Joe Cottonwood 2020

Joe Cottonwood

Currently, one of Joe Cottonwood’s poems is on display on an 8-foot-tall billboard in the Kew Gardens in London, England. He is widely published around the world. His new book of poetry is Random Saints. Previous poetry books are Son of a Poet and Foggy Dog. In addition he is the author of nine popular novels and the award-winning memoir 99 Jobs: Blood Sweat and HousesHe lives in La Honda, California. 

Author Website

Redwood Prayer

Grant me deep roots.
Solid branches.
Let the fires pass me by.
Let generations of squirrels and blue jays
       hop on my limbs.
Let me breathe fog, chew sunlight
       and look down
over centuries.

Wet Nurse

Harold asks for a résumé.
Akna bares her left breast.
The nipple is bulbous, erect.
No, Harold explains, where have you worked before?
Akna bares her right breast.

Akna’s from Guatemala;
her language a Mayan dialect.
Harold’s world is software;
his language, hard code.

Harold’s wife handled soft things
like growing the child inside.
Now out, helpless, hungry.
Wife suddenly dead, Harold over his head
coping with grief and a newborn.
Through church comes refugee Akna, with infant.
Harold’s baby barely alive.
Nurture, soothe, survive.

Boys grow, hermanos de leche. Milk brothers.
Meanwhile Harold the father, Akna the mother
live under one roof, sleep in separate rooms,
have girlfriends, boyfriends. Nothing sticks.

Harold and Akna at the soccer games,
the robot competitions. Breakfast, dinner,
always together. They whisper, they laugh.
Do they—? Are they—? People wonder.
Harold dodges. Akna says No entiendo.
The brothers don’t answer, simply smile.

At high school graduation sitting side by side,
Akna in tears, Harold takes her hand.
Pareja de leche. Milk couple.
What matters they do, they are.
Nurture, soothe, survive.

Link to CoPo Reading