Download PDF Here Live Encounters Poetry & Writing October 2022.
The Guns of His Eyes, poems by Kim Ports Parsons.
The Guns of His Eyes
Send the boy back up the highway.
Send him back across the state line.
Walk him to his door. Turn his television off.
Tick him back years, then tuck him in
with gentle stories. Never teach him
the world is his to race, that a man
is a man when he lords it over, when
he Daniel Boones his way down any street.
Teach him no mother would be proud
of a son who murders. No judge
would ever gavel such crimes justified.
The name Kyle means a narrow channel,
a tight passage between two islands.
I wish I could build a boat to navigate
the hate, to sail through this time and the next,
to long ago, and far ahead, and calm the waters.
I wish I knew how to load this poem with just
the right ammunition, how to open every clenched
hand, how to discharge a cleansing fire.
As he ran, the guns of Kyle’s eyes were opened wide.
He seemed startled at his success and held his rifle close.
He wore his power casually, backwards, like his cap.
I Can’t Write a Poem with a Gun
I can’t pick berries with a gun,
can’t protect my fingers from thorns,
or carry the fruit back,
or stir in sugar and spice.
I can’t mix pastry with a gun,
or roll it out, or bake it, or lift
its sweetness to your tongue.
I can’t plant seeds with a gun,
can’t measure the furrow,
or lay each one in its inch of ground.
I can’t hoe any rows with a gun,
or lug the weeds to the compost heap,
or turn the steaming piles, or sift the new
soil, or spread it around the tender shoots.
I can’t chop fresh greens with a gun.
Can’t slice onions or grate garlic
or soak dried red beans, or stir the pot.
I can’t set the table with a gun,
or arrange flowers, or light a candle,
or blow out the smoking match,
or pull out your chair.
A gun won’t help me to listen
to your story, to see the falling
images as words ricochet around us.
A gun won’t open my heart
to your pain, or help me to extinguish it,
or place my hand on your quaking
shoulder, or wash away any blood.
I can’t make a soft bed with a gun,
or tuck a gun around me for warmth,
or wrap arms around my beloved,
or kiss a cheek, or stroke the cat,
or stretch when I wake, or smell the morning.
I can’t brew coffee with a gun,
or tie the stiff laces of my muddy boots.
When a fox steps lightly into the yard,
and shakes off the dew from the meadow,
and cocks her head, nose quivering, a gun
will not help me to study her, how she seems
to consider, so intently, which way to turn.
How so much might depend upon her choice,
where to next in this fraught, this tantalizing world.
Mowing the Lawn, 1995
A hush fell over the park as DiMaggio stepped to the microphone to say,
‘Wherever my former teammate, Lou Gehrig is today, I’m sure he’s tipping
his cap to you, Cal.’
– Ralph Peluso, reporting on Cal Ripken’s 2131st consecutive game
First Saturday in a new house, the lawn ragged
from transition, a September sun cheerful as a neighbor
with a chocolate cake, but I mostly feel determined.
The machine is brand-spanking, unboxed and oiled
and gassed, silver, complete with safety bar and warnings.
The idea is this, to sweat myself into belonging,
to create the routines of childhood so that it’s easy
to pretend a table laden with sliced tomatoes,
corn on the cob, and fried chicken is waiting
at the other end of the afternoon, neatly
folded paper napkins married to forks,
blue Fiesta ware winking in the light
filtered through yellow, ironed kitchen curtains.
Really, who can you rely on like memory?
Or the simple objects which still echo in your hands?
Except, this morning I don’t wear a bikini top
or look forward to catcalls from the boy up the street
or pull a frayed black cord over and over
to get the damn thing to start. Just pump the fuel-
injection knob and yank once to kick on
the steady whine of the 3.5 horsepower,
and that dome of sound roars over the yard.
Soon I’m sweating into my bandana and my faded t-shirt,
legs solid, arms sure, taking the bumps and hills
just fine. A riding mower wouldn’t cut it.
Sometimes you’ve got to get down on your hands
and knees with a rag and bucket and wipe up every inch
of your scattered life. Nothing less will do.
In this morning’s paper, Cal Ripken tips his cap
to Lou Gehrig and the fans of Baltimore,
giving us all a reason to get teary-eyed
over the ways we can and cannot be counted on.
In the trailer park next door, a retiree trims
his one shrub into a perfect globe, centered
on a circle of white stones. We tend to our corners
as we can, nesting like city sparrows,
like the pair who roosted, complacent, for one whole season
in the arc of the flashing red neon Western Auto sign,
200 feet above the Kansas City traffic,
making a living among the sharp edges.
Three games in a row this week, Cal hit
a homer and made a victory run around the field
at Camden Yards in my old hometown,
his head bare, like a man in a sentimental poem.
And I woke up, determined to be good,
to do my job, to mow the lawn into concentric squares,
to smile at the mailman doing his job. Later, after a bath
and a cup of tea, after the streetlights flicker and the children
drop their bikes in driveways, I’ll go to bed, try to sleep,
and try to believe in a place called home.
© Kim Ports Parsons
Kim Ports Parsons grew up near Baltimore, earned degrees, taught, and worked in libraries. Now she lives next to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, gardens, walks, and writes. Her work appears in a variety of publications, including SWWIM Every Day, Poetry Ireland Review, and december. The Mayapple Forest is her debut collection, Terrapin Books 2022. She volunteers for Cultivating Voices LIVE Poetry. Visit her at www.KimPortsParsons.com