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Virginia Parsell

Finding Myself

On such and such a day,
In such and such a year,
At such and such a time,
I was born.

Before that very day,
Before that chosen day,
Before that special time,
Where was I?

In limbo for nine months,
From cell to ready self,
Afloat in mother's belly,
I had started.

Before that where was I?
An active division,
A part of my father,
A waiting egg.

And so forth, back in time:
A division in four,
Then eight, and then sixteen.
So it went.

I vanish into time,
A blob of where and when,
Soft cradled in the dark,
A voided nest.

So just as now I see
A nothing here in place,
An unborn undying,
I never was.

I just am.
A nothing through and through.
A light without a lamp,
A flame that never dies.

Some comfort in knowing,
Some joy in being this,
Some rest in the fact,
Myself no self.

Strained out to a singsong,
A murmuring of voice,
Pencilled here to paper,
Unheard echo.

Perhaps a note to God,
A real exchange at last:
His smile and mine converge
In one bright light.

Virginia Parsell


I am slightly obsessed these days
With the thought of all that I will
Leave behind one day when I go
Away, for good and always,
To all extents and purposes.

The unorganized possessions
Packed in every closet of my house,
With all their memories intact
And known only to me, look out
At me with lonely questioning eyes

As if to say, what will become of us
When you are no longer here to
Mastermind our place, our position,
Our worth, our meaning, our very fate?
After all, you are responsible, you took

Us in, you indentured us as extended
Parts and pieces of yourself. Just look
At all those books jammed on shelves,
Pressing for attention, abandoned loves
Without a chance of being read again.

I know, I know. But consider, please,
That if I can reconcile myself to giving up
This pulsing body I call my own,
Surely you can generously face being
Orphans when I have to let you go?

Still, who will know where the books
Belong, and why I read them, and when?
And who shall have them, and where
They end, the thread of their connection
To my years of reading snapped and broken?

My clothes will walk away, too, I suppose,
Dispersed in one way or another,
More imperishable than I will be; after all,
They will not be reduced to ashes, not yet,
But be gaily hung in some other closets, somewhere.

How can I go on? The furniture, the pictures
The kitchen wares so warmly used and chosen,
Mother's silver, a collection of jewellery with
Emotional ties in their precious glint,
Even the pots in the patio that I have nourished:

All, all, must learn to live without me,
And I must see them off before I go
With cheer and surrender of ownership,
For who can own a thing, who has had
It all as long as I can remember?

Virginia Parsell

Empty Head

My mind is too full.
It has packed itself
With the detritus
Of the day's issues
Until it is hard
As a cement rock
And as abrasive,
Too. Or so it feels.

I wish to be light
As air, light-headed
Really. Even more,
No headed if it
Comes down to basic
Fact. To my surprise
I see I am made
Of the obvious.

The hard stuff scatters
In a rush of flight,
Instantly settled
Back into the things
They belong to. Sofas
Are red, not me. Grief
Is the world's, and life
Has its own back again.

Virginia Parsell


The other night I was sitting
Slouched in front of the television set
When I must have fallen asleep
As easily as a knife passing through
Soft butter or a custard that is done.

I knew nothing about it until I awoke,
Disorientated. I had missed the entire
Movie, coming in bewildered to the end.
My husband had come home and was asleep
In his bed, having whispered a soft good night.

I tried to play catch-up to the lost space
Of my disappearance, to the dropping off
Into the depths of unconsciousness.
I wonder if this is how death will come,
Taking me away without my even knowing it.

Virginia Parsell


Tumbled out in the world,
Subject to its whims
And forces, I no
Longer have a mind
Of my own. And yet,
I have all the time
In the world to choose
And to temper the call,
The throw of the ball.
A strange paradox,
This edge of the world
I live upon now.

Virginia Parsell


I came, I went, yet I am always here.
I lived, will die, yet I am always here.
I hurt, I sicken, yet I am always here.

What does this tell me, being always here?
My meaning, my aging, my private pain
Have no real value when I am always here.

My special history is just a dream,
A kaleidoscope of changing pictures;
I only have this moment to awake.

My fancy images of what has been
Evaporate like shining mirages
When I come upon the actual scene.

The instant taking in of what is here
Wipes out my past and bars the future days.
I'm snapped in place without a trace of me.

A total nought, filled with the busy world,
The portion that comes slipping in right now.
No more, no less, a lightsome show of shows

Put on, of course, for no one here at all,
An absent viewer of the moving view,
Eternally grateful, heartened with joy.

Virginia Parsell

From Here

Watch the moth adrift
On a sea of air
And pulsing to the
Movement of its soul:
Awash upon the
Universe, like me,
Living with a heart
Of capacity.

