Japanese garden at the Huntington Library, San Marino CA

Wait

Chop, hack, slash; chop, hack, slash; cleaver, boning knife, ax—
not even the clumsiest clod of a butcher could do this so crudely,
time, as do you, dismember me, render me, leave me slop in a pail,
one part of my body a hundred years old, one not even there anymore,
another still riven with idiot vigor, voracious as the youth I was
for whom everything always was going too slowly, too slowly.

It was me then who chopped, slashed, through you, across you,
relished you, gorged on you, slugged your invisible liquor down raw.
Now you’re polluted; pulse, clock, calendar taint you, befoul you,
you suck at me, pull at me, barbed wire knots of memory tear me,
my heart hangs, inert, a tag-end of tissue, firing, misfiring,
trying to heave itself back to its other way with you.

But was there ever really any other way with you? When I ran
as though for my life, wasn’t I fleeing from you, or for you?
Wasn’t I frightened you’d fray, leave me nothing but shreds?
Aren’t I still? When I snatch at one of your moments, and clutch it,
a pebble, a planet, isn’t it wearing away in my hand as though I,
not you, were the ocean of acid, the corrosive in I which dissolve?

Wait, though, wait: I should tell you too how happy I am,
how I love it so much, all of it, chopping and slashing and all.
Please know I love especially you, how every morning you turn over
the languorous earth, for how would she know otherwise to do dawn,
to do dusk, when all she hears from her speech-creatures is “Wait!”?
We whose anguished wish is that our last word not be “Wait.”

–C. K. Williams

My friend Michael teaches poetry so to stay with him over the weekend is to follow him around with pad and pencil for the names of poems, poets and books that fall like blossoms outside his Princeton windows. I’ve been a C. K. Williams fan for some time but was thrilled to be introduced to this new poem, published in Poetry magazine in January. Stellar piece.

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