The Light around Trees in the Morning (and other poems)

The Light around Trees in the Morning

So much light, I think it’s caught fire, 
the paperbark maple self-immolating—
but it’s only the coppery scrolls’ silhouette 
facing east. Someone once important 
to me planted this tree, led friends to this 
very spot as if it was the only blaze, 
the only crown in the garden. 

Importance ebbs in time, keeping its own 
mystery, and we’re left on our knees, 
in cinders, smoldering ash, as I was, 
turning to what’s more important—
clover in the iris, overrun with thyme 
and chocolate mint, the scrawl 
of minor serpents to read and expel. 

A woman alone makes good headway 
in the weeds, my corona aflame, unscrolling 
like seraphims’ swords at the entrance 
of nothing and everything Edenic. Sometimes 
I think light comes only when we’re bowed 
too low to notice our leaves and limbs 
burnished by morning, our bodies 
in spontaneous combustion.

From a Distance

Mother died last night, / Mother who never dies.
                                                     —Louise Glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night 

The third day, before morning coffee, 
lyrics came and filled me with knowing. 
Your last cent spent on Earth left me broke 
not with your going, but with years hot 
to the tongue. Lyrics stirred release 
at long last in spirit’s rising: From a distance, 
there is harmony, sent to me this third day 
of mourning/not mourning. For all we know, 

God is watching us, a gardener toeing 
stones from the mouth that never echoed 
the why of our turning, unknowing. 
Our spent garden prickly and dry 
then as now, but for your message 
from a distance this third day from dying. 
My cup warm not with old dregs rising, 
a certain peace left on the tongue, undying.  

Come Home

Tonight the gloaming is a shadowbox 
of corridors, time-dimmed like the Sunday 
School room of ancient ladies my grandmother 
called Miss in formality: Miss Rose Davis, 
Miss Rose Harris. The ancient world mapped 
those yellowed walls—Paul’s travels 
through Antioch in Syria, Macedonia, Athens, 
Corinth. Paul the tentmaker mending 
the knotted nets, converted in a flash 
to a fisher of men. 

Cicadas starting late this summer, not yet 
a blast like Paul’s fiery Damascus moment—
more like my grandmother singing 
from the Broadman, her vibrato rising 
and settling around me, already asleep 
in her lap. Take me, take me, mememe, 
they rapture in high fidelity, their invitation 
in the half-light: Ye who are weary, 
come home. 

Nearing seventy, my own gloaming, 
I watch only for the soft tent of night
to fall. Insect voices I wait for all year 
call from the canopy, primitive and unnamable.
The portals of home always lit, always open, 
map where I’ve tripped and was pardoned 
beyond reason, blasted deaf and blind 
by mercy. Take me, I call, me,
and they open wider still. 


  • Poet, playwright, essayist, and editor, Linda Parsons is the poetry editor for Madville Publishing and copy editor for Chapter 16, the literary website of Humanities Tennessee. She is a poetry mentor in the MTSU Write certificate program and has published in such journals as The Georgia Review, Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Baltimore Review, and Shenandoah. Five of her plays have been produced, and her fifth poetry collection is Candescent (Iris Press, 2019).

  • Stills from the 1924 silent film The Hands Of Orlac, directed by Robert Wiene and starring Conrad Veidt. The film is one of the first to depict transplantation as a moral and artistic conundrum. Veidt plays Orlac, famed concert pianist, whose hands are damaged beyond repair in an accident. Orlac's wife (played by Alexandra Sorina) pleads with the surgeon that hand transplants be performed, but the surgeon explains that the transplanted hands will be those of an executed criminal. The film then examines Orlac's moral and creative crisis as he comes to believe that his hands are no longer the instruments of beauty but of corruption. The film was remade five times in one form or another over the 20th century, with each version emphasizing a different aspect of the "identity transfer" that some suppose to accompany transplantation.