Two Poems by Priscilla Atkins


How many times
have I tongued the blue-violet
berries of French syllables,

repeated them as if
they were injunction,
mantra, beads strung and handed

to me personally
by a brown-eyed writer,
whose cowled, close-set irises

had borne witness
through the dark hours,
each pupil pierced with knowledge.

How many summer evenings
have I pulled my life up
to a sky-lit wicker table

and set my sights
on real, or magical places—
Illiers or Combray

and further, fourteen miles
by train, then by boat,
chased by froth-flecked waves

white as apple blossoms.
How many times
have I made the trip,

signed my name
on the salt-ripe sea.


All the days swept with gold,
and the rainy ones, too.
In Spain, the first lunch glass
of Albarino wine. And the last.
Little dim-lit bars where we’d buy coffee
so we could use the bathroom.
The platters of broiled lamb chops,
the sheep blocking the road.
The way a peasant woman
strapped a long rope around a cow
and took her for a walk.
Or that’s what we surmised,
in a remote valley, where
the hundred year old shepherd
in a tweed jacket
wished us long and healthy lives.

All the paintings of Paris
in snow. The morning we got drunk
on croissants and café au lait
then walked miles up back streets,
where men unloaded lorries
of eggplants, cabbages, apples, steaming
rabbits, until we finally reached Père Lachaise.
The famous tragic names—
Chopin, Proust, Apollinaire.
And the unknown 1920’s watercolorist:
her dark, swept-up beauty captured
on a tomb’s oval inset.

In front of the rich people’s hotel
in Cozumel (where we snuck into
the lobby), squatting down
for a curious stone
and finding the velvet blue butterfly wing
that’s still tucked
in my tiny green notebook.
The ferry to Playa del Carmen,
the men with glorious mustaches and guitars.
Looking down the cliffs from the ruins
at Tulum, the blue-green-blue of ocean.
The boy who leaped, our eyes following
the slim arc of his brown body; the heat, the cold.

The vineyards and mountainsides,
the banisters in old hotels.
Blue bus exhaust, wild taxi rides ending
in possibility and departure—Tunisia,
Tokyo, Stockholm, Casablanca.
And coming home, the weight
of each suitcase. The jetlag,
the clean sheets, waking at 4am
to the new-old smells of home.
Ice clinking in your almond breakfast drink,
leaves steeping in my gold-trimmed china pot,
dim chatter of Van Gogh’s lights, his darks—

I name them all for you.

About the author

Priscilla Atkins's poetry has traveled to Poetry London and to The Dalhousie Review. Among other pretty homes for her work include Bayou, The Bellingham…

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