Cow’s Head Lamp — Stephen Parker

I sometimes on a summer’s night would wonder why
That in some forgotten corner of a pasture, under starry sky,
A cow might search and find a padded patch of grass on which to lie,
And lowering its massive weight, try to find eternal peace, and die.

And its body stripped of soul would bloat under the summer sun,
Until some sons of man would come and kick the rotting pile of flesh, for fun;
And standing there in shoes, all smelly rank and damp,
Might get the idea, perhaps, to make a cow’s head lamp.

And with his hoary hands would rend the skull with brutal might,
So that in his stylish den he might have a reading light.
And from the empty hollow holes of sight
Would pour the radiant beams of light.

And from the nostrils deaf to smell the light would stream,
Causing the tired man to sleep, perchance to dream,
Of the types of cows that would be seen
On heaven’s endless pastures green.

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Even in the desert

The featureless desert is a myth
Even on those rare salt-playas where the longest gaze is thwarted only by the curvature of the planet’s surface,
Even when the summer’s heat transforms each distance to an other-dimentional shimmer,
Even on moonless nights when every solid object is shadow,
the horizon begs, then cajoles, then demands attention.

The trackless desert is a myth
Each footfall scars a mysterious living earthen skin
-Cryptozootic crust-
and the scarified tracks linger where thoughts of direction and purpose have faded out.

The waterless desert is a myth
Each desert contour is the mark of fossilized drainage.
The human body desiccates,
while water mocks from its hidden perches.
It sings love songs directly to the blood
till pulse lounges sleepily in rapture.

I have sat,

surrounded only by horizon,
covered by a soft-focused billion stars,

The features of my personality worn away by misuse,
my thoughts directionless and lost,
my well of empathy and love a stranger to anything but dust,

And it rained a pungent desert rain that turned the world into mud.

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They Burn Witches, Don’t They? – Steve Parker

I’m so glad you didn’t burn me as witch
Or try and float me in the Potomac
To prove I was an evil dark wizard bent on destroying the world of lesser mortals.
Instead you had the incantations muttered over trembling morality
Cast your protective circle with a radius of almost three decades.
And hollowed out the memories of me till no human thought or emotion remained

I denied everything that I would have confessed to the first hint of flame
“I’m not” I yelled at authority
“I’m not him” I emphasized to the police at the station
“I’m not the one you want” I told anyone who would listen
Till they did listen
And left me alone
All alone

You know the potion I used to break the protective fairy circle
One part memory loss
One part curiosity
One part Ego
Three parts love

I had a hundred kilos of a man’s life to stuff in that used skin bag meant for fifty kilos.
There are extra bits I could not fit without bursting it
others I would rather hide in the shrubbery or lose.
So it was I made my Gollum fit to track you down

It found you in Harve de Grace
Where the crazy ass bitch was yours
and the rejection was still incomprehensible

It found you in College Park
Where the crazy ass bitch was mine
and the rejection was still incomprehensible

It found you in Takoma Park
Where the crazy ass bitch was Herman’s
and the rejection inevitable
But Herman was dead
and we loved him
So we spoke of what an incomprehensible jerk he was
each slight now precious
each fault now proof that life is lived
And missed him

I would not wash my Gollum’s face
nor tip the cauldron whose potion has worked so well
I would not deny that there is magic in imagination
And that imagination and memory are close in kind
each flies from the same Pandora’s box
that is my mind

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What dogs hear — Steve Parker

She sits with purpose for the something on her mind.
A shake sifts thoughts and hair
She has used dye to cover the grey lines of some story.
That I might have shaved bare.

She looks through me for much more than a glance

A dilation of her iris
Takes in more of the being so sure that
I again missed a cue to say the right thing
And the blackness spews from her pupils
That there was a time
Like now, I know
I could have avoided diving into it

She makes as if to speak
And wets her lips with her tongue
peeking pink nudabranch
Her lipstick keeps her lips from drying so it’s a nervous habit.
Or maybe she is showing off the fullness of her lips that
I could trace with my own tongue.
Though if I did that now I would lisp for weeks.

She takes a deeper breath
To power all she has to say
Back go her shoulders and slightly her neck straightens
Maybe to reduce obstruction to the flow of air.
Maybe to inflate the fullness I remember of her bosom.
In summer the relentless heat would glue all fabric made gossamer onto
A delightfully imperfect bow to modesty
Winters chill would pinch her nipples till they stood erect.

She shifts in her seat to let me know that she realizes I am staring at her chest.
I lower my gaze to validate her knowledge

The belly button is an interesting thing
Hers an inie
A deep pocket-scar from the most tangible bond she had with her mother.
And like any mention of her mother so sensitive to touch

Her voice is still smooth
A palpable skin between her words and her meaning
And soft like the skin of her buttocks
Or thighs
A thin membrane barely separating my caress from the straining endings of her nerves.
Her inner thighs
Blush with the humidity of her desire

She stands as if to leave
Then goes
I did not hear her say goodby

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They came by Bus — Steve Parker

They came by train
They came by bus
They had elicited the state as their designated driver
The Gov. tipped his hat and winked.
And they easily stepped from high school fantasy
Into those of a middle aged man.
Humid perfumed sweat glistened brow and cleavage
Laughter to launch ships
And toothy smiles the shoals they turn to splinters on
Just like the marathoner carbo-loading for the run
Just like the Olympian stretching for the race
They fortified their impressive countenance and “hydrated before drinking”
Each turn and gesture thereafter conjured up caresses imagined and foretold
Each offhand compliment a nudge closer to the rabbit hole’s lip
Though I cannot see the bottom it is not dark
Though I cannot make sense of the words they urge me to leap in.
Tales of love and divorce
Of trips that spanned continents and grew intimacies
Which were lost
To awkward half remembered conversations
The crusty sweetness of marshmallows roasted
Over the timbers of burning bridges
The candle that burns twice as bright
Catches the drapes aflame
I could not block the glow from houses burning to the ground
With the weak yellowed beam of my flashlight
As dancing skips from house to block to neighborhood
I see London; burning
I see France; burning
Paris is burning
Wooden men are burning in the Nevada night
I am burning
I can only stare in open mouthed awe
And offer only drool to fight the flames.
But I would not fight them
I would watch the sparks spinning upward
Rocketed to space on an intensity of heat
Spinning like I see your balance giving way
To the inevitable gravity pulling us into the orbits
that define us by omission
as if the empty space a planet travels through
tells us of its oceans
or the whispers of its lovers
as they delude themselves into thinking they are on unmoving stable ground
Too early the night becomes too late
A different designated driver winks
You leave and then you stay

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