In all these days and years, the only thing
I’ve learned, is that a poem needs an engine.
Not a newscaster with ski-slope hair, but colorful
sweaters from old dead aunts, penumbra of dust motes,
crumpled Kleenex, the frayed edges of gossip. A poem
is about all the things that happen in the meantime,
while you were airing the pillows, driving a carpool.
All you missed staring right at what the future
knows that it won’t tell you. There is a radio dial
we can go and listen to all of us breathing together,
rubbing our chasm of souls in an all-night diner.
A poem needs magic, a bell, a hammer, a noise inside
a noise. Never the same thing twice. Only the pathos
that comes over a crowd, the sound of night
eavesdropping on the day. Listen to the glyphs
the branches make on a moonlit night. It tenders
no apologies for bad haircuts, it will howl
with all your stray dogs, in the alleyways of cigarette butts.
A poem needs an engine, not to be sedated as arts and crafts,
the glue made with water and flour. No, it needs the wheels
to spin in the dirt, where someone is kissing
for the first time. It needs a wine glass stomped on
at a wedding, even if it ends in divorce.
Cynthia Atkins is the author of Psyche’s Weathers, In The Event of Full Disclosure (CW Books), Still-Life With God (Saint Julian Press 2020). Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Diode, Florida Review, Green Mountains Review, Rust + Moth, North American Review, Seneca Review, Thrush, Tinderbox, 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 curated a quarterly reading Series, Lit-Salon. She is an Interviews Editor for American Microreviews and Interviews. Atkins 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: cynthiaatkins.com