The debut collection of poems Visceral from Melia Cogan is appropriately named since it will make you feel a multitude of intense emotions internally. As a person that feels intense emotions, I loved this book. The book is divided into 3 sections titled Love, Rage, and Death. Reading this book felt like going through a roller coaster of emotions-from sexy to anger to sadness. Personally, for me, this is a good thing. I resonate with poetry that makes me feel my emotions. I picked my favorite poem from each section. This was hard since all the poetry in this collection is amazing.
The first section Love captures the magical feeling of what it’s like to be in love, make love, and be loved. Her poems in this section makes even the most jaded of us feel like there is a world where love is possible. The first poem “Daemon-Lover” leaves you breathless with the raw emotion and sensuality felt throughout the poem. The second stanza is fire as it states, “With a spirit strong as seventy/As his throbbing passion sears me/ With its ‘blind encompassing throbbing power ”(Cogan, 22-25) It makes you feel like you are witnessing passion on display. You might have to take a cold shower after reading this poem. The other poems in this section not only capture the passion of being in love but also the complexity of other feelings that come with it.
The next section of the book is Rage, and you feel the anger and rage within this section.
My favorite poem in this section is Women’s Inheritance which captures the essence of what’s like being a woman in the 21st century. It addresses the misogyny that our modern patriarchal society continues to administer to women. The poem also conveys the disappointment that women feel after being used and discarded nonchalantly by men. The sixth stanza captures this feeling as it states, “Finally, you who I love with my whole self / Could not display this mythical manly bravery/ To tell me the truth/ Why not?” (Cogan, 30-33). The other poems in this section captures the anger felt with different experiences in life ranging from expectations in relationships to abandonment issues. Cogan expresses a raw truth about anger that most people are afraid to express and that is a kind of bravery you don’t see often.
The last section is Death and I’ll just say that you should have a box of tissues by your side because it will probably make you cry. In this section, Cogan is versatile in exploring the theme of death. In this section, my favorite poem is Remember Me for the Birthdays which is how the poet wants to be remembered by her loved ones. The eleventh stanza conveys this as it states, “Remember how I filled you with the urge/to push forward and explore/To engage life, expanding in all good directions” (Cogan, 37-40). Cogan is skillful at portraying grief in a conscientious manner that’s both thoughtful and respectful.
Melia Cogan brings a raw vulnerability and talent to her debut collection. I highly recommend this poetry collection if you are looking for a versatile collection that explores the depth of the human experience. I’m excited to read and review her next poetry book, Love Pangs. Below are the links for both Visceral and Love Pangs.
My last year in my 30s ended up with me being an essential worker during a pandemic while being a mom of three and being involved in two different romantic liaisons. I could look back on what I have not accomplished in my life and be sad but instead I’ll focus on my growth and my goals for the next year. I’ve made a lot of progress this year both financially and personally. I’ve improved my credit score by 100 points by working 2 jobs and paying debt off. Also for the first time in my adult life I’m in a healthy romantic relationship with a wonderful man. This time last year I didn’t think either was possible and at times I don’t feel like I deserve all of the good fortune in my life. As I look forward to my next year and my new decade, I hope to really focus on becoming a confident driver, submit my writing everywhere and try to get published, and continue to work my two jobs to save up to buy 2 houses. I’m kind of excited for how the next decade looks like. My thirties taught me I can survive what I once thought would not be survivable. During my thirties, I felt myself merely surviving. In this next decade, I look forward to thriving.
I wrote this in 2002 about my oldest son’s father. I really wanted him to step up to be a dad to our son despite our turbulent past.
You make me think to look past that fateful night of fucking So I forced that memory to fade fast Even when a baby was made Cause you chose her over me I had to assume it was fate That there could neve be a “we” Just forget about that night And clean our slate white And walk with him the father-son mile
I wrote this in November of 2002 about my oldest son’s dad. I guess I was trying to view things from his perspective. Seeing him again felt surreal and almost like a dream.
His memory draws blank Trying to think of that naïve girl And how they made that baby He would later on deny And five years later After meeting again That once precocious girl Turned into a woman He remembers her tender beauty And the sexual tension That drove them crazy to that baby making night And meeting his son for the first time He encounters a world full of regrets
Today marks my 11 year anniversary with my husband and while me and him areno longer in a romantic relationship; I’m still celebrating it. This might seem strange to a lot of people including myself. I honestly didn’t think I would write this blog post for today. I thought I was just going to post a salty ass poem about him and I still will but why not celebrate this man that has been my ride or die for the past 18 years. While yes, I still plan on separating and divorcing this man in the near future; my heart does not hold any resentment and anger towards him like it has in the past. I love him because he is my chosen family that has and will always be there for me no matter what. I’ve told my perspectiveabout our relationship in this blog and while that is my truth; I feel that in someways I’ve painted him in a very negative light and may have been unfair to him. A lot of that was anger and resentment that I felt towards him at the time and towards myself for our relationship not working out. Now that he and I are in our third year of being co-parents and friends, I look at him in a different way and really accept him for who he is. It’s been a long journey to get here but I’mglad I’m here.
