The opening lines of Triggermoon Triggermoon establish immediately Cohen’s primary preoccupations. This is a poetry that concerns itself above all else with the relationship between self (as body, as moral agent in the world, as emotional intelligence, as individual in relationship to others) and the objects and physical constructs of daily life. The first poem, “There Was a Bridge of Tattered Rugs,” begins:
I’ve cut the rope-swing, carved scars in a tree
I’ve taken a glass bottle & shingles its side
I’ve taken some velvet leg & tossed it in the gully of my bed
I’ve wasted quilt
A nightgown soaked in milk
The bassinet sleeping in the greenhouse
A boat-shaped spider crabbing the high corner
What have I done to this world
I find the missing question mark curious and fascinating (what have I done to this world?, the poet might have written) because it converts the line from the question the syntax suggests to a statement that will shape the remaining pages: this book is about what the poet has done to the world of things, the world of tattered rugs.
A heap of objects are piled on those tattered rugs in subsequent poems. To cite just a few: “grass curled under my eyes”; “I was found in the excrement of an owl”; “spoons buried in the backyard”; “scraps & the fingers that pulled them apart”; “a city in sackcloth”; “a chorus that brushes its teeth”; “a two-headed kitten”; “what happens around the porch”; “a button on my side”; and “1,000 rooftops.” The poet is always a body in relationship to the objects with which it interacts, and yet it exists in a state of constant tension with these objects: “For days you walk with your head up for fear objects will fall / that are not grasses.” She is, in fact, no less terrified of her body (as object): “My fingers frighten me most when they / convince me I have never been.”
Consistent with her emphasis on and attachment to the world of objects, Cohen is adept at exploiting and objectifying the concrete possibilities of grammar. “Your grandfathers are urned,” she writes in “Lopsided Longing for Spoons Buried in the Backyard”; and “I’ll widow,” in “The History of a Lake Never Drowns”; and “For sentencing our time,” she writes in “Hello, Goodly”; and “Rather your eyes be matted with Queen Anne’s Lace / than pill-blisters scatter the sink,” she writes in “Comb the Chrysalis from Your Beard to Fasten the Milkweed.”
“No refuge is permanent,” Cohen warns us in the opening poem. It is as if she is saying this book will be a tattered rug between your fingers, familiar but slippery, both comforting and dangerous. My anguish will become your anguish, the poet seems to promise: “Defer your rapture, every era the most trying.” Cohen will sentence you, and you’ll be grateful to be at her mercy, to her own particular quest for rapture.