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Best Famous C K Williams Poems

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by C K Williams |

THE SINGING

 I was walking home down a hill near our house 
 on a balmy afternoon
under the blossoms
Of the pear trees that go flamboyantly mad here 
 every spring with
their burgeoning forth

When a young man turned in from a corner singing 
 no it was more of
a cadenced shouting
Most of which I couldn't catch I thought because 
 the young man was
black speaking black

It didn't matter I could tell he was making his 
 song up which pleased 
me he was nice-looking
Husky dressed in some style of big pants obviously 
 full of himself
hence his lyrical flowing over

We went along in the same direction then he noticed 
 me there almost
beside him and "Big"
He shouted-sang "Big" and I thought how droll 
 to have my height
incorporated in his song

So I smiled but the face of the young man showed nothing 
 he looked
in fact pointedly away
And his song changed "I'm not a nice person"
 he chanted "I'm not
I'm not a nice person"

No menace was meant I gathered no particular threat
 but he did want
to be certain I knew
That if my smile implied I conceived of anything like concord
between us I should forget it

That's all nothing else happened his song became 
 indecipherable to
me again he arrived
Where he was going a house where a girl in braids 
 waited for him on
the porch that was all

No one saw no one heard all the unasked and 
 unanswered questions
were left where they were
It occurred to me to sing back "I'm not a nice 
 person either" but I
couldn't come up with a tune

Besides I wouldn't have meant it nor he have believed 
 it both of us
knew just where we were
In the duet we composed the equation we made 
 the conventions to
which we were condemned

Sometimes it feels even when no one is there that 
 someone something
is watching and listening
Someone to rectify redo remake this time again though 
 no one saw nor
heard no one was there


by C K Williams |

Tar

 The first morning of Three Mile Island: those first disquieting, uncertain, 
mystifying hours.
All morning a crew of workmen have been tearing the old decrepit roof off our building, and all morning, trying to distract myself, I've been wandering out to watch them as they hack away the leaden layers of asbestos paper and disassemble the disintegrating drains.
After half a night of listening to the news, wondering how to know a hundred miles downwind if and when to make a run for it and where, then a coming bolt awake at seven when the roofers we've been waiting for since winter sent their ladders shrieking up our wall, we still know less than nothing: the utility company continues making little of the accident, the slick federal spokesmen still have their evasions in some semblance of order.
Surely we suspect now we're being lied to, but in the meantime, there are the roofers, setting winch-frames, sledging rounds of tar apart, and there I am, on the curb across, gawking.
I never realized what brutal work it is, how matter-of-factly and harrow- ingly dangerous.
The ladders flex and quiver, things skid from the edge, the materials are bulky and recalcitrant.
When the rusty, antique nails are levered out, their heads pull off; the underroofing crumbles.
Even the battered little furnace, roaring along as patient as a donkey, chokes and clogs, a dense, malignant smoke shoots up, and someone has to fiddle with a cock, then hammer it, before the gush and stench will deintensify, the dark, Dantean broth wearily subside.
In its crucible, the stuff looks bland, like licorice, spill it, though, on your boots or coveralls, it sears, and everything is permeated with it, the furnace gunked with burst and half-burst bubbles, the men themselves so completely slashed and mucked they seem almost from another realm, like trolls.
When they take their break, they leave their brooms standing at attention in the asphalt pails, work gloves clinging like Br'er Rabbit to the bitten shafts, and they slouch along the precipitous lip, the enormous sky behind them, the heavy noontime air alive with shim- mers and mirages.
Sometime in the afternoon I had to go inside: the advent of our vigil was upon us.
However much we didn't want to, however little we would do about it, we'd understood: we were going to perish of all this, if not now, then soon, if not soon, then someday.
Someday, some final generation, hysterically aswarm beneath an at- mosphere as unrelenting as rock, would rue us all, anathematize our earthly comforts, curse our surfeits and submissions.
I think I know, though I might rather not, why my roofers stay so clear to me and why the rest, the terror of that time, the reflexive disbelief and distancing, all we should hold on to, dims so.
I remember the president in his absurd protective booties, looking absolutely unafraid, the fool.
I remember a woman on the front page glaring across the misty Sus- quehanna at those looming stacks.
But, more vividly, the men, silvered with glitter from the shingles, cling- ing like starlings beneath the eaves.
Even the leftover carats of tar in the gutter, so black they seemed to suck the light out of the air.
By nightfall kids had come across them: every sidewalk on the block was scribbled with obscenities and hearts.