Linda Parsons

My Father Names Me

My father rushes in, late as usual,
my name fresh on his lips, not my mother's
choice, she told me later, still waking,

groggy from chloroform, birth certificate
blank on the sheets. As usual he was late,
her choice already made, not Linda,

another name engraved on the locket.
His choice, she told me later, the song
on the radio as he drove to the hospital:

We pass on the street, my heart skips
a beat, I say to myself, Hello, Linda.

Still green and waking to a child
in their midst—her pencil-thin skirt,
his white bucks—a choice they made

to mend fraying ends, my name meaning
beautiful. A foreign world on their lips,
too vast and impossible to shake them

awake, something beautiful frayed
even then, a family unending soon upended,
chloroformed song on my rosebud lips,

a name like and unlike any other.
Their choice already engraved,
my father rushes in, late as usual.

Humble Pie

Flaky, that crust, so lean and light,
oh the taste of humble pie. Not cherry,
not berry, not peach or lime, but pride
stripped down to humbleness. That man,
my twin, shoes by the door, fed me a piece
of that humble pie. Piled deep and high,
I mixed it right, added salt, half his, half mine,
no harm, no fault. Flour the counter, roll out
plans, the universe laughs at leaving men.
Nothing lasts forever, the Buddhists say,
nothing lasts long. All God's children don't
get along. Suffering happens, woe be us,
put hands together, pray to the sky, suffer
that butter in humble pie. Pie, pie,
that humble pie.

Make a space in one small room, strike
a flame to fill the gloom, sit with sorrow,
sit and chill, there you'll weep on heartbreak
hill. A new day'll mend that awful tear,
turn bitter to sweet, turn truth to dare.
Heal soft, not hard, when it's said and done,
new cinnamon me upon the tongue.
Me, me, me oh my, better than any humble
pie. Stir it in, good and hot, never forget
that humility pot. Keep it near, near
as fire that scalds your mouth and burns
your ear. Heap old fears in the soul's
dark night, remember that work, so dear
and wise, remember to remember
that humble pie.

Figs in Old October

All things on earth point home in old October.
—Thomas Wolfe

Those let go too long drip on late roses,
ant fogged, overfull of September—no kin
to the last beefsteaks embittered on the vine.
Day by day they turn, verde to gold, under
high-hatted leaves, my cupped hand the opposite
of drought and waiting. The youngest won't
ripen before first frost—over sixty seasons
tell me as I cradle this bearing. Call it aureole
or labia, the body's sweet held and bartered
in old October, when all things compass home—
loves spent in regret, gone to earthly hollow,
loves milky at the stem taken whole for the teeth.
October, when late musk enters my fruited
dreams, hung in winter's false light.


Linda Parsons is a poet and playwright and an editor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She is the reviews editor at Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, a supporting editor of New Millennium Writings, and has contributed to Georgia Review, Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, Shenandoah, Ted Kooser's syndicated column American Life in Poetry, and other journals and anthologies. Her most recent poetry collection is This Shaky Earth. Work is forthcoming in The Chattahoochee Review, Cold Mountain Review, Southern Humanities Review, and New Madrid.


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The most recent addition to The Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline is Rosa Newmarch by Jean L. Kreiling.

Marie Ponsot was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Celebration of the Timeline reaching 75 essays, Lincoln Center, Fordham University (Sponsored by Fordham's Curran Center) Friday, October 20th, 2017.

Charlotte Innes is the recipient of the 2018 Mezzo Cammin Scholarship to the Poetry by the Sea conference.

Rachael Gorchov: Recently I completed a body of work that focused on the landscapes that define suburban office and industrial complexes, contemplating their subtle relationships with the history of landscape painting. When looking at these places I saw English landscape gardens – orchestrated nature that gave way to picturesque landscape painting. I documented my subjects onsite by drawing their reflections in a Claude Glass, a convex black mirror popularized as an observation device in the 18th century. This tool appealed to me for how its skews and bulges its reflection, making my work highly subjective from the start. I then constructed paintings in the studio based on these drawings. The three-dimensional nature of my paintings further emphasized the forced perspective in my initial drawings and required viewers to explore the paintings much like they might explore a physical space by moving around, crouching and craning their necks.

Irregular versions of geometric forms such as cubes, parabolic curves, cones and triangles comprised the dimensional shapes of these pieces and eventually gave way to my working nearly exclusively on concave surfaces and ‘rocks with cast shadows.’ I settled on these structures for a few reasons. When a viewer stands directly in front of the concave works, irregular half-spheres with the convex side attached to the wall, the paintings fill their peripheral vision for an immersive experience. The rocks and shadows, amorphous objects paired with adhesive-backed prints, are reminiscent of portals and geologic abrasions. They invite viewers to question if the dimensional form is emerging from or entering into another space. Like in other works, these pieces frame the physical space the artworks inhabit.

In 2016, I visited Europe where I recognized parallels between the interiors of Renaissance spaces and my own paintings, such as the power that foreshortening possesses in its ability to collapse and intensify space in cathedrals– similar to my Claude Glass works. This experience coincided with a visit to an exhibition in Vienna featuring renderings of synagogues that once stood in the city. This piqued an interest in contemplating architectural space in my work and prompted me to consider architectural language in my own Jewish cultural heritage. I then began a series of tondos, a Renaissance term for circular artworks, of European Jewish architecture.

Beginning with paintings and mixed-media, in these works I build a photographic image that engages the space wherever it is installed, becoming part of the architecture. I arrived at the tondo format through my own history of making non-rectangular paintings, and appreciate its relationship to reliefs and rose windows found in synagogues and cathedrals. In gathering source imagery, I rely heavily on documentation – photographs and engravings as most of these buildings have been destroyed. I contemplate the collective memory images of architectural space can reveal. In this spirit, this work depicts layered environments where scale, color and depth shift ambiguously, revealing experiential space.

I consistently begin works by looking at a particular subject because of an art historical or personal association, and then through a process of extracting details from their surroundings using an accumulation of marks, color and a tactility, I sacrifice specificity of form and place, ultimately revealing a specificity of experience as my subject.

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