THEM AND US
They make love now and then.
No accident, they must
be commended for their planning,
not ignoring something
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,
of the mind explaining everything
since nothing may escape
even if by small and simple poem.