by S. J. Stephens
“Between Dreams and Place”
Sun, betrayed by late-winter breeze
warms my skin through deck slats.
I close my eyes and raise to the heat,
in quiet midday the only sounds
are cars passing, birds chirping, and
the rattle of leaves in trees and on the ground.
Tiny hairs slip from my topknot
tickle my neck and cheek
Wind, hand caresses in the sweetest kiss,
lifting me from damage,
a crippled mind gently rocking
in the space between dreams and place.
I’m only this instance, sound, song, silence
separated from awareness, floating, melting
under the Myrtle when a dog barks
in the distance. A vortex behind my eyelids
forms a center, pulls me further
into resonant joy. I ask God to stop time,
let me live in this glimmer a while longer,
for this yearning, awakened body, despite desire
sleeps in the way of babes
swaddled in mothers’ arms.
“A Constant Punch”
There’s a sense of aching in fury.
As it happens now, I’m looking out the window,
where there rages a swift punch
of morning. It knows it has me captive
until I can hold all I feel as precious
until I revel in the ferocity of this pain.
But there is a truth that comes with the pain
and often it speaks to me through my fury
and offers me a fresh chance at precious
new knowledge, when it could offer me a window
of hope, the kind that any captive
must bear in the punch
of despair. Before delivering the verve
of courage, there is a new kind of pain
that throbs and holds me captive
where I thrash and thrive in my fury.
There is a crack in the window
that lets in cool air, precious
oxygen in the clutches of clamped peerless
pills, pounding worsens to a gut punch
I hope offers me an opportunity
to understand this throb, this pain.
While I am wrecked over again in the merciless
movement in my brain, I am captive
to all the things that this cage
could be, something precious
or a hunger that builds to fury
at why I am plagued and punched
with all this glorious divine agony.
I ponder, as I sit on the pane of a window
wondering if there is a time, a space
to escape. It holds me captive
to the physical, this throb, this pain
instead of the place of precious
peace. I claw, fight, and punch
my way away from rage
in a fantasy of painless days at my window.
A new storm’s fury is my captive,
nothing precious survives this constant punch.
S.J. Stephens lives and writes in the coastal town of Wilmington, North Carolina. She is an MFA poetry student at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. She’s published in a variety of journals, and her chapbook, Where All the Birds Are Dancing, was released October 2020 by Finishing Line Press.