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Passer in the Storm


David W. Parsley

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David W. Parsley

1.
Wyoming night. Snow fouls purely
sight, speech, with a luster of dying.
From smokeless abandoned cabins, back
into foothills, forests frail
with loss of breath or flying things,
yield like the doe’s last slip into shelter
to the will of the blizzard. Across
that silent country vast with a sense
of shift into memory, towns
submerge in the vanishing landscape,
thoughts feebly meshed through impassable
roads the man still at work must return by.
Streetlights float like shepherd moons
above the spectacle of burying.
From those blistering halos, trees
fall house after house, branches tailing
at edges of fields the windowed face
may watch for a storm-time, borders swung
by singing fence lines, barbed, brilliant.
Beyond them the great sheets gather
and pass like the stride of giants,
meet and dissolve, blow blindly into
juniper, sage, bluff and butte
piloting stone into air. Falling
like a wing through light, the man
will return, squinting raw cheeks through
all the miles that he must, numb
hands mindful of fire the faithful
turns to, snowblind, from time
to time, feeding with smoke-black fingers
flame, piloting wood into shower of sparks
growing white to the eye, as blown
white across prairie and tree.
2.
It was no night for setting memory
on edge. In that room of silent
presences, every knick-knack preserved
a flavor of the passer’s fingers, each
face tranquil as God’s
in creation. In this last
of meeting places, death’s dream
was kingdom since that early traveler
passed with watering eyes to the other.
The storm is coming! Tonight!
He had known,
years. The blizzard would be hungry.
Two men riding in from the sage (years,
too, he had heard their songs:) they
would be wanting some vittles, asking
directions, questions he
had not sought true answers for. It was
no night for memory, but for collecting
dark into light. An hour,
he had watched the tables, shelves
persevere like dust at the limit
of the room’s recollection. The blizzard
blew with fresh intensity, shook
time like salt into place. It
was in the room, the banshee
voice of the wind companionable now,
embraceable as fire: the first
small query, and already no reply.
3.
Quiet before light: the night
bird’s flight beneath branches, no
shower of snow to disturb the restive.
In all that voiceless country, no bough
proves responsive to the wing’s brush
of duty. It passes without shadow
to the edge of stone-broken meadows, fails
without cry above the mottled cloud
of their quarrying. Back,
back into foothills that tremor follows
its echo to tree-blackened pools
spooling ice on the pale naked thigh
of the woman who wades there. Great
trees thick with frost: absence of light
passes bough from bough to the ground.
Marble shoulders baptize wingless in the cool,
rise unglistening from that unmirrored void
filling brimmed banks, boulders white
like porcelain unhurried hands will grip sanely
in a home of the valley, drawing dark
liquid for the bathing of the dead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

first published in Prize Poems of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, 1982

2nd Place NFSPS Grand Prize

© 2011 David W. Parsley

Parsley Poetry Collection

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Hello Dave,

As someone who has never been to the USA, (only by proxy, through very many films and books: :smile: ) the thought and sound of Wyoming alone, lends a vast and open feel to this piece. There are numerous excellent lines of imagery i.e: “towns/ submerge in the vanishing landscape,” Interesting also that you should refer to the “banshee” which has Celtic origins and is supposed to warn people when a loved one may be dying. There is much to take in from this well written piece and I shall enjoy reading it over again. Benjamin.

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Hi David,

 

A well-deserved accolade for this haunting poem. :smile: Your closure leaves an impact:

.
.. drawing dark
liquid for the bathing of the dead.

 

 

Thank you for sharing this with us.

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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David W. Parsley

Thank you, eclipse, for noting the originality - high praise from one so original.

 

Benjamin, it is delightful to hear your response to the sense of vastness coming through. I plead guilty to pulling on an old Celtic thread, but nothing else would do metaphorically or literally or sonorously. And the banshee legend is known here in the States, so I think it fits well enough.

 

Thank you for echoing the accolade, Goldenlangur. I am proud of the original award, but a resonance with like poetic chords rings sweeter.

 

- Dave

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David, this is a grand work. certainly deserving of honor and recognition. (Any money? ;))

As with Frank's Old Bill, I have lived in that rough country, certainly later than your description. My flatlands and some buttes were in the Texas panhandle, Oklahoma and Kansas. It's a hard as rock scene, as though any softness would be sneered at. I'll come back to this one as often as possible. It also brought back my grandfather's wake with a block of ice in a tub under the prone body. His male friends and I sat and talked quietly, many rolling their ciigarettes. Didn't intend to step on your work, but this is how I make it my own. Thank you.

 

fdh

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David W. Parsley

fdh, I am gratified to see that you resonate so well with the piece. We all come here for our affinity for what is unique to the power of poetry - as conduit and amplifier to the power that belongs to each of us to make each poem one's own. Thanks for sharing a piece of your personal owning here.

 

Oh, and yes, there was some money involved: $400. That was a fortune to a poor starving student and his wife, back in 1982.

 

- Dave

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  • 3 months later...

Dave, I love the winter imagery and the desolation. There's a sense of desperation, especially in the second verse:

 

 

Two men riding in from the sage (years,

too, he had heard their songs:) they

would be wanting some vittles, asking

directions, questions he

had not sought true answers for ....

 

... the first

small query, and already no reply ....

 

 

I like that you broke the poem up into three logical segments: prelude, blizzard, aftermath.

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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