Four new poems by Connor Cogill

The Johannesburg Review of Books presents new poetry by Connor Cogill.


Light through Water

Now here, in this
perfect pool, so new still

that the surrounding earth
has not set—there is you, five
maybe six, learning to swim.

You cling to the edges, to the
bricks hardly dried in cement,
palms pressed firmly
to the frail illusion of safety.

Then, a voice. Mom’s hand
on your back. Stay calm.
Control your breathing.
Make yourself light.

Here, laid flat, you are

a leaf on the water.

Open your eyes.
Have you ever seen anything
quite this blue? Now turn,
now paddle. Yes, stay light.

Now, at the edge of this
leaking pool, you nurse a bottle.

I keep thinking about light
refracted through water.

How time is just a deep pool
which bends us. Have we
done it yet? Are we weightless?



You’re growing up, it’s raining,
your childhood dog is dying, frothing
at the mouth, and you can’t ride a bicycle
anymore, because your feet keep growing
like canoes attached to your legs, and they
are far too large for the pedals, or your
sister’s purple roller-skates, or the city
upon which you stand. And rain keeps
falling. Rain keeps falling, but you’re
too old to catch it. You think about
the street, when potholes stopped being
rivers and gorges and valleys, became
just another hole in an already
honeycomb Earth.

You’re growing up, your dog
is dead, kids are shooting marbles
outside your window. You’re shooting
marbles into the sun. There is a man
asleep in your bed, and he’ll suck you off,
but he won’t suck you in. So, you just
keep listening, hands cupped and
outreached, trying to slow it down,
trying to catch that thing, like rain.


Atop the List of Least Graceful Things

there is dawn, a sky undone by light
to bring clear into view the birds fallen
from trees shucked as consequence, earth
pelted by amber leaves, and rain, and sun.
Sleepily the clouds reach for it and just
barely miss us, grazing shivs of grass,
the anthill, the birdbath. We remember
mornings in lives past, sunrise soft
as flesh, buttered toast and milky tea
in plastic mugs slid across the table
by Mom. Before small sins illuminated
by daybreak, and regret poured into regret
as I draw a too-hot bath. Now, the sun
threatens to carry us away. Through
another silent morning just the same,
and the husks of fruit pecked apart
by sunbirds. Still, I eat hope for breakfast,
while like a bloodied egg into a frying pan
the day cracks open over us.


Boy Meets Stairs

So he’s beautiful, but he’s late;
late to the party and late to your life.

He throws back a shot of vodka
and your eyes dance round
his Adam’s apple, bobbing
up and down his throat, like

an elevator between levels
up to his irises, the flecks of green and gold
in them. Now you’re in the backseat of his car
and he’s beautiful, but he’s early.

Early, because you’re not ready for boys
with elevator throats and wanderlust hands,
searching your body
for something that just isn’t there;

but you will offer it up anyway, because
you’re tired of nothing being on time.

Three shots later and night falls.
He drops you off on the sidewalk,
greets you the same way you do
a passerby in the street.

‘Just another stranger at the ball.
Just another night out on the town.’

His car is a carriage turned to pumpkin.
Your mind is a glass slipper on a staircase.

The emptiness is on time.


Previously unpublished, © Connor Cogill, 2020

  • Born in Cape Town at the turn of the century, Connor Cogill is a student and queer writer of colour. He is currently registered for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Language and Culture at Stellenbosch University, engaging his love for philosophy, writing and literature. His debut poem can be found in the Spring 2020 edition of New Contrast, while he himself can usually be found in his backyar​d, sipping OJ-and-vodka while plotting world domination.
Header image: Nick Wright/Unsplash

The JRB Poetry Editor is Rustum Kozain

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