Cootie Catcher – Chelsea Harlan

Illustration by Aryan Singh


Not unlike a lethargic feline I sit on the green tin roof

folding a cootie catcher for myself. Numbers, colors,

fortunes like “You will grow just a little bit taller”

and “You will appreciate all this someday, I swear.”

I make a potion from hawthorne and the fluids from a wasp.

I sled down the main front slope in the winter, skip

down it in the summer, roll down it in the spring and fall.

I lose my last impermanent tooth in the driveway. I find it.

I shoot a gun at nothing in the woods. My braid is thick

and copper like a fox’s. We plant a magnolia by the mailbox.

I teach myself to wolf whistle the same mature season

I fall in love on a midnight skinny dip in the reservoir.

“You will forget the names of some of the mountains but

you will remember the blue shock of an indigo bunting

you will see again as good luck skittering this way

and that. You will forget where you’re going.

You will remember where you’re from.”

​Chelsea Harlan was born in rural Appalachian Virginia but now lives and writes in Brooklyn​. She has pieces published in Everyday Genius, Plain China, and has a forthcoming piece in Leveler. She’ll be a resident writer at the John Ashbery Home School this coming summer, prior to beginning her MFA in poetry.

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