Michele Parker Randall
Mary Oliver’s Devotions wedge
in the spokes of my father’s wheelchair.
Everything grinds to a halt, a stop-short. A lurch.
Recoil. Morning: I place my father’s pills on his tongue
like communion, in the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy—
what happens when there are more pills than forms of God or graces?
And four, four, four for my headaches, and five, five, five—ghostor spirit.
Evening: He is up to eight.
I’m not far behind.
One body in the classroom raises a hand
to present a question on Muñoz’s poem,
how the blank page is perfect in its silence.
Inside an echo chamber, enchanted
histories at their inception, split seeds;
one small tendril pushes against the soil
as a masked year climbs the calendar.
Eleven souls attend as apparitions,
enframed, stilled, somehow captured
in a flat box installed on beige plaster.
Every plan, every conversation redlined
from destination to starting point,
like the fairytale about a bride that’s not
about a bride, but about country’s colors
hidden in a meal, secured to the page.
Every room becomes a classroom. Students
appear with each new narrative, drawn in;
their stories are words in the air, avatars.
Camellias fall intact, petals & base
together—no slow wilt & dwindle
—a different type of snowfall
covering lawn or wildwood floor.
Flowers unfurl bigger than the birds
that seek seed & nectar. Come each
November, a lone bird tucks between
two blossom clusters, sways fragrant
no matter which way the wind wanders.
Brown twiggy legs grasp a branch.
Leaf ends curl & turn at the point,
beaklike. Winglike waxy leaf bodies
shimmer ovoid. No bird feels alone
if perched in a camellia, hanging
precarious, branch tugged groundward
by weight pull. We have forgotten
ancient roots, tricked by centuries
of judging only the blooms, even
a multi-petalled queen of winter.
[inspired by Camellia and a Lonely Bird by Zhou Shuxi]
The smallest chantries & monuments
caught in hair, hems, & blankets.
Movements. A collection of endings
ground fine. Fine. The end of every
history, I’m looking to make my own.
What hubris to stand on all that.
Every pathway ignites, activates
a come-hither moon. Irresistible.
Hard when a half Elvis-eyelid
winks, streaky clouds, leans
sardonyx, or a silver sliver moon
Cheshires back. Harder when black
rests the sky. Why pine for what is
out of reach? Why take a place
in the oldest line, only to long
for the moon? What is it to stand
on that shore, plastic pearls too small
to see? Volcanic upsurge. Weathered
leftovers eroded from rock, scrapings
from the heels of glaciered centuries.
Remnants of mollusk suburbs.
Poem Incorporating Four Lines by Takamura Kōtarō
Our skin awakens fiercely in the night. My knee, your thigh
skim by. Our minds reach for each other. Skin-startled,
eyes quick open, in a movement toward. Our insides
writhe with the joy of existence at first light, windows wide-
mawed to let in air, a cooling rush, palm fronds a-rattle
in parallel. Whatever we exhume in the night catches
in a cross-breeze and leaves. Our hair radiates phosphorescent
on sheets too long from the laundry, paler than our graying
crowns. Our fingers find a life of their own and search over
our bodies; hear again, we convince each other there is more
to the slumber; the world’s voices drift, pushed by news
of the day entangled like green-wired Christmas lights,
fiercely shoved into storage. Wake to an entwined existence,
phosphorescent, sustained by the slow release of our bodies.
(Takamura Kōtarō lines translated by John G. Peters)
Michele Parker Randall is the author of Museum of Everyday Life (Kelsay Books 2015) and A Future Unmappable, chapbook (Finishing Line Press 2021). Her work can be found in Nimrod International Journal, Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Tar River Poetry, and elsewhere.