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Sally Cobau


At breakfast, in the Three Bears Restaurant

in West Yellowstone, while eating a huge cinnamon

roll, I overhear the man in the booth beside us

talking to his wife:

“This is like back in the time of Noah…”

And who can argue with that sweetly innocent view?

This over-fed, jovial, born-again Alabaman

with his baseball cap,

eager for the day before them:

They’ll shove the buffalo on the Arc,

along with the elk and glistening dragonflies.

Later, we stand before the bubbling,

glittering pots and pools, an iridescent

mat of pinks and blues structured

by hydrothermal microbes.

People have died in these scalding pools—

20 to be exact the plaque reads, God bless

their souls, those who couldn’t resist the pull

of these clammy, salmon-colored, marbled flats,

like tiles, my daughters says, always

one for a good kitchen remodel.

The girl who couldn’t stand the weeds

in our backyard, who was disgusted by our blown-

about shingles, stands in awe.

There are hats to prove it. I mean, hats blown off

that you can’t retrieve or you’d die,

sink into these scalding mud pits, this boiling quicksand.

The hats—a cowboy, a straw sun hat, like I wear, a baseball,

and a Hawaiian

bucket—rest on the cracked and creviced surface beside

pink bones bubbled up from the underworld.

It’s raining and we’re covered in jackets, ponchos, and even

trash bags. Kids run in their jelly shoes, slapping

the wet boardwalk. The porta potties are our first


I grab the notes from breakfast, hastily

written on purple Post-Its, wordy

recommendations about the volcanic

Earth beneath us, the blistering score of these

turquoise pools that look like fancy whirlpools for the elite,

scribbled notes about the process involved in creating

this land.

Sometimes I Feel Scared

Where to begin, where to begin…

The snow, the snow, a marbled pattern,

marbled patterns

pitter patter still melt pitter

I can’t explain why rain.

I’m not coy; I’m complicated:

decent, descent

spinning in the vehicle, the floodgates, hydroplane, windowpanes, smudge.

Yours? Mine? Yours? Mine?

We were so greedy, money in our hands, coins.

You said the emperor had no clothes

or was that you, naked?

“What’s up, Virginia?”

I dreaded telling the truth.

I read the story

about the mother who wanted to tell her daughter a fairy

tale—thick hair like thorns,

a red-robin robe, of course against the snow

running away, running away

to the grandmother’s house through a forest. A wolf, a wolf, many wolves.

But back to the story, back to the story.

A barn, far away, under snow.

I find all this ridiculous, you fool, you creature,

vomiting on the wet ground,

puking your guts out,

sometime soon,

somnolent moon.

Travel Poem

There was shame in wanting too much

from the cosmos—each plant, lover,

the divine touch of Davinci or Campi

with his earth, sky, land, and sea. I wanted

the pig’s bladder blown up like a balloon

and the lushness of the dimpled grapes,

the crisp look of the dead pheasants flung

over a shoulder, as well as conchs and seaweed.

Pizza at the bar—I wanted that, too—

Buffalo mozzarella wasn’t enough, nor was flirting

with the wildly vagrant figment of my imagination

or your ghost. But back to the real.

Shame for my longing, flummoxed, at the gate,

grasping my old suitcase.

Thinking what? When? Buying chocolates

with windmill packaging because I felt

I had to. Then littering in the bathroom, but it’s not

littering when you take things with you. Sit

in Gate F-5, like some boring meeting. Wrap

your souvenir in fractals,

warped shapes, logos, a reason, and logic.

I can’t imagine this; I’ll keep turning it in my pocket.


They say she cries out for her favorite sister, but Judy—my mother—is dead.

Maybe she will cry for her mother, but her mother is long

Dead: Olive, riding her horse through the snow in Maine.

I once cracked a purple mussel shell and my greed for that moment

Lingers. That’s the way I want to put it now,

Though I could say, a kid walking over sand.

I was allowed to eat two cinnamon graham

Crackers as I walked over the clam-flats into the dense murky water.

The snarl of bright green sea grass licked my legs,

The soggy cracker dense in my mouth.

Who cares about grief? It's just a word. Like sand or snow. I could eat

A lot of coconut cake now that everyone’s dead:

No one will care how fat I get. I could eat and eat and eat,

But I don’t want to. I still remember my mother sending me to camp,

Then the quarters that arrived in the mail, taped to a piece of cardboard.

I rushed to the soda machine. Chose grape, my favorite. It was only later

That I felt sick from all the soda and left the dance before the boy

Could touch me, under my yellow shirt.


Sally Cobau is a teacher/writer/mother/yoga practitioner/hiker from a tiny town in southwest Montana. Having received her MFA in poetry from the University of Montana, she's had work published in rattle, Room magazine, Ekphrastic Review, Poems Across the Big Sky, the Sun, writing in a woman's voice, and Oyster River Pages, among other literary journals and anthologies. When she's not writing, she's hiking the mountains near home or taking photos on her iPhone.


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