Virginia Parsell

Land Ho

I have washed up on shore,
Having held in abeyance
For several weeks now
Whatever I was feeling and thinking,
Reluctant or unwilling
Or perhaps incapable
Of putting down in bondage
To this paper prison
My butterfly reactions
And impressions that have occupied
My regard and were so peculiar.

Now here I am, trying to be lucid
And faithful, the rudder of myself
In my hand, and the whole boat
Of comprehension surrendered
To the no-Self of consciousness,
To the emptiness of anything
Here at all, and certainly
Of anyone experiencing the Void.
The fields of suffering and discomfort
Have been walked through, as it were,
And now I have come to the lake
Where I take up this oar of a pencil.

Virginia Parsell

In And Out Of The Night

Close the universe.
Invite the nightly shutdown
When the sharpness of the will
Disappears into I know not what.
Go unknowingly into oblivion
And be surprised to wake up.
It is morning, and here is
My bedroom, same as before
And a million times different.
Just shutting my eyes and going
To sleep, killing and ending
A world, then recreating it
So blithely in broad daylight.
Now there's nerve for you!

Virginia Parsell


Mother's bones lie in the cold earth.
Hard to connect her image
Known through fleshed out years
With cold bones.

What did I love then?
Her decked and warmed body
Whose arms came round me
Like a locked embrace?

Or just her loving attention,
Her loving me, the steady light
That kept me growing, sustaining
My spindly thrusts at life.

I've kept something of mother,
After all. I can let go the bones,
Forget the cold earth, the dark.
She lives in my light.

Virginia Parsell

In The Middle

Tired to aching,
Willing and unwilling,
Eager and hesitant,
Sad and exultant,
Sorry for salt,
Honey to spare:
Waves of contradiction
Awash in me,
Sluicing my decks
And spraying my sails.

Virginia Parsell

This Is It

There is no place to run,
No escape from this spot,
No moment from this time.
What I contain
Is what there is, no more
Or less.

Virginia Parsell


Born, not born, reborn, then again
Transformed, translated as it were
Into a widening consciousness
Of what it is to live a life
In movement from greater stillness,
The pulse of paradox a thread
Throughout the fabric of the whole.

Virginia Parsell


Petals fall from the new
Branches of the plum tree.
Who wants to pick them up?

Virginia Parsell

Out Of Time

A wriggle, a flurry, and then
Suddenly you are called, led
Down the corridor to the principal's
Office, where your name is recorded
On a list, to be checked off.
The former trappings of a lifetime
Are not recorded. Cut off unexpectedly,
No time to think, to plan, to rearrange.
Everything left behind in mute testimony
To the staged life and its illusion
Of being something, someone, after all.

Virginia Parsell


I'm upside down and inside out.
All out, all down, unframed and clear,
With no one in the window seat.
The scene upheld with open arms
Extended wide from east to west,
Embracing what is on my plate:
A new condition quite unlike
The one I thought I had before.
I see just how it is right here,
And now, of course. No memory
Or fancied tricks and plays of mind
To spoil the plain reality,
Unvarnished truth of simple sight.

Virginia Parsell


Lying in bed is a funny scene:
Snow-white blanket goes up by a half,
Surrounded by window and sofa,
Pictures and books, bureau and table,
Closets and draperies, ceiling edge,
Bottomed by warm flesh-covered hands,
Holding pencil and paper, on which
Creeps the description of a blue glimpsed,
Two-armed chest, blissfully beheaded.

Virginia Parsell


My life, my life, is what I see,
There is no other sort of me.
Just like a butterfly I land
On any object come to hand.
The universe is centered where
Selection zeroes throught the air
And settles on, say, just that thing,
A paradise that I can sing.

Virginia Parsell

To My Friends

Don't worry. I'm not going any place
I haven't been. I can't depart
And I can't arrive: I stay
In one spot always, with or without
Baggage. I am the train and the station
And the morning without end,
Without beginning, for that matter.

Virginia Parsell

The Beauty

I cannot find the words to tell the rapture,
The quiet, unspoken resting on the knoll
Of being what I see, and seeing, being,
One in all, all in this One, the empty I
that holds the pen and watches how the paper
fills with marks pinning the indescribable
To a hinted wall of recognition,
A bulletin board of signs to draw the eye
To sightless habitation in this glorious inn.

Virginia Parsell

Whited Vessels

We are all perishable, soon to be,
Or later, but definitely to go.
Walking wraiths, seeming substance, tubes of flesh
Is what we are in outer envelope.

Fleshed out to praise the source of this being,
Made to worship, from top to bottom line:
North to south, and east to west, we adore
Our incarnation, seen from no such thing.

Virginia Parsell

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