Kim Parko, Cure All
Caketrain, 2010

Reviewed by Angela Stubbs

[Review Guidelines]


Kim Parko's Cure All is a work of collected fictions that encompass a myriad of afflictions and flawed subjects who attempt to decipher appearances from illusions, crises from philosophical ponderings and magical circumstances from the realities shared by animal and human alike. Our perceptions about what we need and what we desire are often as off-kilter and disfigured as some of the images that crop up in these poetic fictions. Parko's work flickers with pieces of word wizardry while igniting a desire to absorb the strange and distorted; to take hold of the various appendages reaching out to us as we read each page and allowing them to guide us down foreign paths and through unknown terrain.


Each piece in Cure All invites us to be voyeurs of incidents, lovers of strife and company to heartbreak. In short, we are guest to the semantics take place in the mind of every narrator. Of the 55 different short fictions, each one helps to shape our perception of what is and is not. The surreal elements camouflaging loss, birth, re-birth, both literal and figurative states of consciousness are what give this work its heartbeat. Parko displays a keen sense of humor in works like "Sick with Crows" where the narrator finds the silver lining with her affliction: "when I was sick with crows, it was not all that bad. It was like my organs were all asleep and caught in dreams of flying" or in "Eras" when the cloud afflicts its narrator with a sky disease: "I was covered in hailstones. The cloud-hand enveloped me in a fist. I was 13 years old. I was carried to a rite of passage. I was hung upside down by my ankle from a tree." Parko makes you believe the unbelievable, the reader being subject to tricky word-spells. What I like about this collection of fiction is that it's interspersed with fantastic bits of advice where nature and human emotion are concerned. Our author warns, "If Phantoms Swim Behind Your Breastbone Fish Them Out With A Birchwood Twig," or breaches the topic of adolescent desires while navigating through quizzical layers of the teenage mind: "During class, I had many desires: I wished to suck the knobs of my chest inward, away from probing boy-eyes; I wished to question authority with pastel-glossed lips; I wished to console Diana, who blamed herself for misery amongst animals."
      The most clever puzzles written are those that exist in the mind of Parko's numerous narrators. There's a certain focus on the perversity and madness that exists in one's imagination in these pieces. We are privy to a multitude of images and obtuse feelings that ultimately beguile the reader. Parko plays with lust and sexuality in her unique use of language in "My Doppelganger":

That night my doppelganger inched toward me and soon it was beneath my sheets. It was spooning me before I knew how to be eaten. It was putting its hands on my breasts, which were coming in like hard stones unearthed in a plowing...every night, my doppelganger rode me, pinched my hard stones, crumbled my pelvis, and injected me with trout.



Giving insight into the human mind and heart are what Parko does best. The reader is allowed to traverse unknown terrain because the syntax, language and poetry remain the only guide capable to decipher skewed visions, obsessions and visions made clear by concise instructions on how to interpret and view. Watching how polar opposites merge and meditations give way to splinters of obscure advice, one has to ask where real ends and imagined begins.
      At times, the work takes on a certain faux didacticism, where the reader intuits helpful hints and suggestions as poetic wordplay. It's here that worlds collide. Fact and Fiction. The cerebral co-mingling with insanity and we're able to recognize the beauty of each phrase on the page. Perhaps one of the most intriguing pieces in "Cure All" is the first entry in this collected work, "Explain." Originally published in 3rd Bed, this asks of us how we cultivate the heart. Parko offers her readers advice in a slightly different form.
      Explain the potential causes: "if your heart is both loose and beating rapidly, it is good to identify why. Practice lying in bed. Concentrate on the looseness and the beating. Thinking of three vastly different concepts. Some choices: houseplant, cobweb, unmade bed. One will certainly exacerbate the situation."
      And Parko advises again that never breaking boundaries is the quickest way to remain stagnant. "If you stay within your intimate realm you are cured. If cured you find no space to move." Although much of these 119 pages are sprinkled with random bits of warning and advice for the weary minded or faint of heart, she continues to peel back each piece of the human psyche in poetic fashion. Cure All is a true testament to Caketrain's ability to find and publish work that continually challenges its readers and proves groundbreaking in voice and style. Parko reminds throughout these pages that she who yields the caduceus doesn't always possess the antidote.