the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Cynthia Atkins

Rumors Fly

When the starting gun fires,
blowing out all the dull parts—
                                   Presume shotgun weddings,
tin—cans clanking under dented fenders,
rusted mufflers, passing empty store-fronts,
                                   factories spooked in half—truths—
Until the hearse drops the homeless brides
at the next dusty bus—stop. (bad manners!)
On the 44th floor, other end of town,
                                   many mouths circulate
the dirt at the water-cooler
of desire. Rampageous offspring—kids made
                                   of secrets and incest, witness
when germs are slurred and shared as fact
on polished gymnasium floors.
                                   The whispers follow
arm-in-arm, teeth powdery white as cocaine.
When rumors fly, take only what is necessary.
Open windows, plash the spirit
                                    in red pomp,
like a new dress made from old drapes.
Hounds of gossip will clamor
to the surest thing—a burning barn,
                                   the swastika on your arm.
We'll store a primrose of boughs, passed down
from the numbered sandwiches
of our ancestors. When rumors fly, someone
                                   will jumble the digits into vowels—
stain becomes stone, live into love,
groves will roll into graves,
where names lie

                                   breathless under snow.


Face Book

It should come as no shock, our faces
as books, our faces the envy of
broken down clocks—Right brain, left brain—
                                   Let us be plugged in
at every turn, in every orifice.
This is our body! This is our office!
                                   Staple every button-hole
that is latchkey and sad. Credentials culled,
there's no turning back now.
We're here to be cut and pasted.
Prepare us to be a billboard
                                   blessed by the waste
of a flightless bird. All the toasters lost
the tender prints left from a lover's
scorched breakfast. (Too much work?)
So stack our shelves with a library
                                    of perfect smiles.
Salacious minds need routine, packaged
as shiny shrink-wrapped trinkets.
Screens screaming for sex kittens
and war porn—takes the place
                                   of breakfast and love?
Honk if you're lonely and your wardrobe
resembles a caption, wearing white
in winter—such poor taste!
                                   Don't fret, an underling
took the place of your former self.
Pupils plaited and distal, the story
and the people got ransacked out—
exchanged for a remote page
                                   of faceless doubt.



Back to Poetry