Four Poems by Carol Clark Williams
Updated: Jan 1
Poem like a Quilt
She writes the word “stone".
It becomes a weight
seamed with quartz stitches
to catch any glinting light,
writes “field” and it spreads
a square patch of bowed wheat grass
tacked down with thistles
and French-knot dandelions.
She writes “wind.” Dust devils
spin up funnels in the field,
the grass shivers and smoothes
its green threads down.
She sets down “rock"; pauses,
considering where to place it.
It submerges in sudden current,
embroidered water patterns.
Sighing, she shuts her notebook.
Between frayed covers, water splashes,
seeds twist, release, and scatter, running
stitches across the wind-ironed field.
Instead of Finding Romance
I want to wear a cotton jacket,
patchwork of denim and royal blue,
age-bleached cuffs rolled back.
I want to be bowed, broad-shouldered, square;
walk out to meet the morning with garden shears,
stomp the sparse grass in worn brogans.
I want to be the town character,
one who causes people to half-smile
when the neighbors discuss me.
I want to putter in the yard,
set out a painted trellis, grow bitter grapes,
chain a big yellow mutt to the arch post
on sunny days: bring him in at night,
fling a plush rug across my bed
for him to stretch out on.
I want to sleep hard, my grizzled head
against his massive one; want to dream
of dancing to the rhythm of his breath—
dream that I am lithe, light-footed,
sailing and twirling like a maple seed,
pliant as wheat grass in October wind.
The Lost Works
Beethoven wakens to a tune
cruising through the cathedral dome
of his massive brow. He dons
his dapper vest, buttons straining.
As usual, he cannot find his comb;
rings for the chambermaid, but none
appears. "Deaf as a post," he mutters,
and sits at his writing desk
to transcribe what he hears internally
into symbols that his peers can play.
The constant buzzing in his inner ear
rises and falls: below it thrums the pulse
of his next opus, heartbeat of his soul.
All the while, what would be
darkness if he were going blind
grows in a leaden cloud about his brain.
Notes become muffled, conversations muddled.
He saws down his piano's legs better to feel
vibrations through the floor into his skull.
In Vienna, Caroline's delicate fingers
turn him to face the audience's applause.
The orchestra is finished: measures behind them
he leaps and crouches, his body a lightning rod
conducting the brilliance of his creation,
too rapt to know that at his back there are
hands clapping, wildly waving handkerchiefs.
The music in his mind goes on, all unaware,
a different coda than his patrons hear.
And who will ever know what the staff
of quarter and half notes sounds like
inside that echoing head? The opus
performed at Theater an der Wien
is magnificent, the score interpreted
as written, but even Beethoven cannot be sure
the symphony soars in his intended harmonies,
sonata, scherzo, adagio—homage to God,
the only other listener who shares
the music inside Ludwig's ringing ears.
I never realized
I have been looking
for you in
every delicate girl
with sun-streaked hair
and pale blue eyes.
a mystery unresolved:
why I still search
the faces of strangers,
rehearse the closing words
I meant to say.
others have drifted away:
"Let's do lunch"
the common punch line.
Your memories linger;
you were a mermaid,
slippery with secrets.
A friend of mine
cast his net carefully
and brought you in,
but not for long.
Humans expect substance,
mermaids are sea foam.
Today I reached toward
a stranger's shoulder blade,
your name behind my lips;
wondering if you still walk
like an arcane myth
on this dry, prosaic land.
Carol Clark Williams is poet laureate emeritus of York, Pennsylvania and a rostered artist for the Arts in Education StART Something. She teaches poetry workshops in schools, libraries, prisons, and halfway houses. Williams recently received the Above and Beyond award from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies for her work with young people. Carol’s poems have been published in print and online journals including Mad Poets Review, Margie, Byline, Passager, Fledgling Rag, and Manorborn, the Water Issue. She has authored two poetry books: Escaped Without Injury and Stories of the Tribe.