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Posts Tagged ‘Pamela Johnson Parker’

Materials and Not Enough Time: An Alphabet

October 17, 2012 2 comments

by Pamela Johnson Parker

Alençon lace (I see you through a veil)

Broadcloth (the prairie sprawls and undulates),

Burlap (kittens in a sack you rescue them)

Calico (aprons and flour sack frocks cut up for your quilt)

Cambric (handkerchief of the Lord, I embroider an H)

Canvas (an artist’s model shivers in the corner, the artist is you the model is me)

Chino (you called them your lawyer pants, wore them when you were permanently pressed for funds)

Corduroy (kings’ cloth, Thomas Hart Benton’s furrowed fields, fretted like your old Gibson)

Cotton (your skin my skin same boll)

Crepe (my 1920s de chine dress cut on the bias, flowers over my hip bones, petals and branches over my ribs),

Denim (your thigh sliding through the wicket of mine in the doorway where we first kissed),

Felt (wetting wool, rubbing wool, a congress of wet sheep in an Irish pub we visit),

Flannel (your shirt still warm from your skin, I steal it for a quick trip to the kitchen)

Fleece (I have been shorn of you)

Gabardine (your three-piece suit with its vest, its watch chain and fob, the suit I couldn’t bury you in)

Gauze (breathing through it, seeing through it after you’re gone)

Gingham (cheery kitchen curtains with cross-stitched roosters, I am scrambling the first eggs I’ll make for you)

Kapok (we are cocooned together, a private tent in the cherry trees)

Lamé (drag queen who made you laugh your lustiest at “You’re Not Woman Enough to Take My Man” and the swaggering hips of the singer, the waterfall of gold over them),

Linen (the tan and black suit I wore on our first Easter, the one that fits again because I can’t eat/don’t cook without you)

Madras (a plaid we didn’t like, a city we wanted to visit)

Muslin (that impossibly thin antique blouse, leg o’mutton sleeves and lace collar on which you pinned for me a cameo)

Nylon (your thumbnail sends a millipede skittering down my stocking)

Organza (the sheer fabric, the topnotes of gardenia in a perfume you picked out),

Piqué (the screen door, slamming behind us as we head to the lake, fishnets)

Rayon (the 1940s dress I wore when we’d swing dance, you’d lift me and I’d fly)

Satin (slick sheets you’d throw off the bed)

Serge (the ocean’s undertow, all these layers stitched together)

Silk (one of the few fabrics that will shatter, as mirrors do, as I have)

Twill (classic fabric, archaic contraction, twill never be better)
Velvet (the feel of your skin, there)

Voile (close to veil, my hair over my face, my dress over a chair)

Wool (it made you itch, o I would scratch your back)

Worsted (these days the way they’re woven, warp and weft and what’s looming)


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Pamela Johnson Parker is a medical editor and adjunct professor of creative writing and literature at Murray State University. A Walk Through the Memory Palace was the first selection in the qarrtsiluni chapbook series. Another chapbook, Other Four Letter Words, is available from Finishing Line Press. Pamela’s work is also featured in Best New Poets 2011, edited by D. A. Powell.

Categories: Fragments Tags:

One More: After Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”

February 8, 2012 2 comments

(and perhaps addressed to “The Prodigal”)

by Pamela Johnson Parker

The art of boozing isn’t hard to master.
So many drinks seem filled with the intent
To be drunk that drinking, drunk, is no disaster.

Drink something every round. Tell that old bastard
Of a bartender you’ll drink until you’re skint.
The art of boozing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice drinking harder, drinking faster,
Spend happy and happier hours, spend up the rent
To be drunk. Drinking, drunk is no disaster.

You drank your apartment up. And look, your last or
Next to last of folded twenties went
To buy a round. The art of boozing isn’t hard to master.

You’ve lost two days, lovely ones, while plastered
Like pig shit to a wall—your job, the argument
That to a drunk, being drunk is no disaster.

Even now, as you belly up to the bar
Like a sick fish floating—it’s evident
The art of boozing isn’t hard to master.
As you drink doubles—prodigality’s no disaster.


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Pamela Johnson Parker is a medical editor and adjunct professor of creative writing and literature at Murray State University. A Walk Through the Memory Palace was the first selection in the qarrtsiluni chapbook series. Another chapbook, Other Four Letter Words, is available from Finishing Line Press. Pamela’s work is also featured in Best New Poets 2011, edited by D. A. Powell.