As I look back and reflect on mine and his journey what strikes me is how loyal he’s been to me throughout my worst of times. He could have abandoned me when my oldest son was diagnosed with autism early in our relationship, when I got unexpectedly pregnant with our first child together, when I use to yell at him and emotionallyabuse him, after my suicide attempt in 2016 and after I askedhim to open up our marriage. But he didn’t. He stayed and was supportive in his own way and yes sometimes that came off as controlling but I think now that it was his way of being over protective. He’s accommodated to whatever crazy andimpulsive choices I’ve made and he’s stood by my side when I’ve had mental health crises. He’s not the type of man to ever run away when things get hard. In fact, he’s the type to stand by you until you get back up and after. Maybe that’s why I was in a romantic relationship with him for 15 years, he stayed no matterwhat. He also could have given up on me many times before we decided we wouldn’t continue our romantic relationship. He could also have kicked me out even after I flaunted my situationship and new boyfriends in front of his face.
Also, I could have not lucked out more with having the best father for my children. This man is extremely devoted to our three children and loves them more than life. He makes sure that they are always very well taken care of. And co parenting with him has been an easy ride with a few mishaps.
As I write this, I’ve realized how incredibly lucky and fortunate I am to have him in my life. It sucks that our romantic relationship didn’t work out but what doesn’t suck is still having him in my life as my co parent and friend.
I wrote this poem in December of 2016 after my almost love affair with death on December 5th. It’s strange how aside from my journal entries from that month, I hardly remember that month. I just remember feeling so broken inside and like a failure after that happened that it was so hard to get up every morning. I do know that writing saved me during that time because I started journaling way more consistently. I would learn years later after being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder that up to 10 percent of people with BPD die by suicide. Five years later, I’m glad that I had people by my side that prevented me from becoming one in ten. I’m glad that afterwards, I was able to slowly come back from thiseven if I was mostly depressed the year after and it was a fight to get up every single day.
For more information about the high risk of BPD and Suicide, here is a link from Psychology Today with info about it:
It’s been 4 years since I took an oath to become an American citizen. I took an oath specifically to Trump which makes me nauseous typing BUT I also took an oath because of Trump. Before making the decision to become an American citizen, I had never really cared about politics but that was until Trump got elected. If you were a POC or immigrant or both, you felt the shift in the racial tension in the U.S right before the election but especially after the election. Racists overtly made their ignorant beliefs known that immigrants were not welcomed in this country. DACA was in the process of being repealed. DACAmented kids who should have been protected were being deported and there was a rise in deportation for undocumented immigrants as well or well the media made it seem like that. I felt that as an immigrant with LPR (legal permanent resident) status, I could possibly be next. In February of 2016, I sent my paperwork to USCIS to solidify my relationship with America. One could say that for better or worse, I finally decided to make a commitment to this country. Here is my blog post about the process:
What has changed in the past 4 years since becoming an American and what does being American mean to me now?
Well, I’ve voted in 2 elections since I’ve become an American including the national election in 2020 (yay, no more Trump). In October of this year, I applied for my passport and have received it. Now, I can take a trip out of the country without any worries or concerns. While it is an immense privilege to be an American citizen since I now have a whole new world of opportunities opened up and I can travel anywhere; I feel that I haven’t really changed on the inside. I still see myself and identify as an immigrant but now I also call myself an American. But to be honest, my idea of being an American has changed. I used to think I needed a piece of paper to say “Oh, I’m American” but for better or worse, America is and has been ingrained in me since that hot September day in 1986 when I set my foot on American soil at the age of 5.
I was an American when every morning at school I would say the Pledge of Allegiance in my broken and terrible English at the age of 6 and 7.
I was an American when I went back to Peru at age 9 to get my resident alien status solidified with my family.
I was an American when I met my childhood best friends in Hawaii at age 11.
I was an American when I had my babies at ages 17, 24, and 30.
I was American when I started working for the government at the age of 18.
I was an American when I got my college degree in 2009 from the University of Georgia .
I was an American in 2016 and early 2017 when I attended protests and marches for immigrant and women’s rights.
