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Mea Cohen

 How not to come down

Hallucinations by Odilon Redon


There was a summer in the city full of self-forgetting. Isn’t it marvelous how geography can grow talons? How land and landmark can grip you so? All my t-shirts were torn with warnings. I used to laugh and press my heels into hot tar, expecting an echo from the buildings crowded to watch me make my shallow mark. But no answer ever called back to me. No coo, no crow, no whistle to satisfy my urge to be heard.

I’ll do it, I once shouted to the water towers leaning on their hips, the lazy paint peeling, garbage bags just waiting around to die.

I’ll go! I threatened the ladders lounging on fire escapes, tired smoggy windows, horns yawning in symphony.

But farther up the block, a friend of the nighttime variety, waved from across the avenue, promise flashing in the white of her palm.

The city sunk its talons just a little deeper.


Soho, a party in someone’s apartment, I was telling myself not to fall asleep. Keep everything close. In pockets, cradled veins. The back of my throat was slick with my early moves. Just rock on your heels until one feeling passes and another spins you out the door and onto the streets. Whatever happens, just don’t fall asleep.


Chinatown, I woke early one morning, having fallen asleep only an hour or so before. A single ray of sunlight was reaching through the curtain to feather my ankle.

Will you stay long, I asked.
Of course, it did not answer.
When will you return? Drop in again some time.
And quietly, I fell back asleep, as the ray departed.


About the writer:
Mea Cohen’s work has appeared in Passengers Journal, On the Run, Five on the Fifth, and The Pinch. She received an MFA in creative writing and literature from Stony Brook University, where she was a Contributing Editor for The Southampton Review. She is the Founder and Editor of the forthcoming magazine The Palisades Review.

Image: Hallucinations by Odilon Redon (1840-1916). Charcoal on tan paper. 11 5/8 x 9 5/16 inches. Unknown date. Public domain.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supporting writers and artists worldwide.

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