Thursday, March 14, 2013

What the Pope Dreams First Night on the Job

Sleep does not come
naturally.  There are
inconsistencies in the air
around the bed.
before the fall
into the thick
breathing of beasts
he rests on stone
and loaves indistinguishable
from one another.

The bed is above a city.
He is told: hurl
yourself down.

 He sees his picture
on the walls of
working-class homes,
next to the portrait
of JFK.
When he speaks
it is the echo
of empty rise bowls:
Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.

He breathes in the ocean.
His hands cannot exist
in a medium so thick
and heavy with the moon,
they become something green:
water feathers he uses
with second sight.

Towards daybreak
the wise fish settles.
Above him is the bottom
of a vessel, a drop of nets.

The fisherman’s boat
is slow wood
and the crisp water,
sun below sun.

                                    Poetry Northwest

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Walk it Like a Refrigerator

I went to my Uncle Dan's funeral yesterday. 
I wrote this poem some years ago based on a phrase Uncle Dan use to say when I was working with him on Murry Street in New York city.  When there was a big box to budge, he said “walk it like a refrigerator” assuming we all knew what that meant.  It means, of course, that when you don’t have a hydraulic lift and a wheeled dolly, you have to jerk a heavy object like that side to side and almost make the monster walk.  But when I thought about it this was very much like so much in our lives.  Almost nothing moves in your life hydraulically and slides smoothly on ball bearing wheels.  Rather to get through school, stay married, raise kids, recovery from sickness or addictions, sins, stay connected to God, you have to jerk yourself through, as if you were a refrigerator trying to walk through life.
Then too it eventually happens that 'a time has come'. “When it is senseless to move something later” you just has to go forward.  You can’t wait any longer for the ball bearings or lift; that’s never going to happen.  Right now it has to be done, accomplished, dealt with or moved. 
Of course, God has His time for things.  He may say to St. Peter, “that person is ready to come home, Peter.”
St. Peter replies, “That person just isn’t budging, Lord.”
God then says, “Ok, walk it like a refrigerator.  It can’t be later.”
And that is how most people I know, who went into the life after, have in fact, moved: like a refrigerator, not on a smooth dolly. 
I had to force myself over to the computer to even do this.  It was like moving a refrigerator.  Here is the poem.  It's in a form called the Villanelle, much like Dylan Thomas' famous Villanelle, which ironically, is applicable here
                      Need any Change?
When it is senseless to move something later
And it’s a heave tool or loaded box
Walk it like a refrigerator.
But shift its sides from light to greater
Sliding it at an angle, avoiding knocks,
When it is senseless to move something later.
When you want it done now and can’t use the dumbwaiter
But its size creates a cage with shut deadlocks
Walk it like a refrigerator.
Sometimes the thing you need to moves becomes a traitor.
But slide it you do, creating static electric socks,
When it is senseless to move something later.
If you don’t move it on, it remains your own dictator.
And if it takes your holy self, tempts and then defrocks
Walk it like a refrigerator.
It can stay there in your head like a persistent waiter
When you should pay the bill or remove your dirty socks.
When it’s senseless to move something later
Walk it like a refrigerator.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Let’s Go Under the Limb, Bough, Bark

My name is Neta-wata-wes, which in Leni Lenape means Skilled Advisor. Most of my friends call me Netta. I will tell you a story about falling leaves and branches.

In the color of a tart gourd the leaves of oaks talk to the sky, smiling and bitter. Bright enough to be as yellow as a deer fat candle at sundown the hands of the tree still regret their end to a summer of water, humidity, warmth. Woodpeckers took their pets, the larvae of the bark, this summer season. Still there was green in the tree's hands like a "how" to a friend you see once a year, near the water, canoe coming towards you like a pointing finger that says here is your gift of friendship share it, for now, because things change. And now they do change. My visiting summer buddy canoes back to the knolls in the fall and we smile and cry all in the same color of the face.

