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.

Hell

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.