Cynthia Sheward has written poetry since she was a child. She was born in Massachusetts but spent her young life in New Jersey. She applied her English degree from Arcadia University teaching junior-senior high school in Vermont the 70’s. In the 80s, she and her husband built their own house with their own hands in the mountains of North Carolina. In the 90s, she returned to NJ where she worked for a Fortune 500 corporation until her retirement.
Her work has been published in Friends Journal, Evening Street, the Bennington Banner, Fiber Arts Magazine, the Mountain Times and various other print media.
She currently resides in Jupiter, Florida.
To which sins shall I confess?
Panic when as an infant, you’d hold your breath and faint?
Complicity moving away from Grandpa?
Weakness, letting you visit your father who was still drinking?
for the dogs you did or didn’t like
for shopping trips where you spent money like a Sheik
for not punishing your $300 pre-Christmas phone bill
for loving you when you were your least loveable.
We refract the light that spawns us
Blue permissiveness from black strictness
Green sprouts from shiny white bread
Time unearths our original sin,
Adrift in time,
days wash by
for date or name.
A whole week
vanished in August.
There is nowhere to go.
No one wants our dollars.
Once we modeled democracy.
Our story now's a dark comedy.
The President says the virus
will vanish like a mist.
No problem, he’s got this.
Magical realism is fine for
Isabel Allende and
Gabriel Garcia Marquez,
but has no place in a country where
people die alone in crowded hospitals
city folks swarm to the country
morgue trailers line city streets.
A pandemic’s not a minor event,
a slight inconvenience.
It stops the world.
No magic can blind us
to the growing
pile of corpses.
Warm at my back, black Aberdeen
dreams his fourteen years
chasing - never catching
cat and deer.
Awake he seeks me if I
leave his sight.
Howls the agony of
my upstairs to his down.
His almond eyes
give the lie to a gentle way
companion in migraine
patient with children.
He cannot hear me
when I call – stares heavenward
for long spells. Smells better
than any dog I know.
I carry him upstairs,
set him on my bed,
turn out the light.
Warm at my back, black Aberdeen
As I walk the old railroad bed away from town
violets and periwinkles peer from bright green ground cover
and the funky protozoan scent of the Raritan fills my nostrils.
A cardinal’s scarlet flashes from a Sycamore overhead
and two gold finches,like acrobatic dandelions,
frolic through the green haze of trees.
The path is lined with skunk cabbage, daffodils and buttercups,
their mix of intention and happenstance so like life’s.
High above, almost out of range, a hawk circles.
The hum of the nearby Interstate hardly matters here.
Its slinky spasms and urgencies are no longer my problem.
I’ve traded those for the white flowers of May Apples,
emerald velvet of moss and the disappearing tail of a red fox
trotting into the trees.
The world of commerce and its stresses
computers, paperwork, clocks
and what they count
roll off me in a grateful sigh.
I have lost my job and gained the world.
No one comes from nothing.
Who birthed him – potty trained him
taught him to tie his shoes?
The concept’s blind to the myriad
lives that touch our own -
The workers who create roads
The teachers, who teach math and language
The plumbers who keep the sewers working
The linemen who climb poles to keep the lights on
Who made the shirt he wears?
His shoes? His socks?
Rich or poor we all rely on weaver, seamstress
garbageman and priest
to help us through our days.
In this time of plague, we’re reminded
no infant can change its own diaper.
The whole place we built by hand not just paper and paint. We hung rafters from the sky a chimney and bright metal roof which sang in every rain. We walked blank land and invented life anew in the Blue Ridge as if anyone ever starts again. Years later a blind date remarked “You’ve spent your life on houses.” True. Like a nest-obsessed bird, I’ve painted my way from town to town designing space for friends and music, tables to sit at and chairs to read in. I envisioned a family unlike my scattered patchwork which rarely gathers where I live. All that time and work for a life dreamed of a love desired – perhaps that’s why birds have not just nests but wings.
Please no box, no steel
to seal me from the earth.
Return me when it is my time
to all I was and wish to be again.
Release me to be born anew,
green and wonderful each Spring –
shoots sprouting from my heart
each part of me blooming.
I did not know when I birthed my son
that he would take my heart with him.
At night, desperate for rest
half asleep, barely present
I’d attempt to nurse him.
The choice frustrated us both.
One night when he cried, I took
him downstairs to my rocker,
made tea, made us comfortable
and realized he was my life.
He grew. I watched my heart
learn to walk, read
navigate friendships, school
and grieve a first love anew.
He became a man
who with his spouse created
three children into
whom he placed his heart.
Together, powerless but present
remembering our own youth
we watch their spirits grow
as they navigate their lives.
We’re participant and spectator both
since we freed our hearts
to beat, break and love
inside our children.
A blue jay struts across the porch to forage in our planters. The red streak at eye level's a cardinal. White “ribbons” wrap the trees - plastic prayer flags to a God, gnome or Goddess unknown. A cuban lizard pulls one off the live oak on the corner. As I leave Johnnie’s Bakery, an Agama, his head and tail stripe the color of children’s aspirin, races ahead of me. Johnnie’s bread has the taste of hope hand-made, crusty, fresh. So too does the air, laced with scent of gardenia, magnolia and surf. Beauty confounds the thought of so many dead. Mourners bereft of goodbye are blind with grief while fear heightens others'senses. How can such extremes of bliss and horror cohabit this planet? The return of wildlife, clean air and quiet seas make it clear this earth can shrug us off without notice.