Like terra cotta or a blushing daughter, the maple leaves also weep their passing. But they shout louder in tone than a sassafras tree's music of colors. The maple are not angry. They celebrate the last few moons of the festival, crimson sky on the rim of the horizon as the sun sleeps, urgent fire ants running on errands down the bark just like falling leaves from these trees!

Falling. It seems things return to their roots when there is less day. The leaves come to their brother soil when the air is cool, earth holding heat like a rock near the campfire the next morning. This is why even branches march from the shoulders of trunks, why they lie near their mother, like the cheek of the baby on the breast. As well, it is that they cheer for what they have had, many summers. They leave you with a memory, a souvenir, of their part in your life. A souvenir even if you did not know you looked at the downed branch.

Here’s when the branch could have been with you.

When you counted stars, that dark charcoal line you traced in your eye to find the North Star was the now fallen branch!

When the robin pardoned your sin of trying to catch it by moving up one branch!

When you needed to take a breath, rushing home to sing your part near the fire, the branch carried the leaves that put air in your mouth!

So this is the reason for all the falling in the fall. What's more, there is your reaction to fallen sticks. The time and placement of the falling leaves and branches is as scheduled as autumn.

Hear this: You run through the woods. A friend tries to find you. She is darting in the shrubs like a chipmunk. You squat beneath the berries, hear her feet crushing moss like a pillow against your ear. So you leap and traipse through the opening. Choose your options. Then dart to the path. There, where the run is coming to you easier, you see ground rise to your eyes like fast baking bread. It is you that has collapsed, tongue licking a bowl of dirt, grass in your nose like a backwards sneeze.
Why all these things? At your stubbed big toe is a branch! How could you not have seen it? Well, it fell to remind you of its glorious part in your life, on the tree. Insignificant as dust it wants to tell you it has been a part of you. So it drops you its memo.

Well my summer friend canoed away the same day; the annoying autumn wind against her, not stopping her. I was tired just watching the forearms lift and drop the paddle, her body shrinking like the pebble you tossed from a moccasin.

That night I sat on our log near the fire feeling my friend's summer voice beneath me. But it was a beetle, thinking of her. So I rose, to scrape my pants free of the insect and walk a bit. I slipped. The beetle, running at such angles, seemed to be having fun watching me fall. And there, like a mat at the tent entrance, was a collection of autumn leaves I slipped on: maple, oak, spruce and chestnut. My friend had collected them earlier. Perhaps she placed them there as a souvenir, like the falling branches, so I would remember her part in my summer life and carry her in my thoughts through the winter, a white opal like frozen bubbles on the chest of mother earth.

Copyright 2011 by Christopher Parker

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Elvis Study, 2B

(This poem refers to some Presley facts. See:

The shroud around him his redemptor,
A triune of his perished twin,
The Christ of Turin, and other Romance
Out of place in Italy like Jerry
Schilling ratcheting the meter of tender loving,
Is only one parcel of praise.

This rakish presage of an end to the vite
Often captured in his own wrap
To alleviate the unanswerable perusal
Of banality. He woes:

“Jessy can you sing to me?
Elvira is there a tomorrow
And do I want to be there?
Leave me a message in the tureen,
Ladle my hope, tether me to now,
Feed me like an aphid, an office coffee,
A Mafioso and linguini. My imaging
Is on the textile. Harvest it, bard,
with sound made word."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Opera Hour at Teaneck Creek Conservancy

Highways eighty, four, the Turnpike
Sing with the conservancy chorus: a chirrup
Of warbler, waxwing, oriole. Then the sibilate
Of the warning fingers of the phragmites.
The instrumentalist: one breeze from the West.

Now in joins a tenor of a train screech;
A howl burning the air for an archaic ascetic;
Now the bass of the jet. And soon, the pneumatic
Baritone of a sledge irrupts the lime and sand it
Had etched to a walkway that once had its way.

Tenebrous reminiscences of ancestors hiss
From the phragmites like a ragout of truth,
Regrets, and a reeking of the receipts of what
We must now pay for.

