Proba Vitae

Because it’s a snapshot
of spring, a bitten plum is open
on a table like a ripe mouth,
               next to a girl reading a book
from the library—stamped return.
Call off the spine sniffing dogs
of dust because fingers browse
the card-catalog of words, resisting
               arrest or rhyme.
Because my house is empty
as a theatre after everyone
goes home, lights dim on the dusty
long tongue of the interior aisle.
Because the river is silent and wise
as those prophets who drank whiskey
by the railroad track. Because my womb
               is lined in taffeta—torn dress from
a prom night where I’m still looking
for a line from a song. Left it in a shoe
in the closet, where I hid from
my sister, holding a cap-gun—My cheek
brushing sleeve cuffs and the essence
of my parents. Because my son’s girlfriend
is reading this poem, the universe shifts
to the other foot—Because the river
keeps moving and holds so many
               door keys, shoes, tin cans,
gills of fish—We’re kept out
as if God, or whoever is teaching us
about boundaries, no matter what.
Doors compel us to knock. Skirts hold
hems and pockets. Even the goal post
finds a shadow and stays just a hair
               over the line from the home team.
Because flowers are here to serve up
the hard facts, petals are only
for show or blush?— Because the girl
with long hair is reading a book, beyond
the grassy margins—A boy sails
a paper airplane into the vast
stratosphere of science and love.


Cynthia Atkins’ poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, American Letters & Commentary, BigCityLit, BOMB, Caketrain,,Clementine, Del Sol Review, Denver Quarterly, Harpur Palate, Inertia, The Journal, North American Review, Sou’wester, Tampa Review, Valparaiso Review, and Verse Daily among others. Her second collection, “In The Event of Full Disclosure” was recently featured on the Huffington Post and the Bill and Dave Cocktail Hour, and reviewed in [PANK] and the North American Review. She earned her MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts and holds residencies from the VCCA and Breadloaf Writer’s Conference and currently is an assistant professor of English at Virginia Western Community College, and lives in Rockbridge County, VA on the Maury River with her family.