Portrait of a Woman Drinking Coffee

The difference is, it doesn’t own me.
But sitting in the corner
of this busy cafe
unable to stay or go, for lack of strength to move
I wonder if it makes any difference at all.

The buzz of café life goes on around me
the chatter, the color, the frills
but I am motionless, quiet
an antithetical storm’s eye
what is calm at the core
is the part that can kill.

It takes more courage
to get up and walk across the floor
to the bathroom, to hide
than I ever knew I had
in the days when fear had me.
It takes more pride
to face the mirror
and like what I see
than the child-me ever dreamed of
when crowds were a cruel
and dangerous thing.

The truth is, I don’t believe them,
but I hear the derision anyway.
They are more prolific than serotonin
and more reliable.
Negative things always
hit closer to home.

I can fit a butter-knife between
realism and neurotic thinking
but the truth as we understand it
depends on which side the affect is on.

I go back to my corner
I take a deep breath
ask the demon to sit down.
I pick up my pen
apply it to paper
I grip the word with such determination
my ink bleeds.


I close my eyes.

Once upon a time, it was a well
that I spent my cycles inside of
now it is a staircase, going down.
The difference is, where once
I used to slip and fall there
now I climb.

Having named the nature of my disorder
having memorized the pattern
spiraling down
each step inside now is an act of cognition
each descent a conscious ride.

I open my eyes.

Once I would have tumbled into this emotion
a storm’s eye sitting
in a broken coffeehouse chair
once I would have seen it as poles colliding
closing in on every last spark of joy

but now I see it as an old
familiar friend;
the kind that puts out a cigarette in your coffee
and reminds you
of everything you try to ignore.

The difference is, it doesn’t own me.
The difference is, it is all mine
and I am not alone in the corner
of this busy café
because this friend is with me
all the time
it feeds off of knowing
sooner or later, I will fail
and makes me stronger by living
for the day I’ll prove it wrong.

*Previously published in Kaleidoscope.


Writing by Shannon Connor Winward has appeared in Pedestal Magazine, Strange Horizons, Pseudopod, Fairy Tale Magazine, Literary Mama and Star*Line, to name a few. Her fiction placed in the semi-finals of the Writers of the Future Contest, and as a runner-up for an Emerging Artist Fellowship in Literature by the Delaware Division of the Arts in 2014 and 2015. Her debut poetry chapbook, UNDOING WINTER, was recently released from Finishing Line Press.  In between parenting, writing and other madness, Shannon works to support local artists, and here and there has been intimate with a microphone.  Visit Shannon at www.shannonconnorwinward.com.

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