The Street Is a Museum

And all my shoes are anarchists wanting
real skin—Mine is the face that holds
breakable bones. My interiors, a church
of hothouse moans and old cassette tapes—
saddest ballads shimmed from the knives
of old boy friends, plastic strands lulling
the past tense into birds’ nests. This body
is a machine gone mad. Smelling of hot
donuts, now I’m the vendor out of luck
on the coldest night. Each breath convoked
by human voices, awoke my ancestors.
We barred the doors—We danced til dawn,
watched God choke on the marrow
of a chicken bone. The moon blew
a saxophone in my window, a bedtime diddle
to cajole a bruised heart back to shore.
My Nana Ida waving on a distant boat
in her fake mink coat. Immutable as weather
our doma wars of blood and cross-hairs.
Whispers become admonitions snarling
into every ghost town. I let them all leave
their madness stain on my arm, the faintest
inscription in a book. I have melted snow
with a wishful pill. I’ve known the dregs,
the all-night sweats. I took a leap of faith, found
a shoelace in a drawer—to choose life—Tie shoes
and walk outward, notice the contour
of snow hugging the mailbox. My name
sledding into hills of syllables, valleys  
of a latent self, a template. This body I roused
to find solitude is the wholly truest
possession I no longer own.


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, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Cultural Weekly, Del Sol Review, Florida Review, Green Mountains Review, Harpur Palate, Hermeneutic Chaos, Le Zaporogue, North American Review, Poetry Fix, Prairie Schooner, Seneca Review, Tampa Review, Tinderbox, Thrush, Valparaiso Review and Verse Daily. She is 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. More work and info at: www.cynthiaatkins.com.

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