Category Archives: Selected Poetry

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Kodak Moment in Mexico

Skirting Bahia Banderas, Puerto Vallarta’s malecon
pulsates with Mexican locals
hawking their wares to turistas,
Canadians and Americans eager for a deal—
the “almost-free” bracelets of 925 silver,
genuine Mexican blankets made in China,
Day of the Dead skulls dangling from wind chimes,
and T-shirts that give you bragging rights
to swallowing the worm in the tequila.

Barefoot five-year-olds sell packages of Chiclets
for fifty centavos. A pre-teen boy in a ragged poncho
promises a gringa his pet iguana won’t bite
or poop on her shoulder,
but will make a fotografia bonita,
will impress her amigas at her machismo.
“Cuesta viente pesos, Señora.”

Toes tucked into gritty, hot sand,
I sip an ice-cold cerveza Pacifico, dip
salty tortilla chips into hotter-than-hades jalapeño salsa,
dazzled by the exchange of pesos for product.
I want to ask the middle-aged man to my left
how he can sit on a bench reading a book,
oblivious to the wheeling and dealing
and the well-practiced hustle
behind not-so-innocent brown eyes.

A beggar woman toting a bambina on her back
shuffles through the sand,
stops in front of the man nose-deep in book,
extends her palm. “Por favor, Señor.”
The gringo ignores her plea for a few coins.
She lifts her faded print dress knee height,
spreads her legs,
urinates,
readjusts the bambina,
shuffles down the beach.

© Susan Parker
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s written permission.

Clutter

Sprinkled on the desktop
screaming to be heard
words peek from beneath
unpaid telephone bills
daily journal in a dust covered jacket
tax forms, deadline fast approaching
last night’s cup of Chamomile tea
poetry magazines three months old
with a note, “Submit to this!”

I find them wedged
between threads, chili dogs and garlic fries
hanging on Christmas photos of Uncle Pat
stuck to a chocolate smudge on a Valentine
hiding in a poetry workshop memo
the seed idea four weeks old
attached to a yellow post-it marked
“Urgent-needs immediate attention”
dated two months ago
wrapped around Webster’s Dictionary
floating on a cloud
of gray cat hair
Himalayan, sleeping nearby.

Searching through clutter for a poem
is like an Easter Egg Hunt—
there’s always a treasure close by.

© Susan Parker
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s written permission.

Boy on the Beach

Left arm cradled in the right, he hobbled
from a crumpled beach towel
beneath a swaying coconut palm
on Waikiki Beach. A crown of blonde dreadlocks
hung in disarray, sun-dried wisps
floating in the humid tropical breeze. Reed-thin
ribs poked through tanned, weather-leathered skin.
Tattered denim knee-length jeans
hung on hip bones. Left leg trailing
sideways, leaving rippled sand wakes in his path,
he lumbered through the doorway
of a beachside bathroom.
A surfing accident turned nasty?
An injured vet forgotten?

Downcast eyes glancing at no one,
he returned to collect his towel,
folded it into quarters,
tucked it under his arm,
turned down the alleyway to…
where?

Walking with purpose to catch up,
flip-flops slap, slap, slapping,
a redhead in a Hilo Hattie halter dress
pressed his limp hand into hers,
palmed him a twenty.
Deep-set, pale grey-blue eyes
lit up like a 60-watt bulb,
as a single tear slid down his cheek.
Smiling from ear to ear,
he choked out a raspy,
“Thank you.”

© Susan Parker
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s written permission.

For Johnny

On vellum pages of his daily journal
Nam-scars etched in spilled blood
sliced through knotted muscle
through blood icy with fear
through bone shattered like crystal
through tattered marrow of teenage grit.

Haunted eyes turned skyward
he begged on bended knee to forget
cries of the tortured
splitting a moonless night
and the itch of mud and blood-sucking
leeches on sunburned skin
unaware the terror would forever
replay across a 3-D screen
in dark corners of his mind
until hair-thin filaments bridging sanity
snapped.

Each wound, body and mind
cracked split oozed
into the horror of war at home.
Taunting slurs from a hyped-up mob
cursed his return, fisted
hands punching hostile air
pelting him with a barrage of rocks
hate-filled spit staining his Army dress jacket.

Watching from the edges of a raging
hometown crowd, I didn’t spit.
I didn’t fight either.
I should have fought—
fought for Johnny and the others
raised my fist against the crowd
yelled STOP!

But I was raising a son—a son
I feared would fight in foreign lands
would suffer the scars and spit of war
etch them in spilled blood
on vellum pages of his daily journal.

Johnny Frye and I attended elementary through high school together. He was drafted and sent to Vietnam. He came home from the war but lost the battle addicted to drugs. One day while swimming in the Eel River in Northern California he dove off a rock into a too-shallow pool, hitting his head, ending up a paraplegic. I visited him once while he was in the hospital and took him to out to lunch, one of the few outings he had. Several years later he died in a car crash. I’d always wished I had made the effort to see him more often. This poem is for him.

© Susan Parker
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author’s written permission.