the broadside series


Blue Fifth Review
Volume X. Issue 1
January 2010

Photography by Harvey Parker

Pamela Johnson Parker
( Kentucky )

poem & comment


I. Prenatal
A is for artifice,
      A for abdomen,
            A for adultery

Bisecting my belly, there’s this dark line.
I am known and knowing.   I bear in mind 

He sang to me the Song of Songs, and how
My body was his goblet.  Spilling wine now,

Scarlet threads, pooling in puddles, bloody 
Fretwork of show, how it begins…


II. Perinatal
B is for Bastard,
      B for blasphemy,
            B for baby, beloved

I am the oyster, and she is my world—
This flesh of my flesh.   And here the scaffold 
Supports us, bone of my bones, and here 

The skeleton supports the skin; here each 
Stitch traces scarlet vines, fanciful 
Flowers, across my leaking breasts, here one 

Becomes twain, the umbilicus severed, 
The rose-red cry of first breath, the one 
Crying in the wilderness.

III. Postpartum
C is for crowning,
      C for childbirth,
            C for cradle

Our scissor-split bodies are globes,  
Worlds made flesh, of flesh, this gem from 
An irritant—silt, seawater, amnion, 
Blood, arterial red.  Now the needle’s 

Mercurial, flashing in and out of 
The linen, over and under, over 
And over, fashions my beginning—
Alpha, the first, the firstborn; the twisted 

Fretwork of stitches in scarlet are lines 
Embroidering the truth, not the red-letter 
Words of his testament, but, daughter, vines 
That enmesh us, tangled roots we’ll unwind.

      D is for distaff


Parker comments on her poem:

I was attempting an abecedarian poem, which was a new form for me, and couldn’t get past A: Palmer-precise looping ones, report-card pointy printed ones that look like a swingset in profile, gold-burnished ones that fade to a palimpsest on the vellum of medieval prayerbooks. I thought of The Scarlet Letter, and the poem came very quickly thereafter.

You might notice that I didn’t stray far past C. I’ll continue to try the abecedarian form until I get to Z.

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