Poetry by Jessica Williams—2013
The back operation
The screaming tear in my life
didn't just happen while their slippery blades
swam like strategic sharks through the buttery
skin, that precious animal skin that
held my life
together. I must have been pressing forward with
unaware purpose, blindfolded, through countless
years—through brambled thickets,
over and under fallen trees clothed in priceless moss coats,
crossing angry rivers like
walls, leaning into the winds of sacrifice,
toward that gaping, monstrous chasm—that blind,
gaping wound in the forest floor, bottomless,
sucking light, blacker than space, wider than tunnels
they drive trucks
The winter solstice
The winter solstice saunters in, drunk,
wearily trundling our days away,
leaving us only
this frightened dark. The world here
seems brittle, barren. Shuttered.
Behold: the rose. The precious,
fragile, redolent rose.
Did I ever really see one? If
only for just a moment,
I could hold one now, cup it carefully,
oh, so very gently in my own two
hands, and drink!
Swim in its perfection,
filling my own parched void.
Only in that way
might I ever find my joy, my youth,
my empty years
Just for me
In other imaginations
the world is not my own.
Only I can walk this path
that no one else can see.
The cavernous echoes
of other lives within
may clamor for attention
but I pause only briefly
to notice the din.
I will not ask for understanding
for I am not seeking it.
The weather in these climes
suits no one but me.
The brief but violent fall
of a hawk from the sky
swoops low across the sea
and takes its living food
from the reservoir of my life.
I had a dream.
One of those afternoon dreams,
the kind that can lay you low.
I broke through the ice of this frigid winter world
and walked though my own resplendent garden—
rich red roses,
red Peruvian lilies,
purple double lisianthus,
purple matsumoto asters,
and daffodils of some vast number.
Big dogs ran after each other in my yard.
My yard must have been big, too.
They had lots of room to run!
And I was pregnant with my third child,
a girl this time! There was so much color in my life
just then that I felt I might burst with joy.
You have no idea how happy I was!
You start to understand why we worry
about the future so much.
The lives of our children are so very precious to us.
Far more precious than our own.
We carry the future within us
and outside us there is such catastrophe waiting.
Each of us needs to have a garden,
when I awoke, cold and afraid.
I fell through a hole in the floor of my life.
You never plan these things. One day
you're threading your self through the eye of a needle,
the next, staring at the business-end of God's Hammer.
Anything's only good for awhile. Like changing clothes,
I'm changing life after a long shower.
I could say it was personal growth—but it's just as likely
my life needed changing, was going there
anyway. Did I ever really want to play
John Coltrane's Giant Steps?
I used to care so much about jazz music.
Now it sounds like so many quadratic equations.
I used to care so much about my next achievement.
I used to care so much what they thought, said, wrote.
Now I only seem to care about complex dreams and
simple gardens and the stillness of spirit—
and loving my husband.
Now I only seem to really care about love.
I fell through a hole in the soft, secret well
of my soul . . . sorry.
Things I miss
- lemon-meringue pie
- good teeth
- good dentists
- angel-food cake
- airplane flights in 1995
- old macintosh computers
- clothing made in the usa
- shoes that fit
- bras that fit
- slacks that fit
- skirts that fit
- soft sweaters that fit
- pajamas that never shrink
- people talking
- real money
- old cars made of steel
- fish of all kinds
- steamed crabs
- sea turtles
- clean tap water
- small shops
- muffins made without sugar
- tomato sauce made without sugar
- rotary phones
- old stereo systems
- cd's and lp's
- good rock
- good folk
- good jazz
- guitarists that solo
- the customer is always right
- movies about life
- pianos everywhere
- loving kindness
- dogs everywhere
- cereal without sugar
- japanese food
- japanese clothing
- more than one friend
- books everywhere
- the middle class
- racial solidarity
- common sense
- real news on tv
- good news anywhere
- good neighbors everywhere
- panties made of real silk
- pink bathrobes
- so much
My life is trying to live.
I was just born.
Leave me be!
The little children,
those many middle children
—not boys nor girls but ones unspoken of—
in between these two extremes we've built for them to
try to somehow come alive and learn to love,
these are our children.
"The blanket's either pink or blue.
It cannot be another hue.
It's either dolls or plastic guns.
We re-create our little ones
in our image",
your own distorted image.
Nature's rainbow ground down just like us,
down to fine gray dust.
"Religious problems must be attended,
or God in heaven will be offended."
As if we had no hand in making
our glorious middle, little children?