Five pipes, instruments of the chronicle
Of the possible: a could-have-been
Undoubtable advocate of an out-of-bounds
Unalterable history. Let not it be unlettered.
The antedates mediate all eco mandates.

Still the wooded copse espouses to occupy
And okay the alkyds lasting in the morass.

So much music everywhere, barred within
The envelope of Teaneck, moistening an adhesive
With a tongue that tries to speak.
The conservancy, enveloped, is dropped in a slot
Like a bill we have to pay, falling like a feather
To the crest of a past.
We excavate the acoustics of the chain gang,
That is wishing freedom again. They sing only
Of the weeds’ plea to an orchestral machine.
Still, the life, the sound, the wind and word.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tomato Bisque

This soup is not bisque;
Tomatoes simply bask in broth;
Two cents in a pot, antagonist
To its own pH; unpaid leave
For the red fruit in a stew;
Routinized mob behaviors
Of its parts; memes on
Interim from their beliefs
And behaviors.
More than a vacation
It needs a mind set,
An amnesty therewithal,
And anisette amnesiac,
A forgetting what we think
We are supposed to be.

Monday, October 4, 2010



Poems for which there are hopeful messages
of which no more may be said.
Poems for which there are hopeful messages
that are there if you would hear them
that are there if you would see them
that are also there if you would remember.

Poems in which there are realizations of blessings
if you realize
Poems in which the fun of thought emulates
the talk of other places
Poems in which all stored in your cognitive garage
comes out onto the driveway, is opened up
is put to use, is welcomed back into your life
like a friend.
Poems in which that which is not in them
clarifies the weather like the speed and shape of clouds
above the fields, or above the mountains.

Poems out of which come the changes they imply
but cannot be seen, since inside they are not
. . . or is it inside? like what you see in people
is not often what you view in their exterior.

Poems that like wallpaper change the environment
which changes how you feel inside a room.
Poems that serve as iodine to small infections
Poems that take out paradigms, sold to you at market
display their deceiving make, tell you who the
purchase serves besides yourself, and more importantly
besides the earth of your children, all of which are yours.
Poems that may cause danger to the speaker
because of the danger they warn.
Poems that stand like the lake you summered at
as a child, which may change as your many years progress,
but to which you will return, seeing more each decade.

Poems that you can pass to children like the one
expensive watch you ever bought, or which you
were given when you grandfather left.

Poems which are free and have high value.
And because they are free poems, choose themselves
who will be their readers
as one may choose a spouse, or choose a park. Pricing

selects the demographics. Poems you can also pay for
if you want them, or walk into the library
or borrow a friends book, or read in yesterday's newspaper
or hear from someone else, or listen to on the radio,
or watch on television, or watch as the sun comes up above the
pond and the trees just beginning to grow their leaves
glow with gold that is also free.
Poems that are free in being, freedom of speech,
and which shackle freedom of speech.

Poems that tie the people of the past
you don't admit often, to the people you become
yourself as life changes, to the people that
will come out of your every action and spoken word.
Poems that sing the glory of the sun, the sip of cool water,
the sounds you can hear as beauty, and can shape themselves
like blossoms in early March on a page or screen, or mind,

Poems that restate the sins of the past
and forgive them.
Poems that restate the imprisonment of the past
and of the present
and shake keys in the darkness so the imprisoned
will know where to reach for escape;
Poems that tell them in the darkness
that the keys are here, but sometimes far away.

Poems that dance with you, measure with you, count with you,
hope with you, cry with you, detect with you, cut with you,
glue back together with you, reproduce with you, subtract with you,
divide with you. Poems that shake the wooden table, shake the plaster
walls, shake the solid soil when spoken, or just seen, or just remembered,
like the aftershock of earth quakes.

Poems that by shadow will be seen, poems spoken so that
we will not even know from whence they came, or that they are
poems. Poems that were the slight change in a path
so many years ago, so that today we only really know where we are.
Poems that like their author are responsible for
the motions and the choices and acknowledge them or not
but make a change in a world culture that is good somehow.

Poems that think we need this to feel hope.
That is all I want to do.