Three Poems by Tobi Cogswell

The Bench Outside the Thrift Store

is not for sale. Still shiny
with shellac in some places,

worn tired in others.
It’s where he waits for Doris,

who comes in the back door
to turn the “be back clock”

around to “open” and to smile
the beacon of a thousand

lighthouses for those lost at sea
as she lets him into the warmth

to forage for just one shirt,
the perfect shade of bluish-gray.

Today he sees his daughter.
He wants a color to mirror

her eyes perfectly. She will
be pleased at her importance

to a man who some days
can only watch the clock,

think about where he’d gone lost,
and how he can now see the sky.

Day After Day on the Town

Nona Jane knows she owes an extra dollar
for lunch. That one dirty gin martini loosened
her lips while the other girls drank
sweet tea. Lord have mercy they were
an uptight bunch, the most exciting thing
Charlotte had done in the last 10 years
was drive through the dairy without
putting on her face.

Oh yes, those extra olives, that foggy
color, the sting of Dwight’s final
words to her before she got in the car –
“Nona Jane, if you leave this house
don’t bother coming back”.

Her wedding pictures lay molding
in the old house, she doesn’t care.
She’s not a hoop-skirted, puffy-sleeved
Little-bo-peep anymore. She’s
a corset and heels mama from hell
and hell is her fuel and fire.

She’s lived the perfect bible life
and seen it all on TV –
today is a bump in the road
between a man with a mullet
and one wearing leathers,
who races his motorcycle
to catch up and wink in her open
window. Let the other ladies
talk about doilies and dominoes,
she’ll throw in her dollar, throw
back her shoulders and go find
herself a real man.

Before Cocktails

Napkins dealt like cards
lay on the floral
tablecloth at the
Church social. The ants
have not gotten wind
of the lime jello
salad with walnuts
and maraschino
cherries…yet. Plastic
silverware upright
in tall red baskets
set a sunny stage
for sunburned children,
their mothers in tow
to grab chicken legs,
potato salad,
the jello, of course,
and a handful of
cookies to eat by
the swings near the shade
of trees older than
creation. She smooths
her permed hair away
from her face, plasters
a pink lipsticked smile
on her white-stripped teeth
and settles in to
enjoy, silently
thanking the big man
himself that this is
an annual, not
weekly, Spring picnic.

Tobi Cogswell is a two-time Pushcart nominee. Credits include Illya’s Honey, REAL, Steel Toe Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, Slipstream, StepAway (UK), Turbulence (UK), Front Porch Review, Rufous Salon (Sweden), Alligator Stew (UK) and Ballard Street Poetry Journal, and are forthcoming in Bacopa, Compass Rose, The Broken Plate, Border Crossing, I-70 Review, Incandescent (UK), Agenda Poetry (UK) and Pale House – Letters to Los Angeles. Her latest chapbook is Surface Effects in Winter Wind (Kindred Spirit Press). She is the co-editor of San Pedro River Review (