Parker Menzimer

My Picture of the World

“We have our picture of the world
and that’s the creation.”
Charles Olson

Of smoothly marbled backdrops
green and Lifetouch-like, our dollhouse look
preadolescent at Tilden Park
waxy and flaxen as young grapefruits
beads in a braid two strangers made
we watched our mother intently press
into a faintly perfumed citrus
shapely nails glazed with polish
the color of a sun-dried fig

Twenty-five years later
my upturned face can sometimes home
like a sunflower dragging in July
green, like California polypody
green, like Anza’s algae floes
with eyes like two riparian wetlands
I brandished a small scoop net
in shaded manzanita groves
red, involuted, lacquered wood

Fast in views of prehistory
men gripped nets fit for a maiden dip
my sister’s wig of girlish hair
gold as dusty drawers of turmeric
in a nature center diorama
the Golden Gate made a spectral stage
for plaster hominids trawling for fish
an evil fog dropped on the human dolls
it fell, it fell, re-enchanting the grove

As though God’s creation took cues
from generic images


after Kimiko Hahn

When you were a girl
you saw the bones
of the cavewoman Lucy
wind-picked, shabby

Bones that so troubled
your child’s sense of scale
that you broke down crying
in the Hall of Human Origins

Love is not all
it’s cracked up to be
is what you thought
when we fell in love

Then, when love cracked you up
you were like the soft bed
of an unfathomed trench
blown open by steam

You think that in time
you will say “I admire
your gentle surrender
to uncertainty.”

Your eyes
two cut opals
your bones
washed with sand

there are
shabbier quarters
shabbier quarters
for crying

From the Author: In each of these poems, a child has an encounter in a nature center. It is the mid-1990s. Each child attempts to reconcile his or her experience, which has been the typically microscopic and ego-centric experience of childhood, with the possibility that human experience is millions of years old.

“My Picture of the World” is a poem in which I consider the conditions of my own childhood in California. It is inspired by a family photograph that is, for me, richly textual. “Lucy” is a poem in which I consider the experience of someone very important to me—in its way, it’s a love poem.

Parker Menzimer is the author of the chapbook The Links (1080press, 2022). His poetry has recently appeared in the journals New Mundo, Annulet, Prelude, and Tagvverk; his critical and non-fiction writing have appeared in BOMB, Epiphany, Tiding House, and elsewhere. He was educated at Bard College and Brooklyn College, where he was a Truman Capote Literary Trust Fellow and Rose Goldstein scholar. He serves as Public Programs Manager at the Poetry Society of America.