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Spring/Summer 2003, Volume 20.3

Poetry

 

Robert ParhamPicture of Robert Parham.


Robert Parham heads the Languages, Literature, and Philosophy Department at Armstrong Atlantic State University. He recently assumed editorship of the Southern Poetry Review. His work has appeared widely, including in Georgia Review, Connecticut Review, America, Notre Dame Review, Southern Humanities Review and First Things. His What Part Motion Plays in the Equation of Love was a winner in the Palanquin competition, and The Ghosts of Montparnasse was a finalist for the Marianne Moore Poetry Prize.

 

The Weight of Three Moths

Grief runs away from us,
down the drab sluice
of daily waking hours
where the trivial
contrives to fill
us like empty calories.

Its gravity contends
with real survival,
is its opposite.

We are not lost
in the tundra, badly clothed,
fighting the deer for moss,
the Lap for the deer,
hypothermia real
and the cold not imagined.

Trapped in the city
of ourselves, we know
sadness like a bad meal,
hunger deflected
without pleasure or art.

To escape, one must reach
into the dark box
of the private universe
and feel the weight
of three moths in the palm,
pull them out into the light,
release them, blinding, to their flight.

 

The Solitude of Men

Bartlett credited Kiruk … with
saving his feet, and thus his life.
As the Karluk was sinking, Kiruk
dashed into the captain's cabin,
saved his boots, and chewed them into
a pliable state. Later … he noticed
that her lips were cut in twenty
places … later, his feet saved the
party.

Disappearance: A Map—A
Meditation on Death & Loss in
           the High Latitudes
           —Sheila Nickerson

Drawing interest on his solitude
a man may deliver himself
from the payment it exacts.

Drawn by the magnetic pole,
moveable as it was,
Stefansson watched the white jaws
gather his ship up,
the ice cracking about
like a house within which
one has lighted a fire,
a temporary heat.

Perhaps the shifting center
called out "Vilhjalmur"
to him, some polar
siren, as he took
the Karluk, unfit
for this one task…
openly to watch her enter
the northwest mouth
of a special hell,
kindling for the shivering gods.

But the white gods
have their own Job.

The captain of twelve shipwrecks,
he felt the jaws bite down,
to pierce the Karluk
His name was Bartlett,
captain of twelve shipwrecks,
Peary's anchor,
who owed his feet to Kiruk,
who called her Inaloo.

Spared, along with the cat,
Nigeraurak, and three puppies,
Bartlett set out for Siberia.

From some places in the heart,
all roads lead south.

 

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