Parker Towle, Poetry

Sugarloaf Descent

by Parker Towle

Low trees and scrub
yield to precipitous
scree slope, an irregular
ladder of stone blocks with no
bushes or tree trunks to cling to.
Switchbacks are few. Cooling breeze
above yields to flushing heat and dripping
sweat. We tumble down through a sparse
gnarl of trees with openings to view their tops on
the valley floor like Christmas trees in a bird’s view.
The Carrabassett River in a rush flashes in sunlight
over rocks far below, silent at first, then with a roar.
Ear pop confirms altitude drop, steepness
subsides, and the stream noise rises. We
step in as quick as we can, duck our
heads under a veil of water,
ah, the chill…

Contributors, Parker Towle

Parker Towle

Parker Towle was born and raised in central Massachusetts, educated in Connecticut and Vermont, and located his career as a neurologist to Boston, and the north country of New Hampshire and Vermont. He has published seven books of poems, the latest being Poems and Collage (2013) in collaboration with the artist Barbara Newton; and World Spread Out (2015), a full-length collection of poems from Antrim House Books. He is an associate editor at The Worcester Review he has edited special editions on the poets Frank O’Hara and Stanley Kunitz.

View Parker’s poetry on New England Memories:

Parker Towle, Poetry


by Parker Towle

Fog rose off the still lake
like wisps of flame. Two hundred feet
from shore we were on instruments, in trust

to a compass resting on a bed roll: an hour
with no direction, no idea, swallowed
by the other, not in dark but rather

in a vague receding white. When it thinned
by a sun you could stare right at,
the far shore came out—

mirage, and a bald eagle
soared over swamp grass and
lit in a bare-limbed tree.

Not poetic license, this is true. Her
scruffy adolescent chicks groomed
nearby, not anywhere either, but

Umbagog Lake. By then we were singing
Harry Chapin’s Taxi and A cat’s
in the cradle, a silver spoon…

Three generations in
an old green canoe fishing
the depths of a family.



Parker Towle, Poetry

New Hampshire Notches in December

by Parker Towle

Crawford Notch—no views,
today watery snow
crusts the headlights, pebbles
the windshield. Deepening
ruts of a car that struggles
up ahead swerve with no center lines
to guide. When he stops
to strip ice, wet snow

swirls down his neck. Back inside
his reddened hands clutch
the wheel. It’s too late to turn back.
Wheel spins flick the speedometer.
Under Frankenstein cliffs
wind shifts lighter snow,
clears spots, jolts the car.
He shifts up on the flats toward

Bretton Woods and Twin. As
sudden as a shutter, snow
stops, no wind, clear
black. Within two minutes
or is it hours, millennia, a splash
rains down that wipers cannot wash,
roads glaze; He slows toward
Franconia Notch, more rocking wind.



Parker Towle, Poetry


by Parker Towle

And so she puts extra leaves in the table, sets it
for us with old china from her mother and
silver purchased out of the frugality of the Great
Depression. Vegetables, as from her husband’s garden
steam on the stove. One great granddaughter in
crinoline skirt chases another in a tousled red wig from
room to room the way the three of us
boy cousins behaved in our aunt’s basement,
Thanksgiving years ago. The meal is set for
family and friends as it has been for many days for
centuries by this simple yet complicated
New England family in America. We bow our heads
to remember the empty chairs at the table and praise
our sense of duty and family, the devotion to labor,
passion of mind and body, the love of God
passed from our pilgrim kin like the heaped
platters of food around the table.