Look at their faces. You know it all.
They married the week he left for the war.
Both are gentle, intelligent people,
as all four of their parents were.
They’ve never talked about much
except the children. They love each other
but never wondered why they married
or had the kids or stayed together.
It wasn’t because they knew the answers.
They had never heard the questions
that twisted through the jokes to come
of Moses and the Ten Suggestions.
They paid their debts and never doubted
God rewarded faith and virtue
or when you got out of line
had big and little ways to hurt you.
People walked alone in parks.
Children slept in their yards at night.
Most every man had a paying job,
and black was black and white was white.
Would you go back? Say that you can,
that all it takes is a wave and a wink
and there you are. So what do you do?
The question is crueler than you think.
Miller Williams, “A Tenth Anniversary Photograph, 1952” from Some Jazz a While: Collected Poems. Copyright © 1999 by Miller Williams. Used with the permission of the poet and the University of Illinois Press.
Source: Some Jazz a While
(University of Illinois Press, 1999)