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.
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,
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.