Cynthia Atkins: Three Poems from Still-Life With God
Selected by Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poetry Editor
A Goddess in Purple Rain
Behind glass, a lady is lit-up inside the laundromat. She’s folding sheets, pink curlers of baroque in her hair, singing and creasing a t-shirt with sequins. Her arms and hips stretch out to a body of air—the room filling with sound. And I am humming inside her—inside her body, burning for shelter from the abyss of my alone. Rounding a corner in a car, I am passing by, hearing “Purple Rain” on the radio—I almost can taste the sweat on the brow of the boy I danced with so many years ago—It tasted like dry toast or the brunt of hurting. Listen to the sky imploring, Come as you are—Alone to the last concert, to light matches in a spell-bound crowd—Remorse of loving a rock star we can never own. And now the lady in the laundromat is swaying, and I am swaying with her from my car—Maybe she is dancing with her son, going off to boot camp, or the ends of the earth. I’m thinking of my son at three, standing on the kitchen table in a wet diaper, banging music from a wooden spoon. This is that concert, where you lit a match to your own bag of wounds. You felt like you belonged, a citizen. Alive as a hackle of girls at the May prom. Look at the moon, hanging like a shoe to throw its heel of light on the page or an empty field. We are all in the body of this night, cogent as a judge who loves the law. The lady in the laundromat carries the load to her car, unpins her hair. I don’t want to be alone tonight. The stars allow me to follow her—we are passing the town, rooftops are hunkering down to sing lullabies to the young, and the night is a stranger touching my sleeve.
*First appeared in Hermeneutic Chaos
God Is A Wishing Well
Lit up in the parking lot of my heart
your shiny pennies in place of bullets—
spoiled plans fell off the wagon, false starts
back to where the bones dwell with the petals.
I swept salt, blood, ether, ink, a prayer.
The sky shot fireworks and fireflies, pell-mell.
Each stair was a blink, each flight brought closure.
Too much time spent with the Wolf and the Owl—
I looked for answers in limp brochures.
Trauma was my life in a gun-shell, foul
I was I was I was I was I won’t
be a pogrom comet to burl the night.
A time-bomb by a bed of frill roses—
The shadow of my echo was a kite.
Flash point: I was put to bed last night
with your railroad kiss. I awoke with a ladder
in my mouth, tropes of people climbing out
in a death choke. Your tawdry laundry-line
of images blowing manic through needling wind.
I was always in earshot, but you were first to leave
the party. A hard lullaby, I feared you were
a household word in a ghost town.
My silence was torrential, a bombshell.
A swamp of worms rilling into words—
into cordial song. In debt and spent,
yours truly, truly yours.
*First appeared in The Eloquent Poem (Persea Books, 2019)
Photo credit: Anne Valerie Portrait
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cynthia Atkins is the author of Psyche’s Weathers, In The Event of Full Disclosure (CW Books), and Still-Life With God (Saint Julian Press 2020), and a collaborative chapbook with Alexis Rhone Fancher, forthcoming from Harbor Editions, 2022. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Diode, Florida Review, Green Mountains Review, Indianapolis Review,Rust + Moth, North American Review, Seneca Review, SWWIM, Thrush, Tinderbox, and Verse Daily. Formerly, Atkins worked as the assistant director for the Poetry Society of America and has taught English and Creative Writing, most recently at Blue Ridge Community College. She is an Interviews Editor for American Microreviews and Interviews. She earned her MFA from Columbia University and has earned fellowships and prizes from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Writer’s Voice, and Writers@Work. Atkins lives on the Maury River of Rockbridge County, Virginia, with artist, Phillip Welch and their family. More work and info at: www.cynthiaatkins.com
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