Categories: Imitation Tags:

No Place Like Home: Kansas 1965

December 26, 2009 2 comments

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.

A Walk Through the Memory Palace

September 14, 2009 14 comments

order A Walk Through the Memory PalaceWe’re very pleased to announce the publication of the first-place winner of our 2009 poetry chapbook contest, A Walk Through the Memory Palace, by Pamela Johnson Parker, in dual print and electronic versions.

The print edition, published in collaboration with Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal, is 28 pages long and has a full-color, glossy cover with a black-and-white interior. The list price is $5.95.

The online version features a simple-yet-elegant design with an easy-to-use navigation system, and includes audio files of the author’s reading alongside each poem. It’s Creative Commons-licensed (Attribution-Noncommercial) to encourage the sharing of its content. Let us know if you write a review, translate any of the poems, or make videos of them, for possible inclusion in the news blog associated with the site (as well as in qarrtsiluni’s own news blog).

In case you missed it, we wrote about the chapbook contest selection process in the announcement of the contest results on August 1. If you entered the contest, you’ll be receiving a copy of A Walk Through the Memory Palace in a few weeks (to allow for shipping and handling).

Also today, our print division has a new page (which includes the link to our at-cost CafePress store, since t-shirts, hats and mugs are printed items of a sort). Beth plans to continue designing print editions of recent qarrtsiluni issues, now that her chaotic summer of selling her old house and moving is behind her, but this may depend in part on how well the chapbook does. So read it, buy it, donate it to your local library. Thanks.

—Dave and Beth

Cameo: Epithelamion

September 24, 2008 1 comment

Cheekbone, chin, chignon;
Scrollwork, a profile carved in
Worn carnelian,

Russet and ivory;
Only a blur remains, there
Where her ringlets were;

Here, a tiny crack feathers
To the speck of stone
Hidden in the hollow

Of her throat, the ribbon
Strung with its diamond.
Great-Aunt Beatrice’s

Brooch, ornament she wore
In her own wedding, now
Pinned to my bodice

That feels like peach skin.
Velvet, velvet, the nap one way,
Cannot be touched

Against the grain.
Mannequin, mannequin,
Here I stand in

Off-white, with statice
Snarled in my hair hot
Under the umbrella lights

Of the photographer,
On the day before my marriage.
I can’t breathe—how this

Velvet loops me tight,
Wraps my torso, cocooning me,
Like the caterpillars,

Swaddled in kapok, whose
Tents swathe the vee of the wild
Plum… This dry champagne’s

A shade so pale,
The same shade as the sheaves
That spill open, heavy

Vellum, falling
Gracefully between Malachi
And Matthew, between

Old and new. Sepia
Script, penned in various
Hands, catalogues those

Birthed, dipped, wed and gone.
There’s a line where our names
Will go—brownish,

Blotched with age, like Great-
Aunt Beatrice’s hands as they
Pinned this on me,

The bride. Blank page.

by Pamela Johnson Parker

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Cameo Appearance: Here Carved

September 9, 2008 1 comment

Medusa’s hair snakes, split ends
Wriggling, writhing. Imagine
It all as dissonance, that face
Uncovered in stone. Imagine
Medusa, her striking grace
Notes, these striking
Strokes on ivory. Imagine all these
Keys, all lost, that don’t fit,
Any locks but hers; imagine all this
Silence hanging heavy
As lava, before chisel eventually
Comes down, cleaving
Like a sword. Imagine it all as past:
No face, no glare, no splitting
Ends; imagine only her smooth back
Before she’s been transformed:
Hair falling, wrinkling into waves.
Imagine her only as stone.

by Pamela Johnson Parker

Download the MP3

Shuckswitch Road

June 28, 2008 6 comments

The summer I turned six,
The Mississippi
Flooded our farm,
Following us to the second
Story. The third night
We got out by boat,
Oaring off in a slant

Of rain, leaving the car,
The burley crop, the chickens,
The family Bible,
And the house like a girl
Waist-high in water,
White skirts wavering
On its surface.

The neighbors on King’s Hill
Had coffee and quilts, holding
Them out like hands. Inside,
There was a fire, feather
Pillows; the cat had her kittens.
Their mewling soprano
Sang me to sleep. And later,

In fever, I dreamed
The dream I still have
When it rains: a country
Of sand, drought; camels;
Children, the tender swelling
Of their bones; small streams
Struggling into current.

by Pamela Johnson Parker

Read by Beth Adams — Download the MP3

Categories: Water Tags: