The Air of the Present
I was trying to remember some important quip By a famous person that rang of wisdom Or was prescient, so obviously so that even In retrospect we feel brief awe in having bumped Into what must be an immemorial aphorism. But, over and over, as the brain muscle flexed, The words of Uncle Lemuel recurred, indeed, Several of them. Watching Wheel of Fortune, Beer in hand, he cleared his throat from that place Which only seemed disengaged: “Not mental giants.” My uncle came from a place where horse sense ruled, Where holes in one’s shoes was hard but fair, But failing to wear any shoe where the hard stones, The sharp glass, the brutal edge of the real world bruised Was “That kind of man bleeds stupid.” My aunt, never undone, once stared at him, waiting perhaps For his timeless remark, finally said, “My feet ache At attention for your absolute genius.” Maybe She was his muse, so to speak, and this place Which took me in on Sundays deserved respect. Outside, the crows gather among trees nearby, Their number growing for a reason surely; Only yesterday the newborn cardinals vanished, Then the gorgeous pair whose nest grew In the crape myrtle before the white blossoms Surged so the slender limbs sagged with the burden Of summer in their arms. Today the dogs found The bones of a hawk-stripped squirrel. I grabbed The jaws of the black Lab who fought to keep, To swallow, forced them open, made her cough The treasure sure to choke the sweet beast Gone savage with the blood tapped beyond Today’s breath I forced shut until the body Demanded reversal, rejection so immediate It was the gagged song of the present.
Copyright © 2017 Robert Parham. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2017.