June Twenty, Three Days After

By Miller Williams b. 1930 Miller Williams
When I was a boy and a man would die
we’d say a verse when the hearse went by
one car two car three car four
someone knocking on the devil’s door.

I smoked all night myself awake
and saw the lights and the day break.
When the sun was done with the final star
I left the house and the door ajar
and went to the church. The father was nice
but the holy water was cold as ice.
I found a friend and felt his hand
fall through mine like crumbling sand.
I went to hear the talk in the square
but there were headless people there.
I turned to the clock for the time of day
but the hole in the wall had nothing to say.
Callous of heaven and careless of hell
you knew something you didn’t tell.
The soul you said was only fear,
and heaven, well heaven at best was here.
So heaven is gone if that was it
and the soul lies there in the private pit
but hell is big and hell is a bone
and hell comes in from the edge of alone.
Hell is a dead girl who walks through the town
and hunts for my bed to lay herself down.

Miller Williams, “June Twenty, Three Days After” from A Circle of Stone. Copyright © 1964 by Miller Williams. Reprinted with the permission of Louisiana State University Press.

Source: Some Jazz a While (1999)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Miller Williams b. 1930

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Sorrow & Grieving, Living, Time & Brevity, Death

Poetic Terms Couplet

 Miller  Williams


Poet, editor, critic, and translator Miller Williams was born in Hoxie, Arkansas in 1930, the son of a Methodist clergyman and civil rights activist. Though he entered college as double major in English and foreign languages, an aptitude test revealed “absolutely no aptitude in the handling of words,” Miller has said in interviews. He changed his major to hard sciences to avoid “embarrassing my parents.” Williams received a BS . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Sorrow & Grieving, Living, Time & Brevity, Death

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Couplet

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.