Slate-scraps, split stone, third-hand splintering timber; rusted nails and
dirt floor, chinks the wind seeps through, the stink of an open sewer
_ _streaming behind;
rags, flies, stench, and never, it seems, clear air, light, a breeze of
_ _benevolent clemency.
My hut, my home, the destiny only deferred of which all I live now is
_ _deflection, illusion:
war, plunder, pogrom; crops charred, wife ravished, children starved,
_ _stolen, enslaved;
muck, toil, hunger, never a moment for awareness, of song, sun, dawn’s
_ _immaculate stillness.
Back bent, knees shattered, teeth rotting; fever and lesion, the physical
_ _knowledge of evil;
illiterate, numb, insensible, superstitious, lurching from lust to hunger to
_ _unnameable dread;
the true history I inhabit, the sea of suffering, the wave to which I am
_ _froth, scum.
C. K. Williams was an acclaimed American poet and translator. He won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Flesh and Blood (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1987), the National Book Award for The Singing (FSG, 2003) and the Pulitzer Prize for Repair (FSG, 2000). He taught in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University.