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.
At 72, it takes two tries
to get each foot into my jeans.
I wobble and catch myself
against the closet shelf.
At 72, I nap each day
enjoy my dreams
scary or complex, puzzles
to ponder in waking hours.
At 72, it seems absurd
that I remember a child’s
great great grandmother.
I'm a walking history text.
At 72, my 87-year-old friend
says I am young. I should
not fret but get to work.
I have another 20 years.
At 72, I think of poems
unwritten, songs unsung
and return to my desk.
The day is young.
Truth runs thin in homes
diluted by pills and alcohol.
There’s no hook to hang your hat upon,
no rock on which to stand.
Mothers park along the driveway
at school’s end. Our Buick sits
cock-eyed across the curb.
I long to be like other kids, but
know I’m not. Vodka bottles line
the linen closet - a fully-feathered
duck rests in the freezer.
I show it to my friend.
The puppy ate mom’s sleeping pills
and will not wake again.
School is worse - so many faces
whose chatter makes no sense
to me. I am not them. Sunday’s
comics fill me with dread.
There’s no vacation from
fear, only blank days that
The Lord’s Prayer went missing today
on my knees no words to say.
Often a name, a place
evaporates as I reach for it.
Whole chunks of books I’ve read
when opened, I’ve lost the thread.
I used to drive with knowledge sure
of roads from today and long ago
my sense of place, a source of pride.
That map in my brain is gone.
This troubles me. It isn’t clear
what’s normal. What I should fear.
I trust the journey - friends, family, God
and if I must – will seek in books, maps,
stories, prayers to fill my lips
and ease my grip upon this world
and what remains – the precious gift
of days and hours, I ‘ve yet to claim.
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.