Cynthia Atkins

Imaginary Friends

With some reservation, you can swear off the clutch of voices, but remember
to look both ways before crossing each soirée of memory—

like the hotel soap you lifted sans the prayer book, a tawdry bird’s nest
with costumed ghosts in a clammy sad room. For your sake, they keep up

the pretenses—they pour coffee, ply your insides with a street-lined parade
of citizens—Cradling, rocking, breaking, mistaking you for the one who brings

her own chair and umbrella to the paradox of fireworks. This is the ploy.
This is the pain. This is what remains after the ache of rain.

Don’t hold your breath for the covered dishes and wagons, the poorest excuses
for Billy Goats on the greenest acres of your imaginings. Even sorrow and grief will suit up

and riff on your behalf. Sequins worn to the grand estates, serving up peonies
or selfie grenades. No, not alone. Get on with it, the daily knotted headache,

saucy arguments and botched plans of honeycomb and hive-mind. Because you needed
to belong—You sought the debutantes who flaunted their flexed prom dates.

See how they build their houses with bricks of silence. Frocks and all, they took you
and your shadow, door to door with a harmonica heart bleating for mercy.

Forging their signatures, paying their rent, doing any tangible thing to forget
that we are all just a limited edition. Let the census takers be damned.

Count the cups, see their lip stains. They talk behind your back,
derailing trains, with so many pennies from their invisible chasm of hands.


Cynthia Atkins is the author of Psyche’s Weathers and In The Event of Full Disclosure, and the forthcoming chapbook, Still-Life With God (Hermeneutic Chaos Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Apogee, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Cultural Weekly, Del Sol Review, Florida Review, Green Mountains Review, Harpur Palate, Hermeneutic Chaos, Le Zaporogue, North American Review, Seneca Review, Tampa Review, Tinderbox, Thrush, Valparaiso Review and Verse Daily. She was formerly the assistant director for the Poetry Society of America, and has taught English and Creative Writing, most recently at Blue Ridge Community College, where she curates a quarterly reading series, Lit-Salon. Atkins earned her MFA from Columbia University and has earned fellowships and prizes from Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, The Writer’s Voice, and Writers@Work. She lives on the Maury River of Rockbridge County, Virginia, with artist Phillip Welch and their family, and her favorite Sweet is Eli’s Cheesecake.
Follow her on Facebook here.

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