cover image Long Division

Long Division

Alan Michael Parker. Tupelo (www.tupelopress .org), $16.96 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-93219-542-2

“The take-out menus in the lobby are so sleepy,/ they are so sore, they have swum oceans,” begins one poem in Parker’s sixth collection, endowing voice and pathos to the familiar ephemera clogging our nation’s porches and foyers. This gesture of compassionate attention to the marginal, humble pieces of a common life—a bench in a hospital garden, a rusted-out car on blocks—runs through Parker’s book, which draws on a range of formal registers in the process. (Some repeated forms include letters, numbered lists—e.g., “Sixteen Ways Old People Terrify the Young”—and quasi-fables.) At stake is how to reconcile the love, pleasure, and retrospective cast of a middle-aged mind with the less-thoughtful era of mercantile zoomburbs in which we find ourselves (a “zoomburb”? A “suburb growing even faster than a boomburb,” we learn). Here are also reflections on anniversaries, Italian opera, domestic life and its errant desires, third marriages, and fatherhood. The book’s best poems balance skepticism about the rituals of aging with the speaker’s participation in them. “My New American Lawn” thumbs its nose at the signifiers of lawn maintenance and suburban life, yet the poem also finds a well of urgency in “the crunchy, crispy, breakable/ blades.” (June)