Lie with me in this moment

sink into the book of me

where all my stories wait to be told. Take out the pages

and read–

It’s not quite Spring here– where Winter lags in the heat

and humidity of our bodies in this haven–

the open waiting universe where I want you to swim

with me–  defeat darkness and demons–  they will penetrate

your holiness. I tell you–  All my demons are on the inside.

You know I believe in heaven and hell– this hell–  time spent

fighting the current toward the winter solstice where I mark the light

with fingers in the air–  ticking the time– tilting to the highest

point of daylight. That’s no way to live–you say, when burying

your fingers into my sense of time and space. Waiting

is death– drowning– in the time between revelries

and wrangling spirits– in the chasm of skin and

sinew and organ and cell– I want to plunge into their stories

learn their secrets, translate the meaning– in a way I can understand.

A shelter from the rain begs me

to rest with the truth of who I am, as if

I know her. This stranger

walking through my body discovers

all the lessons on fear come true. I pretend

this apartment is home, the one I left

to find dreams beyond my domestic aspirations.

Drawn from the depth of seclusion, draught

in a secret, this moment seeks to see

beyond bleakness, it moves

into a stream of air, catches

heartbeats. Wind speeds blow limbs

to the ground, branches curl

into body, close in this isolation

in the quietness I am fond gusts

and turbulence that lash leaves

into a quagmire, cleaves

to borrowed experience. Where

a cockroach crawls out of the sink, an omen

to the battle against stagnation

and fear, and the familiar paralysis

of ordinary things, like flowers

and the bloom of kisses that turn dark

when pressed between the pages

of a favorite book.

Quicksand

I open the door to my house and fall slowly

slowly I am pulled under into social media quicksand

where the free exchange of ideas should flourish–

I find a wasteland swallows me, swallows me whole

with words that find and feed suppressed hate,

accusations, judgements I wish

were no longer part of our make up

We create fictionalized personas– who forget;

anger feels good but cultivates little else.

In this glass house with the broken windows

scattered on the floor

We forget the most basic principles of peace–

Darkness cannot drive out darkness.

We have the light to ignite a deeper love–

to clear shadows of politics, opinion, and race.

Instead we are pulled under, we suffocate in apathy–

Turn gray in the belly of the beast where peaceful protests

become riots and friends become enemies–

where the darkness covers our eyes and we miss

unique and beautiful differences that make us whole.

We need only turn on the light, open the window

throw a rope into the quicksand, pull free

basic humanity

and see -black and white are not the grains of sand pulling us under–

God, religion, sexual orientation, gender do not generate hate–

These labels do not divide us. We are divided by judgement,

by stereotypes, by words and actions that don’t follow

the basic tenants of humanity–

love thy neighbor… do unto others… speak from love

In Quiet Contemplation

The front porch faces a small lake

where I sit on a wicker chair watching

the birds mate. Their songs amuse

the maple tree budding red.

Geese nest in secret, where men

can’t disrupt the life they create.

It is Easter and I feel God in the wind

as it moves through the branches.

I am reborn in light as it passes

from behind the house to cover me in grace.

In quiet contemplation of the clouds

clearing after mid-day I am stirred from rest.

A divine peace making me anew

grows inside the temper of my body,

as seed spreads like dandelions.

When the wind blows the yard flowers yellow

we plant Yarrow, Daylilies, and Black-eyed Susan.

Despite cultivation, divinity grows plentiful

with wildflowers that feed the next season.

Hang Me in the Louvre

I don’t want a portrait that creates

a static moment in time. If

it were 1910, and I his muse,

I’d ask Pablo to paint me like Gertrude,

reduce me to mass on his canvas

what he observed in his avante-garde fashion,

to deconstruct me, reassemble me, make me

visible through his fragmented perception.

I’d ask him to paint me in hues of gravity

in the vain of Girl with a Mandolin, 

break me down to geometrical elements

develop a new comprehension

of the unabridged inner chaos I suffer

when in deep, deep depression.

In the time before he returned to neoclassicism

I’d like to hang on the wall of the Louvre

nails driven through my frame, hanging

beside his other women. Curving and warping

the space. A brilliant mind, an icon of his time,

with little empathy for women, as those he chose to paint

fared finer than his wives and children.

I’d ask Picasso to teach me to see

through his eye, experience the movement

of his brushstroke; brown to pale to beige and

the blue-green of my eyes, juxtapose

the dark planes, smooth

my rugged cheek, imbue

my flesh with plasticity

the dissolution of my essence

until I am recognizable,

only as color and shape.

Sarah J. Stephens lives and writes in the coastal town of Wilmington, North Carolina.  She is an MFA candidate for poetry at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. In addition to publishing in journals such as The Licking River Review and Sugared Water, she has recently published a chapbook, Where All the Birds Are Dancing, with Finishing Line Press.

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