Noelle Kocot was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She holds a B.A. from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. from the University of Florida, and was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for 2001. Her first collection of poems, 4, won the Four Way Books Levis Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, New American Writing, Lungfull, Fence, and Iowa Review, and will be in the Best American Poetry 2001. Her first collection of poems, 4, won the Four Way Books Levis Poetry Prize selected by Michael Ryan. It comes out in May. Noelle currently lives with her husband in the Midwood section of Brooklyn.

The poems on this page appear in 4. They are reprinted here with the permission of Four Way Books.


Four Poems by Noelle Kocot

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

       Oh, must we dream our dreams and have them, too?
              —Elizabeth Bishop

A paper hat transmutes so easily into a paper boat,
But this doesn't mean that the boat is somehow inferior.
I was a child once.
I saw into the deep, blue interior

Of the number four, which is the Holy Spirit who makes
All things possible and all things matter.
All things I thought of then,
Even the letter

Q without the U behind it. And things just settled.
There was no need to hope
For any more, except maybe a cigarette, and the thing about cigarettes
Is that one after another, they're the same. Meanwhile, soap

Dissolves much more quickly than it did in 1970,
The year that embarrasses me most with its promise of tall,
Musky, balding Gordons and Dons, with orange, palm-tree expressions,
And women in short, pregnant dresses and ash-black falls.

It will take a freighter
Of Coppertone to tan them all. Somewhere a library
still swells with bean-
Bag chairs and barefoot, dozing hippies too hooked
On Marx and Keynes to notice that Miss Breen

Has in fact been able to write her roommate (friend, I presume)
Into her will with little fuss from the family. Anyway, I hope I've seen
The last of those backwards
Fools, except of course for kind-eyed Miss Breen

And her companion, who are coming
This Thursday for a good, strong cup of German tea. Hopefully, that rag
Of a newspaper will give us something to talk about before
We sip. Wait a minute! I must buy some Black Flag

So that the roaches spare our Lorna Doones! O world,
In all my years of comprehension
I will never understand their synchronous, immediate
Flocking in bright formation, then halting suspension

Beneath the sink when I turn on the fluorescent, kitchen, warehouse-
Like, blaring light just before sun-up. The blue
Spirit that I once saw radiating out from everything, like a tourist
In a too-young country, has gone home. And yes, I love you,

Yes, if to love implies more guilt than one alone can harbor.
So come, the scenery
Is fine here. The wild blue light still crosses the mountains
Now and then, somewhere a number four sprouts through the
          rough greenery.

Words and Things

The tiny acrobat
Of joy

Leaps the distances
We do not speak,

As if our tongues
Were as mangled

As the first cries
Of a newborn

Pouring into the sickle-
Grin of moon,

And hovers over
The net

Of the already-
Said and laughs

And laughs
Into that silence

While sun sinks
And we lie

And waiting

For tranquilized

Nudging at one
Another and mumbling

About nothing
In particular.

I Want Something of Yours for Comfort When I Sleep

Awake before the cupboard slams open.
These hours scrape by like snow shovels.
I have dreamed of you again.
Too late, you said, for me, but not for you,
With the folly of a train darkening
In the failing embers of winter.

So I went on, flapping through time like a saw
In the wind, or like a melting fist
Weaned on the hardy light of day,
While the fading of our modesties
Blossomed into a cancer on love's faulty tongue.
And now your hair flames brightly in my kitchen cups.

While Writing

Someone inside says, "Get busy."
But I've got appointments to keep,
I have an abstemious love of equations calculated quickly
While the tepid day melts into design.

And the high cheekbones of the beautiful life
Bear the loose look of a calendar by lamplight.
I search for patterns in everything.
I am tied in knots of comprehension.

I think, how useful it might be
To pierce all the hands of the earth
With an oath of pins encircling snarling planets.
But talent and shallowness sewn together

Is nothing but a kerchief tied around a survivalist's head,
And it helps to know the feet wriggling through a hole
In the universe will land for an instant
Upon the cushions of the dark,

And that after marching one doozy of a kilometer after another,
We each come upon the same poem scribbled in invisible ink
Taped to the door of a room
In which an austere justice is burning for us.