Kim Ports Parsons grew up in Baltimore, moved a bit, earned degrees, taught writing, and worked in libraries. Now she gardens, walks, and writes in a Virginia valley next to Shenandoah National Park.

Her work has appeared in The Blue Nib, Banyan Review, and many journals. She volunteers weekly for Cultivating Voices LIVE Poetry. Visit her at


My father died suddenly,
my mother left to mourn.
Three hundred miles from home,
he turned down his bed.
Friends came for coffee,
found him on the floor.
They let my uncle know,
then we knocked on her door.

I hope his mind was on the river
where he fished the evening hatch,
steps from the old trailer
under tall pitch pines.
The water so clear there
he could count the stones.
The bourbon brown and sweet there
after casting in the dusk.

I hope the river’s murmur
was louder than the pounding.
A quick death’s a blessing
for the one who dies.
He washed up from supper,
then pulled back the covers,
then a sharp pain, a dizzy moment,
a door closing, and lights out.

But a curse for the one
who waits for the long box
and lays it in the ground,
who opens the window
of each empty day, and sets
out one plate each night,
who chews mouthfuls of dust,
and listens on repeat
to her own lungs’ dirge.

Joy is short, the “O” a fish
makes as it leaps for the fly,
the last minute of the fifty-six
and a half years of loving a living man.
But grief, grief is long,
a strong current from which you never
rise, but needs must swim against
the rest of your days.

Please Forgive Me

Please forgive me, but sometimes I talk
to the worms as I garden. I say,
Excuse me and I’m so sorry.
Rain calls them to the surface.

I say, Watch out, opening a new hole
for a pepper plant, and There you go,
my friend, as I cup one in my glove
and set it under the clinging peas.

The soil is soft and rich with compost.
Forgive me for what I do, I say,
for all the living sliced in two,
tunnels collapsed, barriers laid,

marches forced from a homeland.
Dust of the microbiome blooms on my skin.
Findings only prove what my instincts
already know. Such beings do a raft of good,

balance out the haves and have-nots,
create justice in the gut of us,
pursue our happiness to the very bone.
The bluebirds carry a moth to their box

and raucous celebration occurs.
Everything eats something.
If I were to gather only windfall,
or give all that I grow, or

turn the soil till my hands were torn,
I would never work as hard as they,
or give as much, or make life
from refuse, or transform the earth.

I can only speak for myself. I take,
I eat, and I kill, like all my kind.
Forgive me, but it’s true, no matter how I try.
I walk with hard steps upon this only world.

Barn Owl

She has a heart-shaped face, buff-white feathers,
dark eyes, hunts in open country, along wooded edges,
makes her home in hollow trees, ghost-like,
sees creatures moving in the meadow while we’re sleeping.

Most think sight her strength, and it’s true—she can find
a whisker in a haystack—but her hearing is so sharp,
so especially keen, in fact, that if the window’s left open
when the moon is full, and the frogs finish their chorus,

and the air is still and cool as a fresh sheet,
then perhaps, as she glides on tawny wings
simply because she can, free and satisfied, not yet
brooding a second clutch, she lands and preens

on the rooftop, daylight still an hour away,
turns her neck in the hush and hears,
without the slightest interest, the murmured notes
we offer, stirring in our nest.