Caitlin Cowan


We play at the past,

leaping inside the bouncing fortress.

They say at this age

you’re faced with yourself—

you return like planets,

older even than the nobles

who used to fuck and fight

in bastions like these.

While we jump, a double rainbow

promises a messenger, or doesn’t.

Under such auspices we forget

our debts, our doom, our nothing

yet to mortgage—our twenties

in the twenty­-first century.

In the garage someone flips a switch

and the castle’s heart goes silent.

The viscous early summer

sucks in the lavender battlements,

the gates implode as the palace exhales.

We sip our beer. Is this pleasant,

watching the bounce house fall

and rise, topple

and thrum to life again.

Over and over its spires collapse

like a closing hand,

clutching the strange people in its palm.

Now you see it, now—

we chuckle and say cheers.

When the laughter fades,

the walls begin to hum again.

The castle’s denizens call out

from under the turret’s heavy lightness

and the towers rise once more.

We save each other. Someone

has to end the trick, has to bring back

what’s disappeared.


Caitlin Cowan‘s poetry is forthcoming or has appeared in Gulf Coast, Cold Mountain Review, Redivider, Nimrod, Faultline, The Mississippi Review, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. She has been the recipient of the Mississippi Review Prize, the Ron McFarland Prize for Poetry, and an Avery Hopwood Award. She holds a BA from the University of Michigan, an MFA from The New School, and a PhD from The University of North Texas, where she worked as a teaching fellow and served as the Managing Editor of the American Literary Review.