is the author of Psyche’s Weathers and In The Event of Full Disclosure, and Still-Life With God (Saint Julian Press, 2020). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including, Alaska Quarterly Review, Apogee, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Cultural Weekly, Denver Quarterly, Diode, Florida Review, Flock Lit, Green Mountains Review, Los Angeles Review, North American Review, Rust + Moth, Sweet: A Literary Confection, SWWIM, Tampa Review, and Verse Daily, and nominated for Pushcart and Best of The Net. Formerly, Atkins worked as the assistant director of the Poetry Society of America. She has received fellowships from Bread Loaf and the VCCA. Atkins teaches creative writing at Blue Ridge Community College and lives on the Maury River of Rockbridge County VA with her family. www.cynthiaatkins.com
Laundress of Words
Your handgun at the back of my neck
shepherds the demons to where limbo
glistens in a pool of light. Inside a mirror,
I hiked up my skirt–I made a thunderclap
on this material earth. Rag–picker, each holy
vowel wept when you didn’t answer
an inconsolable friend on the brink.
She penned a note before hanging
from the ceiling like a blown-out lantern.
At a rickety camp, we shared a duffle bag,
dirty clothes, and a first kiss.
A shadow of you. All night we listened
to dogs barking across the canyons—Echoes
into the desire heard but never seen.
Her teenaged letters curled and lassoed
around the page, gripping the edge
of a building—My hips and belly of bricks.
Each word purged was a parachute
to grief. Daily, raising a clean white flag,
recovering our bodies—I inherited
interminable loss. I heard two voices,
one of them was shame, the other was beauty.
The Fall of The Angels
In half-light, I saw my beloved
through intertwining branches
in the bojangle of woods—imagine
the opposite of a doctor’s
waiting room—the motorcade
of germs and ghosts that came
before us. We step over
the whispers, the worker bees
bantering in cafes, while me make
hot salty love at the watercooler
of a haystack, where a rooster
crows like there’s no tomorrow.
My thighs wide as a four-letter word
This is the place where all life
intersects through pain. A wince
of comfort, a secret stash
you rung the doorbell in our
next life. I heard my colossus
womp of clothes in the closet,
breathe their sigh of relief
from echoes in myself. I watched
my Nana Ida set a table—
Every shim and curve as if
for the Gods—Not her husband.
I used to watch a woman sing
out the window. I am bone-china
on your archival dig, where Klezmer
music paints December’s
branches, a sloppy wave of joy
and grief. Germs and ghosts. In you,
I saw my body for the first time.
A black Swan snapped an angel
from a bra strap, as you fetched
a wide-eyed Starling from its nest.