Tobi Cogswell

Jena Skips Town

He picks her up in an old car painted
primer and crayon blue. One long
buffed-out scratch the shape of California.
Exactly like the map in school,
make no mistake.
His hood ornament, lifted off some ancient
Buick in the junkyard, points straight west.
How many signs does it take to move
a skinny fright of a girl, with nothing
of a future but to elbow the chickens
and collect their eggs
to sell on Main Street on Saturdays,
rain or shine and that’ll be 50 cents please.
She gets to keep half – let’s face it
she’s a “chicken whore,” being pimped out
by a mother too busy reading the bible
or just too lazy to get the eggs herself.
And so she tells him to wait a sec.
She doesn’t pack much. A few shirts
and her lucky juice glass - promotion from
a fill-up at the Unocal in 7th grade
when she was with her dad. Before he
hightailed it to the border with a waitress
from the Lucky Strike…her mother
always said she was just like her father.
Why even bother to prove her wrong.

Homeless Pete Gets Robbed on Catalina Avenue

It was just a quick cat-nap.
The shady doorway in the alley
behind the stinking hair salon
on Catalina seemed harmless.
He never sleeps longer than 5 or 10,
never at night – bad things happen
with only the giant orange flame
of moon to light a man’s dreams.
They took everything -
his radio, his sneakers,
the jacket found in a dumpster
a year ago when some couple
relocating to even warmer
climates cleaned out
their closets. Left with only
the gray sweater tied around
a long-sleeved tee, two pairs
of pants worn one over the other
and a pair of sandals, he’s out
asking for a turkey sandwich,
that’s all he wants. Just
a little something to stop
the gnawing in his stomach.
He’s too empty for grief,
too dignified to smash glass.

Tobi Cogswell is a three-time Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. Credits include or are forthcoming in various journals in the US, UK, Sweden and Australia. Her fifth and latest chapbook is Lit Up, (Kindred Spirit Press). She is the co-editor of San Pedro River Review (

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