by Cynthia Atkins

Like no one else, she gets me. 
High heels and daggers, lip-kissed to hold 
every eye in the room.  In the beginning,  
she’s virginal as a new penny.
         Everything is possibility.  
We’re flirting with the door bouncers.
All glitz and suntan, sassy as a Florida orange. 
No apologies, the sticky sweet, the nicotine 
peddling my slender fingers. 
Where and when did I learn to love only 
         what is tainted?—Six of seven days,
the jelly jars are filled with melancholy.  
Paper thin, yellow walls.  She’s the one 
         who greets my darkest corners.
She takes the lumps, grist, fat cells of angst, 
what all the old boyfriends wouldn’t. 
          When the meds quit, she teased
her flag, on every distant shoreline. 
Neon flicker, clubbing out the sadness. 
I sit with trees of bandwidth.  Halfway there—
          She leaves with the drummer. 
Worse-case-scenarios—The badly tipped 
waitress with a run in her stocking.
            The smelly pier at sunset.   The smoke rings 
slammed into an iceberg, not in the sea, but a junkyard 
of barking dogs.  Once, so mad at my dad, my mom 
botched my haircut. I was chastised to tears.
Holy steeple of prayers, the first exhale.  
          Can a bell be un-rung?—
 Ache bellows deep, it’s like leaning out a window 
to scream, like burning the skin of a new-born.


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 chapbook forthcoming from Harbor Editions, 2022.  Her work has appeared in many journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Diode, 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: