One, a Tiger // by Cathleen Cohen

One in a wizard’s costume
one, as a queen
one, a tiger
……………….grandchildren race through the house, shrieking,
tying us up in spells
…………………………….with voices like high-pitched wind.

Even the youngest, at two, is fierce,
perhaps the fiercest.

Grabbing my husband’s arm, she insists
he hug her
………………at each pass she makes of the room.
She yowls and yanks if he’s distracted, until
she’s caught up,
………………………..which is her due.

Will this fierceness be distilled someday
by polite company? By rules?

I scoop her up,
nuzzle her velvet cape and sharp sequins, try
to catch her fierceness.

Appalled and delighted, she squeals,
demands to be let down,

brandishes her wand and races off
……………………………………………………..growling

 

Reflective Essay on “One, a Tiger” by Cathleen Cohen

The transformative power of the arts has been essential in my life from childhood, continuing into my work life as an artist and teacher. One remarkable 6th grade teacher, Mr. DeFalco, gave my class and me (an anxious and introverted child) lifetime tools — lessons in painting and poetry. He created a community of young artists. We consistently painted, wrote poems, visited museums and shared our deepest selves with each other. This became a door I could walk through to know others more deeply. I let others know me in turn and emerged from my wall of silence. To this day, painting and poetry are my supports through challenges, changes, losses, discoveries, and joys.

As a young woman, I lived in the Middle East for a time and experienced some war-related trauma. I also felt firsthand how healing it was to process all this through writing. Clearly, the arts could also serve others to help them express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I’d already worked as an artist-in-residence in local schools for several years. But on 9/11 in 2001, a group of friends and I created a program called We the Poets in Philadelphia; soon we joined ArtWell (www.theartwell.org), which teaches poetry, music and visual arts to students from a wide variety of cultures, faiths, and backgrounds.

I see the value of practicing art every day, whether it be writing pantoums about school safety with 7th graders in a local mosque school, providing self-care workshops to “burnt out” teachers, or taking an hour to do some watercolor landscapes, by myself. Making art is so inherently transformative; a special way to experience the world.


Cathleen Cohen founded ArtWell’s We the Poets program in Philadelphia (www.theartwell.org). Her poems have appeared in Apiary, Baltimore Review, East Coast Ink, Philadelphia Stories and other journals. Cathleen is also a painter and currently exhibits at Cerulean Arts Gallery in Philadelphia. She received the Interfaith Relations Award from the Montgomery County PA Human Rights Commission and the Public Service Award from National Association of Poetry Therapy.

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