2 poems by Nina Parmenter : Down by the River & How to Count Your Fingers

Sunset, Silhouette, Boat, People
Down by the River

Down by the river I linger, held
at bay by the pull of things so small
that cities fold and concertina.

My thoughts are twists and pebbles, my
unease is tugged into an eddy -
a yellow petal surfs the middle.

Fingers scoop at shingle, skin
forgets to fear, a thousand facets
pour through thumbs and knuckles,
wet and sharp and dirty and fickle,
cold and
here.

Down by the river I linger, until
the leaves that skimmed around the sandbar
blend into the distant silver.
How To Count Your Fingers

Did you know
that the blurred balls to your left and right
are your hands,
and that they have endings?

We call them fingers.

Did you know
that if you hold back your thoughts
from churning and ticking,
from building and spilling,
you can see those fingers
and count them?

Just try.

Jump on your mind,
find the brake to stop it turning.
Try thinking of a desert.
Try floating on a salt-drenched sea.

Now, hold your hands quite still.
Do not grasp or scratch or fidget
or tap or swipe or scroll.

Believe me, it’s possible.

And now count the fingers, slowly.
Work methodically from left to right.
Oh, I’m not giving you the answer.
No spoilers.

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Nina Parmenter

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Nina Parmenter is a poet and Mum from Wiltshire, UK. She has appeared in numerous journals including Ink, Sweat & Tears, Snakeskin, Light, Better Than Starbucks and The Lyric, and is a contributor to the Potcake Chapbooks series. In 2021, she won Hedgehog Poetry’s ‘Looking Out, Peering In’ contest, and was nominated for the Forward Prize. Her job that pays her actual money is in marketing.

5 Poems from Nina Parmenter ” The Twist”,”Bright Future”, “Strings” “Stargazing in a time of Plague” “Where Tears Are”

The Twist

I spin in my bed,
my shoulders pulled high and loaded,
the wings of my hips tucked
as if to fit some aperture.
I work rhythmically
from one side to the other
my arms winding and twining
like a thread around my ribcage,
one calf cramping
as my feet close and flex.
My sheet shapes to my friction.


When it comes, it is inevitable.
My toe points a spasm,
my spine locks,
and down I go, turning through the mattress,
foamy swarf rising.
Through and through I twist,
splintering slats, scorching floorboards,
penetrating foundations.
The soil is a brief lick against my cheekbones
before the clay, the warmth,
the undreaming sleep.

Bright Future
We gathered at the edge of things
like thoughts
poorly remembered.
My face stood firm, but my mind cried –
not for the decisions made,
but for the outcomes.

Together, we walked,
the small, the cowed, and the proud.
For as long as we walked, we could own
something –
if only the path
behind us.

We were the flaws,
the tails of the bell-curves,
as loathed as those
who discarded us.
But we were not the decisions made.
We were the outcomes.

Strings

Yes, there are strings
wrapping our tight chests,
our temples, our pin-striped wrists.
Twisting, one-two, in a bowline hitch.


Yes, there are strings,
Curled in a flexing whip,
our skin waiting, eager and crisp,
for the coils that ping from the shadows.

Yes, there are strings
cracked in a lattice
from lip to purpling lip.
We scream. We are already swallowed.


“Who’s there?” we cry,
and we search for a purposeful hand
well-versed in the weave and the flick,
chasing strings
until they are tails
whilst our ankles
trip
trip
trip.

Stargazing in a time of plague

Usually, I tip my head up to the stars,
flare my nostrils and suck them in,
startling and heady.


Normally, I let their enormity fill me,
tripping on great shocks of distance,
my veins thudding in awe.


Tonight, I cannot so much as look at them,
with their extravagant timespans
and their crass wisdom.

Tonight, they are willfully goading me
because they know how I will break
and when.

First published in Snakeskin Poetry, June 2020 http://www.snakeskinpoetry.co.uk

Where Tears Are

Sometimes, tears bunch in vertebrae,
cling to an unyielding jaw
or hunker in shoulders.


Sometimes, tears hide in the sacrum
only to flood the belly
when our pace falters.

Sometimes, they are in knees that cannot lift
hands that cannot play,
a mouth that cannot smile
but smiles anyway.


And sometimes,
but only sometimes,
they reach
our eyes.


First published in Snakeskin Poetry, October 2020 http://www.snakeskinpoetry.co.uk

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Nina Parmenter

photo by Nathan Anderson (unsplash)