We conclude our celebration of National Poetry Month with a very special poet, Alan Michael Parker of Davidson, North Carolina. Professor Parker inspired me to pursue the noble art of poetry and, without his guidance and encouragement, I’m sure I would never have become the poet I am today–indeed, I may not have become a poet at all. I am eternally indebted, Alan. Thank you.
Douglas C. Houchens Professor of English at Davidson College, Alan Michael Parker is a poet, novelist, professor, raconteur, and squeaky wheel. He writes books.
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Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak
Despite the geologists’ knowledge and craft,
mocking magnets, graphs, and maps—
in a split second the dream
piles before us mountains as stony
as real life.
And since mountains, then valleys, plains
with perfect infrastructures.
Without engineers, contractors, workers,
bulldozers, diggers, or supplies—
raging highways, instant bridges,
thickly populated pop-up cities.
Without directors, megaphones, and cameramen—
crowds knowing exactly when to frighten us
and when to vanish.
Without architects deft in their craft,
without carpenters, bricklayers, concrete pourers—
on the path a sudden house just like a toy,
and in it vast halls that echo with our steps
and walls constructed out of solid air.
Not just the scale, it’s also the precision—
a specific watch, an entire fly,
on the table a cloth with cross-stitched flowers,
a bitten apple with teeth marks.
And we—unlike circus acrobats,
conjurers, wizards, and hypnotists—
can fly unfledged,
we light dark tunnels with our eyes,
we wax eloquent in unknown tongues,
talking not with just anyone, but with the dead.
And as a bonus, despite our own freedom,
the choices of our heart, our tastes,
we’re swept away
by amorous yearnings for—
and the alarm clock rings.
So what can they tell us, the writers of dream books,
the scholars of oneiric signs and omens,
the doctors with couches for analyses—
if anything fits,
and for one reason only,
that in our dreamings,
in their shadowings and gleamings,
in their multiplings, inconceivablings,
in their haphazardings and widescatterings
at times even a clear-cut meaning
may slip through.
Contributor’s Note: “The late, great Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska was a virtuoso of detail, and the nuances of inflected description. Always, always, always…lurking behind her scenery stands one of our ghosts, the one we call History.”
April 29, 2015 – Alan Michael Parker
In a Beautiful Country
A good way to fall in love
is to turn off the headlights
and drive very fast down dark roads.
Another way to fall in love
is to say they are only mints
and swallow them with a strong drink.
Then it is autumn in the body.
Your hands are cold.
Then it is winter and we are still at war.
The gold-haired girl is singing into your ear
about how we live in a beautiful country.
Snow sifts from the clouds
into your drink. It doesn’t matter about the war.
A good way to fall in love
is to close up the garage and turn the engine on,
then down you’ll fall through lovely mists
as a body might fall early one morning
from a high window into love. Love,
the broken glass. Love, the scissors
and the water basin. A good way to fall
is with a rope to catch you.
A good way is with something to drink
to help you march forward.
The gold-haired girl says, Don’t worry
about the armies, says, We live in a time
full of love. You’re thinking about this too much.
Slow down. Nothing bad will happen.
Contributor’s Note: “Kevin Prufer’s flat-out brilliant. His eerie, danger-wracked poems bristle and sing. He’s one of my favorite poets these days (and even more, at night).”
April 30, 2015 – Alan Michael Parker
Postcard From Spain
Thanks for your card. I like hearing from you.
What a great picture, too: there must be
a million people on that beach in Barcelona,
so many outfits and towels and umbrellas.
And your note’s wry:
“The cyber café has the cheapest postcards.”
It’s different these days, even a little eerie
that a postcard can be from a life
lived two weeks ago—now that the internet
has made the past and present one.
And Instagram and Tumblr together
are like the Big Bang:
you’re everywhere at once in Spain,
with a toothache at the pharmacy,
sipping an icy lemonade in a park
then dipping your bandana in the fountain,
finding the darkness in you
is Goya’s. But I’m so glad you wrote,
and thought to share: thank you.
Yes, I’m mostly recovered, the family’s well—
though no one understands Aunt Martha any more,
which has an upside;
you know what Aunt Martha can be like.
I appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Thanks to you, I see again
the face of the clerk at the post office
in the tenderness of her hijab,
how perfectly her sigh made her lips purse
when she smiled at my awful Spanish
and counted out my change
slowly, in impeccable English,
as though I were no smarter
than her stapler. But she liked me,
I could tell: our moment was simple,
irrespective of her politics or mine.
I have been thinking a lot about the light
I glimpsed in her kind irony,
as though I could see
the unflickering living candle of her.
She liked that I was mailing myself a postcard.
Contributor’s Note: This poem originally appeared in Issue 21 of Smartish Pace.
National Poetry Month and…
Dominique Traverse Locke (4/1-4/3)
Art Zilleruelo (4/4-4/6)
Robin Clarke (4/7-4/9)
Cee Williams (4/10-4/12)
Melissa Prunty Kemp (4/13-4/15)
Tracie Morell (4/16-4/18)
Desmond Collier (4/19-4/21)
Jake Arnold (4/25-4/27)