Answering Where?
by John Sibley Williams

We Speak
Becomes the house we live in”

A lake of refuse aflame
spilling into the crippled
streets of Casablanca.
Evening roaring blue —
blue of absence/ the sea’s blue/
blue beneath the heart
of the yellow heart of fire.
       The world and its double –
only the sky and I
wince, blacken.
We dispose elsewhere
of our garbage-
here alone/here in words/ our house.

A lake of refuse aflame
in the sky and I
pretend to understand
the language.
Their disinterested talk
as waste burns heavenward
is a boundary,
otherness a place
like a hotel window
for safely witnessing


The faceless child
who robbed me
in the market.

Alone, my anger ebbs
as I imagine him
unable to cry/unable to pray.
I ask why/unable to answer.

I imagine him
alone tonight
though we share
one house.
Tonight he will be
a river.
Tonight he will return me/ is
a river returning me.


I answer their language with mine.
I acquire their goods with my currency.
Evenings I feast from their plates
with my hands.
I see why cannibals consider
their appetite a soulful indulgence,
a fattening
of self.


To my religious friends where
is very far from here
and once means now/ extends

and to take shape
means to speak one word
and I wonder to live here
in this word,
what language must we speak?


A brief silence is enough
to cancel everything,
every word.
“Leave enough white space to live,
to be seen to live”.

The man, they say, is wise,
though aged this simple hour
my chessboard.
His eyes are blue—
blue of absence/ the sea’s blue/
blue beneath the heart
of the yellow heart of fire.
       The world has its double
“which is nothing”.

I don’t know
if this is a question.


A perfect circle falls.
In loud voices we are speaking
the rain back up,
the sun back up.

In loud voices stars emerge
exactly as they did in Boston
and the moon is still a perfect circle
around us, falling.

previous next

NC 2011 New Year Edition