Home > Words of Power > No Place Like Home: Kansas 1965

No Place Like Home: Kansas 1965

December 26, 2009

by Pamela Johnson Parker

Her bicycle and broom, her fingers bony
As catfish barbels, skin the shade of scales
Scattered from the luna’s wing—oh, the witch entire

Is what I craved—her pointed hat, her widow’s
Weeds trailing behind her like a burning
Bride’s veil, and her voice—pure power—

And your little dog, too. I mimicked
That rasp for days, and I was never
Afraid… Never.  What scared me were the trees,

Apple-laden branches that groped and grabbed,
False faces, wrinkling grey bark… Trees like him,
Mr. Monday, who lived across the street,

Who clutched at my hair and my red car coat.
When I wouldn’t go back to the porch slanting
Before his pointy house.  Da duh, da duh

Da duh—each lurching pair of steps was perfect
Iamb, a meter I’ll scan again, again.
No one heard me shriek, my voice was too faint

To carry. Later, I didn’t have words
To say what I cannot say. As I watched
The Wizard of Oz the weekend after,

Hexing, oh, I called down my worst on him,
Curses like poppies, poppies that sent
Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion

To sleep, to sleep. No one will wake him up;
Mr. Monday lives alone, not even
A dog… Before the mirror, as I murmured,

I gazed at my unfamiliar face:
Oh, these things must be done delicately.
If they have ears to hear, then let them hear.

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Pamela Johnson Parker (blog) is a medical editor and adjunct professor in creative writing and poetry. Her inaugural collection A Walk Through the Memory Palace was the winner of qarrtsiluni’s 2009 poetry chapbook contest. Her poems, flash fiction, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in The Binnacle, The Other Journal, New Madrid, Pebble Lake Review, Holly Rose Review, Six Sentences, MiPOesias, Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal, and Anti-. She is also the featured poet in the April 2009 Broadsided series of poetry and art. A graduate of the MFA program at Murray State University, Parker lives in western Kentucky.

  1. December 29, 2009 at 4:39 am

    I love this poem. After all The Wizard of Oz is a shared experience for so many. A childhood rite of passage. We almost certainly remember different things about the film and will have been spooked… or not… by Witch, trees and flying monkey. But whatever buttons it hit in the scares department, the film defined something in every susceptible child who sat entranced through it. This poem redefines and reinvents something so familiar to me that there’s a danger I might forget how extraordinary the experience of watching it once was. The familiar like a lure to catch me… that description of Miss Gulch is as sharp as lemons… that then leads on to the poet’s particular dread of a neighbour and the sweet relief from fear of him, negotiated by dint of imagination. Brava Pamela Johnson Parker. This hit the spot for me.

  2. December 29, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Eep. The narrator’s “Later, I didn’t have words / To say what I cannot say” is heartrending.

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