WHEN THE WELL RUNS DRY
Did the owls in tree branches know before us---? That first they would come for touch, until we no longer needed our skin, until our bodies are tin cans, rattling the road in the amphitheater where our old selves dwell. We live in a box to avoid a virus; we live in a virus to avoid a box. I used to be a little girl in pigtails, practicing how to whistle in the March wind. It blew through me, and sound went inward, screeching as a train pulling into a station. I used to have neighbors, they used to throw stones. Now we send our love through living rooms. First, they came for the candlesticks, then our unmentionables. I want to look at someone who looks me back. I need to feel a face after rain. Let me wash my hands until I reach the source where loneliness hangs her hat. We are so bellicose and tribal—We are tight-lipped as telegrams. Riled by want, touching computer screens with our groomed fingers—As flies pass to and from. Like our last blown out birthday candles, we are huddled and hungry as a pack of wolves on the coldest night of the year—The subway rips through the city, opening its doors, my face pushing through water to breathe.
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 collaborative chapbook forthcoming from Harbor Editions, 2022. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, The American Journal of Poetry, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Diode, Florida Review, 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: www.cynthiaatkins.com
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