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Wait

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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."

Source: Poetry (January 2009)

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This poem originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

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Wait

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  • Hailed by poet Paul Muldoon in the Times Literary Supplement as “one of the most distinguished poets of his generation,” C.K. Williams created a highly respected body of work, including several collections of original poems, volumes of translations and criticism, and a memoir. Williams was especially known as an original stylist; his characteristic line is extraordinarily long, almost prose-like, and emphasizes characterization and dramatic development. His early work focused on overtly political issues such as the Vietnam War and social injustice. In his later work, Williams shifted from a documentary style toward a more introspective approach, writing descriptive poems that revealed the states of alienation, deception, and occasional enlightenment that exist between public and private lives in modern urban America.

    Williams was born in Newark, New Jersey and educated at Bucknell College and the University of Pennsylvania. Though he was encouraged by his father to read and memorize...

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