Below are examples of some of my recent work, including poetry published by Atlanta Review and Tupelo Quarterly

Still life with pomegranate*

 

Why has it always been the fruit associated with death,

the pomegranate? Persephone ate its seeds in Hades

and now spends a third of eternity there. Why do I find

“From Here to Eternity” so dull? It must be

more than Sinatra’s boorishness. I think about

Edith Sitwell’s delicious line, “the pomegranate

grandeur of death;” that’s why I love the

classics. Pomegranates are good for you

(unless you’re Persephone), rich in antioxidants.

Are they the fruit of choice for

Vanitas allegories because of Persephone

or because their flesh, from our human

perspective, is lifelike: blood red,

deep as the wine-dark sea, dripping, redolent

of nectar – elixir and poison in one

pregnant seed? Do they grow on trees?

Funny, the things we take into ourselves

without knowing whence they came.

Like strangers. Lovers. Gods.

(*A version of this poem appeared in Atlanta Review, © 2013, Scott Williamson)

___

Lessons from the Commonwealth*

 

Niggerlipping a cigarette

was a no-no, I quickly learned

when I had my first drag at 14,

after school, waiting to

deliver the evening paper.

“Don’t niggerlip it,” Tom

barked at me, meaning don’t

let the flesh of your lips wet it

when you suck its thin white skin

between your teeth. I also

learned the biggest nuts

in the dish were called

“nigger toes.”

 

When I got my learner’s

permit to drive around

with adult role models, one

of my dad’s friends from

church asked me, as a

Grand Am passed us,

if I knew what Pontiac meant:  

“Poor Old Nigger Thinks It’s A Cadillac.”

Whenever a buddy begrudgingly

did you a favor, the right

reply was, “that’s mighty

white of you.” The mighty

 

Commonwealth of Virginia

taught its history students

that General Lee and Stonewell Jackson

were heroes of the Confederacy,

not fighting over slavery so

much as the economy. My

German girlfriend, interested

in the local color of our culture,

was fed such a line at the turn

of the 21st century. Touring a Southside

 

Plantation, she laughed out loud

at that anemic excuse,

disrupted the genteel decorum,

unsettled the prim white-haired guide.

 

But we’re not racist here:

look at all the black friends we have.

 

(*A version of this poem appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, © 2014, Scott Williamson)

__

John Clare performs his monodrama at the asylum

 

I. If the little blue mice

don’t come famished tonight

to chibble my head

into screeds of fragmented

phrases we’ll greet the light,

Johnny, and ramp

in the fields a’ rhyming

and dancing whirlipuffs

all up in the stuffed

eyes of the imp doctors—

loved and remembered and free,

defying crabby crimping Time.

 

II. Che bella cosa! And to

the west the clouds

cumulus shape-shifting and

paternal. I love the sound

of spiccato, don’t you?

Why haven’t the robins nested

yet and where is my satchel!

I forgot to tell you

to feed the fish but

once. They’re in detention

for ridiculing the cats

with their aqueous indifference.

Where is Christopher Smart?

What time is curtain?

__

 

(© 2016, Scott Williamson)

EK

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