Cynthia Atkins

House and Home

“Nature is a haunted House. Art is house that wants to be haunted.”—Emily Dickinson
My home beckons the loss and awkwardness
where I’ve left many arguments in lamplit rooms.
I’ve carried them tailor-stitched
around my body, my archive of scars
tip-toeing through landmines.
The river is dappled with the light
made in the shape of leaves.
Every day, I humble myself before
a shantytown of loneliness.
My ancestors and people
have haunted a madness that comes
from playing cards in smoky rooms.
My own dysfunctional family asking me
to pray to an unshaven God.  I have
left many bodies in lamplit rooms.
When beauty hurts too much,
I know a bird has just hit the glass.

Our windows are chapels, telling
their holy narratives, the little lies
we tell ourselves to face the music
of our grief.  It is a constant assault.
My poor manic father built
our roof with pencils, erasers
& glue.  I’d go to the railroad tracks
to hold the grip of life and death
between my fingers like the rush
of your father passing through you—
ghosting in your frozen January
cheeks, waiting too long for his car
to show in the freezing cold.  I am always
two stops from recovery.  So I learned to keep
very still in the mouths of my captors—
a worm in the beak.   The neighborhood
is lit with falling flakes. I am winter’s
spare room.  I’ll be uncovered
next spring like roots in the rain.



Cynthia Atkins is the author of Psyche’s Weathers and In The Event of Full Disclosure, and the forthcoming collection “Still-Life With God.” Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including, Alaska Quarterly Review, Apogee, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Cultural Weekly, Diode, Florida Review, Flock Lit, Green Mountains Review,  Le Zaporogue, Los Angeles Review, North American Review, Rust + Moth, Sweet: A Literary Confection, Tampa Review, and Verse Daily, and nominated for Pushcart and Best of The Net. Atkins teaches creative writing at Blue Ridge Community College and lives on the Maury River of Rockbridge County VA with her family. Find her on Facebook or Twitter. Her favorite dessert is Eli’s Cheesecake.

 … return to Issue 11.2 Table of Contents.