Friday, May 9, 2014


     “Starry night last night,” he said. “The whole sky filled.”
“Isn’t that true every night?” she said. “I mean right now, the sky, the universe, is filled with stars. More than you can see, than anybody can see.”
“I saw them last night,” he said.
“Every one?”
“Yes, every one. Every one I could see, I saw.” He paused, drank the last of his coffee. “Which is what we are seeing now, every star we can see."
"Which is none.”
“I know--it doesn't mean they're not there. All I meant to say was that what you could see last night—the black night full of stars—was beautiful. A visible starry sky.”
‘I see,” she said.
“I wish you had seen it,” he said.
“Why didn’t you wake me?”
“You were sleeping.”
“Well, obviously. But you could have waked me.”
‘You hate to be disturbed. You don’t wake easily.”
“That’s true.”

What he did do after standing at the window, eyes open, heart beating, imprinting the wonder of the universe, was to go back to their room and watch her sleep. The starlight from the window illumined her just enough, caught the curve of her chin, outlined her arm across the blanket, the wad of sheet clutched in her fist as if she were just holding on. He’d watched her in the faint star light, listened to her breathe, kissed her lightly, very lightly—she hated to be disturbed—and then he too slept.

© 2014 Kathleen Coskran

Friday, April 25, 2014


It rained yesterday and the day before and probably the day before that. She couldn’t remember. It was raining now—not a lot—a drip and a drizzle, but still rain, drops of water riding air currents to the ground, the force of gravity pulling water out of the sky.

Made her hair curl. Literally, made her hair curl, and she liked that. The only thing to like about a rainy day. And the grass was greener, really green, that deep emerald rug. The rain fed it. The water intensified the color of every blade until each was deeper hued than emeralds, her yard strewn with gems.
And it cleaned the streets. To be fair she was glad to see her little cul de sac washed—the eddy of water at the dead end swirled once and then down the sewer to . .. . Where? Gone. Didn’t matter.
It was raining. Each clenched tulip head, asleep and luminous, leaned under the weight of the moisture, waiting as she was for it to stop. Simply to stop.
Rain wasn’t bad, but you could have too much of a good thing.
That was it. The key to this unhealthy flood of thought. Too much of a good thing—like Simon. A good man, always there, there for her whatever that meant, and talking. Simon was a torrent of conversation. He noticed everything and told her about it, unimpeded like the rain which had now slowed and would stop soon, unlike Simon who had just said, "If I may, I'll give you the back story to the controversy over the Suez Canal."
Who was talking about the Suez Canal? she wanted to say. It had stopped raining. Really stopped. She thought of mentioning that to Simon, but he hated to be interrupted in the midst of something, lost his stream of thought, he said. “The Egyptians first contemplated a canal in the first century BCE. Actually the history of that is very interesting . . .  .”
At least the rain had stopped.

© 2014 Kathleen Coskran

Monday, April 14, 2014


What will I do when she comes, bustles in, all business, forgetting to say hello, never noticing my open mouth, hand half-raised in greeting, brushing my cheek with her lips? You should shave, she’ll say, and I’ll know she’s right. Always right.
It’s an element of speed. That’s my theory. Speed, not haste. She moves so quickly, without hesitation, that you know everything she does is an imperative without the necessity of thought which makes it right. Every statement a proclamation. Every observation accurate and never a question. She doesn’t believe in questions. Said that once. If I don’t know, I find out. No need to ask anything.
But how do you find out if you don’t ask questions?
That question, my question, drew a look that showed why all questions were stupid, particularly that one.
Didn’t answer, went on organizing my life. The drawer next to the stove that time.
I spent yesterday cleaning, organizing, making my paltry existence tidy, in order, boring, which is how she likes it.
So what will I do when she comes?
       What will she do?
I look around. There is nothing to do. Nothing. My meager two rooms look like something in a magazine. Real Simple. And clean.

How cruel is that? Nothing to do? I could drop a sock in the middle of the floor, rumple the bed, disturb the silverware. Would be a kindness to her, but I don’t. I don’t even sit down, so there is no crease on the sofa. I stand, freshly shaven, posture perfect, and wait.

