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Two Poems


Butchers

1.

Thank goodness we were able to wipe the Neanderthals out, beastly things,
from our mountains, our tundra—that way we had all the meat we might need.

Thus the butcher can display under our eyes his scrubbed hands on the block,
and never refer to the rooms hidden behind where dissections are effected,

where flesh is reduced to its shivering atoms and remade for our delectation
as cubes, cylinders, barely material puddles of admixtured horror and blood.

Rembrandt knew of all this—isn't his flayed beef carcass really a caveman?
It's Christ also, of course, but much more a troglodyte such as we no longer are.

Vanished those species—begone!—those tribes, those peoples, those nations—
Myrmidon, Ottoman, Olmec, Huron, and Kush: gone, gone, and goodbye.
 

2.

But back to the chamber of torture, to Rembrandt, who was telling us surely
that hoisted with such cables and hung from such hooks we too would reveal

within us intricate layerings of color and pain: alive the brush is with pain,
aglow with the cruelties of crimson, the cooled, oblivious ivory of our innards.

Fling out the hooves of your hands! Open your breast, pluck out like an Aztec
your heart howling its Cro-Magnon cries that compel to battles of riddance!

Our own planet at last, where purged of wilderness, homesickness, prowling,
we're no longer compelled to devour our enemies' brains, thanks to our butcher,

who inhabits this palace, this senate, this sentried barbed-wire enclosure
where dare enter none but subservient breeze; bent, broken blossom; dry rain.


Writers Writing Dying

Many I could name but won't who'd have been furious to die while they were
   sleeping but did—
outrageous, they'd have lamented, and never forgiven the death they'd con-
   strued for themselves
being stolen from them so rudely, so crudely, without feeling themselves like
   rubber gloves
stickily stripped from the innermostness they'd contrived to hoard for so
   long—all of it gone,
squandered, wasted, on what? Death, crashingly boring as long as you're able
   to think and write it.

Think, write, write, think: just keep running faster and you won't even notice
   you're dead.
The hard thing's when you're not thinking or writing and as far as you know
   you are dead
or might as well be, with no word for yourself, just that suction-shush like a
   heart pump or straw
in a milk shake and death which once wanted only to be sung back to sleep
   with its tired old fangs
has me in its mouth!—and where the hell are you that chunk of dying we used
   to call Muse?

Well, dead or not, at least there was that fancy, of some scribbler, some think-
   and-write person,
maybe it was yourself, soaring in the sidereal void, and not only that, you were
   holding a banjo
and gleefully strumming, and singing, jaw swung a bit under and off to the
   side the way crazily
happily people will do it—singing songs or not even songs, just lolly-molly
   syllable sounds
and you'd escaped even from language, from having to gab, from having to
   write down the idiot gab.

But in the meantime isn't this what it is to be dead, with that Emily-fly
   buzzing over your snout
that you're singing almost as she did; so what matter if you died in your sleep
   or rushed towards dying
like the Sylvia-Hart part of the tribe who ceased too quickly to be and left out
   some stanzas?
You're still aloft with your banjoless banjo, and if you're dead or asleep who
   really cares?
Such fun to wake up though! Such fun too if you don't! Keep dying! Keep
   writing it down!


C. K. Williams

Writers Writing Dying
Farrar, Straus and Giroux


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