(Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher)
Selected by Guest Poetry Editor Seth Michelson
Followed by Bio and Q&A
Tree of Life
A silence already filled with noises
You came without instructions.
No cardboard box or Marshall Plan
to speak of— Only the birds balancing
like robed nuns on a hymnal of branches.
These limbs are the windows, a contour
of unplanned townships, each municipal
self you have lost along the way.
No flow charts provided, not a scintilla
of evidence to explain why you are not
welcome at each threshold, where a hateful
Sheriff stands at an electric fence.
No testimonials as to how to derail
this anguish of breathing, of losing.
No dress rehearsal for the birth canal—
Down the laundry chute into
a dentist’s chair. No bark or breastmilk
to fend off the savages, or how to fasten a kerchief
to your warrior heart on the brink?
No columns or asterisks— Only these stars
in a jar, and the fireflies you captured
in the dark, when your boy cousin
led you into the crawlspace where
your ancestors hid their crowns
of madness— No small print to explain
the army of combatants. Who could know
the pathos of an heirloom, the bully
genes that allow you to sing, or gush
or cry. They millined you a hat of mood swings.
Where are the commandments
stitched in. Where is the compass between
sky and the earth?— Seeded to the roots
of this huge machine, pelt and pen, threaded
needle through the multi-tiered forest floor.
Cynthia Atkins is the author of Psyche’s Weathers and In The Event of Full Disclosure. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including, Alaska Quarterly Review, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Cultural Weekly, Del Sol Review, Florida Review, Green Mountains Review, Hermeneutic Chaos, Le Zaporogue, North American Review, Prime Number Magazine, 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 fellowships and prizes from Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, The Writer’s Voice, and Writers@Work. Atkins lives on the Maury River of Rockbridge County, Virginia. More work and info on her website or Facebook.
A few days after John Ashbery died, I began an homage poem to his "Some Trees," which has always been a kind of prayer poem for me.
With what fictional character would you most love to spend the day?
I would love to spend the day with Molly Bloom—I love her sass and vinegar and would love to clink 'n bitch with her—
What is your favorite day of the week?
I like Thursdays—not quite the weekend, but the beginning of the anticipation—I like the preamble!
Which movie have you seen over and over again? What keeps you coming back?
Cinema Paradiso and Big Fish—great balance of sappy, brilliant, beautiful and profane—both these films make me cry and weep and laugh and cry some more—cinematography, music score, actors, story, plot, love.