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Collateral Light

Julia Cohen, Collateral Light, Brooklyn Arts Press, 2013. $15.95, 92 pages.


Julia Cohen’s second full-length poetry collection is a graceful and brutal welcoming into the body of our own lives: an invitation to hold a magnifying glass up to our eyes and experience the shape and skin of every moment. Concise, rhythmic, and jolting, Cohen’s is a language guided by the senses, constantly in motion with short declarations that often leave the reader grasping for more, as if what we are seeking lies  just off the edge of the page. And in a way, it does. Cohen’s poems draw us into places familiar, almost invisibly so—only to reveal a world of spontaneity and strangeness:  “The real ear sits in the chest / No decision / in when my blood flows.” In this buried and overlooked place inside of ourselves—one that dwells like the “H in Ghost”—we find that something lives after all. “Even in a shipwreck we are not / marooned / We play host / to ghosts daily / Mother Father / the street sweeper.” To step into Cohen’s world is to feel out the darkness that isn’t so lonely and the light that can be seen by more than our eyes; we find that the body we carry learns its own name by the steps it takes and the things it has touched, and continues to touch.