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Poetry by Shawn Nacona Stroud


Poetry by Shawn Nacona Stroud

Departures Copyright Š 2009 by Shawn Nacona Stroud All rights reserved

NaconaBoi Press 6345 Carpentaria Court Charlotte, NC 28215 Cover design and layout ~ Shawn Nacona Stroud No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For more information or to contact the author for any reason try: Or:

A special thanks goes out to M, LJ Cohen, Sue Kay, Gary Blankenship, Jim Doss, Christopher T. George, S. Thomas Summers, M. Kathryn Black, Laurie Byro, Sergio Ortiz, W.F. Roby, Jennifer Wirth, Heather Blynn, Andrew Dufresne, Fred Longworth, Teresa White, Lazarus, E, and all the other members (too many to name here) at Wild Poetry Forum and the Desert Moon Review who have helped me and my work to grow over the past few years.

Some of the poetry in this book first appeared in the following e-zines, magazines, and anthologies: Crescent Moon Journal, Loch Raven Review, Mississippi Crow Magazine, The Poetry Worm, Up the Staircase, Word Catalyst Magazine, The Poetry Pages Vol. IV and Poetry from the Dark Side Vol. 2.

First Edition ~ E-Book ~ Shawn Nacona Stroud

For my love: Kevin R. Wood, my sister Jennifer Stroud Wirth And Laurie Byro (thanks for the title!)

How You Know it’s Over My dear, although I know it bothers you, I still dribbled piss along the toilet seat you’ll plop right down onto before you’ve read this letter, then you will discover the emptied roll of toilet paper I’ve left out of pure-love for you. And before you squeal the knobs on for your morning shower, I’ve used all the hot water like you consume hearts.


The Substitute Don’t mistake the mint smack of his lips or the silk brush of his flesh as he grasps you tight in a night-grip, his chest pressed sweat slicked against your back for love. In July his breath breeze caresses your neck like Florida winds that coast off the Gulf of Mexico. Trace his silhouette cut from the fabric of night and pretend it’s genuine to fall into this one-sided love. Tomorrow the sun will spotlight a space in our bed empty as your pith. You’ll smell the musk of his flesh on your pillow and feel a trail tears tickle down your cheeks.


Follow him through that door with the baggage of your love. For tonight you lie in his arms and dream you’re a Pompeii cast in his embrace— I’ll return after a few days to fill the dented space in his place.


She is a Lioness circling her cage, jilted, with three young cubs. She roars, her brown eyes chagrined, a patch of dark girding the cleft of her thighs. Her chestnut locks sway to her paced fury as she wears an O into the floorboards. Occasional peeks through the blind-slits for father diverts her. She renders us invisible before we brave the living room, but soon her eyes will oscillate into focus. She’ll pounce us like prey, shred our youth away with talon words. Such furrows only miracles can mend.


Self Portrait I can't get unstuck; I'm glued to this canvas— framed cotton wearing his face, a cage hooked to his bedroom wall. He brushes past me without a glance and I hate him the way I detest the dust shawl he lets drape across my face. At first it felt pleasant: his paintcooled brush dabbed on the senses. A stroke of beige and I smelled earthen ocher; a dot of blue and I looked up his brush, as the pink slash of my mouth huffed in mediums I listened to his brush-work complete me. I was as pliable as flesh before I hardened on his wall— after all, he painted me handicapped only to flaunt the limbs he left out. I needn't move about his study or hall. Once, I used to envy him, sporting the means to strut beyond my frame.


Now when his aged face studies mine like an old man searches for himself in his son, I know that I'm the luck-filled one— he may brandish life and he may roam free, but he coated me with his immortality.


After the Exodus (Warsaw, 1941) “It all belonged to everyone since it no longer belonged to anyone.” –Elie Wiesel, Night

We are orphans scattered along the street gutters. A litter of abandoned purses, wallets and luggage, we listen to our parent’s footfalls vanish among traffic sounds that drown-out their existence. The Ghetto left emptied as rapture day, we sit like stunned sinners shivering with wind while night inks the sky, lowers charred fogs of war. From darkness shadows peel into being, they’ve come to adopt us. The barren women scoop us up and cradle us like mothers, whisk us home beneath vacated eyes— windows of houses that have already forgotten us.


Survivors (For Mary Jones)

When the sonic boom rattles her windows— she’s forgotten about Atlantis landing at Kennedy, how it explodes through the atmosphere with the boom-boom sound of bomb strikes. She bolts out of bed; dawn spotlights her pruned face, hair bristles of sun-bleached straw— faded like moonlight in morning’s glow. Her ears hear Hitler’s ravens buzz over London again: bomb thunder, smoke, screams have invaded her dreams. She leaves her bedroom the girl she once was, grabs a doll that’s her pillow and runs for the bomb shelters with the other survivors in Orlando.


