The American Museum of Visionary Art


On the side of Key Highway

a tree is hung with broken

light: diamonds, circles, squares

of glass on wire that glitter

in the January wind.

We stand before it.


Who would want to see a hundred

of ourselves refracted.


the elusive, touching,

the elusive, bitter light


what is elusive


The Elusive


will you elude me


Once, years before all this, I asked him for

his five favorite words.


This was the old language

that did not include


our child’s breathing,

or the warm weight of our


daughters in our arms

that did not include


this tree, all broken



What compelled us


(to elude each other)


the first year of our marriage

when you were gone


when you lived across that ocean


What compels us


when we drive each other’s

voices from the room.


An argument: our selves refracted.


Who would know how

to navigate that past


how to envision this

present moment.


Twelve years together.


The tree’s glass edges shake in the wind.


Blue, yellow, purple glittering.

An always tree.


What compels us, now,

once I asked him,

he whose memory includes no

thing unspoken.


The glass tree so steady.


How to envision.


Memory a fugitive

Memory that glittering, transparent, broken tree—

its own language.


Now we turn to each other.

Will you–

About Nicole Cooley

About Nicole


Nicole Cooley has published five books, most recently Breach (LSU Press) and Milk Dress (Alice James Books), both in 2010. Her work has appeared most recently in The Rumpus, Drunken Boat and Tinderbox. She is the director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College—CUNY.


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