Sylvia Freeman is a poet, singer/songwriter and photographer. Her poems have been published in The Lake, Carolina Woman, When Women Waken, Story South and several anthologies. She is the 2018 winner of the Randall Jarrell prize from NCWN. Her award winning photography has been published in Heron’s Nest, Dove Tails, and the online Fusion Art Gallery.  She composes for and sings in fleur-de-lisa, a women’s acapella quartet who use poetry lyrics in their original music. She lives in Durham North Carolina, USA.


Scavenger gulls
extend black tipped wings,
cry with open beaks
over winter water

On the icy edge
of the foam banded shore
I clutch my jacket close
gaze across the channel,
my heart, empty,
my feet, motionless
on crushed shells
my breath white as
the mist that shrouds
the horizon

Yet, spring will come, and summer,
and once more joyful waves
will greet the shore.
Once more I’ll step into water
over my head,
feel for hidden sharpness,
in the swaying stargrass.

The first time I swam across,
heat of July on my back,
arms and legs strong
against persuasive current,
determination drove me
through the swells.

O my son,
how could I know
how, in that same moment,
you were struggling?
While I drank of life,
in one dive,
you let go
into silence

A rising gull
lifts his head against
the harsh December sky;
dense fog swirls
into wispy ribbons,
sketch of distant shore.

After Death

The fifth year seemed the hardest to bear.
Is it because he was born in the fifth month
of the year? Or because he was always interested
in weather and a category 5 hurricane was developing
off the coast? Or because when he was five,
he brought a starfish, with five perfectly formed points, to me,
like the fingers of my hand, he said.
Perhaps it’s because he found such joy in music,
with the perfect 5th harmonies, musical staff with five lines?
He believed the energy created in the frequencies
of music serves as a bridge to help focus one’s eternal energy.
Or am I trying too hard to make the number five significant?
I only know I still try to find where he is in the night sky,
wonder which star, with five points of brightness, is his.

Holding On

When a stranger on the plane asked me
Do you have a son?
I was stunned.
My arms ached, felt empty,
the boy whose sudden death
brought me here, seated
beside this man and his young sons.

I couldn’t answer,
turned toward the port window,
if I inched my way across the wing
stepped down to meet the clouds,
thick as cotton batting my mother used
to line the quilt she made when he was born,
would I free fall –
through time and space –
or, like the dove with a broken wing
on our Christmas tree,
be held by a thin gold string?