Lie with me in this moment
sink into the book of me
where all my stories wait to be told. Take out the pages
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.
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
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.