These three poems by Haley Cohen reflect on the pain that we experience when losing a loved one, but also how delightful it can feel to remember them during their best days and why we love who they were. Sometimes losing those closest to us causes a contemplation of our own lives and why they’re worth living, even if every so often the future seems dark we must look to the light. Though that has been difficult in the past, it is something Haley is striving to do…
by: Haley Cohen
Bear Brook in New Hampshire I had never seen such dragonflies in my life. Bright green and blue, shiny and almost luminescent, they flew around us. As soon as we walked up to the large oak tree, one dragonfly landed on my wrist and stayed there. Dad always told me that dying is like shutting off a television. It’s lights out, complete darkness, and nothing. But why, then, when I hear the bubbling and chatter of the nearby stream can I make out his laughter? The howl of the wind and crackle of tree branches so closely resemble his yell whenever his short fuse got ignited. My mom and sister didn’t like his anger issues, but what are humans if not flawed? We trekked through my dad’s favorite hiking trail to find the perfect spot so we could spread his ashes. It’s like the dragonflies were waiting for us, tons of them flitting about a stream that cut right under a bridge on the trail. My mom stood in the stream, convinced she could hear his laughter too, and she recited a poem she had written for him. After we carved his name and “1966-2018” into the oak tree, three glittering green and blue dragonflies landed on me, my sister, and my mom at the same time. “Hi dad,” I whispered to the creature on my wrist. It flew from my wrist onto the box where his ashes had been and turned to face me. Leaving this place, I looked over my shoulder at the dragonfly that landed directly on his ashes. It must’ve known.
Ode to Matt Cooper When I first met you I thought you were weird. Like one of those eccentric uncles that shows up to Thanksgiving high and eats more than their fair share of food, commenting on that one aunt’s divorce while they’re at it. But Matt, the word weird does not even come close to doing you justice. The more time I spent in your office, the better I learned how caring and kind-hearted you were. You never understood why students, hell why people in general, with disabilities were separated from the neurotypicals as you so astutely called them. Your main goal was to change that, to make life easier for those whose brains don’t work the way they’re supposed to. You essentially ran the Learning Commons; the boss of everything having to do with student disabilities. I admired the way you skyrocketed from an adjunct professor to The Boss of Quinnipiac. When I had a project to record someone I looked up to, obviously the first person who came to mind was you. You were generous with your time, allowing me to sit down with you for two hours and do the interview. Your story was fascinating. I still have all two hours of your recorded voice. After I got the voices of your many coworkers raving about you, the way I ended my project was with my voice saying “I wish he’d adopt me!” That got a laugh from my class. You would stop in the middle of meetings with parents to see me and make sure I was okay. I can’t count the amount of times you asked “How is your dad?” And when my dad died, you stopped everything to hug me, promising we would make a plan so I could heal. You understood. You were a second father to me. A friend. You made sure I knew you were my friend, that you were always on my side. That’s why it’s devastating I went to look up your name so I could update you on my life in 2022, only to find your obituary. Nowhere does it say how you died, only that it was very “sudden.” My friend, my second dad, you were the same age as my dad when he passed, 51, and you both loved The Grateful Dead. Ironic, because I’m the opposite
I Don’t Know What I’m Cut Out For, But I’m Still Bleeding When I was 17, I had the thought for the first time. Wouldn’t it be easier if I was dead? It sounds nice to never deal with anything again. But the truth dissolves this idea. In reality, suicidal people don’t want to die, they just need the pain to stop. The harsh words, the neverending torment, the loneliness. The world can be as cruel as we are to ourselves. My brother’s best friend put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. I’ve never related to anyone more than I do to him. I know what it’s like to be hopeless. The closest I’ve come to suicide is not how you’d think. It was 1:14pm, somewhere between the soap and the drying rack. Washing the dishes, my mind wandered to a dangerous place. Suicidal thoughts don’t give a damn if you’re doing something normal. As if my own inner critic isn’t enough, it seems people don’t understand how much of an impact words have. Or they just don’t care. It can take one cruel comment to end someone’s life. I would know: suicide doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it happens at 1:14pm, somewhere between the soap and the drying rack.
Haley Cohen (she/her) is a Jewish woman who was born and raised in New England. She is endlessly passionate about poetry and got her undergraduate degree in English at Quinnipiac University. She has three poems published in Quinnipiac’s literary journal Montage. She is currently studying at the University of Massachusetts Boston as a grad student to obtain her MFA in poetry.