“How Things Come Down” by Robert Parham

Robert Parham


Perhaps it was the clouds pretending storm
which first clued him of the whimsical fact
of all things passing, the way darkness spent
itself on blocking out the light instead of
making something of itself.
                                                  Of course, Frank,
my now dead uncle claimed it otherwise,
that night was just a black cat drowned at dawn
because it was unlucky. Think of that,
the way a pet (disposed perhaps to languor
rather than affection), unfortunate
at birth without a hair of whiteness shown,
took on the mantle of disgrace, who, crossing
streets, could only count on engines revved
or squall of brakes and turning around
by those, without their fragile knowledge,
would have called to her and made a home
where she could stretch out on the garden sill.

The promised rain and shutting down of Monday
never quite occurred, although it made him late
for work (and others too), threw all things off
as though there could be no catching up.

Jen Sanders made him coffee (although she
was his boss), and Adam Janssen said hello
(the first time in a month). These gestures posed
as promise on a morning shaky, just
because it was, so Frank took to window
just to watch the sky peel back, unskinned
by the northwest wind, until the cold blue
flesh that was the frozen universe stared
back, pretending transparency whose distance
could break any promise that it wanted to.

He called me, right at ten, to wonder how
my parents were, and how my life was shaping up.
For him, these idle minutes were a tome,
his careful meting out of syllables and thoughts
the measure of his being. I basked,
amazed to be remembered, at twelve
called back, to thank, to wonder what I hadn’t
asked: how he was, my aunt, and others too.

A receptionist spoke back from the number
I had called (the only one I had), said
there’d been a death, suggested time was not
a matter on our side. The way it’s always
awkward, I wanted, later, thinking back,
to have said: The way the ease of good things
stands whole and seamless in the light until
we cannot bear perfection and bring them
down by fire and stone, by wind and water.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005

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