C Y N T H I A   A T K I N S

A   G O D D E S S   I N   P U R P L E   R A I N



Behind glass, a lady is lit-up inside the laundro-mat. 
She’s folding sheets, pink curlers of baroque
in her hair, singing and creasing 
a t-shirt with sequins.  Her arms and hips stretch out 
to a body of air—the room filling with sound.
And I am humming inside her—inside her body, 
burning for shelter from the abyss 
                              of my alone.  Rounding a corner 
in a car, I am passing by, hearing “Purple Rain” 
on the radio—I almost can taste 
the sweat on the brow of the boy I danced with 
 so many years ago—It tasted like dry toast 
                                or the brunt of hurting.  Listen to the sky imploring, 
Come as you are—Alone to the last concert, to light matches 
in a spell-bound crowd—Remorse of loving
a rock star we can never own.
And now the lady 
in the laundromat is swaying, and I am swaying 
with her from my car—Maybe she is dancing with her son, 
going off to boot camp, or the ends of the earth.   
                        I’m thinking of my son at three, 
standing on the kitchen table in a wet diaper, 
banging music from a wooden spoon. 
This is that concert, where you lit a match
to your own bag of wounds.  You felt like
                                     you belonged, a citizen.
Alive as a hackle of girls at the May prom.  
Look at the moon, hanging like a shoe
to throw its heel of light
                                   on the page or an empty field. 
We are all in the body of this night, cogent as a judge 
who loves the law.  The lady in the laundromat
carries the load to her car, unpins her hair. 
I don’t want to be alone tonight.  The stars allow 
me to follow her— we are passing the town, 
rooftops are hunkering down to sing 
lullabies to the young, and the night 
is a stranger touching my sleeve. 

Cynthia Atkins is the author of Psyche’s Weathers and In The Event of Full Disclosure. Her poems have appeared or forthcoming 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, Poetry Fix, Seneca Review, Sundog Lit, Tampa Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Review and Verse Daily. Her Fellowships include Breadloaf Writers’ and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.  Most recently, an assistant professor of English at Virginia Western Community College, Atkins lives on the Maury River of Rockbridge County, VA with her family.

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