The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Sandra Kohler

Old Women


We lose weight, we old women,

or gain it, we wax and wane,

become more or less ourselves,

we selve the world with discarded

clothes, masks, loves. We hoard

our fears, our broken sleep, note

the erratic beating of our hearts.

Each day in new language our

bodies tell us they are dying.




I am tight, tensed. Who taught

me these lines, lapses, elisions?

Change. Change. Live with it

or die, inside if not out: that slow

suicidal turn toward death. I will

not: die inside. Despite the body’s

failures. betrayals, its narrowing

scope of power, I’ll befriend

not death but life.





No one lands on the shore

toward which I’m being carried.

I envision a morass, a wilderness

of city. In the city of autumn’s

last days, roses are the signs of

what once opened like a benison.

Shrivelling, withered, browning,

they are autumn’s old women,

painted still, but dry, so dry.




SANDRA KOHLER's third collection of poems, Improbable Music, appeared in May, 2011 from Word Press. Her second collection, The Ceremonies of Longing, winner of the 2002 AWP Award Series in Poetry, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in November, 2003. An earlier volume, The Country of Women, was published in 1995 by Calyx Books. Her poems have appeared over the past forty-five years in journals including Prairie Schooner, The New Republic, Beloit Poetry Journal, APR, Slant, The Missouri Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Tar River Poetry. In 2018, one of her poems was chosen to be part of Jenny Holzer’s permanent installation at the new Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia.


Previous | Next