C.K. Williams

Poems featured on The Gladdest Thing


Wouldn’t it be nice, I think, when the blue-haired lady in the doctor’s
          waiting room bends over the magazine table
and farts, just a little, and violently blushes, wouldn’t it be nice if intesti-
          nal gas came embodied in visible clouds
so she could see that her really quite inoffensive pop had only barely
          grazed my face before it drifted away?

Besides, for this to have happened now is a nice coincidence because not
          an hour ago, while we were on our walk,
my dog was startled by a backfire and jumped straight up like a horse
          bucking and that brought back to me
the stable I worked on weekends when I was twelve and a splendid
          piebald stallion who whenever he was mounted

would buck just like that, though more hugely, of course, enormous,
          gleaming, resplendent, and the woman,
her face abashedly buried in her Elle now, reminded me I’d forgotten
          that not the least part of my awe
consisted of the fact that with every jump he took the horse would pow-
          erfully fart, fwap, fwap, fwap, 

something never mentioned in the dozens of books about horses and
          their riders I devoured in those days.
All that savage grandeur, the steely glinting hooves, the eruptions driven
          from the creature’s mightly innards:
breath stopped, heart stopped, nostrils madly flared, I didn’t know if I
          wanted to break him or be him.

— C.K. Williams 



A child’s cry out in the street, not of pain or fear,
rather one of those vividly inarticulate
yet perfectly expressive trumpet thumps of indignation:
something wished for has been denied,
something wanted now delayed.

So useful it would be to carry that preemptive howl
always with you; all the functions it performs,
its equivalents in words are so unwieldy,
take up so much emotive time,
entail such muffling, qualifying, attenuation.

And in our cries out to the cosmos, our exasperation
with imperfection, our theodicies, betrayed ideals:
to keep that rocky core of rage within one’s rage
with which to blame, confront, accuse, bewail
all that needs retaliation for our absurdly thwarted wants.

— C.K. Williams 


Last Things

In a tray of dried fixative in a photographer friend’s darkroom,
I found a curled-up photo of his son the instant after his death,
his glasses still on, a drop of blood caught at his mouth.

Recently, my friend put a book together to commemorate his son;
near the end, there’s a picture taken the day before the son died;
the caption says: “This is the last photo of Alex.”

I’m sure my friend doesn’t know I’ve seen the other picture.
Is telling about it a violation of confidence?
Before I show this to anyone else, I’ll have to ask his permission.

If you’re reading it, you’ll know my friend pardoned me,
that he found whatever small truth his story might embody
was worth the anguish of remembering that reflexive moment

when after fifty years of bringing reality into himself through a lens,
his camera doubtlessly came to his eye as though by itself,
and his finger, surely also of its own accord, convulsed the shutter.

— C.K. Williams 

%d bloggers like this: