Shuly X. Cawood, Chapel Hill

“I have relatives in Mexico on my mother’s side, so our cultural differences were an inspiration for this poem,” says Shuly Cawood. “I have written a lot of poetry about my travels to visit that side of the family and the brief period of my life when I lived with them.” Judge Jane Mead was impressed by the metaphors in “Lovers,” which she said were accomplished with great skill. “One envisions the places in this poem,” Mead says. “The imagery resonates on the level of idea. This poet’s descriptive powers are considerable.”

Cawood says she is not influenced by any particular writer, but she admires poets Jane Hirschfield, Jacqueline Osherow and Margaret Atwood. “My father has been an inspiration because he’s a writer,” she says. Her dad, now retired, was the editorial page editor for the Dayton Daily News in Ohio. Cawood is originally from Yellow Springs, Ohio. She moved to the Triangle in 1998 and works at the Women’s Center in Chapel Hill, as associate director of career and financial programs. She has published poems in the journals Moving Out and The Pegasus Review.

Cawood is currently working on a book with her father that she expects to be a combination of fiction and poetry. “We have talked about writing together for a long time,” she says. “Now we finally have the chance.”

Lovers

When we visit my tia

my aunt in Torreón

I sleep in the house,

the garden like a green moat

around white stucco walls.

She gives me a king-size bed,

and I doze off on one side and awaken

on the other of this gold-comforter

island.

Beyond the lemon tree and yard,

he sleeps in a twin bed with two blankets

in the room off the garage where she sews,

her measuring tapes like yellow snakes,

and her laces, chiffons, silks

bundled on the table and every bit of chair.

She’s cleared a space

on just one shelf

for his bag.

He awakens to the swish

of her old bride dress

hanging loose and thin

from a black wire hanger,

its sleeves dusting walls

in the breeze.