Hello Stranger by Cynthia Atkins

It’s me—This voice inside a tin box
inside the intention to be a voice
of one, but we’re all crammed
………………in traffic—This grid is the lunatic
abyss inside a pickle jar. We are lonely
in our cars, we are little cubicles
of languor. With a smear, I see the Vintage
Red vinyl of my mother’s handbag. I hear
………………the marvelous click into silence.
Inside, I was a swath of chewing gum.
You were the wrapper. Girls hiding
in the cloak room—O friend, You know me
all too well, but we’ve never met.
I’ve seen your face in a spoon, a cigarette
box, the shock of a shattered mirror.
………………My head has many people
falling from buildings, an office party
gone bad. In this life, arguments were
backed up for miles, stuck to the walls.
One night, God’s slippers donned graveyard
………………shoes, growling with chained junkyard dogs.
Rear view mirror, You look back at me.
I am waving to a lost mitten adrift in snow.
Mother, father, sisters, brother—Shoveling
after a 36 incher, like sad stoic desk-clerks
drunk on the old garage smells, rags of blood and oil,
………a striped flag. Once Gigi, our Cocker Spaniel
was put in a hot moving clothes dryer by
the bad boy next door. While they argued, that night,
my sister went mad in the shadows
like a soldier kidnapped from a bunker.
This was war in a culdesac. We were burped
bombed then bumped out to the noise
and traffic, the glacier of night,
headlights thick and dazed in your eyes.
………………Nice to meet you, friend, the one
I’ve been avoiding all along.
Stars twinkling like powder kegs In
a bad boy’s garage. Our flagged world waiting
to be lit on fire, while we touch shadows
in moving cars, furlong for the skin of home.





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


Photo credit: Alexis Rhone Fancher

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