Linda Parsons’ fifth collection of poetry, Candescent, begins as a three-legged story of grief. There is the loss of a 24-year marriage that she describes as an utter surprise after so many years. There’s the loss of her fourteen-year-old German shepherd, an ever-watchful presence that views the narrator as his sole sheep to protect until the end. And then there is the loss of her aged father.
The question of memory is just as important in these poems as the pure element of grief. How the two twist and turn upon each other! Before her father’s death, there is the earlier insult of lost memory. When Parsons visits him in his hospital, she must introduce herself. Often, he asks his daughter if they’re kin, recognizing a familiarity but unable to name her or their true relationship. Memory and its many tricks enter the poems again in the aftermath of divorce. Perhaps no poem sums up the absence of a lover better than these lines from “Phantom.”
Ghost pain, phantom pain, a limb lopped
clean, the dead bee’s sting. We are good
amputees, efficient little starfish and lizards,
regenerating feet and tails in the shadows
where no one watches us spin and weep,
where no one sees me turn a corner
in the dark before bed, giving wide berth,
my body’s radar still beeping and flashing
to sidestep a bookcase no longer there.
In “The Only Way” Parsons writes, “Honor your grief with ragged breath and privation / in the body’s dark cell despite how the blithe / world cries enough.” And that is exactly what Parsons does in these poems. She honors her grief, but she also works her way through it.
As in real life, grief doesn’t disappear in these poems in any single instant. Rather, there are many shifting moments. One of the most exciting shifts occurs in the poem, “Stand Up.”
Lo these many years,
I the peacemaker, the walker on eggshells,
the biter of lips, the please pleaser, the clay
not the molder, the stream not the bank,
the moss not the rock, the stern not the bow,
queen of if only I’d said, if only I’d done.
Lo I say unto you, I’m done with sit down,
sit down, done with the broom and its dust,
old love and its rust, the future walking right
out the door. Hear me, I’m here with a voice
from the gloom, the moon-filled room, rise
of wing to beat the band, however long
I must stand is how long I’ll rock,
rock, rock the boat.
Aside from the powerful narrative that emerges in this collection, Parson’s language is always delightful. She has a knack for sounds and rhythm, and she has the skill to employ all of these elements of craft without ever taking away from the poems’ accessibility. Candescent is a power collection, a perfect beacon to help readers enter into the new year.
One thought on “Linda Parsons’ Candescent”
What a great review Denton.
You are good.—jack
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