Alan Michael Parker is the author of five collections of poems, Days Like Prose, The Vandals, Love Song with Motor Vehicles, A Peal of Sonnets, and Elephants & Butterflies, as well as a novel, Cry Uncle; he is also Editor of The Imaginary Poets, and co-editor of two scholarly works. New poems, flash fictions, and essays of his may be found in American Literary Review, Barrelhouse, The Believer, Kenyon Review, Northwest Review, Opium, Tikkun, Western Humanities Review, and elsewhere. He teaches at Davidson College, where he is Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing, and at Queens University, where he is a Core Faculty member in the low-residency M.F.A. program. www.amparker.com
The Sea, Suddenly Again
Falling asleep with the light on and the mystery novel unsolved—
two women in a dinghy out too far in the North Sea,
one dead on impact and the other drowned—
I wake as though in another year,
bleached and stunned in the half room,
afloat on a dark, drugged tide.
The gunwales in the shadows are lined with gulls
like agitated clergy, the future finding me
wanting—with my one oar in the skyscraping dark
and the effluvia of my body like garbage—
and then the sea, suddenly again
raises a woman to my mouth,
a susurrus of flesh and salt on my tongue,
tangling in her legs and her lips and sex;
and then the sea suddenly again takes her back,
she to drown and me to die on impact
with the light on and the light on,
to sleep, empty as a boat
or a book abandoned on the hooked rug,
fallen, open, and torn.
She Had Read That Hiccups Kill
Risen from the depths of her yellow robe,
she wanted to say it was nothing
as she futzed about her condo patio
in the gray mist before work,
watered the potted tomato mostly done.
There was no particular feeling to the first,
neither shock nor gorge, but a sense of losing already
the next hour to the little blasts
in her chest and esophagus, of trying to
read the paper and shower and dress and drive.
Her assistant would be early, and then
that irritating realtor, the one with the hair.
They’d work through lunch, the table ruined
with take-out boxes, a little white village,
chopsticks clicking in the room like awful birds.
Soon enough, she’d begin again to apologize
for being ridiculous, the chthonic jerks of silly air
humiliating, keeping pace but out of time,
the realtor laughing sadly.
She’d wait until tomorrow to go to the E.R.,
until the night was lost, her breathing frayed.
A person could die of this—or really, of anything.
A person could die of walking, of sitting around, of too long
a meeting, of not reading her email for three days
before her fiftieth birthday, of wearing
a yellow robe until that’s all she wore;
each hiccup like a call
she never could answer in time,
groping around in the darkness of her chest
for the cellphone she never could find.