Cynthia Atkins

My Body is a Vessel

My body is a vessel of dictation, forever told
what not to do. Always under investigation
with finger prints on the bannisters,
pocks and dents on the wood tableau.
My body’s invisible, but listen hard, you’ll hear
the gut rankle and the refrigerator
in the apartment below, where the moans
of a woman are being twisted and squashed
like a spent cigarette. My body has been
burned to Eden and back. It has been
sent to endless zip codes and put through each
government test like a desk clerk smile
of dread. My body has flirted, endured the gaze,
lost the gaze, caught between the manly
battlefield of wills. My body worked
hard at being anonymous, a paper clip.
Harder at being lonely. Under my body’s
floor, a woman irons the shirt her body will wear
to be beaten and torn and entered. My body
listens to him crack a beer after.
Through the floor boards, past the humming
appliances, in my body like a dormant
pebble stuck in a shoe. Long ago, this body doodled
on an unmade bed, listened for a tooth fairy
with nicotine on her breath—This body worried
for the body of her mother getting bruised
under the lintel in a doorway, a tooth
knocked out. These limbs hear too much,
fasten to the shade of trees, on tender hooks.


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, Flock Lit, 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: