by | Nov 14, 2018 | Poetry

Start late, pack
the essentials: bread,
two half-red apples, your wood-
handled pocketknife,
block of salty cheese, the bottle
of red wine. The knife

as corkscrew—we plunge the blade
as far as the neck will hold it,
spend the rest of that day on the trail
sucking on pieces of soaked cork.

By then I had a habit of trying to fly
and stopped at every cliff
along the way, though you, it turns out—
afraid of heights. I took care
to line my toes neatly against the edge

above the blaring North Sea and spread
my wings though birds
will dive right off, they hardly know
the land ends. The apple cores I flung
over the side traced the arcs I’d spend years

trying to fit myself to: the trajectory
of flight. I graphed the jump I’d need
to get down the cliff without lifting

my wings. You uncap
your camera, say, Spit out that cork

before you leap. Could you make your arms
look less like you’re on the cross?

CORKSCREW by Bess Cooley

Photo used under CC.

About The Author


Bess Cooley won the 2017 Mississippi Review Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie SchoonerMississippi Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Breakwater Review, Ruminate, and Forklift Ohio among other journals. A graduate of Knox College and the MFA program at Purdue University, where she taught composition and creative writing and was Managing Editor of Sycamore Review, Cooley is currently an editorial reader at Spry and teaches writing at the University of Tennessee.