I will
just write poems.

Goodbye Edison Hotel

What does it mean
to lose a place you love
it’s a little like losing
a person not as bad still
there’s another hole
a hole that stays around
another hole
it’s only a place
The Edison Hotel
not even a beautiful place
it’s a weird pink inside
for no good reason
for years and years
and years we have met there
for lunch with Harry
he always has a snappy
cheeseburger red onion
on the side and most of the time
they forget the red onion
I order heavy chicken
matzah ball soup
today we’ll meet
for the last time ever
at The Edison Hotel
snappy cheesburger

Facebook Fan Mail , or HI

Dear Esther Cohen

You seem like a pretty cool
person from your Facebook profile
and you look ok too.

Let me introduce myself.
I am Brig. General Edward Reeder
from the USA like you.
I am right now presently
working in Kabul
Afghanistan. If you don’t mind
could you contact me
at my private email address
this is it or just give me yours
and I will contact you immediately
even though I am very
busy and let me know if you
would be interested in
someone like me. You
never know. We might be
good together. I believe
that distance and religion
should not be a barrier to
forming a True Relationship.
I am going to be right here
waiting for your reply. And then
I’ll tell you a lot more
about myself. I am waiting.







I grew up in a judging family.

Life was not a matter of relativity.

There was bad and fair and best.

No category was one of apathy.

A was better than B and B

was never good enough.

This method was called Values.

If we did not do well enough

if we were B’s we were on

The Wrong Road. My only B’s

were in Conduct. That is, I always

Talked Too Much To My Neighbor

about anything no subject

too big or too small

and this admonition, written with

various degrees of seriousness

was my report card blight. My talking

was always a matter of Family Discussion.


Rural and Migrant Women


This year the second year

we went to Binghamton New York

a town like Ansonia Connecticut

where I was born we went to

a Holiday Inn in Binghamton

beige and green with free coffee

a lukewarm swimming pool the Holiday Inn

smells like air freshner if air freshner

were a fake pine tree.

We were there to teach

story telling a little writing too

we need each other’s stories

to rural and migrant women

brought together once a year

by one of those wonderful organizations

taking care of the women and their

many beautiful children

by teaching them by helping them

Rural and Migrant Ministries

I am sure everyone I know

would sponsor a woman to go

to Binghamton New York her only holiday

once a year to a hotel for two days to eat

whatever she likes her children too

to dress up in spectacular dresses

for the Big Banquet and dance and sing

take yoga classes and listen to speakers

in Spanish and English tell them what they know

do yoga and salsa in a big room embrace

one another and figure out what it means

to have documents and what it means to have

children and what it means to build a better life.

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