© 2014 Kathleen Coskran

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Usual

“Any unusual feelings?”
What a question. Kristin looks away, then tries to meet the eyes of the doctor. The young doctor. Her first year not an intern. Thin-lipped, serious, pretty in a severe, dark-hair-lashed-back kind of way.
            Any unusual feelings? The question hovers in the room. “You mean my throat? I can hardly swallow.” She’s conscious of intentionally rasping her voice, trying to make her very speech sound ill and convincing. She knows the doctor will swab the throat, and her temperature has already been taken—normal. Blood pressure—fine.
            Why is she here?
            Sore throat. Three days a sore throat.
            “Any unusual feelings?”
            Despair. Does that count?
            Loneliness. Abandonment. Fear. Are those unusual feelings?
            It’s been a week—or two—since he left. Doesn’t matter exactly when. Doesn’t matter how. Dead or drove away in the green Prius, green in every respect, that man. Lasik surgery to save using plastic in his eyeglasses. Can you imagine that? He actually said it.
            The doctor is waiting, poised at the computer, ready to record, yes or no. Any unusual feelings? She asks again. “Ma’am? Any unusual feelings?” Sore throat obviously doesn’t count. She’s already mentioned the throat.
            “No,” Kristin says finally, and with some relief because she knows her answer is true, absolutely true. “Just the usual.”
            “The usual?”
            “The usual feelings. That’s what I have.” Despair. Loneliness. Fear.

© 2014 Kathleen Coskran

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

One Drop

It was raining, and she was happy. The mounds of snow were now fingers reaching across the yard revealing strips of green between the digits, grass last seen four months earlier—or was it five?

When did the first snow come? After Thanksgiving, the day after, the day when the kitchen still smelled of turkey and stuffing and mincemeat pie.
They’d looked out the window as the first big, soft flakes came, snow flakes that looked like the outline of flakes in a child’s coloring book, six-sided, each one different. She didn’t even question their difference, or how it could be known. The first ones melted so quickly, and the last ones merged into the whole, the single flake becoming snow.
The pure whiteness of the blanket of snow had been beautiful. She had fumbled for the words. Blanket was too suffocating. Sheet—not right. Cover—depth—accumulation? All those words the weather people use. How to find one word that gave the white, the cold, the cover, the immensity that stretched down the yard, across the sidewalk to the boulevard, over the car, into the street, on and on and on. That was four months ago and now the great sheet, the icy blanket, the infinite fabric of snow was pulling back.
The rain—was each rain drop individual? a different shape?—the rain hurried the process, separated the snow into flakes that melted quickly, that shred the fabric and let the sharp blades of grass rise up again. Beauty behind her, beauty before her, beauty pushing up through the snow.
It was raining, and she was happy. One woman, one blade, one flake, one drop, each one like no other, part of the whole. It was all she needed on the gray day.
It was so simple.
The cup of happiness brims when you start with one.

© 2014 Kathleen Coskran

Friday, March 14, 2014


He didn’t mail it in, the tax forms, 1040 EZ. Nothing particularly EZ about it. Nothing EZ about anything, especially money. He had money, enough money. He was clothed, fed, occasionally housed, had a P.O. box so they could find him.
He didn’t think they put junk mail in post office boxes, but he was wrong. His favorite were addressed to Resident, P.O. Box 94, Minneapolis, MN. Resident! He was a small man, a small, skinny man, but not even he could reside in P.O. Box 94. It wouldn’t be EZ.
He filled out the form, every line, although some were zero or just skipped. By the end he had skipped so many lines that it seemed reasonable to skip sending it in too. It was EZ.

So he put it in the bag with 1040EZ 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, etc. All EZ. All completed and signed. Resident, P.O. Box 94 could deal with the IRS if they came after him. He was clear. EZ.

Monday, March 3, 2014


Twenty below, wind bending the white pine, the cedar, the jack pine, ruffling the needles with its presence, clearing the yard of birds. Not even a fluffed-up chickadee at the feeder, no hairy woodpecker at the suet box, not even the squirrel, that persistent thief, leaping from the ledge of snow to hang from the feeder. Only wind and cold.
“Is this what there is when there is nothing?” she says.
He sighs, smiles, puts down his paper, looks at her standing at the window, arms crossed under her breasts, in the thin, lacy bathrobe he bought her—when? A 100 years ago? Probably.
“Yes,” he says. “Exactly right. This is what nothing looks like.”
“It’s beautiful,” she says. “Everything white.”
He goes to the window, puts his arms around her so she is nestled into him, fitting as compactly as a Russian doll, nothing between them and, he thinks, nothing can be nothing or everything. This is everything.

© 2014 Kathleen Coskran

Monday, February 17, 2014


He couldn’t sleep, so he got up. That’s what his mother said to do, what she said to his father if he complained about waking in the night. “I toss and turn,” Dad would say.
“Get up. Just get up,” his mother said, “ but, for God’s sake, do it quietly. Don’t wake the whole house.”
She had no patience for insomniacs, claimed she went to sleep the minute her head hit the pillow. ”Any fool can sleep. Most natural thing in the world.”
So Will was up, in his pajamas, placing one bare foot, then the other on the stair, toe first, heel down slowly. He made a game of moving without sound, as silent as a cat, holding his breath with each soft step until he was down, in the living room where his father had descended before him and was now sitting on the sofa wrapped in an afghan, staring at the fireplace. Dad had made a small, silent fire and was watching the fingers of flame when Will slid into his lap, lay his head against his chest—silently—and, as the fire slowed, burned to embers, and quietly went out, they both slept. 