"The blanket's either blue or pink—
we will not stop and pause to think.
We know what's wrong, we know what's right;
we won't give in.
Ya' wanna fight
our system? It's worked for millions of years"
although it's caused such an unending flow of tears
and many, many needless deaths—
and worse . . . so many lives lived in such excruciating pain.
A sign of the systemic rot, a mortal stain.
"But it is our esteemed position.
It's why our dearest Torquemada
devoted his life (and left his wife) to be the
Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition!
The blanket's either pink or blue—it's never
orange or green or red, and
even if your theory's true, you'll
wind up dead,
What could be worse than being a girl?
Why, nothing in the whole wide world."
You rail, you preach, you cant, you teach
this cult of death to generations.
In your world there are only soldiers,
soldier's children, and soldier's wives
who make their soldier children's lives. And of course,
the wars you always make to take them.
Oh, these children!
These little middle children!
not boy nor girl but so much more!
These are our children!
"The blanket's always blue or pink,
no matter what you say or think, and
never orange or green or red."
Our children! Quarter me, instead.
I'm learning not to expect a perfect world.
When I wake up late and the clouds like smoke hang low and gray and seamless,
my heart stills too. I think I won't be alive again
until I see another hummingbird or smell another dandelion. And
why am I having these unkempt, rumpled dreams?
The astrologers say we've reached some kind of turning-point.
Something to do with a black-hole at the center of our galaxy.
I'm not so sure. Maybe it's just the sweet pickles I had last night.
How does a finch feel perched under those claustrophobic clouds?
Do finches ever get depressed?
Can they tell a blue sky from a slate sky?
I know the scientists would say no. I say I bet they can.
I keep seeing the numbers on our digital clocks
line up in uncustomary ways.
1:11. 11:11. 3:33. 4:44.
I'm relieved it can't get to 6:66.
Anyway. Tomorrow will be better. Even if it isn't, it'll be different.
That's just the world being itself,
re-adjusting itself to beat in the rhythms we understand
and expect. We can't expect perfection.
I am told that our mothers and our fathers
stood in summer lines like rows of starched
I am told that they stood in winter lines
like seeds in shallow furrows in the icy dirt of
cracked city streets,
waiting to be fed.
Waiting to be born.
Now we're standing here,
like bewildered children at the circus,
wondering who let the tigers out again.
How I came to be me
Many years ago, all around me was no. A chorus
of silent screams, bellows to a consonant and
distantly gentle child like me . . . all this dissonant
no! So I stayed up late and I thought and I planned.
And I left their dungeons and I ran away
to the wooded area that now is a tire manufacturer.
I inquired of the integral trees and the vivid personal flowers:
"Where should I go? Do any of you know?"
They all said no, too, but they said it gently, as a
mother speaks to her child when she knows there is
life and love and pain and thunder
up ahead. So I lay down in the mantle of verdant grass
where the quilted flowers clustered,
where the trees like kings had gathered, and I consulted
the lazy clouds, the crucial sun and the
crystal sky. Later I queried the waxing moon, the
venerable stars and
the unforgiving forever that was swathed in the
dark blue roan cape that the sky wore that night.
Finally they all started to answer me, but in my very own
voice. They all said, they all agreed, that is—I said
That was many many years ago, and that is how I came to be
Whatever I make now
is as good as I can make it.
If it isn't good enough,
you'll have to go
I can't care now
what you think of me. I
only have time now to
think what I think,
love what I love.
Crucible: a place or occasion of severe test or trial: the crucible of combat. A place or situation in which different elements interact to produce something new: the crucible of the new Romantic movement. - New Oxford American Dictionary
There must be something foul afoot again.
We have uneasy thoughts of tomorrow and her children.
Do the men understand why we women worry
about futures? Can they . . . to have more than one
soul inhabiting one body?
Things that are happening underground
keep happening, and this disregard for each other,
our planet, and our own bodies concerns us.
There's a seep, a leak of awareness that all is not as it should be.
We intuit the slant in our floors.
It's like having a hip-joint out. A splinter in the finger.
A lash in the eye. An ear plugged-up in the shower.
A suddenly-missing tooth! Could this be the beginnings
of Kralizec? Or is just another idea of powerful men,
just another Crucible?
Can you dare
to count the days,
the hours, the years,
that you've passively watched
as you lie there
Unknown? Know, then, that
it takes a terrible courage
to live a life.
We dream of where we
dream of being.
We know just who we
want to be.
Can we do this?
Poetry . . .