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Sample Poems by Marion Cohen


"What Do You Think Your Soul Is Shaped Like?”

homework question inspired by the poem “She Considers the Dimensions of Her Soul” by Young Smith

Isaiah’s is a pyramid. His life path starts out narrow, works towards the point at the top. Yvonne’s is a star. It’s bright and unique and every time her life changes it develops a corner. But the corners are not like a square. Nancy’s is also a star but not always a good star. Her star pokes and prods and its points are sharp and hungry. And Kava thinks about auras and colors rather than shapes. And Ben, his hobby is hunting, his soul is shaped like a shotgun. Forgive his politics, he’s not 21 yet and he loves his girlfriend and baby godson, guns to him represent empowerment and protection.

At first Carol thought her soul might be some complicated interesting shape like a pentagon or crescent moon or snowflake or fractal, but then she decided her soul wasn’t jagged or piercing. Hers is a bioluminescent amorphous thing that lives in a semiotic relationship with her physical being, it would never injure her or make her sad.

But Lenny’s might. Though it’s a liquid, it’s an opinionated liquid intruding in his life. Just by observing him you can see that soul, beware of it.


The Night I Almost Didn't Grow Up”

a math memoir by the teacher

The hardest thing for Uma about the first week of college: they had them doing things right away, orientation the second day, she wanted to just finish unpacking and be there, in her new room.

Like me after I had my first, I wanted to just lie there and think about how wonderful the birth was, how beautiful the baby was, how great I was, I wanted to live the examined life but not the life part just yet, only the examining. But the very next morning, meaning three hours later, “Okay, Mother, here's your baby.” “Want to hold your baby?” “Ready to start nursing your baby?”

Hm, the baby. Oh yes, the baby. And remember that poem we read a few weeks ago about dying and your life passing before your eyes? Well, can't your life pass before your eyes before you die? In order to just lie there and bask in our lives, do we have to permanently die?


Ozzy’s Math Memoir

part of his term paper

Ozzy, back in kindergarten, couldn’t choose a number. The teacher wanted everybody to choose a number and Ozzy just couldn’t. He was excited about the game but just couldn’t get started, maybe it was a little like stuttering, he was stuck on not choosing a number, so he ran into the boy’s room and sat there crying. When he came out the teacher was just outside waiting to understand and comfort him. When they got back to the classroom he did choose a number, he chose 4, that was the number he used for the game and that was the number he stuck with the rest of his life, that was his lucky number, if ever anybody asks him for a number that’s it.


If You Like, Share Some Suspiciously Visual Childhood Memories.

homework question for “The Night I Almost Didn’t Grow Up”

Violet has one about the bars of her crib and lights going through them, making those bars move, they sort of grinned. Violet wasn’t talking yet, wasn’t even thinking in words and she remembers what it felt like to not think in words. All she could do was scream and her mother came in right away.

But what about the next night? Didn’t she sleep in the same crib? Didn’t the lights come through the same way? Did her mother keep coming in night after night? Yeah, what about the next night? And the nights after that?


Proof Theory

class conversation about the story “Young Archimedes” by Aldous Huxley

Uma thought she had me, I saw that gleam as she raised her hand and opened her mouth. “Well, if children aren’t interested in proving things, how come they’re always asking why?”

I thought hard and fast and came up with three. One, children don’t want details. If they ask why is the sky blue, they don’t mind a little nitrogen but they’re not asking for a chemistry lesson. Two, finding out why isn’t the same thing as proving, and proving doesn’t always tell why. Three, kids don’t always want to know, they just want to be told yes, as in “well, I can’t explain why you can’t have ice cream right now so okay, yes you can.”

Like when my third baby died, and the students all know about that, I tried to prove that she couldn’t possibly have died, I said things like “But I ate so healthily”, “I already had two successful pregnancies”. “Prove it, God, how did you do it, how could it POSSIBLY have been done?”

It couldn’t have happened and therefore it didn’t.