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Two poems by Mark Parsons

Tennessee Williams Sings the Wimbledon Anthem

Diabetic feet and shins

Polished gleaming hairless white,

Sheathed in

Milk chocolate brown

Stocking foot waders creased

All the way down

To toes

He no longer feels in the frigid stream,

His nerve-damaged legs

Forking under an inner tube,

The drag of black

Rubber fins,

Listless in current between the meanders,

Effervescent below his knees,

The fly fisher whips a graphite rod

Back and forth,

Over his shoulder,

Back and forth,

Over his shoulder

Like a flagellant penitent,

Paying out line

To metallic squawks of the ratchet wheel

And the clicking pawl,

Neon orange

High visibility filament

Oscillating sharply over his head,

Each undulation

Refining the impulse, increasing the speed

Until, the rod tip loaded with

Stored energy,

A frequency as waves


Along the weight-forward taper

(What hooks

Is too light to cast

By design)

So it kisses the surface of water above the trout.

A shadow of roof beam

Slams through the channel

That as sinuous stream

Crosses, re-crosses the axis down valley

A glacier withdrew from while crawling up into itself,

Erratic boulders in its wake

The outer banks

Carried off little by little

Will someday erode out from under:

Self-intensifying helical flow

A feedback loop


Swelling the amplitude

As the vortex

At the center of each cutbank

Gains momentum.

Greater curvature results in greater erosion, which results

In greater curvature….

Abandoned meanders and oxbows, cut-off loops

Left without an active cutting stream, ridge and swale topography,

In the wake of lateral migration,

Scars the floodplain.


Of water moving over land

Makes of the nethermost crease in the channel a vertex.

The glut of sugar in his blood

A perpetual spike

His insulin can’t blunt, the old

Fly fisher, lost in the swarm of his hyperglycemia,

Bitterest torrent of gloom and delusion,

Ruminates future and past.

After Moulting, the Insect Driven Mad in the Light of the Moon, or The Moveable Empty Center of Everything

En pointe on thumbscrew dividers

Calibrated to linear scale,

His mind steps off projective space

To the dissident outpost of what he desires,

A target bivouacked

And circumscribed by pivots,

Tremulous, billowing

Under the wide-angle lens of obsession.

The distance that separates man and his target

The prismatic distance, the distance that refracts

Between the same idea resonant in different minds.

The most important thing.

The only thing.

The target is everything

The target is not.

The target's a black drawstring sack

Worn over the mans’ head,

Letting him see, letting him see

Everything the target is not.

Leaning forward, in a listening pose,

He fans the knives and holds them up

Like he can see the row of fine, double-edged points.

In a leotard trimmed with flapper beads

The woman isn't wearing pantyhose,

but no one in the audience can tell.

Under the flawless white skin of a natural redhead

Without superfluous flesh

Toned muscles of hips and thighs

Emit a high-pitched sound

Only lap-dogs and knife-throwers can hear.

The black bag vibrates with a frequency the stylus of his mind

Etches in the darkness. The target’s an idea

Connecting man and woman like a compass with dividers fixed

At the angle the distance between them refracts.

Gashes bound the paper moon onstage.

The spinning motion of the diaphragm slows down; the man rips it away.

Wearing the smudge of a fencer's elliptical mask

The insurance company ordered be worn for the evening performance,

The woman steps out of the ruptured membrane

And, with a flourish, removes her mask,

Taking in every member of the audience at once:

Faces arrayed on the edge of a curve that’s her whole world:

Wherever she looks

And whatever she sees

Falling away,

Off the edge of the empty moveable center of everything.


Mark Parsons' poems have been recently published or are forthcoming in Expat Press, Dreich, Cape Rock, and I-70 Review. His book of poems, Stills, was published by Southernmost Books in 2023. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Mark Parsons is on X @parsons_mfa

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