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
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 ex-girlfriend, interested
in the local color of our culture,
was fed such a line as recently
as 1999. 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)