ROBERT PARHAM

THEM AND US

 

They make love now and then.

No accident, they must

be commended for their planning,

not ignoring something

almost necessary.

 

We, though, fail to plan,

fall all over one another

coming in and going out,

the door lost in the darkness,

the phone wailing on the floor,

knocked off where we left it.

 

These failures, nonetheless,

we suspect are not fatal,

not the way the love of columns

and fine watches may be,

not the way preferring sleep

to this, the teasing of an hour

or a day, without a warning,

may provoke a resting, surely,

but never, never worship sleep.

 

EARLY DAY, LATE

 

From the blue cold of the black morning

the mongrel wolf moans,

part coyote, perhaps dog, only the freeze

pure and true. 

           The boy turns in his sleep

under deep covers, history patchwork

above his curled body. 

                  Now and then

his sister in the next room whispers

in her dream. 

         Their father moves through

the house. Each leaving before they wake

shrinks his world with worry.

                    His wife will rise.

She will stoke the fires again, the house will groan,

the children wake slowly. 

                    He will imagine this,

close to how it is, his own youth tinder for the flame

he lit for them. He will not regret its use. He will show

pictures of each, younger than now. He will smile

for the first time in this day.  “Each day is a dollar,”

Robert Parham’s work has appeared in the Georgia Review, South Carolina Review,  Shenandoah, Rolling Stone, America, Barrow Street,  Northwest Review, and many other publications. He recently retired as Dean of Arts and Sciences at Augusta State University. He co-edits the Southern Poetry Review.

he tells his son that night, and hands him a bill.

“Spend it well.”  The next day he does the same

for the girl. Each saves it as though time may be held

against itself, as though certain kinds of care

insured against the worst. They wonder why 

he rarely talks about tomorrow, why he leaves

the subject for their mother to discuss. The sun

burns a hole through the sky, denying snow

its chance for awhile, makes a blue hole there

as if a migrant lake that grows, draining south.

 

TO BE CERTAIN

 

Tonight, as if a pill dropped into water

that darkens from its dissolving,

the moon descends and vanishes.

 

Night can be that thing that swallows,

yes, and would in unkind dreams

digest the whole of what it took.

 

The moon is liar, though, and lights

only as it is lighted, stolen glow

it is, and made the medicine

 

for night cures only its reflection.

 

Tonight the shadows are themselves

the darkness for other shadows,

almost everything the one,

 

as if a breathing ceased, so air

is all the same, held within its space

awaiting all of this as but a pause,

 

the kind that promises nothing,

but kind it is suggesting passing

is but temporary, not the gasp

 

that seems to follow holding in.

 

Tonight is nothing if not proof

of temporary, that word carved

from the soapstone of time itself,

 

the scientist compelled to tell

us time is merely concept,

unprovable, convenience

 

of the mind explaining everything

since nothing may escape 

murderous explanation,

 

even if by small and simple poem.