Stick Figure with Skirt / Cathryn Cofell


poems by

Cathryn Cofell

Winner of the 2019 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award

ISBN: 978-1-59948-771-7, 80 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Release Date: November 19, 2019


Cathryn Cofell is a poet with six chapbooks, a collection called Sister Satellite (Cowfeather Press) and a poetry/music CD called Lip. Her work has been published widely and among her awards is the Lorine Niedecker Poetry Award. Her alter ego is an executive in marketing and the nonprofit sector, currently as VP Community Relations for a financial institution in Neenah, Wisconsin. She is a passionate advocate for poetry, helping to launch the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poetry Chapbook Prize and the Poetry Unlocked reading series, among others.

In these wise and often witty poems, Cathryn Cofell explores the complicated intersections between what we commonly refer to as making a living vs. having a life. Honest, insightful, and formally dexterous, Cofell—the self-described “Lucille Ball of Zen”—reminds us that, ultimately, being fully human is our true life’s work. Poems like hers help us do it. ~Grace Bauer, author of MEAN/TIME


Cathryn Cofell’s Stick Figure With Skirt is at turns humorous and morose. But no matter what, these poems are always pleading to or against loneliness, “Please memo me home…Please home me…” This book is Dickinsonian in its way of believing in the power of the mind, the internal world, the imagination that always reaches beyond the self. ~Jericho Brown


Cathryn Cofell’s Stick Figure with Skirt points sharply at the frenzy and anxiety of the “busy culture” we now inhabit, where there is always something to do. In these poems, Cofell fights against the routine by observing and celebrating the details, and poking fun at the tedium. ~Tara Betts, author of Break the Habit 


~Success is falling nine times and getting up ten. Jon Bon Jovi

Another poet would conjure angels or zombies.


424 astronomers demoted Pluto. Alan Stern, leader of NASA’s New Horizons’ mission (to Pluto) calls this a farce, vows that Pluto will rise again.

I took one of those online personality quizzes, discovered I will spend eternity in Dante’s eighth circle of hell, for Frauds. I don’t believe in hell. I have retaken the test three times and have worked my way up to Wrath.

My husband’s voice climbs when he talks politics or stocks. I find it hard to sit and listen.

I like it here, flat on my back on the cool tiles, black ant tickling my ear, fingers splayed over my eyes to block the light.

Don’t make me come up there.

The hotel maid found him in the tub, five pints down, looking like Picasso’s The Weeping Woman. I don’t know where she works now. We keep his urn on a top shelf.

The Supreme Court, innings, tic tac toe, holes of golf, the Fellowship of the Rings.
This has nothing to do with rising.

The average worker will hold 10 different jobs in his or her lifetime. I am above average.





It’s not a complicated equation.
The more I bill, the more the business makes.
I simply keep track of my day with precision:
Eight hours of work, plus lunch and breaks.

The more I bill, the more the business makes.
The best make the Olympic Productivity Team.
Six hours to bill, skip lunch and breaks.
Don’t count meetings, wooing, cute cat meme.

To join the Olympic Productivity Team,
start timer and work. Coffee break? Stop.
Don’t count meetings, wooing, cute cat meme.
The gold easily earned with finesse and laptop.

Start timer and work. Coffee break, stop.
Did you know pausing to pee equals .083?
The gold still can be got if I bring the laptop.
But, employees must wash hands so add .0053.

Make it three minutes to pee, which is .032.
Like Prufrock, I measure my life with a spoon.
But employees must do what employers say to,
so my day life is Bulova, my nightlife lampoon.

I’m Prufrock, measuring my life with a spoon,
or Sandra Bullock steering a runaway bus
if I don’t tick like Bulova, let my nightlife lampoon.
Sleep, sex, and sun? Superfluous.

I’m Sandra Bullock steering a runaway bus
if I don’t keep track of my day with precision.
Sleep, sex or son may leave me superfluous.
It’s not a complicated equation.




– I’m your boogeyman, that’s what I am. KC and the Sunshine Band


For the first time in my life
looks don’t matter
and my purpose is clear.
The judge in me has turned
her verdict outward.
There are no words for this.

Both times, I came into this world
through blood into
an insatiable hunger,
an instinct to survive,
a reflex response to touch.
Both times a tiny magic.

It’s that dream of fleeing,
but the hall gets longer
and the body is
the invisible weight.
The invisible monster looming.

I try not to fixate
on the mortal wound,
the 9-to-5 trudge, seek
only to live authentically,
here and now. One
of the twin souls hungry.

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