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 escape

with me, defeat darkness and demons, they will penetrate
our humanness. 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 these stories, learn secrets, translate the meaning–
in a way you can understand.

I ask you again, to lie with me– I’ve opened
the book to the page I hope you will peruse with delicate
fingers, fathom this craving to be felt outside a passionate

embrace. I hunger for the taste of being known, intimately
not chastely, not romantically, not by the flush of skin we’ve
already tasted. In this space I lift the impregnable veil between

who I am and who I appear to be, who you want me
to be and who I fear I am. All this to say–
I need to be seen.

Erase the Broken Things

The troubadour of broken things
plays havoc with the veins that line my skull
beats the drum to deafen pretty dreams.

I too take my waking slow. Like embers
graying beneath the morning dew.
When I blow, the song bursts

lighting the morning, igniting the chords
that needle low in my spine.
A woeful beating, to sow what’s left

of sleep deep into my body, where
I carry it with me. The pills I swallow are
an ode to the aching I bellow, as I would

a love song. The tingling of sleep in my limbs
a deadening, anesthesia to my pain,
numbing memories of my lover, they choke

life from all I’ve planted, he
is the overgrown and neglected plot.
I swell with need to be stroked

and plucked and loved well, left to dry in the sun
streaming through the blinds. It bathes me alone
in bed, with need to erase broken things.

Dandelions

The front porch of my Mother’s home faces
a small lake, where I sit on a wicker chair
watching the birds mate, their songs
become a muse to the maple tree budding red
sprouting in time to the call of geese nesting
in secret, where men can’t disrupt
the life they are called to create.
It’s Easter and I feel the call of God
as the wind moves the branches
and the sun brings green
to the surface of the red on the maple.
I am reborn in the light of the sun as it moves
from behind the house to cover me
in grace, in quiet contemplation of the clouds
clearing after mid-day, I am stirred from rest
beckoned, like the geese to birth from broken,
a peace that feels like the divine
making me anew, growing inside the temper
of my body is the seed He spread
like dandelions. We want only
the colors we cultivate, but the wind
blows, and the yard flowers yellow
every spring in our landscape.

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 and 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 dignity to detonate deeper love,
to clear shadows of politics opinion and race, instead
we are pulled under, we suffocate in apathy, turn
black and blue 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 tenets of humanity–
Love thy neighbor… do unto others… speak from love.

Seven Bends the Road to Seven on My Way Home
To those who live on the streets of Wilmington

After Galway Kinnell’s “Under the Maud Moon”

1.

The way home
is this slick path
of dry tinder–
solemn faces, sullied clothes,
in rain and sunshine, where homeless
men and women
take over corners
Squatted icons like fiberglass slivers
under skin, itch
the space filled by Hunger

Rich beads fog my sight,
my window rises
and I fail
the good Samaritan

Stop me
marshal these dripping tongues,
wagging sharpy signs, and waging
signs for me,
a monumental war
in minutes drug for hours
and days
only to keep holding space occupied by my reflections

Small fires
rain illumination in

the dark
drops that mirror down to force inside
the sun, blinding through windshield
wiper’s, a steady confrontation between
seeing signs of homelessness or greed
in the glint peeking past clouds
dilating my pupil, dilation reshaping constriction

of my sight, I squint
make sense of a word, Hungry, just Hungry
Final drops of rain, break stoicism
to put out a few dollars, more,
more dollars, at every corner,
Oleander and College, more
at Dawson and 17th, more dollars, more words
Hungry Please Help

2.

I pause at streetlights
fire reflected
to me from wet eyes of men,
a single man, Help. Family, Hungry
The distance breaks on green

I begin to sing
If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning
a song my father sang sitting
around campfires with my brothers and sisters
strumming his coveted Sigma, memory
still brings me ease

I’m hungry for
moving on from
itch, yet somewhere a woman sits
alone on a wooden bench, rain covered
Hefty bags borrowed from
the heat of nearby homes
She sighs heavily, taking
in the damp indifference
of all who pass by, passersby
take a second look and
she lies on her side and
she’s covered in brown
sleeping bag covered by plastic

glistening in the moonlit rain
streetlamp rays sparkle
romanticize the park
bench, a love note
howling toward me as I pass
H u n g r y.

3.

I round
corners cheeked by morning
dew to find my lady missing
from the bench
marked by time
torn brown shrouds
of cloth

I look for new beginnings
as the morning dove
broods, sings
and cries settle over
wheels slapping wet
streets– Unwrapped, matted
hair, perched, my lady
hovers outside omphalos
waiting, the bus arrives
she smiles

4.

Next stoplight
houses another sign, Hungry
again, time slows
waits for me
to meet eyes of a heroine thin
man in fatigues, feeds borrowed
scraps to a dog
no sign this time, just
hunger

5.

My destination
is a distant home,
beyond my threshold
is a cutter, I cut my own
skin to stop the pain
of another
bend, another bowed head
another Hungry
grim in grimy hands
and God
Bless

6.

In the eye
of hunger, the world
is hungry. In homeless
eyes, the world
home, in celestial eyes, Hungry
Like good intentions in the eyes of God, Hell-
paved Samaritans
forgot lessons,
how to love, to feed
the Hungry

7.

It turns cold
later in the south
this year, sprouts more
Hungry
faces on the corner
begging with their cardboard Hunger
bending to Hungry
mouths open, panhandle
God,
Bless You
voiced in my own hunger
Hungry, Please
Hungry

Sarah J. Stephens lives and writes in the coastal town of Wilmington, North Carolina. She is a MFA candidate in poetry at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. In addition to publishing in a variety of journals, her first chapbook, Where All the Birds Are Dancing, was released in October 2020 by Finishing Line Press.

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