Mrs. Kevorkian Jack played out back in the patch of shade our oak tree laid upon the lawn. The blue jay, tossed out of its nest like a bad egg, thrashed as it shrieked in his palms. I looked up from my azaleas when I heard a swift quiet replace the twig-like snap. The mass dropped at his feet, our Creator’s crumpled origami. Staring stunned by his hands, he said to me, “Mother, these are my mercy machines.”


Poems I carve words onto paper the way I once gashed my left arm to savor the burn as if pleasure. It’s the same blood-spring which used to coat my father’s buck knife I etch into images on pages of flesh that scar to form my poems.


The Fisher of Man (Jetty Park, Cape Canaveral)

………………….I Ahead, the Atlantic foams at the mouth, roars and snaps its jaws like a rabid dog. Separated from us by balding scalps with sea oats jutting up for hair— spiked strands the wind can’t comb. The wind is an ancient stylist, complains of his plight in my ears. A billion years he’s combed beaches. Now he cups a glass palm over my mouth, rips my words silent with his force. Sand embeds in my soles: shell fragments, crushed bones spit up by the ocean like owl pellets the sea gulls pick clean of meat— they skirt my path and shriek for more. ………………….II

We crunch out to the jetty’s shadow where the Atlantic separates from itself, a water-paved driveway ships come to park on. Departing cruise lines belch, then drift into specs—


the grey finger of lumped rocks points their way. A fisherman on the docks waves as they pass; he’s pitched and pulled his line all night. We gape as he yanks another catch. It’s a damned soul that thrashes his line; he drowns it on air. As we approach its o-mouth huffs for breath, then submits with a thump to the morgue of his cooler. ………………..III

Like the fish, I once tugged your pole; the line you caught me with still reels me in to you— and your hook, scooped through the flesh of my upper lip, bleeds me the color dawn stains the water.


After Moonlight paints us into corpses as we lie tangled in bed. I cling to you like a boy clings to his teddy bear in darkness, listen to crickets shake their rattles over the splash of cars passing through rain puddles. All night I lie awake with you relearning the curves of your flesh, the satin brush of your hair, devour your cologne as it rises like steam from your skin. I hold you until the moon is through— when sunlight brushes flesh tones on me, but leaves the gray tinge of an effigy on you.


Mary It is simple for her to steal off into the night and leave her sleeping family to their snores on the straw-tossed floor. She slips free of the links that fasten her to life— her mother, father, and Joseph, all dwindle in her mind like a haze of memory, she can hardly see them in the distance behind her. There is only Nazareth, the white-washed dwellings that crown the hilltop tapering down the sides; only the crickets bawling their buzz to the moonlight and the sound of two lovers— concealed by winds whistle and lost among olive branches. His is the face of love, shadowed in darkness, eclipsing the bulbilmoon as she looks up to the gleam of his nimbus.


For three months his chiseled body shrouds her own, and then her swelling belly forces her to stay home. When Joseph rubs a warm hand over her lumped mound, conjured stones strike her skin and she recalls that angel.


October These once blossomed dogwoods bleed as they parish with fall like heads of graying hair that will bald until the thaw. Winter blows its death-breath and they clack as they moil and lull, now rooks speckle those bared limbs: the air alive with their caw. I watch them transform from my window, tingle inside with awe as I picture their phoenix flowers flame after winter’s withdraw.


Shattered I shall never

get these

glued together I am

pieces again!

a broken china doll

pitched into the wall.

Fragmented to reconstruct themselves.

shards striving

Shattered like a collision of worlds, once reassembled I bear the cracks of loss



Finishing You are a bruising apple that dangles near the end of my limb. My hold on you weakens with the whistled pushes of wind. Soon I’ll lose my grip: a thunk on the ground at my feet. Love finishes like a season that freezes once it’s complete.


Making Copies (For my mother)

You were a Xerox of him, nine months printed, the flesh colored ink of the womb still drying. I wanted to ball you up and pitch you like trash into the waste-bin, listen as you crinkle out of existence, and then hit the print button again.


The Palmetto Bug Migration Nightly they invade, waiting for the lights to dim, and for airborne snores. Unnoticed, they breach the boarders of the kitchen to escape their frozen homes. They migrate like Visigoths, cleverly concealed in a forest of cupboards and drawers. Those camouflaged waylayers spy on a table spread with dinner through sharp little lenses. When sure of safety they scurry in hoards from crack and crevice, and skillfully navigate air. Surveying their surroundings, they form legions while spilling out onto white linoleum. They speckle the floor brown like dropped raisins as their leader addresses them from granite counter-top.