And I was an American when people told me, “my english is good for being a Mexican” or I’ve been discriminated against or oppressed in this country by the people that don’t want “my kind” here.
I used to believe that I didn’t belong here because of the racism, prejudice, and ignorance I’ve encountered but that’s no longer the case. This year, I finally let go of those beliefs because I’ve embraced that I am America and America is me. My life may have been harder in many aspects because I wasn’t the average “American born” citizen but I will tell you that I wouldn’t trade my experience as an American to be average. I I feel that working harder than the “average American” for my success has made me appreciate my success so much more and for that I am thankful. My parents had no idea of the many hardships they would endure making the decision to immigrate to this country but I am glad they made that journey. It’s taken me 35 years to get here but today I can honestly say that I’m proud to be an American.
When me and my family first immigrated to the U.S in September of 1986; Thanksgiving was a foreign concept to us. We were introduced to Thanksgiving by our extended family members who were seasoned veterans in celebrating this American Holiday. I was 5 when I immigrated to this country so my memories of our first or second Thanksgiving are pretty blurry.
What I do remember is going to my uncle’s house where my aunts, uncles and numerous cousins would gather. My mother sat with my aunts and grandmother while they shared the latest chisme (aka-gossip) while they cooked and later on served dinner to the kids and the men. Yay for machismo culture <insert sarcasm>. My father and my uncles drank together while they joked around. I remember playing with my cousins or following my sister upstairs with our teenage cousins to the bedroom with the TV to watch music videos with George Michael ,Rick Astley blasting on MTV. Maybe that’s how I acquired my sometimes basic taste in music.
I also remember that since we were away from adults, our cousins took the opportunity to teach me and my sister all of the bad words in English. Haha. Another fond memory that comes to mind is the newest babies being passed around the aunts or the older female cousins. There wasn’t such a thing as asking permission from the parents for their baby unless of course the child is being nursed. I also remember hating the taste of turkey. It tasted like rubber to me.
There was warmth and laughter in this idyllic setting of Thanksgiving but that’s not the whole picture. There was also unpleasantness. My mom is one of nine children and with that many personalities; there was no way to avoid drama when all of them gathered in one space. There were more than a few petty conflicts between family members on Thanksgiving and other holidays gatherings.
My mother decided after a couple of Thanksgivings it would be better to celebrate Thanksgiving at home by ourselves. So my mother learned how to season and make a turkey and stuffing. Instead of the traditional green bean casserole or sweet potato pie; our sides were Peruvian Potato Salad and Macaroni Salad accompanied by Peruvian Hot Chocolate and Dad’s famous alcoholic Peruvian eggnog. We would watch movies rented from the local video store while we waited for the turkey to be ready. When my dad started getting tipsy, he would start playing Spanish Christmas Carols, Huaynos, and Musica Criolla. It was music that my teenage sister would cringe at and me and my brother would tolerate. I didn’t realize then but I do realize now that my father was in his own way trying to make sure that we wouldn’t forget our roots as we were living this new life in America. My parents tried their best to make sure that our strong Peruvian culture and traditions were not forgotten as we acclimated to the the new Americanized way of living. When dinner was ready, we would sit down at the table. I ,being the youngest and most impressionable by my then Catholic School upbringing, would ask the family to say a prayer and ask them to say something they were thankful for. I think I was seven or eight at the time but I guess my parents thought it was a good tradition to start. And of course, my siblings would get annoyed but they did it.
Despite those first few Thanksgivings when we lived very much under the poverty line; it was still a happy time for us as a family. My parents made sure that Thanksgiving was almost always filled with warmth, love, and laughter. One could say that what Thanksgiving meant to my newly arrived immigrant family then was learning how to incorporate our culture into a new American holiday like Thanksgiving. While my parents understood the importance of assimilation; they still made sure me and my siblings didn’t forget our culture. Today, I’m filled with gratitude that my parents brought the best of both cultures to Thanksgiving and most holidays in their own unique way. I’ve been able to bring these bicultural traditions to my own family while also making new traditions.
I wrote this in 2002 after a trip to California. That trip was strange for me. I was filled with nostalgia but also felt triggered by revisiting traumatic parts of my childhood during that trip. I did make peace with my past during that trip. I don’t talk much about my childhood because of the trauma attached to it but I think I need to. We should talk about the things that are hard to talk about. I believe that my childhood trauma played a big part in me having BPD.
