The Parlor

The old screen on its creaky hinges
sifted the pure aroma of camphor
from deep inside the doily darkness.
How soon would granny die
so I could stop reliving the requirements?

The tarnished handle would not pull.
Feet beyond the dim veil of motes,
just before the fade to nocturnality,
scraped toward me, then away,

but I was confused
about the requirements.
Don’t forebears exit first? Why
was I the one locked outside?

I now can say: the requirements were a dainty
that the parlor was for me,
that the shambling inside was my decision.
I can now say for certain: the young
always exit the parlor first.


Steven Ray Smith’s poetry has appeared in Slice, The Yale Review, Southwest Review, The Kenyon Review, Barrow Street, New Madrid, Tar River Poetry, and elsewhere. New work is in North Dakota Quarterly. His website is He lives in Austin.