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Sunday, March 13, 2022


by Cathleen Cohen

Portrait of Kaylin Johnson (KJ) painted by Cathleen Cohen for the Johnson family as part of the Soul Shots Project the mission of which is to bring attention to and memorialize the lives lost and tragically altered due to gun violence. KJ was shot and killed in Philadelphia in July 2021.

Painting KJ’s portrait, I peer
at an image of this beautiful boy, shot
in his parked car, waiting
to ferry friends to soccer practice.
His mother sends photos that capture
his smile, his jaunty shoulders.
I can tell he was quick
with jokes, sparking others.
His mother says he’d jump 

to carry heavy bags 
for older neighbors,
even strangers.
The boy who shot him
was a stranger.

Afterimage is illusion.
The brain persists in seeing
what’s removed.
Sometimes color memory
is repressed,
sometimes brighter.
I cry when I take up the brush.
What about skin tone?
Reference photos lack 

and I never met him.
Or background?
Brick red for urban houses?
Cobalt for sky—something

Cathleen Cohen was the 2019 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, PA. A poet, painter and teacher, she created the We the Poets program for children. Her poems appear in journals such as Apiary, Baltimore Review, East Coast Ink, North of Oxford, One Art Journal, Passager, Philadelphia Stories, Poetica, River Heron Review, and Rogue Agent. She authored Camera Obscura (Moonstone Press), Etching the Ghost (Atmosphere Press) and Sparks and Disperses (Cornerstone Press). Her artwork is on view at Cerulean Arts Gallery.