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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Three Nov-Dec 2023.
Companion, poems by Kim Ports Parsons.
I longed to loop from my own tongue,
to honey the world like Joni.
How could I not rewind and play
all I really, really want
over and over again?
Thrumming, loud in my Walkman,
scuffed boots knocking the sidewalk,
trying to lose the lonesome
that dogged me in my twenties,
far from home. Careful steps
over love’s cracks in my thirties,
picking myself up, telling myself,
I can choose my life, I can make
the life I want, free myself
from fear of the empty bed, sleep
in my own arms, fly anywhere
in my dreams. Joni carries me
down the river, sings it fine
and dark, high and deep.
The liquid of her music buoys me,
washes me, and I drift along.
I did find someone, loving and kind.
If I could, I’d turn and push my way
back to that tender, searching self.
Take her hand. Tell her
to keep on singing. Tell her
to keep one eye on the rearview
mirror. Watch how the lonesome
falls further behind.
in History Sophomore Year
climbing over the radiator
maneuvering out the window
the two panes louvered wide open
a beckoning gateway
the long dark hall stretching behind
like a guilty conscience
the first really warm spring light
seductive as an imagined kiss
the bright, pebbled tarmac roof
where some women have already set up camp
stretched out on comforters, doubled-up
blankets, and even a dime store pool float
and by noon the roof is full
more classroom chairs are empty
and there’s talk of getting some lemon juice
from the cafeteria to work on highlights
and someone passes around her baby oil
and all the tender young skin glistens
and the legendary feminist history professor
and her insights into suffrage are forgotten
and we are liberated by our recklessness
but we are captives of our desire
to be blonde and bronzed and luscious and loved.
Portrait of Family with Guns
A preacher poses with his wife and kids
on a basketball court, in the center of a playground
behind a brick, one-story church with a modest steeple,
cross-topped, on some quiet rural route.
The preacher holds his wife’s hand,
his other hand holstered in his right pocket.
They smile and stand relaxed, in jeans and T-shirts.
They are white, in their early thirties, and clearly,
everything is fine. Their daughter is perched on a tricycle,
knees drawn up, grinning and squinting into the light,
a red bow blooms on the top of her head, thin arms
dangle from handlebars. Her brother is tucked
into a toy John Deere, the only one not smiling,
a boy who’s bored of posing, a boy who’d rather
press his foot down hard to see how fast he can go.
His golden hair curtains one eye.
The preacher’s collection of sixty-five firearms
is laid out carefully on the cement court,
arranged around them like some kind of meditation garden
designed on the principles of destruction:
handguns, shotguns, semiautomatic rifles,
some plastic, some metal, some wood, some with sights,
some with straps, some with repeaters, some small enough
for a pocket, some large enough for a crowd.
Stones in a nightmare garden, specimens on display,
treasures lined up for sale, markers in an impossible maze,
children’s desks in a classroom, body bags after
a battle, headstones in regulated rows.
What does he preach on a sunny Sunday morning?
Does he admonish? Does he beseech? Does he declaim?
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
© Kim Ports Parsons
Kim Ports Parsons grew up near Baltimore, earned degrees, and worked in education for thirty years. Now she lives near Shenandoah National Park, walks, writes, gardens, and volunteers for Cultivating Voices LIVE Poetry. Her poems appear in many print and online publications, including Poetry Ireland Review and Vox Populi and have been nominated for a Pushcart. Her first collection, The Mayapple Forest (Terrapin Books 2022), was a finalist for the North American Book Award, a national competition sponsored by the Poetry Society of Virginia. Visit her at https://www.kimportsparsons.com/