Most natural thing in the world.

© Kathleen Coskran 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Valentine’s Day. Should she get him a card? A flower? Not a rose. He hates roses—the ultimate cliché. Baby’s Breath is too frilly and might it suggest she wants one. A baby. Well, yes, she does, but that isn’t the message she’s looking for. Not really. No. Not Baby’s Breath. No flowers at all. One doesn’t give men flowers, does one? 
        Well, why not? They like flowers. He likes flowers. He’s a gardener. But only exotics. Plants growing where they’re not meant to grow. So a flower would be appropriate, would show she knows him, knows his passions, knows how very, very particular he is which is why a flower would be wrong. Whatever plant, flower, herb, bush, tree she chooses, it would be wrong.
A tree! Well, there’s an idea. A tree for Valentine’s Day. Something tall, strong, enduring. A tree is forever and a subtle link of his love of the the natural world and her need for a long-term relationship.
  Or is a tree too much?
Just a card. Red or pink? Two colors he hates. Okay, something with an edge, black with a touch of red? She can make it from recycled paper. 
No, not black, maybe ecru and mauve, and he’ll open it up and see . . . and see . . . what? The  two of them planting a tree that will last forever. . . inscribed in a large, green heart.      

But what tree?                                                

Sunday, February 2, 2014


        “Will you miss the snow?”
She puts down the paper and looks up. He is standing at the window, looking out. It’s snowing steadily, the big visible flakes of an gentle snowfall, but she knows without getting up to look, that the ground is already covered and, if there are cars on the street, they are moving slowly.
“What do you mean, ‘miss the snow?’” she says. “It’s snowing now.”
“As the planet warms,” he says, still at the window, not looking at her, chewing the stub of his unlit pipe, something she knows he does miss.
“In our lifetime?” she says. “I don’t think so.”
“But if we project ahead . . . “
She pauses. Thinks. Where is this conversation going, this snow conversation? She loves winter, snow, cold weather, icicles, what he calls—has called—the whole tragedy, the tragic season, the season of discontent—his—and disagreement—theirs. “Will you miss it?” she says.
He takes the pipe out of his mouth. “Well, yes,” he says. “What would I have to complain about?”
“How I squeeze the toothpaste?”
“Cat vomit?”
“Unmatched socks?”
“Lost scissors?”
“You late to everything?”
“You too early?”
“Unmade bed?”
They stop, both of them now standing at the window, holding hands and watching the soft curtain of snow blanket their yard in white, coat their sidewalk in beauty, cover their driveway in wonder. . . that, inevitably, will need to be shoveled.

©2014 Kathleen Coskran

Monday, January 27, 2014


It was still, ten below, no wind, no wind chill. Just chill. Very cold. The snowman her granddaughters made was frozen in place
and had acquired a skirt. Successive snowfalls petaled around the base and, in spite of the unusually long carrot nose, the snow creature had shape-shifted from snowman to snow woman.
The hat was Carl’s fishing hat, not worn in years, so she’d told the girls they could have it for the snowman. The old hat was now mounded at the crown with a drape of snow at the back of the neck like a veil or a flap. The round ball of chin was bearded with fresh snow and so the creature was neither he nor she, but an androgynous figure that would have enraged Carl.
He would never have offered his hat in the first place, but just the combination of skirt and beard would have sent him out the door with a rifle to annihilate the snowman/woman. Not going to have a queer in my yard. 
She could see him standing on the porch now, rifle at his shoulder, dismantling the snow creature piece by piece. He’d shoot off the carrot nose first, dislodge the two rock eyes, slice off the hat, then decapitate the creature before blowing up the body and spreading the snow skirt across the yard.
You can’t shoot a gun in the city, she’d say as she’d said every time he shot squirrels on their back fence.
It’s a 22, not a gun.
She sighed and took her coffee into the den where she couldn’t see the snow creature. It wouldn’t have survived Carl, and the granddaughters would wail if it was shot.

But it would only make it to the first thaw. 

      Was she wrong to miss him?
It was so quiet. Still. Ten below. No wind. No wind chill. She pulled her sweater around her narrow shoulders. No Carl.

© 2014 Kathleen Coskran