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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.

© Shawn Nacona Stroud

*This poem appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of the Loch Raven Review.

The Cape Fear side winds
below like a snake,
its muddiness slugs
towards the Fish Traps.

Perched on granite summit
no man-hand has climbed,
I watch the fall line,
follow water with my eyes
to where boulders and foliage-
crowned islands
rend brown river white,
and fly fishers cast their lines
in a hoop out to the current.

Trees billow over;
the watercourse repels their effigy—
its screen of silt reveals no secrets.
One could plunge their beak all day
and never clamp a bite.

The Sun ignites the horizon,
an eagle owl’s eye
peeking over the Blue Ridge,
ready to blink the world into night.

Shadows dance the banks
as fins thunk within coolers
fishermen pack with their harvest.
With backs turned, they pay
no mind to their hatchling
while it breeches the coop—
pigtails sway in the breeze.

It strokes the stream, an admirer,
bends in closer and closer
to see itself—
the serpent swallows its image.

I take to the air with my catch.

 ♦This poem was published in the Summer 2007 issue of the Loch Raven Review under the title Osprey on Raven Rock.

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♦View from Raven Rock, Raven Rock State Park, NC

Like water, night cascades
washing daylight away.
My window is a canvas—
a sunset by Monet.

Caked viridian hills
embrace the crimson sky
as brush-worked willows reflect
in the river each sigh.

Slack shadows tar the land
paving on what’s in sight—
in swirls of purple and blue
buds the burgeoning night.

The prismatic twilight
displayed one hour ago,
displaced by Ursa Major
conceives a dark Van Gogh.

♦ Published in the Summer 2007 issue of the Mississippi Crow Magazine.

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*The Van Gogh night painting with Ursa Major in the night sky is called “Starry Night over the Rhône”

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* The Monet suset in the poem is posted above, the paiting is titled “Sunset”

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.

♦This poem was published in The Poetry Worm 40.

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* Daytime view of Lake Harney, Orlando, FL

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