Sonnet on Swallowing

Bailey Cohen


1.         I was crawling through                 your window.

2.         My grandmother, now a tender red, gulps
        down a scattering of vegetables         as I peer at her, wide-
        eyed, through small tears        in a corn husk.

3.         Together, we swayed  through the rain, listening to small comets  
        of cloudburst shatter
        against themselves. I watched her like she was an old movie, melting.

4.         My eyes had been redacted by the sunlight tiptoeing through the blinds
        in your old bedroom.         
                               O, how we glistened
        on the hardwood,                                      my back an arc
        small enough                                         for only your hand
to fit under.              O, how I miss                     your clamber.

5.          The waves, her ashes, a timeless            cliché. Is it too cruel
        to kiss you       on this beach?        To love you
        for all of her beauty?

6.         Carried ashore by a procession of water, a whale lies comfortably
        dead on sand warmer         than its body. We cut it to see
        what it has become.         We shine a light into the cave
        of its stomach                 to find what we have buried.

7.         Unsurprisingly, I, too, long      to be swallowed.

8.         Unflinchingly, I, too, offer       to be opened.

9.         Not swallowing,       it seems, is a type of swallowing.

10.        Do not do with that knife         what you are going to do.
        You will see that even when opened    I have nothing
        to hide, that I have eaten                everything that I have eaten

11.        It needs a burial, the great dead         & large thing. Its fins, useless
        as hands on an old lover,        thud against the damp clumps
        of stained white sand. How do you return        to ash
        that which, when set gently ablaze,    will explode
        with all the oil it drank                       & all the fat it once held?

12.        Are the ashes of my grandmother immune     to all the wreckage I have left
        in the water? Are they             at least defended?

13.        Is drowning more than just       a swallowing? Or is it an ignorance
        of all the air we refuse         to breathe? How loudly we pant,
        like a storm                 through a wind chime.

14.        I was falling                 through the window,
        my face marred                by small pieces of the sky.

        Woman, I left                 the door ajar.
        All you had to do                 was not make any noise.


Bailey Cohen is a queer Ecuadorian-American poet studying English and Politics at New York University. A finalist for the 2018 Boulevard Contest for Emerging Poets and the runner-up for the 2018 RR Laux / Millar Prize, he serves as a contributing writer for Frontier Poetry and the editor of Alegrarse: A Journal of Close Readings. Bailey has received a Best of the Net nomination and has poems in or forthcoming from Boulevard, Raleigh Review, The Shallow Ends, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and more. He loves everyone Latinx.