Featured Poet: Pat Parnell, Stratham
Pat Parnell, Stratham, is a poet, teacher, and journalist. She writes the monthly column “Poems from the Hoot” for the “Spotlight” magazine of the Seacoast newspapers. She is author of two collections of her poetry, Snake Woman and Other Explorations: Finding the Female in Divinity and Talking with Birches, Poems of Family and Everyday Life. She is Professor Emerita in the writing program of Chester College of New England, Chester, where she was a founder of Compass Rose, the college’s journal of the literary and visual arts. She serves as Publicity Chair of the Seacoast Writers Association and as Associate Editor of Currents, the SWA anthology of writers’ contest winners; she also serves as Associate Editor of The Poets’ Touchstone, the quarterly journal of The Poetry Society of New Hampshire.
My husband Bill was a strong supporter of my poetry. When he passed away, in January, 2010, I wanted to find a way for us to say good-by to each other through poetry. Bill was a talented, self-taught photographer who enjoyed experimenting with his photos, especially with composites. One of my favorites—posted on our refrigerator for several years—was a silhouette of Kokopelli, the Native American hunchback flute player, leader of the dance, set against a cloudlike background. Studying Bill’s photograph, I imagined Kokopelli as the Native American divine spirit who leads the souls of the deceased to the next level of their existence.
Kokopelli Leads the Dance
My lover leaps, en grand jete´,
to join me on this mountain top,
dancing to the notes
of the hunchback piper perched
on a nearby cloud,
the notes I cannot hear.
Never a dancer, body intimidated
by fear of the flesh, he chuckles at the fun
of his new flexibility. His balance back,
he rises, bending the toes, demi-pointe,
that would not bend.
Brace and foot drop forgotten,
he pirouettes, grinning, showing off.
“Look what I can do,” his smile says.
Led by the music he loved,
the agile piper beckoning, dancing ahead,
he gives me a last wave, then
takes double-somersaulting leaps,
cloud to cloud, ‘til he is lost
to my sight. I hear his laughter, echoing
in zigzag ricochet, until that too is lost.
I whisper “good-bye,” turn to go.
A slant of sunlight pierces the clouds,
lightens my way.
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