Tina Parker grew up in Bristol, Virginia. She moved to Kentucky when she was awarded a James Still Fellowship to earn a Master’s in English at the University of Kentucky. She now lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband and two young daughters. She has taught college composition, as well as middle and high school English. However, she now practices the art of multitasking as a stay-at-home mom. Her poetry and fiction have been published in Limestone, New Millennium Writings, Appalachian Heritage, and Now & Then.


The Midwife

My bare feet
kick up dust
in the creekbed.
this fall
and the air
too thick
to breathe.

The scent leads
me through
the dusky dark--
her body’s musk
with a hint
of damp leaves.   

Jonas chops wood,
he can’t stop.
I climb the stairs
to her and see
she’s holding fast.

You have to let go,
I say it
close to her face.
Forget the wash,
the sheets you’ll dirty.
Here stand up,
that’s it.
The baby can’t come
till you let go.
The pain is a light,
reach for it now.

My hands can’t go around,
so I am under her arms
to hold her from behind.
We squat by the window.
Her eyes are gone,
she won’t see
the stars so I tell her
It’s a clear night.

A moan
and her body knows
to bear down.
Her hands all bone
on the windowsill,
but still she is silent.

You got to go
a little crazy.
Find your anger
and push it out.
Scream now scream
the sickness scream
the dark hole
you push through.

Finally her voice
cuts the night.
The ax drops,
the baby coming out
slick on the sheets.
It’s a girl,
and she cries fierce
till their bodies
find each other again.

There is work
to do yet,
but I know
to sit and watch
the baby suckle back
to that first sleep,
to that comfort
we come from
but can never keep.





Nanny eats week-old cantaloupe
from Spring Street Market, gazes
out her kitchen bay window,

Asks Do you remember when
your brother ran from your daddy.
I say nothing, afraid words will end the story.

Well no, I guess you don’t cause you
weren’t born. They were getting in the car
to come here. Your daddy chased your brother
all over that neighborhood and liked
to never caught him.
I asked about a bruise he had when they got here.
He said daddy’d hit him.
I guess he’s never laid a hand on you.

Nanny pushes the bowl of cantaloupe across the table.
Might as well eat some, she says, I had to cut it up
before it got to stinking.




Bathing Nanny

She hands me the cloth
to wash her back.

It is a trench down the middle,
scars on each side.

Your skin looks good, I tell her
as I rub lotion onto her legs
and the hard bottoms of her feet.

There is a man who lives
still in this ritual.

We do not mention
how she bathed him daily,
do not marvel at how a stroke

took his left side
but could not paralyze

his tongue, and even if I could ask
she would not answer:

Can you shrug off
the bitterness that grips you still
deep in your shoulders?

Here, let me take it for you.
Let me wash it away.




Wednesday Night

I looked out the window and watched
the boys play kickball on the front lawn
of the church. Inside, we girls reported
on the progress of our Mission Quests:
we served food
at the Haven of Rest,
we witnessed to unsaved friends,     
and we read the Gospels to shut-ins.

We were missionaries-in-training, eager
to earn the highest rank,
the title Queen Regent-in-Service
bestowed at mother-daughter teas.

Later, I hid in a storage room,
hung a cross behind a discarded
pulpit. I studied Proverbs 31:10.
Outside, the boys ran the bases.
 I admired their sweaty hair and dirty jeans,
and as I made yet another offering
of my life to serve God, I tried to pray
away my wish to be just like them.



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