Gone back to my old miserable childhood world Everything has changed and yet remains the same Old memories I had buried in the back of my mind Come crawling back to the surface Of the pain, poverty, and misery That scared little girl emerges once again But this time as a brave woman To proclaim that she is no longer Frightened by the people who caused her so much hurt
So I wrote this essay a couple of years ago as I was reflecting about the end of my marriage:
As my eight year marriage comes to its inevitable end, I’ve been rewatching the series Mad Men. When I first watched the series, I admired Joan and Peggy for being strong female characters in the show but I always thought there was something about Betty Draper that I could relate to. It’s strange to think about considering she’s a white upper class sixties housewife in New York and I’m a working class millennial immigrant Latina woman in Georgia. It’s hard to grasp that there would be any similarities between but there are many indeed.
(Me and Hubs at my brother’s wedding reception)
Betty feels trapped in her suburban idyllic existence and often times feels frustrated; I’ve also felt this way throughout the past fifteen years. Betty wonders if there is more to life than what she is living which is rearing children and being a good wife; I’ve constantly wondered the same thing except that I have the added burden of working.
Don, Betty’s husband acts like she should be happy with her life and gets mad at her when she shows real emotion, kind of accuses her of being crazy and sends her to a psychiatrist that he secretly talks to about her sessions without her consent and knowledge. My husband never went so far but for most our relationship he did accuse me of over reacting and/or accuse me of being crazy if I got “emotional” about something and/or brought up needs that weren’t being met in our relationship. It always felt that I was expecting too much out of our relationship for wanting normal things in a relationship. My husband has also acted like I should settle for what the little he can give me in terms of companionship and be happy with that since he was. For a long time, I felt that maybe I could and should settle for this but settling made me miserable for several years.
Don also kind of stopped investing time and energy into his marriage. He took Betty for granted because they were married with two children and hid behind his work and his many dalliances. My husband was never one to make time for us or continue to woo me in any sense after we started living together. Instead, he hid behind the raising of our children and the fact that he was always tired. He could never spontaneously compliment me and I was always either too fat or almost too skinny for him. Betty overlooked Don’s lack of affection for several years in the same way I overlooked my husband’s. I feel that this had to do with how women are conditioned to be polite and swallow their emotions because again–we’ll be accused of being crazy and/or hysterical.
The beginning of the end of Betty and Don’s marriage started when Betty eventually gets fed up after having one of Don’s affairs rub in her face and throws Don out but later they get back together because she finds out she’s pregnant with their third child. Don does try to be a somewhat better husband but eventually goes back to his philandering ways. There have been a few times throughout our relationship that I did try to break up with my husband but because he always apologized and said he would change, I always took him at his word and wanted to believe he would change. We even planned our third child and got married shortly after getting pregnant. I think I subconsciously did this because I thought a baby and a marriage would be the band aids that would fix “us”.
Betty eventually gets tired of Don’s lack of effort and also his lies and eventually asks for a divorce, she tells him something like, “I don’t feel anything when I kiss you”; it seems that this was when she knew that it was over for her and Don. For me, it took me a couple of years to be firm in my decision to divorce my husband. I think that I finally realized that there was no way I could continue the façade of our marriage when I realized that I no longer cared that he didn’t notice me or felt anything remotely like romantic love when I kissed him. It took him a while to understand why I wanted a divorce since he was happy with “us” and his main concerns were, “what about the taxes?” or “what about the kids?”. But like Don, he eventually agreed to it and said that he wouldn’t fight me about it. It’s kind of eerie that women like myself can still relate to a sixties housewife when it comes to relationships, marriages, and the stigma of divorce. I’m sure that people wonder why I would stay in a stagnant and awful relationship/marriage; that’s simple; I loved my husband. I thought that loving him meant that I had to settle for a marriage devoid of any real affection. I thought that the love I felt for him would be enough to change him one day.
I wrote this poem in January of 2020. This is about me and my sister being polar opposites on almost every level in life. We’ve never really have had a close relationship and there have been times when we’ve had fights that have lasted for months . Recently, as we’ve grown older, we have been better about accepting each other for who we are and getting along much better.
I’m an immigrant
She loves Trump
I’m a borderline socialist
She believes in money and brand names
I believe in love and poetry
Born from the same womb
But living in different worlds
She’s the clean upper middle class
I’m the gritty working class
She forgot everything she once was
I remember and continue to live it
She’s Latina when it’s trendy or when it suits her
I’m Latina every single minute of my life
She’s the definition of assimilation
-and I-the forever brown girl trapped in a white America
I wrote this poem in 2018 shortly after the death of my maternal grandmother/mamacita. My grandmother lived in a time where her opportunities were very limited by society’s rules about what a woman should be.