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Category archive for: Alan Michael Parker

The Cat

I have been trying to understand

whether this life is what we burnish for the next.

Or will we be undone.

Last week a feral kitten found me, and now,

mottled with ringworm,

she moans in quarantine in my kitchen

and hugs a catnip mouse made of felt,

A scrawny, contagious cat in a kennel—

she could be my heart.

Which is to say: yowl, darkness, prison.

Which is to say: aria, nocturne, home.

Which is to say: pushing words around,

the in-box and the out.

I named the cat Simone de Beauvoir.

Is that the name of my heart?

I don’t even like cats,

which she pretends not to know.

What does my heart pretend not to know?

Working at love

means abandoning the burnishing.

When I first saw her almost dead in the street,

I sat down and waited.

She circled me, coming closer,

until I was stupid and put out my hand.

The two of us in the middle of the street.

How could she think I know anything,

sitting in the middle of a street?

Now near the end of her sentence

she scratches the plastic kennel to get out.

What could she know?

Which is to say: need.

Which is to say: fear.

So many poems about the next life.

To make the poem itself a moral act.

Which is to say: heaven.

Which is to say: a larger room.

from Love Song With Motor VehiclesFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2003
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Vandals, Horses

The vandals are dreaming, wolves are dreaming,

The horses are staked to their deaths.

In the poem of the vandals dreaming

A word bites through a lip,

Drawing blood. (The poem is in ruins.)

The vandals dream their arms unseen,

Dream themselves buried in the belly

Of the birthing mare, as a foal is

Torn to life. (The poem is banal

As the barn is bloody.)

And you and I, and you and I, we steal

Each other’s blankets, wrap ourselves

In darkness, wind, in anything

The night will let us, to feel safe.

Do you feel safe? (Soft,

The vandals sleep.) Because a word

Is a dream of its meaning, you and I

Must dream the vandals dreaming:

Soft, the horses nicker in the barn.

(Soft, our poem begins as vandals dream.)

from The VandalsFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 1999
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Oh What a Red Sweater

Too young for her body’s changes,

but ready anyway, the angle of

her teen years practiced every night—

watching TV from the plush sofa, one hand dangling—

she knows just how to try on

the fish-net, body hugging, calf-length red sweater

as she steps from the dressing room

of the thrift store, met by her mother’s panic:

Mama, can I have it please?

And oh, how I want Mama to say yes,

and oh, how I want Mama to say no,

because how can you choose?

And which body will be

my next body, within this life?

(It isn’t you, I tell the mirror,

and put back the pork pie hat.)

Behind the register a gaggle of figurines,

blind beneath their fezzes,

beams upon us all—

glazed thrift shoppers, the odd lot,

gleeful and desperate.

What brightly painted doodads,

what riches on the racks,

and oh, the girl and the $4 red sweater.

She’s still a little girl, middle school

three weeks away, and an hour’s

bumpy bus ride in the summer rain,

wending down the coastal highway:

she’ll listen to her Mama.

Me? I’ll listen to the rain

typing gibberish on my umbrella,

and try on

word after word after word,

always getting wrong the color of those rose hips

along the muddy ditch, a blurred swath of

pink and green by the thrift store sign,

wedged in the present

where a little girl twirls a shopping bag

and stomps in every puddle in the parking lot.

from Elephants & ButterfliesFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2008
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

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