after Philip Guston, Untitled, ink and acrylic, 1980
The store clerk was gone in ten seconds
after the 30 rounds—blood spattered on
the welcome mat, soda coolers, cash register.
From the manhole in the studio, Brian Williams’ voice
seeds my living room—(Brian, who I know so well
but have never met—). The blood so thick
in that storefront it makes me think
about brushstrokes piled in a heap
like draped klansmen—Then I see
detainees at Abu Grahib, fowled
in brown paper bags. The silver screws
and gawky nails that turn to fists,
if you stare long enough
at the painting—Guston’s cartoon
versions haunting all my worst fears.
Every night, The News stock-piles
in my living room. The pink rubble
and gray maw of Japan floating off
falling rocks, buildings dislimned.
White clouds that aren’t clouds at all.
Dust flaring off the TV from muddied
combat boots, that have brazed and combed
hillsides in the folly, fog and boredom of war.
In the Sabbath light, the Guston’s hills
become the torah scrolls that my son
will read from, holding the sweat
of thousands before him—All their tolls
that remind us of what is worth keeping,
what we take at a moment’s notice—
The hand of a loved one,
the prayers in the hills.
"Hillsides" originally appeared in The Del Sol Review, Winter 2012 #18
Cynthia Atkins' poems have appeared widely in journals such as Alaska Quarterly Review, American Letters & Commentary, BOMB, Caketrain, Clementine, Cultural Weekly, Del Sol Review, Denver Quarterly, Harpur Palate, The Journal, Le Zaporogue, North American Review, Tampa Review, Valparaiso Review, and Verse Daily, among many others. She is the author of Psyche's Weathers and most recently, In The Event of Full Disclosure. (July 2013, Wordtech). Atkins poems were nominated for a 2013 and 2014 Pushcart Prize. She was recently interviewed about her new book on the Huffington Post and Bill and Dave's Cocktail Hour. She holds residencies from the VCCA and Breadloaf Writer’s Conference and is currently an assistant professor of English at Virginia Western Community College. She lives in Rockbridge County, VA on the Maury River, with artist Phillip Welch and their family. More info at her website of author page: www.cynthiaatkins.com and on Facebook.