by Kim Parko
Kim Parko lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, US
with her husband and dog. She teaches at the Institute of American
with Kim Parko
"My ancestors were
reincarnated as ocular migraines."
Reviewed by Jarred McGinnis
I started by judging this book by its cover. Caketrain Press has a
habit of binding their journal and books with the best cover art in
existence. As I was clicking purchase now for issue seven of
Caketrain's journal, Elene Usdin's cover photograph of Kim Parko's Cure
All was enough for me to add to basket. I'm glad I did. The photo is an
excellent illustration for the prose and verse within. Parko's style
and tone is what you would expect from a Caketrain author, short dense
text that drips with strange melancholy imagery.
is a lonely place where bodies are mutilated or transformed but most
often sprouting vegetation. There is little direct communication
(except a few stories in the form letters addressed to Dear Sir or
Madam) and there is a constant threat of violence, usually sexual, from
the male inhabitants such as "the rapist" that haunts several stories,
the negligent suitor of Infirm or as Bruce who must pre-emptively destroy Molly's new found strength in Fists. But it is not a world without amusements; Spine humorously ends with little girls putting a fetching sundress on a disembodied spinal column.
collection is mostly flash fiction with a scattering of poetry and the
occasional folk remedy such as one of my favourite, IF YOU CANNOT
SMILE AT A BABY BORROW AN OLD MAN'S TEETH (capitalisation is the
author's, not mine). Her poet's precision and dexterity with language
serves her prose well. Phrases such as wilt of her shoulders
from Eras vein the text.
initially reacted poorly to Parko's paragraphs of dense and strange
imagery punctuated by a summarizing sentence. The coy but gorgeous
descriptions, the repetition of themes and similar tone of the stories
threatened to make each seem formulaic. When read one after another,
these flash fiction pieces can feel like a comedian's delivery: set up,
punch line, joke, set up, punch line, joke. A few of her stories do
offer little more than rich imagery where mundane and fantastical are
described in equal terms, but they are the exception.
The majority of Parko's stories in Cure All
reward multiple readings, and beyond the formulated structure lies a
richness of everyday life told in a fascinating and new way. For
example, in the sum total of three short paragraphs, Schoolgirl
gives you the awakening consciousness of a young girl, her discomfort
with her emerging sexuality and the coda of an allusion to her fate as
a woman in the form of a post-mastectomy lunch lady. The fact that it
took nearly as many words for me to prosaically enumerate the themes of
the story as it took for Parko to write the piece itself is a testament
to her skill.
One of my favourite pieces from Cure All is Doppelganger
where a girl trades her security blanket for a doppelganger lover while
her mother kayaks in a trunk with hoarded oars. And another, Ancestry
opens with the perfect line, "My ancestors were reincarnated as ocular
migraines" and finishes beautifully in a handful of equally good
sentences. I look forward to reading more from this author and glad
that her work has found a home at Caketrain.
from this collection in Diagram