Coach House Writers: three poems by Elizabeth Parkes

 

Father to the Man

 

He descends dog tired into the sour mouth of a city underpass
to sit out the rat hours of night propped against a stinking wall.
In the street above, stilettos click a sharp reproach;
a smart retreat.

 

Lozenges of neon flicker through smudged glass
along the angry words – graffiti that snags on grey conformity,
which he prefers to her Laura Ashley flowers,
her mean, precise unpicking.

 

A splatter of orange paint frays into spots
dappling a muddy patch into the scales of a plaice,
its skirts flying in the summer, seaside shallows,
that once blessed a boy’s bare feet.

 

 

Last Rights

 

The knock withheld,
a muffled tap at four a.m.
Flat, light, not quite dawn.
Avoid the creak of the next to last stair
let them sleep in this house where
she had mothered, ruled, lived vividly.

 

She lies waiting in the wake of wine glasses
for her celebration of life, our Mary, party animal,
boxed in white oak, best handles
no Snow White, nor Sleeping Beauty.
There won’t be a prince.

 

Somberly dressed, her parents
assert their last rights on their child.
Her father recites from his worn prayer book;
her mother kneels pressed to the coffin side;
her sister guards the door and their last blessing.

 

Possessing these solemn moments of release,
flesh of their flesh, they give her away again.
Her husband will, like a salesman, praise her;
friends tell of a life well lived, while those
who raised her have given all they had to give.

 

 

How to crack a hard nut?

 

Here the hazel-nut, a wren’s egg
a plump heart that trembles
on the palm; a locked wooden box
one sharp squeeze, two thimbles.

 

The brazil a devil’s toenail ridged
and angular, coarse as elephant hide
solid against pressure, finally gives
a white tusk, shell oiled silk inside.

 

The walnut, tiny tortoise-shelled globe
the weaker equator gives to the strain
and splits into small coracles that expose
a nut folded like secrets in a human brain.

 

Almonds, stubborn, pitted, thick-skinned
shaped like a teardrop before it falls;
get your line, your angle, or it skims
and bounces from the floor and walls.

 

Almonds the hardest nut to crack?
No, finding the words that’ll bring you back.

 

Elizabeth Parkes

 

 

Biography

Stourbridge writer Liz Parkes has moved from teaching into writing, encouraged by Swan Playwrights, Birmingham Rep and Coach House writers.  More recently, she has been working with Cucumber Writers. She has had work performed at the Oldbury Rep, MAC, The Rose Kidderminster, Worcester Arts Workshop, the Blue Orange Theatre, and The Door at Birmingham Rep. Her poetry has been published by Offa’s Press and Liz can be found at various open mic performances reading her work.

Banner image: Katie Barrett

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