From My Window

By C. K. Williams b. 1936
Spring: the first morning when that one true block of sweet, laminar,
               complex scent arrives
from somewhere west and I keep coming to lean on the sill, glorying in
               the end of the wretched winter.
The scabby-barked sycamores ringing the empty lot across the way are
               budded —I hadn't noticed —
and the thick spikes of the unlikely urban crocuses have already broken
              the gritty soil.
Up the street, some surveyors with tripods are waving each other left and
              right the way they do.
A girl in a gym suit jogged by a while ago, some kids passed, playing
              hooky, I imagine,
and now the paraplegic Vietnam vet who lives in a half-converted ware-
              house down the block
and the friend who stays with him and seems to help him out come
              weaving towards me,
their battered wheelchair lurching uncertainly from one edge of the
              sidewalk to the other.
I know where they're going—to the "Legion": once, when I was putting
              something out, they stopped,
both drunk that time, too, both reeking—it wasn't ten o'clock—and we
              chatted for a bit.
I don't know how they stay alive—on benefits most likely. I wonder if
              they're lovers?
They don't look it. Right now, in fact, they look a wreck, careening hap-
              hazardly along,
contriving, as they reach beneath me, to dip a wheel from the curb so
              that the chair skewers, teeters,
tips, and they both tumble, the one slowly, almost gracefully sliding in
              stages from his seat,
his expression hardly marking it, the other staggering over him, spinning
              heavily down,
to lie on the asphalt, his mouth working, his feet shoving weakly and
              fruitlessly against the curb.
In the storefront office on the corner, Reed and Son, Real Estate, have
              come to see the show.
Gazing through the golden letters of their name, they're not, at least,
              thank god, laughing.
Now the buddy, grabbing at a hydrant, gets himself erect and stands
              there for a moment, panting.
Now he has to lift the other, who lies utterly still, a forearm shielding his
              eyes from the sun.
He hauls him partly upright, then hefts him almost all the way into the
              chair, but a dangling foot
catches a support-plate, jerking everything around so that he has to put
              him down,
set the chair to rights, and hoist him again and as he does he jerks the
              grimy jeans right off him.
No drawers, shrunken, blotchy thighs: under the thick, white coils of
              belly blubber,
the poor, blunt pud, tiny, terrified, retracted, is almost invisible in the
              sparse genital hair,
then his friend pulls his pants up, he slumps wholly back as though he
              were, at last, to be let be,
and the friend leans against the cyclone fence, suddenly staring up at me
              as though he'd known,
all along, that I was watching and I can't help wondering if he knows that
              in the winter, too,
I watched, the night he went out to the lot and walked, paced rather, 
              almost ran, for how many hours.
It was snowing, the city in that holy silence, the last we have, when the
              storm takes hold,
and he was making patterns that I thought at first were circles, then real-
              ized made a figure eight,
what must have been to him a perfect symmetry but which, from where
              I was, shivered, bent,
and lay on its side: a warped, unclear infinity, slowly, as the snow came
              faster, going out.
Over and over again, his head lowered to the task, he slogged the path
              he'd blazed,
but the race was lost, his prints were filling faster than he made them
              now and I looked away,
up across the skeletal trees to the tall center city buildings, some, though
              it was midnight,
with all their offices still gleaming, their scarlet warning beacons signal-
              ing erratically
against the thickening flakes, their smoldering auras softening portions of
              the dim, milky sky.
In the morning, nothing: every trace of him effaced, all the field pure
              white,
its surface glittering, the dawn, glancing from its glaze, oblique, relent-
              less, unadorned.


C. K. Williams, "From My Window" from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2006 by C. K. Williams. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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Source: Collected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006)

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Poet C. K. Williams b. 1936

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Life Choices, Sorrow & Grieving

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 C. K. Williams

Biography

Hailed by poet Paul Muldoon in the Times Literary Supplement as “one of the most distinguished poets of his generation,” C.K. Williams has created a highly respected body of work, including several collections of original poems, volumes of translations, a book of criticism and a memoir. Williams is especially known as an original stylist; his characteristic line is extraordinarily long, almost prose-like, and emphasizes . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, Sorrow & Grieving

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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