Kenny Williams

Six Poems

In Boyce

Boyce is the town
with the qui­etest name.
It has an old stone house in it
with a bronze centaur
with a clock in its side
and a guy on the roof,
traips­ing the roof, expertly
imi­tat­ing the whistle
of a bird nev­er seen
in Boyce but stuffed. There’s a death-
defy­ing moment
you catch your breath
in this world, afraid your
fel­low man will lose
his whis­tle with his stride,
trip­ping from cornice
to cor­nice, catch­ing himself
just in time each time.

Phantom Limb

Everybody knows
when com­plete­ness comes
the part must pass away.
But when I, the part, come last,
com­plete­ness is left scratch­ing its
Ivy League head,
befud­dled as the hillock
slammed by daisies under snow,
think­ing a vol­cano might stir
beneath its inch.
A lit­tle deeper,
you’d call it grandeur,
delu­sion of.
But after all the drift’s
not up to nothing,
start­ing now to tower
in all humility.

The Lesser Gods of Earth

Too late for the worms,
too ear­ly for the birds,
we jump like fleas
a thou­sand times our height,
freight­ed with the blood of dogs
so big you could put
sad­dles on them and ride,
force the fron­tiers back
of every hos­tile yard.

There’s a Whale aground at Wijk aan Zee

You hate the world.
I am a planet.
You wreck the image.
I’m a picture.
You dis­praise the body.
I am God’s bathtub
turned inside out.
I wear my ring
of residue and brine
like a girdle
at my waterline.
And what a joke,
your House of Nassau
in his ostrich-feath­ered hat,
scram­bling down
toward me from the dunes,
a posy to his nose
lest I prove some sickening
inge­nu­ity of Spain’s.
His daugh­ter, that is yours
fol­low­ing like a dog,
lifts her skirts
with aston­ish­ing ease
at sight of me, to the waist.
Squats and excit­ed­ly pees
in the sand.
So there can be
no doubt: the velvet
of her skirts is black.
Her hair is stacked
into a har­ness of pearls.


On arrival I dropped
a big suitcase
from each of both
my hands.
They fell in the grass
like it was any old grass,
so out of place
in that con­sum­mate fire,
the cas­es so at home
in their alli­ga­tor skins.

Sorry to Ask

Sorry to ask, but was it fun­ny or sad
that the swan fell in love with a paddleboat?
That the dancer took a thou­sand leaps
before he took the one that stunned the world?
That the voice­mail start­ed out It’s me, just me,
and after that was just words in a voice
you’d nev­er heard before? You know as well as I do
the swan can’t go on, nurs­ing his first crush forever.
The dancer can’t leap with­out end in end­less space.
And the check­ing of that mail, whether it’s two seconds
or a thou­sand years from now, that voice you don’t know
call­ing all the dead by their prop­er names?
It’s the same as when you catch up with a friend
at a bar, after “it’s been too long,” and she looks
hard at the ring of water between her hands
flat on the table, and she says, Well…


Kenny Williams’ poems have appeared most recent­ly in FIELD, Prairie Schooner, the Kenyon Review, the Bellevue Literary Review, Third Coast, Fence, and the American Literary Review, and his poem “School of Practical Dissection” was recent­ly fea­tured on Poetry Daily.