I have the opportunity to be the featured poet at a reading – on my son’s birthday – 240 miles from home. 

Did I accept the feature?  Poetry slut that I am, of course I did! 

My son says he wouldn’t miss it for the world.  Part of the reason is that a favorite restaurant of his is just a few miles away.  We are going up a day early to have a birthday dinner where he will order his favorite black bean and cheese burrito regardless of the beautiful and seasonal menu, and celebrate. 

What does he say he wants for his birthday?  Would I please read his favorite poem of mine at my feature.  Of course I will, and if he wants to stand up and read it with me, it would be everything I could wish for. 

A few years ago I workshopped with Marie Howe at the Tin House Writers Workshop at Reed College in Portland, OR.  One of our homework assignments was to “Write a poem with NO paper.  Just let the words come to you…” 

What?  Write a poem without what?  I can barely write a poem ON paper, being completely addicted to my computer.  So I was up until after 2 working on this poem.  The next morning I said please please let me go first so I don’t forget it and I can write it down.  I think I went second. 

Years later this is only one of two poems I know by heart.  The other one is racy.

 So this will be the first poem in my set.  I am allowed to have a long set but I usually don’t take up all the time – other poets want to get up and have their turn, plus I don’t want to read so long they all want to stab themselves.

 I hope you enjoy.  Happy Birthday O.

These Hands

These hands,
my hands.
Tea-stained and curious they have worked hard,
they have loved well.
Passed down through generations I am taught
to channel the scent of woodsmoke and roses,
and beckon. 

Come here my broken friend
sit down
take this hand and tell me a story.
Speak to me of pain and progress,
speak to me of joy. 

We will drink wine
and dance to Persian melodies
until the night is full and you are whole.
The both of us will be changed for the magic.

(The Manila Envelope, Issue 1)

Tobi Cogswell is a mom first and a poet second.  A two-time Pushcart nominee, Tobi is the co-publisher and co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.sprreview.com).  Her new chapbook, “Lit Up”, is just out from Kindred Spirit Press.  She is waiting for more words to come so she can start on her next one.

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