The ranks hail him below like Nazis until the overhead light clicks on, and a brutal battle begins. Weeks later their great grandchildren will gaze at upside down cups in the cabinet while their parents tell of their losses.


Designer Vanity This skin is not Prada, Gucci or Versace— it was purchased in purgatory at the Gap Outlet on the corner. Stitched tight in the flesh suit, I became a mirror gazer, a Snow Queen, how I’ve loathed that cast-back face. All day stealing into bathrooms to sneak weary peeks at my ravished portrait— watching age etch its many mars. At first the changes were subtle, a spot here, a pock there— the facial geography slowly shifted with time. I did anything to be designer then— washing and washing to fade, desperately stitching on labels, and tearing twin holes in my newness. Never able to copy them properly, finally, only tatters remained, and every mirror mocked me— sticking out its tongue at my attempts.


What a fool my reflection has been, always focused on what I lack— regardless we end up pressed together on the same second-hand rack.


Becoming Virginia Woolf Everything wavers, iridescent glass moils above me as a chilled gush-gust continually flaps me along the riverbed. I sway like seaweed. Carp, Pike, and Barbel regard me with interested eyes while awaiting dinner. My fingers glide across anchors of stone that pack each pocket, stroke the smooth surfaces which weigh me down with unquestionable intent. I watch trapped oxygen escape from each waterlogged nostril— air balloons rise towards the heavens. They tick time like a doomsday clock constantly counts down seconds.


Soon the mouth dam will fail— aquatic air will flood in and fish will clench and gnaw with cannibal jaws while they eat me as their own.


Catatonic These days I sit, a statue in my rocker, creaking back and forth at the wind’s hand. The nurses repeat my name over and over like and echo; I answer with mouthfuls of silence, listen all day as their feet squeak toward me from the station that spits them out. They are freshprinted copies of one lame lady. They always wear her clothes, slip over the horizon of my vision like the sun and moon. Twice a day they deafen and blacken my world with vials of sparkling light. I look through them as they stoop over me; dumb hunchbacks, I render them each into glass, cellophane, pure air— there is no-one there!


Instead I see the dead; those white gowns, they hover across the fresh-cut sod. Attendants chase them over that green carpet like excited ghost hunters, admire their handiwork. Why, they are not nurses at all, but of herd of notorious murderers in disguise. Tonight another will come, try their hand again— I’ll reply with my petrified o-gaped moon-face. No promises of peace or health can wrench me from my chair.


Late Spring Rain Among graphite and sandstone colored shingles, pigeons park, claws gripped to the grit, wings flit like loosened tiles along the rooftops in a gale struck neighborhood. Our cul-de-sac incessantly fills with bird babble, street lamps flicker beneath day’s overshadowed light, confused, they think it night-time in the cloud strewn noon. Thunderheads boom, rumble as if invading army artillery on approach across the Piedmont foothills. Windows rattle in their panes, and northerly winds whip birches that boarder our subdivision, thrash foliage: a far river flows in my ears. Chickadees scatter over lawns, blown leaves unsettled by a tremble in the ground. Late spring rains spatter driveways in a deepened grey, parched yellow grasses drink dampened dirt— their tongues of steam lap July air.


Shadows Each evening our shadows escape, the sun lowers, and they steal away under the cover of night. I have seen mine in those last moments, elongated, trailing along behind me. Then I turn around, and he is gone. He unfastened the Velcro that connects us hands and feet, and slipped off down the street. I came upon them, one midnight walk in South Beach. Leaving the world of neon and pastel hotels behind me— I stepped off the bike path, my feet sinking in white sand, and saw them all congregated with their own kind. They pretended to be us as they walked along the beach. Two sat on the steps of the lifeguard shack smoking, and I saw shadows bobbing like corks in the ocean. I walked towards the water’s edge, and felt myself fading as I slowly became one of them.


1:00 a.m. on Lake Harney The night sky is scratch art, a trillion glinting specks stylus sketched on a black plane, carbon copied into rippling water. I manipulate grains of sand with my toes. The dark blusters with sonance. A chorus of horny frogs blare over squeals of cicadas, drowning the cricket’s frail rings. A warm Florida breeze gentles my face, Spanish moss sways as the moon jumps in a flicker of yellow back and forth in the lake. Behind me the house is dark, concealing its conked-out contents, eluded in a Sominex sleep— they cannot discern what they lack, I’ve shed them like a skin discarded at my back. I disown mortality— that flesh cocoon has ensnared me ten years too long and it knows it, it’s ready to give as I step onto the tide-slapped pier and fishy-air taints my nostrils.

Brittle boards stretch out before me— a plank that destiny blades my back to walk, stupid pirate, I creak those slats willingly. As I step forward a heron bursts into the sky from the water, white feathers spread wide like an angel’s. If only such beauty could change me.


The First Time a boy broke it off with me, he looked me in the eyes and said: “Fags don’t serve papers, they tell you to get the fuck out!” That’s when I learned what love is about. Since then, I fin through my world: a Siamese Fighting Fish, ready to attack my own kind.


A Son’s Intuition (For my mother)

I floated, a tadpole, breathing the murky fluids of your womb. I held on as the water level drained into a tunnel of light. My newly formed fingers anchored into your cerise silk tissue— they had to cut me out. When I saw the seam split, I felt slicked fingers dig for me. I reached for anything vital, I reached to draw blood— tried to stop you from being my mother even as I was born. With one ovary torn like a fruit from the tree of your body, the doctors crowded in around you to dam your blood while a nurse wiped your insides off my newborn flesh.


Walpurgisnacht It’s no night to stray, steel-wool clouds strap a starless sky. The heavens unleash their arctic breath; even death is not this chilled. Late winter flakes her crystals to the ground; winds kick it about in a fury. We are lost in cloaks of white sky, blank as air to the naked eye. Feet crunch into snow-packed earth as we land and shake ice from our broom bristles, settle among the rocks and tors, those platformed crags of the Teufelskanzel. Iced Pines enclave us, transfigured as stones strewn about Medusa’s garden. They descend Brocken Peak to be devoured by the Harz’s umbrage. Up here we dance with the crackling sway of trees, they are raised skeletons masquerading to the far-off roar of the Weser. Tonight our pyres will lap at darkness like a devil’s thirsty tongue, all Ilsenburg will shutter their windows— wait for spring to come. We turn about the flames, chant each spirit’s name. Winter winds scream in fear. Earth’s thawing draws near.

Kill Devil Hill, NC I crest Kill Devil Hill. A solo Carolina maple umbrellas above— a canopy of red bleeds into the sky’s grayness. I inhale the sweetness of its wounds, those bloodblooms spill the first scent of spring into chilled February air. Looking out, the hill mimes a cliff; its slope drops off at my feet. The Catawba River flows in waves below on a million unseen legs, navigates horse-stomped meadows like a silver millipede, advances toward forested foothills in the middle distance: one step forward and I’d topple into its current. Fields are split by the pegged corpses of trees that cannot halt this winding watercourse. It trespasses through every plot. Here, no one sees me mirror the maple tree: my branchlets burst with flowers on their ends; petals helicopter lithe as samaras; limb perched rooks savor my trauma— cruor coated beaks rise from my wounds.


NYC 2023 Abandoned skyscrapers, swamp foxtail raised to sway along the tide-line. We weave out to the Atlantic between you like ants in the shadow of your steel-stems. Beach sand grains our feet into sandpaper, their crunch muffled as waves zip the water’s edge shut. You creak with the sea’s shove like harbored barges groan their ropes along landing piers. Only the seagulls make use of you now, they roost on your ledges and speckle the toilet of your walls. White streaks of indifference, nobody cares to clean them off. Gondoliers punt out among you, steering their courses with fish splashes; relics of the lost city of Venice, they dwindle on the horizon. The torch clad hand they sail to reaches out from the water like a drowning victim.


Continental Drift After the cataclysm you ………broke………..away from me. For years ………the lands……….drifted ……………………across ……..the cold sea. Fate…………..propelled ……………………….your plate into another, ………………and you …………………… connected as we never could. You called him Asia, and he praised you, Africa. He impressed you with his thick lush forests, and danced on your sun-beaten planes. Together you and he watched the ice form over me, alone in that darkness, you named me ………………..Antarctica.


Ragweeds Mother, we grew in your neglected garden. We survived for eight long years as we choked on the thick thwart of your hate, it sucked the soil nutrients from us. We had barely bloomed the day that you plucked us from the dirt.


about the author Shawn Nacona Stroud lives in Charlotte, NC where he works as a graphic artist. His poems are inspired by the state of Florida where he grew up, and the people and beautiful landscapes of North Carolina where he now resides. Shawn Stroud’s poems have appeared in literary journals and ezines such as: Up the Staircase, Word Catalyst Magazine, Mississippi Crow Magazine, Loch Raven Review, Crescent Moon Journal, The Poetry Worm, and Here and Now. His poetry has also appeared in two anthologies The Poetry Pages Vol. IV and Poetry from the Dark Side Vol. 2. Besides painting, Shawn’s other passion has always been reading and writing poetry, and while he is not busy expressing his thoughts and feelings on canvas or paper he spends his free time editing poetry challenges for an online poetry workshop called the Desert Moon Review. Shawn is an Anna Davidson Rosenberg Awards for Poems on the Jewish Experience finalist for 2008-2009.

Kill Devil Hill, NC


Poetry by Shawn Nacona Stroud