Review: No Arcadia by D. Eric Parkison
Part of my Pandemic Reading Series
Growing up in Connecticut I spent a lot of time running around in the woods and in the desolate back yards of many a neighbor’s expansive properties. Old rusted-out farm equipment or the brittle husks of long-dead cars were a common feature in the landscapes of my youth. As was the slow work of making maple syrup. Frigid aluminum buckets filled with sap. A thin layer of ice resting on top from sitting out overnight. I vividly recall the sweet flavor resonating joy of breaking a little piece of this ice and tasting what the gorgeous maple tree had bled into a bucket while I had been warm in bed. The same held for the yearly apple cider made fresh for the annual harvest fair. The biggest game in a very small town. D. Eric Parkison’s dazzling chapbook, No Arcadia brought so many of these recollections flooding back out of the void of memory. Suddenly I could smell the forest of New England again, I remembered the scratchy danger of the jagged edges of a rusted old truck in a neighbors yard where I got my first taste of working a clutch and shifting gears as I made driving noises, the tips of my sneakers just brushing the pedals, surrounded by the brisk fall air and the inferno of colors that overtook the landscape once a year.
A little slice from the poem Asymptote:
“Sometimes the hole’s been dug before birth.
What to do with the shirt.
Mothballs. Consignment. It covers. Things
come before any of their names.
Sometimes the lease is backdated,
The house smolders,
Smoke slouches in the doorways.”
Parkison’s work felt so vivid and real to me as I read his book through and then went back to the beginning to start again. I had the feeling that he perfectly expressed this liminal space between life, decay, and death. A landscape alive, slowly dissolving into itself, dying but by no means dead.
From the poem Wood Stove:
“Birds braid their nests into
Our old clay-lipped chimney.
There’s a papery rustle in the flue
When they collapse into the heat,
The chirps of their last panic — “
I walked into Parkison’s work blindly. No Arcadia was gifted to me by my dear friend and poet, Jason Barry. Parkison and Barry, both alums, though separated by some span of time, of Boston University MFA programs, Barry in poetry, Parkison in creative writing. While I had no expectations, save for the assurance that I would be sliding into some top-notch verse, I certainly didn’t expect to have my mind flooded with imagery so explicit and familiar. I didn’t expect to feel such intimacy with the landscapes Parkison expertly rendered in his seemingly effortless style.
From Mill Creek:
“Cleaned it as it ran, sweet at the tap.
You’d stand beside the flats, soggy,
Mealy with apple pulp. The paper cup
Seemed filled with froth. He’d say, See?
The foam is all apple sugar,
The ex-marine. Stern. Demanding attention.
He’d scoop the bubbles to his mouth on his finger,
Hand you the cup, saying Taste it again.”
The book is worth owning, holding, reading, and re-reading. Returning to it again and again, Parkison’s writing will yield continual riches as the words and rhythms sink into you and vice versa.