Nicole Cooley
Of Resist

The word sounds like branches in my mouth, twigs and crushed leaves—

After I listen to the morning news, I want to make myself small.

But there are the daughters, waiting at the table, and I can’t.

Of Resist

I keep seeing a girl’s body like a frozen river hacked apart—

Two days after the election, in the subway tunnel at Union Square, my girls and I study the post-it notes stuck to the tiles: The president don’t make the world we do Ladies you are more than your husbands I don’t understand but I will try we need each other Let’s not be victims Okay Ladies let’s get in formation

My girls who force me out of myself. My girls who I can’t protect.

All for what?—

Younger daughter with her camera looped around her neck snaps shots of protest signs downtown: Immigrants In, Racists Out. Mr. Trump, Stop Being So Mean! Forty Years Later I Can’t Believe I Have to Protest This Shit

(v), to remain unaltered, undamaged, or unaffected by; withstand

I turn off the news yet still see a girl’s body open and scissored on a table.

We protest we rally we stand in the cold we wait at barricades we make signs on science project poster board I give my younger daughter a small t-shirt that says Feminist in silver letters we sing we scream we chant

and then I list: my high school teacher who raped students; the man on the streetcar who reached under my skirt; the man who locked me in the dark room at the library and wouldn’t let me out; the man who broke into my dorm room and threw a glass of water in my face.

(n), a substance used to protect something, especially a coating that prevents corrosion

I sleep with one daughter one night, another the next, our bodies crowded in their twin beds together

and I remember how for years I lay awake watching my babies, whispering, if you were to die in the night, I’m here, as if that telling meant anything, how I lay awake waiting for the dark to pass and I knew I could not protect them and my sorrow ran like dirty water under the floorboards of the house.

Of Resist

(v), from the Old French resister “hold out against”; from Latin resistere,“oppose, withstand”

I am sorry this is the world you have to live in, I tell my daughters.

I wish my first girl were still a baby and I could hold her, press the unfused bones of her skull to my chest, lose myself in her.

All the time I’ve spent telling them, make your voices heard. Stand up for yourself.

There is the news and then there is the rush of the daily: brushing long hair flat against a back. Untwisting black tights for school. Snapping a lunchbox shut.

Nicole Cooley grew up in New Orleans. She is the author of six books of poems, most recently Of Marriage (Alice James Books 2018) and Girl after Girl after Girl (LSU Press 2017). She is the director of the MFA program in creative writing and literary translation at Queens College-City University of New York and lives in New Jersey with her family.