The Bunker in the Parsley Fields

The Bunker in the Parsley Fields

Winner of the 1996 Iowa Poetry Prize

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“These articulate poems move in a various world of childhood memories and the places they come to in living. Despite the miles they have had to travel, it is home they care about and so define. There is a unique and unabashed sweetness to their stories, whether of an old grandfather or the young daughters who watch their parents play ball, 'their shocked pigtails pointing out / the four known directions…' Gary Gildner cares deeply about the world he lives in, and this book is his unequivocal testament.”—Robert Creeley

The Bunker in the Parsley Fields takes it cue from the particular music made by an old-fashioned rope swing; from a child ramming a trike over and over against a bomb shelter that is in the way; from a boy bouncing a ball off the abandoned chinchilla hutches; from a man and a woman pushing a tremendous stone up a hill, lost between the slope and their shoulders—and once, in the orchard, lost in laughter.

Many of the poems, including the title poem, come from the year that Gary Gildner lived in Slovakia. It was 1992-93, when Czechoslovakia split in two, a year of heightened excitement and uncertainty. Gildner and his wife lived in a cement box of a flat like thousands of others cheek by jowl above an abandoned bunker not far from the Tatra Mountains. They returned to a new home in Idaho's Clearwater Mountains, with Elizabeth expecting a child. The ideas of home, settlement, birth, rebirth, the past, the future, direction, luck, what matters, love, and work flow through the poems that shape this book.

“I write, I work, I do with a pencil,” says Gildner. “I like how the words come out of my head and travel down my arm to that sharp point. I like holding a pencil. Also a baseball, a smooth stone fresh from the river, a walking stick, my daughter's hand. So I write everything in pencil first.”

Table of contents: 



The Swing


Playing Catch with My Daughter

Jury Duty

Song: One Summer Afternoon in the Country

One Bright Autumn

On Certain Cold Days

My Polish Grandfather

The Wolverine

A Late Detail from the Depression

Close to Trees



A Dream in the Carpathians

The Bunker in the Parsley Fields

Picked Out a Toka, a Stanley

The Sister

Dogtoothed Violets

In the Garden with Margaret

The Cougar


The Great Horned Owl


Collecting Cowpies

The Stone

Delicately in Small Measure

A Lullaby




In St. Peter’s Home for Nuns



I Call My Mother

Josef of Moravia

Sunday Morning: Marilee Combs Her Red Hair

In Puerto Rico, She Says

Dear Friends

The Trail


The Trail

Every day now
on waking
I walk down
the mountain
a mile,
over the
old trail
by a man
and his mule,
a miner
I'm told,
some dreamer
who failed,
going round
and round,
the snow letting go,
giving way
to burnt gold
and brown
the perfect
all slipping
their grips,
all losing
in the new
wash, this walk
we share
a rhythm,
a race,
a religion
with no book,
no one
to lay on
the laurel,
the meaning,
no loud
a quiet
by another,
a whistle,
a bird,
a little flick
of light
let loose
and